“It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” [Abraham Lincoln]

For me one of yoga’s greatest gifts is the way it adds life to your years. None of us knows how long we will be here on this planet. but if we do yoga, one thing we do know is that we will grow into the best version of ourselves. One of the other marvelous things about yoga is that the better you feel about yourself the better you look after yourself. In my 14 years studying yoga I have picked up a lot of advice regarding healthy living, suggestions for adding life to your years, if not years to your life. I call them my bag of tricks –  little things that help make the journey easier and more enjoyable.  They are as follows:

  • No matter what’s going on in your life, always take care of the basics every single day (unless you are ill, or course): (1) get up as early as possible; (2) eat 3 square meals and do not eat in between meals except for a little fruit; (3) exercise outside; (4) go to bed as early as possible.
  • Clean your tongue before you eat breakfast. When you wake up in the morning, there is a coating on the tongue which is full of toxins. You can scrape them off with a special tongue scraper or just the back of a spoon. Scrape from the back of the tongue towards the front until all the coating has disappeared.
  • Before your shower, brush your skin with a skin brush. Skin brushing is excellent for detoxifying your system. The action of the brushing sloughs off millions of dead skin cells allowing the pores of the skin to open and breathe. Because it is an eliminative organ, the skin can then dispose of toxins through the pores. Starting with the soles of the feet, brush up the legs and then up the arms in long, sweeping movements always brushing in the direction of the heart. Use circular movements across the abdomen brushing in a clockwise direction. Avoid the face, neck and any unbroken or irritated skin or varicose veins.
  • Once a week, rub sea salt all over your body. It is wonderfully exfoliating and will cleanse your aura of negativity.
  • Use body products that are free from as many chemicals as possible.
  • Try to do some breathing exercises first thing in the morning if you have time. If you have been taught Pranayama, do a few rounds. Otherwise, sit in your chosen position and spend a few minutes doing So/Ham breathing. Make the sound So as you breathe in and Ham as you breathe out.
  • Spend a few minutes each day doing Japa (repetition of a mantra). This will calm the mind and help clear your subconscious of latent impressions which interfere with your development. If your teacher has given you a mantra, use that. Otherwise, repeat a sacred name from a religious tradition like Jesus or Buddha. I use  a mantra from the Hawaiian tradition Ho’oponopono. (No, I’m not making it up). You just simply say, “Thank you, I love you” over and over again. Check out http://www.self-i-dentity-through-hooponopono.com for more information.
  • Drink water regularly throughout the day. I found this really difficult to do until I started to drink hot water flavoured with a few drops of lemon juice. Way more palatable. You only need sips here and there, not glassfuls of the stuff. Definitely drink hot water as the first drink of the day to flush out the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Eat fresh fruit every day, preferably with a handful of berries (fresh or frozen), and preferably on an empty stomach. Otherwise, it ferments in the stomach.
  • Eat a handful of salad greens every day. They are full of prana or life force from the sun. Green is also a healing colour.
  • Drink tea and coffee in the morning only and switch to herbal brews or uncaffeinated chais for the rest of the day. Otherwise, your sleep could be disturbed by the caffeine.
  • Try to have your main meal in the middle of the day as your digestive power is strongest between 12 noon and 2 p.m.
  • Eat fresh, simple food. Keep a food diary and note down what you eat for each meal and how you feel afterwards. You will soon discover what your body doesn’t like.
  • Never fill the stomach completely. Always leave the table a little hungry.
  • Skip 1 main meal a week and replace it with some fruit or just fast. This will give your digestive organs a rest and allow your body to detoxify and repair itself.
  • Take some food with probiotics every day to help keep the healthy flora in the stomach balanced. You could drink Kombucha tea or take some natural probiotic yoghurt sweetened with honey.
  • Wear bright colours as often as possible. The colours will uplift you and everyone you come into contact with.
  • Spend some time outside every day. As I said earlier, green is a healing colour and nature absorbs our negative thoughts and transmutes them. Fresh air is full of prana and we also need Vitamin D. Ignore the weather. Living in Ireland, I walk in the rain more often than in the sun.
  • Do a few yoga positions every day, even if you just do a few warm-ups and Savasana.(Relaxation)
  • Digestion of food, sexual activity and talking all deplete your vital energy. You don’t need to become a monk but conserve your vital energy as much as possible.
  • Read something uplifting every day. Unless you hang out with saints and sages, it is very difficult to prise yourself away from the competitive world of ego. Spiritual books will help keep you on your path. (I will post a list of books that have helped me in the coming weeks.)
  • Cherish everything you own and give away anything you either don’t use or love. This will help the energy in your life circulate more freely.
  • Try to avoid abusive language and words like ‘hate’, ‘terrible’, ‘disaster’ etc. Usage of this language lowers your energy.
  • Be friendly to everyone. It will bring you great peace.
  • Spend time with uplifting people.
  • Become an uplifting person, if you are not one already!
  • Reduce your wants. If you have food in your stomach, clean clothes on your back and a roof over your head, you are wealthier than most other people on the planet.