food display at Brunswick Heads Health Food. The raw vegan mousse was amaaaaazing!

When I first became vegetarian cold turkey (pardon the pun), people asked me two questions: 1. How’d you do it and 2. Why??

Let me make some disclaimers first before going on with this post: I never truly went “fully” vegetarian as I still had eggs and dairy. While there are arguements about being ovo-lacto vegetarian and all, that’s what I chose to be for a long time. Secondly, after about 2 years of being vegetarian, I had some medical concerns (which, again, can be arued against) and so I decided to add in some fish and seafood to my diet.
Going back to the point of this article, when I first transitioned many asked how I did it, and how I managed to do it so suddenly.  I did not really have much of an answer then, except that it just felt right for my body. I used to actually describe myself as an Accidental Vegetarian! I had just come from a weekend at The Farm at San Benito with my friend and the raw vegan food they served was just so amazing. From there, things just fell into place. I went home and had pork barbeque served for dinner and I couldn’t eat it. The next day was the same and so I took that as my body’s wisdom informing me meat was no longer something it wanted.

Eventually some issues came up, given my PCOS and some concerns with neuropathy, and so my friend suggested I try adding more protein in my diet. And she suggested that maybe plant based protein wasn’t cutting it and that the tofu and beans I was eating were not good for my hormonal imbalance and all, and so I slowly would have seafood from time to time. I did feel better, and my symptoms such as the severe menstrual cramps that returned from being absent during my early yoga days and the tingling in my fingers and toes, dissipated. Again, my body knew what it needed.

In my recent trip to Australia, my first two weeks was mostly white rice free, gluten free and super healthy. Save for the occasional iced coffees I had, I was pretty clean. The first two days were tough, and the coffee withdrawals gave me a severe migraine but from day 4 onward, I felt amazing.

During teacher training at the Byron Yoga Centre, we were served delicious vegetarian food as well. A little carby, but the Filipino in me enjoyed having rice again. I did feel the difference of the first two weeks of my trip to those next 12 days.

Eventually I found myself beginning to have too much sugar again and now that I’m back in Manila, my food habits have declined notoriously. I have still, however, been eating breakfast!

Yesterday I went to a buffet at the Hyatt Hotel at the City of Dreams and on a whim, I decided to see what it would be like to eat some meat again. I had had a small lamb rib in Tasmania and while it was delicious, it didn’t give me the same pleasure I had when I was still eating meat. So I tried it again yesterday.

BIG MISTAKE.

It was delicious, admittedly. But about an hour later, up to know which has been over 24 hours, I feel heavy and queasy. I can still feel the slab of meat undigested in my belly (I suppose that’s metaphorically, but I won’t be surprised if its kinda true). 

The body really does know what it needs. And after yesterday, I know for sure that roast beef is not one of them. 

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A few days ago a dear friend and mentor of mine asked me her standard question: “what stood out for you?”. She was referring to the program I am taking now and it took me till today to give her an answer (or a non-answer, I should also say). I guess what has really been coming up for me is how I am feeling a little bit lost in translation. It feels like everything I have come to learn and understand has been challenged and brought into different directions. While I love it and see the value of seeing the bigger picture, it is confronting and it does trigger my sense of stability.  For example, as a dedicated yin teacher, I have always highlighted the therapeutic value of yin, and in fact, it was my default solution to everything. As I grew in my teaching and practice, I did begin to recognize that it is (as all things are) not the end all and be all of things. Nonetheless, I still had a big bias towards it and I guess having to shift perspectives makes me feel a little bit lost and out of my element.

In today’s session, we talked a lot about something deeply familiar to me: psychology. I got asked if I had something to say and in my mind there were a million things, but yet again, that fight, flight, freeze moment got me and well, let’s just say I keeled over and fainted again (figuratively, that is).

What dawned on me is that besides having what I know and believe challenged and having new things to digest and take in, when things are spoken in a language (well, maybe not language per se, but a vernacular? I don’t have the right word for it) that is different from what you are used to, it takes extra time to process it and put it together. Heck, even crossing the street and where to look is different here…I keep finding myself on the wrong side of the road!!!!

On a more personal level, I am not used to not being good at what I do and so to be lost in translation here, is not very comfortable for me. Not knowing the answers (or perhaps not knowing how to say what I am thinking and giving the answers) is quite disconcerting and given my stress response strategy, it isn’t very productive. Like I’ve said in the past few days, I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. My friend Hayley had a better description for it, and I think today this captures exactly what I feel: it’s like being thrown into a washing machine and spat out in the end. I am fortunate, however, to have such a great group of classmates and amazing teachers to learn from and to help iron me out and put me back in sorts. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later. Har.

A more important realization hit me throughout the days sessions: I think what is really causing all this feeling of being lost and even the homesickness I am feeling today is the fact that I have lost that sense of balance that came from bearing down the way I know how. This came to me after being told for the umpteenth time to unlock my knees. While this may be the beginning of a new way to ground, right now, I feel like a child learning to walk all over again. Maybe soon I’ll be off running again. For now, I’m going to try on these new knees and let things be.

 

 

 

 

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the light in me bows to the light in you

the light in me bows to the light in you

Dear You Who Sit In Front of Me in Yoga Class,

To tell you the truth, to this day I am in awe of the fact that I take that mat in the front of the room and I am gifted with the privilege to guide you through your practice. Most times (scratch that: every day) I am utterly beyond grateful that you come join me in class and explore this practice that I have come to love.

I have a confession to  make, though. On more days than I would like, I walk in with butterflies in my stomach as I make my way to that mat. The mat my teacher called the “guru seat”.  To tell you the truth, that can feel daunting.  It is a task I never underestimate, not once.  One thing I am sure of though: Im not going to say I do not think I do not deserve to be here. I know I do. And I know that because of YOU. Thank you for that.

At the end of the class, when you ask me, “how did you know that I needed that?” or when you say that what I said or shared was exactly what you needed to hear and that it was as if I was reading your mind, I really do not know what to say except THANK YOU :) Thank you for opening your heart and your mind to receive what it is I have to say. It is an honor to be part of your journey and to have been a catalyst for transformation, catharsis or whatever it is you broke through in class. Trust me, that was all you. All I did was hold the space for you so you can discover your own lights (and maybe even embrace the darkness that lies in you as well).

Another truth that needs to be told is many times, I don’t have an answer for the questions you have. Thank you for accepting my reply, even when it is “I don’t know” .  I just speak from my heart, my experience and my practice. I hope that is enough for you. This is why, for example, I don’t lead you through too many headstands or arm balances, because I do not have a story to tell about them.

The one thing (or maybe I should say two things) I dislike about this job is the fact that I have to wake up super early, leave my boys and travel to the studio with my brain feeling half left behind in bed. But you know what, as soon as I come close to wherever it is I am teaching on that day, all those feelings go away and I am made deeply aware of how blessed I am to be where I am. Your presence adds to that.

What makes all this effort – waking up early, driving from south to north (and around the city at times!), studying and reviewing, training and training some more – worthwhile is not what I make out of leading classes alone, but the little (and not so little) things I see in class: your lips turning up unconsciously into a little smile when i come and cup my hands over your face before giving you a savasana massage, watching your eyes widen with pleasant surprise when you unlock a pose, the way you laugh at my (corny) jokes, the thumbs up you send me when I ask how the pose was for you, and so many other little things. So they may say I sit in the teacher’s seat, but to tell you the truth, I am being the one taught in  more way than one.

And I am grateful because everyday, you remind me of what passion, purpose, love and truth are really all about.

Namaste.

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Earlier today, a new student came in to my class and said, “I’ve heard a lot about you from my (our) teacher”, she being a recent graduate from that teachers YTT. A little bit later, we got to talking more and she said with a smile that she was glad she was able to finally catch my class because, like me, she is a teacher who leans over on the heavier side. It was nice to know, she said, that she wasn’t alone. She then asked me if I was always comfortable in my body and if my size ever got to be an issue in my teaching path. Of course I said my weight was a big (pun intended) issue in the beginning of my teaching especially because I didn’t look like all my classmates or the idea of what a yoga instructor would be like.

Then I paused and realized, as I shared my story to her, that things have indeed changed from the time when I graduated my YTT to now. I do have my Yoga+ and White Space families to thank for that, because it is through the welcome and space they have given me that I truly found my voice. As I shared my story today I realized that what has changed immensely is the fact that the voices in my head that worried I didn’t look like a yoga teacher or that I couldn’t do it because of my size (and of course the attached issues that come with it, such as I can’t do certain poses because of my body limitations) have quieted down. I guess I can say I am comfortable in this body I inhabit. Suffice it to say, this does not mean I will not make efforts to lose weight or manage my weight issues for that matter. All I know, however, is that I have learned to honor my body by giving it the respect it deserves by not putting myself down or beating myself up unnecessarily. And I have come to believe that this is what yoga really is, not just the asana.

Yes, all is quiet in the homefront now. I am grateful for that.

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One of the questions my yoga mentor always asks me is this: “What is your intention?

There are days when this question warrants a feeling of defensiveness, but more often than not, it allows me to pause and really figure out the directions in which I am going. I have come to realize that while I may not have a clear-cut and definitive answer to where I am going with my yoga career, one of the things that have become clear is that I want to be a yoga therapist. This goes beyond structural and functional anatomy, mind you, but I really want to use yoga and movement as therapy. I want to continue working in wellness centers such as The Farm at San Benito. I am taking my yoga practice into my clinical practice at PsychConsult as well. Over time, I want to be able to offer yoga therapy in alternative medicine centers, hospitals,drug detox clinics, and maybe even other types of wellness resorts around the world.

And that is my intention.

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