Introspective Yoga: Finding Satya

My Introspective Yoga series continues! This week I'm here to tell you about the yama known as satya, or truthfulness. Read last week's post on ahimsa here.

Yoga scholar Ravi Ravindra says "The first requirement of self-knowledge is sincerity. And as we begin to see the various ways we lie, we can understand the need for practicing truthfulness."

I think it's obvious to see why telling the truth is important. But more than just not lying, satya is about finding and embodying your true essence.

There's a lot of layers to shed in order for the truth to be revealed.

For me lately, practicing satya is practicing unlearning.

A lot of "norms" were placed on me growing up, and I'm sure you're familiar with some of them too. When you're a girl, there are certain expectations placed upon you by society. I learned that I had to try to be skinny, that I needed to shave all my body hair off, and that I needed to follow the rules because somebody else (usually a male authority) always knew best, etc.

Thankfully, as I've gotten older and wiser, I've begun to unlearn some of these things. Because my true essence isn't about living this way, it's not about living perfectly under societal rules.

One of my favorite ways to teach my students about satya is to turn it into a mindful activity.

I like to ask my students to tune in with themselves and ask the question "What is true for me in this moment?" and simply observe what comes up.

It's amazing what you can find for yourself when you make being honest a practice. It helps you separate the lies you tell yourself and the pretenses you carry from the truth in your heart.

Right now for me, I know that I feel sad. It's not a I-need-to-be-cheered-up kind of sad, but a grieving kind of sad. I'm grieving my adolescence because I'm entering adulthood more fully each month and each year. And I'm sure I appear to be doing alright but I've got admit, it is hard. I'm uncertain. I'm scared. I'm lonely. But knowing this about myself helps me find acceptance and self-compassion. I'm not beating myself up for not having all the answers, for not being happy all the time.

I know it doesn't sound glamorous or particularly hopeful, but that's introspection and mindfulness. Even though this isn't as pretty as a picture of me doing yoga at the beach, this is a yoga practice too.

So this week, I encourage to look within and ask yourself what's true in order to find your true essence. I have a meditation on finding your truth that you can check out here too.

See you next week for the next yama on asteya or non-stealing :) If I am to be honest, it may be slightly controversial. Stay in touch by subscribing below!

Introspective Yoga: Uncovering Ahimsa

Like I promised last week, I will be going over the yamas and niyamas. This week's topic is the very first of the yamas, ahimsa.

Ahimsa is commonly defined as non-violence. But in Ravi Ravindra's The Wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras he talks about how ahimsa is closer to "non-violation" "non-manipulation" and "non-interference." (p. 85)

He says "It is necessary to distinguish between the use of violence and the use of force. It is not possible to be violent without using force, but it is possible to use force without being violent." (p. 85)

I love this distinction because I think it's very easy to forget that there is an option beyond violence, that there's another force to fight with.

In all honesty, I find it hard to embrace ahimsa as more than an abstract idea as of late. We live in a world that desperately needs ahimsa, but it escapes us and our world leaders. A lot of harm is being done to ourselves, our neighbors, and our environment. It feels quite disheartening on some days.

But for any practice to be embodied, action must be taken. Although it may seem dismal on a collective level, I know that there are ways I can act and come closer to embodying ahimsa.

Personally, one way I could practice ahimsa is by being kinder to myself. My self-talk hasn’t been the nicest when it comes to my body image. Instead of telling my body it’s ugly or not good, I could appreciate it for all the days it’s gotten me through. The main thing I want is to be healthier, but being cruel to myself is not healthy at all.

Another way I've been trying to practice ahimsa is through my diet. I'm not here to tell you how you should or shouldn't nourish yourself, but I know it's less harmful for the environment if you eat less meat. So I do what I can to eat less meat with my imperfect pescatarian diet. Maybe in a perfect world we would all be vegans, but that doesn't necessarily mean we've mastered ahimsa.

We could all harm less by cultivating a deep sense of regard for ourselves and others. Lovingkindness meditation is a simple way to do this. In a world where harming happens so easily, it is important that we practice the exact opposite -- acknowledging the humanity in each other.

I think this is especially relevant when it comes to finding empathy for people different from ourselves. Research suggests lovingkindness meditation could help people be less racist.

Next time someone’s annoying you and you start telling them off in your head, stop and wish them well. Give them a load of lovingkindness:

May you happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you live with ease.

I believe underneath it all, we have what it takes to embody ahimsa, even if we forget we do. I leave you with this quote.

“Ahima is the state that exists when all violence in the heart and mind have subsided. It is not something we have to acquire; it is always present and only needs to be uncovered. When one practices ahimsa, or non-violence, one refrains from causing distress -- in thought, word, or deed -- to any living creature, including oneself.” --Babuji

Questions for your reflection: Where are you adding harm? How can you harm less? Comment below. Don't forget to subscribe if you haven't yet.

Introspective Yoga: Introduction to the Eight Limbs

I hope you have a happy new year. If you follow me on Instagram, you may know from my stories that I struggled with 2017. I was either unhappy or out of touch with myself for most if it.

I was in Seattle as the new year rang in. Under the moon light of the full moon in Cancer, I was walking from the Space Needle to downtown. I felt like I wanted to walk forever. I wished I could just keep moving and wandering. I felt unsettled.

So I began to ask myself why... Why are you so unsettled? Why does it feel so tough for you right now?

The truth was... I wasn't living purposefully. I had forgotten my why in life while I tried to get through the day. And that's why it felt so unbearable to get through the year. I wasn't being intentional in my daily choices. I was beginning to feel like things happened to me, and I was just trying my best to juggle them and get through it all.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

As I begin the new year, I want to think hard about my whys in life:

Why do I practice yoga and meditation? Why do I care to teach it? Why do I care so much about how it's taught? Why do I want yoga and meditation to be a part of my life?

During this introspective time, I will be sharing with my readers each of the yamas and niyamas - concepts on yoga ethics. It'll be topic of the week for the next 10 weeks. The yamas and niyamas are a great way to reflect on your own ways of thinking and behavior. This week, I will start with an overview of the eight limbs of yoga.

The eight limbs of yoga are described in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, a text from around 400 CE. The eight limbs are a pathway toward liberation. Although the limbs can be interpreted as steps you need to take in order, they can be combined or you can practice them in an order that makes sense to you.

What the Sutras Said

Sutra 2.28: yoganganusthanad ashuddhi-ksaye jnana-diptir aviveka-khyateh

"By practicing the (eight) limbs of yoga - upon the diminishing of impurities, there is a light of knowing, up to (leading to) viveka-khyati-the identification of viveka." (The Yoga Sutras Workbook by Vyaas Houston MA)

Let's talk about viveka for moment, in my yoga sutra workbook it is defined as "distinction between drastr and drysa." This refers to the distinction of being the Seer vs. the Seen, here's a text that dives into that. Simply put, viveka is when you're able to discern between the self and non-self, the real and unreal - it's being able to see clearly. 

The sutra suggests that by practicing the eight limbs of yoga, we can remove the things that cloud our vision and have the truth be revealed to us. We can look toward the light, the wisdom of viveka. 

Consider Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Prisoners trapped in the cave think that shadows on the wall are all there is to know, but the truth is there is a whole other world outside. When one of them breaks free, they are able to see the sun and know the difference between the cave and the real world... The eight limbs is a practice to go outside the cave. 

#ThrowbackThursday Check out my top 3 blog posts from last year... 1. Self-Care Tips for Those Taking A Stand 2. How to Keep Your Heart Open After Heartbreak 3. A Meditation For Finding Your Truth

How to Practice Living Outside the Cave 

Yama: ethical restraints, or what I like to call the "don'ts"

  • ahimsa: don't harm
  • satya: don't lie
  • asteya: don't steal
  • brahmacharya: don't overindulge
  • aparig raha: don't be greedy

Niyama: ethical observances, or what I like to call the "dos"

  • saucha: be clean
  • santosha: be content
  • tapas: be committed
  • svadyaya: be self-aware
  • ishvara pranidhana: be in the flow with the Universe/God

Asana: posture

Pranayama: controlled breathing techniques

Pratyahara: sense withdrawal

Dharana: concentration

Dhyana: meditation

Samadhi: spiritual enlightenment, sense of one-ness

We are exposed to asana the most because it's the most visible part of the eight limbs and it's easier to sell. But asana is there to remind us to prepare the body for meditation. The sutras suggests we get into a posture with steadiness and ease so we can do pranayama and so on.

What do you think? Are you ready to learn how to live outside the cave? :) Tell me in the comments below. And don't forget to subscribe to get updates and other goodies.

How I Survived Burn Out

I'm back. I'm here. I've always been here. But I've also been teaching in four different places and it spread me super duper thin. I'm reducing my teaching schedule in 2018 and I'm sorelieved! 2017 forced me to grow up so much, both in my personal and professional life. Today I discuss the professional...

Phase 1. The Spark: You feel super accomplished.

Here's what happened to me since January: I started teaching at one place. Then... somebody offered me a gig at a second place. Then... somebody needed me at another place... and another place. And I kept saying yes. I kept saying yes even when it meant I taught six days a week. I also said yes to subbing positions. I was prideful. I was proud of myself for getting so many classes so fast. When it feels torturous, I tell myself that it's experience and *that* became the currency I was chasing. I felt super accomplished for grabbing hold of so much experience.

Phase 2. Up in Smoke: You hate yourself and your life.

Pretty soon having such a full teaching schedule was not as wonderful as it felt at the first.

Lifestyle: For me, it meant a lot of driving and squeezing in time to eat at odd places. And it became harder and harder to sustain my relationship. I was dating a guy from Portland, and the relationship imploded. Working six days a week just made it too difficult for us. But I must note, I wasn't in the healthiest mind space either. More on that now...

Emotions: I had two places I taught where the crowd was overwhelming and unpredictable (a middle school and community class). And at the other two locations, I was newer and sometimes nobody showed up. I'd excitedly plan a sequence, and I'd drive all the way just tohave nobody in class. So between overwhelmed and disappointed, it was an emotional roller coaster just to show up. Not to mention... I had to hold space for so many people in so many different places, in a week, in 2017. I barely had time to process my own emotions, and began to struggle with depression again. 

So the dream job starts feeling like a chore. I get up and drive and I get there not feeling anything except exhausted and unsettled. The beautiful spark turned into a heat that was burning me and all my hopes alive.

Phase 3. Warmth: You manage it all.

But hey, I'm resilient. I take responsibility for the sh*thole I dug for myself by saying yes too many times. I own up to it and do what I can to chill out. I make time for my own body and mind. I work out with a personal trainer once a week. I remove my excuses and go to yoga class as a student. When I have free time, I read or watch Netflix without guilty. On Saturday evenings and Sundays, I spend time with family or see friends in Seattle. I learn to not say "YES" to every sub position, I allow myself to cool down.

And whatever I'm walking into that day, whether a full class or nobody, I thank the Universe for the opportunity. I acknowledge that I'm doing my best and I try to live in the moment. Because as crazy as I am, I know one day I will look upon these days as the good ol' days -- the days when I was naive, and the days when I over-committed and got burnt.

Phase 4. Inner Flame: You integrate and reevaluate.

This post is one of my first steps of phase 4.

To be clear, I have no regrets about my decisions this year. Everything I've experienced has given me a better idea of what I want to teach and who I want to teach. It just happens to NOT be everything I'm doing now. Who knew more didn't mean better? I've got this month to get through and then I am going to make changes for a more fulfilling life and career path in 2018. I hate how much I've gotten away from my online work because of all my live teaching. I think it's time I take the experience and share with you in the form of free content and courses.

I was talking to my mentor the other day and she said something interesting. She pointed out how the popularity of hot and flow yoga says a lot about our culture. Part of yoga is about cultivating the inner flame, or tapas. But many of us are more interested in allowing the external heat to touch us rather than going inwards... even when it could be harmful. That's definitely a lesson I'm learning right now. Rather than burn out from saying yesyesyes, I think I'd rather listen to my inner flame and let that guide me to my next step.

Thank you for reading! How are the holidays treating you? How do you avoid or survive burn out? For updates and access to my resource library, get on my email list.

You are ALWAYS Worthy

It's been a tiresome summer for me. I'm sooo happy that it will officially be fall! I'm one of those who hate it when it's too hot.

I have been giving so much of my heart and my body into teaching yoga and meditation the last couple of months.

My favorite gig by far is teaching 6th-8th graders at a private school. It is my lowest paying gig, and yet my favorite because it feels most natural to me.

Teaching yoga is essentially holding space for people to be where they are and offering guidance for mindful movement. It is a reminder to witness ourselves.

No matter what your day has been like, or whether you're even liking yourself today, you are ALWAYS worthy. If you can see yourself and let go of the judgments for a second, you should know that you are inherently worthy.

How many of us knew this when we were young? I sure didn't. It led me to stumble into an abusive relationship at a really young age. In fact, I was in 7th-8th grade.

I'll be honest, despite all the therapy and self-help I've done, I sometimes forget. I forget that I am inherently worthy. I feel ashamed.

Oh, but what for?! you may wonder.

- I feel ashamed for being stressed out despite living my teenage dream. (Seriously, 15-year-old me would be psyched about all the yoga 22-year-old me is teaching.)

- I feel ashamed for gaining weight! I went from 126 lbs to 131 lbs in like two months. I have a freakin visible double chin. (Despite the fact I like the body positivity movement in yoga and know full well this is due to stress.)

- I feel ashamed for not making the time for myself to take classes. I love taking yoga and workout classes. But lately, it's been few.

- I feel ashamed for not having a robust meditation practice. Honestly, these days my meditation is in my classes when I lead or when I find the time to whisper "May I be happy... May I healthy... May I be safe... May I live with ease" while driving. It's really just whatever is enough to help me get through the next hour without collapsing onto my stress. It's a good thing meditation is an anywhere, "to-go" practice.

I could say more about the things I feel ashamed about. But I think you get the point.

Underneath all my ashamed thoughts, I know that I am always worthy. And this allows me to keep going, to keep dreaming, to keep doing. But what if it's really hard to tackle shame? What if you spend nights awake mulling over your flaws and not enough-ness? What if you critique yourself before you even gave yourself a chance to create something?

It's a challenge that Jenn Bovee can help you with, and she's going to be live to talk about shame in my Facebook group. Wednesday, Sept. 27. 11:30 AM Pacific/1:30 PM Central.

Do you want in? Join my group today.

Let's tackle our freakin' shame together.

For more awesome stuff, visit my resource library. Give your email and I'll give you access.

Dear Friend, Are You Spiritually Bypassing?

spiritual bypass.jpg

Note: This was originally a social media post.

This year, I've been focusing on listening to my intuition and expressing my satya or truth.

And part of my truth is this: Social justice is important to me. And, there's a loooooooot of work to do. And as a yoga teacher, I see a lot of spiritual bypassing -- and it takes so much away from the work.

Today, I come to you as someone who is tired. I'm tired of seeing people engage in spiritual bypass, which is so so so common in the wellness industry.

Spiritual bypassing is when you use spiritual practices (such as yoga or meditation) to feel good and avoid dealing with the truth. It's a dangerous form of denial and is often disguised as self-care. There is a shadow side to everything, and it includes spirituality.

"Spiritual bypass shields us from the truth, it disconnects us from our feelings, and helps us avoid the big picture. It is more about checking out than checking in—and the difference is so subtle that we usually don't even know we are doing it." ~Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D.

Let me be frank, I have done it. Spiritual bypassing was me as a teenager, not knowing any better, using my yoga practice as therapy sessions. Now, it's not to say yoga can't help people with their ailments and symptoms. But I used yoga as the ONLY tool to deal with my depression. I refused to get any more help than a 75 minute hatha class.

And when it felt good, it felt good. But there was an extent to that and when it stopped feeling good, it was devastating. I felt like a loser because I could not distract myself enough from the truth about my depression. That's what spiritual bypass is, a dangerous mindset of distraction.

It's sooo dangerous because if we could just spiritualize everything wrong in our lives, or the world, why would we take any real action to fix it?

Here's a very painful, unfortunate example. I know a woman who was in an abusive relationship. She said, perhaps I was really bad to him in a past life. Perhaps, that's why he's so bad to me now.

Yes, it can be that horrifying.

Now let's take this back to social justice and you...

When you see news about white supremacists and neo-Nazis parading around and inciting violence... How do you use your spiritual practices as a response?

Do you go to yoga class as a way to de-stress from reading all the news and go on with your day?

Do you go to yoga class as a way to spiritualize the information, in order to cope with things and then do nothing else?

Do you go to yoga class, practice a tonglen or lovingkindness meditation, and then hope for the best?

Because that's spiritual bypass, my friends. And I KNOW, as tempting as it is to fall into that trap, you CAN do better.

Here's the thing... I don't teach yoga and meditation so people (a majority of who are white folks) can spiritually bypass. I teach yoga and meditation so you can (hopefully) ground yourself, find self-compassion, embody the ethics of yamas and niyamas, and find the strength to get out and do the things that need to be done.

At this very moment in history, I pray that my yoga and meditation offerings can inspire people to find the strength in themselves to go and speak out against racism and hatred. Especially if you are white, you should know that your voice and actions are extremely important in the fight for social justice/against white supremacy. Because as nice as spiritual practices are, they won't get rid of racism alone.

So please, find a way around spiritual bypass. Face the truth. Allow the news of Charlottesville and racism to bother the f*ck out of you. Take a yoga/meditation class to ground yourself and be reminded of your own true nature. And then let it guide you to go out and DO something.

On overcoming spiritual bypassing

Listen, I'm not perfect. I, too, struggle to do my part and not burn out. On some days, I am tempted to turn off the news and namaste it all away. But I'd like to share some ways I commit to stay engaged and show up, from a yoga perspective.

Introducing my NEW virtual workshop, Inner Peace, Outer Chaos: Showing Up When Times are Tough AFGet it 50% off by using the code LOVINGKINDNESS. I've been wanting to be more vocal about my stance on social justice and combining it with yoga and other healing arts. I used to think... Who am I to want to offer this kind of workshop? Who am I to want to speak about these issues? But I know deep inside this is the right step for me to take. I sincerely hope you join me.

Half-Year Reflection 2017

I wanted to take some time this week to simply reflect on the first half of 2017 and share with you what I've learned...

Self-compassion is a necessary skill

I think after I finish out my 20s, I'd like to write a self-help book for young women. I have a theory -- and I'm using myself as an experiment here, that self-compassion is the key to getting through these years.

Self-compassion is being kind to yourself. Self-compassion is not letting the inner critic roam. Self-compassion is saying, I messed up and yet I am still worthy. Self-compassion is what I wish I learned about in my teens. But it's better late than never.

2017 has forced me to be self-compassionate in order to survive the ups and downs of this year. I live in a time that is both extremely exciting, and frankly scary. So learning how to be nice to myself when things don't go as I planned, has helped me stay grounded. I do it by practicing lovingkindness meditation, and by simply approaching life with the knowledge that I am inherently worthy.

Connection is as easy is improv

I'm a former theatre kid. Maybe because of this, I have found a relationship between real life interactions and the art of improvisation. After all, everyone's just winging it, no?

The rules of improv are simple. It's to abide by "yes, and..." Meaning, you say "yes" to whatever situation you're in, then you add onto that scene.

"Yes... this is the moment I'm in, and I am going to do this..."

Besides meditation, I'd say improv taught me how to stay in the moment. I've realized that connecting with people is as easy as saying yes to the situation we're in, and then being courageous. In every day life, I add myself to the "scene" by expressing my truth. (If this sounds dramatic, sorry not sorry! I'm a Leo like that!)

I think that's the heart of connection -- embracing the moment and being truthful (satya).

People are people

In January, I got a gig to teach middle school students five days a week. It was a little daunting, but I figured it out: They were people! More recently, I've been hired at two yoga studios in the local area. I was truly nervous about delivering to yoga studio goers, but I figured it out again: They were people!

People are people means simply that at the core, everyone wants the same things. Everyone wants to be heard and validated. Everyone wants to feel love and happiness. I've learned to stop stressing about whether people like me or my class, I've learned to let them come and do them.

It doesn't matter if you're 12 or 62, in my yoga class you will practice moving with invitational language. You will practice listening to your intuition. You will practice lovingkindness meditation and self-compassion. You will practice being as you are. And, you will be guided by someone who is also practicing the same things.

It's been such a big year for me, and I hope to learn more wonderful lessons. This weekend I'm going to Portland to do a training with LoveYourBrain. I can't wait!

Have you checked out my Samadhi Lounge? It's my resource library. Get the password by subscribing.

What are some cool lessons you've learned in 2017? Comment below.