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Yoga Practice

When it comes down to it, yoga is all about practice—the day-to-day experience that eventually makes yoga our own. Here are tips, musings and commentary on the practice we all love!
  • Carving a Path into the Unknown

    How do you carve a path into the unknown?

    Stepping into the unknown—whether it’s a new pose or a new stage in our lives—is a challenge precisely because there are no handrails, guidelines, or previously trampled paths to point the way. You have to carve your own path.

    The first time that I left my hospital bed after surgery, I realized how much my yoga practice helps me learn how to find a path where none exists.

    That morning it felt like I’d never stepped out of bed before. But, turning mindfully to drop my legs over the edge of the bed, I...

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  • Shedding the Yoga of the Past

    In July I’ll celebrate 30 years of teaching yoga and 30 years of practicing Insight Meditation. I began practicing in my mid-20s and have practiced continuously since then. A whole lot has changed over the decades.

    Yoga’s popularity has exploded in the past 15 years. And what constitutes popular yoga is completely different from what it used to be. In the ’80s and ’90s, Hatha Yoga was the most common form, with Iyengar-style practice as its most popular subset. Kundalini Yoga had a strong, but smaller following. Ashtanga was starting to get a foothold, but except for the relatively sparse Ashtanga...

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  • Pranayama: Linking Body and Mind

    Supine Pranayama with Pranayama Pillow and Blanket

    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outline an eight-limbed framework for yoga practice. These limbs, in their written order, include:

    Yama: Ethical precepts, including non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, wise use of sexuality and non-greed
    Niyama: Daily practices, including cleanliness or simplicity, cultivation of contentment, commitment to practice, study of self and sacred texts, dedication of your practice to something bigger than oneself
    Asana: Physical postures
    Pranayama: Refinement of the breath
    Pratyahara: Releasing attachment to the senses
    Dharana: Concentration
    Dhyana: Meditation
    Samadhi

    While the limbs are not hierarchical—all of them operate simultaneously to feed into the whole Self—they do build on one...

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  • Setting Intention

    Make a Vision Board!

    Many of us set intentions before we begin our yoga practice, start a new year, or even at a new moon. According to Webster, intention is a determination to act in a certain way, a resolve.

    You may have heard of the Sanskrit term Sankalpa, which has been described to me as a vow or commitment, so it’s a bit stronger than an intention. Many times I have heard the two used interchangeably. No worries though; choose the word that feels best for you.

    My life experiences, whether it be teaching, parenting, or doing yoga...

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  • Sustainable Yoga Practice

    Happy Earth Day! This Friday, April 22nd, we’ll celebrate the spectacular planet we live on and recommit to living in a way that allows it to flourish.

    Earth Week is a great time to reassess our energy consumption and decide where we can refine or let go of patterns of overconsumption. This includes all areas of our lives—how we eat, how we travel, how we work and how we play. It also includes how we practice yoga.

    One way to “green” our yoga practice is to use mats, blocks, straps, etc., that are made from sustainable materials—rubber, TPE and PER yoga mats...

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  • Ahhh … Lateral Bending on a Bolster

    Lateral Bending on a Junior Bolster

    There really aren’t a whole lot of day-to-day tasks that require lateral bending. That’s probably why most people find side stretches in yoga—such as Parighasana (Gate Latch Pose), Talasana (Palm Tree Pose) and Parvrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose)—so invigorating.

    Lateral bending can also be woven into Restorative Yoga practice. Practicing a supported lateral bend early in a Restorative session not only feels wonderful, but it also helps prepare your thoracic spine for other poses, especially for supported back bends such as Supported Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) or Viparita Karani (Supported Legs...

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  • Advanced Poses: Making Wise Choices

    I lay awake, muscles strained and sore, unable to sleep after the yoga class that I’d taken earlier in the day.

    We had explored “easy” or basic poses, and the teacher had encouraged us to stay in the poses far longer than usual. Her approach turned “easy” poses into much more advanced poses.

    While I held each pose, exploring new feelings, new ways of being. I forgot about the straining hamstring or tight hip joint. I ignored the discomfort and pain and kept pushing. The instructor led us into new territory, inviting us to experiment, and I trusted her as an experienced teacher...

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  • Relax Your Back in Forward Bends

    Forward bends are an integral part of asana practice. Bodies folded in half “like a jack knife” are iconic images in the yoga photo canon, and loose hamstrings are often considered to be essential to being a “good” yogi. (I quibble with this, but that’s another post!)

    Because of the wide variations in body structures, many—probably most—people will never touch nose to knee with straight legs. This is not a problem. Yoga practice was never meant to be about performance.

    The good news is, forward bends confer other benefits beyond hamstring stretching. Forward bending is calming and grounding, and it is much...

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  • What Yoga Is and Is Not

    As yoga’s popularity has exploded in the past 15 or so years, there are a whole lot of new yoga styles and modalities have sprung into existence. In addition to Hatha, Kundalini, Iyengar, Viniyoga and Ashtanga, the styles that have proliferated in the U.S. since the 1960s, there are the “yoga ands,” hybrid practices such as yogalates and paddleboard yoga. And then there are the Ashtanga spinoffs such as Power Yoga, and the Bikram spinoffs such as Hot Yoga. Modalities such as Viniyoga, trauma-sensitive yoga and Yoga Therapy cater to individual needs.

    All these different styles have widened yoga’s appeal, and...

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  • Yoga Teaching: The Wisdom of Not Knowing

    This morning a student asked me what should have been a simple question: What should I be feeling in this position?

    A minute or so later, I’d given her the best non-answer I could. Why a non-answer? First, I’m not inside her body. I can’t know what she’s feeling. Second, there are many, many variations on what she could be feeling depending upon where the resistance is in her body. Finally, we are all put together differently, and we’ve all cultivated different habits in our bodies over the decades. No one’s asana practice will ever be exactly like another’s. For that...

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