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So what is yoga life coaching? Let's begin by tackling each one separately.

What is yoga? Yoga is much more than just a practice on a mat (don't worry, I'm guilty of this initial assumption as well). Basically speaking, yoga is a group of spiritual, mental, and physical practices that were developed centuries ago in ancient India to alter bad mental habits to become happier; and yes, I placed these different practices in order of importance. Yoga as we know of today is largely focused on the physical aspect, but is actually the least important part. Yogic philosophy is largely rooted in the concept of developing mindfulness and learning to live in the present moment. This means being aware and completely engaged in what is going on around you, but also at what is going on inside your head. By becoming more mindful of the quality of your thoughts, you can recognize the negative ones and change their context or choose to not engage in them, suffering less and become happier. Mindfulness equals less thinking and more experiencing; yoga classes just provide an opportunity to practice in a safe, loving space. Mindfulness has many more benefits beyond catching your thoughts and I strongly encourage you to learn more and adopt your own practice.

Ok, back on point... what is a life coach? A life coach has commonly been used by business leaders, professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, etc, to gain insight and motivation to take their lives, careers, or businesses to the next level. A quick session with a life coach can put you in a place of endless energy and motivation to propel you to take your life where you want it and can help anyone and everyone gain more satisfaction with what they choose to do day in and day out. Ultimately, life coaches help their clients recognize their dreams, refocus their goals, and move beyond obstacles to reach their ideal life. This is normally done by sitting down, discussing goals, and doing "homework" to help you reach your goals all with the support of your coach along the way. So what if you feel stuck and don't necessarily know what your "goals" are? Or what if your goals are misguided?

Here is where yoga life coaching comes in. It's different then traditional life coaching in that the aim is to have a purposeful, powerful conversation about this present moment, with your coach guiding you to articulate your own dreams and desires through questions and attentive listening. You are well equipped to have your perfect life and only you are capable of know and achieving it, a yoga life coach just helps you realize it. Yoga life coaching offers tools to practice presence every day, providing clarity to your dreams which you can translate into plans and execute. So often we are troubled by our past or scared of the future, both yoga and yoga life coaching help us focus on the present so we may see what we really want. Yoga life coaching is really just mindful coaching; reminding you that at this present moment, you do have control of your life and your are fully capable of achieving what you desire.

Life coaching and yoga compliment each other very well, and it is a natural progression to combine the two. Both offer support and encouragement to develop self-awareness, conscious living, and becoming happier by fostering what's already within us. Some common values resonate for both yoga practitioners and coaches alike:

Oneness: Many are driven to pursue their desires at whatever cost due to exaggerated individualism and materialism, and this actually is not a good strategy when pursuing personal happiness. Stable, lasting happiness doesn't come from the outside, but comes from your thoughts, perspective, and actions. Oneness is the understanding that everyone and everything is connected with the same energy and should be recognized when deciding how you treat yourself and others. Oneness in action is taking the time to appreciate the present moment, taking it for what it is, not what your ego wants or chooses it to be, and then acting responsibly, with integrity.

Truth: Truthfulness is one of the foundational principles of yoga and is a way to live wholly and completely with yourself and others. On a basic level, it means be honest, living in alignment with your truest, highest ideals. With that said, blind honesty is not healthy either. A balance needs to be made between being honest and choosing not to be hurtful, another foundational principle.

Alignment: When thinking of alignment, we often think of the cues that are given in a yoga class to get you safely and correctly into a pose. Listening to these alignment cues is important because they help you find how your body sits in each pose, because every body looks different in each one. There is not a correct "vision" for each pose, just safe alignments. Alignment can also be found internally by looking at your desires, thoughts, and actions. This is more difficult and takes a lot of self-awareness or an outside perspective to realize. We are aligned if our actions, thoughts and desires are working towards the same goal and are misaligned if we are dishonest or untrue with yourself or others. Working towards living both physically and emotionally aligned should be a daily practice because when you’re aligned, you are living freer and are ready and capable for anything.

Love: Unconditional love, for yourself and for others, is created by practicing  loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and contentment. When you live your life with the intention of unconditional love, a sense of peace and openness is experienced within. From this calm, you can find your true self and operate more in alignment with your desires. When you react callously, inner disturbance is the result. We all desire love and acceptance, and can generally extend it towards others, but few can honestly offer unconditional love to themselves. If we cannot love and accept ourselves, we will find it difficult to recognize and receive that love from someone else. To begin to accept and unconditionally love ourselves, we need to become honest, working towards internal alignment and send ourselves love and compassion in all circumstances.

Even though these common values are listed individually, it is easy to see how they are all interconnected and feed off each other; when one area grows stronger, so do the others. As these values become stronger and more practiced in your day to day life, it will feed into everything, improving your life and your relationships. The positive benefits gained from a more mindful, "yogic" life can be limitless, but often it can be difficult to pull back the curtain and see that you are living misaligned. Yoga life coaching offers the opportunity for such a perspective, because a yoga life coach has no agenda and no bias in regards to your life. A yoga life coach understands that only you have the ability to recognize your desires and only you know what your end goal is. Their only role is guide you towards realizing different perspectives through questions and openly, unconditionally listen to you so that you may see a different perspective and transform your life.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Mindfulness in a nutshell is a state of focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting without judgement one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. We often let our thoughts wander, settling on the past or the future, which creates tension in the body and mind. The present moment is the only moment in time that we have a choice or control over anything. Spending energy on the past, which has already happened, or the future, which has not yet happened, creates tension which leads to anxiety, worry, a sense of urgency, anguish; our thoughts lead to adventitious suffering. Adventitious suffering is the pain of what was, what will be, what could be, or what someone else is experiencing. Contrary to any physical ailments, adventitious suffering is purely due to our thoughts and is completely in our control. Practicing mindfulness helps you experience the present moment more fully, not suffering in mental senarios that are outside of your control.

Buddhists reasoned that our default mode is to suffer, but only out of ignorance, and we can rise beyond this by learning to quiet our mind, letting go of bad mental habits, and choosing to live with our focus fully on the present. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness. Happiness is not the result of external circumstances, but on where we place our energies, where we let our thoughts go. True, lasting happiness can only come from freeing ourselves of our mind so we can see the world as it truly is, and mindfulness has the key.

Here is a fantastic TED talk by Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness expert, on the benefits of mindfulness and how little time, with the right guidance, is required to incorporate mindfulness into your life.

Mindfulness is an easily understood concept but often hard to put into practice. Please keep an eye out for our Introduction to Mediation workshop or join us for a guided meditation!