Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Make the Shift: Finding Wisdom

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.

I’m traveling to the Yoga Journal Conference today. Yesterday, I knew I had to pack and gather my workshop materials, but strangely perhaps, instead I went to school!

I have what I like to call Yoga University every Wednesday afternoon. I gather with other teachers at The Breathing Project in
Manhattan to sit with Leslie Kaminoff, author of Yoga Anatomy. For two hours, we learn as he leads us to experience how the wild world of anatomy links together with breath, yoga poses, and the philosophies of our practice.

See alsoYoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews 

Even though I had to prepare for this trip to Boston, I couldn’t miss class. Every time I attend, I learn something new–something

that totally shifts my perspective on one level and that applies to other areas of my teaching and my life. For a yoga teacher who relies on new ideas and offerings, this is so precious. Continuing my education helps me keep it fresh each time I appear in a workshop setting.

Yogis might call this shift to a new layer of consciousness vijnanamaya kosha, or wisdom sheath–a new awareness that transforms all other aspects of how you relate to yourself, the world, and Spirit. Oprah would call it an Aha! Moment.

See AlsoGetting To Know the Five Koshas 

Not only am I a complete anatomy geek, I love finding new parallels between yoga and the body. And these insights completely shift my understanding. Like how the deep front line of muscles running through the body that Tom Myers discovered (his book Anatomy Trains is a must-read), represents a more stable core connection with ourselves. If we tend to use the outer body instead of sourcing our strength from deep inside, we can actually cause more tension in our poses instead of less. Or how the psoas is actually a sensory organ that can help draw us into a more subtle yet more powerful inner inquiry (thanks, Leslie!), which Patanjali said was a necessary step for transformation.

And, if a student over-grips their poses from the outer body, I’ll bet you $1 million that she also has that same habit of reaching outside of herself before looking inside to her own wisdom, capability, and self-esteem in all her other relationships, too.

Sometimes, shift happens when you least expect it, and when you didn’t know anything needed changing. Today, how can you
expand your horizons and spend time broadening your perspective? To do this, seek out someone who knows more about something than you do. Learning from a master in their field, even if it’s not your area of expertise, can give you insights into so many other things. My favorite? Sitting with much older people who are masters of life experience. Your gurus are everywhere waiting to lead you farther into a more expansive vision of who you are.

Yes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. But it’s my firm belief that sometimes for the teacher to appear, the
student has to go out, sign up for a class, or otherwise make the effort to find the teacher. Creating transformation is not a spectator sport.

Lord knows I’ve been out of actual college for a while, but the excitement I have, and the vitality that my weekly Yoga U brings
me, is immense. Now, I have to go grab my pens and notebook, and head out for my aha! afternoon.

More next week from the conference!

Core Question: Have you had experiences that caused you to learn more on all levels? How did you find them or did they come
to you?

Core Pose: Uttanasana to Tadasana Transition with Exhale

Here’s a whole-body/mind shift you can try during your next practice to help support the low back more effectively as you move through a common transition that can place undue stress on the spine.

When you exhale, your abdominal muscles contract, hugging the abdominal cavity and cushioning the spine from the front.
This stops the lumbar curve from over-compressing during the fulcrum of movement from forward bends up to standing, which is when a lot of yoga-related injuries occur. You can avoid this by adding an extra breath into your Sun Salutations or whenever you come up into Mountain Pose.

From Uttanasana, inhale and look forward with a long spine. Now exhale, pull in the low belly, and begin to rise, sweeping the arms out to the sides. When you are three-quarters of the way up, begin an inhalation, filling the pose as you reach Tadasana with your arms extended.

Exhale your palms to your heart or fold forward again to continue your flow.