Your Spine Your Yoga

Your Spine Your Yoga – a book review

Bernie Clark has done it again. He has recently published another book explain the anatomy of yoga in ways never done before. This new release, Your Spine Your Yoga, is a comprehensive look at the spine both from both the scientific view and the yogic view. As yogis we understand that having a healthy, flexible spine is a critical aspect of yoga, both physically and energetically as this is the pathway of the kundalini shakti. What we often don’t understand is how to achieve a healthy spine. Bernie’s book goes into all the details on this, explaining how the spine provides stability through the core of the body as well as tremendous range of motion.  

I didn’t realize when he published his book Your Body Your Yoga, that it was the beginning of a trilogy of books! The first book really focused on reminding us that all bodies are not alike. It provides a way for each of us to explore the various forms an asana can take, and find the one that is perfect for ourselves.  This concept of finding our perfect personal alignment is carried through into Your Spine Your Yoga, continuing this very important theme in the second book of his series. If you would like to learn more about your personal spinal health and how to improve it with yoga, then check out his website for more information and where to purchase the book

book review written by Mugs McConnell, SOYA, E-RYT500

Wisdom, from the Yogic Perspective

Wisdom is not prominent in our time, which more values knowledge and information. Only very recently, perhaps because we are beginning to recognize the shortcomings of knowledge, has wisdom become an object of scientific (psychological) curiosity and investigation. Yoga, however, is packed with wisdom. The yogic masters may be somewhat ignorant in conventional terms, but they are full of wisdom. Therefore, we can confidently turn to them for wise help on the spiritual path.

The teachings of the great Yoga masters are available to us in book form in the Bhagavad-Gita and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Since wisdom is ageless, it is as relevant today as it was a thousand or more years ago. But we must be open to finding and applying that significance in our own situations. The outer circumstances have undoubtedly changed in the course of time. The mind, however, has remained quite constant, and the problems of an earlier age are often the same as today.

In the state of ecstasy, which comes at the peak of the spiritual path prior to final liberation, or enlightenment, the practitioner knows everything as one. We realize that all things are interconnected. For our era, which is experiencing the first “inconvenient” consequences of a flawed attitude toward Nature, this recognition that “all is one” is important wisdom. While surprisingly large numbers of people experience ecstatic or ecstasy-like moments, presumably few of us will realize yogic ecstasy in a consciously generated manner. But we can heed the wisdom of the masters, which tells us that there are states of consciousness in which we can and do experience the unity of Nature firsthand.

Their wisdom tells us, among other things, that in order to live peacefully and healthily, we must live in harmony with Nature. This is not what we have done in the past 200 years. We are now learning in a painful way that we were mistaken in thinking that Earth’s resources were inexhaustible. The few highly-industrialized countries have ransacked the world to build “civilization” to an artificial height. Our brothers and sisters in the large underdeveloped parts of the world are paying for our inconsiderateness and greed in many ways. Wisdom tells us that this is unjust, unscrupulous, and unwise.

The spiritual path has been called a “razor’s edge.” A great deal of wisdom is required to tread it. Yoga gives us such wisdom. In particular, it shows us how to distinguish between the real and the unreal. At the ultimate end of the path is Self-realization, or actual enlightenment. For the sages of Yoga, unreal is everything that is not the Self, not pure awareness. This includes the mind. Even when it is steeped in wisdom, they regard the mind as falling short of the reality of the Self, which is our essential nature.

The masters of Yoga understood that the mind exists, like the Moon, on borrowed light. The Moon does not give off heat or warmth but only reflected light, which comes from the Sun. If the Self is similar to the Sun, it makes sense to want to realize it. By itself, the mind cannot sustain us. But, so the sages tell us, the Self can, since it is our true identity. We only mistakenly identify with the mind. Many people even think that they are the brain-mind.

Training in Yoga shows that identification with “brain-mind” alone is not the real story. It has been demonstrated scientifically that there are states of mind that clearly go beyond the brain. “Near-death experiences” are one example. They indicate that the brain can be totally disabled while mental states happily continue.

Self-realization happens without the mind. Certainly awareness is ever present, yet the mind can come and go. This does not imply unconsciousness, however. The sages would not have aspired to this, as their goal has always been to realize the Self, which is the identity of every living being and even of the insentient natural world.

The masters of Yoga discipline the mind in order to be able to consciously go beyond it. It is difficult to fathom their consummate skill in controlling the mind. When we sit down to meditate, the mind chatters on by itself. We cannot even imagine that the mind could stop for more than a few seconds at a time. Yet, this has been the experience of every Yoga practitioner who persists. The mind can become as docile as a puppy.

Wisdom stands at both the beginning threshold and as the lofty goal of Yoga. At first, wisdom guides us to inner freedom. In the end, upon living liberation (that is, Self-realization while still embodied), the Self mysteriously inspires the mind to spawn wisdom for the benefit of others.

Wisdom is the quality of a highly refined mind, which is replete with lucidity. For this to be the case, the mind has to be similar to the Self. That is to say, it must be as still and as luminous as possible. Even if the mind cannot produce its own light, it can reflect it. This reflected luminosity is wisdom.

Reprinted by permission from The Matrix of Yoga, by Brenda Feuerstein and George Feuerstein

Brenda L Feuerstein is a world renowned yoga philosopher and author. She will be leading the SOYA Annual Retreat in Sorrento, May 31-June 2, 2019. The article is from The Matrix of Yoga, by Georg and Brenda Feuerstein, used with permission, published by Hohm Press. Moon photo credit goes to the lovely yogini Donna Conroy of Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Adaptable Yogi offers Adaptable Yoga

Joshua Dueck teaches adaptable yoga. He was a freestyle skier and coach before he broke his back on a ski jump. Since then he has become a Gold and Silver medalist in several Paralympic games. He decided he wanted to become a certified yoga teacher, and after his training completed, I asked him how he felt now about offering yoga classes. Here is what Josh had to say. 

Yoga teacher training has been a goal of mine for years, primarily to deepen my personal practice.  Since first starting my practice in 2005, I have found it hard to find a studio or class that is suitable for my mobility, furthermore the great challenge has been to find a teacher who has experience or willingness to explore adaptable yoga, or yoga for all humanity.

Undergoing the intensive training with SOYA has been mind expanding, heart melting and physically stimulating in ways indescribable.  What I can say is that the feeling of joy is radiant, and has been much easier to process and share than any of my successes in sport.

My primary focus as a teacher is to continue to live my practice and allow the yoga to do the real work; which is realizing the value of alignment, direction and purpose for those interested in deepening their mind body relationship.

The community I am most drawn to work in is with people going through transition, primarily life altering injury. The transformation effects of yoga are profound on many levels, perhaps most notable on the subtle body.

When a person experiences the neurological defects that come with Spinal Cord Injury, they often lose or disconnect with the parts of the body that fall below perceived sensation. The subtle or energetic body however is still intact and to see a person reconnect with their entire experience is expansive and uplifting.  In other words a person paralyzed may shift from feeling a prisoner in their body (surviving) toward a place of curiosity and excitement with their body (thriving).  Imagine the possibilities.

Being able to articulate and facilitate the tools for self-realization is a true gift.  My deepest thanks and sincere appreciation for those at SOYA and their teachers, for gifting the ability to share.  A fire has been lit within and I am really excited to be a part of the tribe that is, locally and globally – Joshua P. Dueck


Joshua Dueck, SOYA200
Freedom Movement Inc.

Joshua is a certified yoga teacher, athlete and an inspiration! He teaches adaptable yoga in Vernon, BC






I Want to Practice Meditation, but my Mind is Racing all the Time. What can I do about this? – by Brenda and Georg Feuerstein

Over 2,000 years ago, Prince Arjuna asked this same question of the enlightened master Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna assured him that the mind can in fact be controlled. In our own times, while it is quite likely that the mind is racing faster than in previous millennia, still, in principle, the truth abides – the mind can be controlled! We may, however, have to enlist some extra help to calm the mind, such as uncluttering and simplifying our lifestyle, by delegating or not taking on quite so many tasks and obligations.

It is in the nature of the mind to produce thoughts. Even a little bit of conscious relaxation or meditation can thin out our thoughts and create mental space. In the early stages of meditation practice, it is natural for thoughts to boil on and on, leaving us with the impression that we will never gain mastery over our mind. Wrong impression! As we sit in meditation regularly (daily), we find that the mind slows down, and maybe even slows down considerably sooner than we assumed.

As neurologists have discovered in recent years, the brain is surprisingly adaptable. Contrary to previous opinion, brain cells can in fact regenerate throughout our lifespan. Regular meditation will retrain the brain, so that gradually meditation will become easier and “successful.” The mind will stop racing and begin to settle down. Later, it will go beyond its assumed boundaries, and still later it will find itself in the sublime state of ecstasy.

From “The Matrix of Yoga”, by Dr. George and Brenda Feuerstein. Copyright Hohm Press. Used with permission.

Brenda L. Feuerstein is an author and a yoga scholar. Her books include The Yoga Sutras from a Woman’s PerspectiveYoga-Nidra/Yoga Sleep (audio recording) as well as co-authored works with her late husband and spiritual partner Dr. Georg Feuerstein include, The Matrix of Yoga; Green Yoga, Green Dharma; and The Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation. She lives in the quaint village of Eastend, Saskatchewan. Brenda is an internationally acclaimed Sanskrit scholar and yoga philosopher.



Trikonasana: Triangle Pose, by Kamala Wilkie

I was in my first yoga session ever and repeatedly experiencing the shock and “how did this happen?” inquiry of a stuck and limited body. At 24 I was scared and appalled at the Tin Man inner experience of my in-class Triangle Pose. So I took it on as my pet project. Everyday. And I watched it coax space, light and freedom into the musculature around my pelvis and hamstring.

If you too need a little lubrication in your hips, length in your hamstring and ease in your lower back, I invite you to try a regular Trikonasana Pose on for size.


Here’s How:

1. From the front of your mat in Mountain Pose, take a giant step back with your right foot (aim for a leg’s length between your front and back foot.) Face your right toes to the long edge of the mat and keep your left toes face the front. Aim for intersecting your right arch with your left heel.
Your pelvis and shoulders ought to square to the long edge of the mat also.
2. Anchor through the left mound of the big toe and the outer corners of your right foot. Draw up from feet to sacrum so you feel energy gathering in the core of your pelvis.
3. Inhale, lengthen your spine and raise your arms to shoulder height.
4. Exhale, extend your upper body forward over your left leg (as though someone was pulling you forward by your left hand) and then place your left hand on your left thigh, shin or floor.
5. Take your inner thighs back and apart then scoop your tailbone towards your right foot (to keep length in the lower back).
6. Now root from your pelvis into the floor and lean back with your shoulder blades and head.
7. Look down at your left foot and assess if your head and shoulders look like they are forward of the foot and leg. If so, slide your left hand up higher on your left leg until you get a sense of being in a straight line or mildly behind the left leg. Rest your gaze upward according to neck comfort.
8. Stay for 5-20 breaths.
9. Inhale, press though your legs and rise to standing. Exhale, return both feet to the front of your mat in Mountain Pose. Repeat trikonasana on the other side.

Balance challenges-do your Trikonasana with your back against the wall. Also try placing your back foot out of alignment with your front foot.
Neck sensitivity- gaze forward or down.
Limited range of motion- narrow your stance

I still do Trikonasana everyday. It’s the equivalent of brushing my teeth for my adductors, hamstring and lower back. I do it because when those parts are free and moving optimally, the rest of my life is more enjoyable.

Kamala WilkieReady to take a teacher training? Or need a teaching skills refresher? Join Kamala Oct 14-29/18 in Naramata for an Immersion SOYA 200 hour training, or over 8 weekends Mar 1-Jun 9/19 in Penticton for an Extended SOYA 200hr training. Kamala is an E-RYT500 SOYA Lead Trainer, and Anusara Inspired™ Teacher who loves anatomy and life!

Yoga for Children

Yoga for Children

Cats, Trees, and Bridges: Yoga for Children

Yoga For Children

Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator best known for her philosophy of education, is quoted as saying, “The development of the mind comes through movement.”

Yoga is movement, yoga uses imagination, yoga is about playing with the body, the mind and the spirit, and yoga is about the union of these three.

Yoga for children offers this in a perfect way, as children love to move, love to copy, love to repeat, love to learn, love to use imagination and love to use all the senses.  With these qualities children and yoga fit together well if it is taught in a fun, active way. Bodies are meant to move and children inherently know this!  Studies show we need to continually move. In order to be healthy and work efficiently, our joints, muscles, circulation system, digestive system and all our other internal organs need to be moved and used.  This is especially important for growing and developing children.

Children learn best through play.  One definition of play from Eyre in 1984 states: “What joy is in the heart!  The joy of work, and of hard, purposeful effort, the joy of singing, the joy of sport and activity, the joy of tenderness and physical touch, the joy of controlling physical things!”  This could also be a definition of yoga for children.

Yoga for Children

There are three main aspects when teaching yoga to children:

  • Learning about the body – developing coordination, balance, strength, flexibility, breath; discovering how different parts of the body work together, how breath can change how the body works;
  • Caring for others – learning that others can do things the same or different from me; others have the same body as I do, though some have parts of the body that do not work the same way; we all feel warm when we touch each other; we all have feelings; developing a sense of empathy, compassion, caring for family and community;
  • Having fun while moving, breathing, helping each other, imagining, playing.

Yoga can be an extremely important aspect of a child’s life.  In our society today, even very young children can have incredibly structured, busy, competitive lives.  Many of the cultural ideals in our world today constantly tell us what is wrong with us and the way we do things, causing stress. In our technological world, children spend much of their time in front of a television, or other screen.  When they do exercise, it is often regulated, competitive, adult directed and often indoors.  Sometimes children are pushed beyond their physical limits in order to perform and win.

If yoga is practiced, a child’s life can become more balanced by reducing stress and anxiety disorders (which young children are susceptible to) by stretching and strengthening muscles without competition, by learning how to relax, by learning breathing and concentration techniques, and by having children go inward and begin to meditate.

All the asanas have names that stimulate the imagination of young children, and they have all the same benefits as adults when practiced.  When doing partner work, children learn about how others move and breathe, and they can learn to cooperate and help each other.  By using stories, songs and asana flows, children can really have fun while they become healthy in their bodies, minds and spirits.

Yoga for Children


Enjoy the moving body! (all photos are of family members)

Yoga for ChildrenDorothy Fizzell, E-RYT500, SOYA.  Dorothy has been teaching yoga for over 20 years and has specialized in yoga for children. Sheis co-leading the SOYA teacher training in Pitt Meadows this fall. Dorothy draws on years of experience working in Child Care Resources and leads workshops for Child Care workers in the lower mainland.

(all photos are of family members)

Integrating Yoga with Martial Arts

Integrating Yoga with Martial Arts

A student recently asked some questions regarding the integrating yoga with martial arts. To answer these questions in the best way possible, we asked our SOYA Teacher Trainer in Pitt Meadows, who does just that! She has been practicing yoga for more than 40 years, and karate for 23 years. Here is how Dorothy Fizzell has responded to these questions.

Is anyone practicing both yoga and martial arts willing share their experiences on what is similar or different? 

I started yoga in about 1974 when I was at university and wanted a “cheap” form of exercise that I could do on my own. I started karate in 1995, after watching my then 9 year old son in his karate class. I had been looking for a form of aerobic exercise that had some “meaning”, rather than doing just aerobics or some other form of exercise.  Little did I know how both practises, yoga and karate, would play a huge role in developing who I am!

When I started karate, I kept yoga and karate completely separate as I thought they were two very different things.  I actually started karate training the same month that I began my SOYA 500 hour teacher training with Mugs.  This same month my mother passed away at a relatively young age.  These seemingly different experiences are so interrelated and have changed my life.

For me, I do not believe that I could have kept up the karate training at the beginning if I had not been practicing yoga.  Physically, both are similar in that you work at strengthening, flexibility, efficient movement, coordinating the breath with movement, body awareness etc. Karate is much more intense, fast and involves being able to disable or take down opponents who are attacking you.  But the intensity of holding poses, breath control, focus, body alignment in yoga helped immensely.

The style of karate I practice, Chito Ryu, also has a huge component of learning about the Self, by directing energy, meditating, and being able to defend yourself while at the same time remaining peaceful.  We have a Japanese word, reigisaho, which translated means “manners and etiquette”, but it also involves being aware of those around you, taking care of other’s needs (even before they know they have a need!), being humble, being kind, respectful and caring for the community.  We mediate twice – once before and once after every class – in order to bring together our learning, to connect with the energy of ourselves and the Universe, to prepare and to be at peace.

Has yoga influenced eastern martial arts?

Historically yoga has connections with Hinduism for sure, and yes, martial arts can be used for very violent purposes.  However, my understanding is that Indian martial arts as well as the concepts of Hinduism and yoga have influenced all other martial arts systems. There are monks who practice martial arts. Apparently one section of the Yajur Veda has references to martial arts, known as Dhanuraveda. Some classical Indian hand mudras have been incorporated into martial.

To me, the yamas and niyamas of yoga are equivalent to many aspects of reigisaho – that is, no violence, no stealing, having focus, having discipline, being open, not being greedy, constantly learning, and being selfless.  To me, practicing yoga and martial arts is about improving my physical, mental and spiritual health.  I have been very fortunate with my karate teachers or Senseis, and they remind me at times to “Bring your yoga into this Dorothy.” They have allowed me to teach yoga to karate students.

There are also many similarities in yoga asanas and karate positions. Here are some examples:


Integrating Yoga with Martial Arts

Once in Penticton, my Sensei asked me to lead savasana at the end of the training. We trained in a noisy community centre gym under fluorescent lights, with people coming and going, and everyone’s adrenalin surging after an intense class.  As I guided them through the savasana, almost everyone in the class (35-40 students from 12 years up to older adults) became still, relaxed and open. Everyone’s energy synchronized and became at peace, and the group stayed for a good 10 minutes.  It was quite remarkable!  I had a couple of students who had no experience in yoga at all tell me it was an amazing experience.How are yoga students practicing martial arts viewed?

How do yoga gurus feel or respond to their philosophy being incorporated into martial arts?   

A few years ago we visited Kumamoto to practice with the head of our karate style and we visited the sacred location of Musashi. A very famous Samurai who lived to an old age – meaning he was an expert and violent fighter – lived at this location. He sat and meditated for years, and wrote a famous book called the “Book of Five Rings”.  In this book are techniques for being an excellent Samarai, and many of it is about meditation, being peaceful, caring for your community and making it beautiful (eg calligraphy). There are also two huge Samarai statues at this location; one with his mouth closed, and one with it open.  One of the senior Senseis explained to me that one was saying “AH” and the other was saying “MM”; in other words, AUM!

I believe we are all spiritual beings, who in different places have developed different ways to become more in touch with our spiritual side in this physical world, and over time, many of these ways have touched, mixed and become something new.  I am not sure we can draw a clear line between the lineages of yoga and those of martial arts – it is more like a tapestry of styles and ideas that come together in beautiful patterns and colours.

We have a ‘mantra’ which we say out loud in Japanese, every karate class:

We who study Chito Ryu karate shall never forget the spirit of the Samurai;

With peace (or harmony), perseverance (or dedication) and hard work (or smart work),

We shall reach our goals.

So, at times, yes, I hit a glitch that feels like a contradiction, but both yoga and karate are ways to become connected with your inner Self and with the Universal energy, God if you prefer.  There are those who say that yoga and/or karate is going against Christian beliefs, but again as one brought up in the United Church, I find it is parallel and there is no conflict. I do not believe anything I have done in either practice contradicts the Christian values I have and in fact they have clarified and emphasized them for me.  I don’t believe yoga and martial arts contradict each other and in fact they complement and enhance each other. I think each practice can assist with the other one – they are both about connection with the body, mind and spirit.  There are those who will say that yoga is about peace and karate is about violence, but my experience has not been that.

These are some random thoughts giving you my perspective of my practice.  I am passionate about both yoga and karate, and have integrated aspects of both into everything I do.  If you have other questions or comments please message me back.  Hope this helps with your inquiries!

Dorothy Fizzell, E-RYT500, IYTA, SOYA, is leading the SOYA 200 hour training with Jools Andres in Pitt Meadows this Aug-Dec, 2018. For more information on this training or to contact her, go to .


Understanding Contentment

Dr Ananda offers insights into understanding contentment from a yogic point of view. Unexcelled ease and bliss awaits those who manifest the virtue of contentment.

Reprinted with permission.

Santoshdanuttamah sukhalabhah (Unexcelled ease and bliss awaits those who manifest the virtue of contentment)- Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras II:42

Santosha is contentment. When one achieves that “state” of contented oneness, unexcelled ease and bliss is the reward. Un‑ease and non‑bliss are the result of dichotomy, division, duality. Oneness is contentment.

If we are able to be content with whatever we havephysically, emotionally, mentally, spirituallywe will be at ease (sukha) with ourselves, wherever we are. This is not the contentment of a tamasica nature. Tamasica contentment is for those who do not do anything (or those clever enough to have someone else do it for them). The rajasica contentment is the quality of those who seek recognition. The sattwica contentment is of those who act without showing that they are doing. From the outside the sattwica sadhaka looks as though they are not doing anything at all. The extremes seem to the external, superficial view to be the same. Both the tamasica and the sattwica approach towards santosham may look the same (as they are not seen doing anything) but the sattwica are acting without seeming to act and thereby attain santosha. Contentment is not complacency or stagnation. Those stuck in a comfortable rut are not experiencing santosham. They are simply sleep‑walking through life. True santosham is vitally awake and alert.

Unexcelled joy comes when one is at peace with oneself and totally at ease. When we are content with whatever we get, we get everything we need. Dichotomy and duality disappear in contentment as one becomes the Universe. If we are united at the universal level, at one with the cosmos, then everything and everyone in the cosmos is “us” and we possess all. What is there to gain? What is there to lose in such a state? Hence, supreme contentment ensues. When the Divine knows that we are not after anything, it will give us everything.

Why do people want a degree, a job, a wife, children, a house, a car? Because they believe such things will bring happiness. But, they make a drastic mistake. These desires only feed discontent and fear. Discontent comes because the object does not bring the happiness we sought! Fear comes because we are afraid we may lose what we have gained. The moment we realize that we can have happiness with whatever we get, we get all. Interestingly in the Dravidian Tamil language, santosham also means happiness.

Discontent is a synonym for unhappiness.

As my beloved Swamiji said, “You do not have a problem, you are the problem!” When we help ourself by ourself, we no longer have problems and experience contentment.

Discontent is being cultivated by modern advertising media and the business interests. This is also true in the world of yoga. Instead of saying “Yoga will solve all your problems” one should say “Yoga can help you cope better with your condition”. This is more correct. Otherwise, one only feeds more and more discontent. In the world of yoga today the market is for gadgets: mats, straps, bricks, belts and trendy toys. What nonsense! If you do not have the right gadgets you cannot practice yoga! Isn’t that the most absurd thing you have ever heard? Contentment is being able to say with honest feeling, “I know I have got enough”.

Santosham is the inner attitude of being content with who we are, where we are and with every life situation we face. This is the key to tuning into anandamaya kosha, the universal blissful existence. Think about the concept of nishkama, as espoused by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: do not be attached to the fruits of the action but only concentrate on making the best effort. Let go of the results. Why do we do things? If it is in anticipation and expectation of the result, we will never be content. The curse of discontentment will follow us like a dark shadow until we wake up to the reality of love and life. The truth is that: everything we need will be given to us when we are ready for it.

When we live in contentment, we will be able to fulfill our dharma, as we will be able to live as ourselves.

Do things out of love. Do them out of profound and deep spiritual interest. Do not be motivated by limited and mundane material interest. One’s life will then be blessed every moment by santosha.

Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani is presenting at the SOYA Annual Retreat June 1-3, 2018 at Sorrento BC.  He is a Certified Yoga Therapist with IAYT, the Director of CYTER, and the Chairman of ICYER at Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India.

Yoga Alliance

Yoga Alliance

Yoga Alliance credentials are the premier form of recognition for yoga teachers. If you become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) you will be awarded a specific designation based on your level of training and experience.  Registration with Yoga Alliance is a globally recognized credential that helps ensure that yoga students can find knowledgeable instruction and training programs.


International Yoga Teachers Association

All SOYA 500 Hour Graduates are automatically eligible for Full Teaching Membership in the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA). You can apply directly to IYTA for Full Membership (200 hour grads can become subscribing members). Contact to learn more. Visit