3 Yoga Steps for Achieving your Goals

If I ever feel that my goals are unachievable, difficult or just plain impossible, it is because my mind is cluttered and filled with distractions.  I now use the agitated or anxious mind as a trigger to practice more yoga, more sadhana.  The practice of Yoga sadhana is a de-cluttering of the mind.  It is a smoothing out of all wavering and agitation into a state of calm.  When the mind is calm, it manifests razor sharp focus that can be used to accomplish any goal.

“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” – Robert Brault, quotes from the Bhagavad Gita

It’s true.  Obstacles are not the issue.  Negative habits, samskaras (described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) stop us from achieving our goals.  Samskaras are easy, clear pathways, behaviors, emotions, relationships that we habitually take into limiting viewpoints and bad habits.

Yoga gives many techniques for clearing obstacles in the mind so that you can see the clear path to a higher goal.  Here are 3 steps.  There are many more.  But let’s start with 3.  Patanajali likes the number 5, so we’ll explore 5 steps in other posts.

1.  Clean everyday

A cluttered mind is often reflective of a cluttered environment.  The moment I clear the unnecessary objects from my house, office, car, environment, the lighter and more at ease I feel.  In the past I’ve found organization and cleanliness difficult and arduous.  With years of meditation and yoga, my environments have gotten cleaner.  Paper-work is more streamlined and organized.  I don’t keep old clothes or things in my closets.  I don’t buy too much food that sits around in my pantry or my refrigerator.

The other things I’ve cleaned out from my life are doing things that I don’t enjoy doing just to be polite or to accompany people who can’t go to a function alone.  I’ve also cleared out a lot of toxic and negative people from my life.  A lot of people feel that to be “nice” – one should entertain the garbage in others’ minds.  This is a clear path to a lesser goal of gossip, annoyance, agitation, distress and fear – and blocks one from attaining higher goals of enlightenment, peace and bliss.

2.  Meditate everyday

One hour in the IMG_6974morning and one hour in the evening is the best prescription I know for stopping and simply watching the mind.  This “witnessing” meditation is the hallmark of the philosophy of Yoga as described by Patanjali.  It is taught by modern day Yoga Gurus such as Shiva Rudra Balayogi, Amma Shri Karunamayi Ma and Gurus Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, Ramamurti S. Mishra M.D., Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna.

During this hour, the meditator sits and simply watches the mind.  Yoga breathing techniques such as pranayama, mantra may be used – but even these eventually drop.

What happens is that the mind, when watched, simply clears.  There is a light within the mind that wipes away every thought, dust particle, attachment, desire and need.   This is the essence behind Yoga Illumined Studio’s philosophy – once the light dawns, then things fall into place.  And the path to achieving any of your highest goals of freedom and happiness lights up.  The pathways are clear.  The samskaras (negative habits) no longer have a hold on you.

3.  Watch your ego throughout the day with love

With morning and evening meditation practices as your anchor — you are more able to watch your own behaviors, conversations and relationships throughout the day.  And I must add that this must be done with utmost, unconditional, non-judging love.  Otherwise, it may simply be the ego watching the ego – an incredibly self-defeating and self-confidence annihilating process.  We want to build self-confidence and ease in the world.  You know the ego is no longer at play when judgment drops and love filled with peace is the observer.IMG_6890

Meditation puts the ego in its place – greater soul consciousness and God guide your movements rather than the desire for mere survival.  If you want to know what the ego is, it is the part of you who is most keen on surviving at any cost, the one who is afraid of death, the one who gets lonely and feels isolated.  We need the ego in this world in order to survive, yes, but survival for survival’s sake is still not our highest goals as humans, so we need to put it in its place in order to achieve our greatest potentials of peace and joy.

The most successful people in the world utilize their egos to uphold values that serve humanity’s greatest intentions and needs.  When you look at people who change the course of history, you can see that they simply USED the ego to bring about positive changes in the world.  Who is the one using the Ego?  This is the true Self.  This is the higher Self, the one who acts and lives with unconditional love as its very nature.  It is within all of us.  Differentiating between the Ego and the Soul is the life spiritual work of yoga.  It takes practice and love.

May these three steps help you light the path towards your highest goals and intentions  for presence, peace and happiness in life.  May the Inner Guiding Light always lead the way with love.

Om shantih om,




Sukhasana: The Posture of Ease & Sadhana

Yoga Illumined certified teacher Michelle Widmer suggested we add a Pose or Asana of the Month along with a Theme of the Month for www.yogaillumined.com.  And I thought this a brilliant suggestion.  I love tying them to each other.  The pose of the month is Sukhasana – “Sukha” means ease, joy, freedom, sweetness.  Our Theme of the Month is Sadhana.

11249402_954003434651632_7619488509096571796_nThe prefix “Su” in Sanskrit means sweetness, beauty, illumination, joy.  I know this because my Sanskrit name, Sumukhi, starts with “Su” and ends with the word for “face” – “mukhi.”  The “i” at the end makes it feminine, put an “a” at the end, you have the masculine.  That’s how we hear the word “mukha” the most in yoga classes – Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana  (upward facing dog).

Sukhasana ties in very well with our Theme of the Month – Sadhana.  Often times we see Eastern meditation and spiritual practices depicted in Sukhasana.  I’ve included a photo taken by Yoga Illumined certified teacher Myra Simmons of our friend Prakash in sukhasana during her YogaHike class.  It is a seated pose, with legs crossed on the ground.  We often sit on the ground in meditation because it confers an energetic seal with Mother Earth, we call her “Pritthivi” in Sanskrit.  The spine sits long and tall, the head sits easily on the top of the neck.  Hands can take on mudras (seals of energy in the hands and feet that set the body in alignment).  And then the “Sadhaka” practices Yoga, the science of mastering the mind.

One thing to note is that traditionally, we do not stretch the soles of our feet out towards a Guru, a teacher, because the feet are warehouses of Shakti or divine energy.  We fold them in sukhasana as a way of sealing the energy of our meditation back into our own systems.  When we simply open our feet out to an enlightened master or teacher, it’s as if we are saying that we will not take in the Shakti they are offering.

On some level – we are simply giving our power away instead of creating the energetic mudra that brings the teachings of the masters into the very cells of our bodies.  So I’ve often prompted folks who are new to the Guru tradition to fold legs back in sukhasana when seated at their feet.  The higher sign of full surrender to the lotus feet of the Guru is dropping your head to their feet – which is a message that says “take this busy monkey mind of mine, and infuse it with the stillness of meditative grace.”

But this is another pose.  One that takes a while to master.  The pose of surrender.  That’s another subject.  For now I leave you with one of the few sutras our great teacher Patanjali gave about the 3rd limb of yoga, asana:

sthira sukham asanam ||46||

स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥

sthira-sukham-āsanam ||46||

“Steady – Easy – Seat”

May we all practice yoga with supreme joy, ease and bliss.

Om shantih om,



Saturn Mantra and Yantra

Saturday is the planet Saturn’s day.  Saturn, as we know it from images taken by NASA, is a beautiful gaseous orb with rings around its center or equator.  It’s thought of as a very mysterious planet with all sorts of glorious secrets.

Saturn’s mantra is Om Sham Shanaye Namaha.  You can chant it here:

I like to think of mantras to the planets as ways for us to work in alignment, unIMG_4267ion or yoga with the planets.  Astrology is something quite fun to play with – both Western and Vedic.  I’m always quite aware that with astrology there is an interpreter and mind that looks at the charts for you (unless you know how to read charts yourself) and the more meditative and non-attached the mind, the better the astrology interpretation.  But I am also aware that with deep sadhana, spiritual practice, one may change the arrangement of the planets or better yet, not be affected by them so much.

This Saturn yantra, pictured, painted by Sarah Tomlinson, was gifted to me by Brandi Nicole Wilson – a great friend and yogini – from our Ananda Ashram gala at Jivamukti Yoga Center in 2008.  It’s moved with me a number of times.  Its potency is felt.  It hangs in my house on the Eastern wall.

As yantras are very powerful for energetically aligning a space – Vastu  – having yantras in your home or spiritual spaces can confer beautiful alignment and energy – not just with the natural world around us – but with the greater energy of our planetary system.  In yoga we try not to  only think about our position on the earth, as there is much going on in our solar system that should certainly have an effect on the world as we know it.

One of my yantra teachers from upstate New York is Mavis Gewant.  I’ve only really started a Ganesha yantra in 2008 at Mudita Yoga Center – but I can feel it’s time to continue with this beautiful practice.  So stay tuned for classes from Mavis at Yoga Illumined Studio.

Om shantih om,


Sadhana – Spiritual Practices of Yoga

IMG_7158When you read Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” – a beautiful adaptation of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for modern-day yoga practitioners, you’ll often see the word “sadhaka.”  This word implies the person doing the practice of Sadhana – the spiritual disciplines of Yoga.  In our world today, yoga has become a very fashionable series of exercises – and we love this on one level – on another level – we understand that all Yoga exercises are meant to deepen the practice or Sadhana of the student so that he or she can attain Samadhi – never-ending peace and bliss consciousness.

I have been teaching yoga now for almost twenty years and the practice never stops deepening my Sadhana.  This sadhana is not even a discipline I impose on myself.  I do not set my alarm for 3:30 in the morning to practice at 4 am – the ambrosial hours as my friend William Arthur Mills calls it – the time we call Brahma Muhurta in Sanskrit – the time of God.  But when I am roused out of my sleep – I know it is time for this deep communing, this meditation, this setting my whole life and practices to the metronome of heaven.

Why would we even want the deeper practices of Yoga?

Well, it makes everything easier.  And as Amma Karunamayi Ma reminded me the other day, what happens is that if you need 1000 arms to get anything done, then 1000 arms will be given to you.  I para-phrase, but literally, with deeper practices of yoga, the impossible becomes possible.  The insurmountable difficulty you thought would never be resolved becomes simple.  Problems dissolve.  And here’s the beauty of Yoga, we don’t just want you to believe this.  Yoga is a science.  Apply the techniques to your life and see what happens.  For me, I often feel like there is an invisible hand guiding me always, and that I can just relax as “doing” happens through me.  All doing.  I participate, I am present – but I am guided by something very kind, generous and always loving.  When I am not in my sadhana, the mind gets in the way.  It thinks too much.  Worries too much.  Analyzes too much.  We call this “analysis-paralysis.”

With sadhana, discernment sets in.  There is an ability to intrinsically see what should and shouldn’t take up one’s time and energy.  It’s quite beautiful.  Try it.  Join me for classes at Yoga Illumined.  Let’s practice so that you can form your own Sadhana, your own internal discipline that comes from sweetness and joy.

Om shantih om,


Yoga Illumined Teacher Training South Padre Island March 1-18

Our highly-regarded Yoga Illumined Teacher Training program is now offered as an 18-day Intensive in South Padre Island.  Join us for an remarkable 18-days of transformation and bliss!

Yoga Illumined 200-Hour Teacher Training, South Padre Island

March 1-18, 2015: 

Eighteen days, Two (2) 9-day Segments – March 1-9 and/or March 10-18, Each 1oo Hours of Yoga Teacher Training

FULL SCHEDULE:  YogaIlluminedSPIMarch1-18

Sumukhi (Kristina Lanuza) and Zoe Mantarakis guide you into a deeper understanding of Yoga and its practices for enlightening and freeing the mind and the heart through their Yoga Illumined 200-Hour Teacher Training and Yoga Lifestyle program. You learn the 8-limb system (Ashtanga) as taught by Patanjali – which includes guidelines for strengthening the spiritual, mental, psychic, pranic and physical body through Asana, Pranayama and Meditation.  Yoga Illumined provides you tools for embodying the most expanded state of enlightenment (Samadhi). You also learn how Yoga can enhance every aspect of your life, as well as how to speak from your true Voice in all situations and as a Yoga Teacher.

The Yoga Illumined South Padre Island Teacher Training schedule includes Hatha Yoga, Anatomy, Alignment and how to sequence Vinyasa, Restorative and Yoga Meditation classes.

You will also learn the Yoga Sutras directly in Sanskrit, the original language of Yoga as well as Nada Yoga – the Yoga of Sound.

Because this is an 18-day intensive on a beautiful coral reef and island  – South Padre Island – we will share Yogic dinners and lunches (see schedule for details YogaIlluminedSPIMarch1-18).  You also have the option to take Yoga & Surf or Paddleboard lessons with LaVida Williams and Terra Volz (pictured below) to see how Yoga integrates with the rhythms of nature and the Ocean.

NOTE:  Most classes will be held at Laguna Madre Yoga – 5009 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island, TX 78597 but there are class times on the beach and other South Padre Island locales.  Dinners and lunches will be held at local eateries or via potluck at a local home.


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