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CONVERSATIONS AT THE SANCTUARY: Words That Uplift and Shift Perspectives

By The Yoga School / June 1, 2020

To mark International Yoga Day on 21 June, our teachers share the inspirational quotes they return to time and again.

In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the idea of International Yoga Day as a way to raise awareness globally about yoga’s multifold benefits.   “We should make efforts to take yoga from cities to villages and tribal areas. Yoga is above religion, caste, colour, gender, and region – it is above everything,” said Modi in an interview with the BBC.

Six years on, yoga practitioners and non-practitioners alike continue to roll out their mats on 21 June, bending and stretching their way through an age-old practice with a history spanning over 5,000 years. But the act of moving through poses or asanas is but one aspect of the practice. Practised within a broader set of philosophical beliefs, yoga also helps us to attain a greater degree of awareness and consciousness, and this examination of the self is often guided by the wisdom of ancient texts as well as its interpretation by teachers past and present.

Below, our teachers from The Yoga School reflect on the yogic words of wisdom that have impacted their lives, shifted perspectives, and opened the doors to new insights.

Zoya

What’s a yoga-related saying that inspires you time and again?

My favourite yoga-inspired saying has to be “without the mud, there’s no lotus”. It’s so relevant in so many ways, for without some of the challenges we encounter on and off the mat, we would never become the person we are today. Without hard work, sweat, or those times we fell over while shifting into a pose – there is no asana practice. Without the struggles of the mind running away – there’s no meditation.

I first encountered the saying during my yoga teacher training in Thailand. The head trainer would float this saying each time we complained about the pain in our shoulders after executing multiple chaturangas. The same reminder would revisit us when the struggles of the mind surfaced after yoga philosophy classes.

What’s one yoga-related book you enjoyed and would recommend to others?

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali  is one book I come back to time and again. I have it on my phone and read a random page daily for inspiration. This ancient text opened my eyes to the true goal of yoga, that of  “directing the mind towards an object and sustaining that direction”. In other words, it speaks of being present, here and now.

When it comes to asana practice, I love Bernie Clark’s books: Your Body, Your Yoga; Your Spine, Your Yoga; and The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. I find the way he approaches and explains the impact of asana practice on one’s body very accessible and useful.

In particular, “Your Spine, Your Yoga” taught me how to safely approach backbends and develop the requisite mobility and stability for my own unique body. I have been able to apply these insights to my teaching practice as well.

 

Lay Peng

What’s a yoga-related saying that inspires you time and again?

Be true to yourself. For me, that means developing a sense of awareness while being able to acknowledge and accept the limitations in my capabilities. This saying has redeemed me multiple times over from stress and burnout. I cannot recall the first time I came across the saying; what I do remember is the great relief I felt each time I applied it in my life.

Take for example the time where I was raising two young children on my own while trying to keep the house spick and span. I eventually came to acknowledge that I was not a super mum. Being able to let go of my ego and ask for help was such a release in itself and I wondered why I did not do so earlier.

What’s one yoga-related book you enjoyed and would recommend to others?

How Yoga Works by Geshe Michael Roach. I first read this book more than a decade ago as it was on the reading list of my teacher training course. In his book, Roach doesn’t quite cover grounds on how to get into poses or asanas. Instead, he shows us how to apply the wisdom from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in our daily life through an engaging fictional narrative: the teachings of a young girl; a prisoner in a remote village in India; and a prison captain who struggles with back problems. The story is light-hearted and easier to follow than the original text by Patanjali. I would highly recommend this book to anyone – be it yoga practitioners or non-practitioners – who craves for growth.

 

Jeremy

What’s a yoga-related saying that inspires you time and again?

I was acquainted with a valuable teaching of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, an eighth-century  Buddhist  master, while spending some time in London some years back with one of my main teachers, Judith Hanson Laster: “You don’t have to expend effort pushing thoughts of the past or future out of your mind to remain in the present. You don’t have to drive thoughts out of your mind and grasp at the present moment. Instead, just let all those thoughts melt away, leave your mind alone, and the present moment will be there for you.”

This teaching about leaving the mind alone was an epiphany. For me, it joined the dots between the ancient traditions and science. Oftentimes, we approach yoga and meditation from an intention of wanting to control or quiet the overactive, restless mind and constant mental chatter. I know from over 13 years of work in neuroscience and psychology that the mind is always busy. That’s the job of the mind – to be productive. At least that’s what we know from the scientific research to date. To control the mind and attain stillness then seems to be a futile and frustrating endeavour. What if we changed our strategy and practised leaving the mind alone, without feeling compelled to entertain every single thought all the time? What if that was the focus of the practice?

This teaching has provided me with a previously uncharted perspective and has changed the way I view my relationship with my mind. It has also greatly influenced how I plan and teach my classes: we practise opening ourselves to a state of equanimity and learn to allow coexistence without reactivity; we practise “being with” discomfort as a mode of self-inquiry rather than “doing” something to manage the discomfort; we learn to allow chaos to coexist with peace; we learn to allow what’s without to coexist with what’s within. We practise to just let stuff be.

Like most situations in life, the hardest part seems to be letting things be, when “doing” and “fixing” is the default way of modern living. So aptly are we termed human beings. Perhaps because the greatest work is in returning to our essential nature of being. Our journey home.

What’s one yoga-related book you enjoyed and would recommend to others?

The works of Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun, have been dear to my heart because of the universality of her message. At some point in our life’s journey, we have all experienced tough times.  Pema Chödrön offers so much relatable wisdom on meeting the suffering  and struggle we encounter in life.

She’s the author of the best-selling classic “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”, which I highly recommend. In such uncertain times, we can learn a thing or two on how to approach uncertainty and unpredictability, or even life in general, from her wise, heartfelt counsel.

During this period, The Yoga School will continue to offer yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes via Zoom. Please click here to discover our class schedule.
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