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.

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.

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!