Wednesday, October 31, 2007

the little things

photos by Mia, collage & graphics by Camille

Juggling full-time work, part-time grad studies, and part-time yoga instruction (and walking/running/cooking/baking/taking pictures somewhere in between), has left little time for "down-time". Doing my best not to have all my energy sapped by all these commitments, many times it takes another person's perspective to see things in a new light and regain a sense of centeredness.

I turned on my PC, intending to edit my research paper for school, and found that I received this beautiful collage made by Camille, my friend for nearly two decades and counting, and uber-creative writer/producer.

And again, I am reminded... to hit the "pause" button even for just a few minutes. To be thankful for the little things... and to see the world with a sense of wonder, just like my nephew Lorenzo in the picture, chasing bubbles. Joyful and 100% in-the-moment.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

"me" time

I love Sunday mornings. It's my "do whatever I want to do" time, because it's not officially Monday yet (for me, the transition to Monday happens at 4 pm on Sunday).

One of the things that fall under "do whatever I want to do" is a long walk. This morning, I made my walk a moving meditation. It was such a perfect day. Sixty-some degrees, clear blue skies, sunny, cool, crisp morning air. Aaaaah. I told myself, "Be present". And as I walked, I focused my awareness on the air entering my body as I inhaled, and leaving my body as I exhaled... I paid attention to my steps on the pavement and the sound of leaves under my feet. I said some prayers. I paid attention to the trees along the way, some in transition towards autumn, but not quite there yet. I basked in the warm sunlight and the cool breeze on my face.

Needless to say, I was deliriously happy and walked with a spring in my step.

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real life yoga

More reflections from the Bryan Kest workshop:
While power yoga is a very challenging style of yoga, one thing to take from his practice is if you can remain calm and peaceful during a challenging yoga pose, then hopefully you can carry that sense of calm when faced with a crisis or a stressful situation. And that if you can be patient with yourself while working on a pose, then perhaps you can do the same when someone cuts you off while driving, while waiting in line at a checkout counter even if the clerk takes almost forever. And really, this is what yoga is about... it's not about who can get themselves into a pose like a human pretzel. Yoga does not end once you step off your mat. It's about learning to release judgment and unnecessary negative energy, towards yourself and others. The world has too much of that already. It's about creating and spreading joy and positive energy through our thoughts, words, and actions.

My friend/running mate/fellow yogini Jen says that whenever we feel like we are going to say something negative to someone or about someone, start by asking ourselves these three questions:
Is it kind?
Is it true?
Is it necessary?

In a similar vein, when a stranger says something that could potentially be offensive, I try to ask myself, "Why does that bother me?" Many times, when I think about it, it really doesn't... and so I've gradually learned to preserve my energy for other purposes, instead of being angry about something that really does not matter in the larger scheme of things.

I have to say, I am a fan of fortune cookies. I don't really eat them, but sometimes I get pretty powerful and inspiring quotes from those tiny strips of paper. Here's one:

"Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."

Joy and light to all!

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

a grain of salt

Last Friday I attended Bryan Kest's Power Yoga workshop. It's actually a 3-day workshop happening right here in Cincinnati, but since I am pressed for time I only attended one session.

Bryan Kest has a different, but very straightforward style in his teaching. One of his statements that stayed with me is:
"Yoga does not want to change you because it does not come from the perspective that there is anything wrong with you in the first place. All yoga wants to do is to take care of you."

On Saturday morning, I sat down on my mat in preparation for yoga and meditation. As I was breathing and finding my place of stillness, I thought, "Wherever I am now is where I need to be. And really, I'm ok."

I taught 3 classes in a row on Saturday, and had a great morning! One of the things I tried to emphasize yesterday in my teaching was being kind to yourself and being patient with yourself. I find that many times it is easier to be compassionate towards others, but not to myself. Sometimes we are our own worst critics. I think that should be balanced with being our own best cheerleaders.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

with great resolve

I shall salute the sun once again
to the stream that flowed within me,
to the clouds that were my tallest thoughts

- Forugh Farrokhzad, female Iranian poet, 1935-1967

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

just breathe

Breath control, or pranayama, is such an important focus in yoga. In a yoga class, or even in a yoga instructional DVD, you'll hear the instructor say "find your breath," "even out your breath", "move with the breath," "breathe into your abdomen" and so forth. Breath awareness and control has a whole lot of benefits, besides the obvious fact that we can't do without breathing. But how often do we really pay attention to it?

Physically, abdominal breathing forces air slowly into the base of the lungs. This, in turn, stretches the diaphragm, which sits at the base of the lungs. There are nerves attached to the diaphragm that trigger the body's natural relaxation response. Isn't the human body amazing?

But enough of the anatomy lesson for now. Paying attention to your breathing is such a great way to develop self-awareness and techniques for stress relief. The best part is, you can do it anytime, you don't need expensive equipment, and even if you can only carve out 5 or 10 minutes out of your day, that's a great way to start! While driving, waiting in line, or when an experience triggers an angry reaction... all of these are opportunities to ask yourself, how am I breathing right now? Is my breathing choppy? Am I breathing only through the upper part of the chest or all the way into the lungs and abdomen? Are my shoulders hunched, or are they relaxed away from my ears?

If you can, sit down and close your eyes for a moment... then just watch and observe the breath. You don't have to make efforts to control it yet. Just observe. And then start to consciously breathe in through your nostrils, feeling the collarbones expand and the chest rise, feeling the abdomen expand. Then exhale, letting your abdomen gently contract. If you want to, you can even place your hands on your ribcage to help you become aware of these movements. (If you've ever watched how a baby breathes while sleeping, you'll know what I mean.) Do this as many times as you need to... and enjoy the breath.

On the more spiritual side, you can even think of a word or thought that means something to you... whether it's peace, joy, love, or whatever you find meaningful in that particular moment. You can inhale and think of the word "peace", and then exhale, "love". Remember that whatever you concentrate on expands... whatever you focus your mind on has power. This is also a great way to start meditating -- focusing the mind on breathing and thoughts such as those mentioned (or whatever thought/ideal is important to you) can help drown out external distractions. And don't worry if you get distracted from time to time... that is why it is called a yoga practice or a meditation practice. And again, even if you can only find 5 or 10 minutes out of your day to sit and quiet the mind, you are practicing yoga! Yoga is not just about whether you can twist your body into a pretzel.

I found this poem on a poster at my yoga instructor's studio. It really speaks to me about setting a personal intention for my yoga practice, and I just had to jot it down and share it here.

Breathing in, I feel gratitude;
breathing out I give thanks.
Breathing in, I invite kindness;
breathing out I am kind.
Breathing in I feel loved;
breathing out I offer love.
Breathing in I know compassion;
breathing out I am compassion.
Breathing in I feel joy;
breathing out I celebrate.
Breathing in I am still;
breathing out I am at peace.

photo taken by Jen, summer 2006, Eden Park, Cincinnati

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Monday, October 15, 2007

yoga class on Thursdays

Ok, so it's more or less "official" now... I will be teaching a class every Thursday night in the studio Gratitude in Motion. It's going to be MY class! I'm getting excited! This is a big step forward for me, to actually commit to teaching a regular class at a studio... not just teaching groups of friends at home or at a park, or "subbing" for my fellow yoga teachers when they can't teach (which is what I've been doing for the past several weeks).

I'm going to give it a shot starting on October 25th until the end of the year, and then play it by ear in January. Hopefully I'll be able to continue teaching, but it will depend on my class schedule at U.C.

Just imagine... stepping into the studio in whatever state you're in (stressed? rushed? frazzled?), unrolling your mat, sitting down and getting centered, then finding your breath... and moving to your own breath, exploring your own range of motion, finding what poses are right for you, stretching to relieve stress, finding joy in your movement, and unwinding with a final relaxation at the end... all to relaxing music, candles, and the fragrance of essential oils. Aaaaaah. I know THIS is how I want to spend my evening at the end of my busiest workday!

Hope to see you on Thursdays at 6:30, at Gratitude in Motion!

photo taken by my friend & fellow yogini Jen, at Eden Park, Cincinnati

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned On My Yoga Mat

by Lisa Meece

If it hurts don’t do it- what comes from pain is not gain.

Being still is harder than it looks.

Observing without judgment is harder than it sounds.

Challenge can be fun.

Being comfortable starts with remembering to breathe.

Balance is not a still thing - maintaining balance requires constant attention and adjustment.

Good posture isn’t harder than bad posture, it just uses different muscles.

The right support can help you stretch.

Sometimes surrender is the only way forward.

If you can relax while you stretch your body, it will be easier to relax when something or someone stretches your patience.

Once you master one pose, there is always another – the practice itself is the only enduring goal.

Some poses will be easy and some poses will be hard and it’s that way for everybody.

Some days everything will be easy and some days everything will be hard and honoring the difference is part of the practice.

Relaxing feels better after you have had a really great stretch.

Stilling the mind is harder than stilling the body.

Silence can be more interesting than sound.

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what gives you joy?

An ongoing no particular order

- my family: mom, dad, grandparents, 3 brothers, 3 sisters-in-law, and 2 nephews
adoptive families (you know who you are!)
- warm sunlight on my face
- being in the water
- pristine white sand beaches (especially in the Philippines!)
- sand between my toes
- a child's hearty giggle
- childhood memories of home
- family dinners in our crowded dining room table
- conversations that last for hours
- my nephews, Martin and Lorenzo, and future nephews and nieces - (hint, hint!)
- childhood friends and new friends
- being in nature
- an "AHA!" moment
- having coffee and endless conversations with an old friend
- bumping into a long-lost friend
- travelling
- getting lost and stumbling upon an interesting place
- capturing a moment in a photograph
- dark chocolate
- coffee
- quirky coffee shops
- tea houses, especially this one that sells a loose green tea called "Sunburst" - what a joyful name!
- reading old letters
- lazy afternoons
- music for yoga
- getting lost in a good book
- finding how you "click" with a person you just met
- the smell of my mom's hot Spanish chocolate while it's simmering on the stove
- crying during a movie (or even a TV ad)
- a clear blue sky
- pretty clouds
- a school of fish underwater
- sunrises and sunsets
- fall colors
- the perfect symmetry of a snowflake
- the indescribable green of baby leaves in the spring
- creating a new dish by playing around in the kitchen
- doing sirsasana (headstand) for the first time
- the blissful savasana at the end of a yoga practice
- having wine and candles at dinner, even if on my own
- taking a nap in a hammock
- laying on the grass
- playing with kids
- yellow labs and golden retrievers
- my job (yes, really!)
- belly laughs
- farmers' markets
- pleasant surprises
- dancing
- spontaneity
- weekend trips
- leisurely Sunday brunch
- morning sunshine
- a mind-emptying, meditative swim
- children's books
- doing something for the first time
- inspirational reading
- dreams
- fulfilling a dream
- dreaming some more

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life's complexities

"...they told us that pain is something you experience and then put behind you. I disagree. I think you hold everything, pain and pleasure, in your heart, and that memory only deepens the next that moment I'd known: this life is exquisite." Patricia Chao, Monkey King

Living joyfully does not necessarily mean numbing ourselves to pain... living joyfully comes from opening ourselves to experience and allowing ourselves to feel the way we feel... and then, by knowing and appreciating the difference, appreciating the lessons learned.

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daily fortune

photo by Robin, collage & graphics by Camille

Not from a fortune cookie, but from those little paper tags of Yogi Tea teabags...

"Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light."

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Welcome to Anandani Yoga

Welcome to my blog! 

Why "Anandani"?

Anandani comes from the Hindi language and means "joyful". I wanted to write about that sense of bliss that comes from a great yoga practice. The bliss that comes from being fully present, immersing yourself in an experience, on or off the mat. The bliss that comes from being fully authentic, spontaneous, and in the moment. 

But I do know that life isn't always blissful. Life has its ups and downs, but somehow we pull through. We find that burst of strength, peace, and inspiration. Life is about the uplifting moments, the dark moments, and everything in between. And that's what yoga is, too. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word which means "to yoke". "Union". In a physical yoga practice, we get into poses that give us a sense of peace. But we also get into poses that cause discomfort, physically and emotionally. It's important to explore and pay full attention to both, because both have something to teach. As we go through our yoga journey, we find that there is oneness in all of that. And in all these seemingly fragmented parts of our life's journey, we somehow find that union, and find bliss.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure how this blog will turn out. I'll just let it unfold...

Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to your comments!

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