Posted by: Bruce Black | May 1, 2015

Puzzling Out Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

“And now the teaching of yoga begins.” 

These words form the opening line of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ancient collection of aphorisms compiled around 400 CE, which I’m reading for the first time in the hope of gaining a better understanding of yoga and my practice.

As an introductory line, it’s wonderful, isn’t it? The words invite the reader and yogi into the tradition of learning that is at the heart of yoga practice.

To learn yoga, the words imply, you must be willing to adopt the attitude of the student. You must cultivate a perspective of curiosity and a willingness to be open to new ideas, new ways of seeing the world.

And you must be willing, as well, to take risks based on what you learn, to test the evidence in your own way, and to trust your inner teacher as you listen and learn from an experienced teacher.

The words imply that you must become a student.

And to be a student, the words suggest, you must find a teacher.

The words suggest, as well, that at the heart of yoga is this relationship between student and teacher, and that learning yoga isn’t done alone or in isolation but rather as part of a community of students who take the time and make the effort to study with a teacher.

What qualities should you look for in a teacher?

The words don’t suggest specific qualities. They simply invite you to welcome the teachings into your life.

In order to learn yoga, this opening line suggests, you’ll need to find a teacher.

Sometimes you can find a teacher nearby, sometimes far away.

Sometimes your teacher speaks in a language that you can understand, sometimes in a language that you need translated in order to understand.

Each time I open the pages of The Yoga Sutras in the weeks and months ahead, Patanjali will be my teacher.

Perhaps he will become your teacher, too?

Practice Journal: As you step onto your mat, think about these words: “And now the teaching of yoga begins.” What do these words mean to you? Can you remember what your first yoga teacher taught you? Do you recall how he or she began your class? Can you describe how having a teacher has made a difference in your practice and your life? Write: 10 min.

Note:And now the teaching of yoga begins.” from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated and introduced by Alistair Shearer, Bell Tower, NY (1982).

Posted by: Bruce Black | April 1, 2015

Cracking Open Your Heart

Over time I’ve noticed how my heart often wants to withdraw behind a thick shell.

When expectations are dashed or hopes crushed, or when I suffer a bruise from a relationship or a deeper hurt, my heart seeks safety behind a shell that only gets thicker with each perceived injury.

I might be talking to someone and feel slighted or not heard, or a long-held dream might come crashing down, or my efforts on a project, despite long hours and hard work, might meet with disappointment (or, worse, failure), and I’ll watch as my heart retreats into its shell.

It was my yoga practice that made me aware of this thickening shell, this impulse to withdraw, this process of seeking protection behind a wall whenever I felt threatened or vulnerable.

To be vulnerable, after all, is to be exposed, and to be exposed is dangerous because the more you are exposed, the more open you are as you meet the world, and the more open you are, the easier it is for someone—or something—to pierce your heart and leave you wounded and in pain.

And so I learned over the years to build a shell, a wall, a barrier in the hope that I could block the pain and keep it at bay.

But my yoga practice reminds me that life consists of pleasure and pain, and that trying to build a wall to keep frustration, disappointment, and pain at bay is futile.

Our yoga practice is designed to help us embrace life—all of life, not just the parts that give us pleasure but the parts that are frustrating, disappointing, and painful, too.

It reminds us that life is to be lived not behind a wall but with a heart that is open, soft, accepting, nonjudgmental, and vulnerable.

If we are diligent in our yoga practice, we can develop the physical and emotional strength that we need to crack open the thick shell that we build around our hearts each time we feel we are hurt.

Yoga teaches us how to pay close attention to our bodies, how to notice when we feel tense and uncomfortable, and how to stay with these feelings rather than run away from them.

Each time we attempt a pose too challenging for our skill level, we learn simultaneously how to face the pose and how to face a challenge in our life that may be beyond what we imagine we can deal with.

Each time we confront our fears in a difficult pose, we learn simultaneously how to face the fears that keep us from living fully, from reaching out in unfamiliar directions, from pursuing uncharted paths, just as it is fear of falling (and failing) that may keep us from finding our balance in Headstand or Tree Pose.

Yoga teaches us to stay with discomfort so we can explore a pose rather than fear it. Each time we enter a new pose, we are given an opportunity to notice how it feels to step into the pose. (And we can give ourselves permission to try the pose again and again until we learn what we need to learn to stay in the pose a little longer.)

It’s this act of exploration—whether we’re exploring the pose itself or our fear of the pose—that lets us move beyond our fear of failure, of falling out of the pose, of being vulnerable or exposed to others.

Each time we step on our mats, we are given the chance to crack open the shell around our hearts a little wider and let in a little more light, more faith, more confidence, and more love than the time before.

Practice Journal: How does your yoga practice help you crack open your heart? Can you list one or two experiences that may have caused you to build a shell around your heart? And can you describe how yoga has helped you crack open the shell so that you can live fully in each moment? Write: 10 min

Posted by: Bruce Black | March 1, 2015

Restoring Balance

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to my yoga practice as a way of quieting my thoughts and finding a sense of calmness in a world that never seems to stop running.

Slowing down on my mat helps restore the balance that I try to maintain in my life, and helps me put aside the worries and anxieties that accompany an endless stream of text messages, e-mails, and phone calls during my day.

The moment that I step on my mat and lie on my back, reclining in order to flex my ankles and windshield wiper my legs, I can feel my body letting go of stress. With each movement, my mind shifts, my thoughts slow, my pulse lets go of tension.

Often, I find myself counting softly as a way of being mindful of my breath. The simple act of counting helps synchronize the movements of my body with the movement of my breath, and I can follow the inhale and exhale of my breath with a kind of mindfulness that is often missing at other times of the day.

If I remember to return to my breath, to stay in the moment of that breath’s inhalation and exhalation, I notice how the world around me slows down even more, just as the world within my mind slows down.

And if I learn to slow down in my poses, to breathe in and into each pose, I can begin to hear my body speaking. I can hear it telling me where I feel tight or constricted, vulnerable, exposed. I can feel the pain in my knee or hip or wrist, and adjust my poses so that I don’t do further harm to that part of my body.

One day I might hear my muscles whispering “Give us a rest!” while on another day I might hear them shouting “We need more stretches!” Slowing down gives me an opportunity to listen to these voices, to what my body needs. Often, slowing down reveals the way that I need to go in my practice.

Slowing down can mean no longer needing to push so hard to improve myself or strive to become a better yogi. It can mean simply shifting my practice to a gentler form, a practice that doesn’t demand anything more than being in the moment.

Over the past few weeks, since I started attending an inspiring Yin Yoga class at Yoga Libre in Sarasota, I’ve thought often about the benefits of slowing down. On the first night of class, my teacher, Nancy, suggested that the class was about “learning not to strive,” and her insight struck a deep chord into how I might practice yoga whenever I step onto my mat.

Now, as I move into a pose, I try to notice the different muscles that help me enter and stay in the pose. I may not know the names of the muscles, but I can feel them working. I can feel the parts of my body that come into play when we stretch out in Restored Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana), for instance, or lean forward in Forward Seated Bend (Paschimottanasana).

There’s a rhythm to my practice. And I can feel that rhythm not only within each class or session, but within my life, too.

Some days, I might need an energetic and demanding practice that challenges me to go fast, build strength, gain stamina.

But other days, I might need the opposite—a calming, less active practice, or a class that challenges me to slow down, develop patience, accept my thoughts as they arise and learn to let them go in the same way that I let go of each breath.

What kind of practice I create for myself depends on my needs in the moment. It also depends on my ability to listen closely to what my body asks of me.

Today I hear it asking these questions: Can you practice without striving? Can you accept yourself as you are in this moment?

Practice Journal: How do you restore balance in your life when you feel it’s spinning out of control? Are you able to slow down? What questions is your body asking you? Can you accept yourself as you are? Write: 10 min.

Posted by: Bruce Black | February 1, 2015

What We Take For Granted

Our yoga class begins the way it always begins with our teacher inviting us to kneel in Table Pose on all fours.

Gently, we breathe in and release our breath, our spines unfolding upward, rounding toward the ceiling, and then dropping down again so that our bellies reach toward the floor.

Ordinarily, these basic poses–Cat and Dog Tilts–provide gentle stretches for the spine, but this morning these poses prove painful because of a sharp twinge that I feel on the outside of my left knee.

The simple act of kneeling feels like I’m pressing my knee into a sharp tack rather than into a soft foam mat. The pain shoots up the left side of my knee so that I have to come out of the pose.

Until this moment, I’ve never given much thought to what’s required to kneel in the pose. Indeed, I’ve taken my knees—and the simple act of kneeling itself—for granted.

Why is it, I wonder, that it often takes the loss of something–something that we usually consider “ordinary” and hardly ever notice–to remind us of what we take for granted?

Loss is only one way for us to become mindful of what we take for granted.

Our yoga practice can also help us discover a new, more mindful perspective of what seems “ordinary” in our lives.

Each pose can help us see time unfolding as a succession of moments, each moment connected to the moment before it and the moment after it.

It’s rare that we see time this way, however. Too often on our mats and in our lives we focus on a goal–a certain number of Sun Salutes, say, or reaching for our toes in Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend), or staying in Plank for a minute or longer.

Focusing on such goals means there is something in the future that we want to achieve, some far-off destination that we want to reach, or some plan that we are hoping to complete.

We end up focusing on any place but the one where we happen to be right now.

We worry about the past, about what we might have done differently.

We worry about what we should have done.

We are unable to see life unfolding moment-to-moment in front of our eyes.

We end up missing these moments, this moment.

If we use our practice to help us become more mindful of each moment, though, we can learn to see each pose as a sequence of events, or, rather, as a succession of moments.

When seen from this angle or perspective, the final form of the pose doesn’t really matter.

What’s important is not if we can lift our bodies off the mat into Upward-Facing Bow, or whether we have trouble raising our leg to mid-thigh to balance in Tree Pose.

What’s important are the steps that we take along the way which let us move into these poses.

“There is no arriving,” my teacher, Jaye Martin, likes to remind us, “only practice, practice, and more practice.”

How can we avoid the the trap of thinking that the pose itself is the goal, of taking for granted the steps that move us into and then out of the pose?

We can avoid the trap by becoming more mindful, more self-aware, qualities that the process of yoga can bring to our lives if we let it.

In the process of practicing yoga–taking the incremental steps that make up our poses, each step leading to the next–we are able to discover yoga.

And in discovering yoga, we are able to discover what we may have once taken for granted: the power of this one “ordinary” moment.

Practice Journal: Do you take anything–or anyone–in your life or in your yoga practice for granted? Spend a few minutes making a list–it can be as long or as short a list as you’d like to make it–and then write down the things that you may overlook as “ordinary” in your practice and in your life. Write: 10 min.

Posted by: Bruce Black | January 1, 2015

The Yoga of Aging

It’s almost time to drive to my yoga class, but I’m debating if I should go or skip the energetic 90-minute session and stay home to practice a few easy, restorative poses on my own.

It isn’t that I’ve grown tired of class or upset with my teacher or other students. On the contrary, I look forward to the weekly class. It’s one of the few times during the week when I feel unencumbered by the stresses of work and life.

But for the past few weeks I’ve nursed a sore right quad muscle and an aching left knee. They are, I suppose, the aches and pains of aging, and, luckily, they haven’t yet kept me off my practice mat. Yet I hesitate to go to class, unsure if I’ll be able to keep up with the pace of the other students.

At the last minute, though, I decide to take my mat and get in the car and drive to the yoga studio. I remind myself that I’ll be able to participate in the class if I practice with more mindfulness so that I can avoid further injury.

It was a good decision.

The class, as I’d hoped, turned out to be the perfect antidote to take my mind off the aches and pains of aging. Not only did I find myself able to forget the aches, I was inspired by the theme that my teacher introduced to start the class.

He read a quote about the wonder of life—“The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper”—and the quote (which some attribute to W.B. Yeats) helped me view aging and my aches and pains with a deeper appreciation for the changes that my body was undergoing.

As my teacher led us through each pose, I noticed how stretching and bending my legs and arms helped move me past the aches and pains. Instead of complaining, I felt grateful for the chance to age, for the changes in my body that I’d noticed lately.

Thanks to my teacher and his class about wonder, I noticed the magic of things like the new spidery lines spreading across my wrists, and the way the skin on my legs seems to have lost some of its elasticity, and the grayer hair that I see in the mirror each morning.

In an odd way, this process of noticing how my body is changing has become part of my yoga practice.

A sudden twinge in my left wrist, for instance, or on the back of my hand, just below the knuckles, can make it hard to remain in Down Dog for long, and I’ll begin exploring a different way to grip the mat.

An ache in my quad, especially on the inner thigh, while in High Lunge, or an unexpected numbness in my shoulder when I twist into Triangle, will change the shape of the pose.

These aches and pains usually disappear after I’ve warmed up, but sometimes they remain constant throughout the practice and linger after I’ve stepped off the mat.

If I notice the changes and adjust my poses, I can continue to practice with some slight modifications to accommodate my aging body.

I’ve learned to pull back from a twist instead of pushing too hard.

On days when my wrists hurt too much in Plank or Down Dog, I can add more standing balance poses.

All of us, as we grow older, are engaged in the yoga of aging. We need to learn how to switch gears, to tone down our practice on some days to give our bodies a chance to rest.

We need to learn to soften instead of pushing harder, to lay down with our legs up the wall for a restorative practice instead of trying to boost our heart rate with a series of intense Sun Salutes.

Each day, as I step on my mat, I remind myself that I am lucky to be able to age gracefully in my body, thanks to my yoga practice.

There are no guarantees, of course, that yoga will help us reach a ripe age.

But if we practice the yoga of aging—noticing how our bodies are changing and adapting our practice to nurture out ability to keep practicing—we may find ourselves feeling (and looking) younger than our age.

And that’s a good reason to keep practicing in the year ahead, don’t you think?

Practice Journal: How do you define “youth” and “age,” and how does yoga help you notice and explore the differences? Write: 10 min.

Posted by: Bruce Black | December 1, 2014

What Our Yoga Teachers Give Us

It’s so easy to take our teachers and what they give us for granted.

Each week they arrive in advance to welcome us and put us at ease when we enter the classroom.

Each time we step onto our mats, they ask about our injuries so that they can help us modify our poses, if necessary.

At the beginning of class, they sit cross-legged on their mats at the front of the room to share a story, an insight, a snippet of knowledge, and we listen intently, eagerly absorbing their words.

What we hope to gain in class from our teachers is something more than what we might learn if we had stayed home and practiced alone.

Here are some of the treasured gifts that my yoga teachers have bestowed on me this past year:

Appreciation for the beauty and mystery of life

Balance to explore my inner self

Connection to a larger community

Courage to be in the moment

Desire to express gratitude for life and its many blessings

Determination to set an intention

Faith to feel a link to the divine

Flexibility to notice how a positive perspective changes the way I feel

Freedom to let go of expectations

Joy of taking time to breathe

Strength to smile through challenges

Support of friends

Trust to open my heart in challenging situations;

Wonder and awe that I feel in nature;

Willingness to accept what my body can do at a certain age

In every class, month after month, our teachers bestow these gifts on us. They glean these gifts from their own practice, and they pass them on to us, each gift a blessing to be shared in the hope it may deepen our practice, our lives.

As the year comes to a close, I invite you to look back over the past twelve months and reflect on the many gifts that you’ve received from your teachers.

And I encourage you to take a moment the next time you see your teachers to thank them for all the blessings that they may have given you over the past year.

To each of my teachers, thank you for all you’ve given of yourselves over the past year. I’m so grateful to be your student.

Practice Journal: What are the gifts that your teachers have given you? Can you think of one or two and how these gifts have changed the way you practice yoga or inspired you in your life? Can you imagine how your life might be different if you hadn’t received these gifts? Write: 15 minutes.

Posted by: Bruce Black | November 1, 2014

Where Yoga Leads Us

Yoga has a way of leading us to a place where we can more clearly hear the question: “Who are you?”

Each pose peels away another layer of ourselves and moves us closer to the answer.

Earlier this week, as I practiced on my mat, I wasn’t even aware that I needed to ask this question, and yet my poses led me to this unexpected place.

And it was in this place that I felt the presence of another person nearby.

There was no one else in the room with me, yet I could hear a voice.

It was the voice of a teacher, but it wasn’t a teacher who I’d ever studied with in class.

The voice contained the strong accent of a foreigner. It sounded like someone from far-away who spoke with a slightly nasal intonation, much the way that I’ve heard people from India speak.

I strained to listen to this voice. It was a patient, compassionate, learned voice, and it had the timbre and tone of a man’s voice.

Not a young man’s voice but the voice of an elderly gentleman.

Although I’d never met this person before, I felt as if I had known him for years.

I couldn’t see him as I went through my poses, but I could sense him beside my mat.

It felt like he was watching me as I practiced. I didn’t feel any judgment or criticism. It felt like he was simply watching, curious, absorbing each pose as if it was the fruit of his labor.

As each of my poses unfolded, taking me deeper into the dance that is yoga, I felt this man’s non-judgmental nature as a gift that he was giving to me.

“Just be who you are,” I heard him say. “Dedicate yourself to your practice. Keep learning.”

His words felt like a warm embrace that created a place where I could let down my guard and simply be myself.

As I finished my practice, I sat on my mat cross-legged, my hands pressed together in front of my heart, and opened my eyes.

That’s when I saw him, an elderly man who looked much the way I imagined Mr. Iyengar might have looked if I had traveled to India while he was still alive to study with him.

This man was the man who had sat beside me, watching my practice, waiting patiently for my next move.

He had studied my poses with a curiosity and attention that I’d never felt before. It seemed as if he was even curious about my next breath.

I closed my eyes and listened closely to my in-breath and my out-breath.

And then I heard this man–perhaps it was the spirit of Mr. Iyengar, who knows?– speak again, his voice so soft that I had to strain to hear him.

Just be who you are.

His words floated in the air between us.

They were like the caress of the wind.

Practice Journal: In what way have the teachings of Mr. Iyengar influenced your practice and your life? And in what way can you show your gratitude for his teachings? Write: 10 min

Posted by: Bruce Black | October 1, 2014

A Wandering Mind

No matter how many times I set an intention to stay present to what’s happening on my mat, I’ll notice before long that my mind wanders.

It’s as if my mind and body become disconnected. As I twist into Triangle or stretch in Downward Dog, my body goes one way, my mind another.

When I reach for my toes in Forward Bend, my thoughts turn to options for dinner (black bean burgers or curried eggplant?). When I hold an extra-long Plank, I’ll find myself thinking about calling the handyman to fix the tile in our shower. While resting in Child’s Pose, I realize that I’m thinking not of the pose but of an unfinished manuscript on my desk.

Why this happens—why my mind wanders— is a mystery to me.

I can sit on my mat and notice my breath flowing into my lungs and out again. I can stand tall and reach for the sky in Mountain Pose. I can lift my leg and plant my foot on the opposite thigh and balance in Tree Pose. And for a moment or two my thoughts are focused on what my body is doing. But then, before I know what’s happened, my thoughts scatter like squirrels scurrying off in different directions.

It helps sometimes if I count my breath—one, two, three, four…. in, out, in, out— to root myself in the present. I try to slow down my thoughts and notice how my chest rises and falls with each breath. Counting each breath seems to keep my mind from wandering… until it starts to wander again … like a puppy wanting to explore the world.

Why is it so hard to stay in the present?

What I’ve come to understand is that pulling my thoughts back to the mat (which can feel like herding cats) requires concentration and determination, and yet no amount of concentration can keep my thoughts firmly in the moment for long.

It’s as if the moment is like a frozen pond, and my thoughts can’t help slipping and sliding across it, and there’s no railing for me to hold on to in order to keep my balance.

This becomes the practice: watching my thoughts slip and slide in different directions (using the asana poses as tools to help me notice thoughts as they arise), and letting them go, and remembering to breathe.

Each pose reminds me to breathe, to come back to the here and now.

Each breath brings my thoughts back to center, back to this moment.

If I can breathe with mindfulness, breathe into the moment, I am able to see with greater clarity how my body is experiencing the moment—this moment, then this moment, and then this and the next.

The longer that I can stay focused in this moment, the deeper I find that I can experience the moment and how it feels to sit in Easy Pose or lie on my back in Savasana, or how it feels to twist in Side Angle Pose or bend forward over my knee in High Lunge.

The thing about a wandering mind is that it keeps pulling me away from this moment into the world of my imagination, into a world of fantasy, into a world that doesn’t really exist … except in my mind.

It might pull me into a world of fears or doubts, hopes or dreams. It might pull me into a world filled with anxiety about a future that has not yet arrived, or regrets about a past that cannot be changed.

But if I can bring my thoughts back to the present by focusing on my breath or on how my thigh feels in Pigeon Pose, I can stave off my mind’s habit of pulling away from the moment and find myself rooted in the present.

And then I can see the world, not as I might want it to be or as I might dread it becoming, but as it is.

Practice journal: In what way does yoga help you stay rooted in the present and experience the full depth of each moment as it unfolds? Write: 10 min.










Posted by: Bruce Black | September 1, 2014

Pickled Peppers

What do pickled peppers have to do with yoga?

Nothing… and everything.

One of my teachers, Lynn Burgess, a student of Rodney Yee’s and the owner of Yoga From The Heart in Sarasota, FL, often begins her classes by reading aloud a short passage from one of her favorite books.

Lynn will sit at the front of the class, cross-legged in Easy Pose, or facing us in Virasana, with the book open in her lap, and in a soft, gentle voice she’ll read aloud an excerpt of poetry or prose.

On this particular morning, she opens The Offering of Leaves by Ruth Lauer-Manenti and begins to read a story that Ruth tells about making a trip to a local farmer’s market.

There Ruth sees an elderly man buying two dozen or more peppers.

Curious, she goes over to ask him why he is buying so many peppers.

He tells her that he likes to pickle them.

When his wife was alive, he says, they used to pickle everything—peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc—but now he only pickles peppers.

I sit listening to this story and feel impatient. I want to begin moving. I want class to start.

But I also feel curious, intrigued by the story, and can’t help wondering about it.

Why is my teacher starting our class with this passage? What does a story about pickled peppers have to do with yoga?

So, I sit with my impatience and listen and soon begin to understand.

Pickling is something that the man used to do with his wife before she died. It was their practice. And now, although his wife is gone, he continues the practice of pickling without her.

I realize just how much he is devoted to the practice, and I see why. It is because his act of devotion imbues his life with meaning. It can bring back his wife’s memory, too, if only for a short time, and it can remind him of the pleasure they took in each other’s company.

And so I listen as Lynn continues reading about Ruth, who drives home from the farm stand and tells her companion about the man and the peppers, and then goes on to tell him how it makes her sad to think of the old man living alone, pickling peppers, without his wife.

But she also tells her companion how meeting the man with the peppers has given her a deeper understanding of the meaning of devotion, and made her more aware of how to live a life fully devoted to what’s important.

As Lynn reads us this story, her voice contains the same quality of kindness and care that she uses throughout class as she walks between our mats, taking the time to adjust our poses, to help us learn how to become devoted to our practice.

I stretch and twist and bend, listening closely to her voice—not so much to the words that she says but to the quality of tone and pitch and breath—and it sounds almost as if she has become the narrator of the story, as if her life was changed, too, by the encounter with the man and the peppers.

How I love when my yoga teacher shares a story that touches her heart.

And I love how Lynn’s questions—“how do I become more devoted to my practice, more sensitive, more open to life?”—bring a different quality to my practice.

It was a class that started with a story about pickled peppers.

But it was really a story about yoga and learning how to devote ourselves to what’s important in our lives.

Practice Journal: Ask yourself the questions that my teacher posed in class that morning. How do you become more devoted to your practice? How can you become more sensitive to the needs of others or to your own needs? How can you open more fully to life? And how does yoga help you? Try to answer one or all of these questions in your journal. When you’re ready, open your journal and begin. Write: 10 min.

To find out more about The Offering of Leaves by Ruth Lauer-Manenti, visit:

Posted by: Bruce Black | August 1, 2014

Ebb and Flow

It was pouring only a few minutes ago as I was gathering my mat and journal and pen to practice outside, The sky had turned almost black with thick charcoal clouds and sheets of rain were coming down hard.

But now I’m sitting outside listening to the drip-drip-drip of rainwater in the gutters and watching pools of sunlight spread across the deck and noticing how patches of blue sky are opening above the pine trees.

In Florida, especially in the summer, this ebb and flow in nature— between sun and clouds, blue sky and gray streaks of rain — reminds me of the ebb and flow of energy that is part of our practice and our lives.

There’s an ebb and flow between the days when we feel compelled to step on our mat and the days when we’d prefer to spend the day in bed eating chocolate and reading our favorite novel.

And there’s an ebb and flow of energy between our poses, too, as we move from one pose to another. Indeed, each pose has its own ebb and flow of energy, a way of challenging us to push harder through the pose or to relax into it.

In Forward Bend, for example, we can feel the energy surge in our hamstrings and calves as we bend over, and we can feel the energy relax in our upper body, from our hips to our head.

As we bend forward and stretch to touch our toes, we can feel a wave of energy spiraling up the front and back of our legs. This pulsation of energy is what helps us rise, arms extended upward, into Mountain Pose. And we can feel the energy subside as we bend forward again and move into Downward Dog.

In Downward Dog, we push into the mat with our palms and fingers, and we can feel the energy of the pose work its way up our wrists and elbows to our shoulders and head and along our spine to our hips.

At the same time, as we press our toes into the mat, we can feel the energy flowing down our legs, from our hips through our calves and ankles to the soles of our feet, ebbing only to return as we rise up to Mountain Pose once more.

This ebb and flow of energy is not just part of our yoga practice but an integral part of our lives, of being human. Life itself is made up of this ebb and flow of energy.

There’s the ebb and flow between illness and health, sleep and wakefulness, hatred and love.

And there’s the ebb and flow between war and peace, fatigue and energy, weakness and strength, friendship and love, damp and dry, hot and cold, blue sky and gray clouds, sun and moon, stars and sky.

It’s this ebb and flow of energy that sustains us in each of our poses and throughout the days of our life.

Practice Journal: How do our poses help us connect with this flow of energy so that, with practice, we can become aware of its ebb and flow and feel more fully alive in each moment? Write: 10 min.








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