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 Eight

It’s amazing how eight weeks can seem like 4,838,400 seconds or just two months.  What I mean is that depending on one’s perspective, eight weeks can either drag on or it can come and go in what seems like a blink of an eye.  In these past eight weeks, I have been studying, taking multiple quizzes, recording video exams, and writing quite a lot for my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT).  After the first few weeks, I fell into a great rhythm in my AYTT:  Studying Mondays through Fridays, averaging 5-7 hours per day, driving my daughter to and from work, teaching two virtual classes per week and meeting with my private clients via Zoom.

There even have been some days lately where I found myself getting ahead of the study schedule that I had planned out for myself.  Being that this AYTT is a self-paced program where you can take up to 12 months to complete, I knew I didn’t have to rush through it, but I also knew that I had to put myself on a schedule in order to finish the program.  I knew that without a committed structure, there was a possibility that I would be trying to cram the last 200 hours in month twelve.  My goal was to complete the entire 300-hour program by mid-August since I homeschool my daughter from September to May.  I am happy to say that as of today, I am about 2 1/2 weeks away from completing the program!

This week, I’ll be tackling five exams, or which three of them are video exams.  I’m not someone who likes to be recorded.  For a very long time, I’ve been asked by many students to create a YouTube channel and post online yoga classes.  I avoided being recorded for a long time partly because I wasn’t sure if I can be consistent with producing content on a regular basis (which is why I started blogging weekly to prove to myself that I can consistently post something).  I tend to be bit of a commitment-phobe.  All my life, I believed that my character will always be to jump ship if something feels too permanent… but something changed.

After being married to my wonderful husband for almost 19 years and being an active member of the same church for the past 26 years, I seem to be doing better with long-term commitments.  When it comes to big things, I feel like I’ve become more comfortable with making a commitment as I’ve gotten older.  With age, I’ve also become more introspective, which led me to wonder why I spent so many years of my young adult life running away from commitment… and the answer that came to me was this:

We self-sabotage.

Why do we sabotage ourselves?  I believe it’s because it feels safer for our hearts to set the bar low in case we fail.  There’s a part of us that struggles to not listen to negative self-talk.  We may base our decisions about the end results on past triggers or fears.  When we do this, we’re basically writing then last sentence of our own stories.  I have done this so many times in my life.  When I was a professional dancer in Los Angeles in the 90’s, one of my actress friends wanted to set me up with a very well-known actor that she worked on a TV show with where he was one of the main characters.  In fact, she showed him a picture of me, and he asked her to set us up.  You would think that I would have jumped at the chance to go on a date with him (especially since he was my celebrity crush at that time), but I told her I was not interested in going out with him.  The reason why I turn down the opportunity to go out with him is because when I was in 7th grade, my friend told me that my crush wanted to date me; but when I saw him by his locker that afternoon and smiled, he and his friends looked over at me and started laughing, saying things that were hurtful.  So six years later, when my celebrity crush wanted to go out with me, I decided to write the last sentence of that chapter in the book of my life.

It is so easy to write that last sentence of each chapter of our lives.  As an author, I usually consider the first sentence and the final sentence before writing because that keeps me focused and prevents me from going off on tangents.  Just like how one sentence can make or break a book, the narrative you tell yourself can determine the outcome of whatever you’re trying to accomplish.  So what do we do about this negative self-talk and self-sabotaging patterns?  Rewrite your story.  Rewrite that last sentence to affirm that you CAN accomplish your goals and dreams!  In the beginning of my AYTT journey, I told myself that I was going to finish it by August, and I did not give myself a way out.  I pushed myself to be disciplined and watch the Zoom lectures, do the Zoom yoga practices/meditations, read all the required books, answer all the questions, and record those exams… and now, I’m beginning to see the finish line!  All it takes is a daily decision to say “No” to sabotaging yourself and saying “Yes” to experiencing all the wonderful potential that God has built within you!

Today is full of endless possibilities!  Write yourself the best last sentence for today!

 

With Gratitude,
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300-Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Week Three

The saying, “Third time’s a charm” definitely fits how last week went with the Virtual 300-Hr Advanced Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT) that I started on June 1st.  I was extremely rigid and strict with my study schedule the first week which led to some unnecessary stress, so I decided to go the totally opposite direction on the second week with being unstructured which resulted in barely getting anything done.  I knew I needed to find a balance between the two extreme approaches.  So last week (Week Three), I decided to somehow marry both approaches and here is what happened:

“Sadhana” is the Yoga Practice and Meditation required for this AYTT.

I started the week by creating a schedule but working around some social appointments that I decided to add in (FaceTiming with one of my best friends in North Carolina, having lunch with another best friend here in Texas, etc.).  I made sure that I was getting an average of 5 hours of studying per day, so on the days that I was teaching a class or meeting with clients (all virtually), I did not schedule any social appointments.  I made a checklist on my dry erase board and checked off the tasks as I finished them.  I decided to take Monday off from studying so that I can spend the day with my daughter since I knew she would be gone all day from Tuesday-Friday due to Lifeguard Training and Testing.

My schedule felt more balanced, but I still found myself having to protect my study times; a friend of mine wanted me to meet her and some other friends at the pool on Friday, and part of me felt bad saying no two weeks in a row.  I tried to compromise and agreed to stop by for 30 minutes which ended up not happening anyway because one of my private clients had to reschedule her appointment to Friday morning.  Speaking of clients, I’m always encouraging my private clients to not be apologetic about protecting their schedules, whether it be due to family, school, home business, etc.  Most of us who are homeschool moms, stay-at-home moms, small business owner or working from home can relate with each other on having to protect their schedules.  But the reason why I decided to compromise initially is because it’s also important to know when you’re being too strict or rigid with your schedule (which was my case the first week of my AYTT studies).

LESSON LEARNED DURING WEEK THREE: FAITH & GUNAS

One of the topics from Yoga Philosophy was about gunas.  Gunas are three basic qualities of nature and energy that are present in all things under God’s universe. They are the original elements which are behind all existing beings with life in them.

Tamas represents the element of heaviness and rigidness, Rajas represents hyperactive energy, and Sattva represents harmony and equilibrium.

These elements are available for anyone to harness, although tamas and rajas are not the qualities one would benefit from having.  There are many articles and books that explain the gunas in detail (you can find a great 5-minute read on Yoga International), but for today, I’m going to focus only on how it’s related to one’s faith.

A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  He who has ears, let him hear.”
Matthew 13:4-9

Having a tamasic faith causes one to struggle in keeping their faith when obstacles come.  In Matthew 13:20-21 reads, “The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.”

One with a rajasic faith uses their faith for selfish gains and is motivated by recognition and/or rewards.  In the next verse in Matthew (13:22) it reads, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

Sattvic faith, which causes one to use their faith selflessly by sharing their faith, hope and contentment with others, is the kind of faith that will last.  In Matthew 13:23, Jesus says, “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

There are various factors that play into raising your sattva element, but one way to create a sattvic state is in your food choices.  If you eat foods that tend to be heavy such as fast foods and processed foods, you will experience more tamasic qualities (stubborness and unwillingness to compromise).  If you eat foods that cause spikes in energy such as caffeine and sugar (even smoking is in this category), you will notice that you struggle more with staying still mentally and physically, and you will find yourself becoming hyperactive and get distracted easily.  In order to experience the sattvic state, it will be beneficial to eat healthy foods that cause lightness such as fresh organic fruits and vegetables as well as non-processed foods.  So grab that organic apple and take a nice bite and smile, knowing that you just did your body, mind and faith a lot of good!  🍏❤️

With Gratitude,
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300-Hour Yoga Teacher Training: Week Two

Before I begin this week’s blog, I want to let you know why I’m writing about my 300-Hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) journey:  First of all, I’m using it as a journal so that I can document the changes that I make throughout this program.  Secondly, I’m hoping that any yogis out there that are considering going through a YTT — whether it’s their first YTT or an additional 300 hours after their initial 200 hours — can use my blogs to make a decision on whether or not they’re ready to commit to a program.  Lastly, I want to speak to the Christian community out there, that you can absolutely be a committed, God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christian and go through a YTT without feeling like you have to denounce your faith.  In fact, Yoga is not a religion but rather a tool to enhance your faith.
Now let’s get into Week Two of 300-Hour YTT…

I learned from the first week that I can’t be super rigid with my YTT schedule.  Being that I’m taking an online YTT that’s taking place in Thailand and (Bali) Indonesia, I haven’t been able to participate in any of the live online trainings (I’ve been watching the sessions that they record during the live trainings).  The good thing is that I can study whenever I would like.  The bad thing is (also) that I can study whenever I would like.  I went from being super organized to the point of getting too rigid the first week to being very laid back this week.  I got more reading done, but I found myself strolling in and out of my home yoga studio/office and taking more breaks than I really needed.  I woke up later and started my yoga practice later which made coordinating “quiet times” in the house more tricky (my family uses the blender for smoothies every mid-morning).  Even though I have an extremely supportive family who are more than willing to modify their morning schedule to minimize noise during my 2-hour yoga practice in the mornings, I just didn’t want to inconvenience them in this way.  Somehow, I got all of my yoga and meditation practice done every day (except for last Tuesday because I woke up feeling a bit dizzy).  Towards the end of the week, I decided to try using my wireless earbuds during the yoga and meditation practices which worked out great!

LESSON LEARNED DURING WEEK TWO:

Each day felt like they were just flying by. I would get sidetracked with some things around the house and by the time I sat down to study, it would already be 4PM!  I started feeling down that I couldn’t keep up with the daily schedule that I created for myself.  On the flip side though, I was learning more and more about yoga philosophy and even about God’s will for me.  In the book that I’m currently reading (Inside The Yoga Sutras), the author (Jaganath Carrera) compares having an inaccurate view of yourself is like looking at your reflection in a cracked mirror.  The cracks represent our non-virtuous tendencies and traumas, so looking at yourself through a cracked mirror and believing that that’s exactly the way you look is the same as believing that you are those tendencies (i.e.- I am lazy, I am selfish, I am worthless, etc.).  Once you fix the mirror so that the cracks are gone, you are finally able to see a clear, accurate image of yourself.

The way that we can apply this to our lives as Christians is this:  We are not the sins that we struggle with.  We are not lazy, selfish, impure, impatient, prideful, etc.  These are the things we may struggle with, but these do not define us.  We need to “clean up” and “fix” the mirror with the Word of God so that we can see our true reflection.  God has made us fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139:14).

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Psalm 139.14

One of the ways we can begin to “restore the mirror” is by opening the Word of God and incorporating the scriptures into your yoga and meditation practice.  If you don’t know how to do this or you would like to see how I practice these things, join me in my monthly virtual Scriptural Yoga & Biblical Meditation workshop and/or pick up a copy of my book, “Be Still: The Power of Biblical Meditation.”

As I start Week Three of the 300-Hr YTT, my goal is to figure out a certain consistency without being too rigid.  I will let you know next Monday how this week went!

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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Dream + Intention + Action = Reality

I’m a dreamer.  I’ve always been a dreamer.  When I was young, I dreamed of dancing professionally, working in a corporate setting with an important title, starring/co-starring in a musical and being a teacher of some sort… which I had the blessing of experiencing all of them.  But I also have dreams that have not yet come true, such a becoming a rock star, a film actress, an acupuncturist, and a public speaker at a big conference of some sort.

I realize that I may never experience hundreds of thousands of fans singing along to one of my songs during my world tour.  I also may not walk the red carpet as I stop to pose for the photographers and be interviewed by correspondents from Entertainment Tonight before I make my way into the Academy Awards to take a seat next to my co-star.  I do, however, believe that I can become an acupuncturist and a public speaker at a big conference.  So why do I believe that the first two are probably not in my future but that the second two are?  The difference is ACTION.

Fulfilling the dreams of becoming a rock star and a film actress would be pretty awesome; but honestly, I don’t think I would be willing to pour my time and energy into going after these things.  (I do have an acting coach/mentor that I work with, but I act because I love it and not because I want to be famous.  But back to the topic of this blog…) Although I haven’t done it yet, I do believe that when the time is right, I will go back to school to become an acupuncturist as well as doing the necessary research and apply to become a speaker at a big conference.

When you have a dream without intentions and actions, you will see years pass by with those things remaining as dreams.  In the past decade, how many dreams did you start out with?  How many of those have come true, and how many are still dreams?  And of the ones that remain your dreams, are you taking actions to make those dreams a reality one day?

Dreams stop being dreams
when you make them a reality.

So practically speaking, how do you fulfill a dream?  I’m not an expert at this, but here’s how I go about fulfilling my own dreams:

1. Write down the dream.

Literally.  Write it down.  When I don’t write down my dreams, they stay in my brain for a while, and then they go away.  When I write them down, they begin to exist outside of your mind.
Example:  “I want to be a published author.”

2.  Come up with a plan.

2a)  First, start with writing down big milestone steps.
Example:  “I will begin writing my book on March 1st, finish by July 1st, have it edited by August 1st, have book cover designed by August 14th, submitted for print by August 31st and order books for my first book event by September 1st.”

2b)  Next, fill in the action items and tasks within each milestones.
Example:  “I will write for 2 hours at Panera Bread on Wednesdays and 3 hours at the library on Thursdays.  I will reserve an AirBnB in Denton, TX to take a week-long sabbatical in June in order to focus and make significant progress in my writing.  I will schedule a photo shoot with my models for the book in July.  I will research book cover designs and decide on how I want the cover to look like.  I will write the back cover content by August 14th.  I will save up money to purchase enough copies of the book for my first book event in October.”

3.  Start taking action!

Take what you wrote down in step 2 and do them! 

 

As 2019 comes to a close, get ready for the new year and the new decade(!) with some dreams and goals by sticking to the plans you come up with, and continue to revisit the plan to make sure you are staying on target to complete the tasks necessary to fulfill your dreams without giving into distractions. 

 

With Gratitude,
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Drowning Out Distractions

I’ve traveled a lot this year. Since January, I’ve been to over 30 cities in six states (not including the stopover/layover cities), covering approximately 15,000 travel miles totaling 82 days.  Next year, I imagine I’ll be traveling just as much if not more. I love road trips with my family, flying across the country to visit family and friends, and I even love traveling for work.  Granted, I schedule my own out of town/state work trips which is such a blessing.  I also take work-related vacations in the form of sabbaticals.  This summer, I spent a week at an AirBnB in Denton, TX.  Other than my husband, no one else knew where I was because I wanted to take that time to rest and focus on my writing my book.  I needed to get away from my day-to-day living (aka distractions) in order to accomplish my goals.

Distractions are inevitable.

For a couple of months during the fall, a gardener would come by with his leaf blower to clear out all the leaves… right in front of the glass windows of the studio that I teach yoga classes at.  It never failed that he would come while we were in the middle of a class.  At first, I thought to myself, “Why can’t he come by AFTER my class ends?  Why does he always have to cause so much ruckus when we’re trying to practice yoga?”  And then I stopped and laughed at the irony of my thoughts.  Being that one of my goals as a Yoga Teacher is to help my students take the lessons they learn on the mat (in my classes), off the mat (into their lives), I told my students, “Do you see that man with the leaf blower?  Do you notice the distraction?  I invite you to acknowledge that this is happening at this present moment… and now, let it go.  Let go of the distractions and become present.”

It’s amazing how the brain is able to drown out distractions that we choose not to pay attention to.  Both my husband and daughter have the ability to study and work in the middle of a busy Starbucks and other places where there’s lots of noise.  I, on the other hand, prefer silence (or at least my earplugs) in order to focus; but there have been many occasions where I’ve engaged in deep conversations in the middle of a public space with many potential distractions.

According to an article in the Journal of Neuroscience (cited in Scientific American), the brain will intentionally weaken its response to things that seem less important so that it can become more sensitive in reaction to what you choose as the focus.  This is great news!  Since we now know this fact, all we have to prioritize and figure out what is truly important to us.  Once we establish our priorities and make conscious efforts to make those things important, the brain will do what the brain does by drowning out the distractions.

Just as I do in my yoga classes, I invite you to take a moment to drown out the distractions by sitting still, focus on your breaths by becoming aware of the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale.  Continue to observe the breath as you close your eyes for several breaths.  Once you open your eyes, continue to sit still and make note of how you feel.  Notice the beauty of living in this moment.

Namaste.

 

With Gratitude,
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10 Year Challenge

I’ve been seeing a lot of these “10 Year Challenge” posts on social media lately.  I’m sure you also have seen your fair share of photo posts of your friends (and maybe strangers) of what they looked like in 2009 and what they look like now.  Here’s mine:

Other than gaining about a dozen gray hairs, a few wrinkles and having less elasticity in my skin, I don’t feel like I look too different in these photos; but the person that I was in 2009 is definitely not the person that I am today.

In 2009, I was working full-time as an Analyst for a Fortune 500 Company, songwriting and recording at night, singing in a Christian band… and exhausted, insecure, and unhappy with a lot of things in my life.  I was dealing with feelings of inadequacy in all aspects of my life (feeling like I wasn’t good enough of an analyst, a musician, a wife, a mother, a friend… the list went on and on).  I had gone down from a size 12 to size 2, but I still felt like I was too big. I was obsessed with working out, losing weight, putting strict restrictions on food, etc.  Needless to say, 2009 was a very trying year for me.

2010 was a year of rebuilding myself.  With the support of my husband, I left my comfortable, well-paid job to focus on spending more time with my family.  I decided to do contract work so that I can take summers off to spend with my daughter instead of sending her to summer camps.  I made sure I only worked when her school was in session.  I also started taking Mixed Martial Arts class to work on my inner strength (the outer strength came with it naturally).  I also returned to practicing yoga more regularly.

2011-2012 were spent soul-searching.  I tried my hand at being a consultant for an MLM company (which I realized that I was pretty good at but was not passionate about).  I tried starting a resume-writing business and an event planning business.  I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to put my energy into professionally.  I experienced a lot of highs and lows those two years, but by the end of 2013, I had successfully gotten back into the fitness industry as a Zumba Instructor and Dance Fitness Instructor.  I also decided that I was going to become a Yoga Teacher.

In 2013, I completed my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training.  This changed everything for me.  I experienced a transformation from within that shaped the way I began to view life.  I became more calm and grounded.  Life stopped being about DOING but rather BEING.  My relationship with God began to become deeper and more intimate.  I heard God’s voice through His Word (The Bible) so much clearer.  I became more in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I felt more connected to Jesus.

2014 was a year of experiences.  I completed an aerial yoga instructor certification and opened Dallas’ first Aerial Yoga Studio with two business partners.  I learned how to run a studio, train the staff, do payroll… all the while homeschooling my daughter and spending time with my family.  I had to kiss my social life goodbye, but that year was a pivotal time for what was to come.

In 2015, I experienced transitions of many kinds.  The lease was up on our aerial yoga studio, and we had to relocate due to a change in landlord who wanted to use our space for his business.  We tried so hard to find a new location to reopen; but after looking and negotiating with various building owners/management for months, we decided to close our studio.  Around the same time, my husband was offered an opportunity to transfer to their Charlotte office.  After many prayers and a visit to North Carolina, we made the move to North Charlotte in October.

I started to become known as the “Aerial Yoga Master Trainer” (training future instructors) as I began to certify instructors in North Carolina (as well as Texas) in 2016.  By this time, I had “perfected” my aerial yoga teacher training manual as well as my teacher-training skills.  This was the first time since leaving the corporate world that I started to make a decent amount of money.  I loved traveling to Texas to certify instructors while making a lot of money in the process.  I realized that year that I had a knack for training instructors; so I started to pray for greater things for the upcoming year.

I launched my own 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in the beginning of 2017.  It was challenging to write the manual, teach while learning and researching, but I was eager to meet that challenge.  I learned a lot about myself and others while I ran my 200-Hr YTT and 30-Hr Aerial YTT in 2017 and 2018.  I felt that I found my calling professionally, and I was convinced that teaching, training and certifying future yoga/aerial yoga teachers was what I will be doing until it was time for me to retire (although I don’t think I would ever completely retire).

2019 became the year of accomplishments.  God had placed a desire in my heart to write a book about biblical meditation in 2017, but I pushed that desire aside for two years because I didn’t think I knew enough to actually write a book about it.  But after wrestling with whether or not I should author a book for a couple of months, I started writing it in the beginning of March which the publication goal date of October 1.  I actually ended up publishing my book in September all the while completing a certification training to become an IMX Pilates Instructor!

From 2009 to 2019, I was able to experience many challenges that sometimes tested my character deeply which helped me to mature and become stronger.  I also experienced some amazing things such as going on a 17-day roadtrip with my family (which was the beginning of many long vacations we have been blessed to take), choreographing and leading flashmob dances for high profile events, moving to a new state, gaining wonderful friends, mentoring teenagers, taking a short sabbatical, writing and publishing my first book, teaching yoga and meditation at retreats in beautiful places…  This decade has been awesome!

I may wake up with more aches and pains than I used to; but this has been the most favorite decade of my life because I was able to trade in some of my youth for invaluable experiences, much growth, wonderful memories, and a zeal for life that I have never felt before!  I am in a place in my life where I can decide to be still, listen to God, make some tea, and enjoy everything life has to offer!

As you reflect on your “10 Year Challenge,” I hope you’re able to recognize all the blessings that have come out of this decade.

 

With Gratitude,
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Little Reminders of WHY

As a yoga/meditation teacher, author, writer, homeschool educator, teen ministry leader, business owner and — more importantly — wife and mother, it’s easy to lose focus and forget the reason why I do what I do.  I start each day by thanking God for giving me another day here on earth, and I ask Him to help me to live each moment for Him and to remind me of why I do what I do.  I had one of those great reminders through one of my clients last week.

I showed up to teach a private yoga session that morning with a yoga practice that I had planned for her.  I customize each practice for my private clients according to what their needs are so I always come knowing what I’m going to be teaching; however, I felt led to do something different with her that morning.  When I asked her how she was feeling, she said that she was having some low back pain and that she would prefer to do something more relaxing that day.  I sensed that there was something deeper, so I agreed that she does need something more restorative.

One of the methods that I teach is a myofascial-release technique, so I incorporated using a foam roller into her yoga practice.  We worked on releasing tension in the upper body first which she absolutely loved.  But then the minute we started working on the hips, she took a quick, guarded inhale and proceeded to hold it.  I asked her to slowly allow herself to exhale.  As she released her breath, tears started to well up in her eyes and an apprehensive sigh came out.  I explained to her that when we hold on to unresolved emotions that do not serve us, they get trapped in the hips (which I learned during my yoga teacher training).  I told her that it is completely normal and okay for her to cry, that she was in a safe place to let her guard down.  I felt honored that she trusted me and allowed herself to release what she had been holding on to for years as she allowed her tears to flow.  At the end of our session, she gave me a big, unguarded hug that reminded me of why I became a yoga teacher.

It’s easy to forget why we do what we do day in and day out.  In the middle of running errands, responding to e-mails and text messages, checking our social media, going to work, meeting up with friends for coffee, driving kids to and from school/friend’s houses/activities, etc. etc. etc., we miss so many opportunities to see the blessings in all these things.  We miss opportunities to experience moments that remind us why we do what we do and the reason for our calling.  We get so busy planning for the next thing on our schedules that we miss the quick smiles of thanks and the moments that make us laugh, proud, grateful, and at peace.  I believe that anytime something touches our hearts, we need to pause and allow ourselves to experience that moment so that we can plant it deep into our souls.  When these seeds of reminders are planted, they will be embedded so deep that when distractions and discouragements come (as they always do), you will quickly be reminded to persevere… because your authentic self is counting on you to hear the WHY to what you do.

I’m grateful for moments when God uses the universe and the people in it to remind me of why I do what I do.  That one morning last week, God used my client to help remind me of my authenticity as a yoga teacher.  There are reminders everywhere; you just have to silence your mind and be still in your spirit to notice them.

 

With Gratitude,
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Indie-Author Do’s and Don’ts

I wrote my first book in six months.

I didn’t really think this was a big deal until I started promoting my first book BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation. One question I’m asked the most is, “How long did it take you to write and publish your book?” When I tell them that it took 6 months to write the book, 1 month to edit the book and 2 weeks to design the book cover, I’m usually met with a blank stare or a response like, “Oh my goodness. I’ve been writing my book for over 2 years!” I’ve also been asked about how I did it in less than a year. You can read about the approach I took in my last week’s blog, Dream Killers (And How to Overcome Them).

I wanted to focus today’s post on what I learned along the way of independently publishing my first book (to be completely transparent, I’ve only published one book so far; but I refer to it as my first book because I’m currently writing my second one). After doing some research, I knew I didn’t want to publish my first book the traditional way of getting a literary agent who will shop around for a book deal through a publishing company. I didn’t want to submit my manuscript to dozens and dozens of literary agents. I didn’t want to lose any creative control over the content of my manuscript. I didn’t want to wait a year (or more) before my book is published (provided that I could find a literary agent who would represent me). I didn’t dream of becoming a New York Times Bestseller Author, nor did I dream of becoming a millionaire through this book. I simply wanted to write. I wanted to obey God by writing this book that He put on my heart three years ago.

I’ve been writing my whole life. I learned how to read and write Korean when I was four years old. When my family and I moved to the U.S. when I was nine years old, I became fluent in English within a few years. I wrote all throughout my teenage years, and I became an A&E Editor for the college newspaper. I went on to become a Sr. Technical Writer for several Fortune 500 Companies. With my writing background and project management training, I was pretty confident that I could write and publish my book without any issues. I did publish my book independently before my self-imposed deadline, but here are some do’s and don’ts I learned along the way:

DO:
  1. Create an outline.
    I wrote out my chapter numbers and titles and created a preliminary Table of Content.
  2. Write down a timeline, milestones, tasks and resources.
    See last week’s blog.
  3. Write consistently.
    It doesn’t matter if you feel like you have a writer’s block. Write anything and everything. You can edit out irrelevant things later.
  4. Give yourself some “padding” time
    Allot extra time for the tasks in case unforeseen circumstances come up.
  5. Go easy on yourself
    Show yourself some grace if you don’t finish your tasks in the time frame that you had allotted… Because it will happen.
  6. Remove yourself from distractions.
    I did most of my writing at the local library and Panera Bread with ear plugs.
  7. Have a pre-order sale.
    Holding a pre-order sale started the buzz among my friends (and their friends) on social media not to mention some revenue even before the book was even published.
DON’T:
  1. Edit your own manuscript!
    Initially, my husband was supposed to edit my book (he also has a writing and editing background); however, he started his MBA program this year, so I knew that between his full-time job, MBA program and helping lead the Teen Ministry at our church (which I also have the privilege of doing alongside of him), it was unrealistic for me to ask him to edit my book.
    Because I had experience in editing books for other authors (I edited two books last year), I decided to take on this task. It took an entire month of editing over a dozen times (this includes line editing, content editing and copy editing). I printed the entire book three times before I was able to publish it (and even then, I missed one thing, which I have corrected after publication).
    It is one of the most time-consuming part of publishing a book, and I highly recommend that you get another set of eyes to fine-comb through your manuscript. For my second book, I plan to pay an editor to complete this arduous task.
  2. Bypass getting a group of beta readers.
    I got lucky in that my friend and mentor, Lisa Washington, wrote the foreword for my book. She read my book from cover to cover and gave me some great feedback. Lisa is a fellow yoga teacher and author. She is also a celebrity chef (you may have seen her on Food Network), CEO of B’Tyli Natural Skin Therapies, Life Coach, and a Cover Model among many other things. She gave me a lot of feedback on the content of my book, and having her become my beta reader allowed my book to be so much better than I had imagined it would be!
    Beta readers will be able to provide valuable feedback that will elevate the quality of your book content.
  3. Order too many books!
    I had several book events lined up a few months before my book was published, so I went ahead and ordered 600 books! I ended up selling about half within the first month (which is still very good), but the rest are in my garage where I grab a box whenever I go to my next book event (which I guess isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it probably want necessary to order so many books since there are many people who have purchased copies straight from the website).
  4. Take not enough books to your book events.
    I always take more books with me than the number of attendees. I’ve had several people buy 3-5 copies to give as gifts.
  5. Expect to sell millions of books within the first month (or the first year)!
    Unless you have a million friends and family, you probably won’t sell as many books as you may think.
  6. Sit around and assume people will buy the book through one post on social media.
    I had a lady who purchased my book after seeing about 15 posts about it. She said she kept forgetting to purchase my book, and she needed that 15th reminder to purchase it.
  7. Try to do this alone.
    Go to writer’s conferences, join Facebook groups, listen to podcasts, and become a part of the #writingcommunity on Twitter. We are all here to encourage, motivate, and lift each other up.

Happy Writing!

With Gratitude,

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