When life gets tough, are you practising what your practice has taught you?

It’s a powerful realisation that we can become calm, experience peace and change the way we feel, by simply becoming present with the moment we’re in.  By tuning into our breath and witnessing our thoughts, we become aware that we are here, nowin this moment and that everything is OK- even in times of trouble.  When circumstances are calm, certain or joyous, experiencing feelings of peace and unity can happen automatically, or with very little effort at all.   However, when life gets a little rough, the lesson’s we’ve learned about presence and authenticity can very easily slip away from us.

Learning to live with awareness takes time and practice

When we’re practicing yoga regularly, we find sanctuary on our mats, in our classes and in our studios.  We find comfort from being surrounded by like-minded people and we start to feel safe to let go of everything we try so desperately to hold onto in the ‘outside’ world – even if just a little bit. On our mats, our teachers remind us to connect with our breath and guide us back to the present moment. Within our yoga and spiritual communities, we’re encouraged to treat everything and everyone with kindness, love and respect. Through our practice, we learn to soften toward one another and, perhaps most importantly, we learn to soften toward ourselves.  We develop an awareness of our body, our breath and our mind, that opens up pathways toward deeper parts of ourselves, that we’ve learned to shield from a world that has a tendency to trample all over the innate gentleness of our souls.

As much as practicing presence and acceptance on our mats challenges us, the biggest challenges come when we try to integrate what we’ve learned into our everyday lives.  The revelations that come about through yoga make it harder for us to ignore who we truly are on the inside, whereas the outside world still (quite often) wants as to wear the masks it helped us create over our lifetime.  We face resistance from others who don’t see the world the same way we do, but we also face a determined resistance from within.  As much as we may want to throw the reigns over to intuition and love, there are deeply ingrained parts in each of us that are not so willing to let go.

When life gets tough  ॐ it can get hard to practice what our practice has taught us 

So in the process of trying to change ‘who we are’, we come crashing into our own walls.  The ones we’ve spent years building to protect and hide us from the harsh realities of life.  The loving thoughts we want to feed ourselves, come head to head with the voices in our minds that tells us we’re unworthy, un-lovable or not good enough.  We’ve lived with the same harmful thoughts for so long, that we believe them to be true, and so we keep letting them win.  We’re so used to them, we don’t ‘hear’ how cruel and damaging they are, or we’re convinced their cruelty is actually honesty that serves to protect us. Believing anything other than the voices we’re familiar with, makes us feel vulnerable.  In order to save ourselves from pain, humiliation and disappointment in the future, we make a choice to stay trapped in our negative belief system.  In the beginning, it may not seem like we have a choice about what we think, but we always have a choice.  The more we learn about our practice, and the more practiced we become at challenging our thoughts, the clearer those ‘choices’ become.

We begin to understand that the things we think are ‘truths’ are not necessarily true at all.  They’re just things we’ve learned and come to believe.  As Dr Wayne Dyer teaches us – ‘A thought is just a thought and it can be changed’.  There’s so much beautiful simplicity in that statement and so much potential power when put to positive use upon ourselves.  When we realise that we have the power to change our thoughts in any given moment, we really can begin to change our lives.  It takes awareness, and most importantly, it takes awareness in the moments when we’re suffering the most.    In times of darkness and despair, many of us automatically slip back into negative thought patterns which can perpetuate feelings of sadness and depression.  If we catch ourselves in these moments, and remind ourselves that thoughts can be changed – with the same conviction we believe it in the good times – we can change our thoughts in that moment, to thoughts of peace and acceptance.  By shifting our perception of our experience, we are able to change the way we feel – and so we begin the process of creating a lasting change that brings us closer to our truest essence.

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Below are some of the things we can do to help to bring us back to the moment, particularly when we’re in a jam that’s doesn’t taste so sweet…

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Meditation and Breath Awareness

Turning our attention to our breath is one of the quickest ways to become present and peaceful in any moment.  We quickly become aware of the gentle, yet powerful, life force within us and within all that surrounds.

We learn to follow our breath in our asana practice.  We time our movements to coincide with our inhalations and our exhalations.  Through presence with our breath we are led on a journey ‘inside ourselves’ and we are able settle our minds and become aware of the subtle energies that live within.  Meditation is an extension of our physical practice.  Once we have removed the restlessness of our physical bodies through our asana we are able to sit, in silence, and witness the intuitive peacefulness that is the truth of who we are.  When we’re feeling down it can be tempting to try to ‘fake’ or ‘force’ feelings of happiness.  But in my experience that only leads to deeper feelings of unrest – we can’t force ourselves to feel things we’re not feeling.  We’re not trying to escape reality, or to deny the source of our pain.  What we want is to find peace and acceptance within any given experience – good or bad.

Meditation can free us from unnecessary suffering by leading us to a place of inner peace.   A regular practice has been proven to reduce depression and anxiety.   It’s is one of the most powerful tools available to connect us to the moment and to our essence, and it’s available to us anytime and anywhere.

Following our passions

Paint, draw, sing, run, dance, swim, laugh, read, explore, – whatever it is you do, do it with complete awareness!   Pay attention to each and every detail and allow your mind to be focused on the thing you’re doing – and nothing else.  Make every step precious, deliberate and beautiful.

When we spend time doing the things we love we experience feelings of joy, our self-esteem gets a hug and for many, the process becomes a form of meditation.  Our minds become so completely consumed with what we’re doing that we forget all about the troubles that have been distracting us from living a conscious life.

When we give our minds the silence they desire, they often find the answers they seek within the space.


Journaling is a great way to explore our thoughts as they race through our mind. Through writing our thoughts down as we’re having them, we become aware of what’s consuming us, we experience shifts in perspective and we become connected to how we’re feeling – beneath the surface.

In her book the ‘Artist’s Way’, Julia Cameron introduces her students to free flow writing in the mornings.  She asks them to write down three pages of uncensored, unedited thought flow, so that all of their surface frustrations and irritations are quickly released, leaving them to explore the good stuff – the heart of a problem, or the magic of an idea. In the process of writing down thoughts as they come into our heads, we find answers to our questions and we can let go of minor frustrations without feeling the need to carry them into our days.

It’s usually the surface stuff that takes us out of the moment and interferes with us being who we really are.  If we can shake it off in the morning, if we can leave behind anything that really doesn’t matter, we free up space in our mind for the things that do matter and each day, we can approach our lives with a sense of clarity and purpose.

Changing our thinking

We don’t always know how to change the way we think and feel.  Many of our thoughts and behaviours have become automatic – which is precisely why we want to change and why it’s so hard to change.  However, it’s not impossible (as many would have us believe).  When we first decide we want to ‘change our mind’, we have stepped into consciousness.  After that, it’s a matter of bringing ourselves back that place of clarity – over and over again.

Changing the way we think is a repetitive process that calls on us to be present and aligned with our source.  Finding spiritual and thought leaders, who promote messages that resonate with our hearts and souls, will provide endless streams of support while keeping us true to ourselves.  Read their books, watch their videos and listen to their podcasts.  The more we absorb the information they share, the more we allow their lessons to seep into our consciousness and our way of being.  These brave leaders can help guide us into lives based on decisions we’ve made for ourselves, rather than a life where decisions are made for us.

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Our yoga practice begins long before we step foot onto our mats and long after we’ve rolled them back up.  The magic of what we learn in our studios has the potential to spill into every nook of our lives.  All we have to do is keep on practicing – in the good times and in the bad.

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