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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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Growing up, I never gave my menstrual cycle much thought. I took it very much for granted because for the most part, it never caused me much pain. Sure, it was crazy unpredictable from the time it began up up until I discovered I had PCOS, but it never gave me grief. In fact, it was so negligible that despite the fact that I was bleeding for almost six months straight (well, maybe more like spotting rather than really bleeding), I never went to see a gynecologist. In my mind, since I was not sexually active nor was I planning to conceive, I dismissed it. Additionally, it wasn’t bothering me much. When I finally went to see the doctor, I realized how much I was neglecting the big, red (no pun intended) warning signs that irregular cycle was sending me. Given our family history of cancer, I think if I had ignored my endometrial hyperplasia at that time it would have only been time before I developed a cancer. The medical treatments helped me address some of the weight issues I was dealing with. PCOS, obesity and insulin resistance were co-morbid.

I’ve shared in this blog how the practice of yin yoga helped me through my PCOS and contributed to my periods becoming more regular and predictable. However, I still did not pay as close attention to it as I should. It was a natural part of womanhood, after all. As I grew deeper in my practice and understanding of yoga, I began to see how important it is to listen and honor my natural cycles, be this sleep, eating, as well as my menstrual cycle. This was because every time I would see my Teacher (who eventually became both Integrative Nutrition Counselor and Mentor) she would ask me three things: How is your sleep?; What have you been eating?; and “What’s your period like?”.

When I took my women’s health training, I learned about menstrual cups and period apps. Dona and Victor (my other yin teacher) talked about how important it is pay attention to the menstrual cycle because it is our personal health report card. I never thought of it that way. More »

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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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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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