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.

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