Yoga Inspiration: Focus On Where You Are

Watercolor by Benjavisa Ruangvaree Dreamstime.com

Today as I did my morning yoga practice, reflecting on the big changes and decisions I’ve been facing, I wondered where it is I need to go. For the past year, I’ve speculated this. Other smaller questions like “What career should I pursue?” or “What talents are worth exploring?” have also frequented my mind.

Because one of my greatest desires is to live in the way I should, I often overthink daily choices and lifelong decisions. I’ve talked before on accepting and cultivating my wants. (See Yoga Inspiration: Day 3, What do you want to do?). But what if I don’t fully understand how these wants play into my daily life?

Earlier today, it occurred to me I may be looking at it the wrong way. There is a saying by Buddha which encompasses how I felt.

It is somewhat similar to a quote from Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda (2009). Oogway, after hearing the character Po frustratingly list all the ways he failed at, and would probably fail later. He wanted to quit, and slip back into his discontented former life. After listening for awhile, Oogway tells him, “

You are too focused on what was and what will be. There is a saying, ‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.’

What is there in the present which holds answers for tomorrow? LIVING. When I think of the many times in my life I made important decisions, it was never when I was anxiously searching for it. Revelation came in the small quiet present moments.

If you don’t know where to go, focus on where you are. I feel we find where we need to go by seeing where we are now, and living the moments God presents us through daily life.

Thank you for reading! Happy day to you.

Yoga Inspiration: How do you honor your body?

Yoga Care via Behance

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with liking my body. It’s hard when one’s body type doesn’t fit the current model of societal beauty. There have been so many moments of shame and guilt, both with how I eat and how I exercise. Several years ago, though, a miracle happened. I lost a lot of weight because of an unknown illness. When sitting and reflecting on my good fortune, these words sprang in my mind: “I’ve given you what you’ve always wanted. What will you do now?”

Since then, I’ve made key changes in how I treat myself.

First, I haven’t weighed myself for three years. I associate my worth with my weight and that is not healthy.

Second, I don’t calorie count. I become obsessed and actually gain weight.

Third, one of my goals is to practice mindful eating. Our bodies know what they need better than we do.

Fourth, I took my yoga teacher training.

.If there is one thing I’ve learned from practicing yoga daily, it is how to accept myself for who I am in the moment. Does this mean I always succeed? No, but the intention is there. True mental healing concerning our body image comes when we stop punishing our bodies for simply being.

Common ways we punish our bodies are overeating, not eating, harmful exercise, harsh language, and even physically harming ourselves.

It is definitely not easy to treat ourselves well all the time because our bodies are constantly changing. So the question I ask myself is, “Will I accept myself for the way I am right now?” This acceptance means we find the balance between loving our current selves and embracing changes that come by challenging our limitations to embrace our innate abilities.

This means we don’t reprimand ourselves for not being able to fully express poses during our practice.

It means we actively choose to become stronger by practicing harder poses.

It also means honoring our bodies when they reach their limit.

Above all, it means we mindfully tune in to our bodies to know what they need.

Thank you for reading! I hope this helped you! May we all continue forward on this journey of discovering and loving our true, divine selves.

March Book Madness! Day 8, The Bhagavad Gita, Translated By Eknath Easwaran

Book Details

Philosophy and Religion

The Bhagavad Gita is the most famous poem in all of Hindu literature and part of the Mahabharata, the ancient Indian epic masterpiece. The Gita (in Sanskrit, “Song of the Lord”) consists of a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna on the morning of a climactic battle. Krishna provides Arjuna with the spiritual means to understand his own nature so that he can take action and prevail. However, the larger canvas painted in the poem is that of the moral universe of Hinduism. As translator Eknath Easwaran, one of the world’s premier teachers of meditation and spirituality, notes “The Gita does not present a system of philosophy. It offers something to every seeker after God, of whatever temperament, by whatever path. The reason for this universal appeal is that it is basically practical: it is a handbook for self-realization and a guide to action.

Goodreads Overview

Discerning, Insightful, and Well Translated

Two of my favorite classes in college were Eastern Philosophies and Meditation and A History Of India. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for fictional and nonfictional books based in India, but it wasn’t until college I understood why. It all became clear once I read Easwaran’s translation of The Bhagavad Gita from the Mahabharata. I realized many of the teachings expounded by the figure Krishna mirror many of my Christian beliefs. This cemented in my mind with particular clarity all people in the world have more in common than they think. 

The Narrative

Easwaran separated his book in two parts.

  • An explanation of core teachings in the epic poem along with special clarification on the Gita’s history
  • An easy to follow translation of the Gita

I especially enjoyed reading Easwaran’s descriptions and explanations of Hindu beliefs illustrated by Arjuna’s conversation with Krishna. Because I studied historical research in college, I ate up this first section and made many written connections between Christian and Hindu beliefs. I wondered about the ancient history behind the Mahabharata and how its teachings evolved over time. It was almost as if there were echoes of an older religion, forgotten and lost over a millennia.

Teachings Which I Found Most Intriguing

  • Atman, or the divine core of personality. Practicing yoga daily reminds me that I am a divine and eternal being. In the Bhagavad Gita so much of one’s choices hinge on how clearly they see their Atman. If one understands they are divine, their actions change and they strive to live a more balanced life. I’ve been taught this all my life, so seeing it written and explained in this book gave me such joy!
  • Karma, every event is a cause and an effect. I am a firm believer that what each person does has consequences, especially concerning matters of marriage, love, and education. I’ve often pondered how God, who honors man’s freedom to choose, must feel watching his children fall victim to poor decisions. I’m not a mother yet but I often think how I will teach my children this principle.
  • Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva, Non-Activity, Unbridled Activity and Balanced Activity. This principle is a little more complicated. Actions influenced by Tamas are made without awareness but with ignorance. There is no desire to grow. It is living life wallowing through a cold river. There is no passion. Rajas are the exact opposite. It is like making decisions, fast-paced with no thought to any damage it can have on others. It is like running at full speed and spreading fire through every step. Sattva is mindful decision-making through balanced evaluation and thought of people. Studying these three principles helped me understand how to balance my actions and make a bigger difference in the world.

Who is this book for?

If there is anyone who loves to do yoga and study deeper ways to grow in their practice, I would recommend reading this book. Lovers of Indian History will also appreciate Easwaran’s clear explanations and translation. I loved reading this book because I felt better connected to different religions around the world. I like to believe each religion carries snippets of truth that can benefit the world. Our job is to look and find them.

I won’t rate this book because it is a historical and religious work.

Favorite Quotes

No one who does good work will ever come to a bad end, either here or in the world to come.

The peace of God is with them whose mind and soul are in harmony, who are free from desire and wrath, who know their own soul.

He who has let go of hatred
who treats all beings with kindness
and compassion, who is always serene,
unmoved by pain or pleasure,

free of the “I” and “mine,”
self-controlled, firm and patient,
his whole mind focused on me —
that is the man I love best.

Lord Krishna

We are not cabin-dwellers, born to a life cramped and confined; we are meant to explore, to seek, to push the limits of our potential as human beings. The world of the senses is just a base camp: we are meant to be as much at home in consciousness as in the world of physical reality.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow!

March Book Madness! Day 7, Charlie N. Holmberg’s Followed By Frost (2015) 4/5

March Book Madness! Day 9, Tag Tuesday: Top 5 Books I Wish I Had Read When I Was Younger

February Yoga Challenge: Day 28, What have you been searching for?

Human Meditation, Benjavisa RuangvareeDreamstime.com

My final yoga day has come! I’ve learned a lot about myself this past month and how my yoga practice interweaves with my personal struggles. Since March is upon us and I am focusing on literary writing, I hope this last post for this challenge can convey insights I’ve received as I’ve stopped, reflected, and written about my daily experiences.

I’m striving for balance between my desires and needs. One of my hardest struggles is seeing my desires as more than just personal wants I can sacrifice. On my post Day 3, What do you want to do? I surmised, “Sometimes, it is good to sacrifice our immediate wants for things we need. However, it’s important to have passions, desires, dreams, and wishes as well. Right not in my life maybe, it’s not about what I should do. It’s about what I want to do.”

I’ve thought about this post for most of the month. I’m still unearthing my passions and finding what I really want to do.

It’s okay not to meet my expectations. Multiple times this month, I thought I could do certain sequences, or I should push through my mental anxiety and physical cycles. I’ve learned my health and needs fluctuate almost daily. When this happens, it is extremely important to flow with my body’s needs. Otherwise, no matter how awesome my practice may look, I will harm myself.

I write like a teacher. This actually shocked me. I expected my writing, the more personal it became, to change in feel. True, I talked more about my personal experiences, but my primary goal through writing these posts was to help and teach others.

I value everything my past teachers have taught me. I often quote and draw from my past experiences as a student. I truly value the lessons I’ve learned from more experienced yoga practitioners.

This month of writing about my yoga practice ahs been a wonderful experience for me! Thank you to everyone who has followed me! If you are interested, check out my new post on books I’m reviewing in March.

February Yoga Challenge: Day 27, How do you create clear and loving intentions?

Photo of Leslie Fightmaster, passed away November 2020

Since I practiced for one of Leslie Fightmaster’s videos, I wanted to take the time to talk about her and her legacy. Besides Adrienne at Yoga with Adriene, Leslie Fightmaster is the yoga teacher I turn to the most when I practice from home. Adriene’s videos help me remember and apply the basics. Leslie pushes me to deepen my practice and use more energy. After each of Leslie’s videos I feel invigorated and pleasantly worn out.

Unfortunately, Leslie died three months ago in November 2020. I was so shocked when I found out. I’ve been following her videos since 2014, and it almost feels like we were close friends. This post is partly a tribute to what I learned from her after all these years.

  1. How important it is to set a intention for each practice.
    • No matter which video I choose from her repertoire, Leslie makes sure to remind watchers to set and follow up on their intention.
  2. There are multiple ways to deepen a pose.
    • As I’ve grown as a teacher and student I’ve really appreciated the multiple layers Leslie adds to each pose and sequence. It’s amazing how many students from different physical backgrounds can use her videos.
  3. Find ways to respect and use various yoga practices.
    • Leslie pulls from multiple yoga disciplines throughout her videos. This is really useful, especially for practitioners who can’t go to their studio or haven’t picked a favored practice.
  4. How to build strength in order to do harder poses.
    • She does not shy from doing harder poses during her videos but she shows step by step what students can do to build necessary strength. Even if I couldn’t do the poses right then, she helped me know it would be one day possible.
  5. How to be kind yet challenging as a yoga teacher.
    • She challenges me, but she has such a gentle loving spirit I never feel frustrated or ashamed doing her videos.
  6. How to end each yoga practice.
    • She always finds a quote to ponder in shavasana. I also really love her mantra, “Hands to the forehead for clear and loving thoughts. Hands to the heart for clear and loving intentions. Hands to the mouth for clear and loving communications.”

All in all, I’m so grateful for everything Leslie Fightmaster has done for me, as a student she’s never met before. Please check out her videos on YouTube!

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow for my last yoga post for February!

February Yoga Challenge: Day 26, You are stronger than you think you are

Lord Of The Dance, MimiPrints Anatomy and Science Art

Now that I’ve shed a lot of anxiety and lethargy I’ve been carrying the last week, I’ve pushed myself to push my physical limits while I practice. One of my hardest and favorite teachers, Sisi, consistently encouraged me to work harder during her classes. I especially appreciated how often she told us, sometimes during our most strenuous postures, “You are stronger than you think you are.”

That doesn’t mean we should pull muscles, break our bones, or hurt our bodies in any way. However, I do think we can always do just a little more than we think we can. Oftentimes the one thing holding us back from becoming stronger is ourselves.

In a B3 class with Sisi, she instructed us to do multiple exercises to practice for handstands. Most of them I couldn’t do very well. I thought more than once to myself, “I’m just not strong enough. I’ll have to wait before I can do this.” Because I had this mindset, I felt ashamed watching so many other students succeed where I was failing.

Maybe she noticed how much I was struggling, because, after a while, she had us pair with each other and conduct a small experiment. She instructed us to go into a plank pose and have our partner grab and hold our ankles. Sisi then had our partner let go of one leg while we tried to keep the released leg upright.

To my surprise, this exercise was incredibly easy for me. My legs and core were in great shape. After we finished the class, I told Sisi about my experience. She smiled and said that if I was that strong, a strong mental block and my fear of failing were keeping me from doing a handstand and other inversions. “If you don’t believe in yourself and your own strength, you can’t progress.”

I think it is vital for any yoga practitioner to take the time to reassure themselves they are capable of amazing things. Whether that means stretching an inch deeper, lifting the knees for plank, or even taking the time to be still in chavasana the principle is the same, even if the journey is different for each person.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

February Yoga Challenge: Day 25, How to you take up space?

Screenshot from Children of the Sea (2016)

As I went through my yoga routine today, I pondered a comment a yoga teacher made while she explained proper Virhabadrasana B (Warrior Two) alignment. She said when we look over the fingers of our extended hand, we aren’t focusing on the hand but the space around the hand. It is fascinating to stop and ponder the Space around us as we move through each posture and how we use space as we live. This idea goes beyond yoga practice.

Every moment of every day we inhabit a unique space in the universe.

Because we take up space, we exist. 

Other objects can’t inhabit space where we are.

No person can use space the same way. 

No matter my physical or mental state, I’m glad I exist.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

February Yoga challenge: Day 24, How Do You Face Your Fears?

Artwork featured in A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd,

Life circumstances today reminded me there are still things in this world I fear. I know others besides myself suffer at times from PTSD. These feelings are rooted in fear and are triggered randomly.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the Mayo Clinic Staff

I don’t like viewing my reoccurring symptoms as a disorder. The word ‘disorder’ puts my Obsessive Compulsion into overdrive. It makes me want to rid myself of any feelings of fear in order to avoid shameful judgment. Seeing it that way causes me unnecessary stress and anxiety. I view these feelings as they are, naturally occurring feelings I face and overcome sometimes. There is no shame in feeling fear or being sensitive to our trauma.

Sometimes it feels like these emotions and thoughts are me. But one of the benefits of studying yoga is separating who we are from our thoughts, feelings, and other elusive human characteristics. I love how Caroline McHugh talks about identity in her TED talk The Art of Being Yourself.

You are not your thoughts because you think them. And you can’t be your feelings because otherwise who’s the you that feels them? You are not what you have. You are not what you do. You are not even who you love or who loves you. There has to be something underneath all that.

Caroline McHugh

I featured artwork from Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls to illustrate how giving our fears and traumas a name helps overcome them. Just as Connor needed to speak his truth about what he feared most, we all need to face our monsters. But just like Connor, our monsters take on different forms based on our experiences. As real and frightening as our fears are to us we can overcome them.

There are important truths I remind myself of to help me endure my mental pain and trauma.

My personal worth doesn’t hinge on my experiences. Individual worth is inherent. That is what yoga is for, so we can se our true, glorious selves.

I am not alone. I have friends, family, and other kindred spirits who I can turn to. Most importantly, no matter where I am I can turn to God in prayer.

I grow beyond my fears. I’ve overcome fears before and I can do it again.

Though this may not seem like a yoga post, I really believe facing and seeing these parts of ourselves reflects how we practice and teach others. I hope my thoughts and feelings came across well enough.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

February Yoga Challenge: Day 23, How firm is your foundation?

Yoga Pose MimiPrints on Etsy.com

I’m grateful I’ve built a solid foundation for myself in my yoga practice. Looking back at my first year practicing, even going through the basics was incredibly challenging. Part of it was I had not developed the right muscles to fully support myself in those poses. I also didn’t have ample experience to believe I could do it.

If we don’t master the basics and learn to solidly hold each pose, we will fall and even hurt ourselves. Yogic experience builds physical stamina, muscles, and confidence in ourselves. I like to think of having a solid foundation as being fully committed in each pose. To be committed means syncing breath with movement. It also means activating proper muscles to deepen each posture. Most importantly, we commit our minds to being in the moment.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

February Yoga Challenge: Day 22, Which is better; Looking Ahead or Looking Behind?

“Youth and Age”, H. Vali via Saatchi Vali Art

“Do you suppose you will look the same when you are an old woman as you do now? Most folk have three faces—the face they get when they’re children, the face they own when they’re grown, and the face they’ve earned when they’re old. But when you live as long as I have, you get many more. I look nothing like I did when I was a wee thing of thirteen. You get the face you build your whole life, with work and loving and grieving and laughing and frowning.”

― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

I often wonder why The Ashtanga Primary series constantly switches directions for the standing poses. Having finished the teacher training, I understand how logically it is more effective. It is easier to flow through Trikonasana (triangle pose), Parsvakonasa (extended side angle pose), and Virabhadrasana A-B (Warrior one and two) by simply turning back and forth from the back to the front of the mat.

But yoga is more than just a physical exercise. It mirrors a deeper, more personal experience running parallel to our physical attentiveness. Since I started my teacher training, I always feel jumbled switching sides for the standing, extended postures. Funnily enough, after going through my yoga practice for the day, I started thinking about how these feelings extend into my everyday life.

Then it hit me all at once during my run. How we see the world and face its challenges varies as we age, as does our attitude towards life’s challenges. Much of our life is also centered on longing. Children long for experience and respect. Young Adults long for purpose and direction. Mothers and Fathers wistfully yearn for personal space and better finances. Single adults long for marriage, married adults long for personal time and freedom from obligations. And so the list goes on.

It takes a special eye to see the value of the life we are living in the moment. Every stage of life is valuable and needed for our personal growth. Taking time to do yoga helps in developing a mindful perspective. Just as we move forward, change our gaze, and shift directions on the mat, we steadily evolve on our life journey.

Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.