The Path To Happiness


Originally posted here in Yoga Journal

peaceful path

Chances are, you ponder who you are and where you are in life, accept the current realities as best you can, and yet still plan a path toward your ideal. Your yoga practice undoubtedly helps you on this journey. And the yoga tradition suggests more than just postures to aid your transformation. Centuries ago, the great sage Patanjali laid out a kind of map—one that suggests not just asana and meditation but also attitudes and behaviors—to help you chart your own course to contentment.

At first glance, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, written in Sanskrit and interpreted in many ways, may seem esoteric and impenetrable. But the ancient manual is worth a closer look, because it contains essential advice for daily living. “Patanjali has offered us guidelines that will allow us to have enhanced emotional and mental well-being and a more fulfilling and meaningful life,” says Joan Shivarpita Harrigan, a practicing psychologist and the director of Patanjali Kundalini Yoga Care. “The Yoga Sutra is specifically designed to lead to greater happiness and spiritual fulfillment for you and everyone around you.”

Much is contained within this ultimate guide to virtuous transformation, including the eightfold path of classical yoga (or ashtanga yoga), which suggests a program of ethical restraints or abstentions (yamas), lifestyle observances (niyamas), postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and absorption into the Divine (samadhi). They are designed to lead you, step-by-step, toward everlasting contentment.

If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you’re familiar with asana, pranayama, and meditation. But you might not know much about the first two steps of the path: the five yamas and five niyamas. These are the ethical precepts, or core values, of yoga as well as its starting place—meant to be practiced before you do your very first Sun Salutation. They provide a recipe for living in the world with ease.

“The yamas are really about restraining behaviors that are motivated by grasping, aversion, hatred, and delusion; the niyamas are designed to create well-being for ourselves and others,” says Stephen Cope, a senior Kripalu teacher and the author of The Wisdom of Yoga. People sometimes think of them as yoga’s Ten Commandments, but they aren’t concerned with right or wrong in an absolute sense. “There’s no thought of heaven or hell. It’s about avoiding behaviors that produce suffering and difficulty, and embracing those that lead to states of happiness.”

You Can Transform Your Life

yoga beachRather than thinking of the yamas and niyamas as a mandatory “to-do list,” view them as invitations to act in ways that promote inner and outer peace and bliss. “They create harmony within you, and in relationship to your environment and to others. Where there is harmony, consciousness can expand,” says John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. “They lead us to a natural revelation of insight into the nature of being, and joy naturally arises.”

They also provide a mirror in which to study your practice and your Self. Viniyoga teacher and Yoga Sutra scholar Gary Kraftsow says they represent the qualities of an integrated human being. You get there through practice, contemplation, meditation, and working to transform yourself. “The path of practice begins with understanding and refining the different dimensions of who you are, and it unfolds progressively, not all at once,” says Kraftsow. “The whole goal of yoga is Self-realization, which can also be called freedom.” The yamas and niyamas give you infinite opportunities to truly transform your life.

Patanjali doesn’t tell you how specifically to “do” the yamas and niyamas—that’s up to you. But if you align your life with them, they’ll lead you to your highest aspirations: peace, truth, abundance, harmonious relationships, contentment, purity, self-acceptance, love, and meaningful connection to the Divine—the essence of happiness. Here, we’ve asked prominent yoga teachers and philosophers to share their interpretations of the yamas and niyamas to help you make them a part of your path.

Continue reading here on Yoga Journal

Ayurvedic Energy Tips

BY VASANT LAD  |  Originally posted here in Yoga Journal

Unusual mental or physical exertion, stress and lack of sleep can make people tired. Prevention in these cases simply requires self-observation. Sometimes it means not pushing the body and mind beyond its limits. Other times it means walking or doing some physical work to help increase the body’s energy level.

Other major causes of fatigue include anemia, low gastric fire, and weakness of the liver. If the fatigue is due to anemia, eating iron-rich foods and blood builders such as pomegranate juice, grapes or grape juice, and beets or beet/carrot juice, can help. Right nostril breathing (Surya Pranayama) is also helpful, as it stimulates the liver, which plays an important role in building the blood. For fatigue caused by physical exertion, drinking fresh orange juice with a pinch of rock salt gives a quick boost. Add 10 drops of lime juice to help the body cool down.

When agni (the digestive fire) is low, digestion will be sluggish, bringing the energy level down. One way to raise agni is to chop or grate a little fresh ginger, add a few drops of lime juice and a pinch of salt, and chew it before meals. Also, it is best to avoid cold or iced drinks, as they counteract agni and impede effective digestion. Instead, take small sips of warm water while eating.

Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc., is the founder and director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, NM.

nicole fey

Note from Patty:  This is a friend & colleague of mine and I wanted to share this email from her!

How NOT to overeat this holiday season.

For the past few decades we have heard that portion control is the culprit when it comes to weight gain, obesity and diseases like metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

As a holistic person, I always trying to get to the source of the problem rather than focusing on controlling the symptoms.  I believe the issue of overeating is deeper than eating large portions.  Studies show that hormones play a large part in how, why and when we feed ourselves.

Yes, our portions are too large. (When you eat in a restaurant in Paris, you get that message loud and clear.  Those teeny people do eat teeny portions.)  Buy why do we need/want to eat so much.  The reason I know firsthand is because this was me 20 years ago.

As a sugar-addict, bread-a-holic, bloated unhealthy twenty-something, I can tell you I was always hungry.  I would eat a huge meal and feel starving.  Cravings for sugar and salt and anything “bad” were too strong to fight.

The Obesity Hormone

Now I understand that my hormones were completely out of whack.  The two hormones that will make you feel like you are hungry even after eating a big meal and disrupt your ability to gauge how full you are, are leptin and ghrelin.  Studies show that leptin, the “obesity hormone” especially, is affected by eating foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  This not only includes soda, most energy and fruit drinks and candy but most packaged sweets.  I’ve even seen it in breads and tomato sauce.  Its everywhere. Why? Because its cheaper to use in food production than sugar. Start reading your labels.

High-fructose corn syrup can be disguised on labels as:

  • Maize syrup
  • Glucose/fructose syrup
  • Tapioca syrup
  • Fruit fructose
  • Crystalline fructose

Eating a diet high in processed foods, sugars and refined grains will create leptin resistance and confuse the body as to how much fat it has stored for energy, disrupt metabolic processes and create cravings and perceived hunger.

The Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) effects your body’s “pleasure center.” It will actually remind your mind how delicious and satisfying a food is, creating the desire to eat more of it.  In what has been named the “milkshake experiment” participants were fed a 300 calorie milkshake with some labeled an “indulgent” 620 calories shake and some labeled a “guilt-free, fat-free” 140 calories shake.  The perceived satisfaction of the participants correlated with the label rather than the actual content of the shake.

This study shows that your beliefs play a huge roll in satisfaction levels.  Besides your mindset around satiety and pleasurable eating, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners as well as lack of sleep have been shown to effect your ghrelin levels.

The Fat-Storage Hormone

Finally, the hormone insulin plays a big part in inability to lose weight, overeating and cravings.  Insulin is your fat-storage hormone.  Eating foods that cause your pancreas to secrete a lot of insulin (sugar, sweets, refined carbohydrates such as breads and pasta) will spike your blood sugar sky-high.  The blood sugar will come crashing down shortly thereafter leaving you with symptoms of low blood sugar (weakness, fatigue, shakiness, headache, irritability, inability to concentrate, hunger) not to mention the long-term health problems caused by high blood sugar such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage, blindness).

Which came first?

So what came first?  Are you overeating because your hormones are out of balance.  Or is overeating causing your hormones to dysfunction.  Well, both.  But getting to the root of the problem is the best place to start.

Ways to control overeating

  1. Eat to balance your blood sugar.  Eating enough protein and good fat is imperative in balancing your blood sugar throughout the day.  Since everyone is biochemically different, these amounts differ from person to person.  Not eating enough food can also create blood sugar imbalance.  Eating the right ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats is the key.  Not starving yourself of a meal.  This creates cravings and binge eating.
  2. Get enough sleep.  Chronic lack of sleep increases ghrelin as well as cortisol levels, another hormone that can cause weight gain especially in the abdominal area.
  3. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, talk therapy, EFT, and creating a strong social support system. Stress can lead to dealing with your problems through eating. (“Emotional Eating”)
  4. Exercise.  Exercise is instrumental in controlling blood sugar levels, reducing stress, improving sleep and balancing your hormones.
  5. Change the way you nourish yourself.  Many of us have been conditioned to eat in a way that absolutely is not nourishing our bodies.  Once this foundation is formed, creating change is difficult at best because we have set up our entire lives to support this way of eating.  From family and social gatherings, celebrations and holidays, to eating while traveling  and at work, the way we eat touches every part of our lives.

As a holistic nutrition counselor, yoga instructor and personal trainer I assist people in creating the changes necessary to help the body come back in to balance.

▪  Redefine what health and healthy eating means to you.
▪  Redesign your day and your life to reflect true nourishment.
▪  Reinvigorate your passion for good, healthy foods and just feeling good!
▪  Realize that you need to take care of yourself first, if you want to be there for others.

To set up your appointment contact me at or call 865-548-8208. (Holiday special through Nov. 30th.  A Nutrition Breakthrough Session for $37 (regularly $125).

Contact information:
Nicole Fey, HHC

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