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Today marks the end of the #nynb30daychallenge. It’s been quite a ride and although it did’t go exactly as I had envisioned (I only made 26 out of the 30 days and barely made a dent in terms of numbers on the scale) but what I gained from it is beyond measure :) Borrowing the words of one of my fellow challengers: I may have not lost as many pounds as I wanted, but I don’t feel as fat on the inside and that’s more than I could have expected.

The challenge, however, doesn’t end with just the scorecard of how many classes I did or how much weight I lost (or didn’t lose), but I take away from it key realizations that will make me a happier, healthier, better human being.

Three important life lessons I learned through this challenge are as follows:

1. To Be Discerning. I guess it was really too ambitious of me to try to manage too many things because I ended up getting sick twice. However, what the challenge reminded me was to not to be too hard on myself and to learn how to discern when to push and when to step back.

2. To Keep an Open Mind. For those who know me, they know I am not a fan of the hot yoga practice. In fact, it surprises people when I take a class. However, this challenge forced me to step out of my comfort zone and to do things that are not necessarily my personal preference. By coming to the hot classes, I was reminded to let go of attachment to preference and to accept what is there. Svaha, as they say. It is what it is. The challenge also made my transition to my new role in the studio a little easier as it encouraged me to open up to others a little bit more and be more engaging with my fellow practitioners.

3. The Value of Self-Love. One of my big goals for this challenge was to step back on to the mat with more consistency. It is often easy for me to push my mat practice to the back burner because of other things I am doing. The challenge made me realize that setting priorities for my practice is not just an act of kindness and compassion to my body, but also of self-love. By nourishing my soul with that 60-, 75-, or 90-minute practice, I did not just move my body but it also gave me the chance to love myself a little bit more, day by day. By skipping my practice, however, I take away or cut myself short.

The challenge may be over but I carry with it these lessons. In the next month, my practice will be all about different kinds of self-love practices. Want to join me?

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Twelve years ago today, my Bubba was born. He came home to my sister two months later, and five months after that, my sister left for the US and so began the story of Bubba and Me.

At first, I wanted nothing to do with “that dog”. But slowly, he crept into my heart and that was the first life lesson he taught me.

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1. Bubba taught me to, at the very least, TRY.

By trying to allow him in my life, I opened up to a world of love I never thought possible. He taught me to try opening my heart despite the fear of what may lie ahead. He showed me the value of trying to open up to opportunities even if there was a possibility of failure. He showed me to try letting loose and having fun, even when I look silly or weird. Yes, my Bubba proved to me that if you at least try, you may be surprised at what comes your way. More »

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Me and my fellow Yin Yoga teachers Clarice, Cookie and Dona celebrating our blessings: our periods! Photo taken from Yin Yoga Philippines during our Yin Yoga for Women’s Health training.

 

Yesterday an article  made it’s rounds on my Facebook feed. I initially dismissed it as I felt I already knew what to do, given my long history of having lived with and made efforts to manage my condition. However, my friend Dona, who is a staunch Women’s Health and Menstrual Health advocate, shared the article and asked my opinion and so I decided to read it.

There were four steps outlined in that article: change your diet, exercise, take birth control pills (and at times, insulin sensitizing drugs since hyperinsulinemia is also another side effect of PCOS) and progesterone treatments. I believe strongly in points one and two. Three and four are helpful. But if I wrote that article, I’d dare propose two more “need to do” points on the list:

1. Yin Yoga
2. Change your sleep patterns/cycles
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bubba

 

A few days ago, a friend of mine reminded me  to find the joy in Bubba’s passing. As she put it, his moving from this life to the next means he’s lived out his purpose and in doing so, his role in my spiritual journey has been completed. On the mat today, it came to me that indeed, he has lived out his purpose and that the part he played in my life’s journey has ended.

I’ve said it many times in the past few days: Bubba once saved my life. I don’t say that lightly. He came at a point in my life where I was in one of the deepest and darkest nights of the soul. If you thought Meredith Grey was dark and twisty, the “Ria” I was then was a hundred times more. At least Meredith drank out in the open: I hid my bottles in closets and shoes and all sorts of other places. I holed up in my room so much and lay on my bed until I felt the cushion began to take my shape already. If I could have peed in my bed, I would not have gotten up. The only time I’d get up was when Bubba would nudge me to signal that he needed to use the toilet. And so I’d go. On the nights when I’d have one too many drinks and a Nyquil to chase it down, despite my prayers to not wake up anymore, Bubba patiently shook me awake everyday to let him out to do his business, then he’d come back and curl himself next to me.

I’m lucky that my background in Psychology gave me insight as to what was going on inside me and it allowed me to seek the support I needed. Among those support systems I had was Bubba. He became my walking buddy, my partner and my person. Every day he’d bring me his leash and stubbornly insist that we walked. In time, all the work I did from journalling, to painting, and the movement and exercise helped clear the fog in my head and the dark clouds began to lift.

As I look back today Bubba helped me make amends with the hurts of my past. He taught me to love and be loved, and to let things be when needed. He gave the wounded child that lived inside me rhyme and reason to live, and reminded her that she was worth fighting for. And that she was amazing.

Since coming out of that dark night, I’ve faced many other challenging bits and pieces of life. And yes, there were times when the darkness and heaviness of life began to make its presence known. However, because of what I had learned from Bubba’s presence the first time around, I knew I had the tools I needed to wait out the storm.

In class today I saw that the wounded child in me had found healing and that she no longer was in trapped in her past. She now could laugh about and joke about her pains and realize that indeed, there is beauty in darkness. As Rumi put it,  “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the boughs of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

I have Bubba to thank for that. As I let his physical presence in my life go, I keep his love and light in my heart always.

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Maybe the journey isn't so much about becoming anything.  Maybe it's about unbecoming everything that isn't really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything.
Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

Since I got injured earlier this year, I haven’t really been able to practice much. For the most part, the quality, as well as quantity, of my practice has been greatly affected…so much so that now, I kind of feel like I’m starting from scratch again. All the poses that came so easy to me already at the height of my daily practice is gone, even downward facing dog, which was much like home to me, feels so foreign to me now. It’s saddens me. It frustrates me. It makes me angry, too, because I lost that which I loved the most.

Today, however, I pause and recognize, or at least try to, that I can be grateful that what I knew a few months back has shifted and is different now.

As I shared in the class I lead today, sometimes we need to un-become, to become that which we really are meant to be in the first place (side note: coincidentally, this was a quote I had seen written on the board at the Byron Yoga Centre café while I was there for training). In my lecture classes at the University, we watched a movie that ended with this quote: Every story has an end. But in life, every ending is just a new beginning.

And so this evening I chose to come back to my mat, with the humble intention to un-become and allow this story to end in order to welcome a new beginning. And what do you know, the theme of this evenings class was so in line with my intention. It was a Jivamukti class and this month’s focus is wildness and the teacher talked about how embracing our wildness means liberating ourselves from the roles and perceptions that we have grown accustomed to (ergo have become). To be wild means to break away from that which limits us. To be wild means to be free and to, as Teacher Nancy put it, to break away from the mold and grow with no apologies

It’s not just my practice that has shifted completely, but my career directions and life goals as well. I feel like everything I have built up is slowly crumbling down. Perhaps if I had my cards read today, I would draw a death card or something to that effect. Suffice it to say, since I’ve come home from Australia, I feel like I am shedding the layers of the person I knew myself to be. The disconcerting part, at least till today, was simply not knowing what happens next. After all, we build these layers for a reason, right?

As those layers dissipate, however, I realize I have discovered new things about myself. I have grown more confident in my practice (or lack thereof) and have come into a more quiet and deep sense of a practice. Maybe my asanas are still rebuilding themselves, but because of my injuries, I have unlearned a lot of what I first learned (both the good and not-so-good) and now approach with a new set of eyes. My understanding of alignment and anatomy, for example, has shifted from theoretical and structural, to one that’s more practical and functional. Though my poses do not look as “deep” as they used to, it’s integrity and quality is different. It’s come into what it was meant to be in the first place.

This is exactly what working my way back from injury, as well as my current life changes, has taught me. To embrace my wild side with abandon, but not take my asana practice wildly to the point of abandon. Rather, it means to me to step away from the conventional and to listen to that voice in me that knows way more than what my head does.

And so yeah, while a part of me feels that I have come back to square one, a bigger part of me is grateful that I am in this new square one. I guess it’s true that when you need to learn something, Universe will not be subtle about getting that message through.

Here’s to the next phase of the journey of becoming and unbecoming.

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