Last summer I got into the annual weeklong intensive taught by Donald Moyer and Mary Lou Weprin of The Yoga Room in Berkeley. One day, Donald explored backbends, including Eka Pada Rajakapotasana I, with a strap looped around the rear foot. As I ventured deeper into the pose, he looked at me and commented that I “should” be able to touch my toes.

By “should,” he meant that I was close, but working the wrong way. I was gripping the strap and pulling my way deeper.

With a touch of amusement, he said “It’s not rock climbing. It’s diving backward.” He explained that the pose requires release, not strength. Donald advised me to soften my grip, to lengthen my triceps, and to open my chest and thoracic spine. Up and over.

Last week I played with this pose in my home practice. I gave it three tries on each side and, while I still have a long way to go, my fingers eventually did touch my toes. All the while, I could hear Donald’s voice, wise, compassionate, and wry: It’s not rock climbing. It’s diving backward.

I’m sure that those were throwaway lines. Donald is a cerebral type, who’s best appreciated through long-term classes (or, if you never get the chance to meet him, though his book, Awakening the Inner Body). He’s said more-profound things that this. But sometimes simple words have lasting effects; they strike a chord and they stick.

It might be akin to all quotes that you remember, perhaps for life. I’ve already featured a law professor’s memorable (to me, anyway) quote in my post “Reciprocal relationships.” And I’m forever intrigued by Leo Tolstoy’s words:

“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”

(This might apply to life itself.)

I can rattle off other examples, but I’m curious to know your favorite teachers’ teachings (whether they be yoga teachers, professors, writers, or your mom).

Image: King (pigeon), Wikipedia