July 29, 2016 Johannasawalha



“In yoga philosophy, much like in the 10 commandments in Christianity, there are “do’s” (yamas), and “don’ts” (niyamas) to adhere to in yoga as well.

Often it is much easier to do something than refrain from something.  I’ve gotten bent out a shape more than once by hearing the phrase, “Happiness is a choice.” In the moment, I want to say, “it is not a (expletive) choice!  Because when you are unhappy you are (expletive) unhappy! So don’t come telling me it’s a choice, alright?” (Nice amount of aggression, there, wasn’t it…? 🙂

The things that are upsetting usually have some inconvenient truth to them.      In this case, it is being faced with an addiction. Mostly our addictive thinking that also leads to addictive actions such as over eating, spending or drinking….

It’s the seemingly unavoidable urge to obsess about the one negative thing that hit us in a day. One hundred positive things happened too – but we don’t see them for that one hurtful remark or bad review.  “Tapas” in the “niyamas” refers to “heat” – both physical and spiritual, as in turning up the heat on ourselves and burning away our inpurities.  We practice yoga asana practice to train our bodies, and spiritual disciplines to train our minds.  Some every day phrases that relate to disciplining our thoughts (and therefore whether to think happy or unhappy thoughts) are:

“Don’t go there.”

“There is no cheese in that tunnel.”

“Stop while you are ahead.”

“Your mind is a dark neighborhood.”

We can start by changing our minds about small nuisances. Here is an example. A lot of my family and friends just went skiing because it is the last chance to do so for the year. My mind started to chatter; “I didn’t take my kids skiing.  Should I have?  Will they be all upset when they hear others went and they didn’t?  The young ones won’t know but the 5-year old?  He has never gone. What kind of parent am I?  He should have been in ski school by age 3!!”  Can you hear it? That’s the dark tunnel as referred to above. The only choice I could make to take me back to a happy place was to take my mind somewhere else, to a happy and more open spot.  By choice.

“We didn’t ski, but we went to tons of museums during the break.  And they saw things they had never seen before. And the older one went biking with his dad – super special daddy-son time. And being in a new place, there were tons of new playgrounds to explore and friends to meet. Plus, we already have plans to go skiing next year, so all is well. There is nothing wrong here.”

Without trying to sweep things under the carpet, or justifying, or telling ourselves things are good when they really aren’t, this is simply a way of taking the facts and highlighting those that create happiness.  The facts mind you

– not whatever we’d like to hear ourselves say to make ourselves feel better.

I would so like your take on this.  You have probably already noticed that there are some very predictable places your mind goes when you get upset or anxious…what are they?  Do you know?  I love when I can spot one, and then the next one, and the next one, like, “I know you little bugger, come here and I will squash you (although I wouldn’t – but metaphorically speaking -) like a bug!”


Coach Jo

Johanna Sawalha

Private and Executive Coach





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