Purpose – One Little Word

A good friend of mine passionate about mindfulness and mindful living, Marina who blogs at Mindful Memory Keeping, introduced me and the rest of our circle of friends to the “one little word” exercise some time at the end of 2014. By choosing one little word you give yourself one constant in your routine that you can always turn to for inspiration, motivation, to (re)focus, regain lost perspective, or simply to remind yourself of the path you’re on.

By the beginning of last year I had found my little word – purpose. Not knowing where I was headed, and lacking any sort of understanding of where my passion and interests laid, I needed help to focus on finding that one thing that I was good at and would love doing – I needed help to find my purpose. Two months later I was certified as a yoga instructor, and as I entered the world of teaching yoga, particularly during the first couple of months while I was pitching my services to retirement homes and senior centers, I would always glance over to my little word stickers around the house, and take a moment to recenter and remind myself of the journey I was on.

At the start of summer I learned that I was pregnant with my second munchkin. The joy was short-lived, because all sort of pregnancy symptoms set in which made it real hard, and at times impossible, to keep my focus on the yoga teaching. Resistant as I was, one day as I was feeling particularly disappointed that I had to halt my professional growth and cancel a few classes, I stared at the word glued to the corner of my bathroom mirror. I saw myself through the openings between the letters, and all of a sudden it became clear that although I may have embarked on a different journey, my word was as powerful as ever and continued to serve me. My new purpose was to nurture that little being growing inside of me, and if that required bed rest, self-care and self-love, then that’s what I would be woking on.

On an unusually cold December morning (unusual for California standards), baby O was born. Right there and then, I was again a mother. There’s no more meaningful purpose than that.

Have you ever used one little word to guide you on your journey? What is your word for 2016? On Monday I will share my choice of word for the new year. Hint: it has to do with openness, acceptance, and challenges.

10 Ways You’re Stressing Yourself Out and How Yoga Can Help

I’ve just come across a blog post that left me raising my eyebrow. Just one. In a are-you-kiddin’-me kind of stare. Particularly since the author is teaching the subject matter and is an author on the topic of yoga.

The post lists 10 ways in which yoga stresses this yogini out. I am having a hard time recalling when, if ever, have I heard someone, beginner or experienced yogi, describe their yoga experience as stressful. If yoga does anything, that is to bring you to a place where you are free of tension, thoughts and judgments – free of stress. Yoga is freeing. In order to achieve that though, you’d have to live the yoga, show up for your practice with the mindset of letting go of the outer chatter and pollution, and allow the healthy yogic breath and your physical practice lead you towards a still mind.

Here are 10 ways you’re stressing yourself out, that you could erroneously blame on yoga: Continue reading

3 Yoga Poses for Morning Sickness

Ugh. Morning sickness. The hurdle most women have to get past on their way to motherhood. And the wording makes for such a lie. More often than not, morning sickness extends far beyond the morning hours. This condition, medically termed “nausea and vomiting of pregnancy”, can render you useless, bedridden and barely functional.

Next time it strikes, give the poses below a try. Do not give up if the first one you try doesn’t seem to work for you, move on to the next and see how that makes you feel. I have found that different poses are more effective at different times.

There are a few other health conditions that can leave one nauseated – stomach infection, fever, headaches, motion sickness, depression. I recommend these yoga poses for morning sickness whenever you experience that feeling of queasiness and the urge to vomit, no matter the underlying condition.

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Easy Cross-Legged Pose)

My favorite pose by far for fighting nausea and the one that has proved to be most effective for me. What it does is energize the digestive system by gently massaging the abdominal organs.

Yoga-for-Adrenal-Fatigue-10

You will need a chair, a blanket and a bolster (or a pillow, or two). You will be sitting on the blanket, place the bolster or pillow(s) on the chair, and make sure the chair is in front of you at your arm’s reach.

Sit at the edge of the folded blanket, and gently cross your legs. You can cross your shins midway, or bring the shin of your outer leg parallel to the front of your mat (imaginary if you do not use one), and the shin of the inside leg right against the calf of the front leg.

Sitting up straight, start reaching your chest forward towards the chair, hinging at the hips. Pull the chair close enough to you so you can comfortably rest your forehead on the bolster or pillow. Relax your arms over your head, perhaps grabbing hold of opposite elbows. Stay here for a few minutes (3 to 5 minutes). Make sure your breath is smooth, slow and deep. While I want you to deepen your breath, I want you to do that without forcing yourself in any way.

If you’d like to, feel free to change the crossing of your legs, and come back to the same position, this time using active arms. Stretch your arms reaching your hands forward towards the back of the chair, and hold onto the sides of the back rest or the sides of the chair seat. Find your calm, even breath again, and sit here for a few more minutes.

Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)

A very calming pose which alleviates nausea by relaxing the stomach muscles and the diaphragm, and improving the function of the gastric system.

17f04b09a43f1bbYou need a blanket and perhaps a bolster.

Find a suitable wall in your house and place your mat or a blanket perpendicular to the wall. Start by sitting next to the wall, outer right hip and leg alongside the wall. Lean on your left side and as you roll on your back bring the legs up the wall. If you are too tight in the hamstrings, you can either use the bolster and place it under your lower back close to the wall, or you can gently push yourself away from the wall until it starts feeling comfortable.

Find a balanced breath and stay with it in this pose for at least 5-10 minutes.

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Similar to Viparita Karani, this pose will relieve the pressure of the diaphragm on the stomach therefore calming any digestive discomfort. This is a pose not recommended for those with known knee issues or tight quadriceps muscles (the front of your thighs). If at any time you feel discomfort in your low back, please come out of the pose and repeat any of the first two.

HP_011You could use a bolster if desired.

Kneel, knees together, feet apart. Use your hands to push the fleshy part of your calves away before sitting between your feet. If this feels uncomfortable, please get out of the pose and go back to one of the previous poses. Your feet should be alongside your outer hips, toes pointing back. Slowly start walking your hands back, then lowering to your forearms and elbows, then all the way onto your back. If you are not comfortable here, if you are overarching your lower back and your bottom ribs are sticking out, please use some support – a bolster, blanket or pillows to rest on. You can let your arms fall alongside your body, or take the arms over the head holding onto opposite elbows.

Stay here for at least 1 minute, if it feels good in your body stay for up to 5 minutes. If your breath is shallow and broken and you feel tension building up in certain areas of your body, these are signs that this pose does not work for you. Try one of the other two.

This too shall pass. I hope these poses will relieve the symptoms enough to allow you the space to remember how blessed you otherwise are. 🙂 If you have tried them and they worked for you, please let me know in the comments. And please share any other tried-and-true tips for dealing with morning sickness.

Be challenged. Be healed. Namaste.

A Beginner Yoga Teacher Making It Work

Just a few weeks ago I was having a meltdown because I did not trust the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel to make its glorious appearance. As a beginner yoga teacher, I would find myself stuck in traffic adding up the total I’d have to write on the babysitter’s check and sulking as I realized that the number was hardly less than what I had just made that afternoon. I would thank the universe for aligning all the stars in such a manner that I could drive my husband’s electric car, slightly reducing my expenses. I was trying real hard to pretend that the $4k+ I had spent on yoga trainings and the hundreds of extra dollars dished out for props, insurance, marketing materials, was in fact a lottery win put to good use. I was starting to feel guilty about the plan to invest yet another $7k+ on Yoga Therapy studies the coming fall.

Recentering and mindfully taking it one day at a time, relying on early morning meditation, a daily asana, and daily-gratitude journaling, I managed to regain a positive outlook, to find again the inspiration and motivation to share my yoga teachings with all who could benefit from its healing powers. I devised a strategy which already starts proving successful and I am hoping over the span of the next few months will allow me to create a yoga teaching practice that is relaxed, convenient, and lucrative.

1. It’s okay to say “no.” As I was beginning my teaching journey, I was so determined to find work that I did not care teaching a yoga class would require me to board a shuttle and fly to the moon. The first teaching job I got in a retirement home was 30 minutes away on no-traffic, one way. I knew it was a bad idea logistically, but I was so eager to start, so excited with the opportunity to practice my teaching, so motivated to make myself known in the community that I said “yes.” Had I known what I now know, I would have probably turned down this opportunity and looked further. I was lucky to find another seniors residence between my home and this location and I started teaching there the same morning, which then made a bit more sense logistically and financially. It may not always work that way, though, so trust your instinct and do not fear to say “no” at times.

2. It’s okay to briefly sell your soul. The beef I have with yoga classes in the West, I’ll narrow it down to the West Coast of the USA, and even further to West LA, is that classes are so focused on strength building and sweat-wringing that few people actually understand what yoga is. Not only that, but the classes are so large and often open to various levels of practice which can only mean that the beginner yogi struggling at the back of the studio will never get the attention they need for a safe and beneficial practice. My goal has always been to teach small-group classes, five students tops. Well, I kind of had to wave this ambition good-bye, because it ain’t working. At least for now. Unless I charge semi-private rates, which people will not be able nor willing to pay, there is no way I will make any money out of teaching five students in a rented studio. Also, I was adamant about teaching gentle, restorative, and yin yoga, because that kind of practice makes magic happen. Unfortunately, as a business I gotta play by the demand-supply rule, and the demand is for power vinyasa classes. I only teach one power class a week and I do it pretty much for marketing purposes.

Building

3. Get people to come to you. The hardest part of my life as a yoga teacher is the commute between class locations. I felt that all the driving around was a complete waste of time. We’re far from an accessible beaming technology, I understand, but something needed to be done otherwise I could never dream of making a profit. While I still use the roads to get to some classes (I will continue teaching at the retirement homes in Palos Verdes, because I value the opportunity I was given as a first-time yoga teacher and I grew attached to my delightful ladies and gents over there), I made the decision to rent a studio by the hour and luckily I found one not too far from my house. Clustering two classes a day, twice a week, should allow me to start making some headway financially. I am just now planning the promotion of these classes, but I’m optimistic that the spots will fill up and my teaching practice will take off. Rent a studio, clear up a spare room in your house, find a neighborhood park, and get people to come to you.

4. Promote yourself. Be real-estate-agent aggressive. Have you noticed how they are all over the place? In your mail, in your local newspaper, on community boards, at social events, on social media. Wherever you turn, there’s a realtor talking about the houses they’re showing the coming weekend. Order your business cards; make a few flyers/post cards to disseminate in your neighborhood, in stores that you know your type of students shop in; contact your local newspaper and see what opportunities there are for advertising, or an article about your story; join community events, meet your neighbors and do not be shy about hinting at the class you are teaching the next morning, and hand out those business cards. You printed them for a reason. Use your personal network. I am guilty of not doing this. The fear of failure has always kept me quiet about my endeavors; the less people knew about what I was doing, the more comfortable I felt. I changed that. Not only do I invite my family and friends to take part in my yoga events, I beg them to share my news with their circles. Do not forget about your yoga family. Those souls who grew alongside you on your journey to becoming yoga teachers. Reach out to them and see if they can help. Offer to help them, too; they may be in the same situation as you are, not yet ready to ask for a hand.

5. Focus on private sessions. The biggest return on investment will definitely come from individual classes. The rate will usually be the highest, it is usually a weekly commitment, and you can always choose a location that is most convenient for you, otherwise charge a few extra bucks as travel expense. When doing your self-promotion, emphasize the advantage of one-on-one classes and your availability.

We all have to start somewhere (unless we are born to the king and the queen, in which case, without any effort at all, we’re princes and princesses). Each and every one of those successful yogis you see on the covers of magazines, in viral videos, found themselves in your shoes once. The process of setting up a business or a career is not unlike building a brick house; both involve careful planning, the patience for the foundation to dry and settle, so you can safely start to build upwards, followed by methodical layering of building products, in a manner that provides foundational stability and safety no matter how high the construction will reach. The higher the construction, the more bricks, time and effort required! 😉

If you’re lost at the beginning of your yoga teaching career, take my advice and see how it can help you. Or allow my words to inspire you to find your own strategy that will work in your particular situation. If you have some tried-and-true tips to maximize the time and effort invested in a yoga teaching business, please share them in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Be challenged. Be healed. Namaste.

Maintaining a Healthy Lymphatic System

My heart’s deepest desire is to make you aware of your own body and mind’s power to heal. As I type this, I imagine your rolling your eyes in the way I used to years ago. It does sound unreal that by simply dropping into a yoga pose, finding your breath and quieting your mind you can create the space and energy that would (supposedly) facilitate healing. Ha! Right? My suggestion is, give it a try. The least you would get out of it is a limber body, increased lung capacity, and definitely a decrease in your stress levels. You cannot lose with yoga.

This blog post is an introduction to the lymphatic system, Continue reading

The Struggles of a Beginner Yoga Teacher

Falling

Source: News.com.au

I had been riding this high wave for so long enjoying the view, the speed, the breeze, the thrill, that I was completely oblivious to the fall that was likely to happen. It’s not the lack of self-trust that has me convinced that there was no other end to the adventure, but rather a sense of realistic objectivity. I’ve never surfed before, I’ve never tried these waters until a few months ago, it is only natural Continue reading

To Do: Nothing (Multitasking Out, Mindfulness In)

When was the last time you did nothing? And I mean NOTHING. Nothing other than being in your own mind, and directing your attention to your breath or your senses.

When was the last time you sat still for at least five minutes? Perhaps with eyes closed, and a mindful awareness of your breath.

When was the last time you ate and focused all your attention on the food on your plate? Going as deep as noticing the different textures in your mouth, discerning between different tastes as you slowly chewed your food, and giving yourself a moment to enjoy the aftertaste. Continue reading

You’re Never Too Old…

… never too bad, never too sick, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again. | Bikram Choudhury |

And the seniors at the retirement home I visited today proved me just that.

To many I probably sound like a broken record by now, but [“here she goes again…” *rolling eyes*] I want to save the world, I want to end the pains in all bodies, I want to end the aches in all hearts, I want to end the damaging chatter in all minds. I, this little marble of energy on this huge planet, want to heal the world (as Michael Jackson once put it) through yoga. Continue reading

The Magic within You

“Grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. Fish don’t try to swim, they just swim. Birds don’t try to fly, they fly.” | D. Chopra |

Grass

How amazing is this? Think about it. Can you imagine all the energy required to grow as grass? Can you imagine the strength, perseverance and determination to swim upstream as salmon? Can you imagine the fear of opening up your wings and darting upward towards the skies as eagle? Now… do you think the grass sits there in its seed-form imagining itself growing but not feeling inspired that day? Continue reading

Basic Body Alignment for a Yoga Practice

For those interested in starting a yoga practice and who have no other option but to do it at home, watching online videos, please be mindful of the importance of proper alignment in your practice.* I was practicing at a gym under the watch of yoga instructors, and I still managed to mess up my lower back, because my power yoga teachers were not too focused on correct alignment. At the beginning of your practice Continue reading