In an ideal world we would always feel happy, at peace and in touch with our own personal power – that is our true nature after all. We were never meant to feel persistently restless, lost, unhappy and/or disempowered and while we might find this hard to believe – we do have within us all the tools and mechanisms to achieve a general underlying state of power, peace and happiness.

Yes – we will experience trials and tribulations – but the trust is that these are tossed in to the mix of life – not take away peace, power or happiness but to strengthen our connection to these elements within us. So even when things are so wrong – they’re just there to bring us closer to being and feeling – so right!

Through my practice and study of yoga, my connection with the peace, power and happiness within me has come to life and strengthened significantly. The practice in itself has gradually opened my eyes and body to my true essence, of love and peace and wisdom and being immersed with the practice and the philosophy has helped me see things from a different perspective…making the not-too-bright sides of life, seem a lot brighter. What is reality but our perception, though, right? When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change (Wayne Dyer).

It as taught me the power of the present moment. We lose touch with reality because we become disconnected from NOW. We live on the basis of what if’s and if only’s and rarely stop to take in the beauty, significance and essence of the present moment. Anxiety is almost always based on something that’s been and gone or something that is anticipated (i.e. still to come – maybe/maybe not/who knows?). Happiness, power and peace don’t coincide with anxiety. They just don’t go together and unfortunately looking at the state of the nation and the world – anxiety – at this stage – is winning.

I have explore my relationship to change and growth. We fear change and base our opinions and decisions on what other will think of us or how we will be perceived. We have become imprisoned by the need to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ and the even stronger need to go against the natural ebb and flow of life by trying to control everything (and each other) to be predictable.

Here are my favourite quotes on the practice, peace, power and happiness that keep me going when things don’t make a whole lot of sense and I can make no rhyme or reason from the curve balls coming my way:

  1. The Promise of the Practice: Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know, As the in-breath grows deep, The out-breath grows slow. Breathing in makes me calm. Breathing out makes me ease. With the in-breath, I smile. With the out-breath, I release. Breathing in, there is only the present moment. Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
  2. A lot of exercise is mindless: you can have music or the radio on and not be aware. But if you’re aware in anything you do – and it doesn’t have to be yoga – it changes you. Being present changes you ~ Mariel Hemingway
  3. You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state of being. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting you natural state ~ Shannon Gannon
  4. Yoga practice is like life. Each circumstance in which we find ourselves, is like a posture. Some poses are hard to hold and others are pleasant. It is how we hold the pose that determines whether or not we will grow or suffer. And whether or not we listen to the drama of the ego or the wisdom of the spirit.
  5. Things aren’t always as they seem (to you): Life lives, life dies. Life laughs, life cries. Life gives up and life tries. But life looks different through everyone’s eyes.”
  6. The willingness to shift perspective – to hold dexterity of perspective, comes from within your body. There must be an opening in your body to lead to an opening in your mind. This is the promise of the practice ~ Elena Brower
  7. Peace from within: Ego says; ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘find your peace, and then everything will fall into place”
  8. It’s easy to get lost in endless speculation. So today, release the need to know why things happen as they do. Instead, ask for the insight to recognize what you’re meant to learn ~ Caroline Myss
  9. Looking behind I am filled with gratitude; looking forward I am filled with vision; looking upwards I am filled with strength, looking within I discover peace ~ Quero Apache Prayer
  10. Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
  11. Being Happy: Spend one minute today to walk outside – look up at the sky and contemplate how amazing life really is.
  12. Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body – George Carlin
  13. Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose ~ C.S Lewis
  14. Happiness is not a state to arrive at but a manner of travelling ~ Margaret Lee Runbeck
  15. Be happy for no reason – like a child. If you’re happy for a reason you’re in trouble – because that reason can be taken from you ~ Deepak Chopra
  16. The reason people find it so hard to be happy, is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be ~ Marcel Pagnol
  17. Power and Purpose: Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. Pivot or persevere.
  18. Being of power is about enabling you to live as that expanded you. The self-actualised you. The you that you know deep down is within ~ Baron Baptiste
  19. When you are inspired by some great purpose or extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be. ~ Patanjal
  20. You were born with wings – why prefer to crawl through life ~ Rumi
  21. Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. ~ Winston Churchill
  22. When you no longer need approval from others like the air that you breathe, The possibilities in life are endless. What an interesting little prison we build from the bricks of other people’s opinion ~ Jacob Nordby
  23. Embrace Change: If we don’t change we don’t grow. If we don’t grow – we aren’t really living ~ Gail Sheehy
  24. Everything in life is temporary. So when thing are good – enjoy it, because it wont last forever and when things are bad…don’t worry because it won’t last forever.
  25. There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on ~ Zayn Malik
As a parting thought – this might just encapsulate all of the above:

Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. Think of only the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the achievements of the future. Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others…or yourself. Have faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

  1. Practice yoga – it always comes back to your practice. More problems in your mind and body are solved by simply practicing yoga, than any other means – including thinking, fretting, losing sleep and (low and behold) therapy. Albert Einstein said: we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created it. Your mind got you into the mess you’re in in the first place. Use your practice to get out of your head and into your body begin to tap the wisdom that rests in there.
  2. Be kind – to yourself and to others. Start with yourself and practice this every day. It’s a most unnatural thing to practice kindness compassion and care to ourselves – yet it kind of is a prerequisite to offer the sincere kind of care kindness and compassion to those around you.
  3. Listen to your body – in how you practice yoga, in how you eat, in every day situations. Your body will give you warning signals to let you know when you go too far, when what you’re eating isn’t what it needs (and will cause your death a few years down the line) and way before any situation gets beyond your control. If we can learn to tap into the signals from our bodies we can make better choices for ourselves. We can become proactive rather than reactive and save ourselves so much physical and emotional pain. Even in stressful encounters with other people. Your body will warn you when you are beginning to spin outside of your comfort zone (your centre as we yogis refer to it) and it will bring you back if you allow it. No more saying things you don’t mean and regretting it later. Hotheadedness – be gone!
  4. Eat consciously – no need to be a vegetarian as such but care about what you eat…and who you eat….and how you eat it. Be aware not only of how what you eat serves you and your body, physically, mentally and spiritually, but also how it impacts the environment. Enjoy what goes into your mouth, savour the taste and be grateful for the energy and nutrition it provides. Feel blessed by how the earth nourishes and supports you. Support organic farming for the sake of your body, the farmers, the animals and your earth. Which leads onto the next point…
  5. Care for the world – it’s inhabitants and the environment. You don’t have to be a green peace hippie – but brownie points if you are. Recognise the concept of ‘We are all connected’ and let that bring home to you the need for us all to look after each other and what we leave behind. It might not always feel that you can do much to save a starving child in Ethiopia and sure enough – the ignorance is bliss excuse works a charm for most. But you’re better than that and so is each starving child, each sea animal that dies due to pollution and every cow in a cage, abused and mistreated to provide to mass producers. The world is ours and you’re not as far away from it all as you think. Get on board. Take responsibility. Be kind.
  6. Don’t follow the rules – they aren’t real – or true and they don’t serve us. Who made the rules anyway? You are vast and brilliant and you are free. More so than we ever really allow ourselves to imagine. When you find yourself thinking ‘I should’ immediately interject and ask instead ‘says who?’. The lives we have created for ourselves by society’s rules which were devised to make us all more ‘predictable and controllable’ aren’t making us as happy as we should be. We are more depressed and less healthy than any generation that came before us. The more we fit into boxes the further we move away from our true nature of vastness and brilliance. Don’t succumb to ‘the rules’. Be who you really are and love every minute of it. See how the world will love you back!
  7. Exercise choice – choice in how you expend energy, choice in your responses and choice in how you approach the new beginnings available to you in every single day.
  8. Approach life with an attitude of gratitude – see the lesson in every moment and in every person and be grateful that they came to teach you what you needed to learn. Every situation or person – however unpleasant painful or wonderful, came to give you something to integrate into your being, to learn from and to allow you to become free of the bondage of your mind and everything that doesn’t serve you.
  9. Heart over matter – because that’s where your true power lies. Not in your mind like we have all allowed our minds to lead us to believe for so long. Keep coming back to stillness and finding that place of wisdom, love and peace inside you, and you will never again want for anything. The love and care of the Divine isn’t out there – it’s right here within you. You really never ever need anything more than connecting with that part of your being. And when you do that all of the above commandments effectively fall away because you are in your most natural most perfect state of being.
  10. On your journey to living the Ten Commandments be a caring and considerate studio yogi – don’t get protective of your space in the studio, don’t sweat on someone else’s mat. Don’t turn up late and don’t leave during savasana. Consider your neighbour in your supine twists when space is limited. Don’t judge people who don’t do yoga – they’re way behind you on the journey ? and say Namaste back to your teacher at the end of class. It’s just how it’s done. In the studio the teacher makes the rules ?
Disclaimer: Yoga is not a religion and these 10 commandments are not meant to attempt to replace or override the commandments, rules or regulations of any religious faith. (is there an emoticon for tongue in cheek?)

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On Friday we had the baby and family expo at Kings Court Mall and there I was promoting pregnancy yoga. I had some of my yoga mats on display and someone who claimed to do yoga came up to enquire about the price of the mats. The mats sell for R500. A lady, quite indignantly, asked why the mat was ‘so expensive’. In short: the mat is much cheaper than what you would pay in shops or online and there are a number of reasons why it’s a wonderful yoga mat, but when I got to the part that one of the great things about the mat was that it was bio-degradable, she frowned and interrupted me – ‘why would anyone care if it was bio-degradable?’ she asked. Stunned at her ignorance and/or sheer stupidity, I could only reply: ‘Generally, yogis care about the environment’.

Her comment left me a little angry. Yes, angry is a strong emotion, but that’s me – no half measures. Upon closer inspection of my own response, I realized that – as always, my anger was just sadness earlier down the line. I ultimately felt sad about this woman’s clear indifference to the environment. Our Mother Earth that has always and continues to hold us all, provides for us all, selflessly, without asking for much in return – other than perhaps not killing her as quickly as we are currently doing. When did this woman stop caring? Did she ever care? And this shallow, narrow, indifferent and ignorant outlook – how many people in this country and in this world hold it?

When did so many of us stop caring?

Why does it not matter to us that our landfills are filling up and overflowing with products that will never decompose into something useful? Why is recycling so low on the agenda? Why is it okay that our country is full of rubbish everywhere and even when we put the rubbish in dedicated spots – why don’t we care that non-biodegradable waste impact on our environment in such a disturbing and serious way? Why don’t we care about our land, our country: this place on earth that we call home? If we don’t know the impact of our lives and rubbish on the environment – why don’t we care enough to find out?

This got me thinking further and to be honest, I got increasingly sad. I realized how many overweight and obese people I saw at the event on Friday, and how many really, really fat people I see every day, walking around PE. I ask myself the same question – when did we/they/fat people stop caring?

You didn’t wake up one day and realize – ‘oh geez, I’m 20 kg’s overweight! Who the hell visited overnight and handed me this nasty surprise? ‘There are no fairytale figures such as Father Christmas or the Tooth fairy who come and make you fat. You bring it on yourself, systematically, over time. At some point you stopped caring about yourself enough to stop and think – what am I doing to my perfect, miracle body? The fact that people stop caring about themselves is such a profoundly sad state of affairs and there are many, many reasons why this happens. I, of course, have sympathy for all those reasons. But let’s keep it real here – bottom line: When did we stop caring enough to look after ourselves?

How do you honestly and truly care and respect your body and then at the same time stuff it full of sh*t which ultimately has you the size of a house, miserable, sick, clammy and out of breath? (The same goes for smoking, excessive drinking, purposeful starvation, being in unhappy relationships, hating our jobs.)

Then I think about how people manage their weight and their attempts at weight loss. Even when people think they care enough to DO something about what has happened to their bodies, they don’t care about how they address it. The number of fad diets people follow, pills they take and other ways in which they just break the body down rather than build it up to deal with the damage that’s already there, is enormous! People starve themselves, clog up their livers and kidneys with toxins through medication, eat ‘food’ one molecule away from being plastic because it says ‘fat free’ or ‘sugar free’ and they do not care one dime how it impacts their body. People who exploit fat people by selling diet pills, books, and weight loss programmes that serves no-one other than themselves, make me feel nauseous. When did they stop caring about other people? How do you respect yourself if that’s the business you’re in?

As a nation we pride ourselves on many wonderful things about our country – and rightfully so. I am also very disturbed by how many people pride themselves on how much meat they eat, how much beer they can drink and how they drive so well when they’re drunk.

No one says you have to be vegetarian to be healthy but I only need to mention Dr Atkins for us all to realize how a diet consisting of predominantly meat, is bad for you, your health, your heart, your weight and just about every organ in your body. Eat meat if you enjoy it. Care enough for your body to understand the proportions you need in relation to your lifestyle, your blood group, and knowing what your body can and can’t handle.

The same goes for beer and alcohol. No one says you should never drink but looking at the beer bellies around town – really? Something to be proud of or something to hang our heads in shame about?

Driving drunk doesn’t even warrant a further word. Never mind seizing to care – when did you start hating yourself and every other person around you – those you know and those you don’t – that you not only think driving drunk is funny, but boasting about how well you do it is acceptable in any way shape or form.

When did we stop caring about ourselves and about each other?

In which era did we leave our self-respect behind?

I realized while pondering this, that because we have become so disconnected from ourselves: our true spiritual nature, we struggle to love and respect who and what we really are. We see ourselves on a superficial level – not acknowledging or realizing what a privilege life is, what a miracle we are, how vast and brilliant we were created. We stopped caring about ourselves and so we stopped caring for others and for the world we live in.

I am grateful to yoga for many things and this has to be one of the most fundamental and useful lessons I have ever learnt through the practice: Honour your body, honour yourself, acknowledging your connectedness to others, the environment and the world at large. This might sound so foreign and hippie-ish….but I would much rather associate with that way of thinking, honour my body, love my life, respect the earth and everything that dwells on it and care about whether my mat is bio-degradable or not – than live a life of ultimate ignorance, ill health, and disconnectedness from everyone and everything.

Step away from this mentality. Starting with yourself – begin to care again.

The most rewarding part of teaching yoga is the amazing responses I get from students after practice. Day in and day out people come through the door – from different backgrounds and with different sources of stress – but they all have one thing in common: through a regular yoga practice they come to realise that you achieve much more when you move with ease, than when you’re all forceful about what you think you need to achieve.

As always with yoga – the lessons on the mat are so relevant to your life out there. Seeing the journeys people go on during their practice really is like seeing their entire lives unfold symbolically. People often come to say that after even a single session of yoga or a month of yoga classes, they have learnt more patience with others (because they learnt to be patient with themselves when they saw how restricted their body was), they have become more relaxed and able to stay calm during stressful periods (because they learnt to use their breath to calm their nervous system), their back feels great and they have loads more energy (because they have learnt to move with ease in the practice instead of force – depleting all energy and tensing up the entire back). The list goes on and on. Most importantly for here and now though – learning the ability to move with ease. Finding ease in a posture and finding ease in the way in which you engage with the world on a day-to-day basis is quite simply one of the most valuable lessons and skills you will ever learn.

Many of my students have fallen out of postures (and some to the ground) laughing, when I – while they are hanging mid air in some obscure balancing pose – reminded or rather, urged them to ‘find the ease in the pose’. It seems such a foreign concept to ‘find ease’ when you are trying so very, very hard to just get into, and hold on to this obscure position. It seems foreign because it is. There is no ease with forcing, no ease in trying too hard and no ease in trying to reach just an end goal with no consideration of what the journey is about. Too many scenarios like this, where we force and push and disregard our ability to achieve whatever we want with grace and ease, and we end up a stress ball, tense and restricted with much less capacity to do all the amazing things we are capable of doing. Finding the ease on the other hand leaves you with tons more energy to expand, achieve more than you expected, and perhaps (shock horror) even enjoy it while you’re at it. Some of my students have found that place – that moment when you just let go in a posture – even when it is tough. They have had the precious moment of staying ‘sweet’, breathing and letting go of the unnecessary tension – and truly seeing what their body is capable of when you let go and let it move. Afterwards these students sat in awe of their bodies, and the dramatic difference moving with ‘ease’ brought to the depth with which they were able to expand in the pose.

The ways in which yoga will help you move with ease and achieve more:

Yoga teaches you to be much more aware of and tuned in to your body and the tension that it holds for you every day. We live in a day and age where tension is the norm. Ease (relaxation/softness) has become something we work on and seek to find through classes such as yoga. We might be relaxing in front of the TV or chilling out at home – even when we are sleeping, the tension still sits in our muscles – day in and day out. The result – you and me functioning with tension, effort, a feeling of having to force, try, just see it through, just keep going, shouldering on. This isn’t moving with ease. This is not how we function to our full potential. Recognizing tension in your body will give you the opportunity to purposefully dissolve it – let it go. Perhaps you will learn to do this firstly in a yoga class and then perhaps in your daily life – in difficult encounters at work, in relationships with loved ones. Being able to let unnecessary tension go will free you up to be yourself. Tension isn’t who you are – it’s something the way we live added and it’s not always the most attractive addition. Notice it. Dissolve it. Move with ease.

Moving and responding to how you feel
I always tell my students that your yoga practice is your time – your time to do what makes you feel good. We practice yoga because it makes us feel damn good, remember? I always encourage checking in with the body – how are you feeling – aches, pains, fatigue? Respond to it. Accept that it is there and do what your body needs you to do. It won’t always mean backing off and it won’t always mean working harder. You need to learn to know what your body needs and respond to it in a caring and considerate way. How often do we feel like we live our lives to keep other people happy? How often do we feel we need to suppress resentment for not being able to do what we need, or what feels good for us. We have been conditioned to think that disregarding ourselves and just living for others is GOOD. It’s not. Living with a disregard for what you need will lead to you running on empty. Being empty will make it much more difficult to give to anyone around you. Disregarding your own needs will lead to anger and resentment. Anger and resentment sits as tension in your body and unaddressed tension and unaddressed emotions lead to very serious illness. Learning to listen to your body and fulfilling your own needs is crucial to keep it easy, keep yourself and everyone around you happy, nourished and fulfilled. Not just that – it’s essential to keep you healthy but more on that topic another time.

Learn to soften yourself
Awareness is pointless unless you learn what to do when you gain the awareness. Found the tension – now what to do with it? Yoga will teach you to soften yourself, firstly with your breath – before you’ve even started moving, and practicing to soften yourself when you are engaged in various postures of different degrees of difficulty.
Stress and tension exist. It is there and it is part of life. Practicing ease through your yoga practice is a way to learn to let that tension move in, through and out of your body without debilitating/limiting you. It’s to teach you not to get stuck on tension. It’s to show you that once you noticed the tension as a form of energy – you can move that energy around, dissolve it, reduce the acuteness of it, and return to your natural state – which is ease.
So through sometimes very difficult postures you begin to see that even in this really challenging ‘situation’ coming back to a place of ease helps to access this posture – or enjoy it, or live through it without any major trauma!

Just like you go further in a posture with ease, you achieve more in life when you approach it with ease. Can you soften the tension today and begin to see how much more fulfilling a life without force can be? Take a few deep breaths – repeat all day. You’re softer already ?

I’ve always said that one of the most valuable lesson from travelling is beginning to understand that there really is space for (many) more than one way of thinking, doing and being. What one culture accepts as paramount for survival, is completely irrelevant in another – rendering our ideas of what we ‘have to do’, ‘have to have’ or how we ‘have to be’ completely subjective and open for scrutiny. There are very few of our absolute beliefs that – if we let them go – will have us DIE. We hold onto them because they are valuable to us, define who we are, and give us a sense of identity. But when push comes to shove – they’re not really a matter of life and death. Others live and survive perfectly happily without them. Which means that while they are important to US – they’re not ‘universal’. ..and so in essence – they’re not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’: they’re just ours.

Travelling and becoming immersed in other cultures bring this idea home quite strongly. And without having to question or abandon one’s own belief systems or ideas – it just allows a sense of openness and acceptance around the fact that not everyone thinks, acts or believes as we do – and that’s okay. They’re not wrong – we’re not right. We’re just different. And on this beautiful earth – there is space for all of us. You might find what others do offensive – it still doesn’t make you right. Build a bridge – and get over it.

In the yoga community we ‘pride’ ourselves in our philosophy of openness, acceptance and non-judgment. We claim to not be attached to ideas and emotions on our path to ‘enlightenment’. That is unless, of course, someone tells us that they hate yoga…or prefer one style over another. It also doesn’t count when people question our vegetarian, paleo or vegan diets. Oh and we also become quite dogmatic about organic and non-organic, or the question about whether is yoga a religion or not – then we really get our backs up and you will hear a word or two about being offended and a be prepared for a pretty well worded argument as to why how we see it is RIGHT.

So in this philosophy which is really all about connection and oneness – we have also allowed our need to grab on and hold on, very rigidly so, onto a new set of beliefs – when all we perhaps wanted was to get out of the dogma around other beliefs we were brought up with. The notion of becoming dogmatic over things is rife everywhere – we become dogmatic about raising children, political parties, education, sports, potjiekos and so much more.

Disagreement is one thing. Failure to accept that someone might be different than ourselves, and making them wrong for it, is another. Disagreement keeps open the possibility of connection. Belittling and judgment shut that down.
In yoga, when we chant ‘om’ – it is to bring us back home to the idea of connectedness. The fact that we are all connected, to each other, to the earth, to God. Yet what we do by judging and drawing parameters around what and who is right and who is wrong – is bring separation.

So as yogis, and as humans, we need to begin to become present enough, so that we can identify when we are jumping on the dogma train and the demon of self-righteousness is lurking. To be blunt – it makes us nasty and insulting. It creates barriers, NOT bridges.

We practice yoga to practice becoming present. It’s a way of learning how to connect with ourselves in a different and meaningful way. We practice seeing ourselves for what we are with all our self-imposed limitations, the beliefs we hold that don’t serve us and hold us back, and the ways in which we feed unhealthy patterns and habits in our lives. It prepares us then to begin to connect with others: the yoga teacher, the other yogis in the room, the family members who think yoga are pretzel like postures, the co-workers who have no idea where its come from but who appreciates the calmer, more open, accepting, and non-judgmental you.

This is important because connectedness is what we really need. That is what really matters in your life, in PE, this country and the world. That is what we’re here for. Diets, political systems, cultural values and beliefs aside – we need to be connected to each other to be safe, to be happy, and to make the world the place it was intended to be.

So let’s drop the idea of being ‘right’ and pointing out the others’ ‘wrongs’. Our energy is best spent working at connectedness rather than winning a debate or argument. That is truly living the yoga philosophy.

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In yoga – you should never TRY to be more flexible. It is completely counterproductive. Achieving flexibility comes with letting go – NOT trying/controlling. Trying causes you to tense up. It means you’re holding on inside– thinking that by working and trying so hard – you control the outcome. It’s the furthest thing from the truth…. ever. You will never get more flexible by controlling how your muscles work. You need to let go for flexibility to kick in. I repeat – you need to let go….

The first month of 2014 has held one resounding, persistent, annoying, message for me: too much of my energy is going in to controlling every single detail of my business. Simply put – I am a complete control freak where my business is concerned and while its causing me unnecessary stress, it is, more importantly taking me off my yogic path and not actually helping my business grow in the way that I really want it to.

There I said it.

This last week I reached breaking point and I decided that I could keep going down this route, or do something about it. Simple as that. I have the power to choose right? So this is me, putting it out there – my resolve to journey on the path of releasing my controlling tendencies for the purpose of my own health, happiness and the ongoing success of my business. Putting this out there will motivate me to keep to my resolve and it may motivate one or two others with the same annoying, and very powerfully destructive tendency!

A bit of background to make my case:

I opened up my yoga studio as a tentative venture to see if yoga could take off in the selective and unforgiving market that exists in PE. My one-man-show got off to a rocking start and I’ve been living the dream ever since: no one to answer to, full creative freedom, complete independence. I couldn’t have asked to have it any better.

As life goes though, things change and evolve. The dream of having a proper, big yoga studio, that serves many, many people: with different physical abilities and emotional needs, with different schedules and of different levels, offering workshops and trainings in many interesting and related fields and becoming a household name in yoga communities, was still alive, if a little pushed to the side while enjoying my comfort zone. Just as I started getting really comfortable with where things were at – thinking – I could cruise along like this for ages….things started happening to push me in a different direction:

1. I became pregnant – well that’s quite a serious and strong message along the lines of change

2. Things in my previously calm and comfortable studio, turned what I can only for now describe as ‘psycho’ – and I needed to move – another pretty strong sign that times they were a changing!

I considered moving to Canada and allow my partner to take care of me. I considered kicking back and living a conservative life off proceeds from the UK. I considered packing a backpack and hitting the road until something else popped up as the next thing to get my teeth into. India came to mind as it did lead to life changing events the last time I went – but I didn’t fancy tempting fate with delhi belly while being pregnant.

My responsible side – as well as the fact that I really, really liked having a yoga studio and I LOVED my clients – kept me looking for new studio premises.
It was the only option that brought any peace in my soul.

Bigger premises, that were more beautiful, more accessible with more exposure, with more opportunity to expand and grow into all the areas I had originally envisaged when I manifested this dream to begin with – soon became available. It came easily, without any fuss or battle – just like it was meant to be. It was just waiting there for me to find it…and since I have been there, its welcomed me in every day arrive there. I feel at home – more than I ever did in the seemingly ‘comfortable space’ just around the corner, where this yoga journey started.

With bigger and better – not just in regards to the studio, but also concerning my waistline – came the need for expansion by way of finding the right people to support the functioning of the studio and the expanding dream (aka expanding budget). This was where I hit the brickwall – hard and fast.

I don’t really want ANYONE else around because I don’t really want to relinquish control in that way. This is my BABY after all. My first born and its not even 8 months old. What kind of mother leaves her first born in the care of someone else – even for a few minutes – when its not even 8 months old?

Of course I know I’m crazy – lots of mothers leave their kids – safely – in the care of others…and all entrepreneurs feel like their businesses are their babies…but they too learn to let go for the benefit of the business.

It was when I recognized how ridiculous my thoughts were that I realized I needed to get a grip. I was losing sleep (and weight while I was pregnant) because of all these little irrational thoughts and beliefs about myself, my responsibilities, what I could and couldn’t do, and also the capabilities of people around me.

The time for change is now.

Why we control:

1. We’re worried about what will happen if we don’t control it – i.e control is based in fear
Fear is a very powerful emotion and is always based outside of the present moment. ..i.e. its not real – its perceived. We fear how things may or may not turn out and affect us. Only some, but often none, of our fears materialise. So it is a ‘false’ state of being. It’s energy wasted on something that may or may not happen.
2. We’re attached to a specific outcome, and the way to get achieve that outcome. We think, we what the best route and outcome is for us (as if we always know best).
The reality is that things often don’t pan out as planned – but that they then in fact turn out better. How many times have you had to look on as things – with or without you trying to control them – unfolded as they should and in a way you never ever imagined or fathomed – better than your expectations? Different to what you anticipated isn’t necessarily bad, or worse….it may in fact be better.

3. We lack trust in others and ultimately in the Universe/God.
Lacking in trust that whatever is, is best, is good, is meant to be, is safe and beautiful and perfect for you – is living in a place of fear, pessimism, cynicism, and limitations. Einstein said: “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe”.
We don’t expand and experience abundance when we only allow ourselves to trust what we can see and touch …and control. We often learn not to trust right from early childhood and what needs to be addressed here can be painful and complicated. It is worth it though…because the truth is, our lives have the potential to be completely limitless. WE are limitless. We hold the power and freedom to every bit of happiness and success out there – and we hold the keys to lock up that potential forever.

This is some serious stuff.

What I am doing about it:

1. I am going to give everything I can in terms of equipping people with the tools to carry out the business activities in line with my business model, integrity to yoga philosophy and practice– and then I am going to allow them to be free to bring what THEY have. That which is special and authentic about THEM.
My affirmation – the diversity and depth of experience that others bring enrich and grow my business every day.

2. I am going to draw inspiration from and match my thoughts to leaders that I have encountered in real life/literature/movies and whom I admire for their integrity, success, and ability to inspire rather than control
My affirmation – the best leaders out there made it by inspiring rather than controlling. Inspiring leadership has far reaching effects. Controlling leadership has ever tightening boundaries and limitations.

3. I am going to monitor my thoughts and controlling tendencies and open up to understanding where they come from – insecurities, fear, lack of trust etc. I will stay in the present moment – dealing only with what is happening here and now, accept my insecurity and fears for what they are but not allow them to dictate my thoughts and resulting behaviours. One day at a time – one thought at a time, one act at a time.
Affirmation – I am the beautiful product of everything this life has given me to grow and evolve. Every part of what I am has purpose – even the fears and insecurities. I accept them, and I release the need for my behaviour to be governed by them.

4. In yoga one learns to be curious. Curious about your body – what it can do and what the journey to doing things different brings up. I am going to apply that principle to my business and opening the doors to others to contribute and add to the picture. I am going to be curious about different ways of doing things and alternative routes to where we want to be. The most direct or most efficient way might work sometimes and other times the scenic route brings up meaningful and inspiring things. I’m opening up to those possibilities
Affirmation – I am open to suggestions and learnings from others as their ideas are just as useful and meaningful as mine. I accept all offers and stay curious about an attitude of openness can deliver.

5. I am setting out on a journey of mastering the art of Surrender: the complete acceptance of what is and having faith that all is well, even without my input. (My throat slightly contracted even as I wrote that). I have to remind myself that this does not mean – ‘do nothing’. It means – do something from a place of sweet surrender. Doing something without demanding a certain outcome. Doing something without force or feeling like it is a struggle.
Will Blunderfield sings: “There is a river that I’ve discovered. It flows downstream to everything I desire. I paddled so hard against the current, I did not know, that all I needed was to let the oars go, and just flow.
Affirmation: All is well in my world. I breathe and let go of the oars

As I conclude this article I face my first challenge: part of me thinks I can’t submit this because what I am asking of myself here is impossible (i.e. I don’t feel I can control the successful outcome of what I put out there). Funny that. There is another part that just keeps saying – let the oars go…The energy right now is magical….and unbearable. Here goes….

I find myself in the picturesque little town of Greyton in the Western Cape. Its situated at the foot of the Overberg mountains and we, over the course of three days, have been blessed with both sunshine – allowing us to bask in its powerful, yet soothing rays-  and rain, breaking the heat and allowing relief to yogis and nature alike. We “get it” more here – we are all connected.

The Yoga Sanga festival (sanga meaning “gathering”) is just that – a glorious and joyous gathering of about 200 yogis – a term used loosely for people who love yoga: yoga asana, yoga philosophy, yoga clothes, yoga ‘lingo’, yoga attitude – or lack thereof. That is always the first thing that strikes me at a gathering of yogis – the openness and acceptance of whatever or wherever you’re at. Here it is cool not to judge, or be opinionated, or care too much what anyone else does. It’s liberating to be free, even if only for a few days – from the prison we create from other people’s opinions.

I have been fortunate enough to find myself in such gatherings on numerous occasions in various countries around the world. The similarities in topics of conversation in all of these communities are uncanny: “I just love the energy here”; “your aura is so pure”; “I have an energy block in one of my chakras that I’m working on right now” – all of these met with affirmative and empathic nods.

Here too I came across ‘the animal’ conversations: “The mosquitoes are annoying, but in the spirit of ahimsa (non-violence) I wouldn’t dare to swat them” (followed by a nervous and slightly irritated giggle); “I have my toes and fingers crossed that my cat will be okay when I take her on holiday. I give her homeopathic drops to try to ease her stress” (of going on holiday? Yeah, man, its a dog’s life isn’t it!?).

The food conversations are endless: “Are the wraps gluten and/or dairy free?” Asked at the one and only food stall, serving the entire festival with two people manning the stand. Needless to say the question was met with: “No but its made of eureka wheat (Who knows what that is? I probably didnt even spell it right!) so you’ll be fine” (Obviously); “I’m vegetarian – kind of… I only eat animals with 2 feet or less” (i.e chicken and fish).

Not everyone seems to adopt the yogi principles voluntarily: “I’m not allowed coffee or beer and I can’t eat meat….my life is pretty miserable right now” – begrudgingly whispered by the husband whose wife thinks he’s about to willingly convert to the yoga life; and even devout yogis miss a beat sometimes: “I can’t believe I left my gratitude journal at home” (shock and horror on faces all round). The true Cape Tonian yogi exclaims to sympathetic listeners: “I ran out of dishwashing liquid and was mortified as I can only get my brand at Wellness Warehouse!” (Even if supermarkets were open on Sunday the 15th of December – Wellness Warehouse is three hours drive away and it wouldn’t be environmentally friendly to drive that distance for dishwashing liquid.) Thoughtful bunch us yogis are!

Me commenting on these yogi-isms is really tongue in cheek and it is said with the kindest of hearts because while they are amusing in their own right, from what I have observed, they are said with the purest of hearts and intentions and that in itself is so refreshing. It really is true, that in this beautiful enviornment – and with that I am not referring only to the breathtaking scenery- you do feel free, relaxed, released, and content. With the constant awareness around your breath and constant stretching and opening in your physical body there is little room for tension or stress. It is almost frigthening when one realises how much time we spend stressed and in a state of tension – in complete ignorance.

In this environment you are constantly reminded of the amazing and beautiful being that is your true nature. In fact it is enough to bring me to tears when I think how we beat ourselves and others up- day in and day out – survival of the fittest, right? There is an immediate sense of ‘ease’ of ‘coming home’ when we can rest in the knowledge and awareness that our true nature is that of pure love, and eternal peace…and that is about it. When we embody that which we truly are – our world becomes beautiful, restful, calm and easy. The tension, pain, and discomfort takes over because we are constantly engaged in an inner struggle – fighting our true nature.

So the yoga sanga has revived my sense of connectedness with the Divine. It has breathed a sense of calm back into me, knowing that I can go with the flow of life at ease with the fact that whatever is, is perfect. Yoga is so much more than what you do on the mat. Yes, the physical postures on the mat provides a symbolic platform for the challenges or even the ‘battleground’ that life can present as for us, most of the time. It also provides immense insight into how we deal with ourselves and others in this battleground. Most importantly though it prepares you to approach the battleground in a different way: to know that both pleasure and pain will come AND go (whether you seek it or try to avoid it) and, we have a choice in what we hold on to (and how long for) and what we let go of. Most things are more bearable, manageable and tolerable when you meet it with a deep breath, and when that brings you right into the moment – you really are free from your anxieties of tomorrow and chains from yesterday.

Life is better, NOW.

As we approach the end of the year, it seems everyone shifts into overdrive and life moves even faster than it does usually. Considering how fast paced life is on any given day – it becomes almost scary how much we begin to expect of ourselves. It is perhaps therefore no wonder that in recent weeks I have noticed more than ever, how the yogis who practice at Heal. Love. Yoga need and appreciate the downtime during practice.

It has never been unheard of for people step onto the mat and with the first few deep breaths and opportunity to just ‘let go’, tears begin to flow as the sense of release becomes quite overwhelming. I’ve seen this happening more and more in recent weeks –beautiful people feeling totally overwhelmed and the space on the mat seems the only place where some can allow themselves to let go of all that we hold on to, as we try to meet our own and everyone else’s demands on our time, our body and spirit. We don’t relax, even when we’re sleeping, and the moment we take a few deep breaths – relax our shoulders, relax our face – the tension that flows out leaves us naked in a sense. Confronted by all we have pushed aside and suppressed, because there has been no time to acknowledge our selves, our heart, our feelings, our need to slow down and just stop.

Giving yourself the time and space to escape from everything you need to do and think about – even for as little as ten minutes or an hour is so valuable, yet, strangely enough, we hardly EVER allow ourselves that time. Even in yoga practice, students want the hardest, fastest class when they start out. Even five minutes of centering at the start or 5 minutes of relaxing at the end of class, is met with jitters and impatience to move on to the next step. Some are so restless that even holding postures for 10 breaths as opposed to 5 is met with unease because ‘is this really making the best use of time?’

Luckily it doesn’t take most serious yogis long to realize that the value of the pause in the practice, most of the time, far exceeds the value of more high energy practice sequences when practiced in addition to the a high energy and demanding lifestyle. In the quest to do more, better, faster, be more productive, with less money and more profits in every moment, in every endeavour, when do we stop? What does it take for us to realize that it is not just okay, but essential to stop and appreciate the downtime?

If you tend to live a life like this you will find that even the 10 minutes downtime during a yoga class can be transformational – for both your body in terms of refueling and healing and for your mind in simply keeping you sane by keeping you calm! Yoga practice at its core equips you and sets you up for a calmer, more centered, focused, and peaceful existence and the rest and relaxation incorporated in the practice is a crucial part of this winning recipe.

Taking that a step further and taking an hour for a restorative session or Yoga Nidra (also referred to as yogic sleep – the deepest form of relaxation while staying fully conscious) could be the kindest thing you have ever done for yourself.

Build in purposeful downtime as an act of kindness to yourself. Your body needs rest and relaxation to heal, detoxify and come back to its centre. Recharging your batteries means recharging your adrenal glands and gives you more to give once you do get going. The most creative ideas and insights often come during or as a result of downtime.
Give THAT to yourself for Christmas this year!

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When it gets to this time of the year I tend to dedicate my personal yoga practice to practicing gratitude. In the practice of yoga we have the option to deepen the practice by dedicating it to some purpose or to just bring our full focus and awareness onto a particular subject – such as gratitude, love, an affirmation or perhaps some aspect related to our religion. The way in which we move in yoga allows us to bring whatever we focus on right into our bodies – with very powerful effect.

In teaching a yoga class I like to, during a gratefulness practice, bring the yogis’ awareness to at least three things in their lives that they are grateful for and constantly throughout the practice bring them back to that place of awareness of what is good in their lives. Certain pinnacle postures such a deep heart-openers like ‘full wheel’, ‘camel’ and ‘wild thing’ are powerful in breathing in and embodying those things we feel most grateful for – and it helps to keep bringing the awareness back to those things in the practice. It helps us to keep those things at the forefront of our minds once we leave the practice and it brings something very powerful into our bodies on a cellular level when our focus switches from that which we feel deprived of – to that which we feel grateful for. Through a gratefulness practice we begin to see the profound effect, both physically and mentally, that a targeted yoga practice can have on our lives.

Don’t practice yoga? You can still have a gratefulness practice to bring you back to focusing on all the wonderful blessings in your life – helping you to attract even more of that. It also helps you feel more at one with the natural flow of things and more connected to others and so less alone. Having a regular gratitude practice has been found to promote high-energy, positive moods, a sense of a stronger connectedness to others and feeling more positive about life. Definitely the kind of improvements in life we would want to strive towards.

Research shows its better to have two or three different kinds of gratitude practices for maximum impact, so pick two or three out of the list below and start practicing today:

  1. Reflect: When getting into bed at night let your last thoughts be around that which you did well that day. The ways in which you were of service and what good things you did. Be grateful for those opportunities. This serves as motivation every day to do things to feel grateful for and becomes the way by which you measure the success and failure of each day.
  2. Gratitude Journal: Get a small book in which to on a daily basis write three things for which you are grateful. In the beginning this will seem easy, but once you got past all the things you know you should be grateful for you will begin to have to look to find new things. Your outlook on your day will change as you begin searching for things that you are grateful for. What a great way to change the things you focus on during the day!
  3. Let’s Talk about it: Make a time (about once per week) to discuss with someone – a partner, a friend, a running partner, a colleague which you meet regularly for lunch – just all the blessings you have in your life. Dedicating a whole lunch date or running session just to focus on all the things you are grateful for is uplifting and revitalizing and adds so much to your overall attitude of gratitude!
  4. Put it in writing…and read it out loud: Regularly acknowledge and remember people that have had a significant impact on your life. This could be through big acts in significant roles in your life – or even just something small that someone did at some point that really inspired or touched you. Write a letter to that person – thanking them and explaining how what they did, impacted you so positively. Then go and visit this person and read the letter out loud to them personally. This is a very powerful gratitude practice – for both you and the person you are addressing in the letter.
  5. Thank you notes/texts: Take the time and make the effort to write short and sweet thank you notes or send text messages to those close to you for little things throughout the day, that you are grateful for: ‘thanks for helping with the dishes’; ‘thanks for being kind to your sister’ ; ‘thanks for picking up the kids when I couldn’t’; thanks for being such a kind/helpful/fun work colleague’. Such little acknowledgements will again impact you so positively but also will probably be a lovely gesture to whomever the note or text is directed – and encourage more of what you are grateful for!
  6. Dedicate your yoga practice or any other form of exercise to an awareness and focus on what you are grateful for: This is another way to set time aside to bring your mind to focus and linger on and around those wonderful things you already have in your life.
  7. Practice mindfulness: Practice staying present in the moment more regularly during the day. We often spend so much time living in the future – planning, anticipating, worrying – or in the past – thinking about what could have been and or holding on to resentments and hurts, that we miss so much of what is happening right here, right now around us. We get so obsessed with what is wrong in our lives in the world that we fail to notice the smallest things that may be right – and those things are often so much more significant: our child laughing out of his/her stomach; new flowers blooming, showing the turn of seasons and the way nature teaches that change and growth is a natural part of life; a smile from a stranger, a green light, or even better – a good considerate driver! Things to be grateful for are everywhere around us, if we just take the time – and have the presence of mind – to notice.
Have any other ways of practicing gratitude? Share them here in the comments section and allow us all to find new ways to be grateful..

This weekend, on the first day of Spring, almost 10 000 PE people threw themselves into the happiest 5k on the planet with more enthusiasm and energy than we’ve seen in a while. Just about every one of the almost 10 000 people wore big smiles on their faces for the duration of the event and it got me thinking…The Colour Run aims to promote being healthy and being happy: probably the two most important things we ultimately want in life. While it was evident that the organising of such an event was a huge task, the outcome was simple – people came with family and friends, they ran, walked and some rolled through 5 km’s – add a bit of laughter and splashed a bit of colour on that, and voila! It became one of the highlights of the year in PE. People feeling healthy and happy indeed. If such a simple thing as gathering your friends and family around, running or walking a measly 5km and okay – we can’t forget about the colour – brought so much vibrancy, life, and positive energy to a city – why is it that there are so many unhappy and unhealthy people around? How is it that we need big events like this to remind us of how much fun working at being healthy and being happy can be? And how many of those 10 000 people who experienced the first Colour Run on The Continent will still be happy and healthy by the end of this week? What is it about our day-to-day lives that keep us from living a life of effortlessness, laughter, inspiration and all round health?

As we enter into the season of new beginnings, is now the best time to begin to get rid of the things that prevent us from being as healthy and happy and dare I add, as inspired, as we should be? How can we create space for those things we actually want to have more of in life?

Use the momentum created by The Colour Run…and run with it. Here are a few tips to setting up and maintaining a healthier and happier lifestyle.

1. Taking time to be still  
I’m not talking the typical few minutes before the clock strikes twelve on new years eve – setting a few new years resolutions and forgetting them by the time you wake up, tired and a little hung over on the 1st of January. I’m referring to cultivating an attitude and creating space for regular moments of stillness.

Taking time out creates the natural pause you need to sometimes see that the things you are keeping busy with are not the things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. 

You don’t need to think about what you need to become still about or achieve in that time. Become completely free from thoughts, noise and tension. A place where you have nothing to think about and nothing to do. You will be amazed at how healing that can be – and how taking a pause – not just running over from one thought, action, plan, movement into the next – slows you down and gives you perspective. 

Becoming still in your body, noticing tension and just how your body is feeling at any given point in time, gives you an opportunity to take stock and notice how much pressure your body is under. You have an opportunity to step in and give your body a well-deserved break. If you never stop you will never notice. Until your body has to MAKE you stop, which will often mean much more serious messages of ill health existing in your body. Yoga and meditation is a great way to quiet yourself, your body and your mind down. It also creates a beautiful space for becoming more tuned in to your body and how your body is doing. Being tuned in to your body allows you to feel tension as it arises and gives you the opportunity to dissolve it before it sits and festers in your body – resulting in disease. Yoga might not be what you are looking for – but whatever you do – create space to become still.

2. Taking stock
With stillness a new perspective will come and you will be in a better place to take stock of where you’re really at with your health and happiness. Set time aside to think about, or even better yet , write down the things that make you feel really happy. Think about those moments when you feel relaxed, content, overjoyed and even invincible. Recognise how much time you spend in those moments. 

Then think of just one way in which you can cut down on time spent with the mundane and create more space doing what you love. What can you spend less time on or even cut out completely? Can you delegate, engage the family to help – so you feel less bogged down freed up to do what inspires you?

Can’t think of happy moments? What would those happy moments look like if they did exist? Who would you be with and what would you be doing? How would you be feeling in those moments? How can you invite and create that in your life right now?

Also take stock of your body and your health. How is your body feeling? Have you had niggling concerns about your weight, your diet, your energy levels, potential food intolerances or allergies? Are there things that have required medical attention that you just haven’t gotten round to. Or is it as simple as you just needing to be a bit more proactive in taking a small step towards healthier living. Can you introduce even one day of healthy eating a week – or even better yet, three, or four or more? Similarly in regards to getting some exercise. Is there one activity in which you could get involved – albeit on a social level – such as rounding up the family one day on a weekend for a long walk on one of the beautiful beaches in PE or engaging in family tennis tournaments? There is something that you can enjoy AND that can get your body active and moving. You don’t have to train like a demon and run the Comrades next year. Do an activity that you enjoy and just be happy to start where you are at right now. Enjoy your exercise and healthy lifestyle, and you’re more likely to make it a lifestyle change rather than a fad or stage unlikely to last more than a few days or weeks..

3. De-clutter
The biggest barrier to doing more of what we love and living a healthy lifestyle is time or a lack thereof. We use that excuse ad infinitum. It’s a very real issue in modern days and hence the need for regular and persistent de-cluttering exercises. Clutter occupies your space and your mind and prevents you form inviting and receiving the things you want in life. A cluttered life robs you of your time and saps you of your energy. 

De-clutter your physical environment, your digital world, and your emotional home. It’s not called a ‘spring clean’ for nothing. Set up a family day to clear out all the clutter out of your home. Pack up what you don’t need and prepare to recycle, donate, sell or store. Create space so there is physical room for the new things you want to invite into your life. 

So much of our time is taken up in our digital world– time on social networking sites, emails, and many files being created, stored, processed and filed. Clear out here as well. Back up your computer so you can clear your desktop of distracting thumbnails and shortcuts to documents on your hard drive. Get ting your hard drive clean and clear will also speed your system up dramatically (say hello to extra time for yourself and what you love). Set time aside for social networking, emails and working and avoid flitting from one to the next without really getting anything done properly. Have digital free time in your home and around your family.

Clean up your emotional home as well. Are there conversations that need to be had for the air to be cleared and for you to feel free from a difficult situation? Do you need to forgive, let go, speak your mind in order to become more open to invite in what it is you want more of emotionally? Just like your body deserves a break from tension, so too does your mind and heart. Clear the air. Let it go. Set yourself free.

4. Boundaries
Once you have established some healthy routine that suits you and your family – however small the changes are – be protective of that space. Don’t allow work, life, the mundane, the clutter or an absent mind to take it away from you again. Stay alert, stay present. Know what it is that you want to achieve and why it is that you’re doing it. Acknowledge the rewards and reinforce the behaviour in every way possible. 

All your work, your interests, the important things that keep you busy during the day will mean nothing if you didn’t have your health and you weren’t happy. So hold your health and happiness as sacred in your life – your very first priority. What else really matters more than that?