My experience so far, being a Yoga teacher, or guide, as I prefer to call it, has been the most fulfilling chapter of my life so far. Every chance I have, to step on the mat, and guide other souls, on their personal journey, I am humbled, honored, and feel so grateful. What I didn’t realize, is that when one becomes a guide to such an important practice, it puts you in the spotlight, and brings along with it, the responsibility, and expectation, to be in a space of high vibration, of peace, love, gratitude, compassion, acceptance, at all times, and never ever have a bad day.
We must break this myth! Yoga teachers are human too! We have the same experiences as our students. We go through heart break, we suffer loss, such as divorce, losing a loved one, a job, or friendship. We struggle with insecurities, with our bodies, reaching goals, and feeling like we are not good enough. We wake up cranky, make mistakes, feel impatient, vulnerable, and yes, sometimes even struggle with our faith.
It is important, that we share some of this with our students. By becoming more transparent, we can share our journey, through these challenging moments in our own lives, and how in those moments, our Yoga practice is even more crucial to our own sense of well-being. We know the power of our own personal daily sadhana. (spiritual practice). It transforms us inside and out. We can shift from fear to Love, by stepping on our mat, and connecting to our breath.
By shining a light on our own shadow, we teach others the power of vulnerability. We can show up for our students, in a more authentic way, which will allow them, to connect with us, and more importantly, their own personal practice, on a deeper level, both on and off the mat. When we have an off day, and it’s not only okay, but necessary, to self-reflect, and take whatever lessons we have learned, and use it as inspiration for our next class.
Life is like swimming through the ocean, sometimes waters are rough, and sometimes smooth. By teaching Yoga, we are giving our students, an anchor, they will need to navigate through every ripple. So, let’s keep it real, open our hearts, and when we step on our mat, to guide our next class, let’s bring every drop with us.
YOU TIME – Dedicating time for ourselves, is one of the most important things we can do. When we care for own well being, we are able to show up more fully in our lives, and continue to give from a full cup.
OBSERVE – Yoga helps us to connect with all our bodies; physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and energetic. We become the observer of what is happening in our body, in our lives, and what we are feeling within, giving us the power to make conscious choices each day.
GROWTH – Self inquiry, self discovery, self acceptance, and self transformation all happen on and off the mat. You don’t even have to think about it. It will happen. With commitment and dedication, a daily Yoga practice enriches our lives with clarity, self love, inner peace, and a deeper connection to the oneness of the universe.
AWARENESS – As we learn to pay attention to our breath, we begin to pay attention in our lives. The words we choose, the actions we take, the food we eat, all of our choices we now make with awareness. We are less reactive, and more responsive. Yoga gives us our power back.
LOVE – When we take necessary time for our own well being, we show the world we love ourselves. And only when we cultivate self love, can we truly love others, with compassion, and forgiveness. Every relationship improves, by viewing others and ourselves with acceptance, and without judgment.
OPENED HEART – In Yogic philosophy, we all have what is called “samskaras”, which are mental impressions, or psychological imprints left by all thoughts, and actions. They are rooted beneath the normal level of consciousness, and hold memories of past experiences. Through Yoga and meditation, we create space, in the mind, body, and spirit, bringing them to the surface. We are able to look at, and release what no longer serves us, and move forward with an open heart.
VAGAL TONE – The vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve, which extends from the base of the skull, and travels throughout the body, to the respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems. Yoga and pranayama (controlled breathing practice), helps increase our vagal tone, which regulates our breathing, heart rate, and all major bodily functions. People with a healthy or high vagal tone, are more resilient to stress, and move away from a fight and flight response, into a rest and digest state easier, and tend to be healthier.
ENLIGHTENMENT – Yoga wakes us up. When we experience a connection in our mind, body, and spirit, we understand that we are so much more than our physical body. We connect to the inner peace that is within each one of us, and gain the ability to transcend all suffering and desire. We can be in this peace, no matter what is happening around us. Peace always begins within. Yoga connects us to this peace.
CONFIDENCE – A regular Yoga practice allows us to discover and tap into an inner and outer strength and builds a better sense of connection to our physical body. We realize we are capable and powerful on and off the mat. We cultivate self-love and acceptance for ourselves, and gain the confidence needed to move forward fearlessly.
MEDITATION- Aah Savasana. At the end of a Yoga practice, is the ideal time for meditation. The body and mind have been emptied of all tension, as we rest in savasana, the final resting pose, where there is nothing left to do. Yoga helps us train the mind to be still. Even just a few minutes of focusing on your breath each day, will benefit you by relieving depression, anxiety, stress levels and improving sleep patterns.
I’ve always found the last few days of the year, to be the perfect time to reflect on all the highs and lows, I navigated throughout the year. How did I handle them? We gain so much, by sitting still with ourselves, and taking inventory, of our internal landscape. We realize what lessons we learned, what worked for us, and what didn’t work. A time to set new goals, aspirations, and dreams, as we look forward to new beginnings in the new year.
Taking this time to sit with yourself, most importantly, allows you to be conscious of what to let go of, and what to be grateful for. Bringing mindfulness, into the new year, will foster positive energy in your life, because you will be moving forward with awareness, of each word you speak, each choice you make, each thought you carry with you. With a blank canvas before you, you get to create a new masterpiece, that is your life. Every paint stroke, or moment matters.
The dawn of the new year is always exciting to me. Here are a few ways, I hope will help you, come back to yourself, tap into your inner strength, and walk forward into this new chapter, with faith and fearlessness. You got this.
NAME YOUR YEAR: Pick one word to set the tone for the new year, that inspires you, and represents all you would like to manifest in your life. Type it up, make it pretty, print it out, and frame it. Place it where you will see it every day. Say it all day in your mind. Make it your mantra.
JOURNAL: Set time aside, for quiet and solitude. Write down all the highs and lows of the previous year, and how you handled them, your feelings about them, what worked, what didn’t. Keep writing until you feel an emotional release of what no longer serves you. Make a list of goals, and all you would like to manifest for the new year.
GO OUTSIDE: Take time to be in nature. Go for a walk, sit on the beach, or have lunch at the park. Breathe in the fresh air. Spending time outdoors allows us to recharge, and gain a new perspective, or see the bigger picture of life. “The physician treats, but nature heals” Hippocrates.
ATTEND A SERVICE / COMMUNITY CLASS: Having a sense of community in our lives, brings a sense of comfort, and knowing that we are not alone. When we attend a service of prayer, or take a meditation class, it is a very powerful experience, that nourishes our soul. We connect to the oneness of all living beings. We are reminded of our divinity, and that our presence is our purpose.
STAY MOTIVATED WITH MUSIC: Music has the power to change our mood, almost instantly. When I have a challenging day, I look forward, to my yoga practice and putting on my latest playlist that helps me to let go. Create a new year playlist, with your favorite songs that inspire and motivate you!
When I first began to practice Yoga, like many people, I was curious about what it could do for my physical body. What were those funny looking shapes and all the breathing about? I picked up a Rodney Yee DVD and began practicing at home, which then led to taking classes at the gym, and then eventually a local studio. I was surprised how challenging it was, not only physically, but mentally, and emotionally.
It wasn’t long, before I felt something more happening. Something deeper. After an hour of moving my body, and connecting to my breath, when it came time for savasana, there was such a sense of stillness and peace, that connected me to the deeper part of myself, my soul.
Almost immediately, my yoga practice became my moving meditation. On the mat, I can breathe, let go and connect to the true essence of who I am. I am a soul. I have a body. Yoga and meditation have become invaluable tools, that connect me to my higher power. My yoga practice has only deepened the seed of Faith, my parents planted, as a young child, and allows it to grow.
My Faith is my strength. It keeps me hopeful, comforted, and at peace, even during the most challenging, or painful chapters of my life. When life makes absolutely no sense, I can surrender. I know I am loved and protected. I keep moving forward, because I have Faith, everything is in divine order. I let go and let God.
“Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness, the discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” – Anne Lamott
What does the word Faith, mean to you? The definition of the word Faith means “complete trust or confidence in something or someone”. As a teacher, I realize, not every student was raised with any kind of religious background, or knowledge of what spirituality means. The concept that we are so much more than our physical bodies, may be a brand-new idea for them.
I, believe, many of us, arrive on the mat when the soul is ready for this exploration and discovery. Yoga is such a personal inward journey of self-awareness, self-discovery, and self-transformation. We can peel away the layers of our ego identity and see the true nature of ourselves and others. We are all spiritual beings having this human experience.
It’s never too late to begin the journey of faith. I truly believe the power of faith, is a gift, that allows us to move through every chapter of our lives, with gratitude, hope, strength, and peace. We can overcome our fears that hold us back from achieving our dreams. In the words of Wayne Dyer, “The Antidote to Fear, is Faith.”
Follow what feels right for you, within your heart and soul. We are each placed on the perfect path, uniquely planned for us, which will help us cultivate a relationship with something much bigger than ourselves. Whether you call this higher power, Creator, Universal Consciousness, Mother Nature, Divine Wisdom, or God, I believe it is all the same energy of pure unconditional Love, in which we were all created. Only Love is real. And know, that this Love surrounds you always.
Here are 3 simple ways to begin cultivating Faith today!
I can still remember the way I felt, the first time I experienced essential oils as part of a yoga class. It was a sweet surprise, when the teacher held her palms over my nose, as I inhaled the most aromatic scent into my nose. Almost immediately, I felt a sense of calmness and peace wash over me. I was able to let go, be still, and connect into the deeper part of myself on the mat.
Even the energy in the room felt different. Kind of like that same feeling you get when you walk into a sacred place of worship or ritual. You know something meaningful is happening. It touches your spirit. I was hooked.
When I became a Yoga teacher, I could not wait to use essential oils in my classes. After studying aromatherapy, I was even more excited to learn the numerous benefits to be gained, by using these precious oils. I like to think of a Yoga class, as a work of art, each mat a canvas, each pose a brush stroke, and the essential oils are the color, creating a masterpiece, with its own unique beauty every time.
Although I have a long list of favorites, here are my top three must have essential oils, to bring into your Yoga and meditation practice. May they serve you well, mind, body and spirit.
Peppermint- Oil of Awakening – A beautiful oil to begin your yoga practice with. It almost instantly allows us to connect with our breath, open the lungs, and feel an expansion in our heart space. Due to the menthol content, it is very cooling, and can help relieve tension headaches after a long day. Emotionally, peppermint is very stimulating, giving us a sense of alertness and motivation to move through a full yoga class or your day. (Avoid using at bedtime!)
Lavender- Oil of Harmony- If there were essential oil Olympics, Lavender would take the gold medal every time. The love of lavender’s beautiful aroma goes back centuries, as the Egyptians and Romans used it for bathing, cooking, relaxing, and perfume. Lavender has a long list of benefits, which include relieving anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia due to its sedative properties. It is the perfect oil to have as part of your skin regimen, as it helps with minor skin irritations because it is antibacterial, and can be used for oily skin, and stretch marks. It is my favorite essential oil to use near the end of yoga practice, as it brings a sense of calmness and peace, preparing for savasana.
Frankincense- Oil of Devotion- If essential oils were the royal family, Frankincense would be the king. Highly revered, going back to ancient biblical times, this powerful oil was considered more valuable than gold, and offered as a sacred gift to Jesus at the time of his birth. Also used in religious, sacred ceremonies, as the beautiful and potent fragrance of frankincense, helps you to connect with your spirit, your highest self, while uniting with divine grace. It can also help reduce inflammation, aches and pain, stress, and is very healthy for the respiratory system. After a yoga practice, once you come out of savasana, is the ideal time for meditation. Frankincense is my must have oil, for meditation, as it enhances the overall mind-body-spirit connection.
To buy oils click HERE!
One of the many benefits, I have gained, from my Yoga practice, is a sense of harmony and balance within. When I have a bad day, I know, I can roll out my mat, breathe, and unwind any mental or physical knots I have may have acquired from a long day. Every time I am in savasana, my mind, body, and spirit feel nurtured and nourished. Restored.
I believe having this sense of wholeness and equanimity, that Yoga offers, is essential to our wellbeing, and quality of life. But what happens when we are off the mat?
Many of us, get right back into fight or flight mode, thinking of our to-do lists, and what task we have yet to complete. We rush, hurry, and worry ourselves through the days, weeks, months, and years!
Another key element, Yoga brings to our lives is awareness. Once we are aware of anything, we can change it. We have the power to create positive shifts in every area of our lives.
I have found, when I devote equal time and energy, towards five key areas in my life, I feel the most balanced. I check in with myself each week. By doing this, I am aware of which areas I have been avoiding, and which ones I feel overwhelmed in. The weeks where I was able to give equal time to each area, are the weeks I have a sense of peace and wholeness within my spirit.
Here are the five key areas:
BODY / PHYSICAL – Did I move my body this week? Was I motivated? Exercise is crucial, to releasing tension in the body, mind, and spirit. Whether it’s Yoga, a walk, a bike ride, or joining a gym, pick an activity you will stick with.
WORK / MENTAL – Did I learn anything new? What was the last book I read? Keeping our minds engaged in learning new subjects, and filled with positive thoughts, can help us stay inspired, spark creativity, and set new goals.
MIND/ EMOTIONAL - What is my anxiety level? How am I feeling? Am I having a difficult time releasing negative emotions? Harboring resentment, anger, bitterness, and sadness, can lead to depression, weaken the immune system, and lead to manifesting illness, within the body, mind, and spirit. Find the gentlest way for you, to let it go.
RELATIONSHIP / SOCIAL – Did I spend quality time with my partner, friends and family? As an introvert, this is the most challenging area for me since I replenish my energy by solitude and serenity. I am aware, however, that too much alone time, is not healthy. Connecting with others, brings a sense of community, happiness, and joy to our lives.
SPIRITUALITY / SPIRITUAL – Have I dedicated time for solitude and prayer? Am I connected to my inner wisdom? Do I trust in divine guidance? We are so much more than our physical body. Cultivating a relationship to a higher power, enriches our lives, connecting us to the true essence of who we are, the energy of love, compassion, forgiveness and peace. My spritual journey has given me strength and deepened my faith and trust in the divine plan for my life. I wake up each day, feeling grateful and aware of every blessing in my life.
Try checking in with yourself this week. And no feeling guilty, for having an unbalanced week! I have many. Just like Yoga, it’s a practice! What matters, is we stay committed. We return to the mat. We begin again. And along with every breath we take, each week can be a fresh start to finding balance once again.
Having a positive outlook every day, is something most of us would love to wake up with every day. Chances are, that some days, you find yourself struggling to keep your spirit uplifted and bright. What we must remember, is that, it takes effort. We must take responsibility for own attitude each day. When it comes to feeling happiness, encouragement, and peace within our heart and soul, it takes work.
In Yoga, this place of contentment, is called santosha, the second of the Niyamas of Pantanjali’s eight-fold path toward enlightenment or bliss. It is when we give up the notion of “I will be happy when…”, we can experience santosha, and realize having an attitude of contentment, comes from within. Nothing outside ourselves can cultivate true joy.
On days we are experiencing self-doubt, sadness, anger, or maybe feeling completely discouraged, there are action steps we can take to shift our energy from fear and return to a space of love.
Here are some of my favorite ways, I can always count on to put me in a better mood and raise my vibration. Remember, what we think, we create. Next time, you feel down, try one, or all, and you will be onward and upward in no time!
Moving our body, helps us to release stagnant energy, reduces stress, depression, and tension. A regular exercise program also helps us to relax and get a good night’s sleep. What are you waiting for?! Take a Yoga class, go for a walk, a bike ride, or dance to your favorite music today!
Five minutes a day, spent in silence, listening to our breath, can help us to surrender a monkey mind. Most of us have thoughts jumping from one to the next to the next, all day long, exhausting us, mentally and emotionally. When we connect to our breath, and turn inward, we access a stillness and peace that is always there for us. Light a candle, and maybe try a guided meditation with music. Begin with three minutes and work your way up from there. You will find meditation will become a necessity in your life.
Watch a motivational Ted talk
There are so many inspiring, motivational speakers to be found via social media. I love to go on YouTube, and watch some of my favorite spiritual teachers, like Marrianne Williamson, Carolyn Myss, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and Eckhart Tolle. This is one, I still do quite often. I love to get cozy, with a cup of tea, and listen to inspiring and educational talks. It always feels like food for my soul.
How May I Serve?
This is a simple prayer you can say, which will guide you to help someone, or be of service in some way. No matter how big or small, giving of ourselves, without expecting anything in return, hands down, works every time, in turning a bad day around. Volunteer for your favorite charity, help a friend move, visit someone who is lonely, clean out your closet and donate items you no longer need, or simply spend more time with your loved ones. Giving the gift of kindness, a compliment, or a prayer, is something we can all do every day.
Spending time in nature, helps us to get grounded, and remember, the bigger picture of our lives. It gets us out of our heads and reminds us of the natural order to everything in the universe. We can obtain a much healthier perspective of whatever situation we find ourselves stuck in. The universe has supplied us with loving elements, which leave us feeling inspired, cleansed and renewed. Giving Dr. Air, Dr. Water, Dr. Earth, and Dr. Sun a visit, will leave you feeling better emotionally, and contributes to your overall wellbeing.
Read inspiring self-help / spiritual book
Reading a book, from your favorite author, or spiritual teacher, is another great, easy way to feed your mind, and soul with positive energy, and inspiration. I have been an avid reader for many years. Check out my list of favorite books here.
Listen to music
Music has the power to completely shift our energy. You may even feel inspired to learn how to play an instrument or go to a live concert. Find what style touches your soul, then, turn it up!
If someone were to ask me what my passion is, I would say creativity. Anytime I am creative, whether it is painting, writing, or creating my next sequence for yoga class, I lose all track of time, and enter into a space of pure contentment. Santosha! The best part is, we do not have to be the best at anything. The act of creating something, allows your own unique energy within, to flow through you, and be expressed out into this world. Creativity is a source of happiness. And we were born to experience both.
Our sense of smell, is directly connected to the limbic system in the brain, which controls emotion. Using essential oils, is an easy, quick, and powerful way to shift your mood, almost instantaneously. Try adding a few drops to a room diffuser, an ounce of massage oil, or to a soothing salt bath. You can even place a few drops in the palm of your hand, and take three deep inhalations, to bring a sense of calmness and balance to your well-being. (be sure to dilute with carrier oil prior to applying to skin!) Three of my favorite must have oils are lavender, patchouli, and peppermint.
Studies have shown, people who have healthy, supportive, and loving relationships in their life, live longer, and have a better quality of life, then those who don’t. Dedicate time to reach out and connect to the people in your life that mean the most to you. Spend time with family, and friends, in person!! There is nothing better than sharing a laugh, a meal, a warm embrace, and making memories, with your loved ones, that last a lifetime.
I truly believe happiness is a state of mind, that begins within. On days we wake up feeling disheartened, or with a case of the blues, the most important thing to remember, is that we do not have to stay there. To have a different experience, we must do something different. We get to make another choice and decide to make the best out of each day. Let life surprise you.
Giving up, gets a bad rap. There are many things in life we will eventually give up. As children, we give up drinking from a bottle, and the training wheels on our bicycle. As we get older, we may give up a bad habit, or our freedom, and a full night’s sleep, while building a family. We can give up a negative thought pattern, or a relationship, which is not for our highest good. Giving up sometimes seems like it would be a negative thing to do, but it can be a positive next step in our life.
We all have dreams, goals, and deep desires within our heart, that no matter how much we work towards them, seem to elude us. We hope, we pray, we even try to “make” them happen. A year goes by, another, and another, and nothing. No result. We are left feeling ignored, not good enough, unsupported, and discouraged. Should we give up? No way! However, I do believe there is another action required, to see results. Surrender. Surrender, by definition, means to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon demand.
I believe there is an order to our lives, a destiny set to unfold for us, orchestrated by a power much bigger than we are. It is important to remember, that yes, of course we should do all we can that is within our own power, to work towards every dream we have. Maybe that means to study more, learn a new skill, exercise more, look for a new job, opening up to meeting new people, move, or make any change necessary, in order to be the very best version of ourselves we can be.
It is after, we have done all that we can do, that we must close our eyes, and pray to that power much greater than us. There is a bigger picture happening, that we cannot see. We must have patience, faith, and trust, that all the pieces to our destiny, need to be in just the right place, for it to unfold for our highest good, and the highest good of everyone involved. I truly believe that surrender and faith, go hand in hand. With surrender and faith, we can finally reach a place of peace while we wait. The struggle ends. And just like nature, turns the seed into the flower, in perfect divine timing, without being rushed, we know, we are not forgotten, every prayer is heard, and we will watch our dreams flourish right before our eyes.
Yep, it’s coming again. That day, that arrives every year filled with chocolate hearts, mushy cards, flowers, stuffed teddy bears, love songs, romantic dinner dates, and a whole lot of pink and red everywhere you go. For those that may be single, have never been married, divorced, about to get divorced, on the verge of a break up, broken hearted, figuring out the dating scene, or completely avoiding the dating scene, it is also filled with a whole lot of pressure.
Not only does this pressure come from the outside world, from people, commercials, to walking into every store being reminded, here we are, another year, and no special Valentine. I want to tell you ladies, I feel you. I am with you. I have been there. I used to allow myself to have my own annual personal pity party so to speak, around this day. That internal pressure, would turn into internal self-criticism, questioning what is wrong with me? Why don’t I have a Valentine yet?
Then I realized, that annual pity party, was not so much fun. It left me feeling worse- confused, not good enough, and unworthy of what this beautiful holiday is all about- Love. I want to break this cycle of self-doubt, blame, judgement, anger, and disappointment for all of those living in singledom this year. This holiday has absolutely nothing to do with any of those negative thought patterns. We must remember, what we focus on, is what will manifest. Left to linger, such hurtful words we say to ourselves, will leave us with quite an unattractive energy- we will walk around angry, with low self-esteem, and in a bad mood. Who would be interested to hang around that all day?
Perhaps, looking at this holiday with a different perspective is what we all need. It is simply about Love. And when you stop focusing on yourself, and what you think is wrong with your current life situation, you recognize that Love really is everywhere. It is in the smile, you exchanged with your neighbor, in children laughing and playing, in the hug you gave your best friend, in the phone call with a loved one, in the time you listened to that person, who needed to talk, in the forgiveness you gave someone, in the piece of art you created, in your favorite hobby you are passionate about, in the time you spend with family, and in the quiet time you find with yourself. We receive Love from nature every day- from the sun, the moon, the earth and sky.
Love is here for you and with you, right where you are. Love is all around us, even more so within us. The circumstances of your life, are no secret to the Universe, for all is in Divine order. Make time this year, to get quiet, and tap into the Love and peace inside of you, and then go share it. Share it with a friend, a family member, or a stranger, and know, that every expression of Love is a miracle. When we are in the space of Love, we walk taller, we shine brighter, and we manifest even more miracles, one by one. So, grab that heart shaped box of candy, sit back, and bask in this Love more than ever this year. This Love is here to stay.