The Love of a Son

One morning as I was practicing yoga, my son came up to me and gave me a hug. He then whispered “I love that you do yoga”. As long as he can remember, I’ve been practicing yoga. He has always been there and is the catalyst to my continued practice. I have come to the realization how important it is to his little mind very recently. On a playdate not too long ago, I overheard him tell his playmate proudly “My mom does yoga, too.” I smiled inside because he associates yoga with me and he enjoys that I practice.Yoga is personal but not personal. The practice colors how I interact with others, with the world. I practice it in the privacy of my home, it feels intensely personal, yet my son watches, he is affected by my practice. Sometimes, he participates as a child can, many times he gets in the way. However, he knows that it’s a part of me and his acceptance of it and willingness to learn teaches me a lot about accepting those you love for who they are.My son’s love for me and who I am has led to loving myself and in turn, others more than I had before. His love reminds me that there is always at least one person who cares. Even if it feels like they’re getting in your way.

An Honest Review of MyYogaPal

Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.

The Bhagavad Gita

*Disclaimer: I am not being sponsored nor paid for this review.

I have been a home yoga practitioner for a little over three years now. When I first started, it was really nothing more than copying from a picture. I didn’t go to a studio, I just followed people on Instagram. One day, a mutual recommended Lesley Fightmaster on YouTube. She said that Lesley really helped her practice grow. So I went to check her out and didn’t last long at all! I thought she was too hard! So I went back to an “easier” very popular YouTube yoga teacher. After a while, I encouraged myself to try FightmasterYoga again and this time I was able to stick it out.

I started practicing more and more with Fightmaster, then joined her Patreon where she started discussing starting MyYogaPal. I knew I wanted to enroll once she opened it up. Patreon also gave us an opportunity to talk to Lesley on a more personal level and this is where Lesley started talking about MyYogaPal. I was very excited to give it a try and when she opened enrollment, after mulling around enrolling, I finally enrolled.

I started Lesley’s 90 day Thrive Program which is a 20 minute practice daily for intermediate yogis. At first I was hesitant as I do not consider myself at the intermediate level. However, I was impressed at the time that Lesley spent making this program because as each week progressed, I found that my strength and stamina was improving. Not only that, I found that I felt more peaceful and I was always proud of myself when I was done with a practice. I practice in the mornings so Thrive was my morning coffee. The program is repetitive, this is so that you can see your improvement and further your practice. This may not work for some but in the end, the benefit is seen because you realize that in that first week when you could barely balance, you do it almost with ease by day 90.

Lesley Fightmaster’s calm and soothing voice with the occasional interruption of a cat’s meow or crash into an object, one of her son’s making a noise that only she seems to hear lends authenticity and an honest touch to the home practice. When one practices at home with children, animals, and even adults, it’s not always a serene and peaceful practice as one would want. Lesley reminds us that yoga is not a cure but it helps a lot. I have seen my practice grow tremendously since starting MyYogaPal. I am learning so much about what my mind is willing to do and how far to take my body. Lesley is encouraging and always advises us to not push ourselves in a way that may hurt us. She reminds us that yoga is not about the pose and that some days, your body just will not be able to hold that Warrior III.

MyYogaPal has added additional programs which include a 30 day beginners’ yoga program,  Shine – a 90 day intermediate/advanced program that are hour long practices, daily meditations,  and Align (this is very helpful for home practitioners). There are also additional workshops that you can add like the Inversion Workshop and Ashtanga. There is also a community board where yoga pals can get together and talk about their practice as well as submit suggestions for future additions to the website.

MyYogaPal offers a topnotch yoga teacher in your home for a yearly subscription that costs less than a month at your local yoga studio. I really like that Lesley and Duke (Lesley’s husband) interact with all of the members. This shows to me that they really care about each YogaPal and are willing to help and make sure that our yoga practice is fulfilling. If there is one thing I would love to see from MyYogaPal is an app for Android and iPhone/iPad.  Right now it is website only and you do have the option to download videos for if you were to go somewhere without an internet connection. I have had no issues with quality or with the site. If there are any issues, they are resolved quickly.

I am happy that I joined MyYogaPal and feel that it could benefit a lot of people. Coincidentally, Lesley has opened up MyYogaPal for enrollment for this week and if you are interested,  you have 3 days as of this post to enroll. There are two membership options: monthly and yearly. So if you are not completely sold, the monthly might be the one for you! And there is a new program that will be added on Friday called “Ignite” which will be a 90 day program with 45 minute practices. I look forward to joining that new practice and seeing you at MyYogaPal!

 

No Yoga

Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.

Russell Eric Dobda

Last week, I decided not to practice yoga. I thought I could use a break and see how my body responded to it. I practice yoga daily, it is part of my life but I had a lot going on last week so used that as an excuse to take a break. So from Tuesday until Sunday, I did not practice yoga. I do not plan on doing that again as long as I am physically able to move.

One of the reasons that yoga is recommended is because it helps the yoga student be mindful in their present moment and this helps regulate emotions. When I review my mood from last week, it was more anxious, and I found myself easily agitated. I practiced my breathing less and I went through each day on autopilot. I just did not feel like myself.

To add to the mental unease, I started feeling physical pain. My calf and hamstring started having sharp pains. It felt like there were knots in them. One morning, I actually woke up with a muscle cramp. This was highly unusual as I haven’t been awaken by a leg cramp since I started practicing yoga and stretching in the evenings.

After a week of this, I decided the experiment was over. Within a day of returning to my mat, my physical pains were gone. I started to feel more at ease in my physical self. The spiritual self took a little hit and has been more challenging to overcome. I realized that even when it felt like yoga was not doing anything, it was doing the most. What I had started taking for granted was because of my consistent practice. I will still take breaks but I will at least try to do five minutes a day. Yoga is like my apple a day.

Yoga and Friendship

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Khalil Gibran
Human hands forming heart

Yoga is a good friend of mines. It has walked, twisted, and breathed itself into my life and has not left. It goes with me everywhere, it is always in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul. It has taught me new things about myself that I had not known and needed to know. It has also taught me to remember what I had forgotten about myself. It has brought back some of my childhood wonder and joy.

After my best friend passed away four years ago, I found it more difficult to maintain or build friendships with others. I did not really want friends anymore. That is a realization that I have finally allowed myself to sit with and acknowledge. I no longer cared about going to events or parties because I could not share them with my best friend. Have you ever lost someone dear to you? How did that make you feel? How did you manage the grief that came with it? I do not believe the pain of loss ever heals but I do believe that it lessens with time especially if one does the grief work. Grief work is not enjoyable, it is not a fun party, it’s work.

As I have moved into my yoga practice, befriended it, and befriended myself, I have found myself becoming more open. I still have days where I want to completely cut myself off from the rest of the world outside of my immediate family. Those are the days that I check in with myself, look at what is going on around and within, sometimes a yoga practice works and sometimes it does not. It might be that I just need to sit still and breathe and that’s it. My good friend yoga has helped me understand that I need to be my own friend and some days it is okay to not do anything at all.

Thrive

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

– Maya Angelou

As a yoga practitioner who practices at home, there are times when I feel that I don’t challenge myself enough. This is not just in my yoga practice, this is in my daily life. There are opportunities that present themselves that I hesitate to grasp due to shying away from a challenge. I want these opportunities, so why the hesitation? Is it fear of rejection?

This fear finds it’s way into my practice. Rejection in the sense of not holding or falling out of a posture. I’ve started challenging myself on the mat and this has led to me challenging myself more off the mat. With challenging myself on the mat, I decided to complete a 90 day yoga program by Fightmaster Yoga called “Thrive “. Its a program at the intermediate level and I was sure I could not do it especially in the first two weeks. I thought it was so hard and I thought I would quit. I was rejecting myself and the thought of quitting made me unhappy. So I accepted where I was each day and I didn’t quit. I ended the program feeling stronger than ever. It also helped me get through a very stressful few months.

I do not believe that you nor I deserve unhappiness or should live in fear. In fact, it makes me angry and even more motivated to make my own happiness and to face my fears. Now, I won’t be facing my fears in a swamp full of alligators, I’m no fool. But I can try new things like traveling to a country I’ve always wanted to travel to or have a yoga practice that always ends in an inversion. Even if I fall out of inversion or cannot get into it at all, I will try, because nothing will change if I do not. It’s exciting to grow and not feel stuck in the mundane. Finding that there are still new things in life. Thriving.

Yoga Snob

As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don’t think you are the most important being on earth. Rich or poor, you then can look anyone in the eye and say, ‘I’m probably no better than you, but I’m certainly your equal.

Harper Lee

Yoga has become “on trend” in Western society. With Instagram yogis attempting to outdo each other with contortionist like poses in exotic places and activities such as “yoga with goats” prevailing, yoga is popular. In some ways, it is not popular in the way it was originally intended. I am not here to judge Instagram yogis or people who like “yoga with goats” or “beer yoga”. They get judged enough by the yoga purists who turn their nose up at those who profit off yoga in this way. The yoga purists who believe that the only way to practice yoga is their prescribed way and any other way is not practice.

The yoga snob is the one who tells you that you cannot practice yoga at home. She will question and doubt stating “How can you practice yoga without a teacher? It’s not yoga. You don’t know what you are doing. You cannot learn on your own.” What’s interesting is that if the yoga snob is a “she”, one could easily respond that she is not a true yogi as yoga’s history was initially 100% men. Not only that, yoga was originally taught with one teacher to one student, practicing in a studio was unheard of until yoga came into Western Society. So a yogi practicing at home whether using Youtube or a yoga app is closer to the origins as it is just one student and one teacher (granted the teacher is on a video screen) but essentially it was a solo journey with the help of a teacher.

Going to an expensive yoga studio does not make one yogi better than another. With the advent of technology, it is more affordable and less time-consuming for people to practice at home. As a busy working mother, I do not have the time nor the budget to practice at a studio where I have to deal with yoga snobs, the smells (I once went to a class where there was a strong malodorous odor coming from a student), and the overall weirdness of yoga studios. I practice when and where I want to with the only distractions being my family.

The snobbery does not help those seeking to practice yoga. Yoga is for every body and any body. Ethnicity/race, creed, gender, body type, financial class status does not determine whether you can practice yoga or not. I am thankful that Youtube exists because without it, I do not think my yoga practice would have flourished. I have been given recommendations on good yoga books and have been introduced to really good teachers. You do not need a fancy outfit to practice yoga, you do not need a fancy studio, you do not need a yoga snob who only practices in a studio but never at home. All you need is you.

Who am I?

This is a question that I ponder daily, one that I have had my entire life. Who am I? This question leads to even further questions. Why am I here? Who was I before I got here? In my last post, I talked about breath (pranayama) and how I use it to bring myself into the present. However, I would be remiss if I ignore that it does not help me understand who I am just yet. I admire those who seem to know who they are and where they are going. At this stage of my life, I am still figuring that out and one would think I would know that by now. Sometimes, I wonder if I my life will just be a finite journey seeking the answer to that question.

The fifth limb of yoga seeks to help answer that question: pratayahara. In a basic sense, this is self-examination. For a yogi to self-examine, she must be in tune with her senses. This may involve withdrawing from external stimuli and in today’s modern world, there is so much external stimuli, it becomes so overwhelming and loud that it drowns out our internal stimuli. For me to “find myself” and I say that with tongue in cheek, I need to be able to hear myself and to hear myself, I need to tune out mostly everything else. I say mostly because I still need to work, feed my family, and pay attention to my son and husband. However, even with all that I have going on, I need to find the good in it all, the joy, and with that, I may be able to “find myself”.

Woman Divine

Yoga scorpion pose woman silhouette

Yoga is a spiritual experience. It is a conversation between my soul and my body. The asana or posture is the third limb of yoga. On the outside, the asana can appear as a beautiful display of strength and/or flexibility such as Vrschikasana I or scorpion pose (see header image). It can also appear as a very relaxed pose such as savasana. Both asanas are beautiful as the intention of the asana is to “reduce fatigue and soothe nerves” (Iyengar, 1966). When practicing asana, the yogi is mindful and focused completely on nurturing herself. Of course, we are human, so our minds tend to wander.
When my mind wanders in yoga practice, I will fall out of a pose or start holding my breath. The more I practice, the more I find it easier to stay focused within.

Our bodies are to be respected as they are divine. The asana helps us to show respect to our souls that reside within our bodies. As a woman, there are days in which I look in the mirror and I like what I see. I like what I see externally and internally. The more I practice yoga, the more days I have like this as I recognize that God is within me and all around me. The asana of yoga helps me in making that connection, in understanding my own divinity. My mind is more peaceful because of my practice of asana, the third limb of yoga. It is more peaceful because the practice of asana increases health within the physical body. When your physical body is healthy, this affects your mind. Your physical body sends signals that says “Hey, everything is all good here” which leads your mind to respond by having clearer thoughts, being able to relax, or being able to be completely focused on tasks.

Yes, asana practice exercises your body but its purpose is not to make your body look good, its purpose is to make both your mind and body feel good to lead to acceptance of your own divinity. Isn’t that what we all want?

5 Things I Wish I Knew when I started Yoga

1. You do not need special clothes to practice yoga in. One yogi is not better than the other because one yogi pays higher prices for a yoga name brand and another yogi chooses to wear affordable and comfortable clothing to practice yoga in. It is not a competition between who has the cutest yoga attire (okay, it is for some). However, this goes against the niyama: santosa. Santosa means contentment, if a yogi is focused on whether or not she has on the best yoga clothes, she is not content. If she is not content, she will not be able to be in the present and concentrate on her practice. This applies to life in general, when we focus on comparing ourselves to what others have or trying to get more (of what we do not need), we are not able to be in the present on focus on what we do need.

2. Yoga practice is best done in the morning on an empty stomach; particularly the more vigorous practices. The empty stomach is very important, trust me on this one. Initially, I balked at practice in the morning, I’m barely awake and my body is stiff. However, that is perfect, it is a great way to wake up mind and body. It allows for me to shake the cobwebs out from dreamworld, clear my mind so that it can be pure and fresh for the day. Śaucha is a niyama that means purity. An evening practice can also bring about this same level of mental purity by helping me release the strains of the day. In a yoga practice, we utilize pranayama which assists with physical cleansing, opening and aerating our lungs. This assists in purifying our body which for me in the mornings, means loosening the tightness that sleep brings and in the evening, letting go of the tightness that comes from sitting at a desk, typing on a computer, using my cell phone, or physical stress from interpersonal interactions.

3. Instagram yoga challenges should be done in moderation (if at all). There are many yogis who frown upon IG yoga challenges and see them as narcissistic grabs for free yoga swag from a company or focusing on the look of an asana rather than teaching people how to properly get into an asana, how to breathe, or even just focusing on the first step of the asana. This can lead to those who participate hurting themselves attempting an asana that is beyond their ability. In addition, those hosts running the challenges are not practicing tapas, a niyama that means working without a selfish motive. Not to mention, many are not licensed yoga teachers so potentially can cause harm because they are not providing safe instruction and guidance. When I initially began participating in yoga challenges, I stuck to the challenges that offered classes that focused on the asana of the day. This was most helpful and helped my practices. However, I started joining challenges because a friend was participating and there was no specific focus it seems outside of the asana was “cool” or had a silly theme like Game of Thrones. This did not help with svādhyāya or study of self, which is an integral part of yoga practice. There was no relationship between myself and the host(s) of the challenges so no mutual respect and comradeship. There was just me trying to copy a picture and not learning.

4. Start from the beginning and practice the foundations daily. Having a strong foundation will lead to growth. There is no need to push my body harder than necessary. No need to frustration and see reaching a level as a battle to be won. I was seeking personal gratification in getting myself in an asana rather than how my practice was enhancing my relationship with myself and my faith. I would find myself despairing when I could not do a certain asana. This happens in my daily life as well, if I made a mistake or if something did not go the way that I wanted, I despaired. I was not practicing the niyama: Īśvara pranidhāna, faith in a greater power than myself. In having faith in a higher power, there is no need to despair because all things will come through that power. Life should not be seen as a battle, its a journey, an adventure which means there will be mountains to climb, hills to fall down on, and as long as I am able, I will get back up and keep moving.

5. It’s way more to yoga than asanas and meditation. I thought yoga would be boring and have a lot of chanting. I was wrong in both aspects. Yes, some yoga methodologies do have chanting such as ashtanga. Speaking of ashtanga, I had no idea that there was diversity in yoga. I thought it was all the same, was not aware of the different types such as: kundalini, vinyasa, hatha, bhakti, and many more. It would have been helpful to do a little bit more research before jumping into yoga. It is okay that I did not as I am doing it now. I am a self-taught yogi, this is possible no matter what anyone tells you. One thing that I have taken from my yoga practice; a beautiful thing, is that I will continue to be a learner and there is always room for growth.

Less is More

When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and past in order, too.

Marie Kondo

Currently, I am reading multiple books simultaneously. This does not seem very mindful, does it? It is for me as they each serve a specific purpose but a the same time, one purpose. In fact, they work together, specifically Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar. You may be asking yourself how right now. For the past month, I have been writing about the first limb of yoga: yama. I have now come to the fifth yama: Aparigraha which means to be free from hoarding and collecting.

Marie Kondo works to help people essentially declutter and she writes in her introduction that when people declutter their homes, this affects them in a myriad of ways including aspects outside of their homes. For me, clutter in my home also leads to clutter in my mind. I am not referring to the normal clutter that brings me joy such as my child’s toys scattered everywhere or my many books on my bookshelf. I am referring to the clutter of objects and things that I do not need. Kondo mentions those who are very good at prettily storing things are still essentially hoarders. Is what you are storing something you actually need? Iyengar connected aparigraha to another yama: asteya which is non-stealing. Just as I do not steal things that I need or do not need, there is no need to hoard and collect things that I do not need immediately or even in the future.

This does not only apply to items. Holding on to anger or hurt, allowing it to build within is the same thing. There is no need to hoard and collect anger and hurt. It serves no purpose besides causing further pain within and eventually without. Hoarding negative energy is stealing positivity from your life. This is not to say that you nor I will not experience negativity, this is to say, we do not need to collect it and carry it with us like extra luggage. Yoga helps me to release negative energy, not hold on to it, leaves me feeling lighter yet full. I practice yoga in a decluttered space because with clutter, I am focused on the clutter around me rather than tidying the clutter that is within. How often does your mind feel cluttered? When you look at your surroundings, what do you see? A tidied space or a space cluttered with items you have no use for? What about in your mind? Is it cluttered because you are hoarding thoughts that serve no purpose besides making you feel worse than you already do? Tidy up your mind just as you would tidy up your personal space.

Since its Earth Day, when you are tidying up, make sure you recycle and if possible repurpose items.