Mark Stephens' Musings

These writings are informal reflections on practicing and teaching yoga. Click on any title to read the entire piece.

learn more about Mark Stephens

About This Book

Submitted by Mark Stephens on Wed, 02/15/2017 - 12:07
Excerpted from the "Preface" to Yoga Therapy: Foundations, Methods, and Practices (712 pages, forthcoming November 2017, North Atlantic Books/Penguin Random House)
 
Many people come to yoga classes with acute or chronic conditions of compromised health, or ordinary conditions such as pregnancy, that indicate the value of a specialized or adapted practice. In any given large yoga class there are usually students who have at least some minor ache or condition that suggests modification of postural and breathing practices.

Pain, Suffering, and Yoga

Submitted by Mark Stephens on Wed, 02/15/2017 - 12:05
Excerpted from the "Preface" to Yoga Therapy: Foundations, Methods, and Practices (forthcoming November 2017, North Atlantic Books/Penguin Random House):
 
The pain and suffering I experienced with typical childhood nicks and ailments pales in impact to what I experienced at age 10 when my mother developed breast cancer.

Tantric Meditation

Submitted by Mark Stephens on Thu, 05/05/2016 - 12:47

Meditation as taught in most yoga classes invites us to follow the path of Patanjali's method, which starts with Pratyahara, meaning "to relieve your senses of their external distractions." Put differently, it's a practice of isolation, one in which we go inside, separating our awareness from a world that Patanjalian yoga (indeed, most yoga) sees as illusory.

Steadiness, Ease, and Presence of Mind

Submitted by Mark Stephens on Tue, 05/03/2016 - 07:27

Steadiness, Ease & Presence of Mind

There are several basic elements that are ideally communicated to our students in every practice and given even greater clarity with newer students.  Among the most important is the idea that yoga is neither a comparative nor a competitive practice, despite some people doing their best to make it so.  

Playing the Edge

Submitted by Mark Stephens on Tue, 05/03/2016 - 07:27

Perseverance & Non-Attachment

As we come to the experience in an asana in which we no longer feel any significant effect or effort in being in it, we might simply stay there, being in it, or we might find ourselves opening to a variat

The Dance of the Breath and Bodymind

Submitted by Mark Stephens on Tue, 05/03/2016 - 07:25

When doing a yoga practice, we come to various asanas. In approaching them, we’re already experiencing sensations. If we’re actually doing yoga rather than merely exercising, then we’re breathing consciously and using the breath to refine how we’re exploring the asana. Breathing consciously, we’re bringing more conscious awareness into the bodymind, ideally as suggested by the sensations that are arising in the moment, adapting our movement and positioning to be more stable, relaxed, and present.

Waking Up in Yoga

Submitted by Mark Stephens on Tue, 05/03/2016 - 07:16

In doing yoga, we are gradually awakening to a clearer and truer understanding of who we are in our deepest, innermost being. How did the Buddha awaken? Bytuning in. It’s the same in yoga: the best teacher one will ever have is alive and well inside. Much of the practice is about coming to hear that inner teacher, to listen to and honor the inner teachings.