by Rachel Wainright, Yoga Teacher and Founder of Exhale Yoga Retreats

“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.” ― B.K.S. Iyengar

When I was young I would pump music in my room and dance my worries away. I would listen to a variety of passionate, positive tracks like Bob Marley”s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” “What a feeling” by Irene Cara, Journey’s  “Don’t Stop Believing,” Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” or Tupac’s “Changes.” Listening to music and moving to it changed my mind set to believe that everything was “gonna be alright”, and put me in a state of love.

As I got older, the volume on my thoughts turned up and I began to lose my dance. When I realized I had lost my rhythm of life, I tried this thing called Yoga that I had heard was healing. Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to keep practicing. When I began a devoted yoga practice the volume of my thoughts turned down, the beat of my heart turned up, and I was able to hear my heart’s lyrics.

Then I began studying yoga philosophy deeper and practicing the principles of the Yamas and Niyamas. I realized I cannot control what is happening around me, but I can absolutely control how I feel. Following these guidelines inspired me to take complete ownership of my life and to choose empowering attitudes, thoughts and actions. I am not one for following rules, so I appreciate that there is no right or wrong. There is just a better choice in that moment to empower myself to feel more harmonious. Life is such a gift and being in the present moment helps one adapt wisely and handle whatever situation with more acceptance. With this awareness I flowed forward gracefully and I found my dance again.

My passion for the Yamas and Niyamas led me to add these life-enhancing principles to the yoga retreat programs I developed. Each Yoga Class begins with an introduction to a Yama or Niyama. Journaling, group discussion and philosophy are weaved throughout the class, deepening the student’s awareness and inspiring them to take ownership of their lives. It helps to develop skills to choose attitudes, thoughts and actions that empower them. This has added so much more depth to the experience and created a deeper transformation within each retreater.

                                © Jules Seaman / Exhale Yoga Retreats


Below is an insight into the Yamas and Niyamas from a contemporary point of view. On Exhale Yoga Retreats, we discuss these topics in depth as a group, contributing to the transformation each retreater undergoes.


Ahimsa / Nonviolence

Be aware when you are rushing, pushing, or being hard on yourself. This mindset leads to outward aggression, like reactive harmful energy, thoughts and/or words. We have the choice to take action, to change the story we are telling ourselves. Gratitude is the easiest and fastest way to shift into compassion, creating a lighter heart. The kinder you are to yourself, the more others feel the joy of being around you.

Satya / Truthfulness 

From past pain we have built barriers around our hearts, blocking light from passing in and out of ourselves. Our practice encourages us to open our hearts, so we can shine our truth and live with more authenticity. Holding our truth inside can feel like we are holding our breath, until we reach breaking point and explode by saying or doing something harmful. Express your truth with an honest heart. Choosing kind words and mindful action.

Asteya / Nonstealing 

Putting pressure on ourselves steals from our own enthusiasm. Self-sabotage, lack of belief in ourselves, low self-esteem, judgments, criticism, and striving for perfection are all forms of self-abuse. We rush into the next thing with no time to process the last, which may be our biggest theft of all. We need time to rest and reflect; to contemplate and allow the experiences of life to integrate within us.

Brahmacharya / Nonexcess 

Excess overdoes us, overextends us, and takes us away from ourselves. Viewing everything as cherished ground balances us, bringing us back to our center. We need to focus on doing less and be happy just being. Create space to enjoy more. With an attitude of gratitude for what you have, there is no need for excess. Cultivate vitality by focusing on feelings that nourish you rather than deplete you.

Aparigraha / Nonpossessivenes

Feeling we don’t have enough promotes over-consumption: hoarding, over-eating, a need for control, or to always be busy with work. Our attachments keep us captive – we choose them over freedom. What we hold on to begins to hold us; what we own, starts to own us! Practice letting go of whatever you are holding on to so tightly that it possesses you. Clear clutter like physical stuff, toxic relationships, old ideas, bad habits and anything that does not support your better self. Gratitude turns what we have into plentiful.


Saucha / Purity

Heaviness weighs us down: we become sluggish from poor diets, our minds get distracted when we carry baggage from past relationships, and workspaces cluttered with junk cause us to become scattered. As we purify ourselves physically and mentally, we become lighter. As we release toxins, stale energy and negativity by replacing them with love, positivity and gratitude, we gain clarity to our essence. The brighter and lighter we feel, the purer we become.
Santosha / Contentment

We tend to compare our lives to others’ and feel a sense of lacking when we see what we don’t have. Getting caught up with the thought that having one more thing will make us happier causes us to chase something outside of ourselves to feel whole, and we will never be content. When we seek a partner who will make us feel complete, we give the power of our emotional state to someone else, making us helpless. When we do something in the moment to fulfill an expectation for another moment, for instance exercising to get our bodies to look like a model in a magazine rather than for the pure joy of movement, we miss contentment. When we focus on what we do have we move into a space of gratitude that feels peacefully content. Contentment is falling in love with your life.

Tapas / Self-Discipline

Tapas is our determined effort to become stronger and higher versions of ourselves. We practice Tapas by showing up at our mat for regular asana practice with intention. When challenged, we always have the choice to break open or break down. We can’t prevent obstacles in our lives, but we can prepare ourselves for them through daily practice. By growing our ability to breathe through unpleasantness, and through the small, daily choices we make, we open to new possibilities.

Svadhyaya / Self-Study

If we are courageous enough to trace disharmony back to ourselves, we will become freer and closer to our true essence. For me, this meant letting go of the “shoulds,” “have tos,” “musts,” and “wrong and right.” Then replace them with positive empowerments such as “I choose to.” We need our eyes and hearts wide open to look at every beat of harmony and disharmony that we experience. Fearlessly look at the fullness of emotions inside yourself. Svadhyaya is the act of witnessing your inner being and knowing your true self. Meditation is an important aspect of self-study. Grow the power of your witness by watching all your actions and thoughts as though you were watching a sunset.

When on a retreat with positive people these principles of the Yamas and Niyamas are easier to practice. Being in a paradisiacal location takes them away from their regular distractions to a place where they are able to witness their thoughts and recognize old patterns. All the yoga, meditation, dancing, surfing, hiking and submersion in nature surrounded by inspiring people, re-opens retreaters up to being passionately present in their lives.

On an Exhale Yoga Retreat, I witness within just one week of practicing the Yamas and Niyamas, retreaters start to shift their perspective to a more powerful, positive one. They leave with the awareness that they can empower themself to choose to feel paradise in any moment, no matter what is happening around them. No longer pushing through life, now pleasantly dancing through it.

You can’t always choose the music life plays, but you can choose how to dance to it.

If you have lost your rhythm, and want to bring more passion into your life, please to join one of your life-enhancing experiences.








I have a consistent practice, without interruption, and devote 1 hour of time a day for myself to commit to what nurtures my soul. To utilize wisely different practices at different times. Sometimes I flow through a vinyasa yoga practice to feel harmonious and others times I melt into stillness through a yin yoga practice to drop deep inwards. My yoga practice has opened me up to evolve from every life experience I go through with more grace.

High Lunge Nica

Rachel Wainwright

Rachel Wainwright whole-heartedly believes in the transformative power of yoga. Yoga has given her the tools to meet the inevitable difficulties of life with a measure of acceptance, openness, trust and LOVE. Rachel believes mindful movement to motivational music can help shift your perspective to a more positive one and raise your vibration to a higher frequency. She believes that with this practice you will attract a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life. Rachel guides you to move from the inside out, allowing you listen to your sensations and hear your inner intelligence. She playfully inspires you to be adventurous and have an intimate experience connecting to your true natural authentic self. She combines her dance, pilates, and yoga training to create creative fluid flows that strengthen the body, empower the mind, and uplift the spirit.