I drew this mandala years ago, as I struggled through a deep dark night of my soul. Back then, it felt to me that there was no escaping the clutches of depression, and that the only way out was for me to disappear from the world as I knew it. I felt powerless, disembodied and in metaphorical ways, disemboweled as I felt disconnected to my gut.

Fortunately, I had a wise sage who helped me see not simply the light at the end of the tunnel, but also that there were great gifts from that dark night of the soul.

 

Indeed there was. It was living through that dark night and facing my demons that I have become the healer I am now. It has inspired me in the path I have taken and although I still fall prey to the predator Darkness from time to time, I have gained the skills of patience, stillness and equanimity that allows me to know I will make it through and that I will make it back home to what has heart and meaning to me. I will be home.

Every now and then, I wander away from home, and while this wandering away takes different froms — sometimes feelings of sadness, other times discontent or anxiety, and sometimes in the guise of interest and exploration— when I am not mindful and present, the wandering away can get me lost and disconnected from my source.

For the past few months, since I have come home from Australia, I have been putting pieces of me together. More recently, as I had begun putting together my yoga therapy program, I found myself looking for more and wanting more pieces of myself to put into that package as I tried to create my identity of who I am as a yoga teacher and therapist.

Today, however, I realized I need not look for myself anymore because I am right here. I have arrived. I am home. 

I read a passage in an article once that went like this: “But sometimes you’ve got to lose yourself in order to find yourself, your true self. In Australia they call it ‘go walkabout’, a rite of passage when Australia’s Aborigines wander in the outback bush. Sometimes you have to challenge the beliefs you hold about yourself, the beliefs about what you’re truly capable of and what’s really possible. You have to challenge what you think is true, knowing there is always a different perspective, and start believing in what you really want”.

It isn’t lost on me how fitting it is that of all the places I could have gone, I ended up in Australia. It was my walkabout. 

And now I am home. For this, I am grateful.

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I had this magnet once that had the quote, “Bloom where you are planted”. I do not know who the quote is attributed to, as the magnet did not have it in it.

That quote kept me focused many times when disappointments came my way.

Today, I saw what it really meant. 

I’ve taught over 1,500 yoga classes and this was probably one of the most fun classes I’ll remember most :)

This is where I have been planted — a fertile, nourishing ground called Yoga+.  

It sometimes (scratch that — it always) amazes me how blessed I am that the winds blew me this direction, especially since Yoga+ was one of the few studios (at least four years ago when I started my practice) that I had no idea about. For one, it was out of my way (or so I thought it was) and two, I wasn’t really a fan of hot yoga so I never sought it out.

But as fate would have it, a simple “yes” to an invitation has opened up a world of possibilities. I found a support system that extends beyond work and colleagues who go out of their way to welcome me and encourage me always. I’ve discovered bosses who don’t only expect me to work for them, but who make me want to work harder for them and have made efforts to make even my personal life better. I’ve made friends with whom I can share my passion and my real self with, with no worry of judgment, allowing me to drop my usually raised guards. I’ve been given opportunities to harness my talents, maximize my gifts and hone my potentials. Most of all, I’ve found my voice and made my way to making peace with my body while still working to improve it to make it healthier rather than just skinnier.

So yes, I bloomed where I was planted. And this is just the beginning. 

For all of this, I am grateful. 

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In a recent episode of a dance show I like watching, one of the judges adviced the contestant that sometimes, less is more. That reminded me a lot of taking a step back and “lessening” seeming effort to actually gain more.

And so in todays class, I emphasized that: less is more. I said this in the context of pulling back from poses and using the support of props to find more integrity in a posture. 

Often times, people think that touching the floor is the main goal of the practice. By pushing more in the pose, we actually accomplish less.

Take this lunge for example:


See how she collapses into her front hip and cannot efficiently use her back leg to anchor down for support? Going up the chain, what do you think it does to her sacroiliac joint? Her shoulders? Her chest? She’s probably squishing into her groin and compressing her belly in tbe process as well, thus compromising her breath and not recruiting the right muscles to create strength and stability in the posture. In her quest to do more by reaching the floor, she gains less from the posture (unless a potential for eventual injury due to repeated stress is what you’re aiming for). 

However, when you dial it back and take “less” of the posture by supporting yourself with blocks, you end up with this:

  

She is now able to draw that front hip back slightly to find a more neutral pelvis that doesn’t pull on her SI joint, nor collapse into the outer hip. Her back leg is solid and strong. Her spine is long and her chest is lifted. Even the back of her neck is steady and her head nicely stacked, rather than the way it dropped in the first photo. She can access her belly more which allows her to gain the strength and stability to stay here comfortably for longer, and perhaps eventually lift her torso up and find high lunge. There will be a lightness to her torso. 

Now, many people think taking blocks or props is only for beginners or those with lacking flexibility. I disagree. Even more advanced practitioners can find new depths and expressions of the pose. As one of my students recently said: I never realized what I thought my hips were doing was different from what they were actually doing. Now that she’s taken less and used props to help her, she’s found more strength and integrity in the poses. What’s more, she says the soreness she gets sometimes after class is not the pain she thought was normal, but actually the response of muscles being worked.

So, say it with me: less is more. So stop forcing those legs straight, worrying about getting the hands down to the floor and doing “more” in a pose while sacrificing strength, stability and sustainability in your body.

Thank you Teacher Roxanne for demonstrating how we can make unconscious mistakes in our poses and how the support of props can change the experience of a pose. 

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For tonights random thought….

Sitting and meditating or practicing asana on the mat is just the tip of the iceberg. If you can’t take that off the mat,  then the effort fails to come into fruition.

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Today I am reminded that courage has more meanings than one. Most of the time, I courage is defined by how we stand up to a challenge without wavering. It’s that sense of bravery that pushes you despite the depth of your fears.

However, much like yin and yang, there is a flip side to this whole practice of courage and bravery.

Maybe courage isn’t just forging on and facing up to that Goliath in front of you. Perhaps, courage comes in the form of softening and letting go as well.

Courage likewise can manifest in that little moment when you drop your guard and ask for support if need be, rather than holding your head up too high as you try to keep it above water.

And yes, it can likewise mean simply pausing and letting things be as they are, with no judgement nor need for definition.

So yes, courage comes in many different forms, each of which plays a vital role in finding your inner Divinity.

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