Good Living

Honey in a jar with wooden spoon inside

What makes a good life? Is it having a lot of money? Having everything your heart desires? Traveling the world? What is good living? These are questions that I have and the self-help gurus, even psychology professionals would tell you that only the individual can answer those questions. I can understand that but it’s hard to tell the person who has limited financial means or severe mental illness to find that one thing they’re grateful for, one thing that made you happy today.

For those who seem open, I tend to send free resources to things that they might find interest, in hopes to provide support. This worked for me when a friend sent me information about My Vinyasa Practice and their offer of free yoga teacher training during the height of the pandemic. I wanted yoga teacher training and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, yoga teacher training and even yoga classes at a studio can be cost-prohibitive. Therefore, when I received the information, I was very excited for the opportunity. Especially as a mother, wife, and full-time employee; I needed teacher training that was flexible and accessible. I believe yoga should be accessible to anyone who wants to practice and the training is well. This provides more people the ability to find something just for them or something they could use to help others. Yoga has provided a glimpse into what good living means and I want to hold on to it.

When a person sees no way out of their situation, when they feel like they’re on the brink of despair, in a hole they fear they cannot get out of, these catchall statements lack pith. They are at best unhelpful, at worst harmful. So if you are the helping type, how do you help? Let the person know that you’re there. That you’re willing to listen. To have a good life seems almost mythical especially in our current world. Or has it always been mythical but we are blinded by youth or the stories our parents tell us? Or is our understanding of what a good life is unclear, muddied by life, an illusion placed on to us by others? For me, I am taking it one step at a time. Earlier this week, my husband happily declared “I changed the sheets and cooked! I have accomplished two things today, that is good!” And for some reason, that rung a bell for me, maybe the good life finding that one thing in your day. That if nothing else happened or you felt you did nothing, there was the one thing that you did.

Connections

It took a while but I’ve returned. How have you fared this past year since the pandemic changed our lives last March? If I go by the big picture, it’s been a challenge and we’re still here. Still gainfully employed and still have a home. There have been some losses. One loss related to yoga is that of Lesley Fightmaster. Lesley passed away in November 2020. Her family has not informed us of the cause so cannot say if it were related to COVID-19. It was unexpected for her family and for her online students.

I’ve never met Lesley personally but I considered her my yoga teacher. I practiced almost daily with her on Youtube, I joined MyYogaPal, I joined her Patreon. She did live chats, was warm, communicative. It was my hope to go to one of her retreats to finally meet her in person. It’s amazing that she was able to make connections with people she’d never met online. And we got what felt like her authentic self. It did not hit me how much of her loss affected me until I realized I haven’t practiced with her since her passing. Not only that, my practice has become sporadic. Lesley was an absolutely amazing yoga teacher. She made yoga accessible and was able to express warmth, focus, and groundedness through the screen.

“Yoga is not about the pose” is what she always said in practice. A reminder that yoga is breath and spirituality. Aspects that many online yoga teachers seem to forget with the focus on making yoga a workout or acrobatics. I always felt challenged yet peaceful after a practice. It’s still hard to believe we’ll never get more classes from her. Thank you, Lesley, for your gracious spirit and wonderful classes. God bless you and your family. Rest well.

Accepting Your Gift

As 2020 comes to a close, I have not been reflecting as much as I usually do at the end of the year. However, it is important that I reflect. 2020 had been filled with new situations, there have been challenges, and a lot of changes. Yet, when I sit and think back, it has not been so bad. Much of my stress has been of my own doing as I have been unable to ride the waves of 2020. A lot of unexpected circumstances occurred in that year that took me off guard. My capacity to remain optimistic was severely dampened in 2020. My yoga practice and fitness regimen in general was affected by that tumultuous year. It was difficult to separate myself from others’ issues. Empathy is a gift, simultaneously a curse. There has to be a balance, an ability to not take on more than one can bear.

We live in a society that glorifies working yourself to the bone, “grinding”, “hustling”. One thing 2020 taught me is that I’m not going to add more to my plate in the name of productivity. How productive can one be with so many things going on at once? Looking back, 2020, was a hamster on a wheel. Running in futility in one direction, yet not going anywhere. 2021 does not have to be that way. I’m sure it will come with its own challenges but it’s time to carve a path forward. The gift I’ll be accepting is perseverance. Happy New Year!

Bad At Yoga

The title of this post pays homage to a yogi that I follow on Instagram whom found me because many of my hashtags would include “#badyoga or #badatyoga”. In fact, I still am bad at yoga. I tend not to follow the status quo in my practice and even how I started yoga was not your standard introduction to yoga at the time. Now, it is very normal to practice yoga online. When I started, practicing online using YouTube was not exactly popular. With the appearance of COVID-19, yoga schools and yoga teachers are now adapting and have live classes online which has made yoga more accessible. This is an absolute boon for those like myself who do not have the time or funds to go to a yoga studio. Not to mention, fantastic for those who balked at the idea of going to a studio and feeling unwelcome due to the pretentious yoga teachers and their students.

The more I practice, the more I realize how ridiculous it is to focus on perfection. This is something I’ve repeated many times, progress not perfection. When referring to perfection, not saying one should ignore proper alignment or proper breathing. You want proper alignment so that you don’t hurt yourself but you don’t want to try to push your bodies into angles to look picture perfect. In doing so, you will hurt yourself. This goes for living life. When I push myself to perfection, it causes unnecessary issues. I end up doing too much, overwhelming myself, and inevitably burning out. Going slow is okay, taking detours is okay, and if there is no time limit, taking the process step by step. Sometimes, that even means starting over. I’m bad at yoga because I don’t care if I can do a handstand or a standing split or pincha. I don’t care if my hip is open just a little and not perfectly square. I’m doing what is right for me and going through my process. It is my practice and it is my life.

The Possibility of Forgiveness

The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.

– Steve Maraboli
Blue mug on table adjacent to a laptop with a book entitlted "Light on Yoga" placed on it.

Forgiveness is one challenge that is hard to overcome. It’s such an obstacle, that I can count on one hand the situations and people I’ve forgiven. Even then, have not forgotten what happened. How do we get to a place of forgiveness? Am I stuck in a place of darkness if I have not forgiven? Can I be free if I have not forgiven?

In practice, we are to be able to temper our minds, focus completely on our asanas, and with that, find a sense of freedom. Yet, I am finding it more challenging to in a sense lose myself in a practice. Though, I am not really losing myself, more of searching for myself. I am not able to fully immerse myself into my practice. I am finding myself distracted, allowing worries, frustrations, and anger take hold. I ask myself “Do I want to forgive the atrocities that are being committed on an almost daily basis?” At the same time, my mind is at an unease, my body is unbalanced, and I am holding on to a very thin rope of faith.

In the Light on Yoga, there is poem called “Song of the Soul”. Within the poem itself are the words “I cast aside hatred and passion, I conquered delusion and greed.” To actually do this, one must forgive, right? Or is it saying that forgiveness is not necessary, simply a casting aside of the emotion. But if something is cast aside, does it not mean that it can be picked back up again? I am left with more answers than questions.

I am neither ego nor reason, I am neither mind nor thought.

Song of the Soul

Yin to the Yang

Accept your dark side, understanding it will help you to move with the light. Knowing both sides of our souls, helps us all to move forward in life and to understand that, perfection doesn’t exist. – Martin R. Lemieux

Black and white picture with woman in yoga pose
Child’s Pose with Leg Extended

When I first started practicing yoga, I felt that if I wasn’t muscling through it, I was wasting my time. I was looking at yoga as a workout for the body, not a workout for the mind. I felt that I needed to be able to do certain poses now. It had not registered that it wasn’t about the poses. Cognitively, I knew that, but in practice, I wasn’t living that. Have you ever done anything like that? Driven yourself so hard to obtain a level you thought you must get to?

Have you ever pushed and just felt like you were hitting a wall? Did not allow yourself time to relax or even be mindful of your present surroundings? It seems that we live in a society that believes in “Go hard or go home”. Why? Why must we go hard all the time? Sometimes, we really would prefer to just go home. Many times we push ourselves so hard, that we become sick. We have no balance, we are either at 0 or 100. Yes, we have the capacity to do a lot, does not mean we need to do it all the time.

In acknowledging this for myself, my yoga practice became gentler. It took almost five years to get to that point. I started listening to my body more and figuring out what it wanted and where it wanted to go. It really did not like the hardcore practices that left me with a sense of unease. It preferred slower moving, holding, breathing, falling out of poses, and slowly building strength. It can do more now than before without pushing so hard. This is not to say to not work hard or push yourself, this is to say to give yourself room to breathe. Find the dark to your light and vice versa. Reevaluate your purpose and what you want for yourself and not what others want from you or what you think others want from you. And if you want to, just go home.

Making a Difference

It could be because I have started yoga teacher training but lately I have been really focused on if I am making a difference. I hope that I am making a positive difference in my son’s life and maybe that is the only difference I need to make. However, the nagging feeling of making a difference (a good one) in a larger way has been really sitting on me. In my corporate job, I just feel as if I am going through the motions. Another cog in the wheel, so the speak. I probably have that saying wrong but you get the idea. Like a hamster in a wheel going nowhere. The reality is that I am there because money is needed to take care of my family. There has to be another way to be able to take care of my family that does not feel so soulless.

I will find my place where I wake up happy to work. I will work for others in a capacity that brings light to my life and theirs. It is more than just a hope, it is in process. It has always amazed me seeing people; young and old who are able to know what they want and go for it. It is particularly impressive for those older because as youth, we are constantly told that we have to make our decisions now, that we have to do it while we are young, or we will have regrets when we are old. Then we have the older people who are doing what they have always wanted to do. They graduate college, become dancers, actors/actresses, authors, and are able to live their desire. So what really stops us from making changes? Fear.

Do we need fear? Yes, we do and fear can save our lives. Fear falls into two categories in my head: the fear that can save our lives and the fear that makes us afraid to step out on faith. I would like to turn the latter, fear into hope. What is the point of the word “hope” if we rarely use it? What is the point of the word “faith” if we rarely have it? These are words that are here for us. Words that we carry in the back of our brains when we need them in the front of our soul. Wrap these two words together, then add love, for yourself.

Sweet Surprise

You like honey, don’t you, mommy?

That makes you Pooh Bear.

– My son
Picture of woman with black background practicing trikonasana
Trikonasana

When I made the inaugural post to my blog on March 18, 2019, I typed that this was a blog to keep me accountable. I have not kept to my goal of posting once a week and this is due to an unexpected but good situation that came up which left me with less time in the day. However, I have still continued to post with it being more like once a month. Now, back to what I was saying regarding this blog keeping me accountable. It was to keep me accountable because I had a goal to start yoga teacher training.

There were a couple of barriers to yoga teacher training. A big one is the financial barrier. I was taken aback at some of the costs of the courses, upwards to $5000! Of course, yoga teacher training will cost money but $5000 is a bit daunting for regular people. Even $1000 can be challenging when you have a family to care for and bills. You wonder if that money could be used for something else.

A 200-hour yoga teacher training will generally run from $1,000 to $3,000 and a more advanced yoga certification course can be anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000.

Book Retreats

Yoga teacher training was looking like a pipe dream and I set my goal for it anyway. Then I got a text from my sweet friend (whose name is one of the colors of honey – what are the odds???). She knows my other obligations but felt I would still want to see this information. In the text was a link to a yoga studio that is offering a Yoga Teacher Training Scholarship for Black Wellness. The teacher felt the need to offer this training under a scholarship to help increase diversity within the yoga community and in the health and wellness world as a whole.

We are needing light in our world right now. We are dealing with a pandemic and the tragic death of George Floyd which has rocked the country. All this combined has left me reeling and feeling overwhelmed, then I received this drop of honey. It was a reminder that there is support, light, and love still here. I have enrolled in YTT and I will reach my goals.

Love Yourself

Hello, honeybees! It’s been a while since there’s been a post. In my life, the quarantine has made things even more busy. What have you been doing during this time? Have you been taking care of yourself? Businesses are starting to reopen and many people are living their lives as if COVID-19 doesn’t exist.

There are those of us who are making small and conscious changes to improve our lives spiritually, mentally, and physically. A couple of days ago, I was thrilled to get a text from a really good friend telling me that he had begun practicing yoga daily. He has been practicing for 12 days straight. That may not seem like a lot but it is for someone who has not done it before. To take the leap to care for yourself in healthy and sustainable ways is to be appreciated and applauded.

As much as I practice the physical part of yoga, it’s been a challenge for me to focus on the more meditative aspect. So for the past two weeks, my goal has been at least one meditation session a week. The session could be as short as five minutes. Even five minutes has made a difference. I meditated before work and a stressful day was handled a lot better because of the grounding that had been done that morning.

The pandemic has made many people even more on edge and agitated than usual. High levels of stress is deleterious to not only our mental states but our physical states as well. These high levels can increase our blood pressure, mess with our immune systems, impair our judgement, hinder our memory, essentially wreak havoc. We must be mindful of our stress levels. It can be difficult when we have so much to do. That is when we must stop and even if it’s just for five minutes, breathe. If we have too many thoughts in our head, have a notebook next to us, where we can write those thoughts that we don’t need in that moment. Let those five minutes be your time and your time only. Be your own shelter of peace.

Emotions

Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.

Sabaa Tahir, A Torch Against the Night

If you are practicing or have practiced yoga, you have probably been told that a practice can bring up a lot of emotions. You may have been told that you store emotions in some areas of your body. This may or may not be true. What is true is that we all carry emotions and for some reason, in some days of yoga practice, a practice can really bring up some intense emotions. I’ve experienced it very recently during a hip yoga practice.

My best friend passed away almost four years ago. The anniversary of her passing which I refer to as her homecoming will be this upcoming Sunday. I am sure I have written about her passing before. Most of the time, I am okay, but in this particular practice, I was not. I felt the pain that I have been carrying at her loss. We are going through a crisis right now in our country with a pandemic, our lives have changed drastically, we have a new normal, and in my practice, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Admittedly, I try to stifle the sadness quickly when it does come, there is so much to do and I cannot wallow in grief.

As I settled in firelog pose, I thought about the fun summers we used to have, the jokes we laughed at, the music we listened to, how she was so full of life. And I breathed through those emotions. I let myself feel the sadness, I got on my surfboard and crested the waves of sadness. I allowed myself to feel as I flowed from firelog to frog pose. My sadness means that she is not forgotten and I do not want to forget her. This practice was a reminder to give myself permission to feel even the painful feelings. I just must remember to breathe.