One year ago Sebastian and I moved country, 1 yr is also the same length of time I have not been leading or holding the space in a Yoga class, my priority centred in making sure both of us adapted to a new space while keeping all things moving forward, as a result, my yoga practice stopped, and my body-mind connection slowly got lost too. The problem is that when there is no connection between mind and body, the subtle signals the body gives of dis-ease can be easily ignored or normalized, I became ill as a result. Having been the yogini I was, I never thought I could forget Yoga to the level I did (lesson #1 – never assume), I didn’t even realize I was not feeling my body until recently, when a series of synchronicities led my reluctant chubby self to take a 1 to 1 class with a very body able Yogini. There I was, feeling the stagnant energy in my body and unable to control my breath as I followed the yoga sequence, at this point I realized it was time to surrender and return to being a beginner opening my mind to receiving guidance, allowing someone else to hold the space for me because I could no longer do hold the space for myself, so I let go, opening space allowing life to surprise me.
Life is cyclic, sometimes you are at the front guiding a class, other times life puts you right at the back of the class having to re-learn a few things. I don’t mean that teachers are never students, because we all are, what I mean is the true surrendering that comes with being a beginner, allowing yourself to be led as If you know NOTHING and finding joy in it. The busy life of a working full time single mum took me out of my mat physically and in all levels of my life, I gained weight, forgot how to breathe consciously, my body became tight and stagnant, weak and prone to illness (caught pneumonia and my body had signs of chronic inflammation), so, at this point, I knew I had to do something real.
So how did I journey back?
Not alone (lesson #2). There are times in your life that you need guidance because you alone can’t find the way back, and it works as long as your surrender to it. All I could do was to take a back seat and enjoy the return to my Yogic Life in the hands of a 1 to 1 teacher called Liss Puerto, who immediately made my mind (and every cell of my body) remember the beauty of Yoga, giving me the added gift of challenging pre-conceived ideas of what I thought was Yoga (lesson #3).
Liss’ practice is very strong, her understanding of Yoga is holistic with a touch of magic, she teaches the modern Power Yoga branch which gets you sweating 5 minutes into the class, also, Liss is a Yogini who can literally stand on her chin (yes, on her chin), she makes hand stands and jumps through look easy/effortless and enters into poses with grace, combining the elements of air, fire, water and earth to her movement, she looks strong, light and very fluid. The thing is, I know Liss’s secret to this beautiful practice is not her flexibility alone, but it is her discipline and her willingness to practice 100 times, to fall and get up, “it is of humans to fall, but of Yogis to get up” – she says as my stagnant / tamasic body barely lifts from the floor. And this is where I had one of my biggest “aha” moment. Liss is an powerful Yogini (with an Instagram account) who transcended the practice beyond physical poses, and how refreshing is to learn from her.
The Yoga world is polarizing, the feeling that western societies have turned Yoga into a competitive sport is difficult to ignore, Instagram yogis give the perception that Yoga is reserved for a few privileged flexible bodies, this aesthetic trend is growing and the judgement at all levels of the yoga world grows with it; and this is where I got taught a lesson, as I fought for years to establish my teaching to prove that Yoga is for everyone, but somehow I managed to skew this concept that Yoga is for all to everyone being the less able bodies disregarding the more aesthetic ones. I have done free yoga classes with homeless teenagers, women focused charities, I have felt the beauty of guiding a disabled person in the Yoga world, or a grieving one, I have witnessed people who didn’t think yoga was for them falling totally with the practice, but I have also judged the body able yogis, segregating them un-consciously to a less than worthy place, and in this process I have limited Yoga as a practice and have made it a bad-service (big Lesson!), so when I met Liss and her Instagram account, my first reaction was to feel a little anxious, but that was to change very soon.
Yoga is for everyone, including those who apply strong discipline to their practice achieving what seems to be impossible, yes, some have it easier than others, but that does not make them nor their practice less worthy. Life is so diverse, and every yogi is different, some people find in child pose the soothing feeling one needs to keep going in life, some find joy in life with exhilarating handstands, and some don’t find that peace on any pose! that is the diversity of life and what Yoga offers to each of us.
So, there was a silver lining in my story, I had to forget yoga to come back to it with a different view and perspective.
So, in the hands of a well-respected and inspiring Instagram Yoga teacher, I am allowing my body, mind & spirit to re-discover Yoga, expanding my thinking, my awareness, removing barriers and judgements I created for myself and for the practice. Returning to my mat was the best thing I could do.
If you are one of those who are used to associate the word Chakra with gems/stones and colours, you might not be able to understand the real meaning & power what Chakras are; unfortunately, most authors or magazines center in associating charkas to items that might not have the relevance we need in our world today, but instead they seek to associate them to something people might be able to relate and even something they can feel and buy.
In my personal view, it is preferable to associate the chakras to each of the power they govern, as this gives us the opportunity to work with their energy to improve aspects of our personality, for example, wearing a pendant of blue turquoise is not going to help us open our throat chakra unless we learn how to do it ourselves, unless we understand the real power of our voice.
So, if you feel like your voice lacks power, influence, or you are sampling not able to speak your truth, you might be in a situation where you might not able to connect your inner world (or what you feel) with the external world through the way you communicate; if that is the case then you might benefit out of working with the energy of the throat chakra. How to do that? Practice Yoga, sing, chant, speak your truth, perhaps to begin with your singing and chanting will be shy, but with experience you will build confidence and at some point you will begin to acknowledge the power of your voice and your truth. Of course, the throat chakra cannot work alone, you need the strength of all the other chakras to work in harmony, without the balance, foundation & sense of belonging of the root chakra you can rarely have the confidence to speak your truth. Now, think about the word influence, and I don’t mean lie to others, what I mean is the natural ability to influence others when they hear a confident person speak their truth.
A constant Yoga practice can help re-balance your throat chakra as it works with your energy system. The Sanskrit name of the throat Chakra is Vishuddha, it governs more than your ability to communicate, but for the sake of this blog entry we focused on this particular element. Take yoga off the mat, stand in firmly on your feet, stay present & know the power of your voice, the power that each of your words emanate & become aware of your ability to influence if you wish to do so (without bad intentions!)
So, what happens when you attend a Yoga class?
You might know a friend who is into Yoga, you might have seen a few misleading photos, or you might have attended a few classes, but what is what happens during a Yoga class?
Let’s start from the practical side, when you get to the class you will be greeted by an instructor, given a Yoga mat and perhaps without you expecting it, the teacher will also give you a brick, a block, a belt and a blanket, you don’t know at this stage how useful these little things will be until you start your practice. All geared up you go to your mat to sit on the floor waiting to see what is to unfold next.
Now let’s look at what perhaps is going on in your mind: A cascade of thoughts might be running towards you: Am I flexible enough? Will I enjoy this?, am I thin enough? And some might even ask, why on earth am I here sitting next to people who seem to enjoy being crossed legged while I am not!.
If you come to my class you will smell the soft aroma of incense burning that creates a space that is different from the street, it is a kind of message that indicates that the Yoga class is set in an environment which will enable you to relax and eventually to transform.
As you sit and the class begins the teacher will ask you to leave the stress outside the Yoga studio, to bring your mind (who is often wandering in the past, future or somewhere different than the class) to the present moment, to start the union of body and mind, you will be guided to do a gentle scan of your body and you will be surprised at what you feel, some of us spent most of the day ignoring how we feel as we are too “busy”, you might acknowledge some pains, and if you are sensitive enough you might even become aware of areas of your body that are holding tension which you ignored before. As the warm up begins you start softening the joints alongside the ligaments, tendons and muscles, your teacher will ask you to coordinate breath and movement, you might even be invited to close your eyes in certain poses, by this time your mind will start to be a little bit more quieter and relaxed, and it will continue to do so as the warm up leads up to a series of poses that invite you to stretch, release, expand... finishing with a peak pose and a blissful relaxation at the end in Savasana (lying down).
..........You will probably liked what happened in that studio and you might want to return and make Yoga part of your life. Now let's take a look to what happens to your body and mind as a result of this?
As you progress in Yoga, you will notice that your muscles become stronger and more flexible, your balance improves and you start enjoying some of the poses you found uncomfortable to start with, what you might not know is that your mind is also becoming stronger and more flexible, you will feel how your breath expands your rib cage and contracts it, the more you advance the more aware you are of subtle movements of your body, in fact you will be able to feel your body more and more so you can actually live in it!. If you are taught Pranayama (breathing practice) then you will be given tools you can use to relax or energize your body.
Those who have practised Yoga know that they have a series of grounding exercises they can use in their daily lives which will enable them to be more present, to be more effective. So your body becomes stronger and with the right practice your mind becomes sharper, ready for the challenges ahead instead of ignoring them. Yoga will give you the space to listen to your inner voice, and it will not be easy at times as we are used to and programmed to get distracted to avoid listening to ourselves, but it will be so worth it. Important teacher and Guru’s explain that Yoga is also about self-acceptance, learning how to deal with our physical and mental limitations, accepting them and learning how to move forward, Yoga isn’t about touching your toes or standing on your head, for me Yoga is being able to stand firmly on your feet knowing who you are, ready for what is needed from you at challenging times.
The amazing thing about Yoga is that it starts peeling off the layers of your mind, little by little (or massive steps at the time), and this process never ends. Yoga works at different levels: mental, emotional, physical and energetic, and even though every person internalizes the practice in a different manner, the impact is real if you practice long enough. Go ahead and find out what Yoga can do for your body, your mind, your live and your relationships. It is worth the try!
You are welcome to join my class at the Yoga station in Whitley Bay on Tuesday 6:30 pm.
“All great acts are ruled by intention. What you mean is what you get!” – Brenna Yovanoff
“Nothing is more creative.... nor destructive... than a brilliant mind with purpose” – Dan Brown
“Our intention creates our reality” – Wayne Dyer
We hear wonderful quotes about intention and purpose, and we know how important is to live with those in our lives, but what about our Yoga practice?. Whether you are a Yogi seeking physical benefits or one that lives Yoga in a more holistic manner, setting an intention or a purpose before your session might prove to give you un-expected gains in your practice. This blog entry shares perspective and own personal experience about incorporating a “Purpose” or Intention setting at the beginning of the class to bring another dimension to the practice.
For me, the biggest roadblock for transformation is my self-imposed mental barriers driven mostly by the Ego. Letting go/Accepting/Changing/evolving is hard because we resist to it, our mind and our ego do a superb job in making the process of change or accepting/letting go a hard one to follow. But rest assured Yoga and meditation can help lowering the walls built by the ego enabling the flow of life and acceptance to take place if we set the intention for it.
I welcome intention setting before starting my practice for most of the times, it helps my mind to focus and also gives a deeper meaning to the way I live Yoga, for me, when performing a series of Asanas (postures) I start entering to a state of relaxation, a state when the never ending ego and mind slow down if I focus strong enough, on this state I am far more receptive to alternative forms of meditation and transformation & change, how is this? in my normal state, my mind & ego is constantly thinking creating a barrier for accepting many situations I am in creating roadblocks for personal & spiritual transformation, almost as if my mind is in a defensive state where change, acceptance, grief have no place, the mind would prefer to distract itself with my lifestyle which can be full of activities, things to go/do or even things to think about.
But when I practice the physical side of Yoga, my mind enters in a state where “constant thinking” could happen if allowed, but if I focus on my breath this constant thinking weakens, so, in my view, it is here when I open space for transformation, my defences lower and I can work with releasing anger, or working on accepting a situation, or open the gates of my heart and release emotions, there have been a few times when I have found myself crying, or when I have laughed, even I have allowed myself to feel anger; the magic thing is that when I allow those feelings to surface then they weaken and eventually disappear. I recall vividly to this point that it was at the end of a very vigorous Ashtanga practice when I realized I had to break an engagement 10 years ago, as tears rolled out of my eyes while lying down in Savasana I knew I had to do it. Of course, I don’t regret this decision, the complete opposite, a decade later every cell of my body knows I made the right decision. Perhaps without Yoga I would not have taken this courageous decision.
As a teacher, I seek to incorporate an intention often into my classes, and the intention is deep. I teach from my heart as I have experienced the healing power of Yoga beyond postures and as such I invite people to follow. Of course, this has raised a few eye brows! Especially from those ones new to my class, sometimes they look at me thinking “what? I didn’t come here to work on accepting anything... etc”, however, the majority by the end of the class feel the benefits of letting that intention work through their entire system.
Sometimes, it is just about allowing the intention or purpose to enter, that is the only job we must do, sometime it is about working harder to release deep seated emotions while your mental walls are down. This for me is transformation, as a Yoga teacher my responsibility is to create a space of transformation.
This might or might not be for you, but Yoga will work through all your systems (emotional, mental, physical and energetic), we know that Yoga is a body, mind and spirit practice, so why not letting do the job?
I quote the Yoga Sutra Patanjali: “Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind, then there is abiding in the Seer’s own form”. When the mind is still we see things as they are, it is then when we can change, transform and evolve.
Thank you for reading. Comments welcome
As a Yoga teacher, I have looked to embrace and practice Yoga in a holistic manner, at times I have related more to a physical practice and at other times the practice of Yoga has become more of an internal spiritual work.
This blog entry will share how my yoga practice had to change & transform when I gave birth to my son 11 months ago; Yoga is a fluid practice which comprises philosophy alongside physical, emotional and mental aspects; when I became a mother, the physical aspect of my practice took a step back due to the fact that my body needed to heal, but also because Yoga philosophy served me more in helping me go through the emotional and mental transformations that a new mum experiences when caring for a baby, I found myself with low levels of energy due to the lack of sleep and lacking significant free time due to the demands associated to adjusting to a new lifestyle. Motherhood brings extreme feelings: extreme tiredness, extreme compassion, and a forever growing love that I did not know before I looked at my baby, motherhood also brings an enormous sense of responsibility knowing that I must care for a tiny human life, care for his development and nurture him to grow to be a realized young person/adult.
My view of Yoga has always been beyond the physical practice, for me, Yoga is not standing on my head but rather standing firmly with both feet in the ground, feeling like you belong to your body, allowing my mind to be in harmony with my actions, and most importantly, allowing me to feeling stable in the midst of change and chaos that can sometimes surround me. So, when I found myself to be in a situation where a lot of experiences were new to me I turned to Yoga for centering. Before the birth of my son I was admitted to hospital for 2 weeks with severe pre-eclampsia, during this time I had to share a lot of time with other women in similar situations like me, 3 of them really got impatient and felt so angry against the fact that they had to be in hospital that they begged the doctors to accelerate the process of giving birth resulting in low weight premature babies, I also felt the despair, the struggle to accept my situation, the typical “Why me?!” question, but I turned to Yoga and it helped me to allow the situation to flow, and in spite of being very ill, I was in good spirits and was always positive, which allowed me to take my son Sebastian to full term without the risks of a premature birth, not sure I would have been able to do this without my Yoga & meditation practice.
Becoming a mother is a big transformation, the biggest I have experienced so far, the independent life I led was replaced by a life with a different kind of responsibility, baby schedules, routines and unpredictability, transforming to this new life isn’t as easy as it might seem, so, I found myself having to do a lot of internal work to speed this process of adaptation and transformation, so how did yoga helped? Meditation, chanting and breathing became more prevalent in my life. I found myself chanting OM very often to my son and he loves it. In parallel I found myself reading far more the philosophy of Yoga, the depth of the teachings in the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita show the ever changing nature of life, the jumping nature of the mind and explains how Yoga can help the individual through these changes.
My meditation practice reminded me of the peace that comes when one control the breath, while doing this the Yoga teacher in me got reminded of the importance of learning easier ways to meditate, ways that will help the mind achieve a state of concentration needed to meditate and the steps to it, as a result I designed and ran a workshop on meditation using easier techniques which will be shared in future blog entries.
As my body healed I re-started my practice, but not alone anymore! I have a baby who enhances my yoga practice in a holistic manner!
I am still a new mother, I am still learning how to be a solid support to my son, and in the process, I am learning to let go of aspects of my old self to make space for the qualities that developed when nurturing a life.
I finish this blog entry with the following quote from B.K.S. Iyengar about embracing change.
Yoga is a fluid practice that needs to be adapted as the circumstances and demands on our lives change, if the body is exhausted (in my case due to sleep deprivation, but it can be due to any other causes) the best is to listen to it and do not push it hard, there is always internal work that needs to be undertaken with a stronger meditation or breathing practice.
hristmas is a season to have fun, to, to spend time with loved ones, to indulge in delicious food, to party and have a well-deserved break and a good time.
Modern life can demand a lot of us, not only physically but also emotionally. Current society is moving fast and at times we feel like we have to catch up, finding ourselves in a swirl that can swallow us in, bringing us out of balance. Although Christmas is a fabulous time, it can also bring extra concerns, buying Christmas gifts, feeling the effect of being targeted by endless marketing campaigns from retailers inviting us to buy more, to acquire more, to give more… activities that can be distracting us from what Christmas is all about: Enjoying time with family and friends.
So, this year, for me, I am seeking to strike a balance between letting go and keep grounded. I don’t want to end up feeling I over did it in January, having to spend time trying to get myself back to center. So, I want to invite a kind of Yoga to my holidays, and I am not talking only about Asana, I am talking about Balance, about being present and fully enjoying the time with family and friends, it is about giving & receiving, instead of feeling un-grounded or begin dragged by too much consumption.
So here is my Yoga approach to Christmas:
So, a quick reminder for those who are thinking, what is grounding?
To be ungrounded is to feel un-connected, feel spacey, think too much or feel too much anxiety. Therefore to be grounded is to re-connect ourselves to the earth, feel rooted to the ground, to be in our power, to become aware of the tension and consciously let it go, as a result, we feel “present here and now” in everything we do.
So, with above in mind, have a very Happy & “Grounded” Christmas!!
Thanks for reading
I got recently diagnosed with a trapped nerve in my hip joint (yikes!). It is unclear how I got this! The GP guessed it was a sudden movement either sitting down or standing, it could have been my running or my Yoga, the dancing, sitting, etc.… whatever it was, it set me back and took me by surprise. I went from being very active to having to rest and nurse the pain. This was a temporary situation and the speed of the recovery was down to me, so I could either get frustrated by this, or dedicate my energy to make it better as soon as it was possible.
Injuries are part of life, it does not matter if we are a less adventurous sofa lover, or mad hyperactive gal, there will be times when we are going to hurt a part of our body. Now the important thing here is how we deal with it, and what we learn from it. this blog entry shares how I approached this:
So, 2-3 weeks later, I feel much better, I also learnt a lot.
As Yogis, we can sometimes do a lot more asana and leave other meditative Yoga practices less attended. It is ok as long as we are aware of this. I felt much more calmer after I practiced meditation and Pranayama more. We can always get something positive out of being sofa bound.
Thanks for reading!
Yoga is about tuning into our senses, Yoga is about cultivating awareness at the mental, physical and emotional level. The devoted Yogi practices Yoga in a way that shuts down the external world to focus on the internal one, even if for some minutes and for those truly powerful and lucky ones, this can last hours… if this is Yoga, then how many Practitioners forget to incorporate Nourishment into their well-being programs?
Our mind will find difficulty to attain balance within an imbalanced/malnourished and fatigued body, how can you expect your body to stay well-adjusted if it feels the effects of sugar highs and processed food? The latest trend in Yoga retreats combines days of Yoga complimented with a 100% organic balanced diet which leaves the Yogi feeling not only refreshed, but lighter and energized. The truth is, we do not need to go on retreat and pay expensive chefs to achieve this sense of well-being, it is within our grasp if we chose to do so, and this is precisely what the Yoga & Nourishment campaign is seeking to achieve: give the practitioner the tools to develop a long lasting sense of well-being by targeting body & mind in a holistic way.
Now, look at the world around you, Marketing campaigns and fast food companies make you believe that food packed in a plastic container for months can provide you the right set of nutrients, such foods are designed to last on shelves for long periods and therefore contain a higher number of chemicals than those naturally available sources. In our busy world, these food packs are convenient, after all, we stick them into the microwave for 2.5 minutes and we have what seems to be steaming hot food, but the key question here is: how do YOU feel after consuming this? Does it give you a long lasting sense of satisfaction and well-being? Or does it leave you bloated and rather “un-fulfilled”? Does it lead you to crave more of this? Now, dear reader, bring your attention to a meal you had which was full of organic, un-processed colorful food? Remember how did you feel after eating this?
As a full time scientist and yoga teacher myself, I found convenient packed food the way of eating during busy times, little by little this way of eating became a regular habit, I thought I was saving time, but what I was doing, was to put on weight and feel what I learnt to recognize as “normal”, I did not became aware that I was missing great bouts of energy by eating food which made me feel lethargic, it was not until I went to a Yoga retreat in the Spanish mountains where an experienced chef fed my body delicious organic vegan food… although it took me a couple of days to adapt to this regime, by the end of the week I FELT different, my body was somewhat.. better! I actually felt wonderful, my skin was glowing and as a result, I was happier. I did not recognize this feeling as I got used to feeling “normal”, which for me was bloated and sluggish. The yoga retreat reset my body and mind in a way Yoga failed to do on its own... hence my passion of working in a holistic way and partnering with food experts to create a holistic proposition to Yogis... it is also worth to mention that a long standing shoulder injury disappeared after the retreat, which I believed it was partly down to my body receiving the right nutrients.
Of course, my own journey through achieving a healthy food habit has its up and downs, but I am working hard in replacing processed food by fresh organic vegetarian options, the most important indicator for me is how I feel after eating certain foods after a longer period of time. I used to shut myself down to what my body would feel, easy to numb this feeling with all kind of entertainment, but here is where my Yoga practice comes into place, I stand on my mat, ground my feet, close my eyes and tune into my breath, tune into myself, and I seek to become aware of how I am feeling… it is then my responsibility to change what is not working on my food or continue feeling the same, but with awareness it comes the power to decide, to decide how I will feel.
Lastly, it is important to recognize that stress can lead to poor healthy eating habits, how to break this? Yoga can provide several breathing techniques to reduce and control stress levels, enabling the Yogi to reduce cravings coming from emotional sources, but this, will be the subject of another blog entry... stay tuned!
“True healing comes from nourishing the body and the mind…”
Make it happen...
Thank you for reading
I have been dealing with the concept of self-acceptance for a while now. Sometimes we take for granted the fact that we accept who we are! It may sound crazy to think we do not; however, if we take a deeper look at our thoughts and behaviors, we may be surprised at how many times we just don’t like how we are, what we've done, or what we can do. We may force ourselves to “change” to suit other people’s needs, requests or desires. But at the end of the day, if we do not practice self-acceptance, how can we expect to be powerful?
So frequently I see students look at the yogi next to them, and compare themselves with someone else. In my personal journey with self-acceptance I am trying to overcome this temptation through yoga. Here is how:
1. I accept my body and my flexibility - How easy is to compare myself with other beautiful Yogis who “seem” to be blessed with more flexibility than me, or with slender bodies, or those who seem to do complex poses easily… the list goes on and on… every time I experience a negative emotion associated to comparing myself to others, rating myself as better or worse than other yogis, I now become aware of it… and observe it. I don’t reject it, I just observe it.
As a yoga teacher there is an expectation that we'll be tip top when teaching. I find however, it is very liberating to be honest with my students, and on given days accept that my hamstrings are rather tight. I find students prefer to see an honest teacher!
2. Ahimsa – Yoga philosophy has a series of Yamas or attitudes/values we are advised to cultivate in our lives. One of them is Ahimsa, or the practice of compassion to all living things, and that includes self-compassion. So, next time I struggle to reach my toes in Uttanasana, or balance in tree pose, I coach myself not to self-talk negatively. I just take a deep breath and accept that yoga changes every day, sometimes we are great at it, and sometimes not. This is just what it is, no need to use force.
3. Self – Awareness. I seek to become aware, or notice feelings, thoughts and judgments in my yoga practice, and in my life! And I learnt from a Buddhist practice to not reject what I am aware of, just welcome it.
4. Gratitude –at the end of Savasana, I express gratitude for yoga and the class. There is so much to be thankful for, but I have become aware that I have not acknowledged it often enough. But I don’t do diaries as some people/gurus suggest; I just go and think about the things I feel grateful for.
I am no expert on this, and my intention is simply to share my experience as yoga practitioner and teacher.
If you found anything resonated with you, then please feel free to share.
Thank you for reading
Visiting spiritual places have an effect on us that last longer than our stay, it has always fascinated me to observe this every time I take on a journey to a special place (I actually make a conscious effort to continuously visit places that are known for their spirituality or power); My visit to Samye Ling did not fall short on my expectations, so let me share with you part of this experience with you.
Little did I know about Samye Ling, nor the fact that it is located in a relatively remote place in Scotland and was founded by Tibetan Monks, the journey itself holds a bit of magic, it seems like driving in the middle of nowhere when suddenly, the traveler sees a series of flags in the distance, and once you are there, then you start seeing the buildings & elements that belong to a Tibetan region, what is of particular interest is the combination of traditional elements melted with modern essentials (wifi, an advanced electronic booking system, etc), not long after we walked in we found a Tibetan Monk who greeted us he checked us in for our stay. The monk handed out a daily timetable that started at 6 am! (at that point I realized that although I was taking days off work, I was not going to have sleep ins, as I wanted to experience the WHOLE package during my stay), the Monk also kindly shared that 5 golden rules of the monastery, which set the tone of the visit:
1. To protect life and refrain from killing.
2. To respect other's property and refrain from stealing.
3. To speak the truth and refrain from lying.
4. To embrace health and refrain from intoxicants.
5. To respect others and refrain from harmful sexual activity.
I began to understand this place is about respecting all life, including the freedom from others, but at the same time you are invited to melt into community, this really is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. I look how the volunteers who live there have adapted and apart from looking chilled and happy, they wear comfy shoes they remove in a blink of an eye every time we enter a room (instead of me standing in 1 foot for about a minute trying to remove my winter boots, in what I attempt it to look as an effortless activity!...ha rookies like me are easy to spot).
I joined the first 1 hr. meditation session, being the first day at the center, it took some effort to keep the mind centered, then the pins and needles hit me after 45 min of cross legged sitting, my mind kept wondering looking at the temple and still thinking of the day to day concerns that started to melt away as I immersed myself deeper with the energy of the place. The chanting / praying session before bedtime did remove any leftover city concerns, and as I went to bed that night, I was feeling the spiritual vibe of the place. Woke up at 540 am the following day to get to morning prayers, a sleepy but eager me walks into the temple to find out several very awake monks & volunteers, I grabbed two cushions (in preparation to avoid more pins and needles!) as I sit to pray/meditate, shortly I found comfort and peace within the silence of the early morning. The sounds of gongs that call for Morning Prayer are heard across monastery. The meals are served at specific times (breakfast at 7 am), all food is vegetarian and very tasty.
As I wondered around visiting the place with my companion, I can’t stop myself from doing the odd yoga movement here and there (like for example… in the middle of the square!) of course my lack of shyness raises some eyebrows from day visitors who might not get the yogi spirit J, especially as I did arm balances on the snow!
The day to day continues and I began talking with the volunteers who live there, they just seem happy! The monks share meals with visitors, and they inspire huge respect, so I have a few doubtful thoughts before I dare to ask one of them about the possibility of me running a Yoga retreat, the smile and their answer is so welcoming, and soon after I find myself in the abbot’s office talking about possibilities and fixing a date, how amazing to have the opportunity to bring people to experience this fantastic place!.
I visited the Tibetan rooms for tea and coffee as I sat peacefully reading a book. Worth to say, there is a book on each bed time table so visitors can read, mine was “Restoring balance – Sharing Tibetan Wisdom –“ and I found it fitting to a particular time that was about to set off in the weeks that followed my visit to Samye Ling, I extract the quote below:
“The real challenge is to have balance and stability within continuous change”, little did I know at the time how timely this read was.
I spent a few days at the monastery, and I will be sure of coming back often.
I will co-host a Yoga retreat in Samye Ling on June 19 – 21st. It is really an opportunity that should not be missed, I am busy planning the themes and each yoga class with precision, with the intention to give the practitioner a space for transformation, giving also the space for the individual to immerse themselves in the daily time table that I so much enjoyed.
Thanks for reading
I hope everyone had a great festive season! Sharing moments with dear ones… the festivities in December bring a sense of excitement, celebration, indulgence and overall, a sense of just letting go and have fun!
And 2015 is here!, sooner that we thought, arriving full of possibilities, representing a blank canvas eagerly waiting to be infused with colour. The beginning of the year offers a really good opportunity to re-set our goals, taking a moment to reflect the direction we would like to take, so we can take the right steps towards fulfilling our dreams, although, this can (and should) be done at anytime of the year, January is a perfect time to make a commitment.
So, here we are, setting up New Year resolutions (YAY!), but here is the twist, the Yoga tradition offers an opportunity to take a different approach, setting a Sankalpa (Sanskrit for Purpose, Will, determination). Sankalpa is equivalent to setting an intention, but one that is deeply aligned with your life purpose, and therefore goes a level deeper than a simple resolution that stops at the ego/physical level of your body, which might reinforce the mistaken belief that your happiness depends on acquiring what you want (Kelli Mc, Yoga international), Sankalpa touches the mind and connects it you’re your body, seeking to understand what is what drives the need or the motivation behind a desired heartfelt change that will be felt by your body, Sankalpa is a vow of commitment to achieve, starting from the radical premise that you are who you need to be to fulfil your life’s purpose, all you need to do is focus your mind, connect with your most heartfelt desires and channel the energy within.
How do you find a sankalpa?
You look inward: meditation, yoga, and particularly Yoga Nidra can provide some help, but first, you must have the interest to get an understanding of what is driving the need to deliver a change, why you have a heartfelt desire to gain/do something.
How does a Sankalpa look like?
Catherine G (Yoga journal) explains that a resolution often zeros on a perceived negative aspect of us, and capitalizes on the thought of us not feeling “complete”, or “good enough”, for example: I want to lose 1 stone (message to self: You’re fat), Stop drinking wine/coffee (You’re unhealthy), call mum and dad once a week (you’re ungrateful), Sankalpa explores what is behind the thought or feeling to lose weight: I crave sugar, or comfort food when I am sad or stressed, so the intention is set to become conscious of this craving and allow feelings to arise and pass, rather than distracting on comfort food indulgence.
Once a Sankalpa has been set, there are three actions that follow: Tremendous will and energy –Iccha-, action – Kriya - and Wisdom to deliver the action -Jnana - (Kelli Mc, Yoga international)- think about it, if you really are looking to fulfil a well understood deeply entrenched need, then committing to it, and fulfilling the goal becomes easier.
The core practice of Sankalpa is remembering, so use something symbolic that you can remember!
Inner Power Yoga will be running a New Year Yoga workshop at the Yoga station on Dec 4th which will centre on re-invigorating the body through 1 hr intense Yoga practice (including plenty of detox twists), followed by 30 min of balancing, grounding postures to help the body and mind to focus, closing the physical practice with Yoga nidra and a guided meditation to open space for a Sankalpa to be revealed. A candle will be given to each participant so that sankalpa can be remembered through the year.
The workshop will also have an element of detox / rebalancing the body using juices & other diet elements, which will be covered by Duika Burges. (Website event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/579266245508368/ )
Thank you for reading
I got the pleasure to be invited to teach Yoga at the Christmas Event of the Yoga Durham group (led by Jacqueline Stevenson and Noel Sharpe) for which I am very grateful for! As I prepared for this workshop, I thought of many intentions/themes for the class, but with the right feedback from Jacqueline and Noel, one theme stood out: Grounding and Centering.
Modern life can demand a lot of us, not only physically but also emotionally. Our current society is moving fast and at times we feel like we have to catch up, finding ourselves in a swirl that can swallow us in, bringing us out of balance. By modern life I mean the need to balance work/family needs, financial commitments, time pressure, etc.. leaving us prone to feel stress, fatigue, worry and anxiety.. Although Christmas is a fabulous time, it can also bring extra concerns, buying Christmas gifts, feeling the effect of being targeted by endless marketing campaigns from retailers inviting us to buy more, to acquire more, to give more… activities that can be distracting us from what Christmas is all about: Enjoying time with family and friends. So, in order to enjoy the festive season in the best possible way, we will let Yoga do the magic, so for 75 min, the Yoga Durham group practice will be about finding a still and quiet place inside all the noisy jingle bells, feeling grounded and centered, making space for us to be in balance, to feel good, to be focused and happy with where we are.
Like Erick Shiffman explains: Yoga is a way of learning to be centered in action, so that you always have the clearest perspective on what is happening and are therefore able to respond most appropriately” (Yoga – The Spirit and Practice of Moving into stillness)
So what is grounding?
To be ungrounded is to feel un-connected, feel spacey, think too much or feel too much anxiety. Therefore to be grounded is to re-connect ourselves to the earth, feel rooted to the ground, to be in our power, to become aware of the tension and consciously let it go, as a result, we feel “present here and now” in everything we do.
The yoga practice will create awareness of the breath, to be grounded is to stay alert, calm and relaxed even in the midst of chaos, so we will use the breath awareness that we have created in our yoga practice to anchor us in, you are invited to bring this practice out of the yoga mat to your daily life, and what best time than using the festive season to start!, creating the space within to bring ourselves to the present moment, no matter on how much advertisement to buy we see! Or how stressful is to cook the Christmas meal!
The class will of course touch base in the feet, our foundation. Grounding is establishing and re-affirming foundation, giving balance and strength to the rest of the body, please see this past blog (stand on your feet… stand on your power (http://www.innerpoweryogauk.com/blog/grounding-and-centering-stand-on-your-feet-stand-on-your-power) to read about Tadasana, and how a good foundation in the feet will open a stable base of the knees/hips/spine/neck and head to fall in, centered and strong.. in your power!.
Teaching this workshop is important for me, as it also reminds me of how Yoga should impact my life beyond the mat, if my yoga practice enables me to be in the present moment, enjoying the festive season as my family visits me from Mexico, extracting every second of it with joy and happiness, and most importantly, stress free, then Yoga has indeed transformed my life.
Namaste & a very grounded and Happy Christmas fellow Yogis!
The Yoga Durham workshop will happen on Dec 13th 2014, and will consist of a morning session led by me, and a later session led by friend/fellow Yoga teacher trainee Vicky Batsioudi.
How many times have you stopped to honour the powerful feminine side of you?, and I am not talking about the superficial side, I am talking about the inner sacred side of yourself, that inner goddess that empowers you to glow with grace and beauty!, I am talking about the un-tamed natural power inside you. The workshop “Honouring your inner goddess” might just present an opportunity for you to connect with that power within, using yoga, meditation, breathing and a creative fun drumming session will kick off your creative play side.
Many times we talk about the power inside of us that drive us forward, the inner warrior that takes us through our emotional battles, but let us not forget the inner goddess that makes us shine every day, empowering us to fly higher, inviting us to create deeply from within, or to love strongly and unconditionally our dear and close ones. If we must label this power, maybe “inner goddess” is one option, whatever, the label, your source of feminine power is already working for you! So maybe it is time to honour it more frequently.
In my view, all women have a powerful feminine side within which gets expressed clearly, but sometimes its light gets dimmed due to external circumstances (and let me clarify that this has nothing to do with appearances, but more with inner strength). Our current society can sometimes be felt like a masculine-goal driven one, and although I am a true advocate for gender equality, I also believe that women have certain qualities that come naturally to us: creativity, wisdom and care to mention some… I want to avoid falling into stereotypes, men have these qualities too, but us women have a source of power in them that sometimes we tend to forget as we seek to focus on certain aspects of our lives, prioritizing some, neglecting others…
Living a fulfilling life is also about seeking and bringing balance (I wish I would have known this earlier in my life!), the workshop will spend 5 min inviting you to become familiar with the “Goddess circle”, where several categories are created (Play, career, Romance, Creativity, Nurturing, magic & ritual, personal adventure, etc.) and you get to create awareness of how much of your time it is dedicated to all these aspects… just an invitation.
Inner Goddess in your Yoga practice?
How can we bring our inner goddess to our Yoga practice? By being how we are, not waiting until we can do the perfect forward bend, or the hand stand, or side crow…stop assuming that our yoga practice will be at its best if I can just touch my toes, if I can just do a deep Chakrasana… Yoga is not the perfect pose, nor the perfect alignment, Yoga is union of body and mind regardless of ability. If I would have waited to achieve those poses before I did Yoga teacher training, I would have waited for ever… ACCEPT where you are, who you are, be gentle in your practice, do not wish you could do what your fellow yogi on the mat next to you did 3 weeks ago.. this is YOU.. invite your inner goddess to your life, to your centre stage and to your Yoga practice…
the Workshop will open a space for women to honour their inner power, regardless of ability.. all you have to do, is to step into it!
Come and celebrate your inner goddess! You deserve it!
REF. Source of the goddess circle: Morrison & Madden – Dancing the goddess incarnate.
Can you imagine Yoga, chocolate, tequila and funky music ALL at the same time? Well, I didn’t even attempt to imagine all these words put together in a sentence let alone experience them, but the two day workshop called “Ultimate Yogabeats experience with David Sye” was set to open my mind challenging my own personal barriers, this blog entry shares my thoughts from combining all these elements into a single experience, brought by famous Yoga Teacher David Sye.
I strongly believe that Yoga IS a transformational experience, Yoga is not standing on your head, or standing on your 2 index fingers while your right leg is behind your head, Yoga, amongst other aspects is about understanding your inner world so you can transform your external world, and this is one of the elements that David Sye brings to life in his teachings, it is actually very refreshing to hear an internationally famous teacher (who btw can do wonders with his body) say this. Now you will think, what has the chocolate and the tequila had to do with it? Well, there is where it gets interesting…
How many times have I failed because I took myself too seriously? Because I lost track of the journey by focusing so hard on the goal?, well, more than I would like to admit… David Sye brings the concept of respecting your body and its limits, but also to work with the body in a way that is fun, not “forcing” the body to do something to please the ego, to take a photo (yeah, we all have done it…), forcing the body could create a negative memory which would take longer to erase, have fun instead!, give the body the confidence to go farther with a positive imprint instead, non competitive, non ego based.
Now, can you begin to imagine a class full of Yogis chewing on a Minstrel while doing Surya Namaskar?… well, we all did it, and it was fun!, now, take it a step further and imagine us holding a tequila shot, lime and salt, to gulp it down after a big “cheers”... I admire yoga teachers that take you out of your comfort zone, and this was certainly one experience.
Now, please dear reader, do not think that all we did was to eat minstrels and drink tequila, no, there was a lot of wonderful yoga, relaxation, introspection, cleansing breathing, awareness and being present in the moment, just my mind seems to selectively focus in remembering the 3 min that it took to eat the 1 minstrel and drink the small tequila shot ;-) what can I do, I am human after all!
Now the music!, can you imagine doing Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog) with a funky music in the background?, you might raise an eyebrow, but after sometime of executing shy tiny movements, my hips found freedom and were following the rhythm without me noticing!, and there I was, dancing away on my ceremonious yoga pose. Although I enjoy my yoga practice with relaxing zen music, every now and then I might just let myself go to my favourite beats… including “I’ve got the power”.. geesh why not!
Let me share the last experience with you, by the morning of day 2 my ego was kind of forgotten, so after finishing a particularly liberating breathing exercise, I just kept my eyes closed without even noticing, to be “awaken” by gentle smiles of people around me as David said something around the lines of “she is drooling…”, so I open my eyes to see David and others looking at me with a sweet smile in their faces… well, I didn’t even hear him say that, I didn’t even realized we had finished that exercise, that happy in my own world I was, I wasn’t aware of how I would look like, nor how long it would take to finish… I was “drooling” in my yoga class! Awesome…
Would I ever practice yoga after a tequila shot? No (although the Mexican in me feels slightly tempted!), Yoga & tequila is a treat exclusively reserved to workshops with the Yogi Sye… would I internalize some of his philosophy and teaching? Absolutely yes.
I respect yoga tremendously, but every now and then, I might just turn the volume up, dance away in down dog and let the body have fun while trying to discover new limits to my physical ability, who knows, I might even be able to stand in my two fingers after all…
Thank you for reading
Also, a massive thank you to all the Yogis/Yoginis who were part of this journey!
Restorative Yoga is a nice alternative to reduce our busy train of thoughts… today, I experienced a 2 hrs workshop with Kate Cowen just to re-discover the power of performing certain poses in a supportive environment where every single part of my body is resting on a prop, being a block, bolster, mat or pillow, and reminds me that Yoga can truly be a holistic experience, as it can give you a really strong work out which would burn calories equivalent to a long run, but also can take you through the most relaxing journey using eye bags to shut down the external world.
As I arrived to the studio, I found a busy teacher preparing with detail all the props, mats, pillows, bolsters, blankets, eye bags needed for the practice!, all I had to do was to lie down and travel within… following the instruction to gentle open the hips, chest and back, while remaining lying down with eyes closed.
I found the chest openers to be particularly powerful, as they gradually opened my heart in a very gentle way, without sweating or trying to execute more complex backbends, the effect of lying down supported for a certain amount of time was the release of emotions that I held back…, which reminded me of the warning the Yoga teacher did a the beginning: just let your emotions flow… let them happen.. and that is exactly what I did!
Although I still prefer a more active practice combined with periods of relaxation, grounding and centering (as this is the way I teach my Hatha Yoga classes), the effect of an extended relaxing practice should not be underestimated, and we should actually seek to include these long moments of physical stillness that will take the practitioner on an inward journey, acknowledging and processing emotions that otherwise might go un-noticed, and most importantly, allowing ourselves the time to relax... do nothing, just being!. Thanks Kate for the experience!
Yoga can act at so many levels… and all we can do is let it do the job…
How often do you Honour your Inner Warrior? How frequently do you take a step back and observe the courageous or brave acts that you perform each day?, if you are like me, maybe not often enough, so I hope this blog will help you to re-connect and honour that strength within YOU that allows you to reach farther, to get out of the comfort zone and to step strongly into the un-known, or the courage to overcome fear in life situations that come to us every day, perhaps a warrior in you have allowed you to develop the resilience that is needed when going through difficult life challenges… whatever it is in you, honour it! We certainly do not need to be in a battlefield to relate to the concept of “warrior”, and this blog certainly do not refer to any act of violence, but instead to the positive qualities that each of us hold.
Why do we find inspiration in a warrior? perhaps the mythical qualities of Strength, Courage or self-confidence come to mind, or the honour associated to acting with fairness and balance amid the fear that might arise during a “battle”.. We all have our individual stories and personal battles, and as you read this, perhaps you can bring one or many situations where your inner warrior came up.
For me, although I can relate to many aspects of the Warrior, one that comes as a challenge is to have the self confidence to not look for outside gratification or “approval”, but instead to walk in life confident in my abilities and my strengths, without accepting the limitations others impose on me, but seeking to improve from my mistakes, seeing failure as an unavoidable lesson that can bring so much knowledge.
I quote Carlos Castaneda: “The self-confidence of the warrior is not the self-confidence of the average person. The average person seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness. The average person is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.”
There are a few yoga poses that truly inspire an individual, for me, Virabhadrasana / the warrior series is one of them, this pose requires stamina, strength and focus to perform it while being strongly grounded to the floor, looking up with a mixture of strength, balance and gratitude...The beauty of Yoga, is that some poses truly offer the Yogi an opportunity to take the practice out of the mat and translate it into the real world, Virabhadrasana is the one that I carry the most with me in my day to day life.
In class, as we prepare our bodies to perform the warrior series, you will be invited to set an intention around bringing your warrior off the mat.
So, go on, allow yourself to honour your inner warrior. You deserve it
There is a lot of talk around Core strength these days; I even dare to say that almost all fitness regimes include exercises that will build up strength in the abdominal muscles, so yes, the concept of “toning our abs” is certainly not new for us, this blog entry however will share what core strength means in the Yoga world, and how it can impact your class/practice.
Sthira Sukham Asanam
The ancient Yoga sutra’s from Patanjali indicate that Asana or posture should be stable & comfortable (Sthira Sukham Asanam), although many would argue the second point, let us focus on the first one: Stability.
Let us discuss two ways to bring stability to our practice:
1. Becoming aware of our limits. In other words, know when to stop before we go too far, knowing that we are not competing with anyone else in Yoga, and therefore we do not need to match the ability of the flexible guy next to me. Yoga is a personal Journey!
2. “Centering” the body through activating the abdominal muscles. Just think on how the core plays a critical role when doing a balance pose such as Tree pose or Natajarasana... Now think how a seated posture would benefit from a strong core…, one has to observe the difference it would made when doing a forward bend with a loose abdomen, vs. activating the core when performing the exact same posture, the student will suddenly realize that they are able to reach deeper, so go core!
A good yoga session will involve several postures that will slowly work the different abdominal muscles, which in the medium to long term will translate in other health benefits, such as a Good Posture, which will then translate in avoiding back problems, etc. so, if you keep it long enough, you WILL see benefits.
The first time I did a yoga session where I “engaged” the core during each Asana, I ended up exhausted with the temptation to drop the “abdomen work” so I could concentrate on other aspects such as “stretching” more… but slowly, a stronger core translated into a stronger/stable practice. I still have to keep reminding myself about this, so, I believe a mindful practice engaging the core requires patience, perseverance and a healthy dose of concentration as it is far too easy to forget about the abdomen and focus on reaching a toe, or reaching the floor on a given pose.
So, performing Asana with a loose abs will lead to some progress, but we will probably reach a limit, a strong core however, will give you the strength and the balance which is needed to perform postures with grace and stability, on top of giving the Yogi a good looking abs!, so, it is worth it! Enjoy :)
Let go … or get dragged (Zen Proverb)
I just finished the practice of the class that I have prepared to open the hips, making some last minute notes that will help me to guide safely and efficiently the students through a sequence designed to release tension in the hip muscles. I must admit that I stepped into the mat tense and tired, but after the session my hips feel lighter, and this feeling spreads throughout the rest of the body and I feel somehow energized.
The hip has many layers of muscles, so if we really want to open the hips effectively, we must have patience during the session to start stretching gently the outer muscles, so we can get into the deeper ones in a progressive and safe approach. As we invite patience to our practice, we can train ourselves to gently let to… not just the tension of the muscles, if we allow it, we can also train ourselves to let go the minor thoughts and episodes that can irritate us, progressing slowly to letting go the bigger and more impactful situations that we all face in life, becoming aware that some outcomes in life do not depend on us, and as such, we can either keep them inside us resulting in an accumulation of frustration, or we just gently and gracefully release them, so they don’t have power of us, so they don’t hurt us anymore, so we don’t get dragged with them.
Silence as a tool to go within
As a teacher, I need to find the right balance between giving the right instruction to guide students safely through the practice, and leave periods of silence where students can travel within, understanding the pose, feeling the subtle effects that the Asana can have in their bodies. Coming from a chatty Latin background, this is always a challenge for me, so I need to be mindful in providing a silence space for them to train themselves to let go.
"Let go … or get dragged" is a popular Zen proverb that comes to mind during this practice… of course, this quote has a far deeper meaning than the one discussed here, but it is a way to bring it to life. The article below explains the deeper meaning of the Taoist teaching for those who wish to read more.
http://zenjournal.tumblr.com/post/7316319321/let-go-or-be-dragged (THICH THIEN AN)
So, let us stretch and open those hips! Happy practice Yogis/Yoginis!
People often ask me why I have themes in most of my Yoga classes… the response is simple: because that is the way I lead my personal Yoga practice. I had the pleasure to learn from a brilliant Canadian Teacher in Mexico, some of her classes would include themes that helped me to make my Yoga practice more powerful and fun! More “focused”, although I only attended 5 of her classes, this made a strong impact in my yoga practice as It was exciting to link the beauty of yoga with an inspirational theme that would come from my heart. This way, the creativity and true expression of myself started to surface. As a Yoga teacher, my ultimate objective is to create a space for students to experience Yoga and to experience transformation, for me, the practice of a perfect Asana is secondary, however, the creation of a transformative place is primary. So, providing an intention might just help this transformation process, students can be receptive to the intention, or they can totally dismiss it, it is their choice.
Stand on your feet and step into your power
This week’s theme is “grounding and centering”, which can be linked to many beautiful and complex postures, but we do not need to make it hard on ourselves, let us start with Tadasana or mountain pose. Strong grounding through the soles of the feet that provides a strong foundation for the knees, thighs, spine, neck and head, opening the chest, elongating spine, holding the head high in an almost effortless proud beautiful balance. Stand on your feet, stand on your power!
What is breathing?
And let us not forget the breath, the all powerful breath that will anchor our thoughts and bring the mind to the present moment… Why Yoga teachers keep asking the students to inhale/exhale… keep breathing… because students do forget to breathe!, the class starts breathing deeply, beautiful, and as the Asanas progress in complexity, at some point there is entire silence in the studio, and I wonder, are you still breathing?, the moment I say this, deep inhales come through, as if really, the students were craving for some air, but somehow did not manage to get it before hearing the word “inhale…”.
Seriously, breathing exercises will compliment and offer a safe space for the Yoga practitioner who seeks to be in the present moment.
Professor Velupillai explains that “Yoga is not standing on your head, Yoga is standing on your own two feet having proper balance in life” , this cannot be more true for me.
Yoga teacher & Senior Scientist working full time with a major Multinational.