My Yoga Practice.


(I had to write this piece for another purpose, but it also seemed to be an appropriate post.)

My yoga practice is my life.  I don’t mean that in the sense that all I do is yoga, but rather, in the sense that I endeavour to bring my practice to every aspect and every moment of my life. 

I see yoga as a practice focused on moving with mindfulness, cultivating awareness, and using this mindfulness and awareness to practice ahimsa, or non-harming, in thought, word and action.  I like to think that practicing yoga is not as much about what you are doing, but more about how you are doing it.  I often hear people criticizing the Westernizing of yoga, as new brands like AcroYoga and Anti-Gravity Yoga pop up and we label and classify them as we Westerners like to do.  But, while I can identify with a concern for the integrity and authenticity of the yoga practice, I also think it is important to remember that yoga can be practiced anywhere, while doing anything.   

Part of being a yoga practitioner (and especially part of being a yoga teacher) is finding the yoga in each moment – whether you are on the mat or stuck in traffic.  Patanjali’s first yoga sutra can be translated as “now is the practice of yoga,” and with this sutra, he reminds us that the experience of yoga is in each moment, that yoga is about being in the present moment.  A sense of being present in each moment can come about as we move through a gentle flow sequence on our mat, but it is often much more challenging to bring the presence of the practice to each moment off the mat.  And, of course, off the mat is where we need the practice most. 

My yoga mat (or meditation cushion) is where I practice and harness the skills to live yoga off the mat.  When I hold pigeon for five-minutes, I learn to find comfort in discomfort.  When I move through a challenging sequence of Warrior postures, I practice strength and persistence in the face of adversity.  And, when I sit in the stillness of meditation, I learn to focus my thoughts and recognize that I don’t have to engage or identify with every thought that floats through my mind.

I return to the mat to practice every day because without this consistency, the lessons of the practice sometimes have a way of floating away, or falling out of sight, in life’s more challenging moments.  But with consistent practice, I come to embody the spirit of yoga and become a teacher of yoga – whether I am standing in front of people on yoga mats, helping a friend through a difficult time, or grocery shopping.  Because just as practicing yoga is less about what you are doing, teaching yoga is less about what you are teaching and more about how you are teaching it.

I see you.


I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Committed, and amidst many fascinating facts about marriage, she touches upon the word respect – claiming that the word, which comes “from the Latin respicere (‘to gaze at’), suggests that you can actually see the person who is standing next to you” (102). 

I love this way of looking at respect.  I find that understanding the origin of this word gives me a whole new appreciation for the value and experience of affording someone or something respect.   

I see this sort of respect in how the Na’vi greet each other in the movie Avatar – with the words, “I see you.”  And, of course, as a yogi, I see it in the word namaste, which can be translated as “the light in me sees the light in you.”  

I’ve also heard namaste translated as peace, which makes sense to me as well, because I see the kind of recognition and acknowledgement present in the act of saying namaste (or “I see you”) as the foundation of peaceful action, or ahimsa (non-harming).  When we respect, when we truly see, what is around us – from our community to our environment, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to engage in harmful action. 

When I see you,
And you see me,
A peaceful world,
Will come to be.                  


The Journey, by Mary Oliver


Sol Yoga studio is in the midst of a seven-week celebration of poetry, and Marita read this poem by Mary Oliver at the beginning and the end of her class today.  It seems to beautifully capture the call to be a yogi.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.