yoga philosophy

Prana. The moving.

Prana yama 1. The breath lies at the very boundary between our conscious and our unconscious selves.  It lies between our thoughts and the whole of our physical, emotional, cellular and metabolic makeup. Because it lies there, between, it is a bridge.  It is an autonomic system, like our digestion and the ticking heart.  But unlike those things, we can feel and pay attention to it directly, without a need for medical tools or machines. And unlike those things, we can choose to influence it.

2.  Furthermore, there are few sensory experiences that have such an immediate effect on our nervous system – that is, our brains, our spinal cord, our nerves and neural pathways.  The nervous system is responsible for mood, instinct, fight or flight, rest and digest.  It plays a major role in our thinking and behavioral patterns.  It is also intimately related to the way we age, the way we process internal and external stressors, and our ability to remember, imagine, create.  We could change our nervous system over time with intensive therapy, drastic physical shifts, ongoing dietary change, drugs or brain surgery.  With breath, though, we can affect our brain, nerves, and spine within seconds.

Books could be written, and have, about the thousands of ways in which the breath is central to a yoga practice, but these two form a rock solid beginning.dandi

By learning to pay attention to our breath (and, at times, to influence it), we take a step back from the thinking, ego part of who we are and directly experience our larger selves.  We literally start to play with the world of the subconscious, the dream, memory, cell structure, brain tissue, nerves standing up or calming down, the life processes of birth and decay.  There is metaphor and poetry to talking about the breath: the breath of god, the breath of life, stopping to catch a breath, you take my breath away.  It’s important to realize this is no metaphor, but truth: changing your breath changes your physical reality, immediately, in ways your conscious self can only catch glimpses of or appreciate at a surface level.

Because the breath occupies this boundary land of conscious and unconscious, it is a unique trap door we can use.  It provides a way for the conscious self to step into and begin to influence and explore all that is unconscious and murky and so terribly influential in our lives.  It is very hard to imagine controlling the secretion of digestive proteins, say, or to willfully slow down our heart rate or participate in the life cycle of a cell.  It is nearly impossible to think our way into feeling better or believing other than the way we do, no matter how many affirmations you repeat to yourself.  Those are all processes dominated by the unconscious; they are stubbornly resistant to will power or conscious intervention.

But the breath – the breath is something we CAN notice and even change.  It requires no fancy tools or expensive equipment, no laboratory tests or radical change in diet.  It doesn’t require years and years of study.  It is available to everyone, at any moment, and literally brings us to the gate of all those ‘subconscious’ processes happening within us.  It is proof that we are participant in those larger, shadowy processes, even though our participation is usually unconscious.

The word ‘prana’ is usually translated to breath or life force.  ‘Yama’ is restraint, observance, practice, control, or mastery.  Hence, pranayama,  fourth branch on the eight limbed path of yoga practices , is observance and practice of the breath or life force within us.



Life, physicists tell us, is energy.  I am not a physicist, and I couldn’t very well explain this to a toddler, let alone another grown adult.  All that E=Mc squared, stuff.  Yet I know and accept, on an intuitive and intellectual level, that life and cosmos are a mysterious tapestry in which our universe burst into being out of nothingness eons ago, that millions and zillions of stars circling are and exploding with materials so heavy a teaspoon’s worth weighs many billions of pounds and the shifting of seasons is actually, on a level I cannot see, a shifting of atoms.

There is something that causes us to be alive and, after our last breath leaves us, to no longer be the same any more.  I am not a theologian, either, and I will not bother to explore concepts of afterlife.  But I will say there is something that is us that doesn’t seem to be just our bodies, since our cells change every second, but isn’t just our brains, either.

That self, the yogic tradition tells us, is one manifestation of prana.  Prana is energy.  Life is energy.

That, says the yogi guru, pointing to energy and mystery and wonder, is what you are.


The yogic sages were brilliant.  They were able to discover and intelligently talk about this stuff without the benefit of a microscope.

Our western medicine has identified 6000 nerves in the human body: conduits along which impulses of energy move back and forth, shifting our hormones and cell structure and chemical composition along the way.

A yogic sage would nod at the concept of nerves.  He would call it a nadi.  The nadis are energetic and informational pathways that course our bodies in a manner as detailed and variegated as the nerves, the lymphatic system, and the circulatory network combined.nadis in the head nadis in the torso nadis one

The yogic sages say there are not 6000, only.  That is only what our microscopes see.  Some yogic maps show 72,000 nadis or energy/nerve pathways in the body.  The yogic map of these pathways is uncannily like our map of the nervous system.  Other yogic sources, though, say there are more than 350,000 energy pathways, coursing and roadmapping out the entire field of who we are.  They’d say our science is just not sophisticated, not subtle enough to see it.


Life is energy.  Life is prana.  And yoga is a practice or path of learning what and where energy actually is.  What has power and what doesn’t.  This sounds simple, and it is: we learn we function better when our bodies are open and cared for, when we eat well and rest enough.  But the study or practice of energy is also profound, and goes deeper and deeper the more open you become to exploring it.  It will start asking difficult questions, along the lines of why do I feel or act this way?  Why does this feel so good or bad? When I say ‘I’m feeling sad’, what do I actually mean?  Is there a physical sensation to sadness or is it a set of thoughts?  Where are those physical sensations, and can I tolerate or change them? What happens when I sit down and look fear right in the face for a moment? Why do I always feel this way after talking to so and so? How much longer will my body take this?  What IS that pain in my neck? They are difficult questions, and push us toward self-knowledge and self-mastery.   They also open into remarkable possibilities.

There is, at any flickering moment in time, a tremendous amount of power and intelligence in your body.  The human body can power up televisions, they say.  Human bodies could light up whole cities.  Every heart beat is triggered by an electrical surge.  Anger has a voltage.  So does laughter.

What yoga begins to show is that we have this huge potential, this oceanic tide of kinetic energy, even if we feel sluggish and stuck and powerless.  The power in us is often misplaced, repressed, or resisted – which causes energetic turmoil and dis- ease.  But it is there.


Prana and the energy body

deep breathPrana is life force , or breath.  It is the energy of the million, billion stars exploding and gyrating in the sky.  Human beings receive this life force directly into the body through the process of breathing.  We take it in in other ways as well: through live foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, minerals, through fresh water, through living, breathing trees and vegetation.

I tend to think that we also take it in through the love of other people and other creatures.  We probably also take it in in more subtle ways still, through music, the sound of inspiring words, beautiful sights.  Through empathy and art (neuroscience is backing this up).  Human beings are hardwired for connection: the tug and pull of affection, inspiration, rejection, or acceptance leave tracks or stains or floods of energy inside us.  It is the emotive force, complete with its ocean of endorphins and stress hormones and sex hormones and joy, that binds us to life and makes us want to live, more.

Yoga discovered that in addition to the physical architecture of our body we have an interpenetrating and underlying sphere or tapestry of reality.  They called it the pranamayakosha (the body of vital energy or airs.  (There are five bodies.  Food for a different essay)).  The nature of this subtle structure is movement, flow, change and tidal shift.  Over the centuries, they developed not just the theory of the pranamayakosha, but the anatomy of it.  They discovered the roadmap to our emotional selves, our characters (again, see picture at the end of the essay).

The structure is shot through with these invisible channels, those nadis, through which prana flows, energizing and literally sustaining all parts of the physical and energetic and intellectual structure.  Again, a visual representation of these tracks looks very much like our representations of the nervous or circulatory systems, but many times more dense.

Many western students are loosely familiar with the term ‘chakra’ or energy wheel.  According to yogic science, these energy wheels are like grand central terminal for the railway of the nadis.  They are energetic hubs, major thoroughfares of power and information.  Interestingly enough, these chakra points correlate directly with major nerve plexuses, organs, circulatory and lympathic centers of our body.  Their observations were physiologically accurate.

The energy body is deeply intelligent, although it doesn’t exactly speak English.  Much of yoga practice is learning to develop awareness of and trust in the wisdom of this energy body.

As yogis learned to experience the energy body directly, to map the flow of its major currents, they made another fascinating discovery:

Breath has an immediate impact on the entire flowing, waving, shimmering thing.  More than anything else, it is breathing that builds and regulates the flow of prana in the body.  On the most basic of physical levels, breathing sustains and supports the metabolic processes of every anatomical system in the body.  The very life of the body’s tissues is created by and dependent on the process of the breath. A body can go more than a week without food, almost that long without water.  Without breath, we would die in moments.  Breath supports the strength, responsiveness, and ability to detoxify the bones, the muscles, and the organs.  Unhealthy breathing habits (which most of us have) cause cellular structure to weaken, become dysplastic, irregularly shaped.

The breath balances, regulates, opens, closes, controls, and channels the flow of energy across the entire field of who we are, from our core beliefs and emotions to the skin of our toes.


The word yama is translated restraint or ascetic practice.  This is a harsh word, to our modern day ears.  It rankles of renunciation, fasting, rules and regulations.  Yet the point wasn’t an embrace of suffering for the sake of suffering.  The point was to suffer less; to be oneself, more.  Yogis sought reality.  Knowledge as ‘taught’ by priests, hierarchies, rituals was not their goal; experienced truth was.  There is an element of hard truth to ‘yama’; but there is also an element of authenticity and integrity.  The practices and restraints may be thought of as cultivated habits, a dedication to right things over easy answers, or an approach to self mastery.  At its most general, practice is the effort to replace blind auto pilot with conscious choice and mindfulness.

The earliest yogis dedicated their lives to spiritual and psychological experimentation.  They investigated diet, breathing, physical exercises, ethical behavior, prayer, meditation, chanting, worship, dedication to every conceivable kind of god and goddess.  Over the course of time, some headway was made in discovering the path to a fully alive human being.  A loose tradition was born.  A set of reliable and verifiable principals and practices emerged.  At some point, these principals and practices came to be known as yoga.

Yogis used their own minds and bodies as laboratories for experiments in living.  They arrived over and over again at a series of stunning insights into the human condition.

In the final analysis, they found that it is not what you know or believe, but how you live that counts.  Yamas are rungs on a ladder, a net to catch our days and our experiences with, a guide away from suffering and into that ‘more’ we suspect is there.

Interestingly enough, yogic wisdom does not make any claim to be undertaking spiritual writing or theology.  There is no interest in founding a new religion or disabusing one from the religion one already has.  There is little of entertainment, and not much drawing on the archetypes of the religious imagination.  Instead, the yogic wisdom texts seem to say that what mature human beings require is not another or different religion.  What we require is not more theology, but a reliable practice; a training program that may help the body and the mind realize the full potential and ramifications of being human.

Pranayama – practicing life’s energies

I taught a woman in a domestic violence shelter for two months, and after she left the shelter she continued coming to some of my classes.  Over time, the change in her was so poignant, and so inarguably TRUE, that I was baffled.  Of course, I say that yoga is change and transformation all the time.  I believe it.  But to see the change so radically, right before my eyes, in a way that was not metaphor but real, was stunning.

In the beginning, she showed up in jeans, a thick sweater, and tennis shoes.  I made a general comment to the room about the sensory receptors on the bottoms of our feet, but didn’t push it.  She practiced in those clothes for months.  When I gave cues to stretch the arms or take big steps, she would either mince her way into it and then draw back to her norm, or lose all control and not be able to move her arms and legs in co-ordination.  She always took the same place in a back corner of the room.

Although her disconnection from her body was obvious, it wasn’t really any different than the disconnect most of us have.  There are variations.  But it is a difference only of degree.breath

Yogically speaking, we begin a personal, spiritual, and psychological change through the body.  While this may seem a bit of a stretch for western minds, to yoga this is a very valid path.  The body plays a central role in the development of our character.  When we were young, those things mostly happened to us.  When we begin to practice, however, character and psychology are things we begin to make, ourselves.  Most psychology, self help, or spirituality begins with what the yogis would call the ‘mental body’ – thoughts and feelings.  But yogis take a radical step in moving the entry point right into the body.  They understand it to be the doorway to the more subtle interior worlds.

One evening this woman showed up to class in sweats and carrying a yoga mat of her own.  She sat down and took off her shoes.  I caught her eye and she gave a slight, shy smile before she went seriously into her pre-yoga practice cross legged seat.

It was as if she knew she had found something, here.  She was willing to see what else she might find.

A week or two later, she took her yoga mat out of the back corner and found a place in the front row.

All of this was beginning to show in her yoga postures, as well.  She became intensely concentrated in her practice.  It was clear she was enjoying, especially, the standing postures and heart opening practices – the warrior poses, mountain, dancer.  She told me one day after class that she loved the sense of feeling her feet on ground.  For the first time in her life, she said, she felt strong.  I noticed that she had taken a sudden leap with her breathing: it was steady and smooth and full even when she was most tired and other students were distracted.

One day, I noticed she was crying in camel pose.  Everyone went into child’s pose, afterward, where our faces are lowered to the ground.  When I cued the class to move again, into the next pose, this woman stayed down.  I noticed that her tears had turned to a kind of quiet and slow weeping.

This has happened before in my classes.  It has happened to me.  But I was surprised when a few minutes later, the woman stood back up again.  She followed the cues and did a few more poses with all of us.  And then, all on her own, she went back into camel pose and stayed there for a very long time.

It wasn’t until weeks later that she and I processed this together.  We were able to process not just that day but all the slow weeks and months that had come ahead of it.  Yoga works that way.  There are obvious and sudden moments of epiphany.  But there is also consistent, day after day subtlety and the basic willingness to show up.

She told me much of what I myself had seen: that she felt a powerful kind of concentration in yoga, and sometimes just moving from one posture to another felt inexpressibly good to her.  She noticed how her breathing had changed and grown more steady and free, and said this was true especially in class, but was showing up in her life off the mat as well.  She said that her arms and her legs began to have energy in them, and it was like there was a burning, fiery power right behind her belly button as well.

In talking about what happened the day she cried, she shrugged. She said it was ‘weird’.  She had begun to feel very dizzy.  Her heart began to race and her vision blurred, as if there were dust motes in her eyes.  Her whole chest and throat began to feel hot, “full of heat, it really kind of hurt”.  She felt she was going to pass out.  Then she realized she was crying, and felt ‘relief’ that we were going into child’s pose afterwards.

But what happened, later, I asked?  Why did you decide to go back into the pose?

She shrugged again.  “I knew that I could.” she said; “I knew it was okay, and there was something in my chest and throat that just needed to be felt again.  I don’t know, Karin….but a few weeks ago I heard something you said in class, and I realized I felt beautiful.  I’ve never felt beautiful in my whole life.  Somehow, it seemed a beautiful thing to do to go back into that pose.”

I know that this moment was an outward and visible sign of a major shift in her practice.  She was able to touch – to literally reconnect and feel – her feelings.  Feelings are the subterranean life of our energy body.

What I saw happen in that student is a thing I have felt in different ways – and to many different degrees of intensity – in my own life.

It is a stunningly beautiful thing.  You see it happen and you feel privileged, blessed to see a human achievement so rare in our day to day life.

But honesty tells me I have seen this happen, over and over and over again.

It would take hours to discuss the ways in which yoga – and perhaps other practices or people in her life – helped this woman.  We’d launch into psychology and theories and about how healing works, how people become stronger or happy.  But all of those discussions are really diversions from the real truth: it would be impossible to articulate all that happens to us in a yoga practice, but the sum total is good.  There is something to simply watching our breath that opens doorways to the soul we didn’t know were there.  If what we need is a way to feel better, stronger, more alive and more self-assured, than theory or theology don’t matter so much as practice does.

Practice, practice.  Practice.  said Patthabhi Jois.  Practice and all is coming.


The word, yoga.

English is an indo-european language - our word yoke is a direct descendant of the sanskrit word yoga.  It means - yoga - to bind or link, to connect, to unify.  To be bound to. The question is, bound to what?  At its most basic, most pared down, bare as dust definition, yoga is the linking of mind, body, and movement.  Our soul to our skin.

Binding the pieces of ourselves back together again. Perhaps knowing where they severed; maybe not.

This is the important point: the belief that body and mind are separate is part of our cultural, philosophic, and medical heritage.  We believe when we have a mood or an anxiety we should be able to just 'snap out of it'; that diseases are strange things visited on our animal bodies, having nothing to do with our 'self'.  We believe our bodies are just vehicles, handy mechanisms for wheeling the brain around from one part of the world to the other, but mostly disgusting, inconvenient, bestial.  Mostly a thing to be contained, controlled, covered up and cleaned up. Managed. Hidden. Used.

Yoga, when I found it, was a life saving bridge.  I didn't know it then. It wasn't what I was looking for, exactly.  I didn't give much credence to the idea that what I felt and believed and thought everyday could be altered, let alone healed.  I didn't believe life, or myself, could be any different.  I certainly didn't suspect and would not have believed that my body would be the thing to do it.  I scoffed at faith healing, energy talk, wispy and weak kneed ideas about karma and souls and manifestation.  They simply didn't hold up to logic and experience.

I still scoff.  But yoga's heart and very definition have very little to do with wispy and weak logic.  There is nothing about auras or faith healing there.  It is simply and forcefully the stated fact that our mind and our body do interface.  That our body hears and remembers everything our mind happens to say.

And our mind feels, remembers, everything the body has lived through.



Yoga has been a bridge.  It has, in ways that no political science, biology, doctor or religion or common sense self help book ever has, given me actual tools and ways and means to sort through things.  Tools that work.

For as much as the mind body separation is taken as fact in our culture, we are confused about it.  We say one thing but mean another.  We say 'self' or 'soul' or 'personality' as if it were distinct from the bag of bones, but we suffer.  And we say that ideas are more important than bodies, but we act as if bodies were something, after all.  Politics is very much about bodies, what they are worth, who gets what, who gets to be where and who is excluded.  We have bought and sold bodies, buy and sell them still.  We pretend to be intellectual, democratic, evolved homo sapiens but when it gets right down to our hours and our relationships and our days it involves hunger, fatigue, sex, boundaries, love, anger, disgust, and longing.

Approaching my days, now, from yoga, from the starting point that mind and body are both aspects of self, I suddenly have a better way to live.  Hour after hour, how I deal with hunger and sleep and posture and schedules; but also in how I understand what to do in terms of global politics, familial relationships, art and philosophy.


It is important to wonder how personal growth, character, phsyical sturcture, and health/dis-ease relate to one another.  It is important to realize the way our body has been acted upon, cared for, regarded both by ourselves and by others are stored into our bodies on a deepset, cellular level.  It is important to realize that our craving for 'something more' and sense that something missing, or ambition and hope, or hints of god and joy or simply the wishing we could know joy, are part of our human body and as real as blood is.  As actual as the kneecap.

It is wonderful to realize the questions, simple stress, out and out boredom or dull abiding inner fears can be touched.  Not by talking about them or popping a pill.  Not by removing something wrong with you or getting over it.  But by listening to your breath, lowering your forehead to the ground, spreading the fingers of the hand.


Many of our medical, educational, religious and philosophical institutions base themselves on the assumption that such an interfacing system and, indeed, such direct relationships do not exist.

Yet wellbeing (either purely from a physical point of view, 'success', or an intellectual/emotional standpoint) cannot be infused intravenously or ladled out by prescription.  Nor can they be willed or manifested by positive thinking or die-hard pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.  Health and disease do not just happen to us.  They are part of a matrix, laid out on the lines of the body mind.


When I begin to teach, when the student is new, I repeat and repeat myself: yoga means connection, unity, binding.  The mind to the body, the intention to the action, the breath to the movement, the brain to reality.

All our dis-ease, from headache to chronic illness to broken bones, to longing and depression and overwork, are disturbances of that connection.  Yoga is reconnecting.  Yoga is return.


Our bodies and our imaginations are walking autobiographies.  We hardly know who we are.  Yoga is reading, and writing, our own stories, our own lives.

By listening to the breath, lowering our foreheads to the ground, and spreading the fingers of the hand.









Give me strength...

There is strength to open pickle jars.  Strength that can hold a twisted, inverted asana where all of one's body weight is supported across the five fingers of one hand.  And then there is the strength that burns down cities in war, of storms that rips trees from the earth, the true strength of death that makes smoldering matchsticks of us all. It was a hot, smoldering summer.  Without thunder or mercy, just the drone of dry heat.  It was easy to fall into lassitude, into believing everything would go on being the way it was.  To think of strength as the muscles, and a personal thing.  I practiced handstands.  There were many black flies.  I flicked at them, absently.

Then one day it thundered.  It roared.  Someone said 'it's fall now, so...' and I thought but no, no it isn't.  By the end of her sentence, though, it was.  September is irrevocable.  And I was snapped out of my dailyness when told I'd have to move, things are changing, I'll have to make decisions and things won't be the same anymore.

The westernest leaves of the sugar maples turned a burned red.


When you meet persons who have practiced yoga or meditation for a long time, you are struck by their levelness.  They have a kind of grace.  A quality of being touched, joyful.  It seems, sometimes, that they are a lucky brand of bastard whom suffering and the chaos of life hasn't touched.  Their lives must be different, less stressful than ours.

This isn't true.

When you ask, you learn that they suffer and worry just as we do.  Their lives are no less stressful than our own.  I've known yogis who battle massive depression.  Folks who weep when their parents die.  Ones who have lost money, a limb, a child.

It is not that they don't suffer or that they are immune to life's changes.  It is only that they have learned what true strength means.  It isn't that they don't age, don't hurt, don't have headaches or have to work and find time and defecate like the rest of us neurotic humans.  They suffer and struggle.

But they are not overwhelmed.  They are strong.


Before I practiced yoga, my life was a kind of war.  It seemed very hard.  I seemed to have to work, constantly, to hang on with both hands, to keep the whole thing going by my own efforts.  I wavered between a kind of self-pity (why can't I have a life like hers?  Why is that person so lucky?  Things would be different if I had the money, time, if I lived there, if I met the right person, didn't have to deal with this person...) where everything appeared very random and an overweening sense of importance: I would make my own life happen, I would learn the right skills, I would or would not make relationships work, have a happy life, be healthy.

Most of us spend most of our lives with this kind of erratic, frantic movement.  Where we have to juggle and keep dancing.  Where we are constantly busy or too busy, but never really seem to get anything done.

I thought of my depression (devastating, disgusting, brutalizing and wanting me dead) was a thing I had to manage and control.  I thought of my time as I thing I had to control.  I thought happiness and success were things you got if you were good enough at it, and I tried but doubted the outcome.  I thought, most of the time, that I understood The Way Things Are, whereas others seemed only to have opinions and not know The Whole Story. Relationships, just like projects, were things I had to navigate.

I rarely noticed the color of leaves or the passing of seasons.  Unless, of course, it came as a kind of insult and affront to my efforts; the passing of time making a mockery of my best intentions. The whole of 'life' being out of control and myself as powerless.


We forget who and what we really are, says yoga.  We are blind.

The practice is to discover strength.  Not of muscles, not of pickle jars, but the strength to be fully alive with the burning leaves and the thundering storm.  To know we are not supposed to and never can 'control' life - we can't even control our own thoughts and feelings, for chrissake -

we are supposed to live it.  To participate in power and strength, rather than fight against it.  To realize there is power and passion and awesome, more baffling strength in being than we'd ever glimpsed.  Strength is there, is real, but we've been looking for it in the wrong places.


Yogic strength is in attention, in showing up and watching without turning away.  We watch our thoughts...churning, not so pretty, unstoppable, sometimes just plain stupid, every once in a while deeply provocative and profound.

When we learn to watch them, we are not crippled and driven by them.  We can access the profundity.  And we learn to not be cowed by all that pettiness and drone. Attending can let it be, thoughts being thoughts, mind being mind.

When we learn to attend, we may be slapped with the shock of strength.  Craving, for example.  We slowly start to practice just watching and will notice that 'craving' is an understatement: it is an avalanche of physical sensations, sweaty palms, salivating mouth, a spreading subtle tension across the entire body of muscles, a tightening in the belly, a compression around the eyes, perhaps even a closing of the hearing; it's a ruckus of thoughts, terribly uncomfortable and pressing and insistent, and you cannot stop it.  Attempts to stop it make it worse.

Muscle, for another example.  When we learn, slowly, as we can, to literally pay attention to what stretching feels like, it might hit us like an orgasm or an drug altered state: reality is more intense, more vivid, more than it was before.  We notice not only that the muscle is tensed, but whether it is clenched or trembling or steady, hot or cold, rough in texture or smooth like water, we notice how one muscle touches another muscle, where sensation begins and ends, that sensation in one tiny part of the body spreads like ripples in water.  A clenched hand spills up the arm and into the neck, it alters our breath, it clenches the jaw, it tightens the chest, it shifts our toes, and it literally changes the way we think, shouts a change in our hormonal levels, heats or cools the skin, raises hairs, focuses or unfocuses the eyes.

Every emotion, every movement, has this powerful swell of energy behind it.  Even boredom, apathy, hunger.  Attending shows us how powerful these things are.

When we get stronger, we might be able to tolerate attending to a thing like anger, rage, depression, anxiety.

I am afraid, we will think.  And we'll have the strength to go on, anyway.

We'll realize, more and more and over and over, how much is involved in this being alive.  It's as profound, I tell you, as the ocean is deep or the cosmos is baffling.  We cannot control our minds, we cannot control our lives and our deaths.  But we can know them.


Do this, and the strength in you suddenly seems something out of a fairy tale or a comic book, something almost divine.  There is a reason yoga talks in metaphysics.

Oh, my god, you'll think: I LOVE this person, and your love will swell.  I am HUNGRY, you'll realize, and start to eat differently, all the colors and textures and tastes being louder than they were before.  I want to be happy, you'll know, and you'll start moving, moment by moment, into the person for whom happiness is possible.

A person of strength and grace.

It doesn't matter if I can do the pose, or not, you'll think in your yoga class.  And you'll be dumbstruck to realize you're standing on your head.


Life, friends, is hard.

We cannot control life.

But it is possible to be alive in it.

Walking, I notice the passing of time.  The cicadas are dying and lay on the sidewalk in alien corpses.  The air is sharper, pungent.  There was a time in my life this would be hard: to be suddenly without a place to live, to be asked all of the sudden what my plans were.  I am different, now.  I can feel the panic, like a little fist in my heart, pulling the whole body into it.  I can feel afraid, but I can also wonder and feel: I wonder at all the options, I wonder what is possible, I realize what a difference I can make, here or there.  I decide to open a yoga studio in a little town I used to know.  I do not know whether this will succeed or not.  But I can try.

The fact is, I try more now.  In relationships, in my heath, with my very body thrown upside down with a seeming disregard for things like safety and bruises.  Truth is I am more afraid, more often, than I have ever been in my life.

But the fear doesn't matter any more.

I am strong.