Thursday, March 20, 2014

2 Years of Yoga..

     Taught me that "practice and all is coming".  By no means does it say that I'll be a super yogi and will do every possible pose flawlessly. Rather, in  my case, practice will give me the patience and strength to endure whatever scenarios life throws my way.

     Yoga helps reduces the mind chatter that we deal with on a daily basis. For me, the thoughts are often of negativity and defeat. Along with the chatter, I have to contend with bouts of anxiety and stress. On top of all these shenanigans, I became a grad student in 2013 and the fact that 2013 was one of the hardest years I have ever lived.

     I'm pretty sure I would have experienced the life changing moments of 2013 in a completely different way if I didn't have a yoga practice to help guide me through it. I would've came out of the experiences defeated and completely broken rather than just have a couple of scrapes and bruises.

     Yoga helped me keep my sanity at my lowest points last year. It gave me the capability to cancel out the negativity that I was building for myself. My practice allowed me to refuse to surrender and take the punches. It gave me the will and strength to fight back. Most importantly, it allowed my ego to reach out and accept help when I needed it.

     Being the person that I am, I know that I'm more than capable of handling most of my problems with little assistance. In fact, this style of thinking made me believe that asking for help was a sign of weakness. Yoga allowed me to put aside that mentality without feeling like a failure. It allowed me to accept the support I needed from my family and my yoga community. It gave me a voice to express my pain and allowed me to cry without judgement.

     Practice and all is coming. Practice and all is coming. Practice and all is coming. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

9 Obstacles of Yoga

and How I try to Overcome Them 

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras there are 9 obstacles to the path of Yoga listed. They are: illness, lethargy, doubt, haste or impatience, resignation or fatigue, distraction, ignorance or arrogance, inability to take a new step, and loss of confidence. Each yoga practitioner will face one or more of these obstacles in their practice. I face them all the time.


A month into my practice I developed bronchitis, which I am prone to at least once a year. Of course it set me back. Sort of hard to try to breathe when your lungs are filled with mucus. It took me a week to recover, but a month to stop hacking stuff up. Challenging to try to practice when I was coughing every five minutes, but I did the best that I could do and dropped into child's pose as often as I needed. Yoga is about going into your own comfort zone and trying to accomplish a little bit more each time. 


There are moments when I want to hit the snooze on my 5AM alarm and let myself sleep in till 630. There are also moments when I catch myself zoned out for 5 minutes while brushing my teeth. Sometimes, I even walk into class half asleep. 

No matter how I feel going into class, I know I am going to feel 100% better when I come out of savasana. It was crazy the first time I walked into work with a smile on my face. I'm pretty sure people were wondering what I was smoking. Starting my days with yoga actually helps my attitude and gives me the stamina to keep on through my 15 hour days. 


At the start of my practice, my mind was always extremely negative to me. "You look ridiculous doing that post", "you won't ever be bendy enough to do that pose", or my favorite "you're going to fall on your butt". Out of all the obstacles, this one is the hardest one for me to conquer. 

It's crazy to think how many people are controlled by the negativity that their mind spews. We are our own worst critics. When I first started, I had a lot of internal brain chatter. Through the practice, the brain chatter diminishes a little each time. I feel stronger in poses that I found challenging and I am more willing to try new poses. 

I also have to give thanks to my teachers for helping me with this obstacle. Through their guidance and experience, I feel comfortable to attempt harder poses. If you are new to the practice, I suggest building a bond with a teacher that has expertise on what you are looking to accomplish from your practice. It might take a while to find the right teacher, but it's a worth while search.

Haste or Impatience 

I once read an article from yahoo in which the author wrote that one of the benefits from yoga is that you don't suffer injuries. I disagree with that. Injuries from yoga can come from over-stretching or being over confident and trying advanced poses. 

I once asked my teacher when will my hamstrings be loose enough for me to do poses easily. He told me ten years or more. Being the queen of impatience, my mouth dropped in disbelief. Of course it was his own sarcastic way of telling me that when it happens, it'll happen. There's no way of telling when it will. Through practice it will happen. You can't force it to happen, all you can do is breathe and practice. 

In this respect, yoga actually has taught me something about patience. Things will run their own course and sometimes, there's not jack you can do about it so just go with the flow :]

Resignation or Fatigue 

Self- doubt has often made me believe that yoga wasn't for me. I have thought about quitting more than once when I first started. It was so easy to get caught up in that negativity especially in my Ashtanga class where fellow practitioners are bending in ways I didn't think were possible. Through the guidance of my teachers I was able to find that motivation to keep going. They encouraged me to believe in myself by helping me break that wall of pessimistic nagging that the mind has engulfed me in. 

Fatigue is another crazy obstacle to break through. We all have busy lives.. work, school, family, appointments, etc etc etc. It's hard to get to a yoga class when there are so many other things that demand our time. With that said, don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back for making it to a class. Not going to lie, some of the poses were such a challenge for me when I first started (did you know that down dog is suppose to be a relaxation pose?? Sure as hell didn't feel like it). I felt like I was slowing down the class by continually going into child's pose or being insecure and thinking that other students were laughing at me. 

Over time I learned that everybody has their own challenges that they are working through. The practice is all about you and your mat. That even though it's a class environment, the only person anybody should be concerned about is themselves. My teacher also taught me that more respect is given to the person that goes into child's pose then the one who struggles to get a pose because the person in child's pose is listening to their body and giving the body what it needs. Child pose is not a punishment, it is a reward to your body for all the hard work it is doing. 


Not going to lie.. I get easily SQUIRREL distracted. This is sort of really bad especially when I'm in Mysore and I'm watching people practice second and third series rather than focusing on my own practice. My lack of breathing is the first sign that I am completely distracted since I usually watch my fellow practitioners with my mouth dropped in amazement. I refocus myself by first going into child's pose (again, FRIEND NOT ENEMY) and key in on my breath. I check to see that I have full inhales and exhales before I go into my next pose. Well, I always stall at boats (paripurna navasana) even though I am learning to LOVE them like I love all the other poses. We all have our own challenges, mine is to love boat pose.. (ha!)

Ignorance or Arrogance 

For a couple of months I thought my up dog was was the shiznit. Heck, I thought very highly of my vinyasa. That illusion came crumbling down when my teacher pointed out that my vinyasa needed a lot of work. I looked up at him with eyes of confusion as he demonstrated and pointed out why we don't drop all the way down in up dog and other key points that my up dog was lacking. My ego was bruised. My ego wanted to roll up the mat and find a nice dark hole to crawl into. My ego.. I told my ego to put a sock in it since we still had work to do. And work we did. 

The mind wants to latch onto control so it will tell you know everything. It will make you believe that you already know what you are doing so you can stop searching. The mind is very sneaky and does not want to be challenged. Regain control by continuing to search and continuing to learn. 

Inability to Take a New Step 

Some days this is just the case for me. My mind is refusing to cooperate with me or my body is refusing to learn a new pose. Even though I put so much work into my practice and gained so much knowledge, there is even more to learn. 

Whenever I feel overwhelmed like that, I make myself go into child's pose until I can regain my breath and regain my focus. When I find myself having too much brain chatter, I find that a headstand usually quiets all the chatter (as explained in my headstand post). When I am trying a difficult pose for myself, I go through a checklist like my teacher taught me. I make sure that my alignment is correct, that I am fully grounded, and that I am breathing. With anything, I try to take it step by step. 

Loss of Confidence 

There have been days where I just wanted to give up. Days when nonstop brain chatter has rendered my practice useless. There has also been days when poses that were easy as pie the day before proved to be a challenge. 

Not every practice is going to be same. Some days we are more bendy then other days, which doesn't matter. What matters is that we do what we can. Yoga is not about over stretching, it's about gradual improvement through holding the poses. We let the breath take us deeper into the pose. Go into class and the only thing that should matter is how well you are breathing. 

We Have our own Challenges

As mentioned previously, each practitioner, no matter how many years they have been practicing, face their own individual challenge. The beauty of challenges is that it teaches so us so much more about ourselves and what we are made of. No matter what the challenge is, let the breath guide you through it. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012


How it Affects our Point of View 

The mind is easily engulfed in aviyda, which in English, can be translated into misconception. Aviyda, is described in four different branches: 1) the ego; 2) greed; 3) hatred; 4) fear.

In his book The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice T.K.V. Desikachar explains that we start yoga to break away the bonds that aviyda has on our minds and souls. That once we can see something clearly and correctly, there is a deep peace within us. 

We all start yoga for a reason. It can be physical, it can be mental, it can be spiritual.. a reason that is so profound and meaningful that a lot of times we can't even speak about it since that is how dear it is to us. The reason I give people on why I started yoga is to rehab my knee. The real reason that I started yoga is to find mental peace. 

Not that I'm one breath from the mental institute, but I was getting tired of all the built of anxiety, resentment, and stress. It was something that I was completely ashamed of and defensive about when anyone tried to talk to me about it. So ashamed that I had to have an easy reason to give people on why I started yoga. 

Yoga changed all that. I feel such a peace that I have not known my entire life after only practicing for two months. Just being able to calm my mind so that I can focus my thoughts and being able to concentrate on what I'm feeling. My mind was completely smothered with aviyda, like how you would smother your pancakes with syrup. The thick stickiness of aviyda is hard to break through and it fights to keep its grip. 

I know when avidya is trying to regain control. I can actually feel the presence of it and feel the energy change within me. It's a really strange sensation when your entire being feels avidya and is battling to keep it at bay. I know how misconception can change my entire perspective and I fought tooth and nail to get away from its' chains. There is no way in hell am I going to let that happen to me again. I am going to keep on breaking away, one breath at a time. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

30 Day Challenge

I went into this challenge knowing and anticipating the physical, mental, and spiritual changes. What I didn't anticipate was intensity of the magnitude of these changes.

Physically, my limbs were becoming more defined and I regained flexibility that I thought was long gone. Of course my abs are getting whipped into shape from all the sets of boat poses and other fun abs burning poses. I didn't drop any weight, but I fit into my clothes better. What blew me away was the changes I experienced mentally. 

I am a type A perpetual planner/worrier. Not something I'm proud of, but hey, at least I can admit it. What yoga did for me and is continuing to do for me is to slow my mind down. It helps me with my anxiety and it helps me stop stressing over the trivial bull so that I can see the bigger picture. When I get stressed out or something pisses me off, I am able to step back from the situation and take a breath. I don't want to say comebacks and be defensive when people are rude to me because it doesn't matter anymore. Why should I let my day get ruined because someone else wants to bring me down to their energy level? It makes me be grateful that I'm able to wake up in the morning and that I'm on this side of the ground. Everything else can be handled with time and thought. Spirituality has a lot to do with me being able to relinquish control. 

Three times in meditation I saw a glimpse of something so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. It gave me the courage to not be afraid. It gave me the courage to trust and to believe in myself. It reminded me that I don't know everything, but it's okay because I will one day. It's continuing to teach me that even though the world can be a scary place, I can still hold my head high as I walk through it. 

The most important thing that I learned is: one day at a time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Happiness Chant

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu 

May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and to that freedom for all 

I have been plagued with health issues these past two years. Something that I definitely wasn't expecting in my mid-twenties. Each day has its own challenges and each day I have to remind myself to stay positive. It's so easy to get dragged into negative energy when the body isn't feeling good. The way I see it, I'm already not feeling good, why make it worse?

I'm not saying it's easy. It's a constant battle to get and maintain that positive energy. It is much easier to be angry and to lash out at others then to actually fight that battle. Not only do we lash out at others, the negative energy that we create drains us and the vicious cycle begins over again. I know. I've been there and I wish I could say that I always chose the road less traveled.

Each session has been teaching me the tools that I can use to fight this battle. Each class is teaching me how to counter my own and other's negative energy. Each breath I take is for my well being and each exhale is to share that happiness with the people around me. This teaching is cemented for me by the happiness chant.

At the end of an Ashtanga session, the teacher led the class in the happiness chant. I was amazed at the simple one lined chant could be so powerful. Things don't need to be elobrate to be beautiful. The most beautiful things in life are the simple ones.

In yoga, be content that you can stretch a little more then you could the class before. Be happy that you held a certain pose for as long as you did. In life, be happy that you were giving the chance to wake up in the morning. For the love that the ones close to your heart provide.

Taking the mind off of focusing on the negative and make it focus on every little accomplishment is the first step in the fight for positive enegery and happiness. It's the little things in life that matters.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Headstand and the Ego

and How the Headstand Conquered the Ego

A couple of days ago I got some frustrating news. I thought by taking the time to sleep it off and waking up with a fresh attitude would help. It didn't. I walked into my yoga session frustrated. That frustration channeled into my poses and my breathing. My teacher kept on telling the class that the ujjayi can be deeper, but I'm pretty sure that it was directed towards me without putting me on blast in front of the class. I didn't care. I didn't listen.

Instead, I chose to listen to the chatter that was going on in my head. I chose to cheat myself out of a hour and a half brain chatter free time. I chose to become caught up with what was going on outside of the studio instead of focusing on doing something great for myself.

It was pretty funny when my brain chatter stopped long enough for me to realize that I wasn't focusing on my breath or my poses. In turn, I got more frustrated and the chatter got louder.

My negative energy could be seen when I was about to enter my headstand. Instead of slowly, gracefully prepping with a dolphin then folding over into a headstand, I charged into it.

Of course I wasn't successful my first attempt, second attempt, or third attempt. Finally, my teacher ordered me to the ground so she could demo the entrance into the headstand. After watching my teacher, I finally calmed down enough to safely enter into a headstand.

The magic of the headstand is that it immediately silences any brain chatter that goes on. This pose requires so much focus that brain chatter has to go.

I didn't know how much relief I would get from this headstand. How finally everything became quiet, still, and clear. It only took me 45 minutes to get there, but at least I got there.

I know that the practice is going to be different from day to day. My body is going to feel different, but what frustrated me was that I cheated myself out of that calm. Not being as bendy the day before I can deal with, but I can't deal with the consistent brain chatter. If it takes a headstand to put the brain chatter to rest, then a headstand a day is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

One Foot at a Time

Why Yoga?

I have always had an issue with my left knee since injuring it as a teenager in a pretty stupid accident. In Nov. 2011, it started acting up again. This time, I was out on light duty for almost two months. I probably would've been on light duty for another couple of months, but I refused to accept it. I absolutely hated the fact that my body was not healing itself and my mind refused to give it anymore time to heal. I went back to full duty work, which involves 10 miles of walking per day, while working through the pain.

I started yoga with my initial intention of getting my knee stronger not knowing that it would be the first step of this incredible journey. Not only is there no more pain, but I feel this incredible peace for the first time ever in my life. However, the mind, ever clever, sneaks in and sets doubts. Doubts that I wasn't bendy enough; that I had no clue what I was doing; that I had no right to be there.

In the past, I would've listened. I would've survived a class and got out of there so fast without ever going back. I would've gone back home to lick my wounds and beat myself up some more. I almost did one time until I talked to one of my friends who has been practicing of years.

Her answer was that everyone has their own challenges. Everyone works towards their own goals at their own pace. No one begins perfect, everyone works to accomplish what they want.

With that being said, I started to see what I could do to challenge myself and myself only. Challenging my mind to be still and challenging myself to keep it still.

My mind tells me that I'm not bendy enough. I tell it that I will get there someday, I don't know when, but at least I'm doing something constructive to change it.

 My mind tells me that I had no clue on what I'm doing. I tell it that I sure don't. At least I am willing to learn and to accept a good challenge.

My mind tells me that I had no right to be there. I tell it, who are you to tell on where I can and can't be?

Not only am I not meekly accepting the criticism, I am able to silence them. Able to speak up and stand up for myself. To gain that confidence to challenge the authority that my mind has over me and to keep it silent for the hour and half that I'm in practice. The inner battle gets easier and easier every time.

I would've never known that if I never had the courage to take that first step and if I didn't have the faith to keep on walking.

A simple wish to strength my physical body has transformed itself into a improvement of my spiritual body.