Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 1

Happy 2020!

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

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

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

Qualities of Vata

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

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

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

Qualities of Pitta

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

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

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

Qualities of Kapha

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

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

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

 

So now what? 

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

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

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

Stay tuned for my blog next week about acupuncture!  😉

 

With Gratitude,
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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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Lessons From a Lemon Tree

 

About three years ago, my husband and I spent the day in Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA.  A lot of the homes there have big windows facing the walking path and the harbor, so it’s fun to just take a stroll and glance into people’s homes.  I know it sounds creepy, but it’s almost impossible to walk around there without looking into people’s homes.  In fact, I’ve had some homeowners wave to me from their house if we happen to make eye contact! 😂

One of the things that I noticed in their patios was potted lemon trees.  I thought to myself, “That would be so cool to be able to grow my own potted lemon tree!”  But being that I don’t have a green thumb (I once killed a bonsai tree), I was hesitant in starting one; but I did it anyway!  I took seeds from a lemon that I bought at the local grocery store and planted three of them in one pot with some soil for citrus trees.  I faithfully watered it according to instructions that I found online.

I was so excited when it started sprouting up and growing slowly but surely.  I didn’t expect any fruit for at least a year or two (especially because I was growing them indoors with constant exposure to sunlight during the day), but I didn’t care. I was just so happy that I could actually grow something that started as seeds from a fruit that I bought at the store.  I didn’t take pictures of the growth, but it looked something like this:

I had big dreams for these lemon trees.  I got excited thinking about how I was going to have freshly picked lemons for my water and tea every morning.  I pictured myself making lemon pancakes, lemon pepper fish, lemonade… I was mentally collecting recipes.  As they grew bigger, I separated them into their own pots (so three trees!).  I was so proud of my lemon trees; I’m surprised that I didn’t assign names for them!  They were thriving and growing beautiful, big leaves that smelled like lemons… until they all started to get sick.

When I first noticed that the leaves were turning yellow, then brown and falling off, I went online and did everything that I found to do in order to revive my sickly trees; but in the end, they met their destiny:

They’ve been dead for a month now, and I finally decided to accept defeat.  I planted all three of them together after they died so that they could all be together.  It’s kind of comical and tragic at the same time in my opinion.  And while I’ve been looking at this dead pot of lemon trees, I’ve been reminded of three life lessons.

Lesson #1:  Find joy in the simple things.
When the seeds started sprouting up, I couldn’t believe how happy I was!  I looked forward to seeing their growth every morning.  Even when there was a million things going on, watching my little lemon trees-in-the-making made me stop and marvel at this miracle of growth.  When I stop to look at a rainbow, listen to the birds chirping in the morning, feeling the warmth of the sun or watching old couples holding hands, it brings me back to the present moment which allows my heart to smile and appreciate the simpler things in life.

Lesson #2:  Be consistent in watering and pruning.
I did my research to water only as often as I needed (not every day).  When there were diseased branches, I pruned them to make sure they were not going to make the rest of the plants sick.  I need to make sure I’m getting “watered” by constantly learning and developing my strengths as well as getting “pruned” by cutting out bad habits, thoughts and actions that do not serve me for my highest good.

Lesson #3:  Check the soil!
I think my plants died because I did a poor job checking the ph of the soil.  There are soil testing kits out there, but I decided that the only thing my plants would need are plant foods.  In life, I must assess my soil to make sure I have what I need in order to thrive.  I’m not talking about selfish ambition; what I mean is that I need to make sure that I surround myself with people who I feel safe with and cared for.  Community is so important because we are all connected.  If my “soil” is not the right ph for me to thrive, the negative impact will ultimately spread throughout the entire universe.

In 2020, I will be planting seeds for new lemon trees.  Maybe this time around, I will actually be able to make those lemon pancakes!

 

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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