Self-Love vs. Selfish-Love

I love February.  I love how he is different from the rest of his family, and he flaunts his uniqueness by being the shortest month in the year.  And every four years, he decides to be one day longer (I’m using “he” because months are masculine in Spanish and French).  I think I identify with February because I’m also the oddball in my family in so many ways which I will go into in next week’s blog.

Whether February is also your favorite month or not, I’m sure you are influenced by him in one way, shape or form.  You can’t go into a retail store without seeing Valentine’s Day and anything relating to love being advertised and sold.  There are plenty of reminders to love your family, friends, significant other… but how often do you remind yourself to love yourself?

I’m not sure when the whole “Self-Love Movement” started, but it seems like every other posts I see (especially in February) are about self-love.  Loving yourself is absolutely necessary to live a happy life, but the reason for self-love — in my opinion — can sometimes get misinterpreted.  There is a difference in self-love and selfish-love.  Self-love is accepting who you are at the core and knowing your worth, and doing the necessary work to be the best version of yourself that you can be; and through this process, you’re able to love others greater than you’ve ever loved before.  Selfish-love — which is the complete opposite of self-love — is indulging in pleasure to fulfill your current (and temporary) desires with the end goal being all self-serving.

I’m not saying taking a day to get pampered or having “Me Time” is the bad thing; we all need a break to retreat and rejuvenate.  What I’m talking about is when taking care of yourself becomes a self-absorbed ritual where that becomes the end-goal instead of it being a tool to improve your mind/body/spirit for others.

I have experienced both self-love and selfish-love.  Last summer, I took a week-long sabbatical to work on writing my book.  I checked in to an AirBnB for that week and slept in every morning (being that I was in a city one hour behind, I was waking up in between 6am and 7am without an alarm), meditated, prayed, read my Bible, went out for meals by myself and spent majority of each day at a desk, writing my book.  It felt great to take a pause from my day-to-day duties to have some solitude, but I did not take the sabbatical to indulge in my desire to be lazy and be entertained.  As much as I wanted to binge-watch shows on Netflix, I took time to carry on my goal of finishing my book so that I can share my experiences and practicals of biblical meditation with the rest of the world.  This was a time of self-love for me because I took time to rest, enjoy slowing down, but it was with the intent of becoming a better version of myself for others and for me to accomplish my goal.

On the other hand, I remember when I was overwhelmed with stress from work and indulged in selfish-love (this was when I had a fast-paced, high-stress position in a Fortune 100 Company): I would come home, make dinner and spend a few hours with my family, and then I would lock myself in my home music studio for many hours to compose, record and edit songs.  I thought this “Me Time” would allow my stress level to go down and feel better, but my stress level and outlook did not change; if anything, it contributed to me becoming more self-absorbed.  Because I used creating music as an escape from reality, it neither improved my well-being nor get me closer to my authenticity.  I do, however, believe that this  was a necessary step in my journey to becoming more self-aware.

I say all this to encourage you to take time out for yourself in a way to use Self-Love as a tool and not as a goal toward your authenticity.

 

With Gratitude,
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Misunderstood? Me too!

As a kid in the 80’s, one of my favorite T.V. shows was reruns of Threes Company.  Being that I was a preteen and my English was my second language, a lot of the “adult humor” went over my head.  What I found so hilarious about the show was the physical comedy of Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) as well as all the misunderstandings that caused 99% of the comedic drama among the main characters.  Of course by the end of the epidsodes, all misunderstandings were cleared up, everyone hugged it out and all was good in the world again.  In a perfect world, all misunderstandings would be cleared up in 30 minutes (minus commercial breaks), this unfortunately, this is not the case.

Last year, I wrote and published a book called, Be Still: The Power of Biblical Meditation.  It’s full of true stories from my own life as well as other people’s lives on how biblical meditation played a huge role in helping us heal from daily stressors, people-pleasing, childhood trauma, divorce, domestic violence, and death of loved ones.  The book also contains many techniques to help create stillness through scriptural yoga, pranayama (breath control techniques), and scriptural meditation.  I even recorded all of the techniques and provided links to each of them.  It took me six months to write/edit/design/publish my book (which you can read about in my previous blog, Indie-Author Do’s and Don’ts), and I was so excited to share it with the world!

The first month, I taught scriptural yoga and biblical meditation classes at a big women’s retreat in Asheville, NC where approximately 900 women from the southeast states attended.  I received many words of encouragement, gratitude and confirmation that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do.  The second and third months were the same, where I was humbled at how powerfully God was using the book He commanded me to write.  But then January came, and I saw a one-star rating review on my book (you can read them on Lulu.com and Amazon.com).  I felt discouraged at first, not because I doubted the purpose of this book (which all glory was to God) but because I felt misunderstood.  There was a part of me that wanted to somehow contact the reviewer and say, “Wait a minute, let me explain and address all your concerns.  Let me explain to you all of my training and research on this subject.”  But then I took a step back to re-evaluate my heart.  I fully respect the reviewer’s opinions and therefore, I am completely okay with being misunderstood.

Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions whether they believe they are right and others are wrong.  It’s completely okay.  It’s okay that one person is a republican while their friend is a democrat.  It is okay.  It’s even okay that I use Yoga to get closer to God while a friend of mine believes that it is not of God.  IT IS OKAY.  It’s not my job to try to convince someone that what helps me will help them.  They have every right to their own opinions.  We waste so much time and energy on getting worked up about disagreements and misunderstandings.  There was a time when I would lose sleep over such things.  But at the end of the day, none of that matters.  Unless someone is asking me questions with the intention of wanting clarity, it is not my job to debate or provide proof of why I think “I am right and they’re not.”

There’s something freeing about living this way.  There’s such a feeling of lightness within the spirit when you’re not living to prove yourself to others but rather living to move closer to your authenticity.  So this week, I encourage you to practice being okay of feeling misunderstood.  Let other’s have their opinions about you because this does not change who you are.  Continue to shine bright for those who wish to be in your light.

 

With Gratitude,
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Good Job!

The other day, I was going through some old boxes so that I can get rid of things that I no longer need (I’m working on becoming a minimalist), and I came across four sheets of mini stickers.  I immediately recognized these as the “good job” stickers that I used to put on my daughter’s completed homeschool assignments during her 2nd and 3rd grade years.  She’s now a high school sophomore and the majority of her homeschool assignments and tests are online, so I decided to use these stickers on my exercise log.

That “pre-week” sticker was from Saturday, 1/4. Since that was not a complete week in January, I decided that it should not be included in any of the weeks. 🙂

I didn’t think too much about it at first, but I noticed that each day that I filled an empty space on my log with one of these mini-stickers, I felt a sense of accomplishment, like someone was patting me on the back saying, “Good job, Jheni!”  It may sound silly, but this kept me motivated to exercise more than 3 times per week which was what I was used to doing.  It became a personal goal of mine to fill up all of the spaces with these “good job” stickers until I stepped back and saw that by the end of the month, the entire log was filled in! 

These “good job” stickers got me thinking about our human desire to be recognized for a job well done.  We all have an innate desire to be praised because we’re relational beings.  We need relationships that build us up and cheer us on; however, we need to make sure that we are also our own cheerleaders because we can’t expect others to always be available and know the exact words to say to cheer us up.

Here are some ways you can motivate yourself to stick with your goals and feel that pat on the back:

  1.  Join a program.

    I teach classes at the local YMCA, and I feel a sense of community the minute I walk in the door.  The members in my classes know each other and are in each others’ lives.  Their positive attitude makes it so easy for me to cheer them on and be cheered on.

  2. Become an active member of your community.

    Volunteer for community service.  Serve the poor.  Invite a neighbor over for tea/coffee/dinner.

  3. Cheer others on.

    You will attract the kind of person that you are.  If you are positive and supportive, you will attract positive and supportive people.

  4. Pat yourself on the back.

    As I mentioned, my way of patting myself on the back was mini-stickers.  Seeing a visual “good job” encouraged me more than I imagined.

  5. Share your victories with others.

    Because my exercise log was posted on my refrigerator, my husband and daughter would cheer me almost everyday.  I was hearing, “Wow, good job mom!”  and “You go, babe!” pretty regularly… and it encouraged me and made me feel loved.

After you finish reading this, go look at yourself in a mirror and say to yourself, “GOOD JOB!”  Image result for thumb emoji"

 

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 4

For the final part of my series on holistic wellness, I wanted to share about my passion: Using Yoga for therapeutic purposes.  I have taught over 2,500 hours of various styles of yoga, and about 12-15 minutes before the end of all of those classes/workshops, I instruct my students to get set up for Savasana.  No matter how many times I repeat the necessity of Savasana, I have had a student or two sneak out of class quietly from time to time.  Perhaps they had an emergency that they needed to tend to; but usually, people skip Savasana because they think it’s an optional 7-10 minute pose that they could be doing “something else that’s more productive.”  I confess, I used to be that student when I first started going to yoga classes over 20 years ago.

Savasana is also known as the “Corpse Pose” which is generally the final pose in a yoga class.  Savasana is considered the ultimate (and the most challenging) pose in yoga because it is a discipline of stillness and relaxation physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Many people believe that in order to be considered an “advanced yogi,” you must be able to do arm-balancing poses such as Parivrtta Bakasana (“Revolved/Twisted Crane”) or Salamba Shirshasana (“Headstand”).  What’s interesting about this is that I did more of these poses in my earlier days of practicing yoga than my days as a yoga and meditation teacher.  Not that these are easy poses to practice, but

since the main goal of Yoga is to meet your authentic self by using poses (along with ethical living, self-discipline, breath control, sense withdrawal,  concentration, meditation, and enlightenment), each asanas (“physical yoga postures”) become a tool for a greater purpose and not the goal itself.

With that said, the five following asanas are poses that are accessible to most people, no matter what their physical fitness levels are. (Disclaimer: If you have an injury or a pre-existing condition, please do not perform these poses without the approval of your healthcare provider):

Chakravakasana (Ruddy Goose Pose)

Inhale at Table Pose (right photo), and Exhale into Child’s Pose (left photo).  Repeat 5-10 times.  To experience a great (but subtle) low back stretch, stay in Child’s Pose with knees out wide with big toes together.  This allows gravity to gently bring the hips lower to the ground, resulting in a nice low back stretch.
Modifications: If you have wrist pain, come down to your elbows and forearms as you practice this pose.  If you experience knee pain, place a folded towel, blanket or mat under your knees.
Benefits: Warms up the wrists, shoulders, hips and knees.  Also known to relieve low back pain, fatigue and stress.

 

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Sitting tall with knees bent, cross the right leg over the left, placing your right foot on the floor by your left thigh.  Place your left hand or fingers on the floor while keeping the arm straight (almost like a kickstand).  Inhale as you lengthen the spine upward and place your right elbow on the outside of your left thigh (spread the fingers wide to keep the hand active).  As you exhale, twist to the right.  Stay for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Modifications: If you have tight hips, sit cross-legged and twist to the right, placing your right fingertips in the front and left fingertips in the back with both arms straight.  Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Stretches the neck, shoulders and the hips.  Promotes healthy digestion and reduces fatigue.  It is also known to relieve menstrual cramps.

Ardha Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose )

Starting from Table Pose, inhale and exhale as you lift the knees off the floor, pushing your hips up and back.  Push your shoulders back into the shoulder socket as you draw your shoulder blades in toward each other.  Keep your fingers spread out and weight distributed evenly in your palms.  Continue to bring the heels down toward the floor with each breath.  Stay for 5-10 breaths.
Modifications: If you have wrist pain, come down to your elbows, forearms and hands on the floor.  If your hamstrings/calves are tight, keep a bend in the knees and heels slightly lifted as you slowly work on straightening the legs.
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and the arches of the feet.  Energizes the body while calming the brain.  Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, mild depression, fatigue, and symptoms of menstrual and menopausal discomfort.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Sit with the bottom of the feet touching and knees out wide.  Hold your ankles (not the toes, as we have a tendency to pull up when holding the toes which can result in overstretching the ankle ligaments).  Lengthen the spine upward while releasing the shoulders down the back.  Flex the feet, peeling the right toes away from the left toes (flexing the feet prevents the knee caps from moving/shifting) Stay in this pose for 5-10 breaths.
Modifications: If you have tight hips, move your feet away from the body, making the legs more into a loose diamond shape.  If the knees are high off the ground, place yoga blocks or folded blankets underneath the knees to create more comfort.
Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs and groin. Improves mobility in the knees.  Stimulates the reproductive organs and blood circulation in the body.  Helps relieve mild depression, anxiety and menopausal symptoms.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Lie down with your palms facing up and allow the feet to flop out.  Inhaling and Exhaling through the nose effortlessly, close your eyes and allow the belly to rise and fall with each breath.  Count from 10 to 0, counting one down at each exhale (Inhale, exhale 10; Inhale, exhale 9; etc.).  With each exhale, notice that your body feels heavier and more relaxed.  Stay in this pose for 7-12 minutes.
Modifications:  Use blankets, bolsters, blocks and even a pillow to get comfortable… but don’t get yourself so comfortable that you fall asleep. 😊
Benefits: Reduces headaches, fatigue and insomnia.  Relaxes the body, calms the brain, lowers blood pressure, and relieves mild depression.

 

I hope these poses help you as you continue to relax and reset for the rest of 2020!

 

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 3

From the relaxing music to warm towels, I love everything about spas.  Out of all the spa services I’ve received, my favorite is a deep tissue massage.  If you’ve ever experienced a deep tissue massage, you know that there’s nothing “relaxing” about it.  Unlike a Swedish massage, deep tissue massage is performed with more pressure in order to get deeper into the tissues.  It is known to help relieve chronic pain, sports injuries, and areas of tightness.

The best deep tissue massage I receive is from a good friend of mine who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  She has been treating me for my chronic neck pain (from a car accident years ago) and my wrist pain that has been bothering me for over a year.  I know it sounds ironic that I love the relaxing spa atmosphere, yet my favorite massage is a deep tissue massage.  The relaxation I experience from a deep tissue massage comes AFTER the actual massage itself.  After a PT/massage session with my friend, I feel amazing for several days!

We carry muscular imbalances in our bodies from slouching, sitting cross-legged, sleeping habits (sometimes I wake up looking contorted! 😂), etc.  Those imbalances can lead to headaches, neck aches, back pains, sleep disturbances and many other pain-related issues that we sometimes chalk up to aging.  Having regular massages can help relieve some of those “aches and pains” that may not necessarily be related to getting older.

If you have never experienced a professional massage before or tend to be sensitive to touch, I highly recommend that you start with a Swedish massage.  During the session, you can ask your massage therapist to deepen or lighten the pressure to your preference.  If you find that you prefer the deeper pressure, you might enjoy a deep tissue massage.  Most spas offer add-on services such as aromatherapy and hot stone massage for a fee.

Massages range from $45 to over $100 depending the length and the type of massage.  Location also plays a role in how much you’ll be paying (my first massage was at a spa in Beverly Hills, CA which was about $120 with gratuity in 2004; I spent $60 with gratuity for the same type of massage at a spa in Charlotte last week).  Great news is that Groupon is always filled with discounted massage services!  Try out different spas and massage therapists until you find one that you really like.

If massages are out of your budget right now, invest in a pair of myofascial release balls (also known as therapy balls).  I teach a weekly class at the local YMCA where we use therapy balls to roll out the tightness and “knots” in the neck, shoulders and the arches of the feet (we use a foam roller to roll out the rest of the body).  My students have commented on numerous occasions how they feel like they just got a deep tissue massage.  As of today, these therapy balls are on sale for $9.98 on Yogaoutlet.com.  I know some people that use lacrosse or tennis balls, but these therapy balls are specifically designed to be the perfect sizes and firmness for releasing the fascia.  There are several instructional videos on Youtube if you don’t have access to a class that teaches this method.  If you’re a member of the YMCA in Charlotte, NC, come check out my class on Mondays at 9 AM in the University location.  Another class I would recommend is Jenn’s “Roll & Release” class on Tuesdays at 9:30 AM, “Desk Detox-Roller” class on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM, and “IM=X Mat & Rolling” class on Thursdays at 11AM at IM=X Pilates in North Charlotte (where I teach yoga and pilates).

Next week, I will share how you can use simple yoga poses for holistic therapy!

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 2

When I was in second grade, I fell down the stairs (just a few steps) at my elementary school in Seoul, South Korea.  I didn’t feel the pain right away because I think I was too embarrassed to notice that my left ankle was swelling up quickly.  Back then in Korea, going to an acupuncturist was just as common as going to the western medicine doctors.  In fact, I heard more about herbalists and acupuncturists than medical doctors.  So once it was clear that I had severely sprained my ankle (no broken bones), my parents took me to an acupuncturist in our city.  Since then, I have sprained both of my ankles (not both at the same time) countless times: While teaching a step aerobics class in 1997, hiking in 2002, missing the curb in 2004, high heels mishap in 2006, slipping on a patch of ice in 2011, missing another curb in 2015, and uneven walking trail in 2018.  With all these incidences, it’s a wonder that my ankles haven’t broken off completely! 😂  Every single time I’ve sprained my ankle, I’ve always turned to acupuncture; and every single time, I was walking fine in a matter of weeks.

On this particular day, I went in because of my seasonal allergies.

Acupuncture is one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine where the practitioner (acupuncturist) stimulates specific points on the body by inserting thin needles through the skin.  Acupuncture is practiced on the concept of energy flow known as Qi (pronounced “Chee”) and meridians/pathways.  It is believed that when there is stagnation/disruption of Qi, disease can develop in one’s body.

Some — in the western medicine world — believe that acupuncture works through a placebo effect.  There are people who also believe this complementary medicine is quackery.  As a patient who has benefited greatly from acupuncture for sprained ankle, tendinitis, seasonal allergies, headaches and vertigo, I stand by this alternative practice.  Unless I’m bleeding or my bone is broken, I’m more likely to go see my acupuncturist than my primary care physician.

The only downfall I see in choosing the acupuncture route is that most health insurance companies will not approve a claim for this modality.  My personal opinion in this matter is this: I can either spend the co-pay and deductible to go see an MD only to pay another fee for prescription medicine which will only treat the symptoms, or I can pay out of pocket for acupuncture that aims to treat the root of the disease.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for western medicine; I’ve been to the emergency room twice last year, and I thank God that I was able to receive the care I needed right away.  But I think we’re so quick to turn to medicating ourselves before trying to figure out a way to resolve the issue at the root cause.

I feel blessed to live near Wellbeing Natural Health in Huntersville, NC (north of Charlotte).  The owner and Acupuncturist Cristin Gregory offers Community Acupuncture several days each week where payment is based on a sliding scale of $20-$45; during community acupuncture, the patient enters a shared space that has four anti-gravity chairs and receives acupuncture services for about an hour.  Every patient in the room lies down in the anti-gravity chairs and has their eyes closed while listening to the relaxing music playing in the background.  Other than the occasional sneezes and coughs, the room is pretty quiet, and it’s really easy to forget that there are other people in the room with you (I have fallen asleep on many occasions).  Cristin is the kindest and most down-to-earth acupuncturists I have ever been to.  She is also Chinese Herbalist, so she is able to recommend Chinese herbs to complement the acupuncture sessions.  She also offers cupping and Qi Gong services.  If you live outside of the Charlotte area, you can find a licensed Acupuncturist near you by going to the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

For my blog next week, I will discuss massage therapy!

(If you would like to check out my blog from last week about Doshas and Ayurveda, scroll down or click here.)

 

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 1

Happy 2020!

We’re already six days into this new year and new decade, and I must confess, I already feel like I’m running behind!  On paper, I’m hitting my goals daily; but mentally, there’s a part of me that feels like my mind has not caught up with my body.  Granted, I spent two of the six days out of town so I think it sort of threw my nervous system out of whack.  Did you know that when you travel, your vata increases?

Vata is an ayurvedic term for the subtle energy in each of us that governs the functions of the autonomic nervous system.  Vata is one of three Doshas — elemental energies —  that makes up every human being.  Basically, it’s your DNA.  DNA is what makes up who you are not only in your physical appearance but also your personality, your tendencies, your digestion, etc.  Since I am not an expert geneticist, doshas are much easier for me to understand and explain.

There are three primary Doshas:  Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Vata governs the Air/Ether elemental qualities such as movement and change.  Pitta governs the Fire elemental qualities such as intensity and power.  Kapha governs the Water/Earth elemental qualities such as moisture and solidity.  Everyone has all three doshas within them and we are born with a certain energetic constitution known as Prakriti in Ayurveda.  Most of us are born with two doshas that tend to be greater than the third.  It is possible to have all three doshas equally, but this is rare.  The following is no way near a full list of the doshic qualities, but it will hopefully give you some information to start your understanding of the doshas.

Qualities of Vata

Physical:  Thin, light frame.  Easy to lose weight. Have dry skin and hair as well as cold hands and feet. Light sleepers and have slow digestion.

Emotional: Creative and love to daydream. Tend to talk fast and have a higher voice.

When Out of Balance: Tendency towards weight loss (generally), hypertension, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, constipation and gas.  Anxiety, restlessness and insomnia.

Qualities of Pitta

Physical: Medium size and weight. Premature graying, baldness or thinning hair. Excellent digestion.  Warm body temperature. Quality sleep in short sleep cycles.  Has a lot of energy.

Emotional: Intellectual and has great concentration ability. Ambitious and task-oriented.  Usually has medium, sharp voice.

When Out of Balance:  Skin rashes, indigestion, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, impatient and argumentative.

Qualities of Kapha

Physical: Strong build and excellent stamina.  Smooth and radiant skin.  Thick hair.  Either very tall or very short.

Emotional: Naturally calm and caring. Tend to prefer a routine in their lives. Loyal, patient, and supportive.

When Out of Balance:  Hoarding, Co-dependency, stubbornness, overweight, excessive sleeping, hay fever and depression.

 

So now what? 

There are many websites that you can check out for a more detailed information on this subject, but one that I highly recommend is Yoga International.  They have a quiz you can take to find out what your Doshas are.  I recommend that you take it twice:  The first time you take your quiz, your answers should be based on when you were a child, before puberty.  This is generally your true prakriti.  The second time you take the quiz, your answers should based on your life today.  Keep in mind though, this is not a fool-proof method as we’re not always the best judge of ourselves.  The best option to find out and pacify your doshic imbalances is to meet with a certified Ayurvedic Practitioner.  You can always google “ayurvedic practitioner near me” to find some in your area.  The one I always recommend to people is Rachael Harper who is based out of Mt. Holly, NC.  She is a Yoga Teacher, Studio Owner, Thai Yoga Therapist and Ayurvedic Practitioner.  She offers online and in-person appointments (BTW, I am not receiving compensation from her for my recommendation.  You will start to see more recommendations from me in the upcoming blogs).

Ayurveda is an excellent holistic healing system using the doshas to create physical, emotional, and energetic healing through diet, physical activity, and other natural modalities.

In this new year, I invite you to try different holistic methods and see what works best for your health goals!

Stay tuned for my blog next week about acupuncture!  😉

 

With Gratitude,
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