Living my yoga

This week has been one of those weeks. A great one! So many things are coming together and it feels amazing. My energy is brimming over and my light is strong within, so with that spirit, I write today.

What I’m experiencing lately is releasing expectations and attachment to result. When we hope for the best and forget the rest, life becomes quite magical.

So, I’ve been practicing Bikram Yoga consistently for over five years now. It’s the great love of my life. When you love something, you want to do something more with it, like give back to your community.

So, I was planning to go to teacher training this year, and it’s still one of my goals, but now the Bikram trainings are in different parts of the world, like last year they were in Thailand. I applied for a teacher training scholarship but didn’t get it so I know that I will have to pay for it out of my own pocket if I plan on going, and I just don’t know if I want to fork out that much money right now. I am planning on traveling and I just bought a car, so I’m kinda, eh about it. I would totally pay the money if they were going to a country I wanted to visit like India or Bali, but not Thailand. It’s just not a place I want to go right now, so I’m waiting to see where the next Bikram training will be, and planning accordingly, but I still want to do something with yoga in the meantime.

One of my favorite yoga instructors started this organization called Uprising Yoga that brings yoga to incarcerated youth in juvenile hall. They held a teacher training this weekend and I went. I can’t tell you how inspired I was this weekend by all the yoga teachers and social service and medical professionals who are committed to making a real difference in people’s lives.

When I was fifteen years old, I fell in love with yoga and ten years later when I stepped into the hot room, I fell madly in love with Bikram yoga. So here I am, at 30, ready to take on a new avenue in my life and that’s teaching yoga. I never thought that one day I would be a yoga instructor. Life really is about embracing passions and being completely open to the universe. It’s so funny, my old passions are surfacing lately. I’m embracing something I fell in love with at 15: yoga. I’m also dating someone I was in love with at 15 as well and that’s going good too. We go through life and we do what we do, learn what we need to. It might not always make sense but we just have to be open to it.

Nothing happens by accident. I’m just very grateful to be where I am, working in the holistic health field. Things are coming together slowly but surely.

I’ll be honest though. This weekend I did a lot of meditation as part of the training and it really opened a doorway into my soul in that I am open to many possibilities for my career, so I know I need to make a choice soon. Something is brewing within me. I’m going to try something and that’s meditation every morning and see if that helps my clarity. One of the things I learned in the training this weekend is just how powerful mindful meditation is. We can be ruled by our minds. As a writer, I live in my mind with my characters and worst possible scenario plot points. It’s enough to drive one wild, so meditation is my new experiment.

Again yoga has opened doors for me. I’ve said it many times before and after this weekend I am sure that yoga is the great love of my life.

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Summer Lemonade Cleanse Days 6-7: Popcorn and Bikram Yoga

At this point, I am very encouraged. I feel like I could do this for maybe longer than the ten days. If I could make it through this past weekend at my job, being surrounded by food, and hanging with my girlfriend while she ate a burger and fries in front of me, I think I can handle being in social situations.

This time around, the cleanse doesn’t feel like a problem. I don’t mind the saltwater flush and I’ve learned that I enjoy drinking the lemonade more when it is on ice, so that’s how I drink it (with a straw also).  I’ve learned to embrace the smells of food rather than avoid them.

Yesterday afternoon, my girlfriend and I had lunch, or rather I talked to her while she ate, then we went to see a movie. The theater smelled like warm popcorn. I just inhaled the smell and that was enough for me. I mean, things usually smell better than they taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love the taste of food, but often times it just weighs you down and you regret it.

Smelling the popcorn reminded me of my parents and how they are both popcorn lovers. I started thinking about their divorce and how even though they are separated, I can see how they are very much alike because they do, say, and think very similarly even though they don’t see each other anymore. I became grateful that they are my parents, that I was raised by two goofballs who are very free-spirited. I felt grateful that I was able to come out of that partnership while it was still good. That’s where my thoughts went when I smelled popcorn!

I think what’s different about my cleanse this time around, is that I’m allowing myself to feel everything without resisting discomfort. That’s definitely something I learned from practicing Bikram yoga. It can be very uncomfortable to feel like your body is overheating in an oven-like room, but you are just supposed to lay there, stand there in peace. Sure, all sorts of things come up for me while I am cleansing, but I let them come, I embrace them, and I allow myself to think, to feel, to really be with my feelings and that’s where the breakthroughs happen.

Shameless Bikram Yoga Love

Lately yoga has been the only thing that makes sense in my life. I have had many changes happen within the last five months moving back to L.A., taking a new job, and sleeping on couches, and not practicing yoga regularly.

I forget what happened, but one day I came out of a Bikram class and I felt really good and I was like, how can I not want to feel like this more regularly, or even every day? I thought it was okay to practice Vinyasa flow at the L.A. Fitness by my house. I found this teacher who was the best, out of all the janky yoga teachers I’d experienced in L.A. Fitness. Aziz was the best, but when I went into the hot room, I could feel that my practice was suffering because as good as Aziz’s class was, I just wasn’t stretching the same way.

I needed Bikram. It’s really not like any other yoga practice. It’s no bullshit. No damn chanting or music or out of sequence postures. It’s the best and I can honestly be grateful for not consistently practicing for five months just to see how much other yoga doesn’t compare and how my body suffers.

So, I decided to do work/trade at a new Bikram studio in Pasadena. That was part of the problem. I had been practicing at the same L.A. studio for 3 years and I wanted to go somewhere new, practice with new teachers. Once I started practicing more regularly, I felt like myself again. No matter what the hell is going on in my life outside of the room, my practice brings me back to my heart/soul, and I’m flying.

Sometimes I think I really just need to stick with my yoga and it will lead me somewhere amazing. I honestly believe that these days.

 

Five Required Poses for Bikram Yoga Competitors

Late last year I was invited to take Advanced Bikram at my current studio. I never, ever, ever thought I would think of being a competitor, but I have been overwhelmed with inspiration as there are many students at my studio that are preparing for the Arizona state regional championships this weekend.

Last year I attended my first yoga regional championship in Los Angeles and was completely in awe of what people can do. I didn’t know they had yoga competitions. While I was in awe of many of the competitors, I was not intimidated. I was just like, okay, cool, so that’s how you do it.

Lately I’ve been wondering what makes somebody qualified to participate in a championship. I used to think championships were just for sports to measure points, speed, or distance. In yoga competitions, they measure focus, shaking, strength, depth, and whether or not you can stay in a pose. It’s not always about how deep you can go. People at my studio in Arizona do the five basic postures to the best of their ability, but they are not fully expressed. After I saw that these people were competing in the stages they were in, I thought, hey, I could do it too.

There are five basic poses you are required to do:

Standing head to knee
standinghead-to-knee

Standing Bow
imagesCAJ2ENHI

Floor Bow
bow

Rabbit
untitled

and Stretching
imagesCASKBZN0

After you do these five required poses, you can then choose to do any two poses.

So in class lately, I’ve been really trying to focus on the five required poses. I can see now why they are required. These poses are the ones that require strength, focus, and an opened up body at the basic level.

I’m grateful for one of my favorite Los Angeles instructors who emphasizes sucking in the stomach in nearly every posture. It’s ESSENTIAL to do Standing Head to knee, Rabbit, and Stretching. Bow and Standing Bow are really about the kicking.

I trip out in Standing Bow. One of my hips is tighter than the other so I don’t go very deep because I’m always trying to keep my body straight and my knees no more than six inches apart. I want to do the postures correctly.
“Form over depth,” they always say.

So I’m excited and motivated to push myself to do these poses in their full expression. For the longest time, I was just trying to keep my knee locked or suck in my stomach. Now, I’m getting to the point where I know the form, I always work on the form, now I can pour on the depth.
I got my hands full with these five poses. The one I look the best in is Standing Bow, but the rest need work and plenty of practice. Here we go 🙂

First Advanced Bikram Yoga Class

Sometimes all it takes is someone to believe in you to get you motivated to do something you never thought you could do.  I have had the pleasure of practicing under a great instructor, Nicole, at my Scottsdale, AZ Bikram studio who encouraged me to go to Advanced class. I read that Advanced class is for teachers and competitors, and I’m neither, so I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go. Deep down, I really wanted to because I love yoga so much and I want to do it all. I mean, I’ve been practicing for almost three and a half years. It’s hard to say you are “good” at yoga because it’s all about the process. Someone who takes class for the first time in their life and isn’t flexible can be considered good because it’s all about how focused you are, how you breathe, and that you try.

At my Los Angeles studio, all you had to do was be invited by a teacher to attend advanced class, so because I was invited by a teacher, I thought why not. Last night after I practiced, another teacher asked me when I was going to try advanced class and I thought, okay, I’m going to do this.

So today I did. I went in with a clear mind. I didn’t know what to expect and it was great because it’s nice to be a newbie again. Advanced Bikram is a whole new world. It requires a different kind of strength and is way more physical because many of the poses require upper body strength. The beginner Bikram series is more focused on back and leg strength and flexibility, not so much arm strength. I’m hooked and pumped because I’m sore in different parts of my body. I feel strong, like I’ve opened a new door in my life and in my practice. I feel blessed that my studio offers Advanced classes at all. I’m here for a reason. I was ready for this. Now, I just have to keep going so I can get stronger in my upper body and do some headstands or at least half a headstand against a wall.

The Ayurvedas and Banana-Honey Granola Bars

Banana-Honey Raw Granola Bars
Banana-Honey Raw Granola Bars

In practicing Bikram Yoga consistency for over three years, I have unintentionally learned so much about the body. You hear teachers say things like Prahna, Chi, Third eye, and Life force energy. When I first started practicing I was just like, okay, whatever, I’m here to stretch and sweat, but it rubs off on you and it makes sense after a while. Yoga has now become a great diagnostic tool to help me see what hurts and bothers me.

You would see it too if you were in class feeling nauseous and dizzy and all you want to do is run out of the room, and the teacher just tells you to stand there and be still and focus on your breath. This conditioning is teaching you to love to be in your body regardless of what you experience.

Anyway, I can’t talk about yoga enough because it has done so much for me but one of the best things it did was make me want to be in my body. It made me see and feel what improper foods did to my body while I was in class. And because of yoga, I am open to alternative medicine.

I am so passionate about alternative healing because I have been viewing how modern medicine has affected loved ones around me, from a suicidal friend to a heart attack prone father to a grandmother with fibromyalgia. I sat around seeing them in pain regardless of what doctors have prescribed them and it just doesn’t freaking work.

After a while I learned that I can’t push anyone because it’s exhausting. The only one I can push or help is myself first and foremost. Over the past three years I’ve healed myself from chronic cough, weight gain, urinary tract infections, bad knees, resentment, and anger issues, all my being open to alternative healing through food, yoga, and literally cleaning my mind of negative thoughts.

Earlier this year when I heard about Ayurveda, India’s ancient system of natural medicine, I was open to it and didn’t find it to be so hard to believe.

Believing in Ayurveda is just like believing what any modern doctor has to say about health and medicine or taking a pill because they say it will work. It’s an act of faith to believe that you can classify energies in the body. You can’t necessarily see it but you can feel it. I’ve sat in front of doctors who mostly want to get you out of their face by prescribing medicines to help you avoid pain. But our pain is an indicator of the real problem that if ignored, will only grow and grow.
So, there is something to recognizing your pain and accepting it.

In Ayurveda, they talk about something called “ojas” as the essence of life that represents the “core” strength of the body and inherent immunity; the seed of nourishment and creativity and vital energy that is stored deep within the body.

Ojas circulates throughout the bodily tissues and heart, sustaining the physical self, bringing clarity to the mind and balancing the emotions. When the body produces ojas, we feel blissful because both the mind and the body are receiving the nourishment they need.
It is believed that “ojas” is the first thing to be created in the body of all living beings and that each is born with a certain allotment of “ojas.” People can be born with a little bit of “ojas” or a lot and your “ojas” can be weakened over time due to stress, eating bad food, having too much sex, smoking, or drinking alcohol.
These are some of the many factors that can determine your “ojas” constitution, but luckily there are things you can do and eat to strengthen your “ojas,” and one of them is consuming pure foods such as almonds, sesame, honey, rice, and fruits.

One of my favorite books, “Raw Energy” by Stephanie Tourles includes a whole chapter of recipes that strengthen ojas. I thought that was real cool. And basically this post had started out as me wanting to share this great recipe that strengthens ojas and is a great breakfast food or snack.

The recipe I would like to share is the Banana-Honey Granola bars.
They are a good source of complex carbs, protein, Vitamins B and E, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, and magnesium.

So, just thought I’d share:

Ingredients:

  1. 1 medium, very ripe banana, peeled
  2. 2 cups raw oat flakes
  3. 1 cup raw almond butter or peanut butter
  4. 1/4 cup raw honey
  5. 2 TBSP bee pollen
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1 tsp ground cinnamon coconut oil raw and unrefined

Directions:

1. Put banana, nut butter, honey, bee pollen, vanilla, and cinnamon in food processor and blend until you have a stiff, cohesive dough ball.
2. Coat a 9-inch square pan with coconut oil and oil your hands as well.  Pat the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Cover and place in the freezer for 24 hours so that the flavors can meld; the texture will become quite firm and chewy.
3. Cut into three 3-inch squares in each direction, then cut each square in half as well so that you have a total of 36 squares.
4. Store the squares/balls in a tightly sealed container in the freezer and consume within 2 weeks for the best flavor and texture.
Number of Servings: 36

Kombucha love story

I went to UC Santa Cruz for my undergraduate study and if you know Santa Cruz, California, you know that this is a hub of hippies, greenery, and organic health foods. I was in my early twenties, on my own, exploring all sorts of new things, but just by being in Santa Cruz, exploring health foods was the easiest thing next to breathing.

It was in the New Leaf Community market that I bought my first GT’s Raw Kombucha. I was in the market to try new things and since I was looking for foods and drinks to boost my immune system, I stumbled upon this really expensive drink that I figured had to be good since it was nearly $4 a bottle. I walked home, sat down at my desk, and popped open the drink. I had no expectations whatsoever, but I didn’t expect that what I put down my throat would taste rotten to me! I tried really hard to take a few more sips but the vinegary consistency was just too strong. It felt like I was drinking a shot of alcohol because the drink immediately burned my stomach. Something HAD to be wrong with this drink. For an hour, I glanced at the bottle on my desk in between internet surfing. I decided to take one more sip. Nope. Disgusted, I threw it away.

It would be a few years later that I would fall madly in love with Kombucha, but not until I was surrounded by it at my Bikram Yoga studio where I worked as a “Karma Yogi.” Karma Yogis work at yoga studios in order to take free classes so I worked behind the desk, and at our studio we sold Kombucha and Coconut water. At first I would cringe when I would look at the Kombucha and I was so puzzled why so many people bought this drink and gulped it down like water. I didn’t get it. It was one day after I came out of class and was really thirsty that a friend recommended I try the Kombucha. There were no more coconut waters so I thought I would just try a flavored Kombucha. Honestly, I can’t remember which flavored Kombucha I tried but that initial vinegar taste wasn’t so overwhelming. I actually really enjoyed it this time. Maybe it was because I was thirsty or maybe my taste buds had evolved, but here I was, six years later, loving Kombucha.

Which brings me to the next level of Kombucha adoration. Yes, it’s time for me to make a baby, a SCOBY that is. For the past few days, I’ve been scouring the internet watching video after video on how to grow a SCOBY. It just seems so easy to do. And I drink so much of it nowadays that it seems like the next step to take. I mean, you love something so much, you just have to create it yourself. That’s why people make babies, right?

So today I bought a bottle of GT’s Original flavored Kombucha and I’m going through the motions of making my very first Kombucha SCOBY. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll just buy my own SCOBY starter. I thought I would try to make my own first and see how it comes out. There’s something about creating from scratch that is way more gratifying than buying it.
Wish me luck.

The Invitation

Fell in love with this poem yesterday as a teacher read it to us in class during final savasana. Just wanted to share.

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Leave your friends alone

So I was listening to Louise Hay’s audio book, “You can heal your life,” again. I reference that book a lot because I listen to it on my Ipod when I take breaks at work and I always hear new things that I feel are important for me to hear. I put my Ipod on shuffle and I often hear the same tracks from the book over and over again. I feel like I’m just meant to hear certain things. I love the shuffle function for that reason, almost like the universe is speaking to me through my Ipod.

Anyway, so there’s a track that talks about mirroring and focusing on yourself rather than focusing on others. Louise Hay straight out says, “leave your friends alone.” She says that we want to fix others before we fix ourselves. She says that you can’t change anyone. If you want to change the people around you, you must start with changing yourself. After hearing that, I just have become more aware of how the people around us are really mirrors of ourselves and we can’t change others. We can only change ourselves.

This track or chapter from Louise Hay’s book really resonated with me because this whole trying to change others has been true for me up until I came here to Arizona. I used to have a need to fix others or at least try. I would see people who seemed in bad situations and feel like I had to help them. I had an alcoholic friend who I tried to help out with nutrition and yoga who ended up drinking alcohol while doing the lemonade cleanse and ending up in the hospital. I had another nutball friend who had just gotten out of rehab. I’ll never forget taking her to her first Bikram Yoga class and waiting for her to finish smoking a cigarette around 30 minutes before the class began.

Boy was that exhausting. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t change them. Now that I’m here on my own, I have no choice but to focus on myself but sometimes I think about helping people. I just can’t help it. Most of my jobs up until now have been in the non-profit sector helping people but did I ever focus on myself or my own creative endeavors? No. I like to help people, I like to make a difference but there came a point when I realized I had to take care of myself first.

The last time I tried to help a friend it was because she asked me. She asked me what she could eat to lose weight and stop having so much gas in her stomach. So, I invited her over my mom’s house and we prepared two salads and a pasta dish. I didn’t want to scare the crap out of her by going all raw so I added the pasta dish so she would have something familiar to her.

I think the problem with that experience was that I didn’t have a plan. I kinda got together with my mom that afternoon before my friend came over and we decided on what we thought we should make. By the end of it, I don’t think my friend really enjoyed the food. The thing is, I have thought about coming up with a diet plan for her ever since that day…But I started thinking, maybe I won’t come to her with this diet plan. I’ll just write it out and experiment on myself. I mean, what better test subject than myself? I’ll just leave my friends alone and focus on me.  Maybe those people were in my life before because I had a need to fix messed up people. Now I think my need is to really focus on myself, rather than others. There’s always room for improvement. I need structure and guidance just as much as anyone else. That’s why I did the Ani Phyo raw cleanse in the first place. I needed the structure. Now that it’s over, I find myself wanting to take from different recipes and authors that I’ve read, tried, or want to try and come up with my own plan, one that is more familiar to people who are transitioning from eating Taco Bell to cooking or preparing their own meals. Dairy-free, meat-free, and inexpensive. This is the task at hand.

I use helping others as my inspiration but inevitably I have to leave them alone and not focus on pushing an alternative lifestyle on anyone. I will get prepared and if anyone comes to me, I will be ready to help.

Day 21 of 21

Ahhh! It’s here. I think the theme of the day is “let it go.” I went to work today and on the way there some funky stuff happened. My car wouldn’t start so I had to borrow my mom’s car to get to work and on the way to work there was some road work going on that delayed my freeway exit and I forgot my work badge in my car so I couldn’t get in right away and was late. But you know what? I could’ve got pissed and angry, but I didn’t. I just told myself to let it go.

And in the spirit of letting things go, today is the last day of my Ani Phyo raw food cleanse. I’ve gone through 21 days of raw food shakes, soups, salads, wraps, nuts, seeds, miso, avocados, withdrawals, cravings, slip-ups, and will power. And now that this day is coming to an end, I now let go of this experience but remain inspired and motivated to continue eating this beautiful, tasty, nutritious food. Why wouldn’t I want to feel amazing beyond 21 days? I learned so much about my body and being in my body and what foods make my body feel really good and really bad.

During the last day of the cleanse, you can eat any shake, soup, salad, or dinner you would like. So I’ve basically used the ingredients I had to make the Banana shake, Easy being green salad variation, and tonight I plan on making the Kreamy Chipotle Dressing and eating that with salad and the cashew pate to go inside of a collard wrap with cucumber and avocado. I don’t have the scallions so I’ll just have to do without.

So now that the cleanse is pretty much over, what is coming next? Plenty. I’m going to Los Angeles two weekends in a row for my best friend’s birthday and a wedding so you know I may re-tox myself a bit. Just being in Los Angeles alone, re-toxing comes with the territory 😉 Just playing, well sort of. I’m not hating on Los Angeles and the pollution or party atmosphere since you’ll find that anywhere. L.A. is my hometown and I love it to pieces.  My favorite Bikram Yoga instructor Loren Cherrstrom used to say “detox to retox” and people in class would always laugh because anyone can relate to that. No one is perfect or shall I say, we are all perfect in our imperfections :). Good thing about Bikram Yogis is that it doesn’t take much to get us drunk or full. And toxifying yourself isn’t always alcohol related. We toxify ourselves by eating too much bread, sugars, processed foods or if you are in Los Angeles of NY, just breathing in the air. I may just do a little bit of that while I’m in Los Angeles but you know when I come back I’m planning another detox. And you know which one that will be?

The Master Cleanse a.k.a The Lemonade Diet.

Yup. One of the wildest, craziest most effective detox diets I’ve ever heard of and tried. Now this cleanse is a real spiritual journey since there is NO EATING involved. This really is about cleansing not just the mind but the spirit and if you want to know more about it check out Stanley Burrough’s book “The Master Cleanser: with special needs and problems,” or “The Complete Master Cleanse: a Step-by-step guide to mastering the benefits of the lemonade diet,” by Tom Woloshyn. This diet I plan on doing in mid August for just ten days. There are some people who go 30 or 60 days. I don’t know about that one. Stanley Burroughs suggests doing the Master Cleanse four times a year rather than 60 days straight. He says in his book, “The Master Cleanser,” that it is recommended to do the cleanse a minimum of 10 days, so that’s what I’m going to do. 10 days, no more, no less. I already did this cleanse once back in February so I know I’m due for another one.

And I just want to say thank you to all the people who have joined me on this journey by following my blog. I have felt so inspired by your energy and interest in my writing topics. I am truly inspired to keep going because of you. It is my passion to share my research, knowledge, struggles, breakthroughs, and love of health with all who are interested.