Lessons Learned from First Week of 2021

Alright folks, we’re now in Week Two of 2021.  How are you doing?  Some of you may have crushed the first week of sticking with your resolutions, but there may be some others that have already “fallen off the wagon” with some of their goals.

For me, I had a decent week.  As you may remember from my blog last week, I set physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and professional goals for the new year.  I bought foods that are recommended for my metabolic and blood type, and I’ve taken on the challenge of creating meals only using the foods on my list. (I pretend that I’m a contestant in an episode of Chopped, except I don’t give myself a time limit.  That would stress me out too much!)  After just one week of eating according to my metabolic and blood type, I feel less bloated and never hungry!  In regards to emotional goal of being more vulnerable, I spent time with a friend — in her backyard, 6 ft. apart and with masks on — and we shared our hearts and lives with each other.  There were some tears shed on both sides, and I felt so much closer to her as I left her house.  I feel blessed that God gave us that time to bond as sisters in Christ and as bestfriends in the making.  Now for the areas I didn’t do too well… 

I sort of slacked off on my reading of all THREE BOOKS!  I knew as I committed to reading these books that I needed to really stay on top of my reading; however, I did get behind… but only by a few pages in each book.  I’ve decided to reset my mental goal by holding off on finishing “Individualist (60 Day Enneagram Devotional): Growing As An Enneagram 4” until I’m done reading one of the two other books that I’m reading.

THE BEAUTY OF SETTING GOALS IS THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS STOP, REASSESS, AND RESET.

I didn’t do so well in my professional goal either.  I allowed my daily tasks and getting ready for second semester of homeschooling to distract me from working on the next steps to launching my podcast.  I justified it by telling myself that I was actually 10 days ahead of my scheduled tasks… but you know where that type of thinking got the rabbit in the story, The Tortoise and The Hare.  No bueno. I’m still technically a couple of days ahead, so I need to make sure I stay on task from here on out.

Spiritually though, I feel that I’ve been working on “getting over myself” daily.  I’ve started a 15-minute Yoga Flow series where I’m recording myself teaching a short yoga flow everyday and posting it for my paying clients to access daily.  Before the pandemic, I refused to create yoga videos because I hated the way I looked in videos.  But since I’ve been teaching virtually for over 10 months, I’m having to get over myself being insecure, body-conscious, and just overall appearance-conscious.  I’m enjoying creating these daily videos for people because this isn’t about me; this is about helping people take small (15-minute) steps toward moving more, increasing range of motion/movement, and introducing Yoga to those who may be new to it.

I feel pretty good about how I spent the first week of 2021.  There’s room for improvement, but I’m glad I don’t have to be guilt-ridden for not doing everything perfectly.  I’m only human, and I can be grateful for this fact.  I want to encourage you with this:

1.  WE’RE NOT BOUND BY DEATH TO ANY OF OUR PERSONAL RESOLUTIONS!
2.  LIFE SHOULD BE LIVED WITH SOME FLEXIBILITY.
3.  IF YOU HAD A NOT-SO-GREAT FIRST WEEK OF THE YEAR, IT’S OKAY; YOU GET TO START OVER EVERY MORNING.

 

I hope you have a wonderful week, filled with victories and flexibility!

With Gratitude,
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Hello 2021!

Happy New Year!  More than other New Year’s Day, 2021 seems to have brought more emphasis and excitement to many people.  Although no one is blind to the fact that COVID-19 remains to be the culprit of this global pandemic that we’re still in, it seems that most people are hopeful and optimistic about what this year will bring.  With this renewed hope, setting New Year’s Resolutions seems appropriate.  Through the years, my resolutions always included physical, emotional, mental, professional and spiritual goals… and this year is no different.


PHYSICAL GOAL:  TO GET TO MY OPTIMAL WEIGHT AND SIZE!

On January 1, I reached out to a health & wellness coach (and a very good friend of mine) named Vickie Griffith.  she is the creator of The Vickie G Method which is a individualized customized program of eating, exercising and wellness plan according to one’s metabolic type.  I have seen the results of her program in her clients for many years, so my husband and I signed up for her program.  My husband has the challenge of high metabolism (he has to work out to not lose weight) and I have the opposite challenge (especially since hitting my 40’s).  I will be writing about my journey in my future blogs, so stay tuned!  If you’re interested in finding out more about her program, you can contact her through her website (click here).  Tell her I sent you!  😉


EMOTIONAL GOAL:  TO BE MORE VULNERABLE!

Urrgh.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to be vulnerable.  I’m really great at being open with what I’m thinking and feeling, but when it comes to that, “Here’s my heart; would you like to hold it?” kind of vulnerability, there’s a part of me that wants to reach for my place of stoicism.  When I was in my 30’s, I went to a therapist after my dad died of cancer.  During one of the sessions, I was telling her about a painful childhood memory.  After I finished talking, she asked me why I was smiling while I was telling her something that was so painful to me.  She said my words did not match my emotional expression.  So for the next two months, we talked a lot about my emotional disconnect.  The things we go through shape us, but they do not have to define us.  Since that time, I’ve been working on being more emotionally connected to my memories and expressing more empathy toward others.  It’s something I have to force myself to do.  In fact, it was beyond scary for me to write with such vulnerability in my book, “BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation.”  This area of my life is a work in progress, so this continues to be one of my New Year’s Resolutions every year.


MENTAL GOAL:  READ ONE BOOK EVERY MONTH!

I have always loved reading.  I learned how to read at age 4, and the first novel I read was Gulliver’s Travels in Korean at age 6.  After I moved to the U.S. when I was 9, I learned English words by reading the dictionary and proper grammar through 80’s love songs (that’s when song lyrics were grammatically correct😄); but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a tendency to reach for magazines or articles online due to time constraints.  Once podcasts became popular, I found myself listening to podcasts more and reading books much less.  My goal this year is to read one book each month.  I have two bookshelves in my home studio filled with books: Books on Bible devotionals, Christian living, health, nutrition, wellness, neuroscience, Yoga, meditation, etc.  I’ve only read about half of my collection, so I have more than plenty to read this year.  Currently, I’m reading “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson with a friend, “God’s Perfect Plan for Imperfect People” by Tom Jones with the DFW Church, and “Individualist (60 Day Enneagram Devotional): Growing As An Enneagram 4” by myself.  After I finish these books, I am planning on reading just one book per month.


PROFESSIONAL AND SPIRITUAL GOAL:  GET OVER MYSELF!

I’m a dreamer.  I like to dream big… but those big dreams also terrify me!  Before I wrote my book, I second-guessed myself and really struggled to get started.  It took me a couple of years after God put on my heart to write my book, to actually write it.  Well, this next dream is no different:  God put it on my heart to start a podcast about living in step with the Spirit around the same time He told me to write a book.  But because of my insecurities (same insecurities I mention in my book), I kept finding reasons why I shouldn’t start a podcast.  But God made it very clear to me late last year that I needed to GET OVER MYSELF because this isn’t about me, it’s about inspiring other Christians to move past spiritual stuckness and funk that we all go through from time to time… and glorify God in the process.  So I’m doing it!  I’ll be launching my podcast on March 2, 2021!  I’m nervous and excited, so please pray for me!  I’m sure I will be dedicating more than a few blogs to my journey in launching a podcast… so stay tuned!


“Pray as if it depends on God, and work as if it depends on you.”
Mark Batterson, “The Circle Maker”

 

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

Asana is Sanskrit for physical postures. Most people wouldn’t think of postures as something that would be significant as a Christian, and you may be curious to see how I’m going to relate yoga asanas — yoga poses — to Christianity… but postures are indeed significant in the Bible:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”  Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.”
Genesis 17:1-3
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
Psalm 95:6
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:13-15
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:6-7
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1–2
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and said: “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.
I Kings 8:22–23

Asanas in the Bible were more than just symbolic for one’s feelings; they were expressions of love, reverence, respect, humility, surrender, awe, security… It’s actually the way God created us.  He created us to be expressive beings with the ability to glorify Him heart, mind, soul, spirit… and body.  When we use postures to experience who God created us to be, we’re practicing yoga asanas.  Being that there are Christians who believe that Yoga is not of God, I would like to address the biggest misconceptions specifically when it comes to yoga asanas:

MISCONCEPTION: YOGA POSTURES ARE NAMED AFTER ANIMALS AND HINDU GODS, SO PRACTICING YOGA ASANAS IS LIKE WORSHIPPING ANIMALS AND GODS THAT THE POSES ARE NAMED AFTER.

It is true that some of the poses are named after Hindu gods and animals, but using these poses in your yoga practice does not mean you’re worshipping a Hindu deity.  According to Mark 7: 15, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”  For me, when I practice yoga asanas, I focus on my breathing, being present in each moment and acknowledging the presence of the Holy Spirit.  But, if practicing yoga asanas causes you to go against your conscience, you should not practice it because, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” (Romans 14:14)

I’m sure there are more misconceptions about yoga asanas, but the above misconception is the one I’ve been told numerous times.  So how should we practice the yoga asanas to glorify God?

1.  Start with a word of prayer.
Sit comfortably and relax your shoulders.  Take deep, diaphragmatic breaths, focusing only on your breath.  Once you feel settled physically and mentally, let God know that you are dedicating this practice to Him (or anything else you would like to tell him before you start).

 


2.  Warm Up
Do some gentle poses to warm up the spine and joints as well as to gently stretch any tight muscles.  Some great warm-up poses are Cat/Cow, Child’s Pose, and Downward Dog Pose.


3.  Salutation Flow

This is typically known as a Sun Salutation, but if this term bothers you, then you can use a different term such as “God Praise Flow,” or just simply, “Salutation” which is what I generally call it.  It can be the traditional Sun Salutations or a set of poses to flow in and out of.  Connecting each movement with breath, it will begin to energize your soul while increasing heat in your body.

 


4.  Standing Poses
Standing poses such as Tree and Mountain create stillness, balance, and connection to earth.  It reminds us that “being still” (Psalm 46:10 and Exodus 14:14) takes work.  We call yoga practice a “PRACTICE” because it really is that: A practice in being still.  A practice in balance.  A practice in strength.  A practice in being completely present.

 

 

 


5.  Seated/Kneeling/Arm Balancing/Prone/Supine Poses
This includes non-standing poses where you’re inverting (upside down) or creating backbends, twists, laterals (side bends), extensions (lengthening the spine), and forward bends.  Inversions include handstands and shoulder stands; Arm-balancing poses include Crow pose and Firefly pose; Kneeling poses include Gate pose and Camel Pose.  I generally keep prone (lying on belly) and supine (lying on back) poses towards the end for flowing easily (as opposed to standing up, lying down, sitting up, kneeling, lying down again, etc.).

Each pose has a different effect on the body, mind and soul, with backbends being extremely energizing and forward bends being very calming.


 

6.  Supine Cool-Downs
There is no strict rule about lying down on your back for cool-downs, but I personally prefer to cool down lying down on my back because it’s a peaceful transition to Savasana.  Any gentle movements that will release any leftover tension in the body is appropriate.


7.  Savasana
This is the final pose in an asanas practice.  This is where you lie still and surrender your body, mind and soul to God.  Completely.  Savasana is known to be the most challenging pose in yoga because you’re not only disciplining the body to be still but your mind as well.  Savasana can be in the form of a guided relaxation or complete silence.


I always like to finish my asana practice with a breathing exercise… which I will discuss next week!

 

 

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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300-Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Week Four

Initially when I started on May 1st, I had plans to be finished with the 300-Hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT) by the end of July.  I thought I could put in 7.5 hours of studying from Monday to Friday every week so that I can finish in two months.  The goal was quite ambitious, and by the end of week one, it became very clear that I would not be able to study from 7AM to 3:30PM (with two 30 minute breaks in between).  The second week, I let go of the rigid schedule a little too much and barely got anything done.  I started to doubt whether or not I could stay disciplined to finish the program.  I also started to feel insecure about the video exams that I would have to submit (two 75-minute videos each module as well as a video recording of me lecturing on a Yoga-related topic).  By week three, I found a good balance of planning but expecting disruptions which really helped me to approach this AYTT with discipline and grace.  Last week was a great week of progress even though I had more distractions and disruptions than the first three weeks.

My daughter started her summer job as a life guard last week.  Being that she gets scheduled at various locations, I’ve had to schedule my yoga practices and studying around when I had to drive her.  So when I wasn’t chauffeuring her around or teaching virtual classes/private sessions and an hour-long hangout with a friend, I was in my home office/yoga studio studying, listening and watching lectures on Anatomy and Asanas (yoga poses), I found it challenging to stay engaged through all the lectures, but I committed to listening, watching and paying attention for some potential nuggets of information/wisdom that would spark a “Wow” moment within me… and it happened with this quote:

“STRESS IS THE ABSENCE OF AWARENESS”

This quote really got me thinking.  I started to think about how when we are not mentally/emotionally/spiritually in our bodies, we begin to experience regrets (thinking about the past) and fears (thinking about the future) which cause us to experience a neurochemical imbalance, which then leads to the body experiencing stress.  How often do you find yourself not living in the moment?  How many moments do you remember from each day?  Do you find that your Monday bleeds into your Tuesday… and then before you know it, it’s Sunday evening and you don’t know where the week went?  I ask these questions because I have personally experienced all those scenarios.  I do find myself not being aware when I’m worrying or stressing out about the what-ifs of the future.  When I catch myself letting my mind drift this way, I immediately bring myself back to my body and mind by doing the following pranayama (breath control) practice:

  1. Stand or sit still, with both feel firmly planted into the ground.
  2. Either close your eyes or allow your gaze to become fixed on one non-moving object (do not try this while driving).
  3. If you’re standing, become aware of the ground underneath your feet.  Notice how the ground feels on your feet.
  4. Become aware of your breath going in and out through your nostrils.
  5. Feel the belly rise and fall with each breath.
  6. Notice any sounds that you hear.
  7. Notice the scenery that you see.
  8. Take a moment to smile and give thanks to God for that very moment.

I encourage you to try the awareness exercise and comment below about your experience!  🙏

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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COVID-19 Self-Quarantine: Finding Your New Normal

I recently saw a meme of a teenager holding a landline phone and trying to figure out how to use it.  I’m among the last generation that remembers fighting over who gets to use the phone next.  As a Gen-X’er, I used payphones at the mall and mail hand-written letters. I remember when we transitioned from records to cassette tapes, from cassette tapes to CDs, and from CDs to mp3.  With each transition came a new normal… but the transition we’re all facing today in social distancing and self-quarantining has been shoved into our lives.

Just like many people in the service-providing industry, I have been impacted as a yoga teacher and pilates instructor.  As of last week, the facilities that I teach weekly classes at have temporarily closed, so I decided to offer On-Demand (aka live streaming) yoga and meditation classes via Zoom (click here to see my schedule of classes).  Instead of using this time to binge-watch TV shows and movies on Netflix 24/7, I decided to keep myself on a schedule to prevent going into hermit-mode.

There are many benefits to keeping a routine in your schedule:  Mentally, stay disciplined allows our minds to be sharper and have more control over negative thoughts and feelings.  Physically, we’re able to burn more calories and prevent muscular atrophy if we stay on task and active.  Our mental and physical discipline can create a sense of safety for our souls to be still and experience the beauty of the present.

Here are some ideas to consider while you create your new normal:

Set your alarm (then wake up and face the sun).

You don’t necessarily have to wake up at 5 AM (unless you want to), but set your alarm at a reasonable hour.  Once you wake up, get out of bed and do some gentle warm-ups and slow stretches (maybe some Cat/Cow Yoga poses or Table Pose to Child’s Pose flow).  After your stretching and warming up, find a spot in your front porch or backyard (or in your house where you can be in sunlight).  Sit or stand still, close your eyes and enjoy the sunlight on your face as you take some deep diaphragmatic breaths.  When you feel present and calm, slowly open your eyes.

Go for a walk.

I’m generally not an outdoor person because of seasonal allergies during the Spring and Fall, and mosquitoes during the Summer.  But we’ve been having great weather here in North Carolina lately, so my family and I’ve been taking advantage of being outside and going for walks in different neighborhoods.  While keeping our social distance from people, we’ve been able to give them a wave, a smile or even say hello in passing.  I also take “podcast walks.” My favorites are BEMA Discipleship (for a deep-dive into context of The Bible), The Creative Penn (for indie authors), and Yoga Teacher Resource (for — you guessed it — yoga teachers).

Have a Game Night with your family.

My family and I love playing card games and board games.  Our current favorites card games are Rummy, King’s Corner, Idiot (yes, it’s an actual card game).  We also love non-card games like The Settlers of Catan, Mexican Train, and Rummikub.  Having some laughter and silliness can definitely bond a family… Just make sure you keep your competitive nature in check so that no one leaves angry.

Enjoy a Weekly Spa Day at home.

Once a week, block out 1-3 hours (or more) to enjoy some time to yourself with a spa day.  All you need are some candles, a bathtub filled with warm water, a great bathbomb (my favorite ones are from Sweet Home Bath+ Body from Plano, TX.  Free shipping until the end of March!), a sheet face mask, some spa music, a difuser with lavender essential oil and some DIY spa water (slices of cucumber and lemon in purified water is nice a refreshing).  This will be quality time of relaxation that you won’t regret.  If you have young kids, you might want to consider having a spa evening after the kids go to bed.

Read a book (or two, or three).

Most of us have several unread books on our bookshelves (or a drawer); I have over 25 unread books because I seem to buy books faster than I can finish them.  This is a great time to pick up those books and read them.  You many not have another extended stay-at-home time like this, so make the most of the time that you have by filling your brain with some useful knowledge with some non-fiction/self-help/DIY books or immerse yourself in a great fiction book to engage your great imagination.  If you need a new book to read, check out my book on biblical meditation.

Do your spring cleaning now.

In the midst of the current world pandemic, Spring has sprung!  Go from room to room to de-clutter and organize. Donate your gently worn clothes (you can find drop-off stations as well as donation bins throughout the city).  Plant some plants and flowers.  Get rid of expired canned goods and freeze-burned foods.  Whether or not you like to organize and clean, it can prove to be a therapeutic experience as you let go of the things that no longer serve your highest good.

 

 

As we all look forward to the day when we no longer need to keep 6 feet away from each other, let’s make it a goal to be better versions of ourselves than when all this began.

 

With Gratitude,
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Fear is Faith (in the wrong things)

You can’t get on social media or turn on the news without hearing/seeing something about it.  Everywhere you go, people are talking about the pandemic that is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).  Image result for coronavirusThe constant media coverage created a gripping fear in some people while for others, it’s business as usual.  I must admit, it’s easy to get caught up in all the statistics and the number of deaths reported as well as all the international travel bans.  Personally, I’m not too concerned about whether or not I contract the virus because according to many reliable and respected sources (such as Tarik Jasarevic who is World Health Organization spokesman), “Eighty percent of those who are infected with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) will have cases involving mild symptoms.”  Being that I’m pretty healthy, I’m pretty sure that I would get sick, get better and then get over it, but then when I started to cancel/postpone my upcoming workshops, it really started to hit home; however, before I can get paranoid or fearful, I read the following during my morning devotional:

FEAR IS HAVING FAITH, BUT IT’S PLACING YOUR FAITH IN THE WRONG THINGS.  FEAR IS PLACING YOUR FAITH IN THE “WHAT IFS.”  SO MUCH OF OUR FEARS ARE FOCUSED ON THINGS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN.

This devotional could not have come at a more perfect time!  After I read that, I felt a sense of lightness within my spirit.  It would’ve been easy for me to go into panic mode about my finances (as a business owner, if I don’t teach, I don’t make money) since we don’t know when all this is going to end; but because I’m making a conscious decision to put my faith in my God who created the Universe, I am confident that I will be at peace and all this will pass.  Everything on this earth is temporary including COVID-19.

Instead of giving into fear and paranoia, I hope you will join me in being careful and cautious while having faith that we will soon see the day where Coronavirus will be a thing of the past.

 

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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