Archive of ‘Yoga Practice’ category

Peaceful Weight Loss in July

Focus on what foods you need to eat to feel healthy, energetic, and mentally clear. Until this happens, the benefit from eliminating “bad” foods will not be realized.

A recent conversation with a client of mine:

C: “I had sweets in the house and I knew I shouldn’t eat them – but I did. Then the next day, I ate them for breakfast.”
Me: “ You mean at breakfast? What else did you eat?”
C:” No, I ate them for breakfast.”
Me: “Did you feel nourished?”
C: “ No, I felt bad. I ate cake.”
Me: “Physically bad?”
C: “Yes, I had eaten cake, and afterwards I felt so guilty.”

This isn’t uncommon. We judge ourselves for the “bad” food we’ve eaten for breakfast. What is interesting is that she didn’t see any problem with the lack of nourishment—only the “bad” food she’d eaten.

In my view, the real problem is the lack of giving herself any of the food she actually needed. A bit of cake for dessert is probably not a big deal, if she had eaten her usual eggs and toast.

Changing your view in this way is invaluable on your road to optimal weight. Focus on what foods you need to eat to feel healthy, energetic, and mentally clear. Until this happens, the benefit from eliminating “bad” foods will not be realized.

Do yourself the favor of having a baseline diet of nourishing foods, and what is “bad” for you will become unbelievably clear.

Levels of Change

There are many ways to approach weight loss. From one point of view it is a simple mathematical equation—less food = less weight. Eat a bit less than you need to sustain your weight and the pounds will come off. This is, of course, true. We know it because we have dieted and then seen the results. Most likely, though, the pounds didn’t stay off. We went back to our old way of being and ended up back where we started.

Another way to see our condition is to look down one layer below our physical to our energetic system. A simple way to conceptualize this is to see the energetic system as the part of you that makes you feel aware and energized in your body. When this system is in shape, one is able to bring attention to any part of the body and feel its “aliveness.” A sense of feeling, instead of a sense of dead weight. If this is difficult, then it is possible that your energetic system needs a bit of work.

Why bother? Because when this system is running properly, the body feels better—when the body feels better, the mind feels calmer. When the mind is calmer, it doesn’t send confusing weight-gaining signals to the body. Basically, a well-functioning energetic system immediately creates harmony in the physical body. Once this harmony is achieved, the actions needed to make weight loss happen become obvious and easeful. Working at this level makes the discipline of losing weight less stressful. In other words, once you set the stage by tuning your energetic body, the weight loss becomes just a final integration—an aligning of the physical with the energetic.

Do how do we tune the energetic? The regular practice of asana in a way that leaves you relaxed and energized is a great path. Combining breath and movement in any way will do the job as long as it has the result of lowering your stress levels and increasing your ability to enjoy and be aware of the here and now.

Try this simple version of mountain pose. Stand feet hip width apart and bring your arms up alongside your ears as you inhale. On the exhalation, arms back down to your sides. Make sure that you are moving with your breath so that the breath is longer than your movement. Do 12 breaths of these twice a day and see if you are more sensitive and aware of your body when you are done.

As always, email me with questions or comments.

May we all realize we are nourished and cared for.

Peaceful Weight Loss in May

Be present, be present, be present.

We see and hear this often in self-help books and spiritual literature. For most of us, this isn’t enough—we need to “do” something—take some sort of action, or progress toward a goal. So the question becomes: WHY should I be present, and to WHAT?

Shifting our awareness to the present allows change to begin. A present-centered mind sheds anxiety and extra thoughts quickly and easily. This mental state then is transferred to the body, giving us physical comfort. Feeling satisfied in this way, we are not driven to other means of satisfaction—like eating. As we spend more and more time in this place, it becomes (surprisingly) obvious that this state is available to us at all times. We simply need to relax away from our conditioned behavior of not being present.

So, how does one move into the present moment? Watching the breath is a good method—observing the movement of the abdomen and ribcage—they expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Observing this automatic movement brings us into a state of rest and relaxation. Our nervous system shifts into a lower gear as we feel the world breathing us. We are reminded that in many ways we have no choice but to go with the flow.

Another useful method is to feel sensation against your skin. The keys under your fingertips or the pen in your hands. Feeling our feet on the floor for even 15 seconds a day is enough to make an impact. Feel your feet as you walk down the street and notice if the experience changes for you.

Presence is addictive and contagious, because it is at the very root of our nature. We are always (although often in a misguided manner) looking for it. We stay up late—eat too much—strive too hard—and forget to do what comes naturally to us—all to feel what simple presence to breath or sensation quickly retrieves for us.

For few weeks, experiment with these simple techniques and see if you experience a shift in your level of contentment.

As always, email me with comments and questions.

May we all be free and happy.


I had the good fortune to take a yoga class with a fantastic teacher recently. He suggested that our asana practice was there not to change us, but to make us more comfortable with ourselves. To help our minds accept our present situation and relax into it. From this place, things do happen – things do change – maybe not as fast as we wish they would, but they do.

So I pose this question to you: Are you practicing in a way that will allow change to happen TO you, or are you struggling to make change happen? Are you finding a way to move and breathe in the morning as a simple expression of being an alive human being in a body? Or are you demanding that exercise be struggle? Bottom line – are you in your own way?

If the answer is yes – you are not alone. We all get in our own way – our silly minds are always involved in the mischief of making our lives harder. As we become more aware of it, however, this behavior lessens, and a feeling of ease and contentment moves to the foreground.

A daily yoga practice with this in mind is key to letting this happen for you. Having a time during your day when you move, breathe, and accept yourself is a perfect way to slow the mischievous mind down. We see immediate shifts in our consciousness, as evidenced by a general sense of well-being – an ability to physically move more easily – a lessening of urgency in all things, including eating.

Next time you step to your yoga mat, allow yourself to relax into your practice – notice when you are mentally in your own way – and laugh at yourself, knowing that is your only obstacle today!

Need help adjusting your practice? Email me at
May we all be happy, relaxed, free, and in love.

Desire vs. Craving

Desire occurs naturally in our lives. It is an expression of our infinite creativity and energy. When we relax and let go, we can be swept along by this desire, and life feels effortless. Every day we move about our lives like this. We sleep when we are tired—we pause for a minute to stretch to release tension in a muscle—we find ourselves hungry and therefore we eat.

We move into craving when we fight or pervert our natural state—instead of letting go and doing what comes naturally to us. We ignore our desire to go to bed because a craving has arisen to stay up—despite the fact that there is no reason to stay up. We may find it hard to “motivate” to do yoga practice, but as we relax and fully engage into the present moment, the natural desire emerges to release tension in our bodies. Food cravings send us to the store to buy chips we don’t even enjoy, when our desire is to eat simple foods that we enjoy—or perhaps our desire is to not be alone.

Yoga is designed to help us release into our natural state so that our desires become obvious. To practice is to follow the flow of these desires without confusing them with cravings. We know our yoga practice is going well when we feel that our life requires less effort. Flowing with our desires expands our energy, while cravings seem to exhaust us.

We all have limited amounts of craving and unlimited desire. Keep your practice simple and joyful. This will allow desire to flow through you, and cravings to begin to diminish. May our food cravings fall away effortlessly and our true paths open up before us.

Thinking Holistically

As human beings with brains, we have the tendency to be reductionist. “This chocolate will make me fat” or “I ate too much today—I’m going to gain weight” or “Carbs go right to my thighs.”

While pinpointing individual aspects of our behavior can sometimes be useful, stepping back and looking at the bigger picture is more likely to yield an “Aha!” moment.

Yoga practice encourages us to back away from these reductionist thoughts and relax our mind—from this place wisdom emerges, showing us our larger patterns of disharmony, so that we may allow them to correct themselves.

The practice of regular asana with relaxed full breathing creates a shift in consciousness. A mental spaciousness is allowed—these larger patterns begin to become obvious.

Obsessing on what not to eat gives way to holistic insights? Possibly—you realize the real issue is that you don’t give yourself enough time to sleep—you’re always tired. Or the oatmeal you’ve been eating every day for breakfast just doesn’t keep you full throughout the morning. Or your job drives you crazy and all your weight issue stem from there.

So participate fully in your daily practice and allow yourself to “step back” from your scattered thoughts. From this place insight will occur naturally—and change wil soon follow.

May we all be nourished so that we may nourish others.

Peaceful Weight Loss in January

Every year, right after New Year’s, I am caught up in a flurry of activity. People are interested in working on their New Year’s resolution—which is to lose weight and be healthier this year.

Of course, it is best if we are always as healthy as possible. But New Year’s does seem to be a good time to start something. We’ve seen our friends and family over the holidays, so this month we have fewer social obligations. At the office, sweets are not in front of us at every turn. The frantic holiday energy on the street has calmed down, allowing us to focus inward.

So how to start? A cleanse? A radical change in diet? Get up at 4 am for a three-hour workout? These measures are probably a bit extreme, and often lead to a short burst of adherence, followed by a return to old behaviors.

I suggest we all (new to this practice or not) focus on the joy in our practice.

If you are new to yoga, you are in for a treat—find a brief time (20 minutes or so) daily to do a stress-relieving practice. If done in a light, easy, not-too-serious way, you will experience great joy.

If you already practice, re-evaluate what you like about it. Go to classes or do sequences that leave you feeling energized and happy. Remember your beginner’s mind, and swim in the positive and peaceful feelings that your practice brings.

Extend this joyful practice to eating. Relish and enjoy the daily foods in your life. Take a small amount of time to contemplate how food enhances your life. Notice the complex and interesting flavors of your favorite foods. Allow the experience of eating to be fun. I was reminded of this while eating clementines recently. What sweet could be better?

If our resolutions include these joyful practices, the more challenging aspects of our lives will be balanced—and where there is balance, there is peace.

May we all be free and happy this year.

Peaceful Weight Loss in December

Yoga is compassion, love, and acceptance. In asana we accept our strengths and limitations in the pose. This attitude brings peace to our mind, body, and spirit.

With a little effort, skill, and luck, this practice extends from the yoga mat to our wider life and our interactions with the people around us. We accept our own behaviors, and the behaviors of those around us. Things get easier.

These thoughts occurred to me while eating my fifth gingerbread maple cookie at a party this weekend. It really was the best cookie I’ve had in years. I was thoroughly enjoying it. But as I looked around the room and met eyes with a weight loss client of mine, I had a sudden pang. Maybe I shouldn’t be eating this cookie? Self-doubt crept in.

It then occcured to me that the guilt was a cover-up—a pattern I’d seen before. It was easier to feel guilty than to fully embrace the moment, and enjoy my cookie! Could I just accept this moment for what it was and enjoy myself? Eat my cookie and move on? The answer was yes. I woke up the next morning and did my practice. Not an ounce heavier—physically or mentally—than the day before.

My holiday message is this: love yourself, enjoy yourself, and accept yourself. Let old habits go and enjoy the food, parties, family, shopping, etc… that are part of this season. Acknowledge that you will eat and practice a bit differently than at other times of the year. Be present, and you will know if you are practicing in a way that brings you joy and peace.

My annual charity appeal: Doctors Without Borders delivers medical care to those in need in really difficult situations. They go places where there is often no one else to help. If you can, please drop them few bucks this holiday season.

Loka samasta sukino bhavantu

May all beings be free.

Peaceful Weight Loss in November

What poses are best for weight loss? This is a question I am asked constantly. The answer is always the same: What pose or poses do you need to do to feel better?

Can it really be that simple? Yes. The foundation of our system is a practice that leaves us feeling less stressed – physically and mentally – and more energized. We are interested in “building” prana (energy). Stress reduces our energy. Forget targeting poses for weight loss – you’re on the wrong track. The mind IS the body. As we bring the mind into balance, our body naturally follows.

So, does this mean one should never do anything physically strenuous? No! In fact, that may be just the thing to bring you into balance. Discriminating between laziness and the need to take things slow and regenerate is a great point of practice.

Other times may find you reaching to do rounds and rounds of sun salutes to catch up with your sprinting mind. Ideally, your practice will change day to day, week to week, and leave you feeling peaceful and energized.

So, what poses should you do today? You tell me!

Peaceful Weight Loss in October

Dieting is restriction – Yoga is opening.

Our practice brings us into contact with the openness which is our nature. Unconscious eating is unhealthy eating. Unhealthy eating is eating in a way that restricts us. It slows us down, decreases our natural tendency toward positive contact with others. When we eat in a way that is healthy for us, we feel more in harmony with nature and those around us. Neurotic and destructive tendencies lessen. Our ability to be productive without exhaustion increases.

So it may be necessary to change the way you are currently eating to feel these results. Is this a diet? No, because once these effects are experienced, the connection between food and this openness is established. Then there is no need to restrict. Your desires will be in line with what is “good” for you.

Begin this practice today. Ask yourself: what do I really want to eat? Allow yourself to receive the answer without judgement. If it’s tomatoes – just eat tomatoes. If it’s cake – have cake. As you become more used to this practice you will be very surprised at the results.

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