Psoas- but what is it and why you should know.

There has been lots of hype lately about the psoas but why?

Let’s start first with what it is? 


The psoas major is a long muscle located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and the pelvis. It joins the illacus muscle to form the iliopsoas.

What does it do? 

The psoas major joins the upper body and the lower body, the axial to the appendicular skeleton, the inside to the outside, and the back to the front.

It forms part of a group of muscles called the hip flexors.

Tightness of the psoas can result in spasms or lower back pain by compressing the lumbar discs. A hypertonic and inflamed psoas can lead to irritation and entrapment of the ilioinguinal and the iliohypogastric nerves, resulting in a sensation of heat or water running down the front of the thigh.

The appearance of a protruding belly can visually indicate a hypertonic psoas, which pulls the spine forward while pushing the abdominal contents outward.

hypertonic psoas

What yoga poses are good for releasing the Psoas?

1. Standing on a Block Leg Swing


Here’s a simple exercise you can do anytime, anywhere to help you unwind and move toward a happy psoas.

Place a yoga block a foot or so away from a wall. Step one foot up onto the block, and bring your hand to the wall for balance.

Then, lift the hip point of your hanging leg so that it’s level with your other hip point, (your two frontal hip bones should be level). Engage between your pubic bone and navel.

Then, keeping your hips level and an engagement in your deep low belly, gently swing your free leg back and forth. Keep the support in your belly, and let your leg swing like a pendulum. Avoid swinging your upper body back and forth.

2. Low Lunge


Instead of pushing the pelvis forward, try this: Back out of the lunge a little bit, and engage between your hip points, drawing them toward one another and allowing the psoas to release. Move your thighs back, especially your back thigh; even lift your back inner thigh up. Keep that, and lift up through your low belly a bit (so that you’re not collapsing onto your front thigh).

Crescent Lunge

This is a powerful pose,  it engages all your muscles at once and starts to open your chest and heart. It effectively stretches the hips, groin, hamstrings, and also opens up the shoulders and chest. So if you only have time for one stretch definitely make it this one.

Image result for crescent lunge


  • Beginning in downward facing dog, bring the right knee towards the chest and drop the foot firmly onto the mat.
  • Keeping your right knee directly above your right ankle, push down with both your left leg and right foot as you raise your torso up.
  • With both your front and back legs active, keep your hips squared (facing forward) while dropping down so your right thigh is parallel with the mat and your right knee is bent 90 degrees.
  • Engage your abs and sweep your arms straight above your head.
  • Hold for 8 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Happy Baby Pose

Image result for happy baby pose

Although this pose looks incredibly awkward, it’s actually amazing for a bunch of different areas of your body, back, hips, hamstrings to name a few.

  • Start by laying on your back.
  • Exhaling, lift your knees towards your belly while keeping the hips flexed.
  • On your next inhale, grip both feet with your hands and spread your legs slightly wider than your torso while bringing your knees towards your armpits.
  • Bring your ankles above your knees so your calves are perpendicular to the floor.
  • BreatheDragon Pose

Image result for dragon pose

This, in my opinion, is one of the most important yoga poses. It accesses specific areas of our bodies that need to be stretched that no other yoga pose can (to the same extent).

  • Begin either on hands and knees in neutral table top.
  • Step one foot up to the outside of your hand. *You might notice that this foot is trying to roll onto the outside edge, this is normal, it’s the way your hip bones are put together, allow it.
  • Walk the front foot forward until the knee is right above the heel.
  • Slide the back knee backward as far as you can.
  • You can roll up the side of your mat under your back knee for some additional cushion.
  • Keep arms extended long or lower forearms to a block or chest all the way down to your mat.
  • Breathe!! This pose can be intense but always remember if you can continue to take full deep breaths in and out then you should be safe, it’s when you notice your holding breathes in any pose, you should ease off.


I hope these suggestions help anyone who is currently struggling with a tight psoas, as always feel free to email me with any questions and i’ll always do my best to help.

Live longer, healthier and happier.


Top 3 Easy Goals to Set for 2018 (or start right now!)


If it’s a New Year’s resolution or just want to start making better healthy choices for your body and brain, setting goals can be the difference between success or not. One thing to remember is that no matter how many times you don’t meet your goal, there is a lesson in each of these times and DON’T STOP TRYING. YOU WILL GET THERE!!

Here are a couple goals to set for yourself and your family for 2018 (or now!!)


  1. Get on the organic train

The top complaint I hear is how expensive it is and although some items may be a tiny more pricey, you cannot put a price tag on your health.

Organic is not what it used to be and sometimes you may even see the organic choices being sold at a lower price. Check out organic bananas next time you’re in the store.

Even if the price tag is a bit higher, the quality of food and the health benefits  dramatically outweigh the extra cents here and there.

Keep in mind, every time you purchase organic foods, you are casting your vote and the more people who choose these foods, the variety will start to go up and the prices will start to go down.

I’m not only talking about food though, I’m talking about the products we use and allow our families to use. If you read the ingredients in most of the bathroom products we use every day, it may be shocking. Remember that skin is our largest organ and absorbs around 60% of everything we put on it. One of the worst chemicals that is added in many of our cosmetics and body products would be: Parabens

organ body

What are Parabens- these are used as a preservative in many cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, body washes and even added to things we ingest. You might be shocked that you could potentially eat these cancer causing chemicals but it’s actually more harmful for the parabens to be absorbed through your skin. This allows the chemical to bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact. Methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben are some of the most common parabens but there are many more but they all generally contain the name paraben. AVOID THESE PRODUCTS!!

Some companies recommend: Dr. Bronner’s, Alba, Green Beaver, Educated Beards, The Best Deodorant in the World.. just to name a few.

educated beards logobestdeodorantgreenbeaver

  1. Recognize the value of exercising

    This is not only for shedding pounds but is also super important in keeping our bodies moving and living a long full life. Exercising allows our bodies to eliminate the toxic build up from our everyday lives and will allow your body to keep moving as you start to age. I’m talking how long you will be able to walk upright without use of a cane or walker. (Trust me future you will thank you). This does not have to be a vigorous 20K run or doing crossfit 8 times a week. Look at what works for you, always keeping injuries and time a big part of your consideration when trying to find activities that work for you.


    Try Yoga, Swimming and Walking. Yoga has so many health benefits for you physically and mentally, swimming can be done by almost anyone regardless of current physical endurance and walking is amazing!! These exercises benefit your heart and work both the upper and lower body but are very gently on your joints. There are no excuses. I promise you, you will never regret adding exercise to your life, even if it’s just adding a couple yoga classes a week or a few 20 min walks.

  2. Make quality time a priority

We all live these lives of constant stress (even if we don’t know it). We are glued to our phones and have become majorly addicted to the endorphin release that happens when we see that someone liked our post, or started following us on Instagram. There is an epidemic happening and of course we can’t completely ignore technology, we have to recognize that it has its place but at home during dinner with our families is not where it belongs.

phone down

Start by setting BOUNDARIES- No phone or electronics at the table, turn the tv off and connect with your family or even yourself. Try to be in the moment. Using mindfulness techniques can really help you fully be in the moment. Limit your TV exposure, instead play a board game or go for a walk. Remember playing eye spy with your parents? I do!! And I loved those things! I still cherish those moments with my mom and so will your children.

famiily time

Time goes fast and I’ve never heard anyone say they wish they hadn’t spent so much time with their family and children but almost everyone says “Life is short”, “It goes so fast”. So take the time while you have it. You’ll never live this day again in your life.



Live longer, healthier and happier


Water – How much should you drink daily?




Water: How much should you drink every day?

Water is essential to good health, yet needs vary by individual. These guidelines can help ensure you get enough for your body.

How much water should you drink each day? It’s a simple question with no easy answers. Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, but in truth, your water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live.

Although no single formula fits everyone, knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.

Our Bodies necessity for water

Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.


Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired. Think of a plant that desperately needs water, all wrinkled, discoloured and falling over as opposed to a healthy hydrated plant vibrant and full of colour.


How much water do you need?

Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.

So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.

Isn’t it 8 glasses a day?

Everyone has heard the advice, “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” Although the “8 by 8” rule isn’t supported by hard evidence, it remains popular because it’s easy to remember. Just keep in mind that the rule should be reworded as: “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day,” because all fluids count toward the daily total.

Somethings that might affect your requirements

You may need to modify your total fluid intake depending on how active you are, the climate you live in, your health status, and if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.

  • Exercissweat cryinge. If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups (400 to 600 milliliters) of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense exercise lasting more than an hour (for example, running a marathon) requires more fluid intake. How much additional fluid you need depends on how much you sweat during exercise, and the duration and type of exercise.
  • Intense exercise. During long bouts of intense exercise, it’s best to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia, which can be life-threatening. Also, continue to replace fluids after you’re finished exercising.
  • Environment. Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluid. Heated indoor air also can cause your skin to lose moisture during wintertime. Further, altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your fluid reserves.beach
  • Illnesses or health conditions. When you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses additional fluids. In these cases, you should drink more water. In some cases, your doctor may recommend oral re hydration solutions, such as a sports drink. Because of the aspartame and other chemicals generally found in sports drinks, i recommend a more natural electrolyte supplement like ultima or vega.
  •  You may also need increased fluid intake if you develop certain conditions, including bladder infections or urinary tract stones. On the other hand, some conditions, such as heart failure and some types of kidney, liver and adrenal diseases, may impair excretion of water and even require that you limit your fluid intake.
  • Pregnancy or breast-feeding. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. Large amounts of fluid are used especially when nursing. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups (2.3 liters) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume about 13 cups (3.1 liters ) of fluids a day.

Beyond the tap: Other sources of water

You don’t need to rely only on what you drink to meet your fluid needs. What you eat also provides a significant portion of your fluid needs. On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are 90 percent or more water by weight.

In addition, beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water. Even beer, wine and caffeinated beverages — such as coffee, tea or soda — can contribute, but these should not be a major portion of your daily total fluid intake. Water is still your best bet because it’s calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.

Staying safely hydrated

Generally, if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow — and measures about 6.3 cups (1.5 liters) or more a day if you were to keep track — your fluid intake is probably adequate. If you’re concerned about your fluid intake or have health issues, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you determine the amount of water that’s right for you.

To ward off dehydration and make sure your body has the fluids it needs, make water your beverage of choice. It’s also a good idea to:

  • Drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal
  • Drink water before, during and after exercise

Although uncommon, it is possible to drink too much water. When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia. Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners who drink large amounts of water, are at higher risk of hyponatremia. In general, though, drinking too much water is rare in healthy adults who eat an average diet.

Live longer, healthier and happier


6 Ways to Start Losing Weight Now!


Society as a whole has become so focused on the appearance of a persons physical being or “meat suit” as I like to call it and has gotten away from what truly matters. A persons heart and soul, this is what truly make a human beautiful.

With that said…these…ahem… “meat suits” are what carry our beautiful heart and souls around in this world and help us to stay here for as long as possible soo.. here are a few ways to get healthier and shed some of those extra pounds.


  1. Put the junk food down- I know, I know easier said then done but make small obtainable goals. If you’re a junk-aholic then take it day by day. Any improvement is a step in the right direction. For example if you eat a chocolate bar every day. Make your goal to not eat one today. Maybe you start by having one every second day, then have one every third then once a week on “cheat day“.  If you eat out every day for lunch, start packing a lunch on Wednesdays, then Mondays and Wednesdays, then you will start to add days as you get used to it. I promise it will get better and you will start to feel better.Assorted Junk Food
  2. Drink Green tea- Green tea is filled with antioxidants that help destroy free radicals and has been shown to have powerful medicinal qualities. If caffeine is an issue for you then choose a decaffeinated green tea, just keep in mind the process of removing the caffeine also removes about half the antioxidants. Teas can also be counted towards your daily water intake, which is also very important for weight loss and overall health.greeen tea
  3. Get mentally healthy- We all know when we are stressed we tend to go towards comfort foods rather then the healthy options. Why do we choose these sugar filled, high fatty foods? Stress releases a hormone called cortisol or frequently known as “the stress hormone”, when you have increased levels of the hormone it can cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. If you think this could be a part of your weight struggle or gain then talk to someone, start practicing yoga or meditation. You can find great guided meditations on youtube.meditation1
  4. Move your body- Go to yoga, the gym, throw your head phones in and go for a walk outside or on your treadmill. One way I’ve found to help couch potatoes get up and find movement is to have a compromise. Bring your treadmill in the living room and save your favorite show for the 30-60 minutes you are walking. ONLY allow yourself to watch your show when you are walking on your treadmill. You will be surprised to find out how simply making a deal like that with yourself will get you up and moving, plus I guarantee the time fly by!!!exercise
  5. Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry- Keep healthy snacks like raw nuts, apples or coconut chips in your briefcase or purse. When that super hunger urge hits you, it’s often really hard to wait to make or find healthy options. Another good idea is to make sure you are eating smaller portions more often. This will help to avoid the sudden crash of energy and the need to have food immediately. One last thing is to make sure you never, ever skip meals.hangry
  6. Show how much money it actually costs to eat out- Every time you make a better choice for foods or eating at home, put away the amount you would have spent on fast food or the stop at the convenience store. If you’re a junkaholic or even a part time offender, you will notice how fast this money adds up and since this money would have been spent, use it for something you normally wouldn’t spend money on.

cdn money

If you are struggling with your weight, there are many, many options out there for you. Don’t give up and don’t judge yourself when you slip up. If you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing is working then it could be an issue with one of your glands or a deficiency in an important vitamin or mineral that keeps your body working efficiently. I have a special this month on nutritional assessments that would help to determine any of these things and if you mention this article i’ll take an additional $10 off.  See my October monthly specials or contact me to book an appointment.

Live longer, healthier and happier



Your First yoga class



Here you are, you’ve found a studio that you would like to try, signed up for their special of the month or intro month and now you’re home getting ready to venture out for your very first yoga class.

You find yourself staring in the mirror in your brand new yoga pants and shirt that you’ve purchased especially for this day, you’re dissecting every part of your body and attempting to convince yourself not go to this class.

You tell yourself that you’re not flexible enough to do yoga or you start to imagine that all the other students in the class will be 6 Foot tall models, with 0% body fat, who live a gluten free, vegan lifestyle, who never get mad, never swear and can levitate without even trying. You tell yourself you’re too busy, or picture yourself falling over in class.

Say no. hand isolated on white background

If you’re not flexible, that’s OK, yoga will actually help improve your flexibility and strength in a safe and gentle way.

I’ve been practicing yoga for a very long time and I’m 5 feet tall, have body fat (and that’s ok), I do try to eat gluten free but I eat meat and I love salt and vinegar chips. I’m a human just like you. All Yogis are human just like you. I get mad sometimes, I cry sometimes and I certainly cannot levitate (although that would be pretty cool).

The busier you are the more you need yoga in your life and if you fall over no one will even notice and if they do, they don’t care. There is no ego in the yoga room. Everyone is there for different reasons and no one is there to judge or compare themselves to you or anyone else in the room.

easy pose

Let’s talk about what to actually expect and extra tips you may want to know to make you feel more prepared about your first class.

Items to bring:

  1. Yoga mat- although no big deal if you don’t have one, most studios have them for rent- usually around $2.
  2. Water bottle
  3. For hot yoga bring a yoga mat towel and if you’re thinking WTF is that, then just bring a beach towel or rent a yoga mat towel at the studio.
  4. Towel if you want to shower after, some people shower at the studio and some go home to shower.
  5. Change for parking ( so you can’t do two loops on the street and decide you can’t find parking but you tried so you’re going to reward yourself by going for ice cream instead).


Here are some more realistic things to expect during your first yoga class: 

  1. When you arrive, go to the main desk and say your name if you’ve already purchased a class pass, an intro month or one of the monthly specials. If you haven’t ask the kind person behind the desk to help you pick which option is best for you and your schedule. Don’t be afraid, you’ll be surprised at how super friendly everyone is. Mention any injuries you might have.
  2. They will show you or tell you where the change rooms are.
    • Leave all your stuff in the change room (including socks in case you were wondering). Take your mat, water and towel if necessary, items like keys and phones only distract you and the others in the room. Your items will be safe.
  3. Fill your water and make your way to the yoga studio.
    • Most studios observe silence meaning once you walk through the doors no more talking.
    • Some people will be laying on there backs on the mat looking like their dead, don’t worry they are not. This is called Savassana or Corpse pose. A lot of people will just relax in this pose until the teacher comes in. You may see some people doing a workout quietly on their mat, or sitting with their eyes closed just chilling out. DO WHAT YOU WANT. Doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, as long as you’re not being loud then do what you want.
    • One thing to avoid is whipping your mat open and letting it fall to the floor, this is super loud. Gently roll your mat out and place your towel on it. You’ll understand better when it happens.

      You’ve maybe decided to do the looking like your dead pose and lay down. Now you wait……………HOLD ON! ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU HEAR SOMETHING…… WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT NOISE…..

That noise is Ujjayi or yoga breathe. This breathe is found by inhaling in through the nose and exhaling out through the nose. There is a slight restriction at the back of your throat that allows your breathe to become audible.

Try this little exercise to find this breathing style.

Take the palm of your hand in front of your mouth. Picture the palm of your hand as being a mirror, Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Fog up the mirror. Do this a couple times and notice how it feels in your throat and how it sounds. Now, try it with your mouth closed and exhales coming out of your nose but keep that same feeling or sound in your throat. Keep practising and eventually it will become second nature when you start your yoga practice.

Why Ujjayi breathe?


Ujjayi breathe is the ancient yogic breathing and has been used for thousands of years to enhance yoga practices.

Ujjayi has a balancing influence on the entire cardiorespiratory system, releases feelings of irritation and frustration, and helps calm the mind and body. With Ujjayi, there are so many benefits, providing good value for a simple practice. Here are a few benefits you may enjoy as a result of practicing the Ujjayi breath:

  • Increases the amount of oxygen in the blood
  • Builds internal body heat
  • Relieves tension
  • Encourages free flow of prana
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Helps yoga practitioner to maintain a rhythm while they practice
  • Builds energy
  • Detoxifies mind and body
  • Increases feelings of presence, self-awareness, and meditative qualities

Ujjayi breathe is something to practice towards and not expect to master the breathing technique on your first try or first yoga class.

Once the teacher comes in, they will guide you through a series of poses and depending on which type of yoga you’ve chosen it may be very gentle (like a yin) or vigourous like a flow class. I suggest starting with a gentle version of yoga (yin or moksha) and working your way up to a flow class.

There it is. You know what to expect. You’re ready!!!

Yoga is my favorite thing to do. It’s my passion and I’d like to share it with anyone who would like to try. I wrote this article to encourage people to get out and try it. I promise and know forsure that you will get something out of it. However, if after reading this, you’re still not convinced then try a couple private one on one sessions to get some understanding and knowledge of the poses to expect. When booking quote “first yoga class” to receive $25 off your first private class.






Blood type


Do you think knowing your blood type is only important in the event of a transfusion?

Think again!

Research indicates that your blood type is a key genetic factor that influences many areas of health and well-being.

Throughout your life, you’ve probably observed that some people tend to lose weight more easily, while for others, their weight is an ongoing battle. Or wondered why some people are plagued by chronic illness while others stay healthy and vital well into their advanced years. Very simply, the answer is in your blood type.

Knowing your blood type is an important tool for understanding how your body reacts to food, your susceptibility to disease, your natural reaction to stress, and so much more. A single drop of blood contains a biochemical makeup as unique to you as your fingerprint.

Below are five facts about your blood type that could change your life:

1. Your blood type may predict your susceptibility for certain diseases.

Research has found that individuals of certain blood types may be at a higher risk for certain diseases; studies have found that people with blood type O have a lower risk for heart disease, but a higher risk for developing stomach ulcers. People who are blood type A have higher risks of microbial infections, but Type A women experience a higher rate of fertility. Other research has found that people with type AB and B blood have a much higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

2. People of different blood types react differently to stress.

Type A people naturally have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bodies and produce more in response to stressful situations. On the other hand, people with type O blood, have a “fight or flight” reaction to stress which results in the overproduction of adrenaline. It takes type O’s longer to recover from stress because it is more difficult for them to clear the adrenaline from their bodies.

3. Your blood type antigens are not just in your blood!

They are everywhere in your body, particularly in the surfaces that interact with the environment. These include your digestive tract, from your mouth to your large intestine, as well as your nasal passages and lungs. Because these blood type antigens are everywhere, they influence how your body reacts to the food you eat through several factors. For example: the lectins in certain foods bind to your blood type antigen and cause your blood to agglutinate (stick together), resulting in feelings of fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, skin problems and a host of other health issues.

4. Gut bacteria is related to blood type.

People of different blood types have different gut bacteria, in fact, certain bacteria are 50,000 more likely to turn up in people with one blood type or the other. This originated from our ancestors whose digestive tracts developed to accommodate one type of diet over another. For example, the microbiome of certain people developed to break down carbohydrates much more efficiently (blood type A). People lacking this ability (blood type O) tend to store carbs as fat.

5. A one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition does not work.

Food fads come and go, but the facts are clear: everyone does not have the same basic nutritional needs. We all know someone who is a strict vegetarian and thrives on that diet, while others swear by Atkins or similar low-carb plans. I’ve found that your nutritional needs can be determined by your blood type. Take a look at the food lists in Eat Right 4 Your Type; they are a guide for choosing the foods that will allow you to lose weight, reduce inflammation, increase energy and lead a longer, healthier life.

As you’ve learned, your blood type affects more than just the type of blood you’d need in the event of a transfusion – your blood type is a genetic factor that plays many roles in the human body. Choosing low-lectin, non-agglutinating foods that create a hospitable environment for your “good” intestinal flora and selecting foods that combat your disease risks are two good first steps in creating an individualized nutritional program just for you.

Why do Yoga?

Yoga Woman 2

The short answer is that yoga makes you feel better. Practicing the postures, breathing exercises and meditation makes you healthier in body, mind and spirit. Yoga lets you tune in, chill out, shape up — all at the same time.

For many people, that’s enough of an answer. But there’s more if you’re interested.

For starters, yoga is good for what ails you. Specifically, research shows that yoga helps manage or control anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress and other conditions and diseases.

Want more, yoga:
•Improves muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina
•Reduces stress and tension
•Boosts self esteem
•Improves concentration and creativity
•Lowers fat
•Improves circulation
•Stimulates the immune system
•Creates sense of well being and calm.

And that’s just the surface stuff. In fact, most of the benefits mentioned above are secondary to yoga’s original purpose.

Developed in India, yoga is a spiritual practice that has been evolving for the last 5,000 years or so. The original yogis were reacting, in part, to India’s ancient Vedic religion, which emphasized rituals. The yogis wanted a direct spiritual experience — one on one — not symbolic ritual. So they developed yoga.

Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the classical language of India.

According to the yogis, true happiness, liberation and enlightenment comes from union with the divine consciousness known as Brahman, or with Atman, the transcendent Self. The various yoga practices are a methodology for reaching that goal.

In hatha yoga, for example, postures and breathing exercises help purify the mind, body and spirit so the yogi can attain union.

Pranayama breathing exercises help clear the nadis, or channels, that carry prana the universal life force, allowing prana to flow freely. When the channels are clear and the last block at the base of the spine has been opened, Kundalini rises through the spine, through the central channel called the sushumna-nadi, and joins the crown chakra. According to the tradition, the release of Kundalini leads to enlightenment and union.

If you do yoga will you become enlightened?

Well…you might (of course, it could take a few lifetimes of diligent practice). But then again you might not. But it doesn’t really matter because yoga is a process, and there’s a lot of good to be had along the way.

What if you don’t believe in talk about enlightenment, spirit and the rest of it?

That’s okay, too. Yoga doesn’t discriminate. Even if you don’t believe in the spiritual side of life, you can still do yoga. Whether enlightenment, nadis, prana and Kundalini is literal truth, metaphor or myth is irrelevant. If you do yoga, chances are that you will feel its psycho-physiological effects.

Moreover, the concept of union has a powerful down-to-Earth meaning. Yoga helps us get in touch with our true selves.

Between work, home and all of the demands and stresses in between, it’s easy to lose touch with who we are, that core essence with which we were born. Rushing around all day it sometimes feels like the “I” inside is simply the result of the things we do all day — or the effects those things have on our minds, bodies and spirits.

Ever say “I am hungry” or “I am stressed”? We identify with our conditions. It’s like “hungry” or “stressed” is a name (Hi. I’m Stressed. What’s your name?) As a result, our identities shift with our moods and conditions.

In truth, however, we are not the conditions we experience or things we do. We are not our jobs or the thousands of tasks that make up our jobs. We are not the sensations or emotions we feel. We are not the car we drive or the house we live in. We are not “S/he Who Must Pay Bills.” We are not Mr. and Ms. Stressed.

Strip away the emotions, sensations and conditions and somewhere deep down inside you are still there. Strip it all away and you find out who you really are.

The techniques developed by the yogis to transcend also help us strip away the things that try to mis-define us — the emotions, sensations, desires, achievements and failures of daily life. Through yoga we learn to develop a greater awareness of our physical and psychological states. As a result, we’re in a position to better manage our reactions to the thoughts, feelings and responses we have to the various situations we deal with every day.

With greater awareness comes the sensitivity and skill to find and remove the physical and psychological blocks that often keep us from our true selves. We no longer identify with our conditions. Instead of saying, “I am stressed,” we begin to say, “I feel stress,” or “stress is present.” It’s a subtle but powerful difference.

Or better yet, we say “I feel anxiety and fear, and that’s causing stress and in particular it’s causing tension in my neck and shoulder.” So we breathe deeply to soothe the anxiety. We review the events that led to the onset of those feelings, and in the process they lose their grip on our nervous system. We intentionally relax our shoulder and neck to prevent the stress and tension from building into a permanent condition.

Yoga gives us control of ourselves. It helps cut through the layers of mis-identities that arise in response to our actions, experiences and feelings. It calms the frenzy, clears the clutter and allows us to get back in touch with ourselves.

Yoga is union with self. Or, as Patanjali, one of the great yoga sages, said:

Yogashcittavrittinirodhah (Yoga stills the fluctuations of the mind).

Tada drashthuh svarupe’ vasthanam (Then the true self appears.)

However, yoga is not about self-absorption. Yoga is about being in the world. Although most books, videos and websites focus on yoga postures, breathing and meditation, the tradition also emphasizes love, compassion, knowledge and right action as paths toward union.

Whether you pursue yoga as a spiritual path or for its psycho-physiological benefits, yoga is a methodology for developing a deeper experience of yourself and the world.

And it makes you feel really good.