Make Better Food Choices

Eat Like a Yogi – Cleanse the Inner and Outer Worlds

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Eat Like a Yogi – Cleanse the Inner and Outer Worlds

Yes, you practice your Hatha yoga postures to cleanse and purify the body, but what do you put in your body as fuel? How do your food choices affect your inner and outer environments? Are you supporting your practice with your daily choices or working against the benefits of yoga?

Yoga and purification of the body

In Raja Yoga we discuss the path of the 8 Limbs (branches) of Yoga. This system, if followed, eventually leads us to Samadhi (bliss). Of the 8 limbs, Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breath) are what most practitioners learn and practice.

Through these practices, we release impurities especially through postures like seated forward folds and twists, which help to stimulate and wring out the digestive system. But even more important than these particular poses is the use of the breath. When we consciously breathe we generate heat in our system that burns off the pollutants found in our gut.

When we practice these two limbs we cleanse the body through the use of breath and movement, then one day we start to see how the mind is affected by the Yoga. Beyond these two limbs we begin to understand that it is the choices that we make with regards to our inner and outer worlds that also affect our lives.


Are the foods we choose in alignment with a balanced mind?

As we know through science our mind and body are highly inter-connected and thus our food choices and habits reflect our states of mind. Your yoga practice will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your emotions and how they are affected by the foods you eat.  The whole goal of Yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras is to still the fluctuations of the “mind stuff”.

Since the Vedic times, Yoga has been linked to its sister science Ayurveda.  Ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional alternative medicine native to India that pays particular attention to what and how we eat, mainly as a system of maintaining good health. Yoga and Ayurveda were used as a symbiotic health care system.

The Yoga Sutras, the scientific texts of yoga, offer tools to reduce human suffering and gain insight on how to maximize our joy with a calm, Sattvic (balanced, calm, divine, pure and spiritual) mind.   In Ayurveda, foods are prescribed essentially as medicine. We incorporate foods into our diets that balance our personal profiles and will contribute to more Sattvic states in the body and thus the mind, maintaining harmony and peace in the system.

For example, if you are a more hyper or energetic person (in the Sutras called Rajas and in Ayurveda called Pitta) coffee will exacerbate your system and you can experience quite jittery effects. In this case, the mind races and the body experiences overdrive. Before long the adrenals are taxed, followed by a crash that creates brain fog. The body has not maintained a steady balanced composition, but an unnatural increase of energy and then a deeper low.

Are the foods we choose polluting our inner world?

Most of us know that cigarette smoking, alcohol, sugar, salt and caffeine have addictive qualities.  But did you know that the chemicals added to most of the foods we eat today (like preservatives and high fructose corn syrup) can be just as addictive?

When foods are processed (altered from their natural state through freeze drying, adding preservatives, etc) they are stripped from most of their nutrients. The more our foods are processed, the more their natural nutrients are lost.

Most processed foods contain levels of these substances that are way higher than necessary and it’s affecting our health.   These highly processed foods are literally changing the way our bodies genetically metabolize food.  Our bodies are equipped with neuro-transmitters that tell the body when to stop eating as well as how to process our food for maximum benefit. However, scientists have discovered that due to the over-processing and the high amounts of sugars, fats and salts added to our foods, our bodies are no longer able to tell the brain when to stop eating and how to metabolize these chemicals. And if that isn’t bad enough, research has proven that these additives have been linked to early onset diabetes and obesity, strokes, heart disease and even cancer.

Are the foods we choose in alignment with our outer world?

If we are practicing Ahimsa, we also want to choose foods based on the yogic principles of compassion for all living things and love for our earth and nature. What does it mean to live and participate in a sustainable environment?

According to the Yoga & Ayurveda book, “the basis of sattva is the attitude of ahimsa (non-harming). Sattvic diet is first of all vegetarian, avoiding any products that involve killing or harming of animals. The sattvic diet additionally emphasizes organic foods; foods grown in harmony with nature, on good soil, ripened naturally, cooked in the right manner and with the right attitude of love.  Such foods are carriers of prana and consciousness.”

It’s controversial for many people to give up meat and live a vegetarian lifestyle. Yet, if we fully understood the impact of our food choices on the environment, we might consider it.

According to Time Magazine, almost 40% of the world’s land surface is used to keep our population fed and this land is not used to raise grains, fruits and vegetables for human consumption but to feed the livestock that we ingest. They reference a Food and Agriculture Organization report in 2006 that said livestock production creates 18% of human-caused greenhouse gases. Also, livestock production uses 1/3 of our fresh water sources.

It’s also important to mention the amount of hormones and antibiotics used in livestock production that is not only ingested by our bodies and affecting our health, but is seeping into and polluting our water and soil.

If we wish to reduce our impact on the environment we need to turn our eyes toward land and water use.

How can we make choices that keep our outer world clean and healthy?

In conclusion, living and eating like a Yogi is more than just the physical Hatha postures and breathwork, but a way of purifying everything – our bodies, minds, thoughts, words, behaviors, actions and environment. Next time you sit down for a meal, ask yourself how your Yoga practice contributes to the choices you are making for your inner and outer environments.


4 Tips for Yogic Living – Learned through Ashram Living

I always wondered what it would be like to live as a Yogi. Would I need to live in a cave in the Himalayas? Or wander the streets of India renouncing the world? Or live in an Ashram in India? Ironically, I discovered how to live like a Yogi right here in the United States at Yogaville* in Virginia.

I’d like to impart several basic concepts to help us all live in a more Yogic way no matter where we are.

1. Devotion to the Yoga Sutra Teachings

When you visit Yogaville you witness and live in the devotion of the Ashram yogis to Swami Satchidandna and the Yoga Sutra teachings that inform all of Yoga.

The teachings of the great masters are alive in all things that we participate in daily – meditation, asana classes, spiritual studies, prayers, readings during meals, puja ceremonies, kirtan and other practices.

If you don’t live in an Ashram

Pick up the Yoga Sutras and study these brilliant teachings. The Sutras are a time tested scientific approach to peace and long-term sustained happiness.Place the book on your bedside. Study and explore the reasons why we practice Yoga. You will understand that Asana, postures, is a very small part of the whole of Yoga and is often the first step for most Westerners. There is so much more to learn to glean the benefits of Yoga.

{*Yogaville is an ashram that was founded by Swami Satchidananda in 1980. His reputation stems from the opening of the Woodstock festival and his work in Interfaith peace. Here they call him Gurudev. Gurudev also wrote the most popular translation ever written of the Yoga Sutras, which is what most Yogis will study one day in their teacher trainings. }

2. Practice for a long time, with consistency and with all earnestness.

In the Sutras, Patanjali talks about Abyassa, or practice. It must be consistent, over a long period of time and practiced with zeal!

I have called myself a Yogi, being a practitioner of Yoga for almost 15 years and a teacher for almost 7 years now, but when I came here I recognized my practices had slipped. This urban city Yoga teacher teaches a ton, drives everywhere, eats in my car, is always on the go and barely finds time for my own practice. I was not slowing down to turn inward which is the true practice of yoga. My sadhana, or practice was suffering. I was not being a Yogi.

Practice is not just physical postures. Most of the Yogis that have lived here have been here 20 – 40 years! They practice physical postures daily, meditation multiple times a day, study the scriptures weekly and more. I’m not saying you have to do all these things, but pick something you love and do it a lot and with enthusiasm. Michael Jordan didn’t become the most famous basketball player because he practice every now and again.

If you don’t live in an Ashram

Pick a practice offered in the Sutras and find the ones that resonate with you. If you don’t know yet, experiment until you do. You must like the practices that you choose so that you can be dedicated to practicing them daily and with zeal. This is when the real benefits of Yoga are experienced.

3. Find your Sangha, or Community

When you are practicing Yoga you must understand the Yamas (abstinences) and Niyamas (observances). These are likened to the 10 commandments and give us a framework to understand how to conduct ourselves in community.

I have learned more in depth here at Yogaville the importance of intentional community and living with like-minded people who are considerate of the same fundamental principles of honoring Spirit in all things, sustainability, kindness, speaking truthfully, and respect for others.

When you follow the Yoga Sutras devotionally and practice them daily, life is conscious at so many more levels of our being. The more we help ourselves evolve the more the entire community vibrates at a higher level. But it takes support of the whole community to foster dedication, especially when you are getting purified and dealing with the monkey mind. When left to our own devices it is easy to get distracted.

If you don’t live in an Ashram

Find meet up groups for scripture study, hang out with your fellow yogi students, enlist the help of your yoga teachers, or find a mentor. Use the community to support your practices to keep you engaged and consistent.

4. Karma Yoga

In our society, we have become very conditioned to compete for our share of the pie. In the spirit of competition often we forget about partnerships, community and helping others. Things are expensive, we need money, we have bills to pay and we have to step over the next guy to ensure that we do.

In the Ashram, we exchange our time for room and board. There is a big difference when you start your shifts with OM’s and a prayer of gratitude for sharing what you can to make a spiritual center thrive. And as a result of your service you get these amazing teachers to learn from, practices to thrive from, blessed vegan food from the farm and lots of love.

When you place the intention and the focus of your work less on the rewards of the work, but on the act itself as a form of meditation and an opportunity to share something with people, you move the focus from the Ego (Selfish) to Universal (Selfless). Karma Yoga is Yoga in action or selfless service.

If you don’t live in an Ashram…

Devote some of your time to selfless acts. Exchange your gifts with others. See if you can take the focus off of yourself and train the monkey mind by devoting some actions to the larger whole. This is the practice of Yoga.

As you can see, living like a Yogi is more than attending the occasional yoga class. I would highly recommend an Ashram living experience. These and intentional communities exist all around the world. And if you don’t have the opportunity to spend some time in an Ashram, maybe visit one for a weekend retreat and a get a small taste of the community vibration. You don’t have to live in a cave, or walk the streets and renounce the world, but you can become more conscious of the way you live.

5 marketing tips

5 Marketing Tips for Successful Yoga Retreats & Events

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By January 30, 2015

When I first started teaching yoga over 6 years ago, I had been asked many times by yoga teachers and studio owners, “Nicole, how do I market this yoga retreat or yoga event? I don’t have the faintest clue how to market this.”

As a marketing professional for over 15 years, I was qualified to answer that question and also very perplexed. In my mind I thought, “How the heck did you get all these students without knowing how to market anything?”

The Golden Years

Studios at that time in San Francisco had packed classes and the teachers were getting tons of privates. It was incredible! I was surprised that what I felt was so crucial to the success of a business, was not understood by this sector, yet so much success was unfolding for them.

I bring this to our attention because many Yoga teachers, brands and studio owners still have a somewhat laissez-faire attitude toward success based on the past. They believe, as the saying goes, “if they build it, they will come.”

The success of the yoga studios and teachers over 6 years ago was due to great timing, an avid practice, and a passion to share it. Yoga was a new concept. It promoted great values and ideals that were very quickly embraced and needed in our society. Yoga filled a gap for Americans.

Crowded Marketplace

Yet, In Los Angeles where I reside now there are studios on every corner and an overabundance of amazing teachers, yoga teacher trainings of all modalities every weekend and hundreds of workshops to choose from. There is a lot of talent and it has become a very competitive business. Now that there is very healthy competition in LA, marketing is on the forefront for all Yoga brands and teachers.

Yoga has become a full-fledged consumer business. “The latest “Yoga in America” study, just released by Yoga Journal in 2012 shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study, an increase of 29 percent.”

Yoga Retreat Marketing

It used to be that marketing a retreat or event was about the “Big Name” teacher. Get a great venue, bring the best talent and people will flock. That is no longer the case. After working at YogaWorks for the past 4 years in the teacher training department, it’s very clear that a lot more is happening now behind the scenes to fill workshops, trainings and events with students.

Now, marketing for yoga events and retreats resembles my time as an event planner/marketer in the consumer restaurant business with even more bells and whistles and social media playing a heavy role.

In subsequent blogs, I will discuss more about the detailed marketing steps, but for this first blog in this series, I wanted to list the basic strategy to marketing and creating a great event.

1. Know Your Audience

I’ve also observed yogis are interested in brands that pay attention to the environment, are involved with non-profits, business ethics, and sustainability. All of these facts come from Yoga Journal’s 2012 survey:

  • 80% of yogis are women but men are growing.
  • Age range is 18 – 44. College educated.
  • About 30% of the market has been practicing over 3 years and the rest are even less than that. That’s a huge beginner market hungry for education.
  • The highest motivational factors to start a practice were flexibility, general conditioning, stress relief, overall health improvement and physical fitness.

2. Location, Location, Location

As a practice Yoga is a getaway. It’s a welcomed reprieve from the stresses of life. It’s about creating a sanctuary for personal transformation.  When considering a location you want to consider tantalizing the senses to help practitioners illicit the feelings of their practice (even if they aren’t practicing as is the case in some yoga related events):

  • Aesthetics – ambient lighting, beautiful artwork, spiritual and multi-cultural references
  • Sound – ability for silence/reflection an/or great yoga music
  • Practice space – how comfortable and spacious they will be
  • Smells – incense or infused oils or exotic smells
  • Environment – natural, clean, sustainable
  • Taste – vegan and vegetarian options, not heavy drinkers

3. Timing

Yogis are generally not night owls. I find many yogis are in bed early and wake up for a morning practice. Yoga events don’t tend to go very late. Also consider, in the 80% female demographic many have families and kids to manage, so its helpful to consider working around school for timing of events and times of the year you host events. You may even consider childcare options or kids’ activities for large-scale events.

4. Theme/Objective

In yoga classes we create a theme for the practice derived from a quote or perhaps a pose we are working toward. Similarly, we want to have a clear theme or objective that provides us with an end result and a way to measure our success. We want to create content that we can use to market and report pre and post event via photos, videos, social media, etc.

5. Consumer Engagement

How will you engage with your consumer at the event? What are the benefits to them for attending? This is a very juicy area to explore. Events are social occasions so we want to promote and market via social media, PR, emails, videos, blogs, etc. to the consumer. We also want to consider the event’s value so that we can solicit yoga brands for sponsorships and book great talent (music, yoga teachers, presenters, etc).


These basic marketing strategies can help get you up and running for a successful event, but there is so much more to consider. Please check in with our blog series on other marketing tips and more detailed steps to marketing successful yoga events and retreats!


7 Practices to Keep You Grounded This Fall

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I have been the staff writer for YogaWorks Teacher Training Department for the last several years. This was my recently published article as “YogaWorks” for Yoganonymous.

As we enter the Fall season, it is important to understand how this seasonal change affects our body-mind.

As we learn in our Yoga practice, Prakriti, or Nature, is a mirror for us to understand our greater Selves.

Looking toward nature, Autumn is Vata season in Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga. The Vata dosha is characterized by words such as cool, light, dry, mobile, changeable, rough, and airy. We witness these changes in nature – leaves changing color, cooler air, dry leaves falling from trees, wind picking things up and swishing them around.

For the body-mind we see a similar transition. The elements of the Vata dosha are air and space. For people who have this dosha, like me (and many yoga teachers), we may feel spacey, air-headed, forgetful and ungrounded. When our Vata is really out of balance we can feel worried, anxious, and overwhelmed. We may experience nervousness, fear, restlessness and light sleep.

There are also wonderful gifts that this season brings and a balanced Vata can experience. In order to receive these benefits, Vata dosha types need tools to get balanced, connected and present. When Vata people are in balance, they can be flexible, creative, joyful, and excitable. They love to embark in new ventures. This is a great time for visioning, change, transition and movement. Here are some ways to get grounded and balanced to enjoy the Fall season to its fullest!

Grounding practices for Body-Mind-Spirit:

1. Meditation – Create environments for yourself that are less sensory and more nurturing. Being in nature is very helpful to calm the mind and nervous system. Meditation can create spaciousness and harmony.

2. Yoga – Some yoga poses are very grounding such as forward folds, or standing poses that focus on the legs and feet. Practice longer holds with longer exhales. Also, practice longer cool downs during this season, adding shoulder stand and restoratives to balance the nervous system.

3. Breathwork–Practice the breathing technique called Nadi Shodana or Alternate Nostril Breathing for balancing both hemispheres of the brain. And, use extended exhales which can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and balance restlessness.

4. Warm Seasonal Foods/Drinks – The body gravitates toward warm, cooked, earthy foods and warmer teas/drinks. Fall colors come from nature’s trees and foods. These foods contain the nutrients we need to support the body’s immune system during this season. We consume root vegetables like turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and greens. In Ayurveda, ghee, or clarified butter, is recommended to use in cooking for its healthy fat and oils.

5. Oils – Keeping the skin moist is important during this dry season. It’s recommended to use sesame and almond oil after a warm shower. Some people will oil up before their shower and follow up with a hot shower and rinse in cold water stimulating the lymphatic system.

6. Journal – Spend quiet time with yourself to journal, get organized and move ideas out of the head and onto paper. This can help you keep the mind focused and productive for 2015.

7. Create/Learn New Things – Get creative and embark on new projects. This is a great time of year to experience change, vision and experience that transformational energy. It’s back to school time. There is a sense of momentum that is great for learning new things.

These are just some tools that can help you during this transitional season. Enjoy the momentum of this creative season, nurture yourself and create some visions for yourself that you can take into the New Year.

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life force energy

Life Force

Written by Nicole Doherty, Published by American Athlete Magazine (launched in their Winter 2014 iTunes edition)

Powerful. Mysterious. What is this enigmatic life force that yogis talk about?

If you look up the term “life force energy”, a variety of definitions appear from the more esoteric spiritual concepts to the more scientific descriptions of physical energy. In many healing modalities, it’s referenced by different names such as “prana” (Indian Yoga), “qi” (Chinese acupuncture), and “ki” (Japanese Reiki).

“Sometimes it is equated with the movement of breath in the body, sometimes described as visible “auras”, “rays”, or “fields” or as audible or tactile “vibrations”. (Wikipedia)

We know that every living being has a vital life force or a composition of energy.   Our current scientific knowledge can explain much of it and then there are the subtler parts that have no scientific basis.  Life force energy is coursing through our bodies and we are emitting an energetic field around us as well.


In Yoga, “prana” or “life force” is often paired with talk of the “subtle body”.

 “The subtle body is one of a series of psycho-spiritual constituents of living beings, according to various esoteric, occult and mystical teachings. Each subtle body corresponds to a subtle plane of existence in a hierarchy or great chain of being that culminates in the physical form.” (Wikipedia)

Our life force travels on the breath in this subtle body structure within a system of channels throughout our bodies like electric wiring. The physical form is a manifestation of characteristics of this invisible energy.  If we can understand our subtler energies, we can start to understand more deeply our physical manifestations.

 “The Yogic, Tantric and other systems of India, the Buddhist psychology of Tibet, as well as Chinese and Japanese esoterism are examples of doctrines that describe a subtle physiology having a number of focal points (chakras, acupuncture points) connected by a series of channels (nadis, acupuncture meridians) that convey life-force (prana, vayu, ch’i, ki, lung).” (Wikipedia)

In many healing modalities it is proven that when we unblock the channels that carry the prana, we maintain a very healthy long, vital life.  We can unblock energy in many ways for example through touch (massage), needles (acupuncture), manipulation of breath (yoga), meditation and sound.


In many cultures you may hear that we are “being breathed” by a universal presence of which we are all a part, which is our life force. This force is what unifies all living beings.  This prana is consciousness.  This unified field of energy and love is in all things and symbols of this love are all around us.



How can we describe consciousness?

Deepak Chopra explains consciousness as not material at all, but “a quantum reality… What we think of as tiny particles are actually not material at all, but waves of potential.  The waves represent different potential outcomes of reality. Only when observed does the wave collapse into one perceived outcome and is seen again s a particle. The physical world as we see it is not reality, but pure potential.”

If you can wrap your head around this concept for a moment you will witness the exquisite nature of the Self and become the Seer that is a creator of physical reality.

Our life force is pure potential. It has no beginning or end and exists apart from space and time. It is infinite.



Nicole Doherty is a 500-RYT YogaWorks Certified teacher, shamanic reiki energy and sound healer, wellness coach, singer and writer. Through the study of various healing arts and a disciplined yoga practice, Nicole spent most of her adult life on an extensive spiritual inquiry that empowered her to overcome multiple traumas in her life ultimately finding love, light and sustained joy. Her work included wide-spread travel to third world countries and studies with world renowned thought leaders in the areas of yoga, meditation, subtle body, Reiki, shamanism, women’s empowerment and life coaching.  What she discovered on this path to wholeness fuels her passion to inspire others to heal and find their highest potential. Committed to embodying her truth in service, Nicole encourages others to do the same with her contagious laughter, endearing smile and lightness of being.