Letting Go of What Others Think


Yesterday on Instagram I posted about a topic that I keep coming back to lately...

Letting go.

Right now I'm working on letting go of caring what others think of me. 

I had a moment yesterday where I thought, 'You know, today has been a really good day.' And then I listed off the reasons it was a good day, and none of them were related to me; they all had something to do with other people -- granted, people in my life that I love and care about, but not me. 

And I thought, 'I want to be happy with myself regardless of what's going on with other people, and outside of their opinions of me.' 


This is something I struggle with, that I've struggled with for a long time without realizing it; I constantly look for approval from others. 

I base my happiness on the happiness of those around me. 

 And sometimes, as an empath, I feel my energy merge with that of those who are close to me, and I struggle to separate my experience from theirs. 

So, how do I work on this? How do I create my own experience, and develop my own self-worth outside of what's going on around me, or what other people think of me? 

My yoga practice is a good starting place. When I'm on my mat, it's just me. I give myself permission to move in my own way, to feel what I feel, to let go of shit, and to be imperfect. 

Re-reading this very blog has been helpful lately, too, as I've been writing about the topic of loving myself for YEARS. 


This struck me yesterday, actually...I have so many posts about self-love, self-acceptance, and compassion! I have given myself so much advice on this topic! Haha. It almost felt silly to realize I have all this advice and I still struggle to take it in...to practice what I preach. 

But, coming back to the theme: LET GO. Be present. Begin again in this moment.

Namaste.

Photos in this post by Tom Huynh.

Goals


Hi, lovelies!

So, I'm wondering... do you like to set personal goals? What's on your goal list these days?

With 2016 officially half way over, I've been thinking about my goals for the rest of this year (and beyond). A lot has shifted since I moved, and lately my focus has been on spending time getting to know myself and loving myself.

I've also given myself space to rest and to mix up my workout routine (sometimes I even skip yoga! eeps!) :)


Here are some other goals I'm working on (or at least cultivating awareness of):

  • Love my body.
  • Embrace imperfection; take the pressure off!
  • Cook awesomely and digest happily.
  • Limit late night snacking and get to bed by 10pm.
  • Do my own yoga flow.
  • Let go of fears (not being good enough, and fear of failure).


What are your current goals? Do you set intentions and use mantras to manifest what you want?

Or maybe you'd consider filling in the blank to this statement:

2016 is my year for...

I'd love to hear more in the comments below, or you can always shoot me a quick email at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com. Namaste my friends.


PS You can find more awesome ideas for meeting your goals or setting new habits over at the blog Zen Habits, by Leo Babauta. His blog is one of my favorites!

Letting Go (Ishvara Pranidhana)


Today Sponsored Yogini Keyla shares a beautiful reflection on what it means to let go and how it is essential to the practice of Yoga.



Ishvara Pranidhana is a niyama related to letting go and surrendering to the universe.

This has been my theme lately. 

It can translate and mean so many things but for me it helps me with faith. For the past month or so, I've been training under someone who was taught by his uncle and grandfather in traditional/classical yoga, to him it's the correct and authentic form of yoga, all 8 limbs, not just asana which is what is mainly taught in most yoga studios. Yoga was something he grew up with the way I grew up with Salsa music and my grandmother teaching me my first steps of salsa in the kitchen. It was just my culture. Yoga is a way of life and his culture.

I’ve been looking for a teacher like him for some time now. I wanted to know what yoga was like for someone that grew up Indian. Something I would probably learn if I stepped into the country but let’s face it, I can’t make the trip right now. The timing fell right in place as it always does and I landed an awesome teacher that has helped my practice dramatically.
Every day I wake up at dawn and practice. I've never done this in my whole journey as a student and It's taught me so much! I remember in my 200 RYT thinking about being a “real yogini” and waking up at dawn like I was supposed to, to practice kriyas, pranayama and chant but I felt like it was so out of reach! I would never be able to do that. Well, I’m finally finding the consistent discipline in my self-practice and it’s been so effortless. It took me to shift a few things out of my life, but it happened gradually and almost magically.

I’ve always practiced but it was very spastic. I would practice at noon, or the evening, and sometimes would practice for 3 hrs. at 3 am. It was perfect for me at first because it worked with me but It was just all over the place. My free-spirited nature became somewhat of an issue though. It caused me to burn out; it lacked order and balance. My practice reflected it. It wasn’t a bad thing, it was just a mirror that I can look back at now and say oooooh, I was all over the place.

My schedule was extreme, and my classes burnt me out. Yoga wasn’t supposed to have that effect on me. 

It wasn’t the yoga that was the issue. It was me. My yoga practice revealed something very important. I needed balance and change. I needed more than just asana. From teaching 7 days a week for a whole year, I stopped. I dropped my classes, and sadly one class just ended up dropping me. After my favorite studio cutting me out of the schedule, It was time for me to center and work on my own practice. I re-defined my intention.


I'm not interested in having 500 students, and making a living out of teaching yoga. I'm also not interested in selling classes, or selling memberships. The reason why I teach is because I enjoy sharing my practice. 

I started teaching so that I could commit to my own practice, so that I could find more balance. The inspiration that comes from it is like nothing else. Watching people grow around me is what lights me up, and knowing that my light helped a seed sprout fills me up with joy. It is that very exchange that inspires me to move and teach.

It’s been months since I taught at a studio. I’ve come to a place where I was happily practicing on my own but my students have reached out to me. I missed them just as much as they missed me. Honestly speaking, I kept teaching like a mad woman for a whole year because I fell in love with my students and felt guilty for leaving them. Although I felt uncomfortable, and the vibe at a studio was conflicting with me, I stuck around. Then enough was enough. I put in notice and I left without letting my students know. I had no idea how to explain why I was leaving. It wasn’t until I left that students reached out and told me things that explained why I felt as uncomfortable as I did. In that particular situation, Another teacher was talking behind my back. Pure ugliness. What’s funny is that I stayed and thought it was me the whole time. I didn’t listen to my feelings and intuition. I wasn’t centered enough to have confidence in my feelings. I know now that I made the right choice in leaving.


As a teacher, the environment that you choose to hold space in is just as important as the class itself. A studio should feel like home. Like a sanctuary. A place for healing and reflection. When a yogic space is clouded by energies other than healing and comfort then it’s time to make some changes. Letting go of responsibility is a hard thing to do. It may be the right move, and it may not serve you anymore but as a teacher you start to feel like your students are your responsibility. 

Who will guide them if you don’t? What will they think about you if you gave up on your commitment to them and the studio? What if they follow you? Will the studio accuse you of stealing their “customers?"

After re-evaluating a bit and taking a lot of time, I picked out the perfect little meditation space and am ready to teach now. This time only one day a week, and not worried about numbers at all. 

Practicing Ishvara Pranidhana and letting go. 

If someone wants to show up, great, and if not, it’s OK. It’s on my own expense and it’s my own class. I have full faith that if it’s for me, things will flow and grow. I found an environment and a system that works for me and it was only until I let go of the fear of failing a studio and students that it fell into place. I re-defined the way that I wanted to teach and I plan to keep my practice as the number one priority. 

That’s the only way that I can continue to allow yoga to transform and balance out my life and mind. After all, that’s why I practice.

Thank you, Keyla, for this lovely post! Very inspiring for all of us who are teachers and students of yoga.

Note: In the photos above, Keyla is wearing a shirt from Twin Flame and a pair of leggings from Veda Sundara. Namaste.

Worry Later


The next time you're overwhelmed, try this... postpone your worrying.

Go ahead; procrastinate.


My friend Leo over at Zen Habits calls this the 'power of delay,' and my friend at work recently put it this way: worry later.

Instead of freaking out, choose to become very present to what's happening around you. Notice your breath. Slow it down. Take a deep, slow inhale... the deepest inhale you've taken all day. Notice how your body is feeling.

Notice where you can soften. 


And then, without second guessing it, or making it into a big deal, carry on.

Chances are, if you delay the worrying for long enough, the overwhelming feelings will pass.


You deserve happiness.

Choose to be stress-free in this moment. Delay your worrying.

What you seek is already here, perfect, just as it is.

Namaste.

Softening

Photos via Pinterest.

I’m reading Yoga for Real Life by Maya Fiennes, and I love this quote she includes from Yogi Bhajan:

“Even you just lean slightly in the right direction, you’ll get some benefit.”


This leaning starts with our intention. What am I holding in my heart—softness and openness? Or bitterness?

I can soften, inviting greatness. I don’t have to struggle. I can lean peacefully in the right direction, noticing the difference it makes not to obsess over perfection.



And I can start now.

All Bodies are Beautiful

Video via Kickstarter.

I love this project, and I can so relate to what Taryn, the creator says:

"Women and girls are constantly held back and lead to believe they’re not as good as they should be. Why? Because every day we feel we’re being judged on our appearance and how far away it is from an unachievable ideal.

Lose weight, reduce wrinkles, fight cellulite; we’re constantly told to fight a battle to be someone other than who we are."


With Embrace, Taryn seeks to explore body image and encourage people around the world to shift their thinking. What a beautiful story, and a beautiful goal!

In yoga, we seek to embody our bodies -- to connect with our own physicality, to nurture, to release, and ultimately to love our bodies.

I encourage you to check out the Body Image Movement, and I hope you'll truly hear me when I say: you are beautiful.

Namaste.

Finding Inspiration

Photos via Sweaty Betty.

Where do you go to find motivation on the days when you feel uninspired, burned out, and tired?

Life moves quickly. In the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling spread thin. I find myself saying yes to projects I know in my heart I don’t really have the energy for, making plans on days when I’d rather spend time solo, regretting both.

It helps when I make time to be still, in silence. Wisdom makes its way through. In the moments of discovery and clarity, I am at peace.


I am allowed to be imperfect.

I’m working on loving myself even on the days when I feel tired, or self-critical.

I don’t have to wear yoga clothes and roll out my mat every day. Maybe right now it’s OK to have too many projects and to feel spread thin. This won’t last forever, and I can choose to make positive changes. To set new habits.

In the same way that I approach a challenging posture, I can approach life with fierce determination.


Loving myself is its own practice. Learning to be comfortable in my own body, whether I’m ready for a night out or I’m just wearing yoga shorts and a sports bra at home. Finding ease. I release the attachments that do not serve me.

Dharma Mittra says: When you are quiet, you see everything with love.

I keep coming back to these words on the days when I feel overwhelmed and scattered. When I do slow down, when I am quiet, I see the beauty that’s been sitting there all along.


“Freedom does not come from a checklist, and a ‘zero inbox’ is not a life aspiration.
If liberation is a chore, it’s not really liberation.
You can’t contract your way to freedom.
You can’t punish your way to joy.
You can’t fight your way to inner peace.
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.
Let me offer this again, in reverence to your life force:
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.
And again, with respect to your potential:
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.”
- Danielle La Porte, posted on Mystic Mamma

Yoga Saved My Life (A Post in the Real Men Do Yoga Series)

Photo via Yoga Dudes.

I love hearing stories about yogis whose lives have been completely transformed by the practice of yoga. Sometimes it takes being in total darkness to fully understand our need for the light.

Through yoga, we become aware of our need to heal, and what practices we can adopt in order to heal ourselves.


Photo via Yoga Dudes.
Early on in the exploration of yoga, that healing generally manifests physically: we begin new eating, exercise and relaxation practices that help us treat our bodies with kindness. Then, when we don't resist it, yoga will take us to a much deeper place of healing; it offers us a chance to connect with our spirit, and to carry our practice off the mat and into every aspect of life.

Recently I've encountered the stories of two men whose lives were forever changed by yoga, and I'm inspired to share them as part of the Real Men Do Yoga series. I'm encouraged by their humility and strength, their willingness to shed the ego.

Photo via Kim's website. 

Musician Hank Kim used to be overweight, smoking a pack a day and feeling completely stunted creatively and spiritually. Then he committed to his yoga practice, eventually feeling himself open to his personal spiritual evolution and shed layer upon layer of inauthenticity. This year, he's releasing an album of ambient indie rock music with his band Silvery Ghosts.

"I started in a place of mourning and find myself now in a place of hope and excitement," Kim says. "All of the twists and turns of the past were necessary for me to find my voice as a singer and an artist."


Abundance follows healing. I love hearing stories that confirm this. Another eye-opening story about the power of yoga comes from journalist Brad Willis, known now as Bhava Ram.



A broken back and failed surgery crippled and disabled Ram, forcing him into early retirement. Subsequently, a rare and fatal form of cancer, most likely contracted while covering the Persian Gulf War, spread throughout his body. On the brink of death, he embraced Yoga in all of its aspects, fully devoting his life to studying and practicing mind/body medicine, self-healing and personal transformation. This journey led to overcoming constant pain, and ultimately healing from stage four cancer.

Today Ram is an influential yoga teacher, healer, and speaker who works with Kripalu, Yoga Journal, and other conferences.



How has yoga transformed your life? I'd love to hear!

As always, if you're interested in participating in the Real Men Do Yoga series, feel free to shoot me an email at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com. Namaste.

Photo via Yoga Dudes.

PS Chris Grosso's book Indie Spiritualist is another amazing tale of how you can hit rock bottom and overcome addiction as you seek spiritual growth. It never ceases to amaze me the ways in which yoga can save your life once you become open to the practice, this beautiful way of approaching life.

5 Minute Meditation


Take a moment from your day. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Close your eyes.

Trace your inhale. Notice when the inhale begins and when it ends. Notice the moment of stillness between the inhale and the exhale.

As thoughts appear in your mind, notice them, but do not attach. Let them arrive and leave again like waves.


Focus your attention on your third eye. 

Ask yourself: how would it look to be living my ideal life? How would I spend my days? How would I feel?

Relax. Gaze into your third eye. Allow the answers within to surface.


As you transition out of meditation, deepen your exhales. Feel your body grounded on the earth. Slowly come back.

Climb On (This is the Beginning)


Yesterday I scaled Ballbuster Rock in Tahoe -- a little 5.7 climb to the top of a 50-foot boulder with a lot of great chimneying

I am really falling in love with the thrill of rock climbing. There is something breathtaking about the physical and mental challenge of following a route and executing each hold...the way my stomach sometimes still does little flips when I look down... and the satisfaction of reaching the top and knowing I made it by my own strength and determination.


It's also refreshing to experience the beginning, of being new to the whole experience. Rock climbing involves so many skills and techniques, and I have only just scratched the surface.  

Being a beginner allows me to be open and vulnerable, to check my ego. To persevere through discomfort.

The rock challenges me to face my fears and insecurities; in order to complete a climb I have to trust my instincts and my own strength. I must breathe through the moments that feel impossible. Keep going. I hear my inner knowing speak the truth, of knowing I am strong.

Like with the yoga, I am simply practicing flexibility, strength and balance. I am reaching within, and trusting that as I practice, all is coming.


Rock climbing gives me a chance to let go of my expectations and to be receptive to what's happening in the moment.

I return to the breath. I detach from the outcome. I push myself to my edge.

I climb on.


PS Do you climb? Have any tips or resources I should check out? Leave a comment below!

Summer Road Trips


Have you gone for any adventures this summer?

Lately I've been spending time in Tahoe. It's such a breath of fresh air to be in the mountains, to be near the water. And to be with some beautiful people who know the importance of balance between work and play, and who aren't afraid to follow their dreams.


It inspires me to be in a gorgeous place where there is such good energy, and I feel grateful for California all over again.  

I think I will be taking a long drive out to Chicagoland soon, too. Summer is the best time for unexpected adventures, seeing new places, feeling free. 


Where has your summer taken you?

Yoga in the Park


Today I practiced a beautiful yoga flow in the park with my sister. We rolled out our mats in the shade and sat in meditation for a few minutes, centering our concentration on the breath.

I set my intention for the practice: I will be present; I will give freely of this yoga. I will open my heart and practice letting go.


We warmed up with a few rounds of cat/cow and then launched into sun salutations. I loved the chance to teach in such a comfortable and intimate setting: just me and my twin.

She's done yoga before and practiced martial arts for years (she has her 2nd degree black belt-- way impressive!), so she has a deep understanding of integrating the body's movements with the breath. 


Today's yoga in the park was a great refresher for both of us: for my sister to dive back into vinyasa, and for me to again experience the joy of teaching, of slowly breaking down each pose. It is very eye-opening to talk a yoga newbie through each posture, explaining how the breath connects everything, and showing them little tips and tricks on alignment.

I always find it a joy to make hands-on adjustments, too, and today was no exception. I helped push my sister's hips up and back in downward facing dog, and helped her stretch a little further in child's pose, which she said felt amazing.


My favorite moments from today:
  • Witnessing strength and perseverance. There were a few times when my sister looked over at me like I was crazy when I asked her to move into a posture, or to hold for a few more seconds. We were doing reps of downdog extensions into plank with the knee at the elbow (like in Sadie Nardini's supersets), and I glanced over to see just how focused and determined she was, arms shaking, powering through the struggle. So inspiring to see her keep going even when the yoga proved challenging.
  • Laughing about yoga farts. It's the best when you can just be honest and down-to-earth in yoga. Yes, it is a serious practice, but it can also lead to extremely hilarious, heartfelt and just generally human experiences. (Cough cough *wind removing pose* cough cough!)
  • Feeling energized after practicing together. "I feel kind of woozy," my sister said as we were walking out of the park. "Like something crazy just happened." I laughed and explained to her how yoga can clear stagnant energy in the body, and that she was likely experiencing the result of opening her spine. I was also totally stoked to hear that she felt immediate relief from chronic back pain and can't wait to practice again soon. Success!


Yoga is amazing.

Yoga changes us, brings us closer together.

The practice is powerful.


I am so grateful to be a yogi, a teacher-in-the-making, and a sister.


Namaste.