Chanting, Ganesha, & the Magic of Yoga

Something amazing happened. Unknowingly, I took my first step onto the path laid out for me. 

 

I was maybe 21 or 22 years old. I was married to someone who had been keeping big secrets from me since the very beginning. My heart knew something was off, but my head couldn't figure it out. Knowing that you're being lied to, but not having any proof or any reason to believe it is a tricky situation. I was in love. We were riding this roller coaster together. Big highs, and even bigger lows. Sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind. Like pieces of me were getting lost along the ride. I floated on.


I don't remember how I found it. But somehow I learned about a group of yoga teachers that taught all donation based classes outdoors.  I found this great teacher and I went to her classes really regularly. Sometimes I was the only one who showed up. It was my therapy.


Those hours spent doing yoga in the park made me feel sane. They helped me see that there was so much more out there. And that it was okay to want more.


One day after asana practice she taught the group the chant to Ganesha. I had never chanted before. I had no idea who Ganesha was. I'd seen pictures of him before, but I never really knew who he was or what he represented.


She explained that Ganesha was the remover of obstacles. He is depicted with the head of an elephant and the body of a boy. His ears are large, for listening. His belly is large enough to digest any problems, any obstacles, anything that we can't stomach alone. He is often depicted riding a mouse, which symbolizes how light he is - free of any attachments to weigh him down.


Chanting felt... natural, but also other worldly all at once. I felt like this weight had been lifted. And it felt good.


Chanting opens up the most beautiful space around everything. This space is always there. Sometimes we forget because we're so focused on what's happening in our minds. When we chant, the sounds bring us back home to that space within.


After that very first chant to Ganesha, I had a strange almost out of body experience. Maybe not out of body, but certainly out of mouth. I went to the teacher after class to thank her and give a donation, and something strange came out of my mouth. I asked her where she trained to become a yoga instructor. I told her that I had been thinking of becoming one myself.


In fact, that thought had never crossed my mind. I felt like I had just lied to her. But to my surprise, she told me that she knew that I would do it. That I would become a yoga  instructor. Her faith in me gave me faith in myself. I let the thought linger. 

 

That night a friend of mine who is quite psychic read my tarot cards. The message could not be more clear. The cards told me that I was stepping onto my life path - the path of a healer. They told me to follow through with the thoughts that I had been having.

 

Sometimes signs are subtle. Sometimes they're so subtle that we may miss them. Other times, signs are neon

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reminiscing. missing.

I missed my grandfather today. I wished he could've been here in Barcelona with me. To show me the places he knew. That were his.


I've always felt that Barcelona was mine. Not mine in a possessive sense. In the way that a certain style is yours, or a habit. Barcelona was mine.


But today I had that sense that he was missing. This city where he had grown up. Where he had lived. That was his. Here I was just reminiscing about every day I'd spent here, without him.  Without him as a guide or a mentor. And now he was missing.

 La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

set yourself free.

So humbled.


One of my students today shared with me after my chair yoga class that she cries in closing meditation every time. She lost her son to a car accident in January and she takes care of her sick husband at home. She has nowhere to cry. She hasn't been able to grieve.


I could see her pain. I could see her confusion. She almost wanted to stop coming so that she wouldn't cry.


Two other women noticed her crying and came over to comfort her. These are the two self appointed "chairmen" of the class (it's chair yoga, get it?). And it just made me realize what an amazing little tribe I have. They support each other, they laugh together, and for many of them that class is the highlight of their week. And the three of us just talked with her about what was going on and reminded her that it's okay to cry, and why it's healthy to cry.


We release things when we cry. When we bottle up emotions they cause tension in the body, and sometimes they can cause some very real harm.


Crying sets your pain free.


Human beings are not meant to carry the heaviness of emotions with us. We're meant to feel them. Process them. And then, let them go.


And in doing so, we set ourselves free.

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i believe in...

 Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

I believe in challenging the status quo. I believe that we are meant to feel good all of the time. I believe our bodies are fucking magical and strong and made for so much more than just sitting at a desk. I believe inner strength should be developed just as much as outer strength. I believe a body that is nourished, taken care of, and balanced will heal itself. I believe in taking the time to imagine the life that you want to live and then doing the work to create it. I believe in people. And movement. And bliss. 

This is why I teach yoga. Because the things that I've received from this practice are too good not to share. Because I genuinely love people and I want to see them transform into the best versions of themselves. There is this spark in people. You can see it in their eyes when they're determined. You can see them light up from the inside. And yoga brings that out. You see it when people surprise themselves. When they do something for the first time or feel something for the first time. It's beautiful. 

Our world, this artificial environment that we've created, doesn't allow people to explore their bodies or their minds the way that we're meant to. We were made to move in every possible way. And yet so many people get stuck sitting for hours on end. We were made to imagine and dream and create. And yet so many people use their minds to think at work and then turn them off at night with the click of a remote. 

I believe that travel is necessary. This planet is too big and beautiful not to explore. Each time we experience a new culture, our worldview broadens just a bit more. We get to question what we've become used to. And that allows us to change. Travel gives us these moments of presence, and wonder, and bliss. It inspires us to live in the moment. To just be. 

I am so excited to be hosting a retreat this summer on the beautiful Greek island of Amorgos. The retreat is seven days of exploring both the outside world, and the world inside of our own hearts. I hope you'll join me on the island! Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions! Click the link here to register for the retreat! Pay your deposit before April 1st and save $300 off!

 Amorgos Yoga Shala, Greece

Amorgos Yoga Shala, Greece

7 day meditation challenge.

So today is day two of my 7 day meditation challenge with myself! I have not been a good meditator in the past but I have always wanted to start a practice. Like anything, I am starting small. I just got the Mindbliss meditation app and my goal is to meditate twice a day. I am only halfway through day two so things are going well. I've been doing a chanting meditation in the morning or early afternoon, and a calming meditation before bed. These are short meditations, 20 minutes or less.

I am posting this to keep myself accountable. The Mindbliss app has meditation journeys, which are several meditation sessions that go together. I chose a 7 day journey, and I'm hoping that after the 7 days I will find another good journey to keep me meditating regularly. I tend to be constantly moving, striving, and doing. The only stillness I am really comfortable in is savasana and I honestly think that is because I worked for it in my practice. So my intention is to find comfort in stillness, and to learn acceptance. 

Today I woke up late so I didn't meditate first thing in the morning, I waited until I got home from teaching my first class. I am also experimenting with intermittent fasting (which I will post about once I've been doing it for a bit longer) so when I got home I was pretty ravenous and normally would have just eaten everything in the house. But instead I meditated. During my meditation I felt aware of the sensation of hunger but somehow detached from it. I was able to meditate with a clear, open mind. And then when I was finished I took my time preparing a meal rather than just devouring whatever was quickest. I'm not saying two whole days of meditation made that difference, but maybe it helped me to change my mindset. I'm definitely interested in seeing where the next seven days will take me. 

If you have a meditation practice or are interested in starting one tell me about it in the comments below! 

Namaste <3

just a thought.

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Thought:

On the news I heard a woman say that holiday spending was forecasted to go up this year to an average of over $600 per person. She talked about it as if this is a good thing. A sign of the economy's health.

All I heard was hearts crying out for love, and hands reaching for plastic.

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exploring pain.

There is something really liberating about realizing other people struggle just like you. Have stress at work, just like you. Have off days, just like you. Have days when they feel grumpy for no reason, just like you.

No one has a perfect life, though social media may lead you to believe they do. Everyone has ups and downs. There is value in the downs, maybe even more so than the ups. Very seldom have I learned a great lesson from a perfect day. It's always the moments of pain that teach us how to attain peace - if we're willing to listen. When we lean into the pain, explore it, really allow ourselves to feel it and be in it, only then can we unravel it. I've never heard of someone solving a puzzle by pushing it far away from themselves. And I've never heard of someone truly recovering from suffering by bottling their pain. 

In so many ways, our afflictions are like a puzzle. There is always a solution, and there is always a lesson to be learned. It may take years, decades even to learn what we need to learn. But each time we realize something, we grow a little bit. Have you ever felt upset about something and then laughed at yourself because it was so trivial? What if every time you experienced suffering, you later realized that it was just trivial? I'm not enlightened, but I imagine enlightenment must feel like this major realization that nothing needs to be suffered over. Every time you start to feel upset, ask yourself, "In one year will I still be upset about this?" Ask again, "In 5 years will I still be upset over this?" "What about in 10 years?" Create some space around it. And maybe you'll realize that it's not worth the stress. But if you find that in one year, this problem will still be causing you suffering...it's time to find a solution. 

So, how do you find a solution to suffering? Is this the part where you push it deep down and try to forget it exists while it slowly eats away at you? Hopefully not. Hopefully this is the part where you lean into it. Explore it. Go deeper. Depending on what you're dealing with, this might be the part where you admit that there's something wrong, and you seek out help from a professional. It might be the part where you decide it's time to talk about it, maybe just with a friend. The brain processes thoughts differently than it processes conversations. Which is why sometimes just saying something out loud can give you fresh insight and help you to create a soltuion. There is no perfect answer for how to stop suffering. But if you're willing to do the work, if you're willing to dig deeper, then you may be able to find some inner peace.  

In the end, only three things will have mattered: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
— The Buddhe

healthy & happy.

Lately I've been on a little health kick (and by lately I mean on and off for pretty much my whole life). I just made the switch to a plant based diet and I've been feeling pretty amazing. It's gotten me thinking about the way health care is handled - or not handled - in the states. For the most part, western medicine treats diseases, not patients. We go to the doctor when we're sick, not to keep us healthy or prevent us from getting sick. We have all of the information about health and wellness we could possibly need at our fingertips. There have been incredible technological advancements in the medical field that are constantly getting better. And we spend an immense amount of money on health care each year, possibly more than any other country. So you would think we would be one of the healthiest countries on the planet. But on the contrary, we're one of the sickest. Everyone has to die someday, but why do we live lifestyles and eat diets that send us into an early grave?

I think there's a huge disconnect between the health care system and actual human beings. This is a for profit system with making money as its number one goal, and that may not be changing any time soon. So who is responsible for our health? In my opinion it's the responsibility of the individual to educate themselves about what they're putting into their bodies. We have endless resources in the form of documentaries, books, and articles online that can give us great information as long as we use our discernment when taking it in.

So if we're not sick yet, why do we have to worry about our health? If it's not broken, why fix it? If you put shampoo in the gas tank of your car, will it run? Not for long. And if you just top it off with a little scotch instead of changing the oil, will the engine last very long? Of course not. Cars are simple. So is the body - however we have the added benefit of adaptability and our bodies do their best to adapt to their environments and they work with what they're given, until they can't. 

So let's stick with the analogy of the car and let's pretend that your body is the vehicle of your soul for this life. You want this vehicle to last you a long time, and you also want it to run well so it can drive you to exciting new places. You also need to take care of your car to avoid expensive trips to the mechanic every couple of years. So what do you do to optimize the health of your vehicle? Well, that's up to you. You know you need nourishment to keep it running. You also know you can't just stay sedentary or your battery will die. You have to take care of all parts of this body - including mind and soul - because nothing in the body functions separately from anything else. It all works together in perfect harmony - or dissonance depending on how it's being treated.

I don't have an answer for what's right for any one person's body. But I can tell you what fuels mine and I can speak from my experience. I know I feel best when I do yoga or practice some type of movement every day. I know I need lots of fresh fruits and vegetables every day to feel energized. I need human connection, not just small talk but actual connection. I also know I need to get some rest. I know when I'm feeling stressed, I need a few hours of self care and I have that ritual down to a science - I make myself some tea, use my neti pot, and spend about 15-20 minutes doing abyangha which is the Ayurvedic practice of self massage - I use coconut oil with essential oils, then I lay around in some restorative yoga poses for maybe another 20 minutes. That's pretty much my cure all, repeat daily until stress free. And whatever can't be resolved with that ritual, I treat with a heavy dose of nature.

I think it's important to find out what you need. What fuels your body? Find out what will make you feel healthy and happy. What does optimum health look and feel like to you? What habits do you think you need to break and what habits do you want to cultivate in order to achieve your version of optimum health? I think it's important to find out what that is and do it.

 Astavakrasana at Red Rock Canyon

Astavakrasana at Red Rock Canyon

make a change.

I recently made a small change in my life. I recommitted myself to care for my planet, my world, by choosing not to support animal agriculture. Over 6 years ago, in an environmental studies class in college I learned about the destruction caused by animal agriculture. And I committed to becoming a vegetarian. I know this is a touchy subject. People are very attached to their habits and to their food. If this is going to offend you, stop reading and come back to it if/when you're ready to hear it. My aim is not to change anyone's mind or persuade anyone to start eating a plant based diet, I just think there's a lot of misinformation out there - mostly perpetuated by the meat and dairy industries. So I only aim to bring a bit of light and awareness to it. 

There are so many different reasons that people choose to eat plant based. Whether it's compassion for animals, care for the environment, or for health reasons - you inevitably reap the benefits of all three reasons. Your health dramatically benefits, the planet benefits, and of course animals benefit.

I grew up, like most people, eating plenty of meat and dairy and believing that it was healthy. Necessary even.  My grandmother is from Cuba and my grandfather was from Spain. Both cultures definitely eat meat and dairy. My dad's side of the family is American and live mostly in the South. They also eat lots of meat and dairy, and also believe this is healthy. It definitely took some time for my family to get used to me being a vegetarian, and it's taking time for them to get used to me being vegan. Food is a big part of people getting together, but it's not the important part. The important part is the connection you have, the conversations you have. Food is secondary. And to me, it wasn't worth risking my planet or my health for.

I honestly think most people who eat meat don't have all of the information. I don't think that people would continue to eat meat in such high quantities once they understand the consequences. But with so much bad information out there, how are we supposed to unveil the truth? How do we unwrite a lifetime of marketing from the meat and dairy industries? 

I encourage you to watch the documentary Cowspiracy. It's on Netflix and it's one of the best documentaries I've seen. If you're interested in learning about the health benefits of a plant based diet, I encourage you to watch Forks Over Knives, also on Netflix. These two films correct some of the misconceptions about eating plant based, and they explain what the risks and repercussions are for eating animal products. Once you know the facts, then you can make your own educated decision.

Leave me a comment if you've watched either of these and let me know how it impacted you! 

say aaa-ommm!

You've heard the sound "om". You've seen the om symbol plastered on the walls of yoga studios, in sticker form all over your yogi friend's cars, all over your favourite celebri-teacher's instagram page, maybe even tattooed on bodies. But what does it mean? According to Google, it's "a mystic syllable, considered the most sacred mantra. It appears at the beginning and end of most Sanskrit recitations, prayers, and texts." And it comes from Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. 

To go into a bit more depth, OM is a sound vibration. It is said to be the sound of the Universe being created. To chant OM brings you into harmony with the Universe, with all that is. Chanting OM in a group fosters a sense of community, togetherness, because it actually synchronizes the brain waves of everyone in the room. It makes you feel at hOMe. Beginning a yoga class by chanting OM gets everyone on the same frequency and produces a powerful, spiritual tone for the class. Ending class with OM lets you leave the class on that same high frequency. It has also been proven to produce a state of mental calmness, serenity and euphoria. 

But let's break it down a little bit more. OM is technically a four syllable sound. A-U-M-silence. The first part, the "aah" sound, represents the beginning or creation. The majority of the world's languages begin with the "ah" sound. It resonates in your lower abdomen, stimulating the lower chakras. The root (Muladhara) and sacral (Svadisthana) chakras. Grounding and connecting you to the Earth, and opening you up to the flow of universal creation. The "ah" sound is also said to symbolize the physical realm of existence.

The second part, the U "ooh" sound, represents the realm of thought or consciousness. The dream state, the imagination. This sound travels up the abdomen, resonating in the upper abdomen, chest, and throat. The "oh" sound activates the solar plexus (Manipura), heart (Anahata), and throat (Vishuddha) chakras. It connects your physical and esoteric worlds. Inspiring truth, clarity, and balance in your life. 

The third sound, the "mmm" sound, represents unmanifest potential. This is your experience during deep, dreamless sleep. It represents the void before the universe came into being. The "mmm" sound resonates in the head, the third eye (or Ajna) chakra. This is the home of your intuition, the pineal gland in your brain. It stimulates your inner sense of knowing. It inspires.

Silence. The final sound in "om" brings about a state of bliss and a feeling of oneness with all that is. It is experienced in your crown chakra (Sahashrara), which is your connection to cosmic consciousness. 

OM represents the waking state, the dream state, the sleep state. It encompasses past, present, and future. Physical, thought, and unmanifest. Essentially OM means everything

Now try it! Aaaaauuuuuuuuummmmm......

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for the next seven generations.

Live with the intention to leave the world better than how you found it...for the next seven generations.  

There is a beautiful Iroquois law that states,  "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." 

This is The Great Law of the Iroquois. Everything you do, everything you create, everything you say - you must first consider the effect that it will have on the seventh generation. This law asks you to look about 140 years or more into the future. Look at everything you do...the car you drive, the food you eat, the materials you buy, the way you treat people... and weigh the effects of your choices. Always keeping in mind what it will mean, not only for you and your children, but for the children who are not even a thought yet.

I wish this law had been a universal law for the past 140 years. If we all lived with the next seven generations in mind, would climate change be an issue?

Many of us are good, kind people. Yet we make choices without getting all of the information first and without considering how it will affect even just the next generation. We consume things that destroy rainforests but we do it blindly. Even though we're aware of how awful industrial factory farms are for the environment, we consume. This blind consumption doesn't make us bad people, but it does make us selfish. What if we cared enough about the welfare of those who haven't been born yet to make ALL of our deliberations carefully and with them in mind? What if we truly wanted the best for our grandchildren's grandchildren, and their's after that? 

The truth is, we are responsible for the state of the planet for generations to come. Once we accept this responsibility and choose to honestly do our best I believe we'll take our time and think things through. Maybe the age of convenience will die. Maybe our grocery shopping trips will take longer because we would check the ingredients to make sure we weren't buying anything with palm oil or any other ingredient that could be destructive to the environment. Maybe we would pay closer attention to politics and the state of the world, in hopes that the next seven generations could enjoy peace in their lifetimes. Maybe we'll look ahead. Maybe, just maybe, our thoughts will create a better future for these children who won't exist until long after we are gone. 

 "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. " - Greek Proverb 

 

 

higher vibes.

Why do we talk about "vibes"? What does that mean? Vibe is short for vibration - which you probably could have guessed. Everything is made up of atoms. Atoms are roughly 95% empty space. Therefore, everything  is mostly empty space. We see things as solid because our eyes can only process electromagnetic vibrations. Electrons are constantly circling the nucleus of the atom, constantly moving, vibrating. This is what we, and everything else in this world are made of. Constant vibration. Energy. Energy which cannot be created, nor destroyed. What is consciousness? Energy. We can feel energy. We feel vibes. The heart generates an electromagnetic field that can be measured several feet away from the person's body. An aura. When two people are in close proximity, within each other's heart space, there is an undeniable exchange of energy. So what does it mean to "raise your vibration"? It means to be a source of positive energy. To me it means to let your heart radiate an aura of loving kindness. In order to raise your vibration, you first have to let go of fear and fear based emotions - like anger, jealousy, guilt, laziness, and selfishness. Replace those with love, and love based emotions - like forgiveness, generosity, peace, bliss, and unity. Meditate on the visceral sensation of love within the body. Radiate that energy out into this world. Vibrate higher, friends. 

 Painting by Alex Grey,&nbsp;Yogi &amp; Mobius Sphere

Painting by Alex Grey, Yogi & Mobius Sphere