What does ‘progress’ mean to you?

I’ve been reminded recently of a conversation I had with some friends in a pub many years ago in South London. At the time, they were triathlon-mad and I just went to a weekly yoga class after work. They were talking about how they were yet to start training for their next competition and I said, “Well, if you don’t think you’ll be ready in time, just don’t do it.”

They laughed. “Oh Wener, you just don’t get it, do you.”*

We haven't had a mention of Take That for a while! They named their 2010 album 'Progress' and featured Robbie Williams - a first since his departure in 1995.
We haven’t had a mention of Take That for a while! They named their 2010 album ‘Progress’ and it featured Robbie Williams – a first since his departure from the band in 1995.

But what represents progress? Achieving faster finish times? Putting our body into more complex yoga shapes… and posting the results on social media? The recent news about advanced Ashtangi Kino MacGregor is a case in point (read Matthew Remski’s brilliant article about Kino).

To an outsider, my physical ashtanga practice may look like it’s taken a step backwards lately. It has to be a really good day for me to attempt chakrasana, I’m barely binding in the janu sirshasanas, and some days, my practice is just a few cat/cows and yin poses.

But I know that I’m making progress. My lower back and pelvis plays up and I’ve got wonky knees. If I push it, I believe I’ll end up needing knee replacements and have a constant bad back. I want a practice that:

  1. nurtures my body
  2. lessens pain
  3. is honest and kind
  4. lasts a lifetime.

That’s progress for me.

I’m spending time tuning into the subtleties of the practice: am I moving my groins together? Am I engaging mula bandha and uddiyana bandha? And when I do these things, I feel stronger and have a solid foundation. I’m not merely hanging in my joints and there’s no pain at the end of my practice.

You can’t see any of this stuff on the outside. It’s all internal. But when you make these changes inside, the stuff outside starts to fit into place.

Less really is more. And that is indeed the lesson of yoga.

 Kindness melts defenses. Kindness softens edges. Kindness pierces armour. Kindness eradicates shame. Kindness lightens loads. Kindness awakens hope. Kindness clears debris. Kindness invites connection. Kindness opens hearts. Kindness bridges souls. Kindness inspires kindness. Let us always be kind.

Jeff Brown


*These days, the lovely triathlon ladies can mostly be found in yoga classes and on yoga retreats (Love you, Rach).

Spreading the love on Valentine’s Day: loving-kindness meditation

love-2Traditionally on 14 February we focus our attention on someone that we’re ‘in love’ with. But this year you may like to widen your remit. We all could do with some love – on this day and throughout the year – and so I’m going to share a meditation with you.

This meditation cultivates ‘loving-kindness’ or as Buddhists say, ‘metta’. It’s based on a series of phrases that open your heart and develop love towards everyone, including yourself.

With a loving heart, all that we attempt and encounter will open and flow more easily and we’ll be happier and more loving.

Loving-kindness meditation

You might like to repeat each step for a few minutes whilst sitting comfortably, or even just focus on a step for a week or so if you have a regular practice.

You could also repeat the phrases as you go about your day – queuing in the supermarket, waiting at traffic lights, on the way to work – or in long held yoga poses.

Start by bringing attention to yourself and breathe gently. Mentally repeat the following:


May I be filled with love.

May I be free from harm.

May I walk the earth in peace.


This particular wording works for me. You can adjust the phrases in any way so they resonate with you. Repeat these phrases over and over again, allowing the feelings to flood your body and mind.

Now bring into your mind someone who is close to you – someone who has perhaps cared for you. Imagine them going about their day, doing their thing. And repeat:


May they be filled with love.

May they be free from harm.

May they walk the earth in peace.


For the third step, focus on a friend. Perhaps someone who you know is having a hard time and could benefit from some loving-kindness. Repeat the wording for five to ten minutes.

And now for the last step, bring your attention to someone who you’ve found harder to love. You may know them well, or perhaps you’ve only met them briefly and exchanged terse words. For me right now, a traffic warden springs to mind. I’m sure they’re a very nice person… Again, repeat the wording for five to ten minutes.

During the meditation you may notice a range of emotions rising. These emotions may be very contrary to loving-kindness. Whatever comes up, it’s ok, and just breathe, repeating the phrases.

It might not feel right for you to start with the focus on yourself. Again, that’s fine. You may prefer to bring your attention to yourself at the end. No problem.

I find this a really nice practice. It cultivates love and compassion for everyone on earth and banishes negative emotions.

I’ll be using this practice in a yin/yang yoga workshop I’m teaching tomorrow in Harpenden, Herts. If you’d like to come along, have a look at the workshops page for full details.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts on this practice. Feel free to comment below.

“We have to learn how to be non-violent towards ourselves. If we were able to play back the often unkind, unhelpful and destructive comments and judgements silently made toward our self in any given day, this may give us some idea of the enormity of the challenge of self acceptance. If we were to speak these thoughts out loud to another person, we would realize how truly devastating violence to the self can be. In truth, few of us would dare to be as unkind to others as we are to ourselves.”

Donna Farhi