Beyond Asana Blog

A Few Things That Frustrate and, Frankly Baffle me About Mainstream Western Yoga Culture

Feb 27, 2018

 

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...

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4 Seconds of Flow

Feb 21, 2018

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,...

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Bursting The Bubble

Feb 15, 2018

A studio owner once told me that she wanted her space to be like a bubble, a place where students could temporarily escape their worries and be surrounded by an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and good vibes.

Wow, sounds great, I thought.

I really like and respect this person, and actually, I love what she’s created. Yet, something didn’t fully resonate with the bubble idea. It got me thinking about how I approach practice and teaching.

I completely agree that we all need healthy ways to escape, regularly. Time alone, self-care appointments, things that give us relief from the stresses of daily life are rejuvenating and VERY necessary. I love those “Calgon – Take me away!” moments of my day (for those of you who remember those old commercials). Yoga practice can certainly fill this important need to just get away from it all for a while. ESPECIALLY on a day like today, when the weight of the world weighs so heavily on us. You can bet...

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🎊Beyond The Bells And Whistles 🎊

Feb 12, 2018

When I teach at conferences and festivals, I always find that the exact right people show up for my session. This weekend at Expo Yoga in Montreal was no different. As usual, I was delighted to be with a group of curious, engaged students interested in taking their yoga a little bit deeper, getting some input on refining their practice and exploring how to integrate the lessons of the postural practice into their lives. 

And, as usual, I’m the teacher without the awesome playlist, without the elaborate ritual, without the bells and whistles. 

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against a great playlist. I LOVE to groove out in my practice from time to time. And, I LOVE ritual, sacred circles, ALL OF THAT. It’s just that for me, the bells and whistles often sound loudest when I get to go deeper INSIDE my experience. Awakening a new awareness, discovering a new connection, inhabiting my own strength or softening into a deeper release – these are the...

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Making Your Sacred Offering (&Your Offering Sacred)

Jan 24, 2018

May you awaken like the sun at daybreak,

Ready to make your sacred offering.

Set forth with delight, like a pilgrim on his journey.

 

O heroic one, move forward with resolve

To make this sacred offering of yourself to life.

May you plan the banner of victory

In the service of humankind.

Rg-Veda

 

When I returned from living in India for 4 years, one of the things I dearly wanted to hold onto was the awareness that everything I do can be approached as an offering. I wanted to remember, no matter what, that my highest goal in life is to be of service to others.

To remind myself of this intention, I put a small candle on my desk and lit the flame each day when I began my work.

With time, I stopped lighting the candle on my desk, but I found other ways to remember and uphold the spirit of offering in my daily life. It continues to be a treasured and guiding force. It elevates work and family life to the realm of dharma, and allows me to see that even my most...

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What Really Matters?

Jan 11, 2018

I almost skipped (or at least postponed) my morning meditation today in favor of being “productive.”

As my coffee was brewing, I glanced at my Facebook feed and saw:

- an account from someone in Montecito, CA about the devastation happening there.

- a crowd-funding campaign for a friend who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer

- A tribute to an old friend who recently passed away.

- A blog post from a colleague about her experience of grieving a recent miscarriage.

- Many, many messages of support and good wishes from friends all around the world for what all these people are going through

Struck by the intensity of all this (especially at 6:30 am, and especially before I’d had my coffee), I felt a sudden sense of urgency. Immediately, I sat for meditation.

I sat because all this news was a stark reminder that, for me, there is NOTHING more important than taking time DAILY to get perspective on what really matters, to remember the preciousness of life, and to...

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How Does it Feel to Begin Again?

Jan 04, 2018

How was your practice over the holidays? Interrupted? Sporadic? Non-existent?

I can relate.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve experienced the full range of what I think of as ‘seasons’ in my yoga practice. There have been long stretches when I could practice uninterruptedly for (sigh) 2 hours a day. And, there have been times where yoga couldn’t, or didn’t, happen regularly. Whether due to travel, family or work responsibilities, injury, illness, or just plain-ol’ laziness, I have slacked on many occasions. 

And I know I’m not alone. For anyone who embraces yoga as a path of practice over the long haul, this is how it goes. Life, or oneself, sometimes get in the way.

But here’s the thing:

It’s okay with me. It's okay because I know I will start again. I always do. I’ve learned that I can trust myself to get back to a scheduled, regular practice time and begin, yet again. That’s what I’m doing this week.

...

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Top Cold-Weather Yoga Hacks

Nov 30, 2017

I asked my Canadian yoga-teacher friends from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, to share their top tips for getting to the mat when the temperature drops. They responded with some really enticing and cozy ideas, none of which involve practicing in a 35-degree room. Clearly, we Canadians have got this winter-yoga thing down! 

Thanks to Christine Guenette, Eliot Acuna, Erin Moon, Melanie Richards, Nathalie Keiller, Robin Golt, and Sara Lamb for weighing in!

GETTING READY

  • I light beeswax candles, definitely! Sara

  • Wear layers - this way I can start feeling warm, then peel off the layers as my body heats up, and have everything near by for a cozy savasana. – Christine

  • Playing some chants or other slow, steady music seems just right for winter. - Sara

  • I have discovered that the warm red glow of a simple infrared bulb draws me to my mat on chilly days in winter, especially when I have been at my desk for a while and feel creaky. Available in the reptile section of your...
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Top Cold-Weather Yoga Hacks

Nov 30, 2017
 

I asked my Canadian yoga-teacher friends from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, to share their top tips for getting to the mat when the temperature drops. They responded with some really enticing and cozy ideas, none of which involve practicing in a 35-degree room. Clearly, we Canadians have got this winter-yoga thing down! 

Thanks to Christine Guenette, Eliot Acuna, Erin Moon, Janie Pelletier, Melanie Richards, Nathalie Keiller, Robin Golt, and Sara Lamb for weighing in!

GETTING READY

  • I light beeswax candles, definitely! Sara

  • Wear layers - this way I can start feeling warm, then peel off the layers as my body heats up, and have everything near by for a cozy savasana. – Christine

  • Playing some chants or other slow, steady music seems just right for winter. - SaraI have discovered that the warm red glow of a simple infrared bulb draws me to my mat on chilly days in winter, especially when I have been at my desk for a while and feel creaky. Available...

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Q & A: How to Combine Different Practices

Oct 26, 2017

A student in a recent retreat shared the following with me:

It was my first time attending a day dedicated to Yoga and the many forms of practice. Importantly, I understood that asanas are only one part of the yogic practice. This simple but powerful insight helped me understand that meditation, chanting, breathing, intention and visioning are part of a system.

Though we may chant in class, meditate, practice breathing exercises, it may not be obvious that postural practice is a part of a holistic system that involves and addresses all parts of oneself. 

If you’ve been attending class for sometime, you might have been doing this more than you think. A student in a recent meditation course shared with me that while the course was helpful to understand how meditation actually worked and provided the motivation and group support to actually do it, she also realized that through her years of practice in classes and retreats, she not only was familiar with many of the...

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