To asana or not to asana.

yoga asana

My dear friend and I walked along a trail earlier this month. We talked yoga, as we often do. Spirituality. Beliefs. Change. Though new to yogic philosophy, he naturally embodies it. Reading. Learning. Living it, honestly and truthfully.

"You should start your asana practice," I tell him.

The words come out of him slowly. "I want to wait until I know more."

"You just have to... begin," I say. "It'll help you with the rest."

But how does something our culture sees as exercise – or stretching – help with philosophy? Spirituality, even? Asana's roots extend far deeper than what many of us experience or see in studios. Yes, asana builds flexibility and strength. Lets us touch our toes. Provides us with exercise. But its origin...its origin is as a tool. As a beautiful, loving, practical way to ground the body for meditation. Prepare for periods of sitting and stillness. Quiet the mind. Love. Be.

After all, silence the internal dialogue and chatter, and you are in the middle of yoga. The middle of everything. Life. Suddenly, in your vinyasa, the past is the past and the future is not even a thought. There is no mourning. No analyzing. No wondering. Just presence. Tranquility. Serenity. 

BKS Iyengar, founder of Iyengar yoga said, "The body is the bow, asana is the arrow, and the soul is the target." 

So, friend, time to step on your mat.


With Gratitude.

photo from
Yesterday, in yoga class, the teacher talked about gratitude on and off the mat. Thankfulness for all the ways our body can move. For how the universe sustains us. For the many things we take for granted or forget about when things fail to go according to plan.

There I was, frustrated and struggling through a vinyasa, my mind on the fact that I haven't been able to put weight on my wrists for these last five months. My yoga practice and the many things I want to do have been limited. No working in the garden. No arm-strengthening. No down dog. Tough to love on the cat. Upsetting and annoying, yes. But as she spoke, how could my awareness not be drawn to the two legs supporting me? To the warm home I had to return to? The clean water? The good food and sustenance?

Odd that in this American culture, we officially designate only a day to this. What about the rest of the year? Why wasn't gratitude top of my mind in yoga class? Driving in my car? Having lunch with a friend?

The catch-22 is: Our lives are so abundant that our inconveniences and disappointments take center stage. With all of our basic needs met, there's nothing left to wish better. That's how good most of us have it. Which is great. Except it means it can sometimes take seeing someone far worse off to evoke gratitude. And an unmatched feeling. When it washes over us, it invites the sunshine in like nothing else. Suddenly:

The desire to hold dear and tight.
Life is good.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
 — Thornton Wilder

So how to get that feeling more and more? Cultivate. Gratitude is observance and mindset and action, which means it starts with looking around. Noticing others' struggles. How they live. How much they live with. Mindset. Feel the richness of what you have. If it meets your needs, dare to let it be enough. Know someone is living with more and someone is living with far less. Act. Volunteer. Step forward. Stand up. Do the right thing. Gratitude is, perhaps, as much about what we are able to give as it is being thankful about what we receive.

I wish each of you, American or not, a wonderful day of thanks tomorrow. But, remember, long after the turkey is gone or the sun sets: Gratitude doesn't live in a November day; it lives in the grand scheme of things. In being happy with what we have. What is offered to us. And the many ways the world provides for us. All year, every year.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” 
— Buddha 

Preparing for Impermanence.

It’s three weeks until teacher training graduation.
We count on the things, like this, in our lives. The ones that enrich us. That we look forward to each week or each month. It is hard, I admit, to imagine that this studying—this lovely group of individuals—will no longer be present in my life in the same way.
But this is how it goes, yes? The acceptance required to put one foot forward in the fog of change is much of what this blog is about. What the last eleven months of teacher training have been about. What, really…existence is about.
Early on in my studies, my teacher said to our group, “Don’t let things become permanent fixtures in your life.”
I heard those words, but I didn’t grasp them. My mind went to my house, my parents, my husband, my job, and they all felt secure. Sturdy. Immovable.
For months, though, her simple statement has found its way back into my mind time and time again. And, finally, it dawned on me:
There is no constant impervious to the force of life.
To be alive, to breathe the air, is to be ever-changing. Existence, at its will, lifts us into the clouds with good, and, at other times, drops the floor out beneath us with heartache and sorrow.  

Part of resilience, of bouncing back, of not allowing life’s every little stumble get us down is understanding the sheer power and momentum of living. There are no promises, no guarantees, and not a single thing stays the same. Feel it, accept it and embrace the fleeting. There's beauty there too.

Change and Dharma

“Your dad has a new job opportunity,” Mom led in. “How would you feel about the possibility of moving?”

Ready. Anxious. A new adventure.

I was in sixth grade at the time. We didn’t go, but for months I wondered what life would be like if we had. What is it about the allure of change? The new?

To this day, I cannot look at beautiful picture without a little rising in me: Where is this? I must know. I have to go. There. Somewhere. No, anywhere. Mountains. Beach. City. Little town, one stoplight, a general store and ivy crawling up the sides of abandoned homes. Middle of nowhere.

It’s hard, I think, for people to understand this pervasive restlessness. To identify with the free spirits of the world. The ones who push expectations aside. After all, habit or human nature, far more common is the desire to cement life’s details into the earth. To force their permanence. To have peace of mind that, in this rocky roadmap of existence, what’s here today will be here for us tomorrow too.

But just as the leaves drop from trees, change is essential to our cycle too. The willingness to embrace different and new – to trust in life’s current, respond to its calling – holds a magic unmatched and untouched by little else. It's freedom from outcome. From control. From forcing our path to fall in line with our plans, rather than allowing our plans to align with our path.

Centric to yoga practice is the acceptance of this universal rhythm, the ever-shifting nature of things. Of rolling with the punches. Of being in life rather than being content with the view we have created. And, of course, wrapping our arms around the idea of dharma, our true purpose. Then getting out of the way to let it unfold. Happen to us.

Last weekend a fellow yogi and I sat on the studio porch, talking about loving and living and teaching. “You don’t push the river,” she tells me. “It flows on its own.”