Ash-tanga means eight-limbs, there are eight limbs of yoga and the physical practice, the asana, is just one. The other limbs include Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These other limbs focus on improving our way of being in the world. In the Western world the focus is usually on the asana – the physical practice, as we tend to prioritise how we ‘look’, but the real yoga lies in how we ‘feel’. The physical poses are just a vehicle, giving us access to our emotions (frustration, self doubt, balance etc) that we can learn to overcome through breath and concentration.
So, throughout my classes I talk through a range of topics which have influenced both my development as a yoga teacher and a person. After class, I often get asked where I source my information and whether there is any literature that I can share. I enthusiastically suggest a range of book titles and sadly that is usually met with the same response, ‘I just don’t have the time to read’.
I have created this page for those who have asked for it and for anyone else who is interested in personal growth, not to discourage you from reading/listening to the books in full but to give you the excerpts that had the greatest impact on my thought patterns. I feel passionately about sharing any self development in a bid to help others and have been asked to offer talks on these subjects.
In the UK, there seems to be something about self help/development books that is scoffed at. Perhaps this is a result of the bizarre notion that we should all be ‘perfect’ (something entirely subjective) and strong all of the time. Any sign of self development seems to suggest some sort of weakness. I would like to start by sharing an fantastic quote which puts that to bed, ‘it isn’t the lumberjack who chops for the most hours who cuts the most wood, it is the lumberjack with the sharpest axe’. So if anyone wants to be successful in any field, I would highly recommend spending a few hours each week sharpening your axe, here’s a couple of places to start…
The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
This booked is based on the notion that everything in the world is made of atoms. Atoms are made of energy and our thoughts are also made of energy, so your thoughts are as real as the table you are sat at or the chair that you are sat on. The phrase that is repeated throughout the book is ‘thoughts become things’, which develops from the idea that if you focus your energy enough on something it will manifest into being, because the universe returns the energy that you have put out. The key is to be crystal clear on what you want and if you truly believe that it is yours, it will be. There are some brilliant case studies in the book as well as techniques to help you practice these thought patterns and importantly, to eliminate self doubt.
The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod
Hal explains how he overcame a terrible car accident and having been told he would never walk again, ends up running a marathon. He goes on to explain that this wasn’t the lowest point in his life, the lowest point was when he lost everything and became depressed. He (as a life coach) had to ask for help and his friend told him to go for a run and oxygenate his brain. Reluctantly, Hal came back from his run to his computer to research how to become successful. He found six common themes and combines them to create a ‘miracle morning’. Hal strongly believes that if you get up an hour earlier than usual (despite all the excuses) and complete these tasks that you will feel a miracle difference to your life after one week and see a drastic change in one month. The tasks are: Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing.
The Slight Edge – Jeff Olson
Jeff explains that this book helps you effectively apply advice from every other self help book that you’ve read. He dispels the myth of the ‘Quantum Leap’ (using a quick fix for a long term gain) and instead highlights the importance of making small daily decisions, which add up to make the difference. He points out that these decisions are just as easy to do as not to do but that making daily positive decisions is what makes the ultimate difference to your success and well-being. He gives amazing examples, such as saving £2000/year into a pension from the age of 25 provides a £1,000,000 retirement package. He also explains to those of us who ‘don’t have time to read’, that reading 10 pages a day equates to reading 22 books a year. Imagine how sharp your axe would be.
The Chimp Paradox – Steve Peters
Steve explains how we all have a Chimp. Our Chimp is our primitive self, who’s goal is to survive. Survival relies on being hyper-vigilant and reactive, which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress, both physically and mentally in today’s world. He shows us that we can either manage our Chimp to propel us through life or let our Chimp get out of hand, which will eventually cripple and control us. Steve offers some simple terminology to help us understand how our past influences the way we think.
Sat alongside our chimp is our computer, which responds to stimulus 20 times quicker than our chimp and our human self. Peters explains how to program our computer to react proactively to certain situations, as without these ‘autopilots’ our chimp can only act in one of three ways – fight, flight or freeze. Entering fight or flight mode has a serious impact on both our physical health and our mental well being. Through childhood we will have already programmed our computer, but we may have negative programs, which Peters refers to as ‘gremlins’. One of the examples that stands out most prominently in my mind is the story of the kid who brings a painting home for her parents – if the parents tell the kid that they love her and then praise the painting, the kid learns unconditional love, a positive ‘autopilot’. However, if the parents praise the painting and then tell the kid they love her, she may grow up believing that love is based on her achievements, a ‘gremlin’.
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
What makes us different from animals is our frontal lobe, the ability to imagine something happening which is not happening right now – the future. This allows us to predict and to plan our lives, offering us intelligence. However, with that comes fear, fear of what might happen, anxiety of what might be, stress of what could be done. So, Tolle provides us with the skills to bring us back into the present moment; preventing us from dreaming up fictitious stories and potential conclusions, which do not exist and can drive us mad. Tolle teaches us how to live in the now and stay present instead of missing our lives, as we spend every day worrying about another day that doesn’t exist yet. This is a grounding and powerful practice that has an incredible effect on reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
The Road Less Travelled – M. Scott Peck
Peck offers us structured lessons on how our past effects our present. He writes around the topics of love or the lack of love, fear of abandonment, do as I say rather than do as I do parenting, self discipline and delayed gratification. Peck explains how love requires time, like the ‘watching, observing, tweaking of child’. He highlights the difference between low quality and high quality love and how that eventually relates to self worth, which we carry through to adulthood.
Peck stresses the importance of accepting responsibility and taking ownership of a problem, which allows you to solve it rather than remain in a ‘blame state’. He promotes dedication to truth in order to create a map for ourselves and be willing to revise it, through continuous and stringent self-examination. This includes openness to challenge, not fearing confrontation but welcoming the chance to improve yourself and viewing that as a gift. Simultaneously he warns against withholding truth, ‘omittance of truth is lie’, in order to build relationships that can withstand (truly) honest dialogue.
Peck offers a revitalising stance on ‘the healthiness of depression’, explaining that giving up our self image to make space for the ‘new self’ results in growth, both mentally and spiritually. He acknowledges that this growth process can be painful but that birth is painful. Therefore, Peck states that, ‘if your goal is to avoid pain and escape suffering I would not advise you to seek higher levels of consciousness or spiritual evolution. First, you cannot achieve them through suffering, second, insofar as you do achieve them you all be called on to serve in ways more painful to you.’
Peck also enlightens us on on the reality of love, offering various definitions and forms of love, including the ‘potent misconception’ of ‘falling in love’ and the sexual derivations of that. He show us that actually falling out of love is often the first signal of real love and what is involved in that process.
- New earth – Eckhart Tolle
- The monk who sold his ferrari – Robin Sharma
- Being of power – Baron Baptiste
- Mindfullness – Prof Mark Williams & Dr Danny Penman
- Feel the fear and do it anyway – Ph.D Susan Jeffers