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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As we enter the last week of January, 93% of people who have made new years resolutions would have abandoned them. In fact – most of the 93% would have abandoned their resolutions after just one week. It has me wondering if some of us still even remember what our resolutions were.

There is an inexhaustible pile of literature out there about how to set better, more realistic and achievable new years resolutions and this article is not one of them. While I believe its good to want to change things in your life for the better – setting resolutions or setting goals and failing – isn’t very good for your sense of self-worth and belief in holding that belief that you are able to achieve anything you want.

I have not set resolutions for a number of years and it got me thinking about what it is that is different in my life now, compared to five or ten years ago when I bought special notepads and books to write resolutions in – and track them over time? The short answer to that is – I became a yogi.

Adopting a new lifestyle as opposed to adding on bits and pieces to a poorly coordinated and incoherent way of life proved much easier, much more meaningful and undoubtedly, sustainable.

The main areas in which people set new years resolutions are money and success/work; family life, weight control, health and wellness, achievement in activities/hobbies, improving quality of life, feeling better…living better. Looking at this list, the thought of adding tasks in some or each of these areas seem arduous and even impossible. Especially adding that on to a life that is already unforgiving in its demands on time and energy. No wonder we set ourselves up to fail.

In my case a lifestyle change set me free of always failing at adding bits and pieces to an already full and cluttered life. My lifestyle change involved adopting the life of a yogi. It became all my new years resolutions rolled into one sweet package. It made me achieve all those resolutions I, with the best of intentions failed at, and made me forgive myself for the areas in which I would struggle. Nobody’s perfect. I didn’t have to throw the ones I didn’t ‘master’ out, because there is so much room for error and forgiveness, and much less room for judgment. So I work my way through as part of my lifestyle and nothing hangs on me achieving or letting go of anything in the first week or three of January.

So here are my reasons for saying Yoga beats new years resolutions any day – and it will for just about everyone out there.

  1. Yoga is a lifestyle: Its not just physical exercise. If you let it, it will ease up on the rigidity you feel you need to employ when approaching life and ‘the way things should be’. It is forgiving, and kind. It allows for a different way of being – rather than an attempt at just doing things differently. A change in lifestyle means you own what you do, rather than try to make lots of new (or old habits) fit into a lifestyle to which it perhaps might not be suited.
  2. Yoga addresses your health needs in a very unique and effective way: Yoga will ease pain and bring newfound health and vitality to your body in ways you didn’t imagine before or during your first class, sweating through a downward facing dog. The physical aspect of yoga alone will do that. The more subtle elements in yoga will make you aware of your body in a way that may seem foreign to you reading this now. You will begin to know your body for what it is and what it needs. You will begin to value your body, respect it and treat it in the way it deserves to be treated. Your health becomes something you care to know about – not something your doctor sorts out during times of dis-ease. You own your body. Its been there from the start and will be till the end. You can’t say that about many other things in life. Yoga teaches you to love your body. What follows is simply beautiful.
  3. Yoga is better for you on a physical level than going to the gym: Imbalance in your body brings imbalance in your mind. Illness and disease are ultimately due to imbalances – physically, mentally, spiritually. Going to the gym isn’t a bad thing in itself – but it doesn’t ultimately give you the foundation for balance that you need. How many people go to the gym and quit after a little while? How many people hurt themselves doing strength training in the gym? How many people have ruined their health as a result of not knowing when to push and when to stop in training of their bodies? How many people feel bad about their bodies when hanging out in the ‘gym culture’? Yoga gives you all the elements of a solid and strong workout without taking away the balance your perfect body needs in terms of flexibility to counter strength, relaxation to counter the high adrenaline, knowledge and understanding and respect of your body to counter the perfect body image you chase in the gym culture. And on a vanity note – Yoga makes your body look great – toned, lean, strong, healthy. Oh yes.
  4. Yoga compliments every other sport you will ever do: Adopting a yoga lifestyle doesn’t mean you stop doing the sports you love. It does mea though, that you enhance your ability to achieve in sports, and limits your potential for injury. Sport is such a wonderful way to stay active, stay connected to people and possibly even with nature if the sport is played outdoors. Many of us practice sports for all those reasons and some practice for achievement, which in itself – also – is great on many levels. Wanting to achieve is fabulous – hurting yourself to get there – not so much. Doing yoga though – will again provide a foundation from which to safely expand your physical and mental boundaries. From a place of self-awareness and respect and care for your body, it is much harder to push through and hurt yourself. If achievement is important why cut playing the short, through injury?
  5. Yoga improves your family life: An interesting line of feedback from students who practice yoga at Heal. Love. Yoga has been their improved family relationships. This is as a result of them feeling much calmer and much more in control of themselves, their responses to stress and their time. Yoga is powerful like that. The concept of choosing how we respond to discomfort in our bodies quickly transcend the four walls of the studio into real life, and the result is a change in what matters most – how we treat and interact with the ones we love the most. Yoga calms the nervous system. This means a calmer, more in touch and real you.
  6. Yoga improves your work life: For the same reasons that it impacts on your family life, it does your work life. Coming to realize that worrying takes your peace away rather than your problems, and that nothing is ever really under your control, is freeing to say the least. This doesn’t mean you don’t care about what happens and shrug your shoulders at responsibility. Not at all. It means the opposite – it means very proactively dealing with what you can, without paralyzing yourself worrying about what hasn’t happened yet and may never materialize. It means choosing how best to spend time acting on your responsibilities to make it worthwhile. Investing energy wisely rather than wasting it… exhaustion, burnout, sick leave = wasted energy.
  7. Yoga helps you to see yourself differently: Much/most/all of our dissatisfaction with life, stem from how we see ourselves: how hard we judge ourselves and how little compassion and care we apply when interacting with ourselves. This naturally transcends to how we see and interact with the world. Through yoga you begin to explore the wonder of you; all that you are capable of when you didn’t even know to try. It teaches respect and admiration for what you are, what you are made of, what you do and mean to the world and why you being authentic and real is important to what happens to the world around you. You matter.
  8. Yoga helps you to experience and see the world differently: Yoga is very much a philosophy of connectedness. We are all connected. Understanding this concept and acting on it translates into a world where you treat people, animals, the environment the way you want to be treated – with care, awareness, and sensitivity. You begin to see the ripple effect your actions can have on things way, way far away from you and begin to take responsibility for yourself and for the world around you. We are all here for a reason – a purpose. You will only begin to realize that purpose once you can realize that you are part of this world and it is part of you. There is no separation ultimately other than the separation that you create in your mind. It is this self-invented separation that causes most of the pain, conflict and heartache in the world today.
It was a tall order to say yoga will incorporate and encompass all of the new years resolutions you could probably ever have…but there you have it. This is on the basis of my own personal experience and I would be very interested to hear your thoughts!


Do yourself a favour this year and don’t allow 2014 to just roll into 2015. Take a few minutes or even better, a few hours, to look back and reflect. You have one life. Make it count. You’re worth it.

Take stock of 2014 without beating yourself up about what you did or didn’t do. Simply use the reflections in 2014 as a platform to set yourself up to be your absolute best – again – in 2015.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself at the close of 2014 to set you up for a happy, balanced and contented 2015:

1. Where in my life have I not been authentic in 2014?

The most exhausting and unsatisfying thing you will ever do is to live a life trying to be someone that you’re not. It requires constant effort, only to deliver some second or third rate version of the wonderful self that you truly are. When you begin to live an authentic life – things start to flow with ease. You’re being real and that requires little effort. There are often situations or people in which or around whom we feel particularly out of sorts and as if we really need to pretend to be someone we’re not. Can you identify these people or situations and do something about it? You most likely can’t change those people or situations – but you can change your response to them.
Being aware of ‘danger zones’ in which you lose yourself easily is the first step to changing your response and becoming more authentic.

2. If I were to be my most authentic self in 2015 – who would I be/what would I do/ how would I describe myself

It becomes much easier to be authentic when you really know who you are. I’m not referring to your name and surname – I mean who you really, truly are – when the names and labels, pretenses and masks are stripped away. Ask yourself what it is about these people and situations that take you off centre? How would you feel and how would you behave if you were being true to your real self? Are these situations or people perhaps conflicting with your value system, do they make you feel insecure and small, and if so why? Go on a journey to explore your true self that so often remains in hiding. Begin to love who you really are out of hiding. This is the best version of you that you could ever possibly offer – so embrace ‘you’. Take time to describe yourself – and love what you come up with.

3. How did or didn’t I move in the direction I intended to in 2014?

Start by focusing on just two areas in your life. One where you made significant progress and the other where perhaps things really didn’t go as planned. Were you pursuing a direction that was true to your authentic self, or were you trying to achieve something you thought you ‘should’ based on others’ opinions or expectations? What were the things that stopped you from making progress? See if you can exercise compassion and kindness to yourself when evaluating your direction in 2013. Be as understanding about perceived ‘failures’ as you would if your best friend, partner or child were talking about what they didn’t achieve – and give as much praise and encouragement as you would that same person for the progress he/she made. Remember – the reflection is only there to be a platform from where to move forward in 2014. Its not an excuse to judge yourself or be hard on yourself. Credit is due to you for even getting to a stage of reflection. Most never do – so good on YOU!

4. Where am I going in 2015?

Pick one – maybe two – areas in your life and decide what direction you want to pursue in that area in 2014. For example you might be thinking along the lines of self-development and moving towards a more consistent life living your true authentic self, prioritising that which truly matters or taking time to look after yourself the way in which you deserve to. You might be thinking of your career or family relationships. Think also about how you would measure progress in pursuing this ‘direction’. What would ‘success’ look like?

5. What was it that I really needed in 2014 and did/didn’t get?

Knowing what you need is very powerful because it allows you to go out (or inside) and get it. So many of us pursue things – sometimes things that aren’t good for us – because we try to fill ‘an unidentified gap’ with whatever we can find. Once you know however what it is that you truly honestly need – it becomes a more meaningful exercise to explore how to fill that gap and doing it in such a way that leaves you feeling content.
So in this question begin to explore the moments that left you feeling you needed absolutely nothing more? When and where and with whom did you feel most empty? No blame to people or places either – just you being honest about where there were gaps that weren’t really filled. What did that look and feel like and what did you do that worked or didn’t work? When you felt wonderful – what was that about? Spend time pulling apart those contented moments. You want MORE of that going forward. KNOW what that is about.

6. What do I need most in 2015 – to be happy, content, on track?

Where did you feel you felt least satisfied or content? From exploring the previous question what can you identify as most important for you to seek and find to have your deeper needs met in 2014? This is your exercise so if your answer here is chocolate – then good for you – I can relate. It may also be that you find energy and strength when you give to yourself more – you are better able to care for others. I.e. when you care for yourself by taking time out when you need it, putting yourself in situations where you feel cared for (nature, immersed in a hobbie etc), and pampered.

7. What do I need to leave behind in 2014?

Most of us carry a heavier load than we need to. We carry things we can’t do anything about anymore, that weigh us down but somehow we hang on for dear life. This may relate to bad experiences, or feelings of guilt, anger resentment, either towards others or towards ourselves. It just simply is not worth it. These feelings and emotions wear you down physically and emotionally. They make you sick. What are they? Let them go. However you need to do that – write it down and burn the paper, call people up and apologise. Whatever it is, just do it…let it go.

8. Letting go is hard to do – how do I build in regular check ins into 2015 to make sure I am not weighed down unnecessarily by carrying things I don’t need.

Holding on to negative emotions is such a common phenomenon and before you know it months or years have gone by and you’re still harbouring these negative feelings. Build in a regular practice of evaluating and letting go. You need to make time to become still and present and notice what is happening for you. Take time for this – meditate, do yoga – whatever it takes. Mindless activity such as cycling and/or running – not thinking about anything – won’t do the trick here. You want something that very much brings you into the present moment and has you very aware of yourself, your body, your emotions and what is going on for you. It’s worth doing this for your own well-being, peace, health and happiness.

9. Looking back – what was my purpose in 2014?

If there was one reason for you to be around in 2014 – what was it? Give yourself credit for that.

10. What is my true purpose in 2015?

You’re here for a reason. Don’t just live aimlessly. What you have to offer is unique and massively important.

Good luck and Namaste till 2015!

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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 ?

While I appreciate the fact that most people who come to yoga, do so for reasons related to fitness, strength building, improving flexibility, and sometimes relaxation, I always think it so important to emphasize that the physical aspect of yoga is really just a very small part of the practice. I know – its GREAT to feel the physical changes in your body when you practice yoga regularly. Who doesn’t love to lose weight, see their body getting stronger, toned, more supple and not to mention being able to physically do things you never thought you’d be able to do. There is a huge sense of satisfaction and reward in that and I don’t want to take away from that element at all. I have personally patted myself on the back a few times for the physical changes that yoga brought to my body– especially during pregnancy – a time when most women have a sense of loss of control over the shape and loss of strength in their bodies.

Looking and feeling physically better is fabulous. But here’s the thing…this is why yoga is so amazing…not only do you look and feel so different – you actually practice things during your yoga that you hardly ever (or never for most of us) get to do elsewhere. You practice attitudes and habits that change your life to a more peaceful and happy place to be.

This is what you really practice when you practice yoga:

1. In yoga you practice ease in body and mind. For most of us, ease doesn’t come ….well, easy. We live a life of tension. We ‘try’ to do lots of things and the act of trying creates tension. We are consumed with thoughts around what we should and shouldn’t do or be able to do, and are constantly pacing and chasing. This manifests in our yoga practice – we come in and try to be flexible. We push ourselves to try to get into positions and postures – still plagued by the thoughts telling us – you should be able to do this – why is this so *&%&^% hard? It’s hard because your body is hard and your mind is rigid. You’re plagued with tension, everywhere.

In yoga you practice to ease up, let go of the tension in your body and in your mind. That’s why you feel so great when you practice yoga. It sets you free.

2. In yoga you practice being curious about your body and your abilities. From a young age we are measured against the developmentally appropriate milestones we are ‘meant’ to reach at certain ages. We are constantly bombarded with – this is what you should be able to do now – this is what good enough looks like, this is what not good enough looks (and feels) like. We learn to look at ourselves in that way. Measuring ourselves against some external source that may well be so far removed from who we truly are, that it really is like comparing apples and pears.

In yoga – once you get out of your mind which constantly harasses you with ‘you should’ and ‘you must’ and ‘you could/couldn’t’, you learn to look at yourself and your body and its abilities with a fresh pair of eyes. Like seeing yourself for the first time you can allow yourself to be curious. The good thing about this is that once you allow yourself to be looked at in this different way – your body just about always blows you away. It surprises you with what it is capable of when you meet it with acceptance and kindness. Your own ability to be open, be different, be fresh, be who you really are, surprises you as its so much better than all the expectations that you place on yourself, which doesn’t really mean anything to you. Being curious, like a child, is a refreshing, and life-altering bonus to what your yoga practice brings to your life.

3. In yoga you practice loving your body and yourself: With the practice of being curious, almost inevitably, comes a new sense of appreciation for what you and your body is really about. As a world of possibilities open up in terms of what you are capable of, both physically and mentally, you learn to appreciate who and what you truly are. Getting to know yourself in a way that is different from how you were ‘brought up’ to think about what is good and bad and correct or not so correct according to society’s rules, is liberating and once the acceptance of the amazing, yet different being that you truly are sets in, there is so much more room to love who you are and what you are about. ‘My body is mine and its not only perfect – its amazing’ is not a common frame of mind in this day and age. In yoga you practice to believe and inhabit that space in your mind.

4. In yoga you practice gratitude: Hand in hand with loving your body and who you truly are, comes a sense of gratitude. You are able to be grateful for your body, how it shows up and functions for you every day – despite years of potentially being beaten up by bad habits or negative thoughts. In yoga you practice functioning from a place of gratitude. Every difficult posture teaches you something else about yourself. These lessons improve your life, it helps you learn about how you can choose to change and improve. You therefore learn to be grateful for the ‘discomfort’ – on the mat and out there in life. The discomfort and the challenges shape you and that’s something to be grateful for. You learn to be grateful when the challenge comes…and grateful when it ends.

5. In yoga you practice being kind: You will often hear sayings in yoga like ‘listen to your body’ and while this is a well-intended saying, it can also serve as a cop- out – a get out of jail card – an opportunity to take it easy. Yoga is definitely not part of the no-pain-no-gain- break-your-body-down-before-you-build-it-up-again-its-cool-to-break-your-body-because-that-means-you’re-working-out-properly mentality. Thankfully. It is also not a place to shy away from that which you really need to face in yourself or in your body. So rather than saying – listen to your body – think ‘honour your body’ – with kindness. Honouring your body puts you in a place of knowing what your body needs, and responding in kindness. Listening to your body might sound like have a big slice of lemon meringue at Mug and Bean (because they are biggest and sweetest), but honouring your body might sound more like stay in side plank for 5 more breaths because you need to wake up the fire meridians in your body to cleanse, detoxify and renew and even transform! You approach your body and its needs with kindness and care. You know this is the only body you have. You know that this body has been there from the beginning and will be till the end. You know that when you love something, you care for it with kindness. This is VERY difficult for most people in yoga to get their heads around, because they are consistently plagued by the mentality of not being good enough, strong enough, flexible enough and resenting themselves and their own bodies for not being able to do things. In yoga you practice the opposite. You practice acceptance, and kindness to yourself – all the time and under all circumstances.

6. In yoga you practice compassion: In order to be kind to your body you have to begin to cultivate the most beautiful quality out there: compassion. We lack compassion so much in our daily lives towards each other, because we lack compassion for ourselves. In yoga you practice being compassionate. Your body is tired today? You’re body is restricted, and even paralysed by tension? You don’t condemn and judge yourself, make yourself out to be less than average. You practice compassion….

Your body has been holding tension for you for years. While you ignored it and pretended it wasn’t happening, your body held onto it for you. Have compassion. Have compassion for yourself. Have compassion and know that everyone out there is fighting and inward battle…it’s not always easy. We all deserve a little compassion.

7. In yoga you practice patience: Yoga postures, and the qualities they aim to instill in each of us who take to the mat, don’t come easy. You will always have good and bad days. You will always with the best of intentions not fully get to where you want to be. You will fall out, your mind will wander, you will get angry when you ‘should’ feel compassion and you will get frustrated by slow progress. Certain postures may elude you for years and you will doubt yourself. In yoga you practice patience with yourself. When you learn to be patient with yourself you become patient in general. The world needs more patience.

8. In yoga you practice being present: any good yoga class invites you to take the time to become still and present. 99.9% of our daily lives is spent either in the future – worrying, or in the past, contemplating. Neither of those (the future or past) serves you, as the past is gone and the future might never happen. Being present is a place of freedom, of joy, of pure and utter bliss and release from tension. Because it is NOW – it is what it is – free from anticipation, regret, or worry. It just is what it is. It’s a funny thing to get your head around and we spend years and years trying to learn and appreciate the value of staying present. In yoga you have a great opportunity to be present. Through connecting with your breath and giving yourself permission to let go of everything else out there, you connect to the present moment. Freedom. You begin to see where your mind goes when it does wander. You begin to feel what it feels like, when you do let go, even for a moment. You create a space free of tension in body, mind and soul for your body, mind and soul to be free to be limitless as they were intended to be.

9. In yoga you practice how you want to be: Bringing your body to stillness and then moving in and out of postures with varying levels of difficulty, and addressing various aspects about yourself, and your life on the mat brings you face to face with what you’re really like. How you respond to challenges, how you respond to failures (perceived or not), and success. What motivates you? Are you driven by what others see in you or can you bring your motivation inwards and be your own driving force in a kind and compassionate way? How do you limit yourself – do you give up before you’ve tried and can you overcome your fear of failure and allow yourself to be vulnerable. In yoga you practice being how you really want to be. A softer, easier, kinder, more compassionate, patient and present person.

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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….

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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Millions of people the world over practice yoga for all its amazing health benefits. For the majority of these people yoga consists only of physical postures, known as ‘asanas’, which in miraculous ways not only physically stretches tones and strengthens, but it stimulates organ functioning, improves energy levels and flow in the body, and ‘something special’ happens when you practice these asanas – with the deep slow breathing that goes along with it – leaving you feeling calmer, relaxed, more in control of your life and emotions and – just a little ‘better’. So without knowing anything about the underlying philosophy of yoga – the asanas in and of themselves, have been enough for yoga to be one of the fastest growing practices in the West – and a billion dollar industry in the US alone.

For those who like to dig a little deeper, and understand a little more about this ’gift from the East to the West’, there is a treasure chest full of beautiful history and depth of philosophy that seem to come only from the wisdom of the ancient nations. Yoga is not a religion. Some describe it as a philosophy, and others as a science. The principles of yoga is contained in most religions, but Yoga in itself is not a religion. It doesn’t pray to or worship any god, has no creed or formal statement of religious belief. There is no requirement for a confession of faith and no ordained clergy or priests to lead religious services. There is no system of temples or churches and no congregation of members or followers. Yoga doesn’t prescribe anything or aim to convert anyone.

Yoga can be practiced whether you are religious or not. For spiritual people it provides a space to connect to the God you follow or believe in. There is no judgment or prescription about what to believe or who to pray to. Yoga systematically deals with all levels of your being, leading you to a place of deep stillness and silence. From within this stillness and silence you can more fully experience spirituality in the context of your own religion and personal beliefs. It therefore creates space for you to grow closer to your own spiritual roots – even though the practice in itself is not a religion.

Patanjali is a well-known name in the yoga community as his sutras contain the most comprehensive and understandable outline/description of the ‘science’ or ‘philosophy’ of yoga. Yoga means ‘union’ and essentially is the process of uniting those parts of ourselves that should never have been divided – body, mind and spirit. It describes 8 limbs of the yoga philosophy – al geared towards achieving so-called ‘Elightenment’, ‘Self-Actualisation’ or ‘Perfect Unity’. I always think of this ‘Enlightenment’ or ‘Liberation’ as being that place where nothing can really get to you anymore. You get to that realization that you are not ‘of this world’. You are here to experience life – and everything on your path is here to teach you something to bring you closer to that perfect place of peace and harmony. We ultimately are a spiritual beings – created in the image of God. The true and lasting peace and freedom that comes from knowing and owning that – is Enlightenment and Liberation. But I digress….

Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga provide a set of guidelines and a chronological process of stages or levels to master on the path to ‘Enlightenment’ (I use the term ‘enlightenment but you can substitute for what suits your belief system – perhaps peace, ultimate love etc). Many of what is contained in the sutras are contained in different religions and so should resonate with people from different backgrounds. Hence Yoga being such an inclusive practice, with space and acceptance for people no matter what their beliefs or backgrounds.

1. The Yamas – these are guidelines about our ethical standards and sense of integrity and how we conduct ourselves in our lives. Simply put it implies the Golden Rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. They are:

  • Ahimsa: non – violence to yourself (self-hatred, low self-esteem, putting up with less than you deserve, putting harmful substances in your body) or to others (incl animals)
  • Satya: truthfulness to self and others
  • Asteya: non-stealing (stealing in all its forms as we learn from the bible and other religious texts)
  • Brahmacharya: continence (exercising sexual restraint and self-control in her senses of the word too)
  • Aparigraha: non-covetousness (not excessively desiring something belonging to others)
2. The Niyamas – Guidelines around self-discipline and spiritual observances. It relates more to the ‘do’s of personal conduct, lifestyle and diet. Examples of Niyamas in practice will be attending temples or church services, having a personal meditation practice, establishing a habit of taking long contemplative walks, creating space for spiritual time and learning. The five Niyamas are:

  • Saucha: cleanliness in body and mind
  • Samtosa: contentment – being at ease with what is. Knowing things are perfect as they are – you have enough, you are enough, you’re good enough. Being grateful enhances contentment.
  • Tapas: Heat; spiritual austerities – this may include spiritual practices such as fasting or whatever is appropriate to you. Tapas literally means ‘ to be strong enough not to be affected by opposites, such as heat and cold and many sees it as discipline determination and grit – perhaps pushing through a difficult asana. However, A better way to understand tapas is to think of it as consistency in striving toward your goals: getting on the yoga mat every day, sitting on the meditation cushion every day-or forgiving your mate or your child for the 10,000th time. If you think of tapas in this vein, it becomes a more subtle but more constant practice, a practice concerned with the quality of life and relationships rather than focused on whether you can grit your teeth through another few seconds in a difficult asana.
  • Svadhyaya: study of sacred scriptures and of one’s self. Dedication in whichever spiritual path or religion you follow. Studying and becoming famillar with what you are committed to.
  • Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender to your God. This niyama shifts our focus and attention away from ‘I’ and all the distractions that come with the ego. It implies surrendering and receiving the grace and beauty of being alive and connected to out Source. It goes beyond surrender in the darkest depths of despair when there is nothing else left to do and we have hit rock bottom. Instead it is an ongoing consistent practice of getting out of our minds and letting go of our egos, and just connecting, and loving being connected to God.
3. Asana – the physical element of Yoga to keep the body strong active and toned – and preparing the mind for the later stages. The body is seen as the home of our spirit (My body is my temple). It is therefore an essential part of Spiritual Growth to learn to love and care for the body that so honourably houses your spirit. Through the practice of asanas we also develop discipline and concentration necessary for meditation.

4. Pranayama – developing control over the basic and vital life force – breathing. Yogis believe that this kind of breathwork not only rejuvenates and revives us, but it actually extends life.

The first four limbs focuses on us working on our personalities, and mastering our body and breath in preparation for the second four limbs which focus on higher level functions such as the senses, the mind and a higher level of consciousness.

5. Pratyahara – developing control over the five senses . It implies the practice of withdrawing the senses and completely turning the focus inwards. It creates an opportunity to observe ourselves from the outside in. We may begin to be able to notice habits, cravings etc that may not be good for us or be detrimental to our physical or emotional health. These will interfere with our inner growth and development and so are worth observing and addressing.

6. Dharana – bringing the mind to a single point of focus. This involves being able to concentrate on just one thing, i.e. bringing your monkey mind back again…and again…and again…and again….In the practice of Pratyhara we have effectively relieved ourselves of outside distractions and now the task is to relieve ourselves of the interference of the mind. A very difficult task indeed! In order to achieve this we turn our focus to either a specific energetic centre in the body, perhaps God, perhaps you will focus on the silent repetition of a sound. This ultimately prepares us and leads us into meditation – the 7th limb:

7. Dyana – practicing meditation and connecting with your spiritual self. This stage differs from Dharana as it involves being very much aware – but not having a single point of focus. Someone once said that you will find God in the space between your thoughts. During meditation you are working to lengthen the space between thoughts. Connecting to your true self as a spiritual being – to God without the disruptions of your mind, without the need for anything in return. A simple state of being in complete stillness, yet completely aware.

8. Samadhi – This limb is described as Enlightenment/Liberation and also in some texts as Ecstasy. It is the stage where the yogi transcends the self and realizes his interconnectedness with everything else around him. The completion of the yogic path really brings what we experience as perfect peace. No more analysing or rationalizing. No noise in your mind or in your body. No tension within yourself or between you and the word around you because you appreciate and acknowledge we are all one.

My Yoga

The eight limbs of Yoga encapsulate what the yoga philosophy is about and points as much to a journey as anything else in yoga ever does. It’s not just about the postures here – as you can see. Yoga takes you on a journey to peace. It can fit into any spiritual practice of your own and set you on a path of discipline and devotion – a path that leads to peace.

A yoga practice will give you endlessly more than a physical workout. You can adopt one, none or several elements of its philosophy – adjust it to suit your spiritual needs and background. There are no rules in yoga. No judgment about doing it right. There is no end goal other than achieving your own personal peace. No one to tell you are doing it right or wrong. Yoga is yours….and it is everyone’s.

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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?