How about these words for a slice of wisdom: "flexibility will not bring you happiness; awareness will". So said Norman Blair, at a recent yin yang yoga workshop at London's lovely Globe house studio. His words set a theme for the day: the importance of staying present, and how easy it is to lose sight of this in our quest for a more toned body, or a perfect asana.
He's quite right, of course. Most people (I include myself in this, at least partially) in the West practice yoga for the manifold physical benefits it brings - forgetting its less tangible psychological and emotional benefits.
It's often said that yoga isn't yoga without the breath and the focus on the present - you might as well be pumping (small) weights at a gym, or flapping your arms like crazy in an aerobics studio.
But how often do we really remember this during our practice? Of course alignment, flexibility, strength - all the physical benefits we get from yoga - are important, but the ego is quick to forget all the rest. It takes a small leap of faith to truly take this on board.
Last week, I read an article that urged practioners to try 10% or 20% LESS hard than they would usually in a yoga class; for once substituting yan-like effort with yin-like focus, awareness and attention on what's going on at that moment.
You could argue that both should be possible, simultaneously. But, let's face it, we're all human, and if you're anything like me, multi-tasking doesn't come easy.
So I'm off to a yoga class tonight, where my big focus, I'm telling myself, will be attention to the here-and-now - and to the breath, the thing that makes this possible. I know how easily my mind is distracted, and so how just how tricky this seemingly simple intention can be.
But if I can, at least, hold this thought in my mind for 50% of the time, I might be stepping onto the right road at least.
Lucia Cockcroft, editor
Image source: © Galina Barskaya - FOTOLIA