Beyond Asana Blog

The Blind Man and the Covid-19 Elephant

Mar 20, 2020


I had a dream the other night that I was telling The Blind Men and The Elephant story. Do you know it? It’s a traditional Indian story about a group of blind men who’ve never come across an elephant before. They learn what the elephant is like by touching it.

One puts his hand on the elephant's side and says, “Now I know all about an elephant, he’s just like a wall.” .

The second feels the elephant's tusk and responds, “No, you’re mistaken. He's not at all like a wall. He's more like a spear."

The third takes hold of the elephant's trunk and argues, “You’re both wrong, an elephant is like a snake."

The fourth grasps one of the elephant's legs and says, “No, that’s not right, he's round and tall like a tree."

The fifth takes hold of the elephant's ear and says,“You’re all wrong, he's like a huge fan."

The sixth grabs hold of the elephant’s tail...

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Practice At Home

Mar 13, 2020


If ever there was a good time to start a home practice, now is it.

For your well-being, and for the collective well-being.

With everyday life already being disrupted in many places, it’s pretty clear that things are going to get worse before they get better. As one expert I watched yesterday put it, this isn’t just a blizzard, it’s a winter. Many of my studio-owner friends in Europe are already closed for now, and more cancellations, shut downs, postponements are on their way.

If you don’t want to practice with an online class, that’s okay.
Do what you remember.
Do what you love.
Do what feels good in your body.
Even a few full, conscious exhalations,
Or putting your legs up the wall for five minutes,
Stretching your arms up above your head,
Can do the trick.
I’m doing my best to use what I know to temper the intensity of these times, to be extra kind, extra caring, extra good to myself. Whether that‘s reflected in what I...

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The Edge of Greatness

Mar 05, 2020


In a recent retreat, one of our participants called me out on not being very good at receiving compliments. It’s true. I hear them, I acknowledge them, they stay with me, but owning, really owning, my good qualities? Yikes that’s hard. In truth, I’m often more comfortable owning my shortcomings, even to the point of being self-deprecating. It’s something I continue to work on, one of the edges I seek to expand in my practice.
Does this comfort in the familiarity of playing small, this discomfort of stepping into our true power, by any chance ring true for anyone else (wink, wink)?
For us as yogis, it's an obstacle. Not because we're looking to be “puffed up” or for our egos to be fed, but because when others reflect our strengths back to us in words and we deflect that or dismiss it, we minimize ourselves. And, the work of the yogi is to fully step into our greatness, our rightful power, our true magnificence. Not for...

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About Everyday Transformation

Feb 27, 2020

Transformation - the act, process, or instance of being changed - is one of those "big" words in yoga. We tend to associate it with lifechanging shifts and inner fireworks. And, certainly, all this is possible, even probable, as we go deeper.

Yet, it's equally as important to recognize that yoga also transforms our lives in small, but not less important ways. Helping our wrists and shoulders recover from extensive typing or knitting, the awareness of our breath as a way to release the emotional residue of an upsetting conversation, meditation as a practice of centering and grounding ourselves, and on and on. Little by little, these everyday shifts add up to a new, more expanded way of being, both with ourselves and in the world.

The simple ways yoga transforms us can easily go unnoticed and unappreciated. By calling them out we get to see how efficiently yoga actually works as an engine of shift in our lives. In doing so, we also get to reclaim...

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Hands to Heart

Feb 20, 2020


I think sometimes we forget that some of the most basic things we do in yoga are devotional in nature. Meaning, they are designed to generate feelings of love.
Take, for example, Anjali mudra, sometimes called hands to heart, or Namaskar mudra.

The Sanskrit word mudra means seal. Mudras are kind of like “Hand yoga.” They are gestures or hand positions that leave an imprint on our psyche, like a wax seal.
Because it’s so commonly practiced, it’s easy to forget that Anjali mudra is a gesture of honor, reverence, and loving connection. We can direct it toward others, as in greeting someone with Namaste or Namaskar. But we can also direct the energy of Anjali mudra toward ourselves. In this way, it becomes a simple practice of self-honoring.
One of the marks of a seasoned yogi is the ability to find freshness, relevance, and meaning in even the most common gestures,...

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Building Faith

Feb 06, 2020


My morning is defined by a series of beeps. First, my alarm at 6am, then my timer at the end of meditation. Next, the kettle beeping when my water boils. Finally, there's the beep letting my husband know his tea has been steeped to perfection.

I trust these sounds every day. And, every day they happen, almost without fail, creating the faithful rhythm of my morning routine (which, by the way, is really worth creating if you don't have one.)

Beyond the beeps we rely on, there are so many other things we place our trust in every day. Just looking out my window, I see our recycling bin on the road. I trust it will be emptied because that's what happens every other Wednesday. It's snowing, and I trust the plows will be making their way down our road soon, because they always do. To say nothing of the faith I have that the sun will rise, that my daughter will wake from her bed, and on and on. Daily life is defined by the trust we have in so many things.

And, so it is in yoga....

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Are You Ready?

Jan 31, 2020


The sun started rising during my morning practices today. First, there was a dim light. Then, a gorgeous soft peach that filled the sky. Now, it's a muted golden orb above the mountains.

It occured to me, the sun never says to the earth,
"Are you ready for me? Ready for another day?"

And the earth never says to the rising sun,
"Could you hold off for a little a while?"

Life is happening, whether we're ready or not.

Time relentlessly moves on, however we spend it.

Our relationship to time, therefore, is really about our relationship to our lives, isn't it?

Here are some questions to roll around in your mind today: 

  • How does yoga help you make peace with time?
  • What understandings or practices equip you with the context and ability to welcome every moment?
  • How does your yoga help you to recognize the preciousness and possibility of each day, in all its colours, whatever it has in store for you?
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Wet Log Syndrome

Jan 23, 2020


The cords of wood we got this year are really wet. You can see and hear the water burning off when we start our fire every morning. Today, our logs held a lesson for me.

This morning's meditation was not what I would call quiet. My mind flitted back and forth from the focal point of my mantra to one of several streams of thought it was decidedly more dedicated to than quieting down. It's okay. I KNOW it is STILL meditation even when my mind never quiets down. I KNOW it is STILL working. 
Furthermore, and maybe most importantly, if 27 years of practice has taught me one thing it’s that struggling or trying to MAKE my mind quiet only works against me. 

I'm guessing some of you *may* have experienced a similar quandary in meditation. Here's an understanding that might help:

In yoga, we see our ordinary mind, its limited concepts, habits and tendencies as the lived result of gathered up past impressions called samskaras in sanskrit. Through our practices, these...

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Retro Yoga

Jan 21, 2020

In the La Presse article last weekend, I think Ève Dumas landed on several important qualities of my approach to yoga practice and teaching.

Slow, lasting, profound, are some of the adjectives she used to describe it,, and also the phrase “almost anachronistic,” which I admit I kind of loved.

I agree with all this.

The longer I teach, the more old school I feel. Maybe I’ll start to call my brand of yoga “retro yoga.” I’ve been looking for a catchy name.

Yesterday in our Power of YOU program, I gave a talk on reigniting passion for practice. The unglamorous work of continuing to show up.

If you’ve hung with me long enough, you’ve heard me talk about it over and over, how one of the most important skills we can master as students of yoga is to get good at beginning again, to welcoming ourselves as we are, to embracing the tapasya of practice and simply continue, even when we don’t quite feel like it or when it's...

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Using Yoga FOR You, Not AGAINST You (Warning: Non-Yogic Behavior Below)

Jan 17, 2020

The companion to my daily morning contemplation and journaling is...a big, strong cup of coffee with...get ready...a generous helping of half-and-half.

I'm grinning as I say this because I used to think I should hide this habit of drinking coffee from my students, I would feel it wasn't yogic or that I wasn't acting in integrity.

I remember once on a retreat one of my students came up to me at breakfast and accusingly said, "YOU drink coffee?" As if I should be ashamed of myself for such egregious non-yogic behavior.

For a while, I admit I played into it. I felt ashamed for treating my nervous system and digestion this way.

Truth be told, when I do a 3-week cleanse once or twice a year, I DO forego coffee in favor of the strongest green tea I can find.

And I always go back. My Kapha constitution responds well to it. I've stopped apologizing for it.

Recently, I read in an interview with the New York Times that Deepak Chopra himself drinks up to 5 cups of coffee per day if that makes...

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