• Pay attention to your thoughts, they become words.
  • Pay attention to your words; they become actions.
  • Watch your actions; they become habits.
  • Pay attention to your habits; they shape your character.
  • Pay attention to your character; it becomes your destiny.



Words are powerful. In the evolution of man and the developing possibilities of a neuroplastic, growing brain, the possibility arose over the last forty thousand years or so to perceive and process ever more complex contexts. Emotions, feelings, memories and thoughts could increasingly be put into words and sentences due to many human characteristics developing in parallel. Gradually and initially independently, each culture developed its own language and grammar. It was not always the case that people could talk to each other and understand each other. This development is just as revolutionary as the development of the upright gait or the motor skills of our hands.

Many thousands of years ago, there were already people who at least partially evaded development on the outside and took care of understanding and integrating our "inner knowledge". The Vedas and Upanishads are a testimony to those people who integrated this knowledge into Indian culture. Other cultures have also cultivated mystical, shamanic or cultic ideas and experiences. At that time, these wisdoms were transmitted orally from generation to generation, adapted and refined. The words in prose, poetry or sutra form had a certain rhythm and melody that was passed down in the Indian language and only two to three thousand years ago were recorded and annotated in writing in Sanskrit. Each word, verse and sentence has created a special context over the centuries that is not easily translated into other languages and cultures or philosophical approaches. Another complicating factor is that the topics discussed in the Yogasūtra, for example, deal with states that are rather mystical in content and thus difficult to put into words. It is clearly and repeatedly described in the Indian tradition that it is about one's own experience. That experience that is only possible when our intellectually understanding mind becomes still. Nirodha is the concept in the Sūtra and describes precisely the state of yoga in which everything that consciously or unconsciously moves our mind comes to rest or loses its influence and we as human beings can immerse ourselves in the experience of pure awareness.

So why the preoccupation with thoughts or words when what we seek is beyond words?
Words are powerful and expressive of our factual reality, but also of our thoughts, feelings, ideas and concepts. We have become so involved in and strengthened our intellectual abilities that our intuition, our possibility of uncoloured experience and the realisation that we are one with everything and everyone, has increasingly taken a back seat. Our so-called mind determines our actions at every moment of our lives, fed by our memories (past experiences) and our worries (about an uncertain future), and thus causes us to seldom really dwell in the moment, in immediate (experience) life.

Jesus is credited with having said that words are like bridges and we may not build our house on a bridge. In the context of the Yogasūtra, this is described by the concept of vairāgya (non-attachment), for we are also not to attach to the concepts of beautiful words and feelings. They are not the goal of yoga, which furthermore promises the ecstatic state of freedom (kaivālya). Here it becomes clear that words are important to get from A to B. They can serve as signposts. They can serve as signposts, but they are not the experience itself. On closer inspection, this is easy to understand, because when we say the word "water", we do not yet get wet from it. The description of the most beautiful sunset cannot replace the immediate experience of a sunset. Physiologically, biologically and mentally, the immediate experience at every moment of our lives is in the end what nourishes our lives, makes them happy and meaningful.
Nevertheless, beautiful words, poetry, images and concepts can help to get on the right track, to get closer to direct experience and thus to true realisation. We all know the feeling that permeates us when we read a poem at the right time, in the right place and in an open inner attitude, just as the scent of a flower flows through all our cells for moments via our sense of smell. A good report, a beautiful explanation or an eloquently described picture can jump-start our imagination and direct our attentiveness to the depth of understanding. We can all taste words like a dish or a glass of wine and feel the flavour of the words in our inner space. Never is our mind isolated from our body or what is going on around us - whether we can perceive and understand it all or not.
Words, and with them thoughts, feelings and concepts, are powerful. They can lead us in the right or the wrong direction. In yogic terminology, this circumstance is described by the terms kliṣṭa or akliṣṭa - that is, binding, misleading and constricting or liberating. In our daily lives, we use so many words to describe all kinds of things. At the same time, with the demands of everyday private and professional life, our use of language is moving into a more and more functional and, I feel, poorer use of our vocabulary. We can only be or cultivate a word-treasure, word-rich, word-skilful if we practise it. The direction of practice is clearly given on the yoga path. Words, thoughts and concepts are meant to help us reflect and contemplate, to give us the opportunity to see if we are on the right path. The prerequisite for this, as for the entire yoga path, is mindfulness. We like to call this going on a "speach retreat" in order to at least become aware of what we are saying. Do what we are saying and the words we have chosen correspond at all to my experience or to the experience that I would like to stimulate? How many times a day do we say "thank you" without meaning it, rather casually, and do not feel the experience of gratitude? How often do we use words that have a negative connotation (e.g. swear words), urge us to hurry (just now, quickly, quickly, quickly ...), fill our "to-do lists" (should, ought, would ...) or are negations of what we actually want to say (don't worry, don't be afraid)? If we make the effort to pay attention in everyday life and pay a little more attention to our choice of words and to what we read (poems, good books, etc. instead of newspapers) and listen to (good conversations with our loved ones about content instead of organisational things or from people who have really dealt with a subject), in a few weeks our way of expressing ourselves will change, our vocabulary of language will become our vocabulary of words. Another advantage of this mindfulness exercise in everyday life is the influence that words have on our conscious and unconscious experience. We are all familiar with this too. A conversation in which we listen and are listened to, in which we draw our words from situational togetherness, or listening to a speaker talk about something he really and deeply means and has experienced, immediately puts us in a completely different mood than listening to the news on TV. Why then, we may ask, do we so often tend to listen to the news instead of engaging with something nurturing and fulfilling? Life is so precious, why do we allow separation from ourselves and from all that surrounds us by continually postponing immediate experience and awareness until the times when we might have the leisure to do so?

Asking questions is uncomfortable, but an incredible means of insight. As a life-enhancing, intensifying and health-promoting elixir, directed curiosity is better than any "anti-aging" drug. How would you take care of yourself if you were your best friend? What could you do out of sheer love for yourself?
To turn the interest inwards to our own experience, not only to perceive our feelings but also to describe them, to give them space within us and then to learn through our experiences within that we are all connected in suffering, loving, laughing, grateful, compassionate and benevolent. Our words can also help us to do this.
"Journaling" is the new German word for giving written expression to these questions. It is a wonderful way to pick up where we left off when we used to write in our diaries, to process what we have experienced in a favourable way and to achieve greater clarity within ourselves. This also expands our wordiness and our way of dealing with ourselves.

As yoga teachers, we draw from the consciously expressed experiences the strength and authenticity to assist our students on their path, to show the way and to build bridges. If we as teachers do not forget that we are not retelling old concepts but want to enable living experience and pass on ideas and guidelines for simplifying and processing life, then we will find the right words, new contexts and word creations with our language and enable the change of perspective that is necessary for many. Please imagine a word or a sentence on a white sheet of paper. Of course, we are then immediately taken in by the word and its meaning. But this word does not float in the air and only becomes possible through the sheet of paper, the colour, the space between the letters and the space in front of and behind the paper. It is the same with the silence after the spoken or read word. The clear silence, which is what yoga is all about, in which direct experience is possible and each of us can feel the core of our being and our deep connection with everything and everyone. This is the source of the strength that sustains our teaching and nourishes our students. It is the stillness in the posture, the stillness after the movement, the stillness after the exhalation or after Kapalabhati and the letting go of words, thoughts and concepts that makes the experience in yoga so valuable.

From crises comes the opportunity to learn and grow. Again and again and again. Above all, we can learn to change our perspective.

Also from stones that are put in your way,
you can build something beautiful

Erich Kästner



From the treasure chest for us and you as yoga teachers, here are a few keyword inspirations of our possibilities:

  • Finding synonyms - they enrich us and our experience through the colour they give to words and the small changes in perspective that come with them.
  • Reading and reflecting on real books, poems and sayings. They deepen our ability to recognise concepts and words in what we experience.
  • Create word lists or word collections on specific topics.
  • Word of the week - it allows deepening the understanding of a theme - the example yesterday was "Mother Earth".
  • Pause, every now and then for a minute or two, to taste, feel and smell our own choice of words. We get better at what we practise.
  • Creatively recombine words or use them in different contexts. The example last night was: "cuddling the soles of your feet together" or "thinking feeling".
  • Question negations - they are sometimes a hindrance
  • Detect sources of inspiration in the everyday, in everyday life or in our conversations and develop confidence in our own language as well as confidence that our students will develop their own ability to experience beyond the words
  • Words are powerful - in both a positive and a negative sense. Are they kliṣṭa or akliṣṭa?
  • In summary, we wanted to give you the following advice for the lessons: "Less talking enables more experiencing" and "Be quieter in the course of the lesson". At the beginning of a lesson it is sometimes necessary to pick up our participants with words. Towards the end of the lesson, we can release them into the silence of their own experience.

Our warmest greetings from our hearts - Katharina and Günter