Yin allows my Vinyasa practice to be this beautiful fluid moving meditation because my body structure feels stronger and more supported on a foundational level.
Yin has allowed me more freedom in the body by gaining mobility and therefore has removed some of the fights I was putting up before due to the tight muscles and lack of awareness to my approach.
Holding Yin postures for so long has helped my proprioception of the bigger body structure.
Yoga has so many different limbs and approaches to the practice and in the United States, the physical vinyasa practice definitely dominates. Although there is nothing wrong with that, you still need a well-rounded approach if you want to give your body longevity.
This is also where I see so many unnecessary injuries as the body is not being supported on a structural foundational level. What I’m talking about here are the connective tissues, joints, tendons. This is where most injuries occur; shoulders, wrists, ankles, and spine. These are all joints and connective tissues. It’s pretty easy in a public class to move through a fast pace Yang practice without alignment and a good understanding of how these poses affect the body.
In martial artists, many exercises focus on stressing the joints and bones in a similar style to Yin. When I started training with the Olympic Team in Romania, mobility training took place before strength. This not only helps to prevent injuries later on but should they occur, the body heals much faster.
Personally, Yin helps me to go from 100 to zero pretty quickly. It calms me down by stimulating by the parasympathetic system so I can relax. For a type A personality like myself, it is very hard to sit still, let alone relax into the moment. It changes my perception when I’m dealing with a frustrating issue by slowing down my thoughts. This allows me to go in the space between my thoughts where I am the observer. In this space, I can remember to respond instead of reacting. To be more receptive and be willing to receive instead of putting up a fight. To process life as it is and to realize there is beauty in accepting what is. It also helps me notice how easy it is to steal my peace when I’m dealing with a tough pose and how quickly I want to react and get out of an uncomfortable moment.
How often do we have the same reaction to life? In this sense, this has been the best and most honest life training I could receive. An honest look at my somewhat ridiculous thoughts, fears and patterns of behavior that hinder and stop me from reaching my limitless potential. An opportunity to see what part I play in all of this and take responsibility. A change to embrace all of me so that I may grow and put all my effort towards what I’m doing rather than working against myself as I often do.
So much of my identity is wrapped up in a handstand and I receive so much joy, peace, and calmness from that pose so of course I love teaching and sharing the process with my students. However, I always say that I feel most at service teaching Yin. I see students often come in still on a work call. Some of their facial expression gives away their mood. Living in Los Angeles and dealing with a tough, fast-paced, expensive city a lot of us are stressed and overworked.
To see how their face, body and energy changes in that hour is pure magic and a sacred gift for me to experience.
If you know anything about my past, you know it was turbulent and my adoptive father often reminded me that I should be in a mental hospital but my passion has always saved me. I am passionate about sharing the practice of Yin especially to type A yogis.
It is my biggest wish for myself to be at peace and it is a privilege if I can assist someone else to find a bit of peace through the practice of Yin.
What does Yin Yoga mean to you? Let me know in the comments!
As 2017 is coming to an end, I have been reflecting on how this year went and asking myself the same questions I ask my students in class. What do I still need to let go of? I noticed, as I’ve been sitting with this question, I’ve also been cleaning out my closet and the house in general. Physically and mentally, I want to be lighter so I ask you: what can you let go of and leave behind?
Where can I be more efficient in my life?
Sitting with this question has made me realize that I still need to find a better balance in my schedule in order for efficiency to occur. I’m trying to figure this one out still. What about you?
If I am to look at my whole life with a focus on 2017, what is the lesson that keeps showing up for me? If I had to choose one word it would be FEAR. Not so much in the way of being fearful to take chances. I take plenty of those and often explore life outside of my comfort zone but in a way that fear still runs my life in a very anxious way. I do the work and plant the seeds yes, but often I start to overthink about the worse case scenarios and ruin the beautiful journey of my hard work. I need to trust the process, trust my choices and patiently wait for the planted seeds to grow to fruition.
I’m deciding not to make any New Year’s resolutions but instead, to remove FEAR and choose TRUST. I know it’s impossible for fear to fully be removed, but I definitely don’t have to give it so much veto power in my life. What would you remove from your life that would allow you to move forward in a more graceful efficient way?
This is the mantra I am choosing to work with in case anyone else might find it helpful:
recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still your suggestions will NEVER be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat and you’re allowed to have a voice but you are not allowed to have a VOTE. You’re not allowed to touch the ROAD MAPS. You’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. You’re not allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
THE BREATH OF LIFE
“The deeper we exhale, the greater is our capacity to inhale new, fresh air.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Two years ago, I spent most of my year traveling and teaching yoga. I started to notice that as soon as I returned and stepped back into LAX, the energy of Los Angeles was one of anxiety and chaos mixed with some anger. It is an overpopulated city where a fight over a parking space or allowing someone in your lane on the freeway results in one person hammering on their horn for 10 minutes while the other throws up the middle finger and relentlessly honks back. The city as a whole needs to exhale.
We all need to exhale before we end up being the crazy person going loco in a public place and unraveling in front of everyone. Be honest, we have all been there at least once. As a human being, you can only hold on and hold on for so long. But if there is no letting go process in place, the body and the mind will eventually do a forced reboot. For me, this happened last Tuesday, and I learned an important lesson that day.
The opposite of exhalation would be inhalation. As much as exhales are for “letting go” inhales are about allowing yourself to “receive” while trusting and letting your life unfold. We can receive and draw in energy from the earth, from our environment. Our inhalation allows us to empty the thinking mind so we can live in the present moment, instead of spiraling with thoughts of past and present. The trick is to find the balance of both–inhales and exhales. Letting go and receiving, so we can flow freely through any obstacles placed in our day and lives. In reality, you’re one step ahead if you have just the awareness, which then allows you to fully practice these concepts.
I realized that I needed to give up control for wanting things to be a certain way and just accept the present moment exactly how it is without the desire to change it. The bigger lesson was in understanding that I need to allow myself to “receive.” I’m good at being of service but I have a very much “I’ve-got-this” attitude. The truth is, I don’t always “got this.” I’m going to work on allowing myself to ask for help when needed and to allow myself to receive from my community as I continue to be of service and give.
As you take time to reflect on this, what do you need more of in your life? If it is the need to “let go,” do you have a process for this work to take place? You must not only acknowledge the need but also take action to do something about it. If you need to “receive,” then investigate where from and how you go about creating this?
“Don’t run away from heavy emotions: Honor the anger, give pain the space it needs to breathe. This is how we let go.” Young Pueblo
“While producing art works, illusions appear from time to time due to my mental illness. Every day is a struggle for me.”
I recently had the privilege to see Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at The Broad museum here in Los Angeles. I knew absolutely nothing about her prior to going which is a bit unlike me. I like knowing everything about the person before checking out their work. In this case, her exhibition looked magical and I can always use magic in my life.
My student told me to look into her story and once I did, my admiration for her only grew. Like my idol Frida Kahlo, they both paint their reality. Frida painted her painful, tormented life and marriage while Yayoi paints her hallucinations. I was surprised to see how parts of her work displayed similarities to that of my Ayahuasca experience. However, it made perfect sense once discovering that she suffers from intense audio-visual hallucinations among other mental issues. These hallucinations started while being abused by her mother during childhood and have continued her whole life. Yayoi is 88 years old and has lived in a psychiatric hospital in Japan since 1977. Her art studio is across the street where she walks to and works daily. She states that if it wasn’t for the escape her art offers her, she would have killed herself.
I find Yayoi Kusama and Frida Kahlo to be such inspirational women. At a young age, they went through something dramatic that could have crippled them forever, yet they persevered. Would they have shared their work with the world if it wasn’t for the trauma experienced during childhood? Was that a necessary part in order for their gifts to manifest? I don’t know. There’s so much about life that we question and wish to know and yet we most likely never will.
What I do know, is that if you look at the story of someone you admire, that you deem successful, and aspire to accomplish what they have accomplished, a lot of times you will find past trauma came from a rough start in life. It is during this time that we are shaped and molded into what we become today. Like these women, giving up and playing the victim was not an option and although Frida was crippled in her body and Yayoi deals with mental disease, they both persevered and continue to inspire.
You don’t always know someone else’s story. Choose to be inspired by others and yourself. Live and develop your story. Your truth.
With Thanksgiving taking place this Thursday, I think we can say that the “holiday season” is starting to get underway.
The holidays are portrayed as a magical time full of joy, laughter and family and although this is true for some, it is not the standard for all. It is also a time where people are reminded of loss, triggering unexpected and deep-rooted tough emotions.
It is a time where we often fall back into the same patterns of behavior we once had growing up. We play the role we were given in the family dynamic rather than what we have chosen to grow into as adults.
This causes us to be in a state of reactivity treating the present moment as our enemy rather than our friend.
But what if this holiday season, we switched our approach?
What if we treated this as a time of reflection? An opportunity to notice how much we have indeed progressed on this journey called life and yet, how much more capacity we have to grow. I often find myself in situations asking; what would Mother Theresa and Buddha do? Life is gracious and it will keep giving you opportunity after opportunity to learn your lessons. So let’s move beyond it this year.
Treat the present, as you would a beautiful moment in your life. Accept your life as it is right now and look for what is right. If you’re not able to find anything, please keep searching. You can start by being grateful for your life. For having a roof over your head. For your eyesight. For your voice.
Treat the present, as your friend, not your worst enemy. The other shoe doesn’t always drop. The other shoe could be a sheer figment of your imagination. All I’m saying is watch your attitude. Be honest with yourself. What are you truly creating?
You might even put yourself in an adult “time out” and take a few minutes to inhale up the spine and exhale out of your mouth. Connect to your physical self and shut down the thinking mind. If that still doesn’t work, remind yourself that you’re a bad ass and do a handstand even if you have to use the damn wall! Throw a spontaneous dance party!
If you’re life and family are perfect, great, but for the rest of us, let’s do this. See the good inside of you and others. Be kind. I guarantee you that we are all much more alike than we are different.