I was talking with a few other teachers recently about showing up for class on days when we are totally not feeling it.
I could relate. Hasn’t it happened to all of us?
Maybe someone in our family isn’t well, maybe we’ve got a ton of other things that need attending to, maybe we are just plain uninspired. For whatever reason, or for myriad reasons, we just Do. Not. Feel. Like. Teaching. Today.
Here’s the thing:
One in our group said that when she takes her seat something begins to shift. Effortlessly. The class comes into existence and honoring her role as teacher completely changes her state. As she steps into the stream of her dharma the teaching not only happens, it’s often even better than usual. She’s in flow, effortlessly serving in the energy of the moment. Have you ever experienced this?
In almost 20 years of teaching, the class I taught on the morning of November 9, 2016 was one of the hardest. I was in shock,...
"You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other."
---Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching
In my summer online program, we’re exploring how yoga invites us to learn from nature, to recognize and benefit from the timeless truths she holds.
For some time, I’ve been fascinated by the fundamental paradox of our existence as embodied spirits, as physical beings with a subtle essence. And, how yoga helps us to dance between these two polarities of material and spiritual, relative and absolute, earth and sky, with grace and skill. Yoga gives us tools to enhance the enjoyment of our physicality as well as for our spiritual benefit.
Exploring how to fully stand on the earth while embodying the sky is, I...
I'm thrilled that my new studio and online practice community were chosen to be featured in Stylight's survey of the finest yoga in Canada.
But when I multiply that by all the teachers, all the studios who are lighting up hearts in every corner of our fair land, well, that just blows my mind. Canadian yogis, Canadian yoga teachers, you rock!
From Saturday’s spent at the rink, to traversing mountaintops and canoeing wild rapids (not to mention all the shoveling in between), it’s safe to say that Canadians are a pretty active bunch. Hockey’s a given, but did you know that the country is also brimming with yoga fanatics? Justin...
So, the other day I had the first of several photo shoots for my forthcoming book.
How many of the poses I did that day were perfect?
And, how many were completely and undeniably perfect?
Well, all of them.
The truth is, I’ll NEVER do a PERFECT asana.
Yet, truthfully, how could my asana be ANYTHING BUT pure perfection?
Just as I was mulling this over (because its something I’ve been thinking about for only, say, 20 years now), THIS shows up in the comments of my program (written by a student, of course):
"You are neither good enough nor not good enough. An apple seed is neither good enough nor not good enough, it simply is in the process of becoming an apple, and then falling from its tree, and then transforming yet again to become food for the earth and maybe even the tree itself. And yet we could never say of a seed that it is not whole because it is not yet an apple, nor could we call a rotting apple imperfect. It just wouldn't make sense. And so you are...
Here's a thought: Yoga is about returning to oneself in this deepest sense. During most of our day, our awareness and attention is likely (and necessarily) focused outward on actions, tasks, conversations. In yoga, we turn our awareness back into ourselves. The first thing we do in class is sit, close our eyes, and become aware of our breathing. We start to turn our attention inside.
During practice, through consciously moving the body and engaging with the breath, we deepen this inner connection.
Consider how your yoga practice offers you a conduit back to yourself. Through breath, attention, kinesthetic and energetic awareness, the practice brings us home to ourselves again and again.
As we forge the pathway of return, we might recognize how far we’ve allowed ourselves to depart. Our relationship with ourselves might feel long forgotten. Our inner being might seem distant and far away since we last took the time to connect within.
In those moments, it can be helpful to remind...
Some teachers will tell you that yoga is not a path, that it’s a journey and not a destination. That it’s simply about being present to what is.
I partially agree with this. Yoga IS a way of BEING with ourselves, a practice of inner attention, a way of seeing and responding to what ‘is’, with a stance of compassion and unconditional self-acceptance. Yoga IS in the things we do that we call yoga. Yoga IS the practices.
But it’s more than that, because JUST that can feel aimless and undirected. And, for me, the gifts of yoga are cumulative and progressive.
Yoga is also a process of BECOMING. It’s a path we travel. Yoga sets us on a clear trajectory toward inner expansion, freedom, and greater consciousness in every part of our lives.
Yoga has a goal. And that goal is awakening to the fullness of our inner being and, from that experience, becoming more benevolent human beings.
Isn’t it the case that over time (even after a single class)...
There’s always a moment on retreat where a palpable shift happens. I go from being like a butterfly flitting about from flower to flower to being more like an eagle perched on a branch, quiet and focused.
It feels at once like an extravagant and luxurious gift to myself, and at the same time like the most basic, necessary nourishment for my soul.
Isn't it true, that
Once you’ve bathed in the sweet waters of inner stillness,
Once you’ve heard the voice that speaks without words,
Once you’ve tapped into the awareness that exists beyond what your mind tells you,
You recognize that this, and only this, is the...
In a workshop this past weekend, longtime teacher and author Richard Rosen said something that echoed my thoughts on about longevity in yoga (I’m paraphrasing here):
Progress in yoga is not linear. This is especially important to remember as we continue over time. We might go from a to b to c, then back to a, and even find ourselves at minus a. The important thing to remember is that this is natural. Plateaus in yoga and even times when we seem to regress in our practice are to be expected. Furthermore, these are usually positive because it means we are shedding old patterns that no longer serve us, and with that have the opportunity to discover new possibilities for our practice.
Whether you are at point a, b, c or minus a, know that ALL of these places can be equally as interesting, rewarding and hold the same rich possibility for growth.
In many ways, continuing in yoga is simply about responding to what is. And ‘what...
I welcome and celebrate forward movement in yoga. Like melted snow rocking its descent down the mountainside, yoga is a dynamic journey with purpose, direction, and flow. It’s a continual unfolding of the truth inside.
Without the momentum of moving toward greater levels of authenticity, freedom and independent happiness, we’re likely to feel that we’re just spinning our wheels in yoga practice (and teaching).
We crave results, signposts that tell us our practice is actually working for us in the tried and true arena of REAL LIFE.
It’s the gifts of our practice that propel us forward.
Greater consciousness in relationships is rewarding.
Purposeful living is invigorating. Shedding limiting habits of mind generates power. Naturally expressing kindness, respect and generosity toward others is deeply satisfying.
How do we ensure that these kinds of shifts happen regularly and consistently? How do we keep moving forward in yoga?
Before you enroll in another yoga training or professional development program, make sure you’ve checked off all these boxes:
1. Confirm that your teacher is available and happy to offer you personal guidance and one-on-one support during the length of the training, whether in person or by distance.
2. Check out your teachers’ teachers, know whom they’ve studied with. Consider it a red flag if the faculty of your training does NOT willingly and openly share the history and background of their own learning.
3. Make sure that your teachers are also continuing students of yoga themselves, and that they are committed to their own ongoing and active development as a teacher.
4. Join a program that promotes an ongoing, supportive, and respectful community gathered around yoga practice and study, not just the business of teaching yoga.
5. Find a teacher who lives their yoga, who has plumbed the depths of their own experience through internal practices...
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.