‘It’s easy to master the body; it’s far more difficult to master the mind.’

These words from one of my yoga teachers still live with me, thirty years on. I started practising yoga as a teenager, following a long-term illness which excluded me from team sports at school. I didn’t really study it properly until I was an undergraduate, and then I was hooked.

Yoga in the west comes in many shapes and sizes, but all of the different schools have the same goal: to bring together individual experience (symbolised by the front of the body) with universal mind (symbolised by the back of the body). The postures, passed down for centuries from the teachings of the Indian sage Patanjali, are not an end in themselves, but a way of helping the mind to settle so that the true nature of life can reveal itself.

I love the discipline of yoga: the practice of rolling out my mat, bringing my attention to what I am doing and letting go of everything but the practice. If I am not 100% engaged with my practice, I am not doing yoga. I am doing distraction. This is hellishly difficult but there are moments of sheer joy, as well as what often feel like longer moments of trying to bear the seemingly unbearable (and then finding out that it is not so unbearable after all).

I trained as a yoga teacher over a three-year period during which I became pregnant with my youngest child, Zoë. Zoë is now a yogi herself, and we sometimes practise together. It is wonderful to share a practice like this with your children.

Everything about yoga fascinates me: the way in which the postures imitate animals, and the sense of respect for the animal kingdom that this implies; the mystical quality of the chants; the non-competitive emphasis; the way the preoccupations of the ego fall away.

Yoga is not just for the yoga mat: our deck of cards, Yoga Pretzels, shares some of the ways in which the spirit of yoga can be brought into our daily activities and interactions. It’s a way of life, and it works on many levels: physical, emotional and spiritual. Try it!

Buy the Yoga Pretzel Set: US Shoppers / Canada Shoppers

 

Tessa Strickland is the Co-Founder and Former Editor-in-Chief of Barefoot Books.

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