As of November 2022, new blog posts and audio material will be published on our Substack: The Wise Body. Please click the link and subscribe to be kept updated.
This page is an archive of our past blog posts, listed by year from 2017 to 2022.
Use the search bar at the bottom of the page to find posts, and click on the image or the title of the post to read more.
If you find value in these posts, or in any of our work, please consider making a one-time donation via PayPal. Click on the button to give any amount you want, directly to us. Thank you for your support.
A Meditator’s Guide to Emotions (II) · October
In the first part of this series, I wrote about how we can approach our emotional life with more sanity, trust and balance. It requires a re-framing of certain ideas we may have about emotions, their place and purpose in our lives, the language they ‘speak’, and how to engage with them. In this post, as promised, I’m offering some tips and practice ideas to make it easier and less overwhelming for you to be with your emotions.
Remember that we are cultivating a felt presence, an embodied awareness, whenever we are with our emotions. The overall texture of our awareness is gentle, tender, light (not harsh, judgmental, analytical, or even overly focused). The following tips can be applied whether you are engaging in a micro-moment of personal connection, or giving yourself a longer downtime to decompress and process an emotional experience. You may find some that you are already doing, consciously or unconsciously, or some that are totally new to you and may be the missing ingredient that you need…
A Meditator’s Guide to Emotions (I) · September
This post is going to be the first in a series of ‘meditator’s guides to…’ various things. There is a rich wisdom in the meditative and somatic traditions about the ordinary experiences of life that we all go through: pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, thoughts, sensations, movement and stillness, activity and rest. These are the kinds of things that are so basic to human experience that we don’t really even think about them. They just happen to us, or we do them instinctively. And yet they determine so much of the quality of our lives.
All of us grow up unconsciously learning how to relate to these aspects of life from our family and community, teachers, friends and peers. Later in life we may consciously seek out and learn new ways to relate such experiences—perhaps from self-help books, scientific perspectives, or therapeutic methods. In my own explorations, I keep coming back to the natural wisdom of somatic and meditative traditions. This is a wisdom gathered from the experience of thousands of practitioners across time; people who lived and breathed the same way we do, who experienced and explored their bodies, their thoughts, their hearts, and then generously shared their knowledge by writing, teaching or embodying it. Receiving it is like being taught by a wise elder that you trust…
The Dance of Meditation and Life (Musings Part VI) · August
I have been part of traditions and approaches that start small and slowly build up until they occupy great big chunks of your life, time, energy and money (think retreats where you are meditating for 5, 6, 8 hours a day), and also part of approaches that are extremely minimal and subtle in how they fit into ordinary life (‘meditations in the moment’). From that experience, I have found that the framing that works best for me is that meditation is meant to serve life. It is part of life, part of the rhythm of human be-ing and do-ing that makes up life. Meditation is woven into the fabric of living, not something separate from ordinary life…
Read Part VI
Meditate with your Body (Musings Part V) · July
A lot of people, meditators included, think meditation is about the mind and not the body. In most meditation instruction, our physical form is seen as a kind of unimportant passenger that we attend to briefly at the start or from time-to-time; as tangential to the practice, something that can just be ignored; or even as an unfortunate hindrance that we need to transcend. When the body is included in the practice, it is usually in a regulated or narrow form, like focus on the breath, or on certain sensations in a body-scan. This denies and limits the fullness and richness of embodied experience, of being incarnate (“to be made flesh”), which is actually at the heart of both meditation and life…
Read Part V
Rhythms of Attention (Musings Part IV) · May
Like life, meditation is rhythmic and flowing. It is an ongoing, moving experience like the flow of a river, or the movement of a crowd. In meditation, we are essentially experiencing and cherishing the movement of our attention through a vast array of internal and external phenomena. I’m going to repeat this in different words, because it is likely to be very different from what you’ve heard about meditation before. Meditation is not stillness, it is movement. It is not a static state, but a dynamic, living experience. In meditation, our attention cycles through states, thoughts, emotions, images, feelings, desires, sensations…all of the multitude of impulses that we experience as humans. Sometimes we can cycle through these in a matter of seconds, at other times it takes several minutes or longer. When we meditate, we are setting ourselves free to explore, play and connect all of these impulses…
Read Part IV
Whole Self Adventuring (Musings Part III) · April
Hopefully by now your meditation practice is beginning to take shape. If you’ve read the previous posts, you will likely be aware of what meditation is meant to be like, and why you want to meditate (part I). You may also have a sense of the when and the how of your meditation (part II). Recap these if you need to. In this post we are going deeper into the how portion: what actually happens inside you when you enter into a meditative experience? What to do with thoughts, emotions, sensations and all the other jazz of the inner life? Read on for some helpful tips and framing…
Read Part III
The How and Why of Meditation (Musings Part II) · March
Now that you’ve understood (and possibly experienced) what meditation can be like: relaxing, casual, delightful, aligned with your heart’s desires…let’s dive in a little deeper. This post is really about how to craft a meditation practice that works for you. Read on for my tips and ideas, and remember: be as creative, imaginative and true to yourself as you can. There are no wrong ways, only your ways…
Read Part II
What Meditation Is All About (Musings Part I) · February
Two pieces of wonderful news that inspired this series of posts: (1) 2022 marks ten years that I’ve been meditating (I can’t quite believe it) and (2) I have just certified as an Instinctive Meditation™ teacher… This approach is possibly the most comprehensive and delightful approach to meditation I have found to date. So, in celebration, I have decided to synthesize and present the top 10 things I’ve learned in the past 10 years, from this training and also from my own experience. Since I love to write (and have a lot to share), the 10 points will be split across multiple posts to make them easier to digest.
Read Part I
How to Approach Somatic Practice (Parts I, II & III)
There are some ideas that may be useful to bear in mind as you enter the world of somatic practice. These ideas are foundations that support our continued unfolding, and our experience of our selves. They are valid no matter where we find ourselves, from the very beginning of our journey into the world of somatics, to our ongoing explorations of the territory years later.
I have structured this advice as a series of three posts, each one including a few prose-poems to be read and absorbed (slowly). Sometimes I repeat myself, in slightly different ways, because different things catch and resonate with different people. It is the same when we practice. Take what supports you.
Read Part I | Read Part II | Read Part III
Balance and Symmetry · June
I recently completed a Yin Yoga teacher training (ironically enough, after 5 years teaching Yin). One of my takeaways from the training was a reminder of our beliefs around the supposed symmetry and balance of the body. Largely because of how we look, most of us assume that we are bilaterally symmetrical. In other words, that our left and right sides are (or should be) the same. In Yin, and also in much of somatic movement, a major discovery many of us make is that our body is really not symmetrical at all. It can be surprising, shocking, even horrifying, to notice all the ways in which we are off-kilter, unbalanced, or just plain different from one side to the other. The question becomes: what do we do with this knowledge?
Ode to the Ground · March
In my sessions and personal practice, my first and last recourse is to something many of us take for granted: the ground. It is one of the best props you could use in your movement practice, and in some cases, may even be the only thing you need to reconnect to your living, breathing, moving self.
We all know intellectually that our bodies exist, grow and move in relation to gravity. But is this a felt experience that we embody? When was the last time you knew gravity as a force in your bones, and not just a scientific concept or measurement?
Dharma Books: Our Recommendations · November
As we come to the end of the year, with days of leisure and enjoyment before us, we wanted to leave you with a few recommendations for dharma books that you can take with you this holiday season. Our selection is deliberately eclectic, so we hope you find something that speaks to you, no matter your level of interest, experience or life situation. In no particular order, here goes…
Movement Habits for a Healthier You (III) · Vaishali Iyer · June
Move more and move better throughout the day
One of the things I love about the term ‘movement’ is how broad it is. Movement, unlike exercise, is everything you do with your body–shifting your weight, scratching an itch, going to the bathroom, picking up your bag, putting down your bag, reaching for your coffee… I think you get the point. When you think about moving, all of what you do is included. This means that not only is it possible to move throughout the day, you’re probably already doing it (to some extent). The idea, in this post, is to get you to (1) evaluate the ways you’re already moving, and (2) add on new and different ways that use more of your body, or that use different parts of your body…
Movement Habits for a Healthier You (II) · Vaishali Iyer · May
Switch up your relationship to the ground
This is a cool one that you probably hadn’t thought of, and really simple to do. The premise is this: the way that your body is positioned relative to the ground affects the length and load on your muscles and joints. For example, when you’re standing, your leg muscles have to work harder to keep you upright, while your lower body joints are being loaded in the neutral (pelvis and ankle) or extended (knee) positions. On the other hand, when you’re sitting cross-legged or squatting on the ground, your leg muscles may be more passive but the joints of your legs are also more flexed…
Movement Habits for a Healthier You · Vaishali Iyer · April
As some of you may know, I’ve been taking some time off from public teaching recently to study and explore different forms of movement. Lately, my focus has been on biomechanics, kinesiology and anatomy. All complex topics that are deeply satisfying for the body nerd in me! However, at the same time, as I’ve studied and read and practised, there have been several moments where I’ve thought: this is so simple, anyone can do it! So I decided to make a short list of basic ideas I’ve learned that you could apply in your life for a happier, healthier body. Each of the posts in this series will present you with a movement idea, some of the theory behind it, and ways you can implement it practically in your life…
The Power of Rest: Lessons from Restorative Yoga · Vaishali Iyer · December
This post is intended as inspiration for you to find rest in your life, particularly as we come towards the end of the year. I found restorative yoga at a time of many shifts in my life. It became, for me, a safe space of allowing and accepting where I was and how things were unfolding in my life. It gave me hope and courage in the midst of anxiety and the scary decisions I had to make. My wish is that we can all find a way to immerse ourselves in rest…
Why Your Core Matters · Vaishali Iyer · June
(1) a central and often foundational part, usually distinct from the enveloping part by a difference in nature; (2) a basic, essential, or enduring part (as of an individual, a class, or an entity); (3) the essential meaning; (4) the inmost or most intimate part
In yoga and other forms of movement, the core is often understood to be a set of structures and tissues located in the abdominal area. If I ask you where your core is, chances are you will point to your belly. But what I have learned is that the core is so much more than that…
On Alignment · Vaishali Iyer · April
In the yoga world, we often talk about alignment—one of the keys to mastering postures and truly feeling the benefits of yoga. There are many views and approaches to how we can best align our bodies in the forms and movements of yoga. There are also many reasons why alignment is so crucial to yoga practice. To begin with, we cultivate alignment in order to be safe and prevent injury, but over time it becomes an aspect of yoga practice that goes much further…
Coming Into Embodiment · Vaishali Iyer · February
Yoga is an embodied practice. It sounds obvious when I put it like that, but many of us haven’t taken the time to consider what it truly means to work with the body. The body we are interested in as yogis is not so much the physical body as seen or imagined from the outside, but the body that we can feel from within, when we breathe and move. This is our embodiment, or what we call the soma…
Take a Deep Breath… · Vaishali Iyer · December
Breathing is one of the central elements of yoga practice. It is also one of the easiest yoga teachings to bring “off the mat” and into daily life. In this final post of the year, I’d like to share some thoughts and practices that might help you weather any end-of-year stresses with more ease. Firstly, why is breath so crucial? It is not that we need to breathe “correctly” or learn a lot of different breathing techniques. Breath is an entry point into further embodiment, rather than something to be mastered or controlled by the mind…
It’s All About Shavasana · Vaishali Iyer · September
One of the things that makes yoga is special is the way it ends. Most, if not all sessions close with a few minutes of total rest, lying on our backs with the arms and legs out, in the posture known as shavasana. I happily confess that it is one of my favourite poses. But at the same time, I know that for many of us it can be a challenge. It doesn’t help that we’re often not taught what shavasana is really for, or how to practice it. Questions can arise, such as ‘what am I meant to be doing right now?’, ‘what’s the point of this anyway?’ and the classic, ‘can I fall asleep now?’ With this in mind, here are a few thoughts and pointers…
Dharana & Dhyana: A Somatic Perspective · Vaishali Iyer · July
The eight limbs of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are often taught as a step-by-step ascent, or a process of deepening interiorization which culminates with samadhi in formal sitting meditation…
Yoga Stories · Charu Ramesh · June
Have you ever wondered why Yoga poses have such esoteric names? Why should it be Hanumanasana and not just the splits? What is the value addition in calling a low lunge Anjaneyasana? And why can’t it be a simple forward bend rather than Paschimottanasana? It all comes back to the purpose of yoga. The ancient yogis gave us this practice to help us connect to our own divinity through our bodies. So, while yoga is unparalleled in its physical benefits, these are only one part of the story…
Why Yin? Part III · Vaishali Iyer,
photos by Reviveramesh · May
This is the third and final in my series of posts on yin yoga. In this last post, I want to talk about how yin yoga helps us access the body’s natural healing capabilities. The healing power that yin yoga unlocks is an extension of this idea, and hinges on our ability to come into the body through the practice. Yin is a way of returning to the somatic awareness that is natural to human beings – a state of being that is grounded in the body, open, present and aware…
Why Yin? Part II · Vaishali Iyer,
photos by Reviveramesh · May
In this post, I want to go a little deeper into the symbolism of yin, and how we can start to feel the meaning of yin in practice. The word ‘yin’ comes from Chinese or Daoist thought, and is used in complement with its “opposite” – ‘yang’. Yin-yang are the twin forces that create and give life to everything in the universe. Yin represents the dark principle, associated with the shadows, rest, the moon, night, earth and feminine energy…
Why Yin? Part I · Vaishali Iyer,
photos by Reviveramesh · May
While most of us are probably familiar with active (“yang”) forms of yoga, yin yoga is still somewhat unknown, somewhat in the shadows of the yoga world. The world of yin is soft, gentle, dark, still…and at the same time, deeply alive and powerfully sensitive. Over the next few posts, I’ll be exploring some reasons why yin yoga might be the perfect complement to your active movement practices…
Practising with Integrity: Thoughts on Sthira-Sukham Asanam ·Vaishali Iyer · March
This month I’m co-teaching a course on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In preparation, I’ve been exploring some of the text’s key themes in my regular weekly classes. I’ve taught about staying focused and stilling the mind through somatic awareness (citta vritti nirodha); learning to honour the truth (satya) of your body and your practice as you move; and, most recently, how to cultivate a sense of integrity in practice, based on a foundation of steadiness and ease (sthira sukham). These two qualities are taken from 2.46 of the Yoga Sutras, where Patanjali says that asana, one’s seat, should be sthira, steady, and sukha, relaxed…
Lessons From Patanjali: Receiving the Divine Offering · Charu Ramesh · February
There are many myths surrounding the birth of the sage Patanjali. In one of the myths, his mother was a skilled yogini who desired a son to whom she could pass on her wisdom and knowledge. One morning she was praying at the river, with her hands placed in anjali mudrafilled with water that she was offering to the Sun. As she raised her hands and made her offering, a tiny snake fell into her cupped palms. She accepted him as a gift from the heavens and raised him as her son, calling him Patanjali…