It can be easy sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of the modern world and all its distractions, to lose connection to yourself. Yoga was designed to bring you back to yourself, but sometimes, you can look at the world of Yoga and wonder if that too has become disconnected from itself. As seemingly ever more random gimmicks are added to entice people into classes, you might be forgiven for thinking that Yoga is nothing more than a gimmick itself. In the world of goat and beer Yoga, what does Yoga have to offer for personal growth and self discovery?
Well, of course, the answer is LOTS! Yoga is a powerful gift for you if you want to explore life deeper, to gain greater self understanding, and to be the very best that you can be.
Here are 30 powerful quotes from ancient and modern Yoga wisdom to enhance your practice and remind you why you do it!
Share in the comments below which is your favourite, and how you use it to keep yourself centred and inspired…..
Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are – Jason Crandell
Yoga is not just repetition of few postures – it is more about the exploration and discovery of the subtle energies of life – Amit Ray
Yoga means addition – addition of energy, strength and beauty to body, mind and soul – Amit Ray
True meditation is about being fully present with everything that is–including discomfort and challenges. It is not an escape from life – Craig Hamilton
Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self. – The Bhagavad Gita
The nature of yoga is to shine the light of awareness into the darkest corners of the body – Jason Crandell
Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul – Amit Ray
The very heart of yoga practice is ‘abyhasa’ – steady effort in the direction you want to go – Sally Kempton
The study of asana is not about mastering posture. It’s about using posture to understand and transform yourself – B.K.S. Iyengar
In every change, in every falling leaf there is some pain, some beauty. And that’s the way new leaves grow – Amit Ray
All kidding aside, if everyone did yoga, we would have world peace – Rory Freedman
If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath – Amit Ray
You are never alone. You are eternally connected with everyone – Amit Ray
Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured – B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down – Jigar Gor
Yoga is not about tightening your ass. It’s about getting your head out of it. – Eric Paskel
Yoga exists in the world because everything is linked – Desikachar
When you listen to yourself, everything comes naturally. It comes from inside, like a kind of will to do something. Try to be sensitive. That is yoga – Petri Räisänen
Calming the mind is yoga. Not just standing on the head – Swami Satchitananda
Yoga is invigoration in relaxation. Freedom in routine. Confidence through self-control. Energy within and energy without – Ymber Delecto
The future depends on what we do in the present – Mahatma Gandhi
Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees – B.K.S. Iyengar
A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms – Zen Shin
Yoga allows you to find an inner peace that is not ruffled and riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life – B.K.S. Iyengar
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony – Mahatma Gandhi
A photographer gets people to pose for him. A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves – T. Guillemets
That’s why it’s called a practice. We have to practice a practice if it is to be of value – Allan Lokos
Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths – Etty Hittlesum
Yoga begins right where I am – not where I was yesterday or where I long to be – Linda Sparrowe
Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory – Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
There are many aspects of Yoga that aren’t always talked about in a typical Yoga class. And yet, in your Yoga class, you will be practising them even if you don’t realise it.
The Yamas and Niyamas are the foundations to Yoga. The moral and ethical backbone of a strong Yoga practice, the Yamas and Niyamas guide the practitioner to becoming kinder, more compassionate, more disciplined, self reflective, and more.
There are 5 Yamas, and 5 Niyamas. The Yamas are sometimes referred to as the ‘restraints’, and they are the things we should aim not to do in life if we want to overcome our animal instincts and become more human. The Niyamas are called the ‘observances’, and guide us to grow and evolve, to become more connected to our spiritual side, to understand ourselves better.
The Yamas are
Ahimsa – non harming
Satya – truthfulness
Asteya – non stealing
Brahmacharya – control of desires
Aparigraha – covetousness
These guide how we interact with other people, the planet we live on, and ourselves. They are about the words you speak, the way you act, and the way you think. If you are friendly to a person’s face, while thinking bad thoughts about them and then gossiping about them to a friend, you are harming both yourself, them and the friend who is the recipient of the gossip with your untruthfulness.
In a Yoga class, your teacher will tell you that you must be mindful of your body, and not allow your practice to cause you harm, to stop if it hurts, to pay attention to your breath, and to ensure you relax to release tension created. This is Ahimsa.
You are asked not to push yourself in your practice beyond what your body is capable of. You will attain the posture, but it will take time. Accepting that you can’t do it yet, and maintaining your practice where you are, is Ahimsa, Satya (accepting the truth), Brahmacharya (ignoring the ego’s demands to push through’) and Aparigraha (you aren’t trying to have what others have).
This acceptance also creates Santosha, or contentment. This is one of the Niyamas, which are
Saucha – cleanliness
Santosha – contentment
Tapas – self discipline
Swadhyaya – self study
Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender
These shape our growth and evolution as spiritual, physical, emotional, mental human beings. Saucha guides us to take care over what we feed our body and mind, and how we keep the environment we are in.
Santosha teaches us to accept the present moment, and not constantly wish things were different. Tapas reminds us that the creation of powerful routines and disciplines are key to success in anything in life, especially Yoga.
Through self study we can come to understand ourselves better, can see patterns in behaviour, and learn where we are making the same mistakes over and over. Self awareness is the key to growth, and this can only come through self study.
Ishvara Pranidhana represents surrender. It is the understanding that we cannot control the outcomes of our actions. We can only do the best we can, then allow the results to unfold as they will.
In a Yoga class, you are practising Saucha by taking in deep lungfuls of air, drinking water to cleanse your body, chanting and relaxing. Being in the present moment and accepting where you are in your practice is Santosha. Turning up every week, and maybe practising in between, not giving up when a posture gets hard, is Tapas. Through your time on the mat you will be able to learn more about your body, your attitude, and you will be able to hear that small wise voice within. And accepting that your Yoga practice will give you what you need, when it is ready, is the ultimate in surrender.
The Yamas and Niyamas are a large topic, I have only skimmed over them here. If you would like to know more, I cover them in more detail in my book, Bent Back into Shape.
December Tapas on Rhondda Yoga
Tapas is probably my biggest challenge. I have recently discovered that I have ADHD, which explains so much! I am very prone to making big ambitious plans, then dropping them when another ‘shiny object’ appears in my line of vision. If we all come into this life with a big lesson to learn, then I know that mastering self discipline is mine.
This month, some business friends and I are taking part in a 30 Day Blogging Challenge in memory of a dear friend who passed away last month. He loved this challenge, and many of us knew him through it. Mike was a time management expert and created thousands of blog posts helping people to manage their time better on his website and in his book. I had hoped to attend some of his training in 2019, but sadly, will not be able to. I was fortunate to meet Mike in the summer, and I did benefit from some wonderful advice that I intend to use to help me master this challenge. He was a real gentleman, kind, funny, knowledgeable and very generous with his time and knowledge, and he will be sadly missed by many. I am pleased to be taking part in this December challenge in his honour, and will honour his memory by sticking to the task of writing daily!
The blogging challenge is run by my business coaches and mentor Sarah and Kevin Arrow, and is 30 days of consistent blogging. And yes, we are doing it in the most challenging month to commit to daily blogging.
I will need to write (or at least publish) a blog post on Christmas Day, Boxing Day when I have a drive to Liverpool ahead of me, my birthday (27th) when I have a day of Beatles tourism to enjoy (guess what that post will be about?), and the 28th when I have to drive back from Liverpool. I need to write a blog post when I am busy all day, and on the days when I don’t feel like I have anything to say. These will be challenging but I will do them. If there is a question I can answer for you, I’d love to know!
If you run a business and would like to join us in blogging for your business this December, you can sign up here for free using the coupon code MG2018BBC. I’d love to see you in the group, do let me know if you do!
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Please drop me a message and let me know your thoughts or ask questions. I will get back to you in good time, and will give you a shout out on the radio as well of course!
Today I am going to share 5 more practices that you can integrate into your busy days. Today I will share 5 more ways you can find peace and calm in the midst of a hectic life.
Switch off your devices
The digital world offers a myriad of ways to distract and numb the mind from the realities of your emotions. It provides constant stimulation, and a never ending dopamine rush, creating more need for the highs you get from it. Notifications and the emotional roller coaster of TV and other entertainment prevents us ever having a moment to just fully be in the moment.
Switching off all your devices, and being exactly where you are right now, is a powerful way to allow your mind to rest. As we live in an increasingly digital world, I think it is going to become ever more important that we are able to function without them, to retain mastery over our own minds, and not allow technology to dictate how we behave. Try allocating time every day to step away from all devices, or consider things like not taking your phone with you when you are meeting a friend for coffee, spending time with the children, focusing entirely on the task you are doing, going for a walk, and going to bed. Re-acquaint yourself with boredom, with not having anything to distract and stimulate your mind, with being present with the person you are with, and living in the moment.
The first of the Yamas of Yoga is Ahimsa, or non-harming. This might seem like quite a simple thing to practice, but it is deceptively difficult. It requires us to treat all living beings with compassion, and not to cause harm to any. Including ourselves.
There are numerous ways that we cause harm without intending to in our day. We can cause harm with our thoughts, words, and actions. Alanis Morissette wrote a fantastic song called ‘Versions Of Violence’, in which she lists many of the ways that we can harm another, without realising it.
How many of these can you recognise in your own behaviour, both to yourself and others. How many harsh things have you said to yourself today? Have you taken out the stress of the morning commute on someone else? Did you shout at the children and now feel bad about it? I don’t want to list lots of ways you could have caused harm and make you feel bad, but I invite you to think about it.
Just for today, could you try to raise your awareness of how you are treating yourself and others, and make a concerted effort to act with a little more compassion?
As i mentioned above, the ability to sit and be with yourself is a vital one, and one that the modern world makes harder and harder. The main, original purpose of Yoga postures was to get the body fit to sit in meditative postures for extended periods of time. The modern world has made Yoga mostly about moving the body, but in truth, the essence of Yoga is in developing the ability to be still.
A daily practice of sitting quietly, focusing on the breath, training the mind to be still, is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. Research has found a wide range of benefits in this practice, from increased concentration, to better sleep, reduced stress and greater compassion to name but a few.
In this video I guide you through a 10 minute practice of sitting quietly. Try to fit in even a few minutes into your day every day, and see what benefits it brings.
Walking is a great form of physical exercise, and a wonderful way to see places you won’t see, and notice the little details that you don’t notice, in a car. Walking is also a fantastic way to keep mental health in check. Research has shown that it lifts the mood, increases heart health, reduces stress and much more.
Walking can also be a powerful way to reconnect with your body. As you go about your day, the chances are you don’t really notice or think about your body that much, beyond tending to basic biological needs, or feeding yourself. Modern life has separated us from ourselves so much that we rarely stop and appreciate what a truly magnificent thing the human body, in all its shapes and sizes, really is.
You can turn your walk into a mindfulness exercise by getting really connected to your body. While it is best to do this without any stimulation or digital interference, it can be hard if you are completely new to it.
In this podcast I talk a lot about the benefits of walking, and share a 20 minute walking relaxation you can download to listen to as you walk.
Beginners Yoga Club
As much as i advocate stepping away from digital distractions to increase inner peace and reduce stress, there are ways that technology can really help if you are struggling to ‘get yoga’ on your own. I heard from a growing number of people who were telling me a range of reasons why they couldn’t get to a class. Reasons included being too busy, not able to fit my times in with their time, social anxiety, fears of being in a room of people they don’t know, doing something they don’t know, being in the wrong country, and more beside.
I wanted to do something to help people access Yoga in a way that works, so I created Beginners Yoga Club. This is essentially an online Yoga studio, aimed at beginners. We will have weekly classes in which I will be teaching you basic loosening practices to help you to release the tension you have in your body, basic breathing practices, and relaxation. We will also do some simple postures. Each month there will be a pranayama (breath control) class, and we will have an online social space where we can get to know one another, learn from each other, share experiences and ask questions.
One of the common reasons I hear that people have for not being able to get to a yoga class is lack of time. I get it, I really do. We live in a crazily hectic world, with so many things we think we need to do. You have so many responsibilities, demands and desires pulling you in so many different directions, it can be hard to make time for yoga. Whose got time for a yoga class?
There are many ways you can get benefits from yoga if you are short on time. Here are 10 ways that you can incorporate Yoga into a busy day.
There is a famous quote that has been attributed to The Buddha (among others!) that says
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour”
Now, I know I am talking about meditation in an article about yoga, but you cannot separate the two, and the principle behind the comment applies to both sitting quitely with the breath, and practising postures.
Both postures and stillness (meditation) allow the mind to still, release tension and stress from the body, teach focus and concentration, increase creativity, reduce stress, insomnia and depression and much more. All of these benefits will help you to achieve more in your working hours than pushing ahead and working all day.
The chances are you’ve got far more time than you think if work time is the barrier for you. Research has shown that the average worker doesn’t even work productively for half a working day. Spend a week tracking all your actual activities at work (with brutal honesty) and see how much of your time is spent in genuinely productive work, and see if you can squeeze in a bit of time for Yoga!
Breathe on the commute
The daily commute can be a very stressful experience. Whether you drive or use public transport, it can be unpleasant, stressful, uncomfortable and exhsausting. You can be stressed out before you even make it to the office, and this can affect the whole of your day.
Instead of allowing stress and frustration overwhelm you, try practicing deep breathing as you travel. Simply breathing slowly, deeply and consciously will have many benefits, including
Improving your respiration
Enabling you to find mental clarity
Enhancing cognitive function
Enabling you to be ‘in the moment’
Reducing road rage!
You have to be in the traffic if you need to commute. You get to choose how you feel about it. Deep breathing is the simplest way to calm the tension and allowing you to feel calm and happy as you walk into work
Santosha, or contentment, is one of the Niyamas of Yoga. This teaches us to be happy and accepting of whatever life sends our way. We cannot control what happens to us in life, we can only choose how we deal with it. A daily gratitude practice is a powerful way to choose positive emotions.
Practising gratitude doesn’t mean that we ignore the bad things that happen in life, but that we look for the ways that we can use it to learn and grow.
It can be hard to see the positives when you are going through a difficult time, but a regular gratitude practice helps you to see that there are still things worth celebrating in life, and enables you to see those lessons learned after the pain has passed.
Swadhyaya, or self study is another of the Niyamas of Yoga. Yoga is all about personal evolution and growth, and it is impossible to do this if we don’t look objectively at ourselves. This can be hard to do with the conscious mind, we need to access the subconscious, and learn to listen to that part of ourselves.
A journaling practice can be a powerful way to uncover the things you don’t know you know and think. When you sit and write freely, without editing or censoring yourself, you uncover the parts of yourself that the conscious mind hides from view. It can be difficult sometimes, but through a daily writing practice, you can really get to know yourself better and see your life more clearly.
Jattis are gentle loosening exercises that we do at the start of all of my classes. They are small, easy to do movements that can be done on the floor, or in a chair. There are even some that can be done standing up. They are a powerful way to improve health and wellbeing, releasing physical and mental tension, improving flexibility, increasing connection with the body, and allowing the body to relax.
You can access a short Jattis session here in an video I made for Quit Wining, or you can find a longer practice when you join for a free 30 day trial of Beginners Yoga Club
If you look at any Yoga store, you will find a dazzling array of accessories, props, clothing and more that you might think you need.
What sort of mat should you get?
Do you need a block, a pillow, an eye mask?
Will everyone else in the class be wearing skimpy lyrca, can you rock up in your leggings and Beatles t-shirt?
The good news is that there is very little you actually NEED to practice yoga. One of the many wonderful things about yoga, is that it can be done very cheaply.
There are, however, 5 essentials I would ask anyone who comes to one of my classes to bring with them (or at least use)
A proper Yoga mat
A mat is not strictly speaking essential, but it will be far more comfortable for you to practice on a mat, and gives you a clear sense of your space. At the first EGH Judo class, we tried not using mats, as the floor is already covered in judo mats, but quickly realised that we had no way to mark out space, so people were too close together. A mat cushions your body against the floor, which is vital for some postures, and it offers protection against sliding in some posture, minimising the chances of injury.
It is important to get the right sort of mat for yoga. A spongy, thick mat that you might use for Pilates is not suitable as is doesn’t offer the stickiness, and is very hard to balance on. A yoga mat is around 4mm or 6mm thick. YogaBliss, a UK based Yoga supplies company, offers some beautiful mats or varying quality and price. I will be getting my next mat from here, I have fallen in love with these Elephant and Yantra mats
If you find that a regular yoga mat is too thin and uncomfortable on your knees, you can double over part of the mat for knee based postures, or place another mat on top of it to see if that increases your comfort.
If you come to my classes, you can borrow a mat from me if you don’t have one of your own.
Water is really important for the health of the body. Every cell in the body needs to be hydrated. The best way to do this is through drinking water. Plain water is best, or sparkling water. Sugary additions such as squash should be avoided if possible.
There are mixed opinions about drinking water in a yoga class. Some teachers explicitly teach that you shouldn’t drink water through your yoga practice. Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga, the tradition I teach, promotes drinking at regular intervals through the class, to keep the body hydrated, and to help to flush out toxins from the body. At certain points through a class, I will ask you to drink some water. If you really don’t like the idea of drinking water through the class, please be sure to drink plenty after it.
At the end of a Yoga class, there will be a relaxation. This is a vital part of the class as it allows your muscles to release any remaining tension that has been created by the postures, and gives you space and time to bring your mind and body into balance and harmony.
Relaxation is performed by lying on the back in a posture called Shava Asana. You will, in a Rishiculture Ashtanga class, be in this posture, lying very still and quietly, for at least 10 minutes. During this time your body temperature will drop, which will cause the muscles to gain a some tension, depending on the temperature in the room. The use of a blanket keeps you warm and prevents this tension building. Before we go into relaxation I will invite you to put on socks to keep your feet warm during this time as well.
Clothes you can stretch in
Many people worry that a yoga class is going to be full of people in Lycra. You do not need fancy ‘yoga clothes’ to practice yoga. All you need is something comfortable you can stretch in, that isn’t going to be revealing when you bend over, that allows you to comfortably bend at the middle. I tend to wear t-shirts with leggings, exercise trousers, or loose Indian trousers. I would advise bringing a pair of socks to put on at the end for relaxation, and to wear at the start if it is a bit chilly, and you can add layers in the colder weather to keep warm. Yoga is a barefoot practice, so no shoes requires. If you want to wear socks throughout, you can buy sticky socks to prevent your feet sliding.
An open mind
Yoga may not be what you think it is. Even if you have tried yoga before, you will find that different teachers and different styles vary quite a lot. Some teachers include chanting in their classes, some might ask you to do things you might find unusual, such as crawling on your hands and knees. All of these things have meaning and are important to the style of yoga being taught, and will give you benefits that you might not expect. Try to enter into the spirit of it, and remember that everyone else in the class is doing it as well.
Yoga will impact your life in ways you cannot possibly foresee at the start of your journey. Students who come to my classes are already reporting noticeable improvements in their flexibility, but also reduced pain, regular headaches disappearing, mental calm, better sleep and much more. As time progresses they will likely start to notice other changes as well.
Yoga has the power to transform your life for the better in so many ways. You just need to start. So come along to a class this week and begin your journey with Yoga.
Beginners Yoga Club
If you can’t make any of my local classes, you might be interested in Beginners Yoga Club, an online Yoga school where I will be delivering live classes online once a week, and making the recordings available to you so you can watch in your own space and time.
The club opens on June 1, and you can get access to early bird resources and a free 30 day trial right now. find out more and register your place here
One common problem I see in people coming to Yoga classes is problems with their knees. Pain in the knees affects so much else in life, making movement difficult and painful.
While there is much in Yoga that can help the knees, it is important that you take care of them, and don’t make them worse through your Yoga practice.
In the classes I teach, lots of the practices are done on the knees, particularly pranayama (breath practices). As long as I know, I can make adjustments to your practice to accommodate your particular need. This will often involve you being asked to sit on a chair, and perform slightly different, or adapted postures.
I often find that people don’t want to do this, whether from not wanting to be different from the rest of the class, or not wanting to be more noticeable. I understand this completely, but it is far more important that you take care of yourself than worry about anyone else’s view of you.
A useful thing to remember is that most of the time, no one else is taking any notice of us, people are too busy worrying about themselves to think about you. This idea has helped me ‘get over myself’ a lot in recent years!
Depending on the nature of your problem with your knees, you may find that regular practice of the jattis, and other postures will improve the condition of the knee and make it better, but for some, chair practice will be vital for a longer period of time.
The knee must never be over the ankle in Veera Asana
Some of the postures we do in class, such as Veera Asana (Warrior posture) can make the knees worse if not practiced correctly. It is vital in this posture that the bent knee does not come over the ankle. The knee should be positioned so that the shin is at right angles to the floor, or back a little; if this is not the case, you need to widen your stance by taking the legs open wider, or straighten the bent leg a little.
If you have problems with your knees, please make sure that I am aware of this at the start of the class, preferably before so I can arrange to have a chair ready for you if you need it.
Even if you are never able to get to the floor and sit on your heels, you will find tremendous benefits from a regular yoga practice. Research has shown that it helps with pain relief, it will relax you and increase your overall sense of wellbeing so that you find the discomfort easier to bear even if it doesn’t leave.