Yoga Brings Out the Good in Us

No matter what time of year it is, too much hustle and bustle is not good for the soul. Time pressures, obstacles in our way, others’ expectations, and our own expectations of ourselves test our patience.

These stressors increase physical tension and fuel the flames of our tempers. We all want to be the happy and generous version of ourselves, but how can we be our best selves when the primal animal comes out?

Being calm is key, so yoga has a way to help of course! Here’s a step by step guide to try the next time you start feeling like a wild lion instead of yourself.

Continual awareness = prevention

Stopping this little lion cub before it gets a firm hold is the easiest way. The key is to recognize the signs when the cub within is still small and easier to manage.

Tuning in to your body is a simple yet effective way to monitor your feelings, as your body gives you many clues. You can see how you’re doing internally, just as a parent checks in with a young baby from time to time to make sure everything is OK.

Scan your body from head to toes to gauge which body parts are relaxed, tense, or unknown! Then mentally command the tense parts of the body to relax. This might be sufficient to tame the lion cub – but if not, you’ll want to proceed to the next step.

Breathing can do wonders

You breathe all the time, but different types of breathing can invoke different states of mind. Deep breathing is a powerful tool used in yoga to shift the balance of tension and relaxation.

Take a deep and slow breath, feel your lungs stretch up, down, side, front and back. Exhale in a slow and controlled manner. Do this with your eyes closed to really focus on the physical experience. Do this a few times; 5 times is good, 10 is even better.

Feeling better already? I knew you would.

If you were able to stay conscious of the little lion cub within you, then that’s all you need. If you need a bit more calming, keep reading.

Mind control!

Yes, you CAN control your mind. A little time, practice, and persistence are all that’s needed. Mentally repeating a simple phrase focuses the mind and eliminates negativity. This is called Japa in Sankrit.

It can be a sentence you create, a famous saying, or something in another language. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you do it.

Some examples of mantras are:

  • “I am peace, I am calm.”
  • “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
  • “Om Namah Sivaya”

These three techniques work quickly and effectively. The earlier you can catch yourself becoming tense, the easier it is to control your stress.

But if you do get angry, as we all do from time to time, you can still use these techniques. It just takes a little bit longer and a little more persistence, but it’s still as effective.

So check in with yourself throughout the day, regardless of how you feel, so you can tame that lion cub inside you. By doing so, you allow your true best self to shine through.

Embracing Life Through Forward and Backward Bends

Have you ever noticed how life pushes and pulls you forward? Sometimes it literally pulls you forward, like while doing computer work and your head ends up 5 inches in front of your shoulders!

Other times it’s more figurative, like when something bad happens but later that same door opens to reveal something great. Don’t just let life push you around, let yoga help you embrace the ups and be ready to springboard off the lows!

Forward Bends

When practicing forward bends, the body is folded over in half. If you’re quite flexible, you may find your nose near your shins, but even for those who are not flexible, you’re still looking at your legs.

Forward bending are introspective postures. In Paschimotanasana (sitting forward bend), Uttanasana (standing forward bend), Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) or any other forward bend, you are forced to look at yourself and cannot see anything else, literally!

By taking time to be introspective, to examine yourself without judgement, you can understand how you got to where you are and hopefully accept where you are now. It’s about looking at the present relative to the past.

Backward Bends

Backward bends are the opposite of forward bends, because the back extends instead of flexing forward. The spine is less flexible in this direction so the back of the head doesn’t go anywhere near the calves! The main difference from forward bending is that the chest is pushed forward from the rest of the body.

Opening up your chest to the world is not an easy thing to do. With the arms behind and the heart and throat thrust forward in a vulnerable position, there is nowhere to hide – you’re completely exposed and defenceless. It takes courage to practice the backward bends.

Some classical poses include Bhujangasana (cobra), Dhanurasana (bow), Chakrasana (wheel), or Ustrasana (camel).

In times of vulnerability, the default response is protection so you try to shield yourself – not only emotionally, but also physically. Heart-opening postures can feel impossible at that time, even if they were easy in the past. The body fights it, creating signals of discomfort and even pain to avoid these postures.

In this situation, don’t avoid back bends completely. Don’t shrink back from life. Practice slowly and gently, listening to the body and only going as far as it feels comfortable. The body will release when it’s ready – physically and emotionally.

Backward bends hold the key to facing life with an open heart and mind and with confidence. It’s about looking forward and making the blind leap from present to future. Moving forward is about taking one step at a time, even if you don’t know where the end point is, yet believing that you are worthy, and believing in yourself.

Balance in Bending is Key

It’s important to have a balanced practice, one that includes both Forward Bends and Backward Bends. If your practice is not balanced, the body soon becomes unbalanced and the mind follows after a while. To move forward, one must know where she stands now, and how far she’s already come.

Let yoga help push you to great things in life with calm and grace in the face of stress and difficulty. Use yoga to accept what you cannot change and to prepare for what you can.

Translating Yoga Postures to Real Life

Practicing yoga makes you feel good. Stretching out the body during asana practice gives you a feeling of lightness in your body.

Your mood becomes cheerful and your spirit is lifted. All these feelings last well after the practice, sometimes for a few days! That’s pretty awesome.

Yoga has lots of other benefits, so let’s look at one specific posture that can easily affect many areas of your everyday life.

Practice yoga all the time without anyone noticing

Practicing yoga can extend beyond the amount of time you’re on your yoga mat. Whenever you’re waiting around, it is possible to practice yoga. Don’t worry about feeling self-conscious because no one will know you’re doing it. You’ll improve your posture and feel good. It’s as easy as Standing Tadasana (mountain pose).

So many benefits from just one asana

Obviously, good posture impacts the physical body. Your body becomes more balanced. Less effort is used to hold the body upright. Excess tension can be reduced. The organs are able to function better, and overall energy in the body is less blocked so it can flow freely.

Within just two minutes of standing in a good posture, our physiological state is affected. Chemicals in the body begin to change; the stress hormone, cortisol, reduces and testosterone increases. This translates to lowered stress levels and increased feelings of “I can do it.”

Good posture also has a big impact on us mentally. Stand with your chest open, shoulders rolled down and back, chest slightly lifted and facial muscles relaxed. Do you feel a little more confident already? You probably also feel ready to take on more challenges.

Every aspect of ourselves is affected by posture, including our emotions. Scientific studies have shown that standing or sitting upright is linked to feelings of positivity. On the other hand, slouching is linked to feelings of hopelessness and overall negativity. You can influence your general outlook on life just by changing your posture!

Practice every day and let the benefits come

With all these near-instant changes to your body, mind, and spirit, be vigilant of your posture and adjust it whenever you notice yourself falling back into poor posture.

There are many different variations on Tadasana, but keeping it simple is best. Stand equally on both feet while aligning the body so each part is stacked on top of the part below it. If you’re sitting, you can still practice it by placing both feet flat on the ground hip width apart and rest your weight evenly on the sit bones. Lift up from the very top of the head and relax everything below, especially the shoulders. “Tada” — you’re in Tadasana!

Practicing Yoga with Eight Limbs

Do people often ask you what style of yoga you do? This question is an opportunity to remind yourself that practicing yoga can be more than just yoga asanas. The original Ashtanga Yoga, also known as the Eight Limbs of Yoga, is a great way to dive into your yoga practice.

The Ashtanga are a core element of the yogic path, but with so much focus nowadays surrounding physical postures, it can be easy to lose sight of the spiritual parts of the practice.

Why Follow the Ashtanga?

Maybe you practice yoga as a means to increase your flexibility or to decrease stress. So what is all this philosophy, this spiritual path? Practising asanas is getting to know yourself — if you only want to practice asana, then go for it! Maybe you’ll want to go deeper into the spiritual aspects later, or maybe not. Do what is right for you based on where you are now. That is self-awareness.

A Quick Review

Famously described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, Ashtanga is Sanskrit for eight limbs. Following these Ashtanga is the path to attain physical, emotional, ethical, and spiritual well-being. The Ashtanga doesn’t conflict with religious beliefs; in fact it complements religious practices.

The Eight Limbs are:

  • Yama – universal moralities / ethics
  • Niyama – personal disciplines / observances
  • Asana – bodily exercise / postures
  • Pranayama – regulation of prana via breath (breathing exercises)
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal / sense control
  • Dharana – concentration
  • Dhyana – meditation
  • Samadhi – blissful union

Despite sometimes being called the Eight Steps to Yoga, the first seven pillars are practiced simultaneously with the end result being Samadhi.

A common path nowadays starts with the physical Asana and Pranayama. Then come Yama and Niyama, the two pillars relating to personal behaviours. Finally there are the three pillars relating to meditation — Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana.

Tips on Living the Ashtanga

As with any philosophy or way of life, it’s easy to read, write, or talk about it; it’s a challenge to live it each day. Remember that the Limbs of Yoga are guidelines, and you’ll feel good following it because it helps you live a righteous and peaceful life.

Think about the Ashtanga each day. If you’re starting out, try just giving a moment to think about the Limbs each day. Post them up in your bathroom and read it while you brush your teeth, or on the fridge so you see it before you dive into a meal. This gentle subconscious messaging helps prime the mind.

Do a little bit each day. If you already have a practice of meditation, yoga asanas or pranayama, increase it to a daily effort, even if it’s just a short practice. Just a little bit each day helps to get things going.

As for the Yamas and Niyamas, there are five Yamas and another five Niyamas. Try focusing on one characteristic a week, then choose another the next week. Keeping things to manageable proportions will allow these habits to grow organically. After you’ve gone through all ten, start back at the beginning or try doing two at a time.

This spiritual journey is neither easy nor short. It might take many lifetimes, so go slow and steady. Develop habits you can maintain over the long term. With perseverance, you’ll reap the benefits one day of the Ashtanga — blissful union of the soul.

Find Your Motivation for Yoga Again

You feel awesome after yoga class – calm, peaceful, and aglow with positive vibes. You try to keep that feeling just a little longer until it fades away.

Then, your body signals that it’s time to practice again. You know you should keep repeating this process, but taking time to practice yoga isn’t always easy.

There are work emergencies, familial obligations, can’t miss events, or your comfy bed when you’re dead tired; time and time again, something seemingly urgent pulls you away from your yoga mat, even though practising yoga is exactly what you need. Here are a few ways to help:

Bathe in Positive Energy

Ever notice how practising at a yoga studio is so much easier than rolling out the mat at home? That’s because each person practicing in that room contributes energy that is uplifting, positive, and motivating. The negativity and stress melts away naturally. The room itself absorbs positive energy as well, adding to that feeling.

Next time you’re not motivated to practice, head to your favourite yoga studio for a nice relaxing session. To make sure there’s no excuse not to go, stash any gear you might need at your workplace or in the car so there’s never an excuse!

Write it down!

You think that you practice yoga regularly. But do you practice as often as you think you do? The last time you practiced was not as recent as you think it was. The only way to really know is to write it down.

Use the old fashioned pen and paper, an electronic calendar, or a snazzy app to keep track of your activities. By recording it, you can look back and motivate yourself to get back at it if you’ve fallen off. Crossing yoga off your “to-do” list is simple yet so satisfying. You might even end up practicing just to be able to tick it off!

Set SMART Goals

You might talk to your manager or supervisor about your goals and performance at work each year. Doing your evaluation is neither quick nor fun, but it’s an important way to focus on how much you’ve achieved (or haven’t achieved) over the past year.

What about setting periodic goals in your personal life? A regular evaluation of those goals can have a huge impact on your personal growth. A few minutes is all you need. Try making SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound.

Maybe your new short term goal is to increase your yoga practice from once a week to twice a week for the next 30 days to help improve your health. This is a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound goal — how SMART of you!

Life gets busy, but taking time to nurture your own mental, emotional and physical health through yoga is one of the most important things you can do. Time usually isn’t a real factor; we can all make time by reworking our priorities.

Set your intentions by creating and working towards SMART goals in your personal life. Track your activities so you can see progress and course correct if necessary. And take baby steps, like creating a yoga practice habit with a group before trying to do it on your own. You can do it!

Yoga’s Incredible Benefits

You know yoga is good for you; you’ve probably felt some of these benefits already. Some benefits are obvious, but there’s lots of other perks to yoga which you might not yet know about.

New to Yoga?

If you just started to practice yoga or don’t do it very much, the benefits are very different from someone who has been doing it for a while. Doing any new physical activity will increase body awareness but this is especially integral in yoga.

Increases in strength and flexibility, decreases in stress and muscle tension, and improved sleep begin to emerge shortly after starting yoga. It’s the first step in tuning in, not only to the outer parts of the body like the muscles, but also to the internal organs.

Increasing Benefits

As you increase the frequency and length of your yoga practice, the benefits start to build quickly. Practising every day is a great goal to strive toward. Feeling more balanced and in touch with your inner self are all part of the harmonizing effects of yoga.

Body awareness continues to build and self-awareness increases. You may be able to react more calmly in stressful situations as you become more sensitive to others around you.

Don’t Forget the Limbs!

If you only practice asanas, you’re missing out on much of what yoga can give you. Some people think yoga is just asanas but there’s much more. Yoga has 8 pillars called Ashtanga (or “the 8 Limbs of Yoga”). The pillars are: Yamas (ethics), Niyamas (observances), Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara (withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi.

Introduce pranayama to the beginning of each asana practice. End your practice with a short 5-10 minute meditation. You’ll notice a world of a difference after just a few short sessions of these new additions.

A complete hatha yoga practice includes asanas, pranayama and meditation. Your mind will be sharper; your concentration will be much stronger in your daily life; your energy becomes balanced. Pranayama and meditation will become your day’s highlight. It’s a beautiful change to your practice.

Unexpected Benefits of Yoga

The other pillars of the Ashtanga are important to the rest of your day. The Yamas and Niyamas are a guidance to live a life full of harmony, beauty, peace and contentment. Slowly incorporate this into your everyday life — it’s deeply personal so do it as much as you feel comfortable.

As you incorporate more yoga into your life, you’ll be amazed at the incredible positive changes. Life becomes an exquisite dance: beauty appears at every corner, difficult times become treasured learning experiences, the universe begins to flow and align.

For those who haven’t experienced them yet, the benefits of yoga can be hard to believe. But yoga is an experience. It’s not something you can understand second hand — you simply need to do it. Do it and you will experience it and believe it, and then there’s no going back.

Let Yoga Guide Your Decision Making

You make thousands of decisions each day. Some sources say that adults make 35,000 decisions a day!

Is your decision making leading you where you want to be? Are you content with your choices or do you sometimes feel regret? You know yoga teaches lots of different life lessons, so let yoga help you make decisions and give you a content and fulfilled life.

Risky choices won’t seem as daunting

Some decisions may require serious analysis and reflection as they may impact our lives and those around us. It usually involves some type of risk, like whether to quit a job, move to another country, or make a leap with someone special. When big questions are in front of us, you might make a list of pros and cons, consult with friends and family, minimize regret, or even flip a coin!

Yoga teaches us that the knowledge and wisdom required for this life are already inherent in ourselves. But, to use this inherent wisdom, we need to: 1) see the wisdom within ourselves; and 2) trust in that wisdom to follow through.

Use the wisdom within

Seeing the wisdom within ourselves is fairly simple. It’s about quieting down the chatter in the mind so you can hear that wisdom. Meditation is a very effective way of quieting down this chatter and removing doubt and fear. You probably won’t get an instant decision the next time you meditate, but taking the time to meditate allows the truth within ourselves to sing through the noise and negativity.

In times of stress, you’ve likely veered away from your practice. As the 16th century saying from St. Francis de Sales goes, “Half an hour’s meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.” Take a little time each day to calm the mind, meditate, and get back to your wisdom.

Trust your gut

Trusting in yourself to actually use that wisdom is within reach — it’s just a matter of practice. By trusting yourself and your intuition, experiencing the consequences, and realizing that you made the right choice, you’ll strengthen this muscle. It’s not easy to trust in your feelings because we’re so programmed to think instead of feel.

Try it with small decisions, like the next time you begin to feel hungry — scan your body, internal organs, taste buds. What do they say? Try not to use your mind, only use your senses and feelings. Your body will know what is best for you to nourish and satisfy without feeling heavy or sluggish afterwards.

Practicing yoga asanas helps you get more in touch with your body and increases your self-awareness. The more you strengthen this “trust and intuition muscle”, the more comfortable you will be to use it at important times.

Making decisions can sometimes be scary, especially when the consequences of making a decision are life impacting. Knowing that you have the answers within to make the right decision will provide comfort in times of unrest. Keep strong in your yoga and meditation practice, especially in times of stress, and let your yoga practice extend beyond your yoga mat into your everyday life.

Aging Gracefully with Yoga

Ever noticed how people who practice yoga seem to glow? They’re not models but there’s a beauty there that’s not just great lighting or digital enhancement. On average, people who practice yoga are fitter, healthier, less stressed, more contented with life, and look younger – that is not a coincidence.

Physical Fitness

Practicing yoga asanas increases fitness levels in many ways. The heart and lungs receive a cardio workout with vigorous repetition of sun salutations. The muscles in the body are conditioned through the use of one’s own body weight – think how your arms and legs felt when you sat back in Utkatasana (chair pose).

Body composition improves as the muscles become toned and body fat decreases. Flexibility naturally increases, and balance is developed in all poses, from seemingly simple poses like Tadasana (mountain pose) and Padahastasana (standing forward bend) to the much more challenging Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (handstand) and Niralamba Sirasanasa (headstand with no arm support!).

Most poses can be held easily for a few seconds, but yoga asanas are meant to be held for a period of time. Any pose held for a few minutes or longer automatically increases stamina as easier poses becomes difficult and challenging poses become even more so.

Slow Down the Aging Process

Meditation is a big part of hatha yoga. The good news is that you don’t need to meditate for hours on end each day to reap these benefits. Scientific studies show 20 minutes a day is required but some people report they feel even 5 minutes daily does the trick.

Meditation helps slow down the rate of decay in cells in the whole body, including the brain. This means meditation can help you stay sharp longer and the body ages slower.

An active form of meditation is mindfulness, so it’s possible to be in a meditative state while you go about your day. You’ve experienced how your awareness increasing during meditation. Your senses become heightened. Your thoughts, feelings, and intuition become stronger.

Picture being aware each time your eyebrows furrow so you can actively release it, changing your body language. Or imagine knowing when an emotional trigger point is coming near so you can diffuse it before it explodes into anger.

Meditating and being mindful throughout the day is a crucial way to maintain harmony and peace in the body and mind. Stress becomes manageable and your immune system can stay strong to fight disease instead of excess stress and negativity.

When yoga is an integral part of your day and your outlook, it is an indispensable tool. You’ll have more energy, you’ll feel confident, you’ll be content, and you’ll be able to manage any negativity that comes your way. You’ll be healthier and look great as time passes as you’ll be living with gratitude and joy.

And that special “yoga glow”? That’s your inner beauty radiating out to the world!

The Ancient Yogic Secret of the Three Gunas

Through yoga practice, we strive toward self-actualization or enlightenment to live a calm and centred life. One way to do this is to harness “the Gunas” — a simple framework which can help in decision making and progressing forward.

The Gunas are concepts which originate from the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient sacred text, and describe the qualities of nature. Everything in nature is made up of the elements (earth, fire, water, air, ether) in varying proportions, just as everything in nature also has the Gunas in varying proportions.

The 3 Gunas are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Some may think one Guna is better than another, but you should not think of them as good or bad because there is a need for each of the qualities – similar to the elements of nature.

While the Gunas may seem too theoretical for daily life, practical benefits can accrue when we balance the Tamas and Rajas and increase Sattva through our thoughts and behaviours.


Tamas is darkness, lethargy, and inertia; it can be caused by subtle things such as over or under sleeping, negative thinking, social isolation, lack of exercise, sunlight, and fresh air. Fear, worry, depression, indifference, and negativity are manifestations of Tamas.

Stale, over/under-ripe, processed, deep fried foods, alcohol, and meat are examples of Tamasic food as they are not as beneficial for the body when compared to Sattvic food. Overindulging in any type of food will make it Tamasic. Tamas is important to the balance of life, without Tamas sleep and rest would never come.


Rajas describes action, movement, and change and can occur in both body and mind. Someone who is very energetic and not able to sit still is Rajasic, as is someone who meditates with a racing mind. Fiery thoughts, a quick temper, impatience, and competitiveness are traits of Rajas.

Rajasic food will cause the eater to be Rajasic in the mind or body – think how you felt the last time you ate excessively spicy, sweet or salty food!

A Rajasic nature shouldn’t be viewed negatively since action is necessary for things to get done. Adding Rajas to your life can help when Tamas is too prevalent in your life.


In its most basic form, Sattva is purity and cleanliness. Being optimistic, being content, having kind and loving thoughts, acting in a selfless manner, and reflecting what needs to be done and carrying it out in a calm manner are examples of Sattvic thoughts and behaviours.

Fresh, healthy, easy to digest, tasty food eaten in a quantity which satiates the body without over-indulging can help increase Sattva.

If there is too much Rajas in your life, it can be transformed to a Sattva nature by re-examining your intentions and being selfless in your actions.

Moving toward Sattva

In addition to observing and changing our thoughts and behaviours, there are other things which move us toward a more Sattvic way of life. One is to keep a balanced yoga practice through the 5 Points of Yoga: relaxation, breathing, asana, diet, positive thinking and meditation.

Practicing yoga holistically helps to overcome the inertia of Tamas, still the commotion from Rajas, and bring the body and mind into a Sattvic state. With a regular yoga practice, peace and calm slowly floods every part of your life, subtly changing not only your body but also your personality, emotions, and mental state.

Practicing Yoga with Loved Ones

Most people probably don’t think practicing yoga can bring people together; however, yoga is a great way to unite people you love and care about through shared experiences.

Positively charge your energy with others

Practicing yoga asanas on your own is an essential part of one’s journey as it’s a deeply personal experience. Solitary practice allows you to fully immerse into your body and hold each pose as long as your body needs.

At the same time, doing asanas with others has its own merits. The energy in the room becomes positively charged and the common intention uplifts the space. This energy is a great way to revitalize and strengthen your own practice.

When your motivation wanes and it’s difficult to get on your yoga mat, try it with someone you care about. You’ll motivate each other and help each other feel good.

It doesn’t matter if you’re at different levels, being together allows you to exchange energies and bring you closer together. If you don’t have someone to practice with, find a group class to reap similar benefits.

A Moment of Bliss

You may have already experienced how great it feels to meditate for just a few minutes. If you haven’t felt this before, try it now for a few minutes. Sit straight but comfortably with your eyes closed, breathing at your normal pace. Relax the body and let your mind focus on the present moment, not thinking of the past or the future. Simply be.

Don’t you feel great? Just think how powerful it would be to meditate in a room filled with people you love. If they’re open to it, you can repeat a mantra, meditate for a few minutes or chant together. It’s an especially wonderful feeling to share this experience.

Yummy Ideas

Perhaps your loved ones are not keen on trying yoga asanas or meditation. A gentle way of sharing your yoga practice is by sharing a meal which is in line with yogic philosophy. While you’re at it, you might even engage your fellow diners in conversations about yoga philosophy.

You’d be hard pressed to think of someone who doesn’t take pleasure in a good conversation while enjoying a delicious meal. It’s also a great chance to spend quality time with someone you love over a romantic candlelight dinner or to gather a larger group of friends and family around a table. Share your thoughts, opinions, and cooking skills with some special people in your life.

For your friends and family who are meat eaters, this is an opportunity to gently introduce them to a tasty and nourishing yet vegetarian meal. Here you can spark interesting conversation which relates to yogic philosophy without them knowing it! Ask if they believe in past lives or if they’ve ever had an out of body experience. If you’re not afraid of controversy, try vegetarianism or deeper spiritual matters.

Don’t be afraid; trying new experiences in a group setting is a great way to bring people closer together. Sharing your yoga practice in different ways helps your loved ones to get to know you and understand you better.

Who knows, perhaps they may like it and will join you in your next asana practice, meditation session, or vegetarian meal. Sharing is an easy and selfless way to uplift your own practice.