Okay, I finally can talk about Spring without feeling like a fraud. Here in Southern Quebec, it is now officially warm enough, the earth thawed out enough, to call it Spring. The birds are singing, the fiddleheads are ripe, my 3-week cleanse feels easier, and I'm even starting to consider changing over my closet.
It's time to talk about spinal twists.
Although twists are not necessarily “big” poses, don’t be fooled. Even though sometimes it might feel like not much is happening, they are deeply detoxifying, rejuvenating and stimulating. Twists are powerful and fortifying not only for the spine but for the organs as well. After a good twisting practice you should feel lighter.
Twists are the perfect spring cleaning poses.
Here are some pointers for working deeper in twists and feeling great in your back after:
I'll start by addressing the perennial (or at least very common) question about spinal twists.
QUESTION: Should I square my hips...
I’ve loved this mug ever since the stationery-store wandering days of my youth.
Where I live now we have real turkeys. Wild ones. While they have their own charm, there’s no denying their clumsiness. They’re big, heavy, and slow, really awkward fliers.
We all know what its like to be held down by the turkeys that show up in our own lives everyday. They’re the little annoyances that nag us, snags that need untangling, and misunderstandings that need to be clarified. They’re the myriad frustrations that tighten our jaws, hunch our shoulders, restrict our breathing, and contract our energy.
And of course, there are also the inner turkeys that sabotage our freedom and hold us down. The habits, foods, even relationships that no longer serve the forward movement of our lives.
This poor elephant seems to have surrendered and accepted the reality of his situation.
But we know that isn’t the only option. Yes, letting go and releasing the weight of...
Yesterday, I did one of the least favorite parts of my job. I practiced with my own yoga video from my new online program. The way I did it (and actually got to enjoy it) was this: I pretended I was listening to someone else. Complete detachment. Vairagya.
How are you living your yoga today? How does your practice play out in the REST of your life?
It’s worth revisiting that living one’s yoga is not a new idea. Even when it was a renunciants’ path, yoga was wholistic – it addressed and involved all parts of oneself. And, yoga has always been an integrated practice, designed to be lived.
WHOLISTIC: relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the dissection into parts
INTEGRATED: to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole. To unite, absorb, assimilate, embody, incorporate
Body, Breath, Mind, Spirit
Jnana, Karma, Bhakti
Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga
Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishwara Pranidhana
Here's last week's part 1 on the topic of yoga-related injuries that addresses common causes of yoga-related injuries and tips to avoid them.
Thanks to research and investigation, not to mention the woefully infamous 2012 New York Times headline, Can Yoga Wreck Your Body?, the conversation around yoga-related injuries has greatly expanded over the past several years. Notably, through Matthew Remski’s WAWADIA project, many long time practitioners are now sharing stories that document and explore the multi-layered and often nuanced psychosocial and cultural dynamics at play in both acute and chronic yoga-related injuries.
What to do if you get injured during practice
It seems obvious, but I’ll say it anyway - stop and rest! Lying on your back with your knees bent is usually a good, all-around resting pose. Breathe gently if possible, exhaling through the mouth to soothe and relieve. Ask for assistance and do whatever is needed to take care of...
A recent New York Times article pointed out how convenience has become a major driving force in our consumer economy. Our choices in the marketplace consistently demonstrate this. We’d rather use something easy and simple (Netflix) over something cheap (network television).
Furthermore, because of economies of scale and the power of our buying habits, convenience begets greater convenience. The more we buy from Amazon, the more powerful it becomes, and therefore it can make itself even more efficient and easier to use, which leads us to value it even more.
I believe a similar dynamic is at work in yoga, though its about benefit and importance, rather than convenience.
The more we value our yoga, the more valuable our yoga it becomes.
For the casual, once-in-a-while practitioner, the benefits of yoga are likewise casual, easily replaced by a different kind of workout or another self-help method.
But for the committed practitioner, one who places a premium on...
The starting point is ALWAYS, EXACTLY where you are.
Many of the people who are joining my new online program are seasoned yogis with years of experience and a long-term dedication to yoga practice. They're telling me that this program is coming along at the perfect time for them because their personal practice has declined. They want a kick-start, a way to rekindle it and find the juice again.
I get it.
As someone who’s maintained a personal practice for over 25 years, in various forms, with varying levels of frequency and intensity, believe me when I say “I get it.”
I know it’s hard (and only getting harder), to be alone on your mat without anyone telling you what you do and actually stay interested, focused, and engaged. It’s so easy (and only getting easier) to feel bored and distracted. It’s easy to let personal practice slip away.
Yet, for those of us who love yoga and are not only committed...
The smell of the earth this morning brought me right back to the Catskills, to the ashram where I lived in the early 2000’s.
It brought me back to the many, many mornings I walked from my dorm room to the early-morning chant at 4:30 am in the dark, wrapped in a shawl.
It brought me back to the feelings of devotion, one-pointedness, and community. But most palpably, it brought me back to the LONGING I experienced during those years.
It was there, in the darkness of the early mornings, first in India and then Upstate New York over the course of 7 years, that my longing took root. What began as a desire to be happy with myself and content with my life blossomed into a yearning to dive deep into my inner being, I longed to uncover the truth, the wisdom and the magnificence of that place within me that lies independently from the ups and downs of outer life.
This longing is and has been at the root of everything I do, everything I create, everything I offer as a...
TO EVOLVE: to gradually become clearer or more detailed, to develop, elaborate, unfold, advance, progress, blossom, grow, mature, ripen, emerge
I first fell in love with this word as an Anthropology major in college. Tracing the emergence and adaptation of the human race over time was fascinating to me. But, honestly, the concept of evolving, adapting, and UNFOLDING has become even more thrilling and juicy as I’ve begun to see my yoga practice in this light, as not just as something I “do” but as something I grow and ripen, something that continually EMERGES.
It’s an ever-unfolding process that’s POWERED and INSPIRED by the very nature of life ITSELF to elaborate, clarify, grow, shift and progress.
Do you sense the amazing possibilities that could be revealed in approaching your practice this way?
THERE ARE A FEW THINGS THAT FRUSTRATE, AND FRANKLY BAFFLE ME ABOUT MAINSTREAM WESTERN YOGA CULTURE
You know, little things like how teachers who repeatedly mistreat students and cross ethical boundaries continue to be welcomed to teach places, even when their transgressions are well known. And, how little actual recourse there is for students who have been targets of these transgressions.
Oh, and also the hypocrisy of an industry that continues to perpetuate unrealistic, and even unhealthy physical ideals for a practice that is essentially about self-honoring and self-acceptance.
I must say, there are days when all this really gets to me.
But here’s what keeps me loving what I do and feeling truly grateful for the privilege of sharing the wisdom and practices of our yoga:
- The dozens, maybe even hundreds of dedicated, longtime teachers I know (and countless others I don’t know) who continue to quietly do their thing and offer the gems from...
I got stuck this morning. My 10-year old, bless her heart, missed her bus and I had to drive her to school. Granted, this was the first time this year that this has happened. And, driving her to school is not really a big deal because my schedule today is pretty flexible and the school is only about a 10-minute drive. Yet, I found myself critical, annoyed, frustrated. I could see that holding onto this episode was neither necessary nor useful. Stuckness.
After I dropped her off, I took the opportunity of being out earlier than usual to take a walk. After all, we are at balmy 15 Celsius and its a beautiful sunny day here. The snow is melting and the rivers are rushing. My lesson was right there in the flowing water: soften, release, and move on.
I’m always very clear with my yoga students that I am decidedly NOT a flow teacher. Sure, I can teach a good Vinyasa class, I’ve done it many times, but it's not my true love.
Yet, the IDEA of FLOW is very important to me, and,...
Our free, online bonus content is designed to complement and enrich your experience of Evolving Your Yoga. Resources like video pose tutorials, downloadable journaling prompts, breathwork, guided visualizations, and more will support your exploration of each of the Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice.