• Enneagram,  Inner Work,  Practice

    A Cauldron, Evolution and Trikonasana: Developing My Own Voice

    Trikonasana – sketch by Emily Sloat Shaw     For the longest time I have been amazed and sometimes perplexed by the vast number of ways to teach and perform asana.  There are factions who teach yoga from a perspective of fluidity being paramount – not concerning about alignment but rather concerned only with the feeling of life force moving in the body.  Other equally valid perspectives include those clearly invested in the importance of alignment, biomechanics, meditation and chakras.  And within each of these perspectives there are endless variations.  How does a practitioner know what way to practice or what guidelines to follow in performing asana? A key moment came to me not long ago when I found…

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  • Inner Work,  Practice,  Yoga in the Everyday

    Yoga’s Guarantee – Liking vs. Learning

    Since I’m on a bit of theme of confessions (see last post) here’s another one: I don’t always like yoga. I know, shouldn’t I always be singing yoga’s praises?  Be an eternal advocate for it’s miraculous wonderment? In actuality, liking yoga has little to do with it’s transformative power.  We get so caught up in our desire for constant pleasure and gratification that when we are confronted with a pose that’s awkward or too challenging or too easy our tendency is to toss the vessel of such displeasure out the door.  There goes that posture, or that teacher or yoga altogether.And what do we miss when we do this?  An grand opportunity to learn.  Take back bending for example.  I…

  • Practice,  Yoga Culture

    Can Yoga Do Harm?

    I recently read an article in the NY Times called How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. In it the author, William J. Broad,  talked about his experience with a yoga posture that threw his back out and details an extensive interview with Glenn Black, a well known yoga teacher out of the U.S..   Black has worked with various, sometimes high profile,  yoga teachers whose bodies have deteriorated in some way through mis-guided, over-cooked and under-sensitive practices. In addition, Broad cites numerous sensational examples of people who have experienced injury directly associated with yoga.  One prominient, unnamed teacher from the U.S had to have hip replacements after years of deep hip openers that destroyed the her joints.  Black himself had to get a spinal surgery for…

  • Practice,  Yoga in the Everyday

    Remembering Enjoyment

    The other day I was shocked with the realization that I sometimes forget to enjoy.  I spend a great deal of time processes negative impacts from my week, but not enough time letting in the deeply pleasurable moments of my life.  This isn’t the same as forgetting to appreciate.  I sense that appreciation runs like a soft current through my life, but to enjoy is another thing.To me, enjoying is the magical antidote to the fixations of my sometimes anal retentive personality.  It even feels nice just to type it.  EN – JOY.  As I sit in my bed, with my beloved heating blanket on, I wiggle my toes against…

  • Consciousness,  Ego,  Non-duality,  Practice

    The Play of Forces

    I’m obviously into forces these days.  My second last post talked about the importance of recognizing that our own personal will is but one of innumerable forces acting on our lives at any moment.  This post is about learning to cooperate with and see ourselves as a dynamic play of forces in yoga practice.  Through this, we come to know ourselves as something other than the rigid, crystallized entity we call our ego. The first force we must cooperate with is the grounding force – we must root before we can sprout.  This means yielding.  We must learn to yield our body weight into the points of contac we have with the…

  • Ego,  Inner Work,  Practice,  Yoga Culture

    To Occupy

    I used to be an activist.  I’ve marched for change, negotiated for respect, sat with peaceful comrades of social justice and written countless diatribes on every angle of human struggle one could imagine. I say used to, not because I don’t still have an investment in evolution.  I just do it different now.   I have spent a great deal of time pointing out the “ills” of culture and society while my soul lay waste as victim of my penchant for the “greater good”.  I had many ideas about what that meant and while I indulged these ideas with all the self-righteous indignation I could muster something else in me suffered.  In my vehement parading…

  • Consciousness,  Practice

    A New Center of Gravity

    The mind is like a tornado.  Whirling thoughts circling at various speeds and intensities and our attention, at the center – the “eye”- of the storm, is no longer able to distiguish itself from the violent upheaval around it.  We try to find some sort of foothold in those thoughts, something substantial, meaningful that we can ground ourselves in.  We try to find something firm about reality through them – if we could just catch one, hold on to it and develop it long enough it would create a truth that we can live by.  So we try to crystallize parts of the tornado and through it create habits of personality.  Meanwhile…

  • Embodiment,  Intelligence,  Practice,  Yoga in the Everyday

    The Will of Summer

    One of my spiritual teachers recently spoke of how summer is a time when the Will of nature can be most readily felt.  I’m sure we all can attest to this. Stand on the edge of any field in the vast Alberta prairies right now and you bear witness to ripe, burgeoning harvest.  Spend three minutes in your back yard and be serenaded by a robust symphony of bird song emating from trees bursting with life.  Watch the movement of any city whir in it’s summertime play – parks and ball diamonds a buzz of activitiy while chidren and motorcycles bellow their freedom songs.But, leaves are turning now, one by one as if counting the moments to…

  • Ego,  Non-duality,  Practice

    A Word on Discipline

    Countless people have remarked how if only they had discipline they would practice yoga more regularly.  Discipline can be good, sometimes.  And sometimes it can be ego’s way of promising guilt, self-flagellation and a spiritual life that is controlled by will – which is no spiritual life at all.It’s hard not to think about discipline as a sought after quality of the most successful people in the world.  We respect the discipline of athletes, soldiers, business people and fitness gurus.  And in the name of producing a well-oiled human machine, discipline in this sense is really a formidable feat. The question is:  can we come to know our spiritual self through the same means…

  • Practice,  Yoga in the Everyday

    My Favorite “Outside the Box” Mini-Practices

    It’s not always possible for me to engage a long practice and I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  But, I’m also sure that I’m not alone in the need to take care of myself, to listen and respond intelligently to my body, mind and spirit. Below are some of the mini-practices that punctuate my busy days.  While they may not bring me to the clarity or wholeness of a more in depth practice they help me to stay in my body, keep a toe in the pool of awareness and stop me from continuing the descent into my ego’s chatte.1.  The “Dear God don’t let it be morning already practice”…

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