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.

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.

Finding Appreciation

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.

Marcus Aurelius

Around the world, we are all dealing with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. In the US, we have found our lives startlingly different than they were a month ago. Going into our third week of social isolation including schools being closed, I am finding appreciation. I have not been thankful enough for the things that I have. My family does not have a lot but we do not have a little. We have a lot more than many people in our country and around the world. We have resources that are helping us get through this period in our life and we have support.

In my yoga practice, at times I would lament about not being able to afford classes in a yoga studio or not having the time to even go to yoga classes in a studio if I did have the discretionary funds. Now with yoga studios closed, yogis are turning to their home yoga practice. I am thankful that I can even practice at home, that my body is still able to work into asanas, that my breath is still circulating within and throughout my body, I have a mat to practice on, and access to many online yoga instructors. I still have access to the internet and the technological tools needed to even watch the online yoga instructors. With that said, the beauty of yoga is that you do not need any of the latter. All you need is your body, breath, motivation, and the willpower to start practice. I have had more than enough this whole time.

My son is also home from school, my husband is also home from work, but we are both able to work and my son is able to continue his studies. We are able to work because we are both blessed with jobs that are considered “essential” even if our pay does not represent that! Ha. However, with that being said, we are able to continue to work from home. Our son is still able to do schoolwork because we have workbooks and access to the internet. There are children who do not have computers or access to the internet. Two things that many of us take for granted and feel lost without. We have food, water, shelter, and each other. Am I worried about COVID-19? Absolutely. I am also going to appreciate the time it has given us to spend together as a family and to slow down.

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.

An Honest Review of MyYogaPal

Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.

The Bhagavad Gita

*Disclaimer: I am not being sponsored nor paid for this review.

I have been a home yoga practitioner for a little over three years now. When I first started, it was really nothing more than copying from a picture. I didn’t go to a studio, I just followed people on Instagram. One day, a mutual recommended Lesley Fightmaster on YouTube. She said that Lesley really helped her practice grow. So I went to check her out and didn’t last long at all! I thought she was too hard! So I went back to an “easier” very popular YouTube yoga teacher. After a while, I encouraged myself to try FightmasterYoga again and this time I was able to stick it out.

I started practicing more and more with Fightmaster, then joined her Patreon where she started discussing starting MyYogaPal. I knew I wanted to enroll once she opened it up. Patreon also gave us an opportunity to talk to Lesley on a more personal level and this is where Lesley started talking about MyYogaPal. I was very excited to give it a try and when she opened enrollment, after mulling around enrolling, I finally enrolled.

I started Lesley’s 90 day Thrive Program which is a 20 minute practice daily for intermediate yogis. At first I was hesitant as I do not consider myself at the intermediate level. However, I was impressed at the time that Lesley spent making this program because as each week progressed, I found that my strength and stamina was improving. Not only that, I found that I felt more peaceful and I was always proud of myself when I was done with a practice. I practice in the mornings so Thrive was my morning coffee. The program is repetitive, this is so that you can see your improvement and further your practice. This may not work for some but in the end, the benefit is seen because you realize that in that first week when you could barely balance, you do it almost with ease by day 90.

Lesley Fightmaster’s calm and soothing voice with the occasional interruption of a cat’s meow or crash into an object, one of her son’s making a noise that only she seems to hear lends authenticity and an honest touch to the home practice. When one practices at home with children, animals, and even adults, it’s not always a serene and peaceful practice as one would want. Lesley reminds us that yoga is not a cure but it helps a lot. I have seen my practice grow tremendously since starting MyYogaPal. I am learning so much about what my mind is willing to do and how far to take my body. Lesley is encouraging and always advises us to not push ourselves in a way that may hurt us. She reminds us that yoga is not about the pose and that some days, your body just will not be able to hold that Warrior III.

MyYogaPal has added additional programs which include a 30 day beginners’ yoga program,  Shine – a 90 day intermediate/advanced program that are hour long practices, daily meditations,  and Align (this is very helpful for home practitioners). There are also additional workshops that you can add like the Inversion Workshop and Ashtanga. There is also a community board where yoga pals can get together and talk about their practice as well as submit suggestions for future additions to the website.

MyYogaPal offers a topnotch yoga teacher in your home for a yearly subscription that costs less than a month at your local yoga studio. I really like that Lesley and Duke (Lesley’s husband) interact with all of the members. This shows to me that they really care about each YogaPal and are willing to help and make sure that our yoga practice is fulfilling. If there is one thing I would love to see from MyYogaPal is an app for Android and iPhone/iPad.  Right now it is website only and you do have the option to download videos for if you were to go somewhere without an internet connection. I have had no issues with quality or with the site. If there are any issues, they are resolved quickly.

I am happy that I joined MyYogaPal and feel that it could benefit a lot of people. Coincidentally, Lesley has opened up MyYogaPal for enrollment for this week and if you are interested,  you have 3 days as of this post to enroll. There are two membership options: monthly and yearly. So if you are not completely sold, the monthly might be the one for you! And there is a new program that will be added on Friday called “Ignite” which will be a 90 day program with 45 minute practices. I look forward to joining that new practice and seeing you at MyYogaPal!

 

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.

Yoga and Friendship

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Khalil Gibran
Human hands forming heart

Yoga is a good friend of mines. It has walked, twisted, and breathed itself into my life and has not left. It goes with me everywhere, it is always in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul. It has taught me new things about myself that I had not known and needed to know. It has also taught me to remember what I had forgotten about myself. It has brought back some of my childhood wonder and joy.

After my best friend passed away four years ago, I found it more difficult to maintain or build friendships with others. I did not really want friends anymore. That is a realization that I have finally allowed myself to sit with and acknowledge. I no longer cared about going to events or parties because I could not share them with my best friend. Have you ever lost someone dear to you? How did that make you feel? How did you manage the grief that came with it? I do not believe the pain of loss ever heals but I do believe that it lessens with time especially if one does the grief work. Grief work is not enjoyable, it is not a fun party, it’s work.

As I have moved into my yoga practice, befriended it, and befriended myself, I have found myself becoming more open. I still have days where I want to completely cut myself off from the rest of the world outside of my immediate family. Those are the days that I check in with myself, look at what is going on around and within, sometimes a yoga practice works and sometimes it does not. It might be that I just need to sit still and breathe and that’s it. My good friend yoga has helped me understand that I need to be my own friend and some days it is okay to not do anything at all.

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.