5 Major Points to Consider While Hiring an SEO Consultant

Whether you are a new company or a well-entrenched organization, you still need to pull out all the stops online, just so that you can be noticed. With more companies establishing an online presence, it is important that you hire an SEO consultant just so that you can compete with the others, on an even playing field. However, there are a few things that you may want to consider before hiring one.

Old vs. New:

It is time to call in the experts, but with so many SEO experts doing the rounds, it can be hard, if not difficult to home in on the right solution for your business. It is essential that you determine and sort out the various SEO consultants based on their expertise and years of experience in the field. This is not to imply that those who are brand new to this particular niche cannot deliver.

Completing the SEO Puzzle with a ConsultantRather, the emphasis is on both experience and expertise; a well-proven consultant can help streamline your company’s current SEO requirements, optimize the same for search engines and even help tackle the various issues your website may face.  With the right consultant, you should be able to do that and much more.

Case study:

Before hiring the SEO consultant, you want to first find out why your website is not doing that great as far as SERPs are concerned. You may want to ask the SEO expert to do a complete SEO audit on your website, to better understand the scope of the problem.

Furthermore, after signing the required NDAs, you can provide the consultant with access to your site, so that he can audit the same. This exercise will enable you to determine if the SEO consultant is indeed as good as he claims to be. You can tag this as a test but the exercise serves one critical purpose, it will highlight the SEO problems on your website. Here are some of the common on-site SEO mistakes that you should be aware about.

Once you glimpse the issues that need to be tackled, and along with the consultant, you can chalk out an effective SEO strategy. This exercise will help you evaluate the problems that you may have to overcome and soon, you should be able to set out a blueprint for the road ahead and be able to plan accordingly.

Work plan:

You may want to question the consultant regarding his background, his prior work, and experience. Furthermore, now that he understands the scope of the problem ask him to develop a detail-oriented SEO strategy for ensuring that your company ranks better on SERPS.

You need to question them regarding their work plans and how they plan on achieving the target goals. An SEO consultant who values himself on transparency would be only too happy to share the information.

Past work and SEO updates:

Chances are you are bound to come across SEO consultants that rate the top companies as some of their clients. Irrespective of who they may have worked for in the past, it is your primary responsibility to review their work and see if it matches up to your standards.

You may have to prep questions regarding their work process and past projects and request them to provide you with verifiable proof of the same. This should enable you to gauge their worthiness as an ‘SEO consultant’ and determine if they would be perfect for your company.

Marketing channels and required changes:

The consultant must also be familiar with the various tools and channels he can utilize, to spread the word about your products and services. These can involve guest posting, blogs, content marketing, and leveraging content across various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more.

Bottom line, he must be aware of all the information and know how to utilize the same for publicity. He also needs to explain the process by which he can help boost the user engagement on your website.

You also need to assess if the consultant is familiar with the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates. It is important that the consultant is up-to-date with the latest updates and the ramifications for SEO. He needs to ensure that your on-site content meets up with the latest standards and can ensure that the rest of your web content does as well. He must also be familiar with deep linking, with internal pages showing up on SERPS as this can factor in as far as ranking is concerned.

You or your consultant may be required to make on-site changes to your website so that it can compete better with others. If the consultant is calling for onsite changes or on a page, changes to optimize the same better, you need to get on board.

Getting your strategy rightThe fact is that your website will have to face a few changes, as it gets optimized better. Your content would be reviewed as well as any high-resolution images, featured pics to ensure that all are optimized better as per the latest SEO guidelines from Google. It is necessary that your web content is optimized so that it gets indexed accurately and stands featured on the SERPS.

These are some of the points that you will need to review before hiring an SEO consultant. You may also want to keep the key objectives in mind which is to get your website to rank better so that it can improve its position on SERPS.

You may also want out to list out a strategy for ranking & optimization with the help of the consultant and focus on delivering high quality and information-rich content for the benefit of users. There are a plethora of established agencies offering SEO in NYC, but make sure you consider the above-mentioned parameters and have a couple of meetings to discuss the scope of work and their understanding of your requirements. They should know exactly what is needed without wasting much effort and time from both the ends.

With the right SEO consultant on board, you should be able to ramp up in-bound traffic from various prospective leads. Furthermore, your website, post optimization, will be indexed faster by the various search engines. This should enable you to make sure that the search engines index the latest posts. This is why it is essential that you hire an SEO consultant at the earliest since he can help your website to stand out for the right reasons.

Maximizing the Benefits of Goal Setting

Achieving the maximum benefit from goal setting requires an understanding of how to effectively set goals. This simple seven-step process to setting effective goals which will take broad non-specific goals and transform them into supported, defined, powerful statements generating momentum and motivation towards an achievement.

The steps are:

  1. Listing existing goals
  2. Identifying motivation for selecting goals
  3. Setting timeframes for goal action
  4. Phrasing and recording goals
  5. Sharing goals with a goal partner
  6. Reviewing and adjusting goals
  7. Celebrating progress and goal achievement

Taking action toward your goalsListing Existing Goals

All desired achievements should be written down as goals. For example, desires like ‘travel overseas,’ ‘lose 10 kilograms’ or ‘become a rock star’ could each represent potential goals. Listing a wide range of goals at this step will create a foundation allowing the following steps to assist in selecting those goals which have the strongest motivational support and therefore ability to offer the maximum benefit.

Goals do not need to involve major life changes they should not be limited by the common perception of what is achievable. The only requirement of a goal at this stage is that it holds value to the individual.

Identifying Motivation for Selecting Goals

For each goal identify the motivating factors behind the goal selection and record them next to the goal. The motivating factors are the reasons why a specific goal was chosen. For example:

  • Travel overseas – to broaden historical awareness, to visit a new country, to learn a language and to promote personal development;
  • Lose 10 kilograms – to fit new suit, to have more energy, and to feel more confident;
  • Become a rock star – to attain financial freedom and travel.

After identifying these motivating factors, they must be prioritized. Prioritizing the motivating factors will enable a review of the stated goals to ensure they align with the motivation behind them. For example, setting the goal ‘become a rock star’ but then defining the motivation as ‘having greater financial freedom’ suggests that many other possible career pathways could also be considered and the goal, or motivating factors, should be reviewed.

Setting Timeframes for Goal Action

Establishing timeframes take goals from ‘maybe someday’ and turns them into defined future actions, thereby providing the initial impetus and motivation to commence the journey towards goal achievement. Effective timeframes will include, commencement, reviewing points and completion dates.

Commencement date for each goal initiates the goal journey. For the weight loss goal of ‘lose 10 kilograms,’ this would be the date that exercise and eating patterns are modified or initiated. Reviewing points provide feedback on goal progress and should be set at regular intervals within the goal timeframe. Completion date indicates the point at which the goal should be achieved.

Phrasing and Recording Goals

Having clarified the goals using motivational factors and established timeframes the next step is to state and record the goals. These are statements of action and should provide a commitment to their achievement. For example ‘travel overseas’ is now written as; ‘on the 1st of July 2010 I will move to Japan for six months to learn Japanese.’

Visual references may also be attached to the written goals to further enhance their motivational impact. With programs such as iPhoto, it is even possible to superimpose an individual’s portrait onto any background they choose, therefore making it possible to ‘be in Japan’ right from the start of the goal journey.

Sharing Goals with a Goal Partner

Accountability is a very strong motivator, and where a gym partner will assist in improving the value of workouts, a goals partner will provide support and encouragement in goal achievement. Discussing the process of setting goals will quickly identify people who can offer the appropriate support and share in the enjoyment of the journey.

The personal commitment to sharing a goal provides additional stimulus during challenging periods where the powerful emotions of honesty, integrity, and pride activate to prevent disappointing the goals partner. Sharing the process of goal setting and reviewing points also allows enjoyment and satisfaction to be derived from the progress and success of the selected goals partner as they move towards completing their own goals.

Reviewing and Adjusting Goals

planning and adjusting to hit goalsEach goal must be reviewed regularly to ensure continued relevance and monitor goal progression. For example, goals relating to weight loss require regular checks of body shape and size. Using an established timeframe with rewards attached to reviewing points will also assist in keeping a goal current and interesting.

Goals may require adjustment during the journey toward completion, as new opportunities may arise or changes in circumstance could remove the desire for a specific goal. The purpose behind goal setting, however, remains constant, so the process for setting effective goals should be completed again to set new goals which align with the new situation.

Celebrating Progress and Goal Achievement

Celebrating not only the completion of a stated goal but also progress towards goal achievement is essential to maintaining motivation and energy. Setting effective goals will stimulate achievement and success while celebration will provide positive feedback and encouragement to stay committed to finalizing existing goals and setting new goals in the future.

Building rewards into the timeframe can provide additional incentive at critical periods and each review point should have a reward attached. A reward does not have to be substantial, or directly attached to the goal itself, as the simple act of recognizing that a reward has been earned through a commitment to the goal will stimulate motivation in continuing the journey.

Achieving Dreams

Applying these seven steps to goal setting will ensure goals are relevant, motivational and most importantly survive the transition from thought to action, through to completion. Whether making significant lifestyle changes or fine-tuning existing behaviors setting effective goals will ensure the maximum benefits and personal satisfaction are achieved.

A Divine Universal Plan

How are you? And, what’s the real answer? Have you ever noticed how we automatically respond to that question and often don’t give a real answer? Also, have you noticed when someone asks you that question, who really wants to listen to your response, you feel the ability to open up and be real and just say what’s on your heart? God loves us so much. Every day He is asking us how we are and He profoundly wants to know the answer in our hearts…that’s what I believe. And, yet, so often we forget He is there. Yesterday at work one of my co-workers asked me that question and I could tell he really cared what my response was. I imagine God is caring all the time. (I love that song by Steve Gold, Let Your Heart Be Known.

So, I shared and it was so helpful to talk. Right after I shared, I got the most amazing email from someone who had read the Fresh Fruit Cleanse book. I felt like that was God saying to me to remember that He is there for us in infinite ways. But, to feel God’s support or love or anyone’s support or love we must be willing to be vulnerable and let our hearts be known. Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing of all…way harder than what we’re going through in life. As soon as we let ourselves be vulnerable, we can feel God’s grace and love flowing into our hearts and minds whether that’s through the caring spirit of a friend, or, from the God Energy of Life itself.

So, even when it’s scary, remember, to let yourself be vulnerable and let your heart be known. As someone I know said recently…vulnerable is the new strong. And, to that I’ll add something I saw on someone’s t-shirt a couple of weeks ago…strong is the new beautiful. 🙂 Who said life is easy? I’m pretty sure we’ve all realized by now it’s not, but it is so, so, so magnificent and miraculous and impressive even in the depths of our most significant loss or difficulty in life. God is with us, love is with us, grace is with us, and we are all ONE. There is a saying in the Shiva-Svarodaya, “The Prana (life force) ) verily is one’s greatest friend, companion and there is no greater kinsman than the life force.”

A couple of days ago, I was reminded of the quote by Paramhansa Yogananda from Autobiography of a Yogi…

Every saint who has penetrated to the core of Reality has testified that a divine universal plan exists and that it is beautiful and full of joy. – Paramahansa Yogananda

What an awesome quote. May that teaching be with us every moment of every day with each breath we breathe. May we remember that no matter what we are going through in life, God will bring us through and that there is a Universal Divine plan and it IS beautiful and full of joy. As one of my friends said recently, one of the greatest challenges humans face is taking life too seriously. For real, peeps. Of course, we are to have great reverence for this gift of Life, but, let’s remember that through it all it’s important not to take it so seriously but to see, as Yogananda says, the Cosmic picture show of it all. He often refers to life as a movie playing itself out, and we are both creating it and acting in it. The important part is to be conscious, as much as possible, or as Yogananda says, superconscious mind and to be able to be in Purusha, the great observer of it all. Watch your thoughts, watch your feelings even while you feel your feelings…be conscious and watch everything else from that superconscious place. Don’t get so involved in the movie that you forget its a movie. 🙂

Breathing into the Divine when meditatingRemember to sit back, relax and enjoy the show even when it’s a dramatic scene…you can also laugh at the drama, and you can remember to smile even when there is heartache because that, too, shall pass as we are filled more and more with the Light and love of the Divine with every breath we breathe. As Shiva says, the great Light that purifies us all. Sure, we must put forth effort into that purification, but it’s happening one way or another, ultimately. God’s universal plan is the purification of our soul through the purification of our body, heart, and mind. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be perfect, but that does mean, as Yogananda says, we are brought to our knees in desperation or devotion. I’m guessing we’ve all experienced a time or two when we have come to our knees desperate for the love or support of someone. God is always there.

So, this awesome passage was written by the beautiful Yoginia, Sofia Hyder. And, she has graciously allowed me to share it here on the True Yoga Blog with all of us. I read this the other day on Facebook and was brought to tears by how beautiful it is. I met Sofia at the Self-Realization Fellowship. I’m grateful to say she may be sharing her incredible writings with us on the True Yoga Blog, as well. You can read more about her and see her creative and lovely work on her website. For now, I will share these words she was inspired to write after running into a friend at Whole Foods the other day. Can you believe what happens when we allow the inspiration and wisdom were flowing through all of us to stream? That wisdom is in each of us. We all can express in surprising ways. It looks different for each of us, but that creative flow and intelligence is in each of us. Let it flow.

‎03-06-2012

The Blank Canvas

The first three chakras teach us how attachment is formed – by need, by desire, and by fear of loss. The fourth chakra shows us how relationships sound to a peaceful heart. Breath becomes a life force. The vibration transcends appearances and speaks the truth, “We are mortal. We are eternal.” The sixth chakra calls upon our ancient, ancestral, and timeless wisdom to guide us through the material world. The seventh and final chakra brings us to our knees with gratitude, abundance, joy, and recognition of the light. Expansive and intimate, its’ guidance bridges heaven and earth by bloodline. Now is the time to know for ourselves who we genuinely are, neither by holy book nor holy men, but by introspection, engagement, and openness.

So, the truth of the matter is I miss my dad today. There’s no reason why I lose him more today than other days but sometimes I realize, even though he’s with me in spirit, I won’t get, and it’s hard to understand that sometimes, especially, when I think I could be on the earth a long time without him here, physically. And, yet, what brings me comfort in those moments these days. Feeling God’s grace and love and all of the incredible love of family and friends. My dad’s love for me, and, my love for my Dad, opened me up to being able to feel God’s love and the love for and of others in a greater way, so, what a blessing to have had him in my life.

Of course, I wish I could see him again, physically. I’ve had lots of dreams where I’ve gotten to see him and Yogananda says if we meditate deeply enough we can connect with our loved ones astrally, but, still, it seems nothing replaces that physical contact while we are here on earth. And, yet, I don’t pine for him because I do know he is in a better place, free from the suffering of the world. Even when we don’t take it too seriously, let’s face it, it’s not always easy to be in this body. But, breathing in and breathing out, inhaling and exhaling, we can know the peace of surrender. As a good friend said today, don’t think too much ever, just relax. Thank you, Walter, for being there, for being here. We are so blessed to be surrounded by the love of so many amazing souls. We are souls in human bodies…what an amazing experience. Mortal and eternal. Om Shanti.

So, friends, a few more words. Some of you have asked for advice for the Fresh Fruit Cleanse book. I believe you’ll find it to be beneficial, and, a guidebook you keep with you in your life, both, for its recipes and its inspiration from some of the greatest teachings that have blessed my life over the years. But, a few words of advice, in addition to the advice in the Fresh Fruit Cleanse book, is — keep going and don’t give up. Be realistic about your cleansing goals and then stick with it. With all of the recipes in the book, you can make it through however many days are best for you whether that’s 1, 3, 5 or 7 days. Cleansing can sometimes seem intimidating, at first, but the Fresh Fruit Cleanse is a supportive program. It’s not hard but encouraging, delicious and straightforward to go through the cleanse because of all the nutritious and delicious food you get to eat. Remember the excellent Chocolate Pudding recipe I shared on FOX 4 Good Day?

I Know I’m Not Alone

It’s interesting to experience what’s opening up in my Yoga classes. I’ve had this whole reconnection with my youth thing going on. I really believe Yoga opens up our connection to our youthfulness. I’m finding myself playing these songs in class simply because it feels good at the moment, so it works. I loved Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers back in the day. Recently, I’ve played a Tom Petty song here or there. And when I play it, or any song I feel that connection to. It feels so good that sometimes I’ll sing. It’s awesome.

Shiva Rea on a Yoga PoseSo, I’ve been going through the emotional roller-coaster of life…so to speak. For the most part, I find myself feeling consistently well, content, happy. But, there are moments where I realize I’m not feeling the intensity of my experience, especially given everything going on with my dad. Just today, I noticed how I’ve been giving almost all of my energy to another situation, but beneath the surface of everything, dwells these unfelt feelings about everything going on with my dad. It’s interesting how life inevitably slows us down and makes us feel our feelings…one way or another. What’s really beneath the surface of all of the stimulation/excitement we’re covering everything up with? For me. it’s a feeling of heaviness when I go into the depth of the feelings; I’m experiencing about my dad. I mean, there are so many feelings, it is the full rainbow of emotions related to my father having cancer. And, it’s not that I need to dwell there, but I certainly need to be conscious of what is.

But, I’m not afraid to feel it…as my first Yoga teacher said…feeling is healing. And, the Lightness shines brighter on the other side when we are authentic with ourselves, our experience.

On a lighter note, I’ll be heading out to L.A. again in July for another training with Shiva called Embodying the Flow. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts in my life, over the past year, is to feel the mentoring and guidance of a true Yogic Master. She is the embodiment of Yoga. I feel her Presence guiding me all the time…and, I mean, she is fricking beautiful. Her natural beauty and Grace inspires and transforms all of those who are blessed to be connected to her. Through studying with her I’ve learned, as Michael Franti says in his song, that “I know I’m not alone.”

And, let’s see, what else. Well, I’m single again so I’m learning a lot about opening my heart, even though sometimes it’s scary and painful. But, it’s always worth it. The only way anything can flow is in an open, free heart. This poem by Hafiz, though, has been particularly influential for me in those moments when I’ve felt the feeling of loneliness,which seems to still creep in every once and a while. So, I hope you find it meaningful to you… Peace.

Don’t surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender,
My need of God
Absolutely
Clear.

-Hafiz

The Crow Pose Challenge!

The Crow PoseOh my gosh, first of all, my eyes are burning, and everything I’m looking at right now has this haze around it because I spent three hours in the pool being photographed doing Yoga poses by this awesome photographer in Dallas, Kathleen Wilke. I haven’t spent that much time underwater since I was a kid.

And, a lot of times when I was a kid I would wear goggles. I had forgotten what it feels like to have chlorinated blood-shot eyes — it burns and even makes it hard to concentrate. I don’t recommend keeping your eyes open for very long in a chlorinated pool. But, I did feel like a kid again. One of my fellow Yoga friends was also photographed with me and it really did feel like we were 8 or 10 just playing in the water. It was awesome. I was just saying in class yesterday how powerful it is to connect with the elements consciously (especially now in the Spring as the expanding sunlight is energizing everything in Nature). As children, we were always immersed in Nature.

For most of us as adults, it requires a little more of a conscious effort. I was saying how powerful it is to practice Yoga poses outside, on the earth, in the sun, feeling the air, and if possible, by water. If we are ever feeling energetically depleted, one of the best remedies and reenergizing techniques is to be in Nature, and of course, practicing a few Yoga poses to really absorb the energy, is even more powerful than just walking, etc. The reason why the elements energize us is that we are the elements. Our body is mostly space, followed by water, earth, fire, and air. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm, as we know, but sometimes we forget the reason why Nature is so powerful for us is that it reconnects us with the pure essence of yourself. No wonder why kids have such boundless energy, because they are constantly connected to Nature’s infinite energy supply. So, I’m glad I got to take my own advice because I got to absorb it all spending so much time outside today…

It is a gift to be awakenedThere’s so much I could write…it’s been a while since I last posted. Sometimes, I want to share my whole life story with you, the True Yoga Blog has often felt like journaling to me. But, to spare you, I will say this. Life is good. The experiences we are growing through are ever-increasingly awakening us to the preciousness of life and the present moment. It’s a gift to be awakened, and often, pain is one of the most powerful illuminators. What’s happened in our world recently has shook us out of our comfort zone. Or, as Shiva Rea would say, it’s been a Mooladhara (1st Chakra) shaking and awakening. And, we are blessed to realize our true security is not fiscal but spiritual. This teaching is scriptural and the strength of Spirit is found in yourself as we recognize Sangha, the gift of spiritual friendship and community. I’m inspired when I think of the community that’s evolved through the True Yoga Blog, and the community of readers that has grown as we share in these thoughts and ideas together, awakening us to new states of awareness individually and collectively.

In one of the books I’m reading right now called The Mystery of 2012 it talks about the rapidly evolving consciousness because of the profound interconnectedness of everything these days, due to the groundbreaking pathways of communication we’ve realized over the past, (it’s hard to believe), but, just 20 years (not even that long).

If you had told Mozart that in the future humans would own tiny boxes the size of a coin, made from some strange material that was neither wood nor metal, with two strings coming out of the box that, when placed in their ears, would enable them to hear any of his compositions as clearly as if they were in a room with an orchestra, would he have believed you? On the contrary, he would probably have thought you mad.

THE OMEGA POINT

One person who believed our destiny was indeed a collective spiritual awakening was the French priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Exploring the evolutionary trends toward greater complexity, connectivity, and consciousness, he argued that humanity was moving toward an “Omega Point” – the final end and goal of evolution.

He believed that the universe had been through several major stages of evolution, starting with what he called “cosmogenesis,” the birth of the cosmosphere, the universe. Next was “geogenesis,” the birth of the Earth (geosphere); following that, “biogenesis,” the birth of life (the biosphere). With human beings, there came “noogenesis” and the “noosphere,” the sphere of thought. He predicted that the final stage, the one that led to the Omega Point, would be “Christogenesis.” This would be the birth of Christ consciousness, not in an individual but the collective-the spiritual birth of humanity as a whole.

Teilhard de Chardin believed this Omega Point would happen thousands of years in the future. Like many others, he did not take into account the implications of ever-accelerating change. In his later years, he commented on the impact of radio and television in bringing humanity together. Technologies like these, he said were bringing the Omega Point much closer. Just before he died, the first computers were being developed. Perceiving the potential of this new technology, he predicted that they, too, would bring the Omega Point even closer. If he had lived to see the emergence of the Internet, he would probably have realized that the Omega Point could come very soon indeed.

BREAKDOWN OR BREAKTHROUGH?

When we look at what is happening in the world today, it is understandable that we might scoff at the very idea of a collective spiritual breakthrough. The daily news may well lead us to believe that we are heading ever more rapidly toward breakdown rather than a breakthrough.

That is, indeed, one likely possibility. I do not want to downplay the dire urgency of the world situation. If we don’t make some radical changes, we are surely headed for a disaster of one kind or another.

I also believe that positive change is possible. If we can develop the wisdom needed to navigate our way through these turbulent times safely, the potentials are staggering and unimaginable in scope. Let’s put our hearts and minds to proving that we can pass Buckminster Fuller’s final evolutionary exam and become a genuinely magnificent species. We are, after all, our only hope.

– The Mystery of 2012

One of the things you can do is take affirmative action. Of course being in service is one of the best ways we can take decisive action. One of my teachers says the most potent practices are Study, Service, and Meditation. When we yoke these three practices together, it becomes a trinity and amazing things awaken within us and around us. The one I get to be committed to, that I have yet to develop a consistent practice with, is service. It is my commitment to awakening this third practice as I grow into the Spring.

I also encourage you to take personal action, meaning, what are how you can better yourself. Of course, practicing Yoga is one way. But, our Yoga practice must go beyond our weekly training. That’s why I’m encouraging each of us to cultivate a daily practice of Crow Pose throughout Spring. The reason why I am suggesting Crow Pose is that it is the foundational arm balance in Yoga. The arm balances are the way we awaken optimal core strength; there is simply no other way to awaken your core strength that deeply. So, the arm balances, and specifically, Crow Pose, is just a place we get to grow into and practice, consistently, if we aspire to realize real progress and positive change. What kind of progress awakens from a consistent practice of Crow Pose?

While each of our practices evolves in a personal way, some of the awarenesses I’ve awakened to through Crow Pose are that it activates Manipura Chakra (3rd Chakra). The 3rd Chakra is the center of will and determination, self-confidence and energetic strength. It is the place where we realize our potential, what’s possible when we commit ourselves to a vision. As we stoke the fire, which is the element connected to 3rd Chakra, unhealthy, heavy egoic habits are dissolved, and the lightness of inspiration is awakened. It literally strengthens your energetic field (aura) causing impure influences to be impenetrable, especially the negative intentions of other people. So, yes, Crow Pose is all this and more. Start practicing it each day, for just a few minutes, and you will be amazed at what transforms within you and all around you as we grow into the Spring season of our Soul.

Namaste!

5 Steps to Correct Breathing

Most people never think about the way they breathe. It is something that happens as a natural reflex and doesn’t require thought. But, when you do need to concentrate on it, such as during your first yoga class or while working out, that’s when flaws in your breathing style can become easy to detect. Have you ever tried to take a deep breath and found yourself yawning afterward due to lack of oxygen? Or do you ever have trouble focusing on yoga poses and correct breathing at the same time? If so, you’re not alone. Not only do most of us neglect to think about the way we breathe, but we are also most likely in the habit of breathing improperly. To enhance your yoga practice and improve your physical health and emotional well-being, learning to give your body the oxygen it needs should be your very first step. Here’s how:

Posture and rhythm in breathing1. Identify incorrect breathing.

Most people breathe quickly and do not inhale all the way. This is called shallow breathing. If you find yourself breathing fast, raising your shoulders as you breathe, and not letting your stomach expand, you could be breathing incorrectly. When you breathe the right way, your stomach, diaphragm, and ribcage fill with air and visibly expand.

2. Warm up.

Before you learn how to breathe the right way, take some time to warm up your body first. This will relax your muscles and allow the breath to enter the body more fluidly. Don’t exercise to the point that you’re out of breath, though. If you do, wait until your breathing has stabilized.

3. Pick your posture.

You can either stand with your back straight and knees slightly bent or sit cross-legged with a straight back. Put your shoulders back and let your chest lift. Relax your arms and put them on your waist or fold them gently in your lap.

4. Inhale.

Inhaling slowly through your nose, let air pass into your diaphragm and fill your stomach. You should feel like your stomach is expanding like a balloon. Inhale for about five seconds, or until you feel you have taken a full breath. Never force yourself to take a deeper breath than feels natural. The point is to train your body to take slower, better breaths, not to breathe so deep that it hurts. You have to practice a bit until you find the length of breath that feels good for you.

5. Exhale.

Exhale through your mouth, not your nose. Make sure to exhale slowly, in about the amount of time you took to inhale (this can vary, though, with inhaling and exhaling taking different amounts of time for different people). Keep breathing out until you have exhaled fully.

Try this sequence several times a week, and practice regular yoga, and you should see vast improvements in the quality of your breath.

Take Repossession of Your Greatness

The title of this post comes from cards that were written by Michael Bernard Beckwith who is featured in the movie the Secret and who leads the Agape spiritual community in California. Michael Beckwith has appeared on Oprah and Larry King and he is one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time. I really love him and resonate with his teachings. My friend gave me these cards. They are ‘daily meditations and inspirations to launch your life into the heights of your divine potential.’ This is what this week’s card says:

Take Repossession of Your Greatness

At some point you have to own up to how great you are, how beautiful you are, to how much inner dignity and potential you have. Drop complaining about what other people didn’t give you or do for you, or how they mistreated you. Take repossession of your Self and you will rise to a level of greatness that has been yours all along.

Anyhow, that was really powerful for me when I read that. If I had a penny for all the times I thought things like, ‘I’m not this or I’m not that or not enough to be this or that, blah, blah, blah.‘ Looking outside of yourself and appreciating beauty is a wonderful thing, when, you also remember to realize the beauty you see is only a reflection of the beauty inside yourself. It can be painful to realize the way we can sabotage ourselves rather than love ourselves. Of course, we must look deeper to understand why the sabotage ever happened in the first place. There is a good chance there was some kind of emotional wound or scar from the past. Often, a person will resort to unhealthy behaviors, habits or addictions to cover up the wounds or hurts from the past because they feel that those wounds are ugly or there is shame or guilt there. I realize there was a time I turned to alcohol, drugs, etc. to cover up wounds and pains from the past. Through Yoga, we begin to heal what are called the samskaras of our experience. Samskaras are described as: The imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience (from this or previous lives), which then color all of life, one’s nature, responses, states of mind, etc…

I have written in previous posts about some of the samskaras from my past. Some of the samskaras I’m healing from are also from more recently, as well. There are some things in the last year, and previously, I wish I wouldn’t have done. I realize my actions came from a place of pain. And yet, I know regret doesn’t serve me. All I can do is learn from my choices and make choices which feel better for myself and my body in the present. As I learn to forgive myself for the things I do, it teaches me to be compassionate with myself and forgiving and compassionate toward others. None of us are perfect. Well, if anyone IS perfect, I’d like to know who they are. Will you please come forward? I’d like to meet you. I think we all would. Well, perhaps we could say we are perfect but our choices are not always ‘perfect,’ whatever that means exactly. However, on some level whatever choices we are making are perfect when we are open and willing to learn from our choices. And yet, we can continuously grow to make choices which better serve our Highest Self and others. Although, even when we are making the best choices possible it still doesn’t mean we will be ‘perfect,’ again, with whatever that means.

Let’s say smoking cigarettes, for example. Actually, in the book I’m writing about cleansing there is a chapter about eliminating alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine to grow and be healthier. When I started writing that chapter the other day I noticed I started feeling all of these compulsive desires because I used to (about ten years ago) smoke and drink alcohol and caffeine regularly. All of a sudden, while writing, it brought up strong cravings of wanting to do all of those things again. So, I entertained that possibility for a little bit. I started wondering what if I were to drink and smoke all the time again? I’ve heard of those saints who have reached enlightenment and then fallen from grace only to realize it’s impossible to fall from grace, so-to-speak. I’m not encouraging anyone to do anything that they feel is unhealthy for their body. I believe our body is our temple and we must learn to treat it as well as we possibly can, learning how to do that better and better all the time. But, I also believe we realize salvation the moment we seek to earnestly change. That doesn’t always mean physical healing, because some things could be potentially irreversible from choices made. But, I believe the spiritual healing is always there the moment we realize some action is not serving us and we honestly seek to be and do better. Not long ago, I heard a swami speak here in Dallas who smokes cigarettes. He actually lives in the Himalayas. He came to Dallas because he was invited to speak here. I was a little shocked when he said he smoked. I actually saw him smoking a cigarette outside when I left that evening. But, there was something about it I loved, also. It was so real. He said he is healthier than almost anyone. And, he is in his 60s. He can walk farther, climb higher, breathe deeper and run faster than anyone he knows. Of course, with the altitude in the Himalayas it’s a natural form of Pranayama-control and expansion of the breath. So, I’m sure his lungs get a lot of exercise and conditioning just from breathing. Which, that’s also really interesting to think about.

The smoking swami was one of the favorite experiences I’ve had recently. It reminded me to be real. Will I really smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol all the time? No. I don’t even like smoking or how it has me feeling, at all. And, I also find the experience of drinking alcohol, excessively, i.e., more than one glass of wine or beer increasingly unappealing, as well. There are those moments where it’s easy to drink a couple of drinks such as at gatherings like celebrations, etc. But, in general, I don’t like the feeling of consuming anything excessively. That will be one of the messages in the book…moderation. I believe anything is ok in moderation. Which is also one of the Niyamas, or personal vows, in the 2nd limb of the eight-limbed path of Astanga Yoga. However, what that definition of moderation is changing for each of us in time. What moderation was for me a year ago is no longer the same thing. Perhaps two glasses of wine a night or every other night or two times a week felt like moderation then. And, now, drinking a glass of wine occasionally thinks like moderation. So, it changes. We must be willing and open to the evolution and change as we seek to grow and evolve spiritually. What we did in the past may no longer serve us in the present.

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, otherwise, we harden.” – Goethe

I do not believe in denial. I loved when I read Russell Simmons book Do You! how he said he lets himself have one cigarette a year. I think that’s awesome. Actually, not long ago I smoked a cigarette when I attended a full moon pipe ceremony. The shaman had us bless our cigarette with prayers. It was the best cigarette I ever smoked. We all went outside and smoked it, sober of course, in front of the full moon in silence. It was incredible and I felt no ill effects afterward or the next day. But, I want to be clear. I am a non-smoker. I think habitual cigarette smoking is disgusting. For me, anyways. No judgment. But, I have no idea how people do that regularly. Other than the once or twice a year occasional blessed cigarette, nothing about it feels good to me. To each their own though. As someone in class said just yesterday…as we progress on our spiritual path those detrimental unhealthy habits seem to just fall away.

So, it’s not black and white. There are saints who smoke a cigarette and maybe even drink a glass of wine, occasionally, or perhaps, maybe even smoke a joint. I’m not condoning anything. It’s not my place to condone or condemn. But, I’m certainly not denying anything either. I like to live life spontaneously. Even if I decided to stop drinking completely there’s nothing that says I wouldn’t decide to have a glass of wine if the spirit moved me to at some special moment in my life. Who knows. I’m learning about myself every day. What’s best for me and what’s better for me. But, I also believe a little indulgence is a healthy thing whatever those indulgences that you enjoy are. I’m learning how to find healthier alternatives to the luxuries I enjoy, like carrot cake, for example. The other day I was at Whole Foods and I ate a piece of vegan carrot cake. It was delicious. I encourage you to try it if you haven’t yet.

On the path of spiritual purification remember the smoking swamis and to let yourself enjoy the things you enjoy, too. Sometimes, somewhat sinful, naughty pleasures, in moderation, are a good thing. That’s the message of Yoga teacher David Romanelli. Livin’ the moment. He encourages people to be present. If you are going to have a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate then be present while you enjoy it. (And, eat raw chocolate, which, I’ll be putting an AWESOME and healthy, nutritious recipe for raw chocolate in the book, as well.) Let it be a gift you give to yourself. If you are going to smoke a cigarette, or anything else, occasionally, then maybe even say some prayers while you smoke it. Be conscious, be well, be present, live life fully and enjoy the pleasures in life when you realize the pleasures are not the source of your happiness.

‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Mat 6:33

Once you realize that, you can enjoy the occasional indulgence in life because you know it is not the source of your happiness. Of course, this requires self-control and discipline which is also something our Yoga practice is helping us to cultivate. It seems to me when a person falls into the delusion of thinking pleasures are the source and wellspring of happiness, that’s when they end up depressed because, eventually, when they ’sober up’, they realize that’s simply not true, or even possible, for a pleasure to bring happiness. Pleasures are impermanent. True happiness can only come from that which is eternal, which is the Force of Life itself, your Higher Power, Energy, God, whatever you want to call it. The only way to realize it fully is to plug into it continuously. The way to plug in continuously is through meditation. Obviously, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to meditate under the influence of anything. I just heard Wynona Judd say on Oprah today that she meditates now. The only way to find and know true everlasting happiness and joy, they say, is through meditation. But, when choosing to indulge in anything, always listen to your body. Your body knows what’s best. Your body knows what it wants and what it doesn’t want. I even listen to my body about eating these days. If I don’t feel like eating, I don’t. If I do, I do. I don’t just eat because I can or that’s what I’m supposed to do. I eat because I feel like it and because it’s what my body feels is best at that moment.

Here’s to smoking swamis, the purity, the impurity and everything else in between.

Peace, love, health to all of us and I’ll be back soon. Thank you for reading the True Yoga Blog.

Jai guru

Oh yea, this Friday I’m attending the master class with Yogarupa Rod Stryker here in Dallas. I’m really looking forward to it. I love Rod Stryker and the teachings he shares. He is full of so much wisdom and knowledge from over 30 years of studying and practicing Yoga. I am blessed to call him a teacher. Also, in October I’m planning a retreat to a beautiful place called Buffalo Gap. The picture above is taken from the front porch of where we’ll be staying and practicing Yoga. I hope you’ll be able to join us. It will be a beautiful, enriching, life opening and expanding experience for your body, mind, heart and soul. I will post more details here when I have them. It will be October 15th, 16th and 17th. If you are interested in attending or if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at leanne@trueyogainc.com. If you feel like you would like to smoke some wine or drink anything else, be my guest. We will honor the practice of moderation. But you are welcome to enjoy what you enjoy. Your body is your temple and your teacher. So, listen to it and be good to it. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection. Also, when I wrote about Wynona above I remembered she actually attended a healing center in Buffalo Gap, called Shades of Hope, which is literally about 200 yards from where the retreat will be. Oprah is currently filming a special feature on the retreat center.

Also, I think this quote by Rumi is so incredibly beautiful. It speaks to the fullness of all that is and the wholeness of all that we already are. There really is nothing that can be given to us because we already have everything we need. It’s all inside of us simply waiting to be discovered and found. I do believe healthier choices help us to find and rediscover our already existent greatness. But, that still doesn’t mean you have to live up to some unrealistic idea of perfection. You can still smoke a cigarette a year if that’s what floats your boat. Gotta let yourself live a little, too, whatever that means to you.

’You don’t know how hard I’ve tried to find a gift to bring to you. What’s the use of bringing gold to the goldmine or water to the ocean. Every gift I came up with was like bringing spices to the orient. It’s no use giving my heart and my soul, you already have these. So, I’ve bought a mirror. Look at yourself and remember me.’ – Rumi

OH MY GOSH!!! This is wild. I receive David Romanelli’s newsletter, and, after I wrote this post, I read his newsletter and it was about the exact same thing, basically. Check it out!!! We really are becoming increasingly telepathic. That’s what Yogananda says, eventually, all, or at least most, of our communication will be telepathic. Thank you, David, for shedding your Light onto the situation in your hilarious and truthful way.

The Schtick (Yoga Teachers Who Smoke)A few weeks back, I attended my buddy Drubner’s wedding. As the party reached full tilt, I ran into a group of people smoking cigarettes.

“Hey, can I bum a smoke?” I asked.

Most of them know what I do for a living (teach yoga) and looked at me with an expression of such surprise and disappointment as if I’d just unzipped my fly, hung some brain, and said, “Do you guys mind? All that dancing is making sweaty.” It was that awkward.

Big deal, so I have a cigarette 3 times a year. Go ahead, circumcise me, or wait, that’s not the expression…crucify me! But while I’ve got the opportunity, let me just say I know of no less than 7 well-known yoga teachers who will tag butts on a big night out. I say that not to sell my fellow yogis down the river, but to suggest that vices (in control and on occasion) are not entirely bad.

*****

“This is blasphemy! Where’s the unsubscribe button?!” you exclaim. Hold on. Let’s take a moment to define the difference between wellness and repression. Wellness is one’s honest aspiration to a healthy diet, consistent exercise, loving relationships, and here and there allowing those cute little inner demons to come out and play. Otherwise, those demons, repressed, will scratch and claw their way into your life via what the Bhagavad Gita defines as their 3 entry points: lust, anger, and greed.

Now don’t get me wrong. Smoking and drinking are TERRIBLE for your health, horribly addictive, and make you smell bad. Have you ever taken a yoga class by a teacher with bad breath who wreaks like cigarettes and alcohol? G-R-O-S-S (see the “Dirty Smelly People” chapter in my book)

People who are too healthy are annoying. And I’m pretty darn healthy, but on occasion, I enjoy a cold Negro Modelo, an intermittent shot of Anejo, and 3 times a year… a Parliament Light. But suggesting a path to wellness that eliminates all vices entirely is completely unrealistic for 95% of Americans. Life is a grind and we must reserve the right to sometimes let loose. Or the stress we keep in and the frustrations we hold back will be as toxic as the worst addictions.

Namaste,

David Romanelli

Om Namo Amitabha Buddhaya

I am writing a quick post before I head out of town this Wednesday morning. I’ll be going to Portland, Oregon to visit a couple of friends. They are longtime friends of mine from my childhood. I’ve known them since I was only 6 years old. That’s a long time. What a blessing it is to have lifelong friends. My friend Brinn and I took ballet together when we were in first grade.

Amitabha BuddhayaWe carpooled but we were also friends from school, too. We were friends all the way throughout grade school and high school. We lost touch a little bit in college but reconnected several years ago around the time of our ten year reunion from high school. When she got married three years ago I went to her wedding in Portland and I reconnected with her older sister then, as well. Her sister and I didn’t know each other really well in school, but we’ve become friends in the last couple of years. I had a chance to hang out with her at the wedding and we had a lot of fun. I’m really glad I’ll be getting to see them both. It’s especially cathartic seeing them since my father passed away almost two years ago. Our families went to the same church going up and her parents knew my parents pretty well.

Brinn also knew my father from spending so much time together when we were teenagers. It’s really incredible to have people in our lives who have known us almost as long we have known ourselves. What an amazing thing to think she’s been a part of my life since I was 6. I’ve realized, in the last several years, how important it is to me to continue to nurture these relationships in my life. I know many of us have discovered this, as well, especially with Facebook and all of that these days. As great as Facebook is, it doesn’t compare to real human connection. The people I really care about seeing are the ones I make the effort to see and I can do that with or without Facebook. But, I do love that Facebook can help people who have lost touch to find one another. And, I also think it’s a good social networking platform. Other than that, I think it can be a bit of a waste of time.