Be Happy

Recently, I read a book called “My Story” which is about Elizabeth Smart, the woman who was abducted and horrifically abused for 9 months when she was 14 years old.  It was such a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking story which has a happy ending, but I couldn’t help but to imagine what I would’ve done in her shoes.  Would I have been as strong as she was?  Would I have been able to survive the ordeal and move on?  Would I be able to forgive for my own sake?  I wrestled with these questions in my head over and over again as I continued to read page after page of her story.  I wondered how she was able to go on to live a “normal” life after something so traumatic (she got married in 2012).  As I neared the end of the book, I read something that changed everything for me.

“He has stolen nine months of your life that you will never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy.”

– Lois Smart (to her daughter Elizabeth)

After pondering over these two sentences, I started to think about my own life.  There are so many things in my past that I wish I could’ve done different.  Don’t get me wrong, I have very few regrets because all of my mistakes, bad decisions (as well as good decisions) have shaped me to be who I am today.  But there have been times when I held on to bitterness toward certain people for way too long.  When I stay bitter, it robs me of my joy, my happiness.

Not that my intention is to punish people that have wronged me in the past (I don’t feel bitter towards those people anymore), but I want to live my life in a way that I don’t let other people’s actions rob me of even a minute of my life.

Here are a few ways I’ll be working on being happy:

    1. Pray for Others More – When I pray for others, I tend to grow in my appreciation for my own life.  Also, according to The Psychology of Happiness and Well-Being, praying for others has been found to decrease stress level and increase happiness in the one doing the praying.
    2. Forgive Quicker – When I forgive, I feel less burdened with negative emotions.  It’s been found (by Mayo Clinic) that forgiveness can lead to healthier relationships and higher self-esteem among many other benefits.
    3. Count My Blessings – 5 months into her captivity, Elizabeth Smart started making a mental list of the things she was grateful for: “I still believe in God,” “I know that Jesus was the Savior of the world,” “Jesus was near. He keeps me strong and gives me hope,” “I still have a family. I don’t get to be with them, but someday I will.” She had several more on her list, and she finished with, “I kept adding to my list of blessings until I eventually fell asleep.”
      (If she can count her blessings in the midst of such a devastating situation, I have no excuse.)

There are so many more things that I can add to my list, but I will focus on these three.

Now let’s go and BE HAPPY!

Styles of Yoga in 10 words or less

I started practicing Yoga in 1996 for rehabilitation purposes from several dance injuries. I didn’t really pay attention to styles of yoga, mainly because the thought of doing such a research seemed like a daunting task (after all, this was before search engines like Google became a household name).

I decided to provide you with a quick list of Yoga styles and short description in 10 words or less (yes, you may count the number of words):

  1. Aerial: Yoga using an aerial silks hung like a hammock.
  2. Anusara: Lighthearted, positive and fun in a challenging Vinyasa-inspired practice.
  3. Ashtanga: Fast-moving, 6 Series of sequences of progression. Physically strenuous.
  4. Bikram: 26 postures done twice in a 104°-heated room.
  5. Hatha: Classical approach, using physical poses and breath control.
  6. Iyengar: Focuses on proper alignment using props.
  7. Jivamukti: Chanting in Sanskrit and setting intention along with physical poses.
  8. Kripalu: Know, accept, and learn from your body. Poses and Meditation.
  9. Kundalini: Using meditation, poses, and breath control to elevate the spirit.
  10. Power: Think Ashtanga without the same 6 series of sequences.
  11. Restorative: Simple poses using props to restore the body and mind.
  12. Sivananda: Combines proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking.
  13. Tantra: Combines poses, mantra, mudra, bandha (energy lock) and chakra work.
  14. Viniyoga: Gentle yoga, adapting poses according to individual needs and abilities.
  15. Vinyasa: Style varies by teacher, but they’re all flow type practices.
  16. Yin: Focuses on lengthening the connective tissues with gentle long holds.

This is not an extensive list, so if you have questions on any other styles of Yoga that I did not list, please send me a message!

Learning to Breathe: Importance of Pranayama

Learning to Breathe: Importance of Pranayama

Today, I had a brief conversation with a friend who told me that he recently had an anxiety attack. He said it was triggered by a combination of a crowded room he was in, and not being able to slow down his mind (being that he’s a singer/dancer, his mind is creating a thousand ideas a minute on top of all the day-to-day thoughts he sorts through within that same 60 seconds… If you’re an artist, you understand). When I mentioned to him that I can teach him some breathing techniques that have helped my clients who struggle with anxiety, he jokingly said, “People pay to learn how to breathe? I can do that all by myself!” (He was joking, as he was very appreciative of my offer)

Not that I was offended by his joke in any way, but his statement got me thinking about how so many people believe that they’re breathing simply because they haven’t passed out from turning blue… but I stand by my belief that at least once a day, you must make your breathing intentional.

You may have heard the word, Pranayama in your last Yoga class. In Sanskrit, Prana is “fundamental life force” (aka breath), and Ayama is “control”… so Pranayama translates to “breath control”, more specifically, controlling the breath to intentionally create a specific energetic effect.

Throughout the day, most people take unintentional, shallow breaths through the chest. This shallow chest-breathing manually activates the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), which is the “fight or flight” response to stress.  When this this activated, the shoulders start coming up towards the ears, digestion slows down, and the immune system weakens.  Our bodies are wired with the ability to activate the SNS to protect ourselves from dangerous situations and environments. But if SNS is active for too long, it becomes a chronic condition. Studies have shown that chronic stress is linked to many ailments such as anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and impaired memory.

All this sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  There’s great news though! Just as I mentioned to my friend earlier, you can manually activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which is the “rest and digest” response toward optimal health.  Activating the PNS allows your entire body (including your vital organs) to relax, heal and restore.

To activate the PNS, try this simple Pranayama:

Sit comfortably, and begin to breathe through the nose, inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 4 counts.
After about 5 breaths, start increasing your exhalation by 1 count until you reach a 1:2 ratio (inhaling for 4 counts, exhaling for 8 counts):

Inhale 4 counts; Exhale 4 counts.
Inhale 4 counts; Exhale 5 counts.
Inhale 4 counts; Exhale 6 counts.
Inhale 4 counts; Exhale 7 counts.
Inhale 4 counts; Exhale 8 counts.

Close your eyes and continue the 1:2 breathing for several minutes until you begin to feel calm and relaxed.

The 1:2 breathing above is also excellent to practice right before going to bed… In fact, this is the pranayama that I practice every night.

There are many different types of pranayama for different effects, such as to energize, to help focus, to clear the head, to increase digestion and to increase focus.

And to answer my friend’s question: Yes, people do pay to learn how to breathe.
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What a Difference a Year Makes… Pt. 2

Happy 2016!

It’s been many MANY months since I’ve blogged.  Honestly, “LIFE happened” in more ways than one in 2015.

Last year this time, I was teaching at the aerial yoga studio that I co-owned with two business partners in Plano, TX.  I was also busy getting the second semester of my daughter’s homeschooling academic year started with lots of wonderful homeschool activities and co-ops.  My schedule was extremely packed with church, family, homeschool, my studio and yoga. Everything (including sleep time and short breaks) were scheduled into my life. I had a full life, living life to the full… or was I?

I strive to live an authentic life, a life that reflects who I was created to be since the beginning of time. In 2015, I felt that although I was living my dreams, but something wasn’t right. I felt unsettled in my heart, and I began to wonder if the path (of life) that I was trying to create for myself was truly the path that I was supposed to be on.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of
who we think we’re supposed to be and
embracing who we are.”

– Brené Brown

After feeling unsettled in my heart for the first half of 2015, I began to meditate in prayer, asking God to reveal who I am to Him. Without talking to anyone about it, I started this meditative prayer journey, seeking clarity of my spirit. During this time, my business partners and I received word from our landlord informing us that he has sold his business and the new owner did not want to renew our lease (as he wanted to use our space for his own business). We diligently searched for a new location (even after we had to close the doors to our studio in Plano, TX) without success. Then one Saturday during my meditative prayer times, I felt a sense of peace come over me as I decided to let go of the studio and not re-open (My business partners had the same revelation on the same day), Up until that point, I resisted the thought of not re-opening. I thought to myself, “Finally, I have arrived at my authentic path!” What I was about to find out was that this was only the beginning.

“Once you get out of your own way,
the speed of finding your authenticity will accelerate.”
– Jheni Solis

To my surprise, I continued to feel unsettled… So I continued my meditative prayer times and searching for clarity through God’s word. During this time, I saw on Facebook that my husband Shawn’s and my good friends, Tim and Brooke, were moving to Boone, NC to start a church there. That same week, I noticed in the Bible how a lot of God’s people moved around a lot. I thought about the possibility of moving for a split second but then dismissed it since we had just bought our house a year ago. We had our lives planned out and that plan included retiring in our home in Garland, TX. But each time I prayed, I couldn’t shake that feeling of unsettled-ness and how our lives became too comfortable/predictable. So one night when Shawn got home from work, I decided to bring it up to him to see what he would say.

“I’ve been feeling quite unsettled myself,” was Shawn’s reply.

So we started to pray about the possibility of moving (still not taking it too seriously). To put our prayer into action, we decided to list our house and told God that if it sold it one week, we will know He wants us to move. Our house sold in exactly SEVEN DAYS!

Fast-forwarding many more bold (answered) prayers and seeking spiritual input from our trusted godly friends, I am now writing this in my rented home in Charlotte, NC. I get to wake up every morning and make breakfast for my daughter (that I still homeschool) and my husband who now works from home. I teach traditional and aerial yoga at a wonderful studio in Cornelius called Gotta Yoga Studio where I also teach my aerial yoga teacher training certification workshops. I also choreograph and dance with the dance ministry at The Charlotte Church.

When people ask me what brought me and my family to Charlotte, I smile and reply, “God.”

A lot can happen in one year. A lot can happen in 2016.
Are you ready?