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.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

It’s been one year of Spoonful of Honey. Still a work in progress and finding it’s way but will keep working and playing with it. Very challenging times right now with COVID-19 and we should remember to be kind to yourself and others. For this celebration of one year, I practiced with Adriene and enjoyed Happy Birthday Yoga. A beautiful practice for a birthday.

Power and Grace

“Healing is not about ‘staying away from something bad’ but about living a life led by positive values & intentions’”
~ Gabor Maté

Yoga is a physical practice for a spiritual purpose. Powerful words from Rajat Thakur. Yoga is like a dance, it is communicative, tells a story. It combines power and grace, words that seem to have different meanings. When we think of power, sometimes violence or aggression comes to mind or being in control of others. Yoga reminds us that power is beautiful and graceful when you are in control of yourself. The name of the poses themselves are even powerful yet they look graceful such as reverse warrior. The word “warrior” itself speaks of power, yet when you look at the pose, it is reminiscent of a dancer. There is an actual asana called “dancer” which requires a great amount of internal power and flexibility.

Yoga teaches us about the power and grace within ourselves. Working on giving grace to ourselves and others can be very challenging. Even in my practice, I find myself losing grace towards myself. I judge myself and nitpick. It takes away from the power of my practice as well. That also affects my whole day, if I lose power and grace within my practice. We are also living in a time where I am feeling powerlessness creep in and a lack of grace. We are dealing with COVID-19 and if I am being honest, there is some anxiety. I am worried and at the same time telling myself “It is what it is.” We cannot live in fear but we can be cautious. This why I need to ground myself in my internal power with yoga, find balance to bring grace. The schools are closed which means my son is home during the day when he normally would not. Instead of fretting about it, this is a time to strengthen the power of our relationship and teach him more about grace.

Taking care of your spiritual self helps not just you but others and their spirits. In stressful times like right now when we do not know what each day will bring, it is even more important to feed our spiritual self with power. This can be done with the grace of prayer, yoga practice, and any other type of physical movement. It is also important to wash your hands.

The Love of a Son

One morning as I was practicing yoga, my son came up to me and gave me a hug. He then whispered “I love that you do yoga”. As long as he can remember, I’ve been practicing yoga. He has always been there and is the catalyst to my continued practice. I have come to the realization how important it is to his little mind very recently. On a playdate not too long ago, I overheard him tell his playmate proudly “My mom does yoga, too.” I smiled inside because he associates yoga with me and he enjoys that I practice.Yoga is personal but not personal. The practice colors how I interact with others, with the world. I practice it in the privacy of my home, it feels intensely personal, yet my son watches, he is affected by my practice. Sometimes, he participates as a child can, many times he gets in the way. However, he knows that it’s a part of me and his acceptance of it and willingness to learn teaches me a lot about accepting those you love for who they are.My son’s love for me and who I am has led to loving myself and in turn, others more than I had before. His love reminds me that there is always at least one person who cares. Even if it feels like they’re getting in your way.

Sitting with Unease

A sense of wrongness, of fraught unease, as if long nails scraped the surface of the moon, raising the hackles of the soul.

China Miéville, Perdido Street Station

Since the start of the New Year, I have been filled with a sense of unease. The feeling that something just is not right, the feeling of impending doom. I know this is not how people like to start the new year. There is a lot of cheering for a better year, how one will change oneself, but what if this is too much pressure for people? Is it okay to be filled with some trepidation, some dread, some worry? Or is it better to have forced cheer while you feel sick inside? I once read a book by Barbara Ehrenreich “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America” and it was a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone put into words that described how I felt about the constant push for positivity. The persistent preaching of positive thinking causes some cognitive dissonance. It makes one feel that she has no right to think negatively. Balance can be achieved with accepting that there are times that you will have negative thinking, it’s the wallowing in it that can further imbalance.

For me, there has been an internal battle to show good cheer when I’m really worried. I know that part of it is due to some choices I have decided to make for myself in 2020. I am actually scared shitless about them. But I know that I will not move forward if I stay in the same place and I want to move forward, not hide who I am, be honest with myself about what I want. The majority of my life I have been told that it is not about what I want, its about the community. That was drilled into me as a child, it was about everyone else and my needs were not important over the needs of everyone. “Everyone” is simply a group of individuals, we are not monolithic. We have our own feelings, if we were supposed to feel what everyone else was feeling, we would be true empaths. However, we were built to have a range of emotions and thoughts so that we were not all the same like lemmings.

Many seem to think that yoga makes one a 100% positive person. That is not exactly the case, yoga helps me accept my negative parts. It helps me realize that I will not always feel this sense of unease. Does it make it go away? For me, no. It makes it a little easier for me to take it day by day. It has made me more ready to admit to myself when I am afraid. Change does scare me, it is the unknown, and so far 2020s seems to have a lot of unknowns. This means my yoga practice, physical exercise, prayer, and eating whole foods will increase. A year of wellness.

No Yoga

Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.

Russell Eric Dobda

Last week, I decided not to practice yoga. I thought I could use a break and see how my body responded to it. I practice yoga daily, it is part of my life but I had a lot going on last week so used that as an excuse to take a break. So from Tuesday until Sunday, I did not practice yoga. I do not plan on doing that again as long as I am physically able to move.

One of the reasons that yoga is recommended is because it helps the yoga student be mindful in their present moment and this helps regulate emotions. When I review my mood from last week, it was more anxious, and I found myself easily agitated. I practiced my breathing less and I went through each day on autopilot. I just did not feel like myself.

To add to the mental unease, I started feeling physical pain. My calf and hamstring started having sharp pains. It felt like there were knots in them. One morning, I actually woke up with a muscle cramp. This was highly unusual as I haven’t been awaken by a leg cramp since I started practicing yoga and stretching in the evenings.

After a week of this, I decided the experiment was over. Within a day of returning to my mat, my physical pains were gone. I started to feel more at ease in my physical self. The spiritual self took a little hit and has been more challenging to overcome. I realized that even when it felt like yoga was not doing anything, it was doing the most. What I had started taking for granted was because of my consistent practice. I will still take breaks but I will at least try to do five minutes a day. Yoga is like my apple a day.

Thrive

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

– Maya Angelou

As a yoga practitioner who practices at home, there are times when I feel that I don’t challenge myself enough. This is not just in my yoga practice, this is in my daily life. There are opportunities that present themselves that I hesitate to grasp due to shying away from a challenge. I want these opportunities, so why the hesitation? Is it fear of rejection?

This fear finds it’s way into my practice. Rejection in the sense of not holding or falling out of a posture. I’ve started challenging myself on the mat and this has led to me challenging myself more off the mat. With challenging myself on the mat, I decided to complete a 90 day yoga program by Fightmaster Yoga called “Thrive “. Its a program at the intermediate level and I was sure I could not do it especially in the first two weeks. I thought it was so hard and I thought I would quit. I was rejecting myself and the thought of quitting made me unhappy. So I accepted where I was each day and I didn’t quit. I ended the program feeling stronger than ever. It also helped me get through a very stressful few months.

I do not believe that you nor I deserve unhappiness or should live in fear. In fact, it makes me angry and even more motivated to make my own happiness and to face my fears. Now, I won’t be facing my fears in a swamp full of alligators, I’m no fool. But I can try new things like traveling to a country I’ve always wanted to travel to or have a yoga practice that always ends in an inversion. Even if I fall out of inversion or cannot get into it at all, I will try, because nothing will change if I do not. It’s exciting to grow and not feel stuck in the mundane. Finding that there are still new things in life. Thriving.

Dream On

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.     

J. K. Rowling
Dream catcher, blurred nature background

There is a lot of talk about “living your dreams” or finding your “life passion”. When I take a moment to think about it, I never had solid dreams or goals. I had wants with no real plan to obtain those wants. When people ask me now the question about my goals or “what do you want?” I tend to make up a socially respectable response to avoid the blank stare, the incessant questioning, or the fake understanding of my thought process. My actual dreams that I have in my sleep also provide no guidance, they tend to be an almost hilarious and at times nonsensical story about aliens or talking alligators.

Now that I practice yoga, I’ve found more clarity regarding my goals. Yoga allows me to tame my mind and it interrupts the chatter in my mind that leads to self-doubt or questioning if I’m missing something in life. It is where I find the seventh limb of yoga: dhyana. Concentration and meditation, a mind uninterrupted. Dhyana is to the final step to lead the yogi into the eight limb of yoga: samadhi. That supreme bliss, unity with the Universal Spirit. For me, it’s unifying the scattered pieces of my mind so that it can be clear to find oneness with God. It is finding my breath when I have been holding it all day, its finding my voice when I have been holding my tongue, it is stretching my body when I have been tensing it, it is my release.

Dreams are nice to have especially the good ones when you are asleep in bed. However, I want to find what is real within myself. I do want to know what goals I have that are not influenced by what I feel is expected of me or what goals I have been told to have by my parents and society. Yoga has helped me and continues to help me find my own way in life. My own path is my nirvana.