Post-op Vasisthasana

Vasisthasana (side plank pose)

Vasisthasana is typically (in the Iyengar system) the first in a series of three “one-arm” balancing positions.

Vasisthasana is typically (in the Iyengar system) the first in a series of three “one-arm” balancing positions.

via Side Plank Pose | Vasisthasana | Yoga Pose.

Today was one of the first times I’ve attempted this variation of Vasiṣṭhāsana in a public class since the injury to my right shoulder in February 2014. It felt more stable than just about any time before the injury as well. I used to wobble. In truth, unbeknownst to me, I had torn the Subscapularis long ago, probably while pulling snow off my roof with a roof rake, after many Sun Salutations in a vigorous Winter Solstice celebration.

I don’t wobble now. Conclusion? One needs a fully attached Subscapularis for this pose. I tried this on the left side, which I injured in December 2014, and had surgery on in May 2015. It’s not wobbly, but it isn’t strong yet. It feels like it wants to give out, and I don’t want that to happen while I’m bearing weigh on it. I’m doing it modified, to build up strength.

This summer I was happy once again to sit in satsang with my teacher Sara Davidson Flanders, who brought Bill Mahony back to Rhode Island to speak about the Upaniṣads. “The Light of the Heart is Vaster than All the Worlds” was the title of the workshop. I mention this because we discussed that this pose was named after Vasiṣṭha, one of the ṛṣi (rishis), or seers, sages, to whom the Vedas were ascribed. Indeed, in Light on Yoga (1966), B.K.S. Iyengar describes him as follows.

Vasiṣṭha was a celebrated sage or seer, the family priest of the solar race of kings, and author of several Vedic hymns, particularly of the seventh Maṇḍala of the Ṛg Veda. He was a typical representative of brahmanic dignity and power and is one of seven sages who are identified with the stars of the Great Bear.… (309-310)

Also, in The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination, Mahony writes this of the ṛṣi

Vedic poets hoped that the gods not only would find delight in their verses, but would also keep those songs with them. “May this hymn of praise rest in our heart,” Vasiṣṭha sang to Varuṇa, for example, in Ṛgveda 7.86.8.

I think of this pose as heart–expressive. It’s weight–bearing on one arm, and the free arm is extended to the sky. To pull this off, the shoulder blades need to be together on the back, supporting the heart from the back body, thought of as representing “the Universal.”

How wonderful it is to think that in this āsana, we celebrate this connection between our embodied particularity, and whatever name we give to that which undergirds this existence. How wonderful it is for me once again to be participating in this enactment, at least on the right side, and to see it as soon possible on the left.

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Prayer for Children Reclaiming Structures Meant for Climbing

Richard Hudak:

We need to have a thoroughgoing conversation about other hazards of childhood: helicopter parents, who can be called in for air support, producing extrinsically motivated young adults who can’t do their own laundry, climb mountains, or meet new people in a new city.

Of course it is a public good that a municipality should limit its liability. But that should be balanced with dialogue and inquiry into the likelihood of threats.

Originally posted on Awake & Witness:

This is a summer scene along the Harborway in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

IMG_20150724_112143203It both delights (the children) and infuriates (the sign) me.

My companion and I debated what we thought it might be. It turns out that it is called “The Wave.” It was created by artist Donna Hiebert. Its shape and size seems built exactly for the purpose to which these children are putting it to use.


It is located right next to a community playground, for godsakes.

playground-1024x656 the waterfront playground right next to The Wave in Halifax

Someone — or more likely, some entity — put up a sign (several signs, actually) around its perimeter. Not just any sign. A sign etched in granite.

Don’t do the very thing your heart leaps toward at the sight of this structure.

Don’t scale this whimsically shaped protrusion that provides the perfect amount of traction underneath the soul of…

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Richard Hudak:

In addition to what I would say on my yoga teaching blog, in longer form I would talk about how the affordance of injury has been to feel more deeply into my anatomy and alignment, not only in the shoulder girdle, but also in the core, pelvis, and everywhere. To know what muscles ache or need to be stretched, or what they can tolerate in a practice is a profound and powerful thing. So rather than viewing the injuries as setbacks, which they were superficially, on a deeper level they have given me a deeper, more aware practice. My work now is to convey this in my teaching.

Originally posted on Wholehearted Yoga:

Image from Image from

While I had been on hiatus from regular yoga teaching since the second of two shoulder injuries, I have been back in the studio subbing for a bit. Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook have been alerted to these opportunities. I expect more of these opportunities as the summer wears on, what with vacations and such. Be sure to sign up for my mailing list below.

Recovery from my most recent shoulder surgery is going well. I have full range of motion, and I am working on strengthening three of the four rotator cuff muscles. It’s important to me to maintain a regular yoga practice if I am to teach yoga at all, so this recovery has been related to my teaching. I’m not attempting inversions or arm balances, but I am bearing weight in poses as my strength and…

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Cultivating Ambiversion

Richard Hudak:

From the archives, for this unseasonably warm late spring afternoon.

Originally posted on The Considered Kula:

Today I was tooling around on for reasons related to my teaching job. Its LinkedIn Today news service featured this typically vacation–inspired reflection from FastCompany on the value of being quiet.

Sometimes we forget that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. In fact, it’s often the quiet ones who out-produce everyone else.

Here are some reasons I think this is so.

Being quiet strengthens focus. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand when you yourself are making so much noise. The other team, who participated in the clamming wars, never took their eye off the prize. Our team, on the other hand, did a happy dance in the sand every time we hit pay dirt. In retrospect, this was probably valuable time wasted.

Being quiet calms others. Quiet people have the ability to calm those around them. For…

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21-Day Spring Cleanse and Sugar Detox | Wild Open Heart Charlotte Clews

Richard Hudak:

For any of you stalwart readers of my longer musings here who don’t also follow my yoga teaching blog, here is the announcement for Charlotte Clews’s Spring Cleanse. This is the bomb diggity. Get on it. I’ll see you there.

Originally posted on Wholehearted Yoga:

21–Day Spring Cleanse and Sugar Detox with Charlotte Clews

Oh yes, this is the e-mail I’ve been waiting for. Sign me up!

This cleanse is dedicated to helping you head into the Winter feeling nourished and resilient. The goal is to eat whole-food meals with little or no snacks in between so as to balance your blood sugar, rest your digestion and reset your taste buds. Resting and cleansing your digestive system will help you clear allergies, constipation and skin issues and will help strengthen your immune system so you are less prone to summer allergies and rashes.

This is not a depletion cleanse, we will not be juice fasting or focusing on weight loss.However you can expect to loose some weight simply by clearing out winter’s digestive and cellular waste.

A Spring cleanse is like a good chimney sweep. It makes for a good clear draft and lessens your chance of a chimney fire.

Pre-Register by March 16 and save $25!

via 21-Day Spring Cleanse and…

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Gratitude for health


Today I filled out some paperwork for my left rotator cuff repair surgery upcoming next week. Answering “no” to a long list of medical conditions and medications, I feel really grateful for clean living. This is the result of thirty years of eating well, nine years of yoga, and about five years of a renewed understanding of healthy eating and other daily practices. A mindful life that is truly thoroughgoing has its rewards.

I am not feeling superior, gloating, or patting myself on the back. It’s truly a “there but for Grace go I” moment. I feel lucky. What’s more, I often consider my efforts imperfect. Yet here is a clear difference. Even the smallest shifts, with which we may well struggle, have tremendous benefit. This is not a unique experience. Other yogis to whom I have spoken also report similar things.

How much more true could this be for the intangible benefits of practice, all of those subtle ways in which our behavior changes and we become different people? Are we more resilient as a result? I think the answer is yes, and that we need to look more deeply into this as well.

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Happy Birthday, Thomas Merton!

I can’t let yesterday, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton, pass unremarked. He was, after all, probably the first mystic whose words I had encountered, an many of his words still resonate.

This morning, the sunrise inspired me to reblog a post featuring the song “Praise Song for a New Day,” which appears on the album Zero Church by Maggy and Suzzy Roche. Read more about that project here.

But it also inspired me to turn to Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours (2007), compiled by Kathleen Deignan, whom I had met at Iona College while I was a student at Manhattan College. In his journals, Merton often mentions his breviary, a compilation of the Catholic liturgies, including the Liturgy of the Hours. Monks would pray this liturgy at appointed times of the day. What I find relevant, and revelatory today is the “Closing Prayer” for “Sunday–Dawn,” (it being Sunday morning, after all) which Deignan draws from Merton’s book Turning Toward the World. I love this notion, because in his own biography, Merton descended the mountain of transcendent spiritual experience toward the very gritty problems of the world, which up until his death had been very salient in his writings: racism, war, and other forms of injustice. For that is where we live, “in the world,” yet contemplation can infuse our approach to the world. That is what is so appealing to me about Tantra, a householder practice.

With my hair almost on end and the eyes of the soul wide open I am present
without knowing it all, in this unspeakable Paradise,
and I behold this secret,
this wide open secret which is there for everyone, free,
and no one pays any attention.

O paradise of simplicity, self–awareness—
and self–forgetfulness—liberty, peace.

“Closing Prayer, Sunday—Dawn,” Kathleen Deignan (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2007) Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours

Other posts on Thomas Merton.

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Wholehearted Devotion

Richard Hudak:

From the archives: this song entered my head this morning, and I thought I had written about it somewhere online. Here it is.

Originally posted on The Considered Kula:

If man [sic] cannot pray he is gagged; if he cannot kneel he is in irons.
G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man via GK Chesterton Society of Ireland: On Kneeling.

Among the many gifts of this practice has been Dina Charya, alignment with the Ayurvedic ideas about the “daily rhythm,” including rising early, and as indicated for my constitution, physical activity, which for me has been the morning walk. I’m reminded of this gift upon rising. As I consider this crisis in Anusara yoga, I am reminded of the fifth niyama of Patanaji’s Yoga Sutras, Isvara Pranidhana, translated tantrically as “wholehearted devotion to the divine” (many thanks to my teacher, Sara Davidson Flanders

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Special to YJ: Yoga Alliance’s Position on Government-Regulated Yoga

This is an interesting development. I know there are some teachers for whom the idea of a professional association for yoga is anathema. But if they are seeking public advocacy in the interests of teachers, then that’s one reason it is worthwhile to support, and attempt to direct a professional association. Maybe Yoga Alliance is maturing.

In recent months, Yoga Alliance has learned that state agencies regulating occupational education programs in Arkansas and Colorado are attempting to impose burdensome and costly new requirements on yoga teacher training (YTT) programs operating in those states. As the largest nonprofit trade association representing the yoga community in the U.S., we have mobilized to combat these unnecessary and onerous regulations.

via Special to YJ: Yoga Alliance’s Position on Government-Regulated Yoga.

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The War That No Yoga Teacher Can Run From — A Fightingly Happy New Year To All

So I said a thing. Or two. Matthew Remski wrote this wonderful piece for Yoga Dork on yoga’s response to the destruction of the planet, or as Bill McKibben wrote, The End of Nature. In responding, I unintentionally released some pent up ideas that I have long wanted to develop, refine and substantiate. Consider this the prospectus, or at least “brain–dump.” I’ll work with this some more.

Thank you for this insightful and provocative contribution.

“Success goes to the unruly,” as William Gamson wrote in “The Strategy of Social Protest” (1990; 1975). Empirically we know, then, that social movements succeed which disturb the good order of exploitative systems. Let’s call this disruption “contentious politics,” following the usage of Charles Tilly and others. Peace movements, incidentally, have this dilemma of being contentious for peace. Yogis, therefore, are not alone in facing this dilemma. It’s no wonder that Mandela had an intimate knowledge of the Gita and was reported to have carried a copy.

The second dilemma pertains to the relationship between personal and social change. In my doctoral dissertation I argued, albeit somewhat obliquely, that the growth of movements for personal change could be, as Gusfield argued, attended by the “demobilization” of movements for social change. In particular by redefining problems caused by oppressive systems as somehow related to a disease, I argued Twelve Step movements could make individuals “biographically unavailable” to support or participate in movements for social change. But if this were true, then it was important to consider the dynamics of movements for personal change alongside of, rather than apart from those of “challenging groups.” At the time I was writing there was a distinct trend away from this inclusive approach, mainly because earlier social movement theorizing argued for the “irrationality” of protestors. Theorists of the 1970s and 1980s sought to emphasize the rationality of protestors, for they themselves had been participants in civil rights, student, anti–war, and feminist movements.

Further, that personal and social change could be inextricably linked through a “radical unity” was advanced by the liberation theologian Gustavo Guttierez. While we might not harmonize with his soteriology, I think it’s worth exploring that basic premise.

Lastly, I want to suggest that the current trend in the literature is toward “the emotional turn” in social movement theorizing. Here emotions are cast as “collective,” evocative of John Lofland’s earlier writing on “crowd joys.” More importantly, emotions are thought to connect the inner and outer worlds. For that is here where the true disconnect lies, between the very finely cultivated inner worlds against and relying upon a backdrop of civilization in collapse. Particularly as modern postural yoga derives from the Tantrikas, who incidentally, have given us some conceptualizing around working with emotions, I think it is perfectly reasonable to portend the development of “liberation yogis.” To the challenge of overcoming Western materialism, I would most emphatically add overcoming American individualism.

via The War That No Yoga Teacher Can Run From — A Fightingly Happy New Year To All.

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