Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 1: Ahimsa

Ahimsa is Sanskrit which translates to Non-Violence.  This is the first of five Yamas, which is one of the eight limbs of Yoga found in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  You may be thinking, “Wait, I thought you’re a Christian.  Isn’t that book (and other ancient yogic texts) part of the Hindu religion?”  In the famous words of one of my great teachers Nikki Myers, “It depends.”  As I’ve explained in my previous blogs, Yoga itself is not a religion; it’s a tool to help you get closer to meeting your Self, which is the core of your authenticity by God’s design.  If you’re a Hindu and use the Yoga and its texts as part of your belief, then yes, it is a part of the Hindu religion.  But that could be said of any religious beliefs and faiths.  If you’re Buddhist and use the same practices and texts to enhance your Buddhist faith, then it is absolutely a part of the Buddhist religion.  You see where I’m going with this, right?  When I use Yoga and its philosophies as a tool in my walk with God, it becomes a Christian practice because I’m a Christian who is practicing Yoga.  Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get back to the subject for today’s blog.  😉

Ahimsa, aka Non-Violence, refers to actions, thoughts, words, feelings… basically, everything.  Romans 12:17 reads,  “Do not repay evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  Ahimsa towards those who you feel like don’t deserve kindness, grace and mercy.  Ahimsa towards that person who cut you off and then flipped you off.  Ahimsa towards that person that backstabbed you or spread rumors about you.  Yoga Philosophy advises the Yogi to practice Ahimsa; The Bible shows you how.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 15:1

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Luke 6:31

Another aspect of Ahimsa is Non-Violence toward yourself.  This goes beyond physical self-harm.  When was the last time you said something negative about yourself out loud or in your mind?  Comments such as, “Ugh, I’m so fat,” “I wish I was as pretty as her,” “I’m so stupid,” create negativity in our hearts and minds… and ultimately, it effects our spirit.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”  We are spiritual beings that have been gifted this human body to reside in while we’re here on earth.  Our bodies are a gift from God, so when we speak negatively about His gift, it breaks His heart.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:13-14
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16

A Japanese Scientist named Masaru Emoto conducted a research on how the human consciousness and intentions can effect the molecular structure of water.  He did several experiments observing the physical effect of words, prayers, music and environment on the structure of water. He hired photographers to take pictures of water after  exposing them the various words and phrases (some positive like “Thank you” and some negative like, “You make me sick”) and froze them until they formed crystalline structures.  The photos that were taken showed that the water that was exposed to positive words and phrases formed beautiful, symmetrical crystals; however, the water that was exposed to negative words and phrases formed jagged, disturbing, asymmetrical crystals.  An adult human body is made of approximately 60% water; and the heart and the brain is composed of approximately 73% water.  So if Dr. Emoto’s theories are true (which I personally believe they are), the words we speak to ourselves and others have the potential to change the way a person thinks, feels and acts.

I pray that through positive words and displaying unconditional kindness to ourselves and others, we will live out Ahimsa throughout our lives.  Stay tuned for my blog next week on the second Yama, Satya (truthfulness).

 

With Gratitude,
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A Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Introduction

In the past several months, I have been writing mostly about my journey in completing a 300-Hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training as well as the lessons I learned along the way.  For the rest of this year, I will be diving deeper into a topic of Yoga Philosophy that every Yoga Teacher learns about in their teacher training: The Eight Limbs of Yoga.  As a Yogi that follows the scriptures written in the Bible, I will be writing about the Eight Limbs from a Christian’s perspective.

Just to tell you more about me beyond what my bio says on this website, I come from a Buddhist lineage.  As a young child in Seoul, South Korea, we used to go to a Buddhist temple a few times a year, and we used to observe “jesa” which is a ceremony to honor and invoke the presence of deceased ancestors spirits on the anniversary of their death.  We weren’t super strict Buddhists, but these things that we did were part of our ancestral tradition that were handed down for many generations.  When we moved to the United States in 1983, I started going to a church with my neighborhood friends for social reasons.  Even though my reason to going to church was purely selfish, the seeds of faith were planted but stayed dormant throughout my teen years.

As a sophomore at California State University in Northridge in 1994, I asked a few of my Christian friends to teach me what I needed to know to become a true, committed disciple of Jesus Christ.  The more I learned about God’s plans for me through the Bible, the more I felt compelled to walk away from everything that was holding me back from living a life full of hope, love and a “peace that transcends all understanding.”

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013: I enrolled in a 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training that ended up transforming my life with God completely.  I learned techniques that helped me to become still so that I can hear God’s whispers, and I went through a self-inquiry that helped me to understand my tendencies toward godly things as well as my tendencies toward self-destruction.  I received some push-back from well-intentioned Christians for practicing and teaching Yoga, but surprisingly, these encounters helped me to become more secure in my “unique” methods of connecting with God.  I put the word “unique” in quotations because they’re really not unique at all:  Meditation is mentioned throughout the Bible, and — depending on your intentions — the Yoga poses themselves could mean nothing, or they could mean everything.

Fast forward to 2020:  My family and I have moved back to Texas after living in North Carolina for 4½ years, and I am still learning and growing as a student and a teacher of Yoga and Meditation… and this growth helps me to get closer and closer to the authentic, pure essence of who God has created me to be.  There are some things in Yoga Philosophy that I disagree with; but guess what?  There isn’t one school of thought or philosophy in Yoga!  When I come across any Yoga philosophy that does not align with the Bible, I choose to not let that be part of what I practice.  This does not make me less of a Yogi just like practicing and teaching Yoga does not make me less of a Christian.  Yoga is a tool to help enhance one’s faith and belief system.  Contrary to popular belief, Yoga does not belong to one single religion.  The Eight Limbs of Yoga that I will be elaborating on for the remainder of the year are as follows:

  1. Yama – “Moral Code/Guidelines” toward external environment
  2. Niyama – “Personal Code/Guidelines” toward oneself
  3. Asana – Physical postures
  4. Pranayama – Breath Control
  5. Prathayahara – Sense Withdrawal
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Union with God or Complete Integration

Next week, I will begin a deep-dive on the first aspect of Yama, which is Ahimsa (Non-Violence).

With Gratitude,
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My Personality Type

Do you ever feel like you were going full speed ahead toward the light at the end of the tunnel for a while; and then when you get to that light, you come out of the tunnel, not knowing what to do next?  Well, this is how I felt last week.  This entire summer, I had been turning down pool time with friends and other weekday activities so that I can focus on completing my 300-hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT).  Last week, I found myself trying to fill my schedule with back to back things because that’s what I had gotten used to doing prior to graduating from the AYTT program.  I took on two more weekly vitual classes, and I got busy with researching for and booking our upcoming family vacation in December.  I also started catching up on some FaceTime chats with friends, took time to read a book, take a walk around the neighborhood, and taught a couple of virtual meditation classes for a healthcare company in North Carolina.  By the end of the week, I felt exhausted!

It is in my nature to just go, go, go.  It is also in my nature to be extremely lazy.  I tend to be an extremist, so balance is something I’m constantly working on.  So to create more self-awareness and balance in my life, I do what I always do:  I spent more time in meditation, prayer, and looking over at my bookshelves.  On my left bookshelf, I have my Christian Faith books as well as books on natural health, nutrition and fitness; on my right bookshelf, I have my yoga-related books which includes books on asanas (physical postures), meditation, and yoga philosophy as well as books on neuroscience and energy science.  Whenever I start to feel an imbalance coming on, I usually pick up one (or more) of these books and read either the entire book or use it as a reference to help inspire or ignite something in me that helps me feel refreshed.  Anyway, I had been glancing at my book on Enneagrams for several days, so I finally went online and took a quiz.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but my Enneagram Type is Four, “The Individualist.”  It was really interesting how accurate it was, but the struggles of a Type Four were humbling.  According to Enneagram Institute, Type Fours feel different from everyone (that’s me), and they struggle with the fear of having no identity or personal significance (also me).  There are many other accurate things on that list, but I am grateful that through my faith and my purpose in life (which I discovered during my journey in Yoga and Meditation), I don’t struggle as much with other things on the list such as low self-esteem and negative self-image.  Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle from time to time with my physical appearance just like anyone, but I have — for the most part — learned to accept and love the way that God has created me.

It is so important to take time out for self-assessment.  More than ever, it is so important that we stay connected with how we feel, what we think, and who we truly are.

What’s your Enneagram Type?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

With Gratitude,
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I did it!

At 4:30pm on Friday, 8/7/2020, I clicked on the [SUBMIT] button for the very last video exam of my 300-Hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT) program!  When this journey first began 10 weeks prior (on 6/1/2020), and it definitely has been full of self-discoveries and life lessons!  Of the countless amount of lessons I learned/re-learned, here are the Top 5 Lessons that will stay with me throughout my journey in life and self-realization:


1.  LIFE IS NOT A RACE.

I have a competitive spirit.  I didn’t play competitive sports growing up because I hated losing.  I think that’s why I loved the performing arts so much.  Of course, there is a competitive aspect in performing arts, but I’ve always felt that a performer expressing their art can not be objectively judged (which is also why I am not a big fan of awards shows for movies, music, television series, etc.).  When I was a dancer in Los Angeles, I did strive to be a “better dancer than everyone else,” but when it came down to it, I danced because it made my spirit feel alive.   In the beginning of the AYTT program, I found myself wanting to finish the program faster just because I saw others finishing the program in a month, a month and a half, etc.  But then somewhere along the way (I think in between week 2 and week 3), I reminded myself to enjoy the journey and learn for the pure love of learning and growing instead of trying to finish before someone that started at the same time as I did.



2.  DREAM BIG… AND THEN PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!

I knew I would eventually complete a 300-hour AYTT program, but I didn’t know how or when.  First of all, most AYTT programs cost anywhere from $2,300 to $5,000; secondly, there was an AYTT near me that I felt was a good fit for me.  While I was living in Charlotte, NC, I looked into a program in Asheville which was a little over 2 hours away as well as one in Winstom-Salem which was only slightly over an hour away.  When this pandemic hit the US earlier this year and everyone went into social distancing and quarantine mode, Yoga Alliance decided to temporarily allow Registered Yoga Schools (RYS) to offer their programs virtually.  So after a lot of research, I found a program that was affordable, flexible, and very unique… So I signed up on June 1st to complete my 300 hours with ULU Yoga in Thailand!  I planned out my study schedule for each week, and I made sure I stuck to it with some wiggle room in case of unexpected things happened (check out all 9 blogs from the previous weeks for those “unexpected events”).  I loved checking off each task and seeing myself getting closer and closer to achieving a dream of mine while learning and growing.



3.  ONLY CONTROL THE THINGS THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO CONTROL, AND LET THE REST WORK ITSELF OUT.

Like I mentioned above,  there were things that happened during the last 10 weeks that I could not control.  In fact, there have always been things in my life that I could not control (can I get an amen?).  I used to get upset that I couldn’t control everything (like changing somebody’s mind, outcome of situations, etc.); but through this AYTT experience, I was reminded to focus on controlling myself and just leave alone the other things outside of my control.  There’s a sense of freedom that comes with surrender and just putting any desire for improvement to be placed on self-improvement.



4.  CHOOSE DELAYED GRATIFICATION OVER INSTANT PLEASURE.

Let’s face it, we live in a world where we expect results right away.  If our Google results don’t pop up within .01 second, we get impatient.  We try to find the quickest way to get things done.  I admit, I’m guilty of choosing the easier and faster way of accomplishing things (like using my sewing machine over hand-sewing my face masks), but it is so good for our hearts and our souls to work hard at something that doesn’t come quickly or easy to us.  James 1:4 reads, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  It takes perseverance to build character, and if we constantly choose the easy way out, we won’t grow in our authenticity.  There were days that I wanted to binge-watch Netflix or just sleep in until Noon (although I don’t think I can physically sleep until Noon); but I knew that in order to finish my AYTT by August, I needed to stay on task and enjoy each moment of the training — which leads us to #5:



5.  BE PRESENT.

Going through the AYTT program allowed me to be a better Yoga Teacher for the virtual classes that I’ve been teaching.  In my book, “Be Still: The Power of Biblical Meditation,” I talked about how in order to be a good teacher, you must be a good student.  I find that I’m a better teacher when I’m going through some type of learning, whether it be a certification course or reading a book on Christian discipleship, self-improvement, yoga, ayurveda, or energy science.  When I’m learning, I fully there physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Lately, I’ve been reminding my yoga students that because we are bound by this thing called “Time,” we can not live in the past or the future; So if we’re constantly focusing on the past or the future — and the only place we can live in is the present — we have to ask ourselves, “Are we truly living?”

Show up.  Every time.  Every moment.

 

With Gratitude,
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300-HOUR YOGA TEACHER TRAINING – WEEK NINE

In the beginning of last week, I felt determined to finish the remainder of my 300-Hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT) strong.  The way I had planned my schedule, I saw that I had 2 1/2 weeks worth of studying and submitting tests and homework, and I got excited!  I didn’t feel like I was losing steam or getting burned out, so I was determined more than ever to stay on task until I got to the finish line; but somehow, I was able to really focus and get some serious studying hours in last week, and now, I’m only about a week away from completing my AYTT!

On Monday and Tuesday, I was “in the zone” which helped me to stay focused and studying for hours and hours without feeling mentally drained!  so by the time Friday came around, I was able to give myself a little more breathing room and enjoy the day by spending an extended lunch time with one of my best friends.  Last week was full of happy moments, but it was had a moment that really tested my character… and I’m so grateful it did!

Early last week, a friend had posted a question on a group chat thread that we’ve had going for a long time.  I responded, with the intention to speaking my belief on a certain topic and didn’t think too much about it.  But apparently, this created a miscommunication between me and the friend that posted the original question, and the reply I got in that thread from that friend left me feeling accused and misunderstood.  I must admit, my initial reaction was to get really worked up and confront that person and throw my own accusations.  But instead, I took a step back from the situation to assess it, choosing to give the benefit of the doubt and to think the best of my friend who I felt hurt by.  I forced myself to choose humility because I knew that if I responded any way other than out of humility, it would be out of my desire to feel justified, understood, and validated.  This told me that a non-humble response would’ve been out of my insecurities and pride.  So yes, I chose humility and publicly apologized (in the message thread) because I had to remember that in the grad scheme of life and universe, it didn’t matter who was right.

It was really encouraging to my heart to see that because I had humility constantly in my mind lately because of my AYTT program.  A lot of the questions on the Yoga Philosophy quizzes were questions about how we relate to various yogic principles, and in order to answer authentically and honestly, I had to constantly draw deep within from a place of humility.  So here are some thoughts about humility that I would like to live by:

 

PICK AND CHOOSE THE BATTLES YOU FIGHT.

If I tried to fight every battle that comes my way, I will be too tired to fight the battles that really matter.  And the battles worth fighting will not come in the form of arguments.

 

CREATING PEACE TAKES A LOT OF WORK… BUT IT’S ALWAYS WORTH IT.

Peace doesn’t just happen.  It has never just “happened” in the history of man, so I can’t expect it to be any different in my situation. Things like LOVE and PEACE always comes at a cost.

 

YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE RIGHT.

It’s human nature to want to be right.  We somehow think that if we admit we’re wrong, people will know that we’re not always right… which means they will know we’re not perfect.  The thing is though, they already know that we’re not perfect.

 

DON’T REACT OUT OF INSECURITIES OR PRIDE.

Instead of reacting, try responding from a place of security and humility.  Whenever I know that my desire to defend or justify my words or actions is coming from a place of insecurities or pride, I force myself to be silent and go back to remembering who I am at the core of my authentic self.  At the core, I know who I am, so I don’t need to justify or defend myself.  This place of security brings about so much peace.

 

TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT.

Being respectful isn’t about the person you’re showing respect to; it’s about who you are in your character.  Whether you realize it or not, we’re all connected in one way shape or form, so being respect to everyone unconditionally ultimately brings that respect back to you.  With that said, our motivation to unconditionally respect everyone must not be based on whether or not we think they “deserve” our respect; but rather, it need to be based on the fact that we’re choosing to have a respectful heart which has little to do with them and a lot to do with your soul.

 

I’m so excited to start (hopefully) my final week of AYTT!  I’ve been at this since we moved into our new house in a new state, so I look forward to getting some R&R after this week!

 

With Gratitude,
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