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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don’t think you are the most important being on earth. Rich or poor, you then can look anyone in the eye and say, ‘I’m probably no better than you, but I’m certainly your equal.
Yoga has become “on trend” in Western society. With Instagram yogis attempting to outdo each other with contortionist like poses in exotic places and activities such as “yoga with goats” prevailing, yoga is popular. In some ways, it is not popular in the way it was originally intended. I am not here to judge Instagram yogis or people who like “yoga with goats” or “beer yoga”. They get judged enough by the yoga purists who turn their nose up at those who profit off yoga in this way. The yoga purists who believe that the only way to practice yoga is their prescribed way and any other way is not practice.
The yoga snob is the one who tells you that you cannot practice yoga at home. She will question and doubt stating “How can you practice yoga without a teacher? It’s not yoga. You don’t know what you are doing. You cannot learn on your own.” What’s interesting is that if the yoga snob is a “she”, one could easily respond that she is not a true yogi as yoga’s history was initially 100% men. Not only that, yoga was originally taught with one teacher to one student, practicing in a studio was unheard of until yoga came into Western Society. So a yogi practicing at home whether using Youtube or a yoga app is closer to the origins as it is just one student and one teacher (granted the teacher is on a video screen) but essentially it was a solo journey with the help of a teacher.
Going to an expensive yoga studio does not make one yogi better than another. With the advent of technology, it is more affordable and less time-consuming for people to practice at home. As a busy working mother, I do not have the time nor the budget to practice at a studio where I have to deal with yoga snobs, the smells (I once went to a class where there was a strong malodorous odor coming from a student), and the overall weirdness of yoga studios. I practice when and where I want to with the only distractions being my family.
The snobbery does not help those seeking to practice yoga. Yoga is for every body and any body. Ethnicity/race, creed, gender, body type, financial class status does not determine whether you can practice yoga or not. I am thankful that Youtube exists because without it, I do not think my yoga practice would have flourished. I have been given recommendations on good yoga books and have been introduced to really good teachers. You do not need a fancy outfit to practice yoga, you do not need a fancy studio, you do not need a yoga snob who only practices in a studio but never at home. All you need is you.
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
J. K. Rowling
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.
Peace of mind is a perception of a calm and quiet mind.
My mind is a noisy place. It is very rarely if ever quiet. Its at the quietest when I practice yoga. And I truly practice to clear the busyness of my mind. It is what makes yoga more challenging, it is not just the asanas, it is my mind having a conversation with itself. It may be telling me that I cannot do a specific posture or that I need to hurry because I have so many things to do during the day. It is not always like that, there are times in which I am able to reach the sixth limb of yoga: dharana. I am able to be completely engrossed in my practice. These times are rare.
Dharana may come across as being single-minded because in it the yogi is focused completely on one task or object. Meditation is an example of dharana and I have never been able to meditate longer than five minutes. Sitting still has always been a challenge for me. It is a work in progress as I am sure that there is a deep benefit to mediation. I consider savasana to be the closest I can get to meditation because after a good practice, it is easier for my mind to rest.
There is one way that I have been able to have a stilled mind, though it could be debated that my mind is not actually stilled, and that is while I am reading. Yoga has still not been able to bring me to the state that reading does. If I am reading a good book, I am completely in the book that I hear or see nothing else around me. In fact, if I am interrupted, I can become agitated. This agitation comes when I am interrupted during a yoga practice. I am hoping to reach that same calmness and quiet as I grow in my yoga practice. This is why I practice with no music; to minimize distractions. The beauty of yoga is that it is not a straight and short journey; it is winding with hills, valleys, many climaxes, and there is no end to it. That certainly makes it better than a book.
I not only practice yoga but I am a regular in the gym with weight lifting as it is one of my most favorite forms of mental health therapy. Therefore, my posts will not be focused completely on yoga. The purpose of this blog is health and wellness which is multifaceted. With that said, let us get to the point of today’s post. In my last post, I mentioned that I would talk about “yoga personality”, well, I changed my mind. I can tell you that is probably going to happen with my posts. And not every post will have a picture of my practice. Hey, I’m human.
My first blog series will focus on the Eight Limbs of Yoga and how they impact my life within my yoga practice and outside of my practice. When I first started practicing yoga, I had no idea about the spiritual component or what I refer to as the more academic portion of it. I had an idea that there was meditation (boring!) involved but I thought the meditation part came in while actually practicing the poses. Even whilst going to the gym on a regular basis to lift weight, I still felt something was missing. I began yoga because I knew that I needed to become more flexible. What I did not realize was that there is much more to yoga than “stretching”. As part of my yoga journey, I purchased “The Yoga Bible” by Christina Brown. And this was the first time that I was introduced to the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
The first limb that I will be discussing is “Yama”. Yama essentially means “moral constraint”. There are at least five parts to yama: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigaha. There will be a post dedicated to each part. The part of the limb that will be in this post is “Ahimsa” which means “non-injury” and “non-violence”. It relates to compassion to all living beings which reminded me that I should show compassion to myself. It is not selfish to show compassion and love to oneself. In our effort to show compassion to others, we forget to care about ourselves and oftentimes the realization comes too late. This is an issue that I know all too well. On May 3, 2016, my best friend for over a decade passed away unexpectedly. She was 33 years old and had a 7-year-old daughter. The official cause of death was “natural causes”. I had last seen her two weeks prior and she looked incredibly tired. I had asked was she getting any rest and her daughter responded for her “She can’t sleep, she has too much to doooo.” We chuckled but that was not a good sign. The day of her passing, we text the whole day which was unusual for us as we were always very busy.
In these texts, she told me that she had not been feeling well but she had once again said “Yes” to another obligation. I text her that she needed to start saying “No” because it was too much and if she did not take it easy, something bad might happen. I had no clue that my words would come true and in the worst way possible. In my mind, when I said something “bad”, I thought maybe her going off on someone or she would become very ill. Death was the furthest from my mind. Admittedly, I was very worried about her that day and had planned to actually call her when we got off work and I never got the chance.
My friend gave more to life than what life gave to her. We both lived in fear of life and this caused us harm in the sense that we took no chances and ignored our pain. I no longer want to live in fear, I know that means making scary and painful decisions but life is fleeting. I will take baby steps and the first damn step I’m taking is compassion towards myself. This means not speaking negatively to myself, not calling myself names such as weak when I cannot lift a weight I think I should, getting angry with myself because I cannot do a specific asana (yet!), no longer being afraid to speak up about an idea or issue, and to respond to others with kindness (that kindness can simply be silence).
One thing to consider is that practicing compassion for oneself is difficult. It takes time to learn how to treat yourself with love and kindness. We are our own worst critics as the saying goes and we will make mistakes. However, in learning compassion, we will accept and acknowledge those mistakes and learn from them. We (this includes myself) strive for perfection but I wonder many times “What the hell is perfection?” Whatever it is, its probably boring. This constant need for perfection was a violent act against myself. It was not helping me mentally or physically. It led to bad decisions that I am still paying for and I am still working on not having regrets about those decisions. I am working on mercy and forgiveness to myself. Once I have forgiven myself, I will be able to work towards mercy and forgiveness towards others.
Stay tuned for my next post which will focus on Satya – truth.