Stretch your body, calm your mind

The Yoga School blog 



The Yoga School
The Yoga School

You can't stop the waves


The Taoist Yin Yang symbol incorporates two intertwined snakes, one white and one black and the eyes of these snakes contain the opposite colour, i.e. the white snake has a black eye and the black snake has a white eye.


The Yin Yang symbol is static, but implies tremendous and continuous flux between order and chaos. Everything in this world is on this continuum between control and out of control. Nothing will ever be perfect because, like the snake's eye, it contains the seed of the opposite.


An infantile approach to life, when things are not perfect is to have a hissy fit – a temper tantrum and spit the dummy. When things are not going your way, when others disagree with you, when you rub up against ideas you don't like, you could scream, smash a few things and start calling people names.


If you step back for a moment, before soiling your pants, you will see that nothing is ever perfect forever. Imagine you have just spent a full day of your precious time carefully mowing the lawns and manicuring the gardens. From the very second you finish the lawn and gardens will do their natural thing and start changing, and within a short period of time, you have to apply control again to balance the increasing chaos.


I realised a long time ago it is better to embrace the change and the image of the surfer represents this well. The waves are the continuous ups and downs of life – you can't stop them, nor do you want to, because then there will be nothing to ride and no fun. The idea is to learn how to skilfully ride the waves. At first you will not be able to stand up for more than a few seconds. With practice you get better, and eventually you actually enjoy the waves and actively seek out bigger ones for more of a thrill.


If we bring all this back to Yoga practice, then our mat is the surfboard and the asana are the waves. The skill, understanding and expertise we gain learning how to ride the postures carries over into all other aspects of our lives.


And like the garden, the moment we finish our practice, the need to do another practice arises.


Hatha Yoga – any style of yoga that incorporates asana, contains this control / out of control dichotomy. Ha = Sun and Tha = Moon and is pretty much the same concept as Yin Yang.


Learn to see your practice as an opportunity to cultivate your personal garden, to gain the skills to ride the waves of life, and to bring balance into the world. It is a journey not a destination.




James E. Bryan E.R.Y.T. 500

The Yoga School
The Yoga School

How has yoga changed your relationship with your body? - James Bryan

James   James E. Bryan, Knoff Yoga

Before studying Yoga with Nicky Knoff in Auckland, NZ in 1982, I was running marathons as an antidote to sitting on my ass all day in an office job.  I found the long-distance training meditative, as I used to focus on my heartbeat and turned running into meditation.

I started attending yoga classes three times per week for the first three months and then seven days per week for the next four years, before attending a Teacher Training Course at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India in 1986.

When you practice intensively, you quickly discover that your body is connected to your mind and your mind is connected to your body.  It was very obvious to me that if I practiced in the mornings, my days went much more smoothly.

Over time, my relationship with my body deepened as I explored the extremes of asana practice and I found there were edges you needed to be careful with and not over-step.  I found that it was not the shape of the asana that was the goal of practice, but the mind-state from the practice itself.  My long term practice has confirmed the body is the temple of the spirit.

The Yoga School
The Yoga School

How has yoga changed your relationship with your body? - Nicky Knoff

Nicky Nicky Knoff, Knoff Yoga

When young I was into exercise of all types: swimming, skiing, field hockey, baseball, tennis, squash, javelin throwing, and bush walking.

I was living in Japan and travelling the world when I started practicing yoga in October 1970. The more I practiced and learned, the more I appreciated the art and science of yoga.
Yoga changed my relationship with my body because it taught me the importance of a holistic and balanced practice. To get the full benefit of yoga, I needed to include all the limbs of yoga.  Asana is great, but incomplete without Pranayama and Meditation.  Asana, Pranayama and Meditation are incomplete without the understanding and application of Yoga Philosophy.

Our bodies change over time.  As we age we lose much of what we took for granted.  The beauty of a holistic practice is that as one area contracts another expands.  As asana becomes restricted, pranayama and meditation offer more.

Long-term yoga practice has taught me that we are much more than a body.  When we are young we focus on the physical, but as we mature we can continue to expand our consciousness and grow into our potential as spiritual beings.

The Yoga School
The Yoga School

Healthy vs. Stagnant

Injuries and trauma to the body become long-term sites for future degeneration.

Imagine a clear stream of water flowing smoothly over rocks.  The water is clean, healthy and refreshing to drink.  This is also how the flow of blood, lymph and nerve energy are meant to be in the human body.

Now imagine placing a log across the stream and blocking some of the water flow.  The water down-stream will be impeded and become stagnant; resulting in green scum, mosquitoes and general yuckiness.

Injuries, operations and trauma to the body, which damage tissues: muscle/blood/lymph/nerve (meridians and nadis) likewise cause stagnation and impede the healthy flow of these streams – setting the scene for degeneration and disease.

It becomes more important to practice yoga after an injury or operation, than it was before!

Of course, it has to be the right type of yoga, with appropriate techniques for revitalizing energy flow.  To rehabilitate the practice has to be gentle, progressive and intelligent.  For example, after a hip replacement or traumatic childbirth, it would be the height of stupidity to jump back into a strong asana practice.  But, it is equally inappropriate to do long holds as in Yin Yoga.

Yoga Therapy is a term that is being suppressed because of its' 'medical' association, but it describes the right approach to heal the body and to regain full functionality.  Yoga Therapy taps into the tools of Yoga (asana, relaxation, pranayama and meditation) to ease the body back into functionality and health – to be the best it can be given the changed circumstances.  A hip prosthetic is never going to have the range of mobility and stability of a real one.

Because of the Yoga Alliance ( restrictions, we have had to change the term 'Yoga Therapy' to 'Yoga – Holistic Healing'.  The name has changed, but the approach has not.

In the Knoff Yoga Teacher Training program we offer two levels of Yoga Therapy:

Yoga – Holistic Healing A (4 – 8 September 2017)
Yoga – Holistic Healing B (11 – 15 September 2017)
See for more information.  These two Courses are extremely useful for yoga teachers to learn the techniques and skills necessary to help their students with injuries and trauma.



The Yoga School
The Yoga School

The Inner Thoughts of a Reluctant Yogi - By Kay Green

Kay V3

I used to think that people who practised yoga were all a bit ‘peace and love’, that to get the most out of it I should be a calm soul who serenely floats through the day until it’s time to get back on my yoga mat.  I’m none of those things, I’m boisterous and noisy and can’t really remember a time my soul was anything but hectic.

Yoga always intrigued me but I felt like I wouldn’t be suited to the practice, and if I’m honest I was a little bit intimidated by the impression I had of it all. I realise I’m the same as most people who sit on the outside looking in and I want to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who may be interested in giving it a go, to give it a go.  I’m sure you won’t regret it.

I try and make at least one class a week, and I can genuinely say I can feel the difference it’s made to my body and my mind. My posture is better, I walk taller after class, and I feel stronger.  There are even times outside of my lesson when I can capture my meditation practice and still my mind by concentrating on my breath; I find this useful in stressful situations or the odd occasion when I need to ‘bite my tongue’.  I feel more together than I have, and my body is much more flexible. 

There are times after a class that I feel a calmness I rarely have any other time, it’s a sense of inner peace, almost a glow from the inside out. I understand that the release of endorphins after many types of exercise will create a feeling of wellbeing, I used to leave the gym mentally patting myself on the back for having been, and I enjoyed the euphoria it created for a while afterwards. For me yoga induces a different kind of ‘high’ a physical strength that emanates from my core, my posture is better, my shoulders are back, and I stand more upright, that in turn seems to give me a physical presence and creates a greater confidence of my place in the world.

I suppose what I’m saying is I do feel the peace and love!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that yoga classes are easy because they’re not.  It requires concentration on breath and movement and fitting the two together, it is physically and mentally challenging.  There are times when I’m in a difficult pose that I want it to be over so badly I have to grit my teeth to find the determination to carry on.

Don’t misunderstand me, the pressure to improve my skills doesn’t come from my teacher, it comes from me.  We are encouraged to work within ourselves during our lessons, only to do what we feel we are able, but personally, that’s what makes me want to do better, and when my teacher comes to me to help me improve the depth or balance of a pose I accept her help gratefully.

Often I can start my class worrying about how I’m going to get the most out of it because all I can think about during meditation is what I need to get from the supermarket or my next deadline at work.  I berate myself for not being able to concentrate on my breath and then the next thing I know my focus has shifted and my yoga brain clicks in.  I’m applying Mula Bandha (pelvic floor lift) and my Ujjayi (controlled and expanded) breath even before I’m instructed to do so.

I’m not a perfect yogi by any stretch of the imagination I usually get to the end of my class and realise at some point I forgot all about my pelvic floor muscles when I moved my concentration onto something else.  I frequently get half way through the class and wish it would be over so I can stop the ache in my body.  When my teacher tells us that we are about to do our last downward dog of the day I mentally celebrate the end of the lesson being so close. (I’ve even been known to ‘woo hoo’ out loud in class.)

I don’t practice yoga at home because to be honest I don’t have the commitment or fortitude to make it happen.  I prefer to go to classes at The Yoga School in Cairns where I meet like minded novice yogis and am guided through the practice by their skillful teachers. 

Chatting to fellow students makes me realise that I’m not alone, we all have our limitiations, our challenges and our occassional wins where we feel like we are finally beginning to understand this mystical practice.  I’ve learnt how the most difficult part of yoga is getting on the mat, i.e. actually leaving the house and making that short drive to the studio and having the determination to walk through the door!

After class the general consensus is always the same, we all feel better, more energised, more peaceful, more alive.  “I really regret that yoga class.” said no one EVER.

My life is busy and I don’t get to practice as much as I would like, however it is an essential part of my weekly routine.  I’ve made this commitment because I can feel the benefits in both my body and my mind, I enjoy it immensely and it generates a huge contentment in me.

In the words of Yoga’s most famous teacher BKS lyengar “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”

Come and join me at The Yoga School, if you’re new take advantage of their new student special (also available to returning students who have been absent for 12 months) 14 days of unlimited yoga for $40.