Yoga – the original life coaching

Any spiritual tradition, by definition, is a form of life coaching because it provides a codified approach to dealing with the challenges of the human condition.

Although westerners are dealing with a whole load of different problems and issues from the yogi sages of millenia ago, the emotions concerned probably aren’t that different.  Being able to react appropriately to difficult or strong emotions makes life much easier.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (ashtanga), as expressed by Patanjali in his 196 Yoga Sutras, is a succinct but profound life coaching methodology.

Meditation (one of the 8 limbs) gives us important data about our thoughts – these are the thoughts that, whether we are aware of it or not, run our emotions and correspondingly our actions – the net result of which is the life that we find ourselves living today.

Maybe that life is exactly where you want it to be?

But more likely there are areas of your life you’d like to improve.

Self improvement is a funny animal. It can be addictive, and divert your attention from the present.  Striving to be something you think you aren’t, can often be the opposite of the integration that yoga is all about.  There is a danger that you seek, seek and never find, or hand over your power to some person or organisation that is actually only about financial gain or control rather than your spiritual wellbeing.

But the yogis of yore were clever behavioural scientists.  They understood that the highly individualised actions we take that undermine us are very likely to be repetitive (samskaras). And a big part of the problem is that we are unconscious of them.

Recognising any negative unconscious pattern is our first step to being able to transform it – whether we experience it as an external event (eg always “ending up” with someone who cheats on us) or internal (for example, depressive thoughts or feelings of inadequacy).

But what is important is noticing them from a place of “unconditional friendliness” (a wonderful term I learnt on my yoga teacher training course at Kripalu). Having a strong emotional charge around one’s own behaviour is un-constructive.

Self blame feels proactive. But the truth is it’s not, because it doesn’t offer any kind of a solution.

Successful transformation is made when you can look within, see what’s happening and offer yourself an alternative action to take.

This alternative action should take you closer to the person you feel you truly are inside, before you endured and were conditioned by life’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and “sea of troubles”.

It is profoundly healthy to be able consciously to choose the actions that correspond with, and express, your soul’s deepest desires.  It facilitates a flourishing of one’s being that takes place in the present moment, rather than at some imagined point in the future.

So, if you’d like to extend the benefits of your yoga practice beyond the purely physical ….




As far as you are able, assume a position of emotional neutrality from which to analyse your actions. Question whether they are taking you in a direction you want to go. If not, have some fun experimenting with creating new ones, that are more obviously aligned in that direction.

And if your actions are already taking you in the direction that you want to go? Lucky you! Enjoy!


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