Saturday, July 11, 2015

Can You Tell Me How To Get, How To Get To Happiness Street?


If you follow either of my Instagram accounts, girlfromthegym or theyogabeastblog (the name will be changing soon!), you'll see a complete diverse set of pictures and content.  I have two very different sides to my life.  One side is full of machines, iron, heavy things, sweat, punching bags, locker rooms, and meal prep.  The other side is full of peace, happiness, zen, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and balance.  But there is one common thread: my mission and desire to #ChooseHappiness.

I don't even know for how long I've been using that particular hashtag in my posts, but it all started out as a reminder to myself that I get to choose to be happy.  It started amidst a very uncertain time in my life where I was dealing with something no more or no less challenging that anything anyone else  had gone through, but for whatever reason, I had expected everything and everyone to make concessions for my sad situation and experiences.

There wasn't some eye opening conversation with a friend telling me to pull myself out of it.  There was no great epiphany while reading some self-help book in an effort to mend my heart.  There was simply the realization that I got to choose how I felt, regardless of what was going on around me.

We tend to forget that there's this one great and amazing thing determining how our day, week, life, job, relationship, projects, and dreams go.  We tend to forget that we have a choice. Emblazon that hashtag on your mind.  Brand that mantra on your heart with a searing and passion-full heat.  You get to choose.  It's really all up to you!

Friday, July 10, 2015

12 Easy Steps: Creating a Lighter Life

photo and article credit ::here::

1. Forgiveness is not something to work through or unearth it is simply a decision that you can make. Forgiveness actually strengthens you. Not only in what it takes to accomplish forgiving someone or yourself but that it opens and frees you up to love, which is a constant source of energy and vitality.

2. Being aware in the midst of our daily activities allows us to savor every moment of our existence - good or bad, void of judgment, creating within us a continual point of access to our inner light and a platform for deeper self-exploration.

3. Being able to face all aspects of ourselves with awareness and compassion is a vital step on the path toward a meaningful and fulfilled life.

4. Beneath what we believe we should be doing, or are doing in order to survive, lies dormant most of our values or deepest truths and therefore our potential to live our most fulfilling lives. To uncover and bring them into the conscious part of ourselves by first seeing them and then by honoring (or living them) in our everyday lives, we bring to light a deeper experience of satisfaction and unblock the pathway toward ultimate fulfillment.

5. Hearing our inner voice and being able to follow it tells us that we have reached a new level of connection within ourselves and to universal consciousness. In fostering this ability, we allow ourselves to plug into the divine within ourselves, creating a powerful link between the inner and outer worlds we inhabit.

6. Embracing your fear liberates you to live the life you have always wanted yet never dared to have.

7. Create a moment and communicate.

8. Sharing your true self will have an impact on those close to you, your community and the world.

9. If we are responsible to our true inner selves, we naturally become more involved with our families, communities and ultimately mother earth as a whole. We affect the greater consciousness of the world when we become conscious of our own personal actions by first taking responsibility for who we really are.

10. The deeper we can feel our sorrow the deeper our joy. Emotions define us in every way. Restraining ourselves from emotion is like cutting off a part of our being; we limit our experience of ourselves and, therefore, the life we live. Simply allowing ourselves to feel in the moment gives us the freedom to interact with all of life’s beauty.

11. Inspire others through your greatness by living your life to it’s fullest potential. If you want to live in a peaceful, beautiful world then be peaceful and beautiful in everything that you do. Make it a part of your personal practice every day to show others an example of the kind of world you want to live in.

12. For what is anger but an expression of the need to be right, to defend your own ego or identity? What is there to defend if we are all one? Start to recognize the love around you. What small actions can you take to increase the love in your life? What actions can you take to give of your love, when you might take it away. A heart that gives protects the soul as it allows the flow of life to be constant. When we stop this “life blood”, the flow of energy, the flow of love we keep ourselves from the much-needed nourishment that fills our souls and gives life to this planet.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Just Breathe

article and photo cred ::here::

I recently took a breathing awareness course at my yoga studio. We met once a week for eight weeks. Our weekly homework assignments included a home practice of 20 minutes four times a week consisting of a set of three asanas – two restorative poses that varied from week to week followed by savasana (final resting pose). While in these poses, we were asked to observe our breath. The idea was that through deeper awareness, we could learn to breathe more fully and find relaxation. At the end of each week, we submitted a practice form summarizing our activities and observations.
In the first week, the asanas were a reclining supported backbend, child’s pose and savasana. When I got into the first pose, I noticed that I was holding my breath. Then I exhaled a little and inhaled a little. When I tried to take a deeperbreath, I noticed that I had puffed up my chest and sucked in my abdomen. No air was getting into my belly. On the next inhale I tried to relax my belly. Although I felt air getting deeper into my lungs, it didn’t fill my chest as much as I wanted. I also noticed that I did not exhale as deeply as I inhaled. Then a lump in the blanket I was lying on distracted me.
It was digging into my rib cage. I should be more careful when folding my blanket. After awhile, I realized that I had been thinking about what I wanted to eat for breakfast, my last birthday and my eighth-grade science project. During that time, I didn’t know what my breath had been doing. I swore I would do better in my nextasana but it was the same story. In savasana, I paid attention to two breaths. Then, I thought about myriad hypothetical situations.
During the following weeks I experimented with bringing my attention to tense body parts as well as focusing on relaxed areas of my body. These exercises were useful but once I was done with them, I was back to directing my breath. When I could watch it, all I could see was what I was doing wrong. My impulse was to try to correct my imperfections but I was failing miserably. All my attempts at deeper breathing were awkward. I felt like I was trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with oven mitts on. By the fourth week, I was still at square one.
During the fifth week, before class started, my teacher returned the last week’s practice form to me. She told me that she understood my frustration and hoped that I would hang in there. I nodded but I felt noncommittal. My mind was on the pranayama (yogic breathing) course that I wanted to take. How could I take a course on the yogic art of breath control when I didn’t have a clue how to observe my breath? It was very disappointing to realize that I couldn’t.
As the class began, I turned my attention to my teacher. We did some warm-up asanas followed by a restorative pose. Then we discussed the assigned reading as well as any questions and observations on our practice. The discussion was followed by a demonstration of the asanas for that week’s home practice.
The next morning, after I reviewed my notes from class, I began my practice. In the first asana, my breath felt shallow as well as uneven. In the next asana, I could feel myself taking deeper breaths. The muscles around my ribcage were more flexible. In savasana, my mind and body felt quiet. There was movement from my breathing but not much noise. The sensation in my mind and body was much like how I feel several minutes before I fall asleep at night. It was the first time I ever felt the air traveling into and out of my body.
During the next 24 hours, my nose and lungs became heavily congested due to allergies. In the morning, the last thing I wanted was to do my asanas but I did them. There was no need to bring attention to my breath. It was already there. Before long, I sneezed. As I sat up to blow my nose, I realized that a sneeze is a deep inhale followed by a deep if violent exhale. When I got back into the asana, I had little smile on my face. My body knows how to breathe deeply.
In the remaining weeks of the course, my practice continued to challenge me. However, I discovered that I could actually enjoy the sensation of breathing. When I finished the course, I decided to continue my home practice. My breathing is not very different from how it was before.
I’m just more present with the movement of my breath through my body. In savasana, I bring my awareness to my body. My attention naturally moves to my breath. I feel the air entering my nostrils and traveling down my throat. My lungs expand and my diaphragm moves down into my abdomen. Then it ascends and the air begins to rise up my chest and through my throat and finally out of my nostrils. From time to time, my mind wanders off. When I notice this, I bring my attention back to the breath.

Ann Bui lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She intends one day to do a handstand away from the wall.

Thank you for "doing it" on YogiTimes.com

Thursday, June 11, 2015

When Yoga Brings Out Your Inner Witch


Bringing out your inner goddess through yoga is a practice we love. You can’t beat the feeling of angelic serenity as you skip out the door, but what do you do when you unexpectedly come face to face with your inner witch?

Yoga is capable of bringing an emotional storm to the fore – and it’s time to rejoice in that.

When we get to know our true selves and embrace the shadow side we really come into our own spiritual strength. From this place you can cultivate strong and nurturing relationships with others. Every relationship you have is based on the relationship you have with yourself.

This week I was coaching a client. She’s dedicated to transforming her life, but was having a bad day. She’s been taking on other people’s work instead of standing up for herself and laying down boundaries. And she’s been seething on the inside knowing that this people pleasing no longer serves her. In essence, she was out of alignment.

Following her yoga class she was standing in the cool autumn air getting madder and madder. Forget the principle of non-violence or non judgement. Forget inner peace and compassion. The negative self-talk was unleashed: ‘My husband’s going to be mad that I didn’t find out about the event he asked me to. He’s late picking me up. Where is he? It’s cold. Urgh, it’s windy. I feel crap and he knows that, why isn’t he here already? Look at those trees, they’re ugly and evil tonight. I’ve got a busy day at work tomorrow. That rushed meal gave me indigestion,” and the torrent continued. Each comment another abusive blow to the self-love we’d been cultivating.

She woke at 4am. Sobbing. And there we have it.

Sometimes the MIND can LIE to us and tell us that everything is ok and we don’t have to assert ourselves. Logic will always find the right and the wrong and convince us in both directions (your ego is as smart as you are, think Einstein). When we consistently people please and deny to ourselves how we’re feeling we’re in deep doo-doo. Thankfully the body (said to represent the subconscious mind) does not lie.

The tears, the pent up frustration rose to the surface when triangle and warrior pose squeezed stuck emotion out of her cells and into her awareness. First it was rage, then sadness.

Some memories and emotions may have been quietly napping since childhood. When you’re in a situation where you can receive the emotion - OM – there it is. You have the emotional memory of an infinite elephant.

When you learn to connect to yourself through breath, movement and self-inquiry you can let go of what no longer serves you. Sorting out that old mess can free up your shiny inner being; pure joy.

When you meet your inner witch show gratitude that you are releasing pent up emotional pain. Bring comfort to yourself. No more chastising. 

Yoga did not make you angry or sad. You already held these emotions deep at your core – yoga simply facilitated their release. This part of your yoga practice can enrich your life and relationships.

Here are a few tips if you find your inner witch cackling:

1. Stay with the journey. Yoga isn’t creating this stuff; you are purifying.

2. Go home and journal. What is this feeling? What do you need to know? Find relief.

3. Ask yourself what you need right now to feel supported – you’re not looking to avoid the feeling but to feel safe enough to fully acknowledge it

4. Connect – find a yogi friend or a coach who gets it, and work through this stuff because this is part of what’s holding you back in life. Set the pain free.

Letting go of the past brings you to the present – and this is your point of power.

If yoga makes you feel on top of the world that’s brilliant. If it makes you feel like a witch then that’s cool too. It’s Halloween; you can experience the dark side without freaking out. And trust me, this too shall pass when you stop TRICKING yourself, and instead TREAT yourself with the love and compassion you deserve.

Sophia Lennox is a transformational coach and helps her clients to go deeper with their emotional work. As a Yogi Times reader you can benefit from a free complimentary consultation if you’re interested in working with her to transform your life. Contact her directly at  sophia@sophialennox.com - code - Yogi Times.

True Story


A patient was recently visiting one of the clinics in the hospital in which I have worked for the last eight years.  While he was reviewing his medical history with the physician, they came to the "Mental Health" section.  When the physician asked this patient if anyone in his family has any mental health issues, the man replied, "Nobody except my uncle.  He does yoga."

When the physician told me this story, I laughed for a split second before feeling a little bit of sadness when I realized that there is a major misunderstanding surrounding the world of yoga and meditation.  I remembered my own interactions with people who scoff at my yoga and meditation practices.  I remembered my own interactions with people who have told me that I'm weird, with people who have told me I'm following some weird religion, and with people who just completely zone out the minute anything comes up about my practices.  I remembered my own interactions with people who have poked fun at the mala beads I wear.  

I've heard it from complete strangers, co-workers, friends, and yes, even my own family members. While hearing it from my own family hurts the most, I'm not sad for myself and I'm not sad for those that ignore or make fun of me.  I'm just sad for the ignorance.  But I won't try to educate them or make them see it my way.  If anything, I'll remind myself that I do this for me.  And, maybe over time, the naysayers will see how yoga and meditation and my beads have changed me.  For the better.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Aunt's Day

I always love the opportunities given to me by Mala Collective to contribute to their site, to their community.  But when I was asked to write an article pertaining to mothers, my stomach sank for a minute or two.  It's a hard subject for me, especially when centered around Mother's Day.  While I'm blessed with an amazing mother and countless mother figures, this day tends to evoke a little sadness in me.  While very few...and I mean very few....know why, I knew it was time to share my story. Why? Because there are oh so many just like I am: the cool aunt.

I hope you'll go read it on Mala Collective.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Is It, Anyway?

Just like Victoria Lynn Schmidt, in the article below, I've been asked and frustrated by this question. I've been accosted by uninformed people who think it's a religion or some hokey, new age, mumbo jumbo.  I've been given weird looks when I talk about what it is, what it does, and what it can be.  So, I was very happy to read Victoria's article on Yogi Times this morning because it helps gives answers in a way that might make sense to some of you.  Yoga is not something new.  It's been around longer than you probably think.  It's not a religion.  Though it can be quite a spiritual experience for those who are truly able to tap into the deeper parts of it.  Yoga is a way to stretch and calm your body, stretch and calm your mind, and truly allows you to confront those obstacles that you think your mind and body cannot handle.  In my opinion, anyway.

Such a frustrating question I have often received from friends and family members. They know I am athletic but everything I do and teach is more about energy, meditation & the mind than it is about poses and stretching. They are confused. This is normal though as many in the west think of yoga as a stretching class and there are some teachers out there who approach it as such too, so there is bound to be some confusion.

Here are some interesting tid bits that might also help anyone new to yoga answer this question from family and friends.

1. Yoga is about union. It’s about getting you to your highest and brightest potential, about being your best self, as Oprah would say.

2. Yoga is what ever it needs to be so that a practitioner can unplug from the drama of life and recharge on the way to a higher way of living. For many westerners this means getting the body in line, or unwinding stress and tension in the body, so that the mind has a chance to find peace. This is what westerners needed, so in the west we are used to Yoga as a physical practice.

“The first workout-like practice of asanas, or poses, stem from the Sritattvanidhi, a book written in the early 1800's by Mummadi Krishnaraja, a patron of Indian culture and arts.” Sadie Nardini

But Yoga has always been so much more than working on the physical level. In order for union (yoga) to happen one must train the mind and live a noble life. There are many teachings on spirituality (non-religious), mental development, right living, and philosophy to guide practitioners.  

“If we agree that yoga includes both preliminary and advanced practices for the body, mind and spirit, then there is plenty of archeological, linguistic, textual, genetic or other evidence to suggest that Hatha Yoga is at least 1500 years old, that Tantra is at least 6000 years old, that Yoga philosophy is at least 3500 years old, and that goraksasana (a complex Hatha Yoga bhanda) was practiced more than 4000 years ago.” Ramesh Bjonnes

There are forms of yoga that hardly stretch at all such as Jana yoga (working with the mind), Bhakti yoga (working with the heart), and Kundalini yoga (working with energy).

So it is up to us to help our western friends (and some teachers) understand the vast offering within yoga to help us on many deep levels to live a better life. It is not just stretching the body, it is stretching the mind and soul. Physical poses help calm us down enough to get to the good stuff!

“Confront a fear, practice patience, express gratitude, exercise generosity, and think of others first. This is what I call emotional yoga.” Dr. Miles Neale