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Strength and Grace: 10 Quotes From Female Greats of Ashtanga Yoga

I was very excited to receive a copy of Strength and Grace by Alicia Beale and Derick Yu from Ekam Inhale.  Strength and Grace , a collection of essays from female Ashtanga practitioners,  inspires and provides amazing insights into the world of Ashtanga from a female perspective.


Similar to the book, Guruji by Eddie Stern, Strength and Grace contains amazing stories of  transformation and practice with Ashtanga Guru Pattabhi Jois.

However, this sets it apart. It includes,

  • The rules of authorization and certification
  • The logic behind ladies holiday
  • How to practice during and after child birth
  • How to balance Ashtanga with children and family life
  • A brief foray into Ayurveda and Ashtanga
  • Discussion on rape and shame in the world of Yoga
  • Menopause
  • Stories of practice with Sharath Jois


Below are 10 of my favorite quotes from Strength and Grace

He (Guruji) was not teaching where to put my foot, my hand, or how to create the “perfect” posture. This was not his aim. His goal was to teach me Yoga on the highest level, as if he was holding a mirror in front of me to remind of my ingrained tendencies, so that I could confront and move beyond them, and direct my energy to a higher aim, something higher than fear-Fiona Stang

When Jediah was two years old, Jeff and I were in Mysore and we asked Sharath what we should focus on in regards to continuing to grow and develop in Yoga. He simply said, “Do what you can-it’s very difficult with a young child.”-Harmony Lichty

He (Guruji)  said, “You take practice. One style of yoga, one teacher many years. You do three things: posture, looking and breathing. Then shantih (peace) is coming, no problems.”-Kino MacGregor

A vast majority of injuries that occur during asana happen when a student moves on to a new asana too quickly, or without proper strength, control, awareness, or internal focus.-Krista Shirley

If I am egotistically trying to hold on to what I could do when I was in my 20’s, then I will not have the intelligence (and most likely the energy) that I need to live my life in a yogic way.-Lisa Schrempp

Most of what has been written about yoga in general has been written by men for men, but this comes from a cultural, historical bias and does not at all mean that the practice is more suited to men than women. The Ashtanga system tends to give us what we need. If we lack strength, it gives us strength. If we lack flexibility or balance, then it gives us that. – Louise Ellis

“Ashtanga Yoga is the washing machine for the mind,” Guruji used to say. It washes the mental patterns of self-doubt and self criticism: things that stand in the way of us becoming our best selves.-Magnolia Zuniga

When I think of Ashtanga Yoga, the feelings that first come to me are softness, joy and healing. Healing on so many levels. However, when Ashtanga Yoga is  mentioned out in the world, the words that people often think of are hard, strong or intense.-Pamela Luther

Sharath recently shared in conference hosted by Ashtanga Yoga London that “Yoga is twenty four hours…asana may be three hours but Yoga is twenty-four hours.”-Sharmila Desai

The balance of masculine and feminine that the practice requires is incredibly beautiful. The female body must become strong and controlled as a male body. The male body must become as supple and gentle as the female body. While this practice requires very masculine determination and effort of will, it also demands a more feminine vulnerability and surrender. –Zoe Ward


For more information on Strength and Grace and to purchase the book, go to Ekam Inhale.



Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail