Sukhasana + Xingche

Sitting outside “each and every place reveals the eternally real.”

Living in Seclusion in the Nanyue Mountains

When the sun comes out, it warms the body through,

And when the wind rises, it cools off the great earth.

The human heart must face so very many obstacles

That only the way of the sages can scatter and dispel.

Like white jade, from the beginning it is completely white,

Like yellow gold, it needs no refining to becomes yellow.

Whether ancient or modern it undergoes no change,

And in each and every place reveals the eternally real.

– Xingche, from the poem “Living in Seclusion in the Nanyue Mountains,” translated by Beata Grant

Note: previously published in Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns (Wisdom Publications, 2003);  reprinted with permission of the press

Speak: This is one stanza of a longer poem that is part of a series of poems. How does the one stanza feel complete in and of itself, the way one asana posture can feel complete within a series of postures?

Consider the human heart.


Viparita Karani + Judy Halebsky

Legs-at-the-wall releases us from our upright participation in life’s constant change. The pose offers a “time out” from personal and social history– what has happened and what will happen. When we put feet back on the ground and look up to pay attention, sometimes, like the poem’s speaker, we receive wonders presented to us.

Dark Matter, Pine Trees, Eternity, Room 205

Like a handmade ceramic bowl
uneven, oblong, dripped, bare in spots
Joshua departs for the Army at dawn

birds fly south and return months later
by then they are different birds
it’s not that they change
it’s that the distance is longer than any one life

my job asks me to teach the history of the earth
with both science and the idea that there’s a greater purpose
so students don’t get depressed or have a crisis
when they learn
that our sun is a star that will burn out
that death is part of what defines an organism as alive

at boot camp they pound their teachings into him
how to fold sheets into squares
how to dream in black and white

birds know the routes to nesting places
they know how to cross the ocean

Joshua, be like water
change shapes
let sticks, discarded carburetors, broken glass
drift past you

first thing, they cut his hair
put him in uniform, take his picture

he looks like a soldier already, Eve says

Joshua, dug from the foothills
built by hand

a student comes to me with her palm out
holding a little green cone-shaped seed
from this, she says, a redwood tree
isn’t that amazing

Judy Halebsky

Note:  first published in Failbetter; poem used by permission of the poet

Pair with: viparita karani

Speak: The poem uses italics to include other voices. When you read the poem, any poem, let your voice be more than just your own.

Consider: How do you receive the wonder of another, palm outstretched?

Vrksasana + Federico Garcia Lorca

We call vrksasana a balancing pose. But to enter it, we briefly unbalance ourselves, moving away from our bilateral status to find moments of steadiness on one leg. We become like the poet’s one-winged day beneath the breeze, and we join the trees.


The night always slows.

The day comes and goes.


The night late and long.

The day with one wing.


The night upon reflections

and the day beneath the breeze.


– a version of “Balanza” by Federico Garcia Lorca, translated by Alexa Mergen

Pair with: vrksasana

Speak: The poem suggests balance  through title, parallel structure and rhyme yet unbalances with images. Capture unsteady steadiness in your voice.

Consider: How are declarative statements, even if they are not apparently logical, an attempt at “balancing”?

Savasana + Shenyi

In a class, savasana sometimes carries a feeling of transition, a mark between the preceding practice and the pending reentry into “regular life.” These pauses amid what was and what will be are the present, and can be bittersweet when lived and, as the poet does, recalled.

Recalling a Past Excursion to Wang Convent: Sent to Zaisheng


Human life consists of meetings and partings,

in the end but froth and foam,

Gazing back at the vast expanse, I am moved

by thoughts of our past excursion.

The morning dew had not yet dried, the blos-

soms were plentiful and firm,

The noon shade was about to settle, the songs

of the birds were hidden away.

Inhaling the fragrance around the little bench,

we were oblivious to the dusty world,

Walking in the moonlight, our pure talk swept

away all the old sorrows.

The slanting shadow of the plum blossom

looked just like a painting;

Who will gather up the tattered blossoms

strewn upon the ground?


– Shenyi, translated by Beata Grant

Note: previously published in Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns (Wisdom Publications, 2003);  reprinted with permission of the press

Pair with: supported, swaddled savasana

Speak: What happens when a poem ends with a question? Listen to the music of silence that follows.

Consider how recalling someone is a way of loving.



Navasana + Juan Ramon Jimenez

Nothing happens…and everything happens in the seconds it takes for the mind to imagine the body into the shape of a boat.



I feel my boat

has struck something large

there, in the depths of the sea!


And then nothing

happens! Nothing…Silence… Waves…


Nothing happens? Or has everything happened

And are we now, calm, in someplace new?


Juan Ramon Jimenez, translated by Mary Berg & Dennis Maloney

Note: previously published in Finding the Way Home (White Pine Press, 2010);  permission of Dennis Maloney

Pair with: navasana

Speak: Punctuation is key in this poem–exclamation marks, commas, ellipses, question marks. How can your voice convey the punctuation as well as the words?

Consider: Movements, large and small, take us someplace new.

Follow that trail

Contra Loma Regional Park, Antioch, Calif. Photo by Matt Weiser.
Contra Loma Regional Park, Antioch, Calif. Photo by Matt Weiser.
You can, from where you stand, make a decision to restore from within, even if your mind screams that it is not possible. Whatever feels unresolved, the animal part of you is already tracking the healing you need. Follow that trail; the medicine will feel like freedom.
 – Boyd Varty, Cathedral of the Wild



Tough Little Tardigrades

The day eight years ago that I read a news story ago about these little creatures called waterbears, or tardigrades, living in moss and lichen, I also had Dolly Parton in my mind. They came together in this poem. More about seeing in art and science here.

Dolly and the Tardigrades

When I used to hear Great Smoky Mountains
I’d think on Dolly Parton, ageless idol, my blue bird
of happiness in her coat of many colors
riding on a peace train.

Now I’ve seen a sketch of tardigrades,
dot-sized creatures found in only those mountains,
those same ones Dolly’s from.

Dolly, do you wonder as you sing, voice
like a stream over sun-spotted rock,
of the sweet-faced life within a water drop
splashed over and pooled on a grain of bank sand?

Little water bears, do you hear Dolly on her barefoot mossy walks,
hilly music drifting like streamy clouds? Do you cluster in a water-film world
hum hum hum along and nod your tiny heads?

– Alexa Mergen, first published in Red Booth Review