Yoga Inspiration: Day 17, How do you meditate?

‘Girl Reading’, Charles Edward Perugini, (1870)

I made a monumental discovery today. Meditation is more than sitting on a pillow with my eyes closed while concentrating on deep breathing. Not that I don’t love doing this! But I have an eclectic mind and thrive on variety and exploration. So today, on my third day off from intensive yoga practices, I meditated on different ways I mediate off my yoga mat and pillow.

Honestly, yoga teaches how to practice mindfulness in all aspects of our life, even during activities and habits usually not associated with meditation or spiritualism. Here’s a small list I’ve made for myself.

  1. Reading Familiar Books
    • Rereading favorite books creates a safe space for the mind. The more I read a story, the better I understand its meanings and life applications.
  2. Reading New Books
    • Discovering new and wonderful books is one of my life’s joys! I believe attaining knowledge through reading is one of the most beneficial medicines we can find.
  3. Re-watching Favorite Movies
    • Much like revisiting favorite books, re-watching my favorite movies has a medicinal effect on me. Many of them remind me of the things that are most important to me.
  4. Watching Children’s Shows
    • Watching old cartoons or children’s shows brings me a lot of joy. I don’t feel myself opposing, sorting, and relabeling what I see. Nor do I have to switch on my language in my brain.
  5. Walking Outside
    • I am empathic, so going outside, breathing in fresh air, and walking is one of my favorite ways to sort and quiet my thoughts.
  6. Cleaning
    • Clean rooms are happy rooms. Clean minds are happy minds. Cleaning my space helps me simultaneously clear my mind of anxiety and turbulent thoughts.
  7. Researching and Writing
    • I love research projects! I love sharing what I learn! Research and writing taught me to FOCUS and connect my thoughts.
  8. Playing and Listening to Music
    • I’ve loved music since I was young. When I need to unwind in a very personal way, sometimes I sit and play the piano or sing. I can’t list all the times beautiful music has uplifted and enlightened me.
  9. Riding Transport
    • Riding in cars, buses, trains, or airplanes sometimes brings me wonderful enlightenment. I especially love to look out the window and ponder the scenery and people I see.

Thanks for reading! See you tomorrow.

Yoga Inspiration: Day 16, Do you let yourself rest?

Artwork by Lokia,

For any who read my posts from the last few days, my physical practice has been on a steady decline. I had high expectations for myself, even while I am not feeling completely up to it. For several days I was going to do deep breathing exercises with longer-lasting asanas. But after doing it for one day, I knew it was not the right thing for me. Thankfully, this February yoga challenge is about understanding my limitations. For the next few days I want to focus on different aspects of my practice.

I’ve often wondered what it means to rest mindfully. People are so busy nowadays I wonder if they have forgotten how. For me, it is a matter of mindfully setting aside busy things I can do that I think I should do and being still.

I don’t need to go onto the mat today if I am not physically up to it.

I am not obligated to do extensive research if I am mentally tired.

I don’t have to walk three miles if it is 10 degrees outside and snowing to feel accomplished.

If I take the time to rest, it doesn’t mean I failed to meet my goals. It just means I’m listening to my body and adjusting what I do according to its needs.

My affirmation today is I will mindfully rest without judging or criticizing my choices.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

Yoga Inspiration: Day 15, How do you face inner conflict?

Yin Yang Yoga, by Naama Ben-Daat on

Today I remembered why doing slow yoga sequences is so hard for me. Minutes before I laid out my mat, I passed one of the upstairs bedrooms while a show played. I had periodically watched episodes of the show and was impressed with some of the characters and ideas. (I won’t specify which show it was because I don’t think it’s necessary.) However, when I passed the room to change for yoga, a scene flashed before me that floored me emotionally. After that, my brain kept trying to sort through and process what I saw.

Doing an hour of slow breathing and posing almost killed me. The whole sequence, I felt like I was facing what I saw over and over again, trying to fix it and reassure myself of what I know is right.

Some people do softer yoga to relax and forget about things that upset them. I do intensive sequences because they help me burn through those problems. If I slow down, my thoughts become so heavy it’s self debilitating. My counselor almost five years ago called it Obsessive Compulsive Thinking. The only time I become like this is if I face situations, ideas, or people who directly oppose my spiritual or moral beliefs.

The best way to describe it is I get stuck in my thoughts trying to fix the unfixable. Though the problems I face in my head seem easy to let go from the outside, its not so simple. Those conflicts and the emotions they arouse feel very real. Sometimes they are absolutely terrifying. Renee Fabian explained this very well in her article “How to Stop Obsessive Thinking.”

Obsessive thoughts can impact both your mood and functioning. When they enter our mind, generally our first instinct is some level of discomfort, followed by attempts to banish the unwanted visions. This is human nature: When something is bad, we avoid it. The stove is hot, so we don’t touch it. Simple. But obsessive thinking is a different beast.

When we try to avoid a thought while in an obsessive state, the brain keeps reminding us about the unwanted thought so we don’t forget to stop thinking about it. It’s the same basic principle behind being told not to think about something — say a pink elephant — and our next thought becoming exactly what we are not supposed to think about.

Renee Fabian, How to Stop Obsessive Thinking

Knowing this, it is easy to imagine how I felt yesterday trying to breathe deeply and move slowly while fighting these thoughts. Luckily, I established for myself a pattern to ease myself out of this pattern of thinking. First, I RECOGNIZE I am having harmful compulsive thoughts. Second, I REVIEW the thoughts. Third, I RELABEL them. Last, I face them and mentally walk away from them. Usually I have to repeat this process many times before my thoughts settle down.

For anyone else who grapples with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Thinking, having these kinds of thoughts is okay. What’s most important is knowing we are not our thoughts and it’s okay to struggle to calm ourselves. There is nothing wrong with us. Everyone to one degree or another faces these kinds of trials. 

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

Yoga Inspiration: Day 13, Do you take time to slow down?

“Big Sky” by 9 Jedit (This is one of my favorite artists! Please check out their website and their Instagram and Grafolio accounts)

Because my practice yesterday was so stressful, I decided to slow down and take extra care to relax. Instead of focusing on continuous movement patterned after my breathing, I stayed in each posture for 1 minute, changing when a bell rang on my phone. I also limited the sequence to only an hour, so I didn’t pressure myself to do more.

I wonder if I am an anomaly. I don’t like to be rushed, especially during tests, yet I struggle to slow down when exercising or starting new projects. It takes a lot of self-control to let myself not go all the way, to not give everything I can. But that is a lot of pressure to put on one’s self. I’ve come to terms with having a perfectionist mindset, but still expect perfection from myself, even with the smallest things.

Today’s yoga experience, as slow as it was, gave me valuable insight into how I move and relax. When I sat within each posture for 1 minute, I focused on the muscles I needed to engage but also how my body settled as I breathed deeply. Even the simplest positions could be physically challenging if I had the right mindset.

Through some studying, I discovered there is a yoga style called Iyengar Yoga which holds postures longer like this. Named after its founder B.K.S. Iyengar,”poses are held much longer than in other schools of yoga, in an effort to pay closer attention to the precise musculoskeletal alignment within each asana.”(Types of Yoga) Another yoga style, which holds postures even longer than in Iyengar, is Yin Yoga. Paulie Zink established this style in order to, “apply moderate stress to the connective tissue – the tendons, fascia and ligaments – with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility.” (Types of Yoga)

Funnily enough, when my practice ended with the last bell chime, I was melancholy. The timing couldn’t be better for me to experiment with this slower, more focused sequencing. I won’t be able to do more intensive practices because of monthly menstrual issues. But I am excited rather than dismayed because I can now find a yoga style I can do freely in the future when I can’t go all out.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

Yoga Inspiration: Day 10, Are you devoted to YOUR practice?

I’ve been searching through multiple yoga podcasts lately because it gives me a better connection to other people who practice. Since I don’t currently have a studio, this has been very therapeutic for me. For today, I wanted to do a shoutout to a yoga podcast I listened to after I finished my practice this morning.

My practice this morning didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. There were multiple interruptions, my muscles were stiff, and I kept pondering all the things I needed to do after I finished. Once I finished, I went to dress and shower. Before I started anything else for my day though, I decided to listen to a short podcast from The Ashtanga Dispatch called  Is Our Definition of Yoga Practice Changing.

If you are confused or feel lost in your personal practice, I would recommend listening to this short podcast. In the podcast, the speaker spoke out against uniform practices or becoming like others. She stated,

Is a practice for you? Sincerity isn’t towards the practice. It is to yourself. Idea of practice becomes bigger and more spacious. Are we ready to open our minds to something bigger. Explore who we are and why we are here.

Is Our Definition of Yoga Practice Changing? The Ashtanga Dispatch

I love how in this podcast the speaker asserted that it is better to simply BE present for whatever happens during the sequence. To note where we are and breathe through it. We don’t need to fix ourselves, run from our weaknesses, or overanalyze every move we make.

There are bigger and better reasons to practice yoga than becoming physically fit, or bending into cool positions. But this knowledge comes over time as our physical weaknesses become smaller and our minds become more attune to who we are.

So one new goal I have for myself for the rest of this month is to become better devoted to myself when I practice. I think it will be good for me to stop comparing myself to others and building unhealthy expectations for myself.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

Yoga Inspiration: Day 9, What does having energy mean?

Lotus Pose Nataliya

I thought a lot about energy today.

To be energetic usually means going faster, or more specifically getting lots of things done faster. Better efficiency means completing allotted tasks more quickly. We think speed is better because we expect it to be that way. Its why it takes less then three minutes to receive our orders at a fast food restaurant and less then a second for us to find a word definition online.

But efficiency doesn’t always equate to better quality. In fact, because we have almost unlimited fast access to things like information and food, we become dependent on convenience. What this system cannot give us is experience, better results, or a sense of achievement. To work hard doesn’t always mean going fast. Nor does having lots energy always mean we should move more quickly.

Speed isn’t energy. People, animals, and objects use energy. We use energy. So perhaps the more appropriate question for today’s practice is “How do you use energy?”

This is a principle I have more fully come to appreciate over time through my yoga practice. There are times when I’ve had to rethink the way I approach it. I remember one Primary Ashtanga series I completed with one of my teachers Nicole. At the beginning of the class, she let us know she would not count between each pose. As an added bonus, she invited us to hold these poses longer than normal.

Honestly, it was frustrating at first because I had built for myself expectations for that sequence. I wanted to move faster. I thought I needed consistency. But by slowing down, I appreciated each pose more. I stopped counting and started simply being there, breathing in the moment. My whole body felt like it was on fire and I can honestly say its the most energetic I have ever felt during a yoga practice. The class ended before I knew it and I was mentally and physically exhausted. But I felt deeply satisfied with the work I had done. 

Today, for the first time in a long time, I felt super fired up to do yoga. Instead of playing calming piano music or more thoughtful soundtracks, I turned to one full of guitar, bass drops, and orchestral crescendos. As I began my sequence, I started rushing my way through each of the poses. After finishing my Sun Salutation A’s, I asked myself what I think having energy means. As I pondered this question, my movements evolved and I changed how I viewed each of my movements.

Within multiple yoga disciplines, various practices can connect us to our divine self. (For reference check Yoga Basics) What I find interesting though, is to connect to this part of ourselves we don’t need intense speed or physical ability. We need stillness and rest after releasing built-up energy. To release this built up energy requires concentrated, deliberate use of our energy. It is moving with purpose.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

Yoga Inspiration: Day 8, Where do you focus?

“Ustransana” by Sybilleart at

Week two has started off well! While doing my yoga sequence this evening, I thought about different themes I could have for my posts these next few weeks. The first idea that popped into my head was Drishti. Maintaining a good Drishti is very difficult for me in most practices, so the challenge to focus on it better seemed right.

Drishti translates from Sanskrit into “Focused Gaze.” During my yoga teacher training, my instructor Monica constantly emphasized how changing our Drishti, or where we look, changes our practice. It can change how a posture feels, helps maintain sharp mental focus, and affects the spine as we shift and root into different postures.

The phrase that embodies the purpose of Drishti is, “You want to look where you are going.” Every time I stop and pay attention to my Drishti, I notice how often, especially in a yoga studio, my eyes wander to other people around me. Because I focus on other practitioners, I lack special insight into my practice and start comparing myself to them. But on rare occasions, I take special care in how I use my gaze to move forward. 

An unfocused gaze invites in negative comparisons, imbalanced poses, and a wandering mind.

A focused gaze encourages mindful self reflection, a healthy elongated spine, and slows down thoughts.

Just like in other aspects of a yoga practice, a strong Drishti morphs into other aspects of life. Pondering Drishti makes me wonder where I am looking and where I want to go. I still love how the Cheshire Cat answered Alice’s simple question, “What road do I take?”, in Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland.

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”

The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

This is why yoga can’t be a casual thing. Because yoga is a moving meditation, it requires more from us physically, mentally, and eventually spiritually. That is if we are willing to be fully committed to the journey. I know my yoga journey started because of less than spiritual reasons. (My pride hurt because a yoga exercise video kicked my butt.) But it has evolved over the years, and the more I practice the more focused I become. I understand better my yoga goals and how I want them to apply to my everyday life.

For today, I am grateful I could take the time to ponder my Drishti both during yoga and off the mat.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

Yoga Inspiration: Day 4, Where do you base your worth?

Human and universe power, watercolor painting by Benjavisa

When I stopped and did yoga today, I realized I base my practice on my mindset for that day. Today, with so many heavy thoughts I wondered, what gives my yoga practice meaning? Is it doing harder poses or remembering to breath in all the right places? Am I any less if I am unable to do these things?

I had an enlightening conversation with my friend Erica about my many concerns. I told her about how frustrated I felt because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and that I felt down on myself because I wasn’t working. She told me most people don’t have careers that make them truly happy, but many find contentment in their job because they feel satisfied with their work. She also said there are many people who base their personal worth on their work.

Movies usually depict single women as aspiring or strong career women. They have lots of money, great houses, their dream job, and are incredibly beautiful. When I see these women, I start to feel uneasy because I am not like them. I don’t have all those fancy things, so where does that leave me?

It makes me think of the many men and women who struggled during the Great Depression. I think it was hardest for parents who longed to provide for their families yet couldn’t because there were no jobs. Many men suffered great mental anxiety because societal problems compromised their role as caregivers in their homes. Part of me wonders if that is why we sometimes equate our self-worth with the quality of our careers.

Do I do the same thing? Maybe I don’t base my worth necessarily on my job status. Perhaps I base it on other things like my obedience to personal goals, feeling needed by people around me, or in how virtuously I’m living.

Following through with my post yesterday, I pondered a lot in my daily Ashtanga sequence what makes me a meaningful existence? Then, as sat practicing my pranayama near the end a profound thought struck me. “Doing this sequence does not add to or diminish my worth. It helps me remember and accept myself as I truly am.”

I love what church leader Joy D. Jones said during General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints.

Let me point out the need to differentiate between two critical words: worth and worthiness. They are not the same. Spiritual worth means to value ourselves the way Heavenly Father values us, not as the world values us. Our worth was determined before we ever came to this earth. “God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever.”

Joy D. Jones, Value Beyond Measure

Making daily goals and working cannot replace a firm understanding of my worth as a person. So, when I do yoga tomorrow, I want to be less of a self-critic and more of an understanding observer. For, “When we understand our worth, we move differently.” I’d say we all think about ourselves differently as well. It’s not about the poses. It’s about remembering and recognizing we have great worth, while observing our physical and spiritual changes through meditational movement. 

Thank you so much for reading! See you tomorrow!

February 2021 Yoga Journey

A Vector Illustration via Sarah Kuta’s article “Ease your stress with these 13 meditation, relaxation and yoga classes“, from The Denver Posts, The Know

I’ve been in a funk the last couple of weeks physically, and mentally. I haven’t had a job for the last seven months, yet I couldn’t actively go out and search because I didn’t know when my family would move from New York. Plus, every time I thought about or applied to jobs in my area, it didn’t feel right.

Other aspects of my life also aren’t syncing either. I’m a yoga teacher who can’t teach, and I have no studio I can go to for further training. I’m single, a little bit lonely but unable to really meet anyone where I am. I can’t go out on regular walks because of the cold. All in all, I feel stuck.

So, here I am. Thirty years old and not sure at all where my life is supposed to go. But that’s how I’ve felt before every big event or change in my life.

That got me thinking. Usually I equate fulfilling goals or being busy as indicators I’ve done something meaningful. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve wondered lately if the greater achievements are made in preparing and studying. So I’ve decided to study and prepare myself mentally and physically through my writing and yoga practice.

I now actively write, clean up my past articles and conduct intensive research every day. I know I need to be working on this skill, and thankfully I’ve been able to write almost every day the last month. The downside to this, is I’m really tired. I’d forgotten how exhausting in-depth research can be. I also have a tendency to NOT STOP for hours on end. This is good practice overall (I feel my mind expanding like a balloon!) but other aspects of my health are suffering.

I miss my daily morning walks. I miss going to 3B Yoga in Provo, Utah. But winter and living circumstances prevent me from doing these things.

I want to be patient with myself and take time to rest as I should. but I also need to test myself physically so I can pull myself out of my winter blues. (I don’t think Vitamin D is enough to combat it.)

So this next month I’m commiting to a daily Ashtanga Yoga sequence every day. I haven’t done this for several years, but I feel this would be a good time to start.

I don’t like to undertake these kinds of journeys alone though. So, every day for the next thirty days I will write about my experiences; how I’m feeling physically, changes I notice every week, and spiritual inspirations I have.

Practicing yoga is very important to me and I hope by going through this challenge I can become a better teacher as well. Covid-19 restrictions won’t last forever. Once studios open up again I want to start seriously teaching again.

In my personal journey, I hope I can help someone who is also feeling down.

See you soon!