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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Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend #7

Wow, it’s almost as if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth!

After Yoga Teacher Weekend #6, life got extremely hectic and I just couldn’t keep up with my blog. There were 6 more weekends, and in between Weekend #7 and Exam Weekend, the number of fitness classes I was teaching went from 2 to 8 along with selling our home and moving into a temporary dwelling place… and I was rear-ended by a pizza delivery boy who was driving 40 mph!  I was able to finish my contact and non-contact hours to graduate the training with close to 230 hours and 97% on my written exam.

As part of our exam, we had to each create and teach a short yoga practice with an assigned theme from our teacher.  We were evaluated by our peers as well as our teacher, and everyone did well.

Since becoming a 200-Hr Yoga Teacher, I’ve been teaching 2-4 yoga classes per week, and scaled back to 2 fitness classes a week.  I’ve also had the privilege of leading over 200 women in yoga at two different women’s events, a private yoga class for PepsiCo… and I got certified to teach Aerial Yoga (yoga on aerial hammocks).  I’ve been co-teaching and assisting in aerial yoga workshops out of town, but I’m about to launch my own aerial yoga workshops here in Dallas.

We’re getting ready to (finally) move into a house that we’ll be buying (we’re under contract) in a location closer to everything my family and I do (our old house was rather far from a lot of the activities we were involved in)… My next blog will contain some things that I’ve learned about myself and others through my journey in Yoga.

So until next time… May your days be bright and your heart be light! Namaste.

Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend #6

Sorry so late… I should’ve posted this several weeks ago:

Hi, I’m Jheni.  And I’m a Pitta Kapha.
This is my lead-in to weekend #6 of the Yoga Teacher Training!

We continued are discussion on Vinyasa Krama and the methods to create the most efficient and effective practice for each individual according to their needs.  It really is pretty methodical in that every asana should be intentional (whether the pose is used as a warm-up, forward bend, backbend, twist, lateral, extension, or a counterpose), and it is put together elegantly.

Vinyasa Krama spoke to the analyst in me, but learning about the chakras, doshas and prana vayus blew my mind!

I think out of all the things I learned this weekend, figuring out my prakriti (your ayurvedic constitution) opened so many doors to my inner-self.  (Find out what dosha you are by taking the Dosha Quiz)

So yes, as I stated in the beginning of this blog, I’m a Pitta-Kapha.  Shanon, our teacher, had us take the Dosha Quiz twice: Once for when we were younger and once for the way we are presently.  My results showed that I currently have a Pitta imbalance, so my goal will be to decrease the amount of Pitta.

At the end of the weekend, we partnered up and practiced reading each other’s pranayama vayu.  We took turns observing each others breathing to see if there were any possible blockage in energy.  Apparently, I do not have any blockage (although I believe emptying my bladder beforehand would’ve made it more comfortable for me!), but the girl that I partnered up with had a blockage in the Pran (also known as “Prana”, the first vayu in Prana Vayu).  It was really interesting how just by observing the breath, you can determine energetic blockages within a person!

We’re meeting in two weeks (instead of three), so my next post should be up soon!

So until next time… May your days be bright and your heart be light!

Namaste.

Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend #5

I thought the past YTT weekends were awesome… Well, they’re about to get “awesomer” (yes, I know that’s not a word…)!!!

The topic of the past weekend was Vinyasa Krama.  Vinyasa Krama (not to be mistaken for “Vinyasa Flow”), is the intelligent sequencing of a practice with a specific intention or goal.
“Vi” = in a special way
“Nyasa” = to place
“Krama” = system, step, order, sequence, series, progressing step-by-step

Basically, in Vinyasa Krama, each asana (pose) is picked and placed in a specific order purposefully.  There’s a rhyme and a reason for the way each asana is sequenced.  There are three main reasons for this “intelligent sequencing, placed in a special way” are to:
1. Reduce the risk of possible injuries in a particular asana or yoga practice,
2. To adjust one asana from another, and
3. To create the energetic effects desired within the practice.

Anyone can put a bunch of asanas together and call it a “yoga class”; but to design a Vinyasa Krama class, one must plan and choose each asana with a purpose.

Our yoga practice on Saturday KICKED MY BUTT!!!  We stayed in certain poses for up to 5 minutes!  One of the asanas that we stayed in for 4 – 5 minutes was the active pigeon (think pigeon pose with the back leg off the floor and foot flexed while you fold forward).  My back leg started to shake so much!  Since Shanon advised that before coming out of a pose, ask ourselves why we wanted to come out of it, I had a nice dialogue within myself; my physical-self said, “Oh my goodness, your leg is shaking violently!  You can’t hold it any longer,” but my mind said, “You’re okay.  You’ll be fine.”  “No, I can’t do this,” my physical-self whined… but my mind stayed calm and said, “Sure you can.  You’re already doing it.”  It took me back to the internal dialogue that I had within myself when I was in labor (over 8 years ago).  After the practice, I felt so strong, accomplished… unbreakable!

We ended our Sunday session with Restorative Yoga which I was grateful for because I was still sore from the previous evening!  My only experience with Restorative Yoga was a couple months ago at a yoga studio about 15-20 minutes away from my house.  I recall not enjoying it AT ALL, so I figured I would have the same experience… boy, was I wrong!  We stayed in each pose for quite some time, but when Shanon cued us to begin coming out of the pose, I was thinking, “Aw, man!  That wasn’t long enough!”  I didn’t want that practice to end…  So after my new-found love for Restorative Yoga, I came to the conclusion that either the environment of my first Restorative Yoga class was not conducive to the practice, or I must be evolving…  Or maybe a little bit of both.

The topic of Vinyasa Krama continues for the next two YTT weekend sessions… I’m so in love with this experience!

 

So until next time… May your days be bright and your heart be light!

Namaste.

Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend #4

This post should have been published at the end of April… With so much going on, I just sat down to finish this one… Weekend #5 post to follow soon…

 

I’m really loving these YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) Weekends!

I was so excited going into this weekend because we were going to be covering Twists and Inversions (and of course, more Human Anatomy which I absolutely love!).  I love twisting asanas because it feels so good on the spine… It feels like I’m giving myself a chiropractic session!  Also, I love what it does to the digestive system.  The “wringing out” motion of twists leaves me feeling so “cleared”!  I’ve been doing Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and recently started working on my Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand), so I was ready and eager to have the whole day (Sunday) dedicated to Inversions.

The lecture portions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday were really eye-opening.  Twists do more than just wring you out.  I learned that they have the energetic ability to center and ground you.  Twists, if done improperly, can cause your disks to bulge (ouch!) among other things.  It’s extremely important to keep the spine straight when twisting.

As far as inversions, I never realized how unsafe some of the poses could be!  Sarvangasana, for example, can cause the ligament in the back of the neck to stretch (and once ligaments are stretched, they remain stretched).  Being that the ligaments, the muscles, the bones and the disks in the neck work to protect the spinal cord starting at the base of the head, stretching out the ligament is probably not the most favorable thing to do!
(Here’s a great article on the dangers of certain asanas:  http://www.drmccall.com/yoga/bodyyoga.pdf)
I must admit, headstands are a bit addicting… but I’ve promised myself that I will practice this pose sparingly (maybe once every other leap year at most) if I feel the deep desire to do so.
We tried a lot of the inversions in class just for a little bit (so that we understand, as Yoga Teachers, how they would feel).  Shanon also guided us in trying out some great modifications of the poses.  One of the poses that I absolutely love (which is one of the safer poses) is Viparita Karani (Jack Knife).  This can also be done against a wall with a bolster as a prop, but I love how this pose feels away from the wall.  Holding this pose for several minutes creates such an uplifting energy… I will be doing this pose more often!

The weekend ended with relaxation and some pranayama (Prana Shudhi, Kabhala Bati, and breath manipulation).  After our “Namaste”, I left feeling so energetic, like I could conquer the world!

Until next time… May your days be bright and your heart be light!

Namaste.

Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend #3

Because of my not-so-pleasant experience with the Forward Bend practices from weekend #2, I was not as excited to start weekend #3 of In-Depth Yoga Studies & Teacher Training program with Shanon Buffington

As we started the topic of the weekend (Back Bends and Laterals), we discussed how we felt after the Forward Bend practice from weekend #2.  It turned out that there were several of us that felt low in energy and a bit somber in our mood.  Shanon explained that although we did some counter-poses, Forward Bends tend to be more grounding and therefore, can bring one’s energy down (which is great if you need to have your energy brought down from being too high).  She went on to inform us that if we liked Forward Bends, then Back Bends may not be our favorite practice (since it brings your energy up) and vice versa.

I always enjoy the Friday night lectures because the human anatomy fascinates me.  It blows me away how intricately the human body is designed.  The spine, for example, has three primary curves: Thoracic, Sacral and Coccyx.  This is what we’re born with.  As we grow and develop, we get our secondary spinal curves: Cervical and Lumbar.  This amazing spine of ours protects the spinal chord and nerves, and it supports about half of our body weight!  (Okay, back to weekend #3…)

Although I’ve always been hesitant about doing too many back bends because of my sciatic nerve pain, I was excited to explore how my body and my energy responds to a back bend practice.  Saturday’s practice was amazing.  We worked on several back bends such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Dwipada Pitham (Two-Legged Table), and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose).  We then worked on our apex asana, Urdhva Dhanurasana (Full Wheel Pose).  I don’t do this asana often, but when I was in this asana, I felt a sudden sense of… LIBERATION!  I felt so liberated and strong!  This (and the other back bends) elevated my mood and energy to a point that after class on Saturday, I went home and did an intense workout for an hour and a half!

On Sunday, we discussed our own experiences with the previous day’s asana practice.  There were some who were up past 2 AM (one girl was up until 4 AM!) because they had such a surge of energy from the practice!  Our Lateral asana practice was pretty uplifting as well (but not equal to back bends).

Weekend #3 ended on such positive spirits on my end, I want to bottle this energy up!

Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend #2

I felt good going into the second weekend of my In-Depth Yoga Studies & Teacher Training program with Shanon Buffington because I felt like I knew what to expect and because I had met a lot of the students during the first weekend and through Facebook (good ol’ Facebook!).

Friday night was a review of our homework and lecture on forward bends and related anatomy.  I was feeling confident about my homework because I was sure that I got all of the answers correct…  Well, I was wrong.  I had most of the answers right, but on a few, I was way off.  I found myself feeling “below average” for my inability to get all of the answers correct.  I was able to brush off that feeling, so I just dismissed it as a non-issue.

Saturday was a very hands-on lecture:  As we learned the anatomical aspect of each forward bend asanas, we got up and tried these poses.  One of the first asanas that Shanon used “models” for, was Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog).  She asked one of the students to demonstrate it, and the rest of the class observed her proper alignment (basically, the proper way to do the asana).  Shanon then asked me to demonstrate my Adho Mukha Svanasana.  I was more than happy to demonstrate it, since I have been practicing yoga for 16 years.  To my surprise (and a blow to my ego) however, she pointed out to the class how my “shoulders were crunching into my neck”.  She then provided me with verbal instructions on how to make adjustments to make the pose correct.  I was shocked at how much more challenging this “simple” pose was once I was doing it properly!  Although I was glad to know the proper way of doing this pose, I started questioning my yoga practice and abilities.  Again, I decided to push this out of my mind.

Saturday ended with an asana practice focusing on forward bends.  Being that Shanon and informed us of the effects of forward bends (it brings the energy down, which means if you’re super hyper/energetic/busy mind/etc, this will be a good practice for you; however, if you have a tendency to be down or struggle with depression, this is NOT a favorable practice), I made sure I listened to her cues for breathing techniques that we should do if we don’t want our energy coming down even more (I was feeling a bit emotional and down that day).  I didn’t feel any dramatic effects of the practice that evening.

We finished the weekend on Sunday with another practice after the lecture/demonstration session.  As I packed up to leave, I slipped out of the studio quickly and quietly because I was feeling a bit introverted.

The next few days after that, I continued to observe my mood, energy and behavior…

After a Vinyasa class on Tuesday evening (where we did some forward bending asanas and ended with an inversion), I awoke on Wednesday feeling DEPRESSED!  I didn’t want to get out of bed, and I had very little energy to stay awake for more than an hour at a time.  Everything overwhelmed me and I felt like I couldn’t face the world!

Wow…  Never underestimate the powerful effect of yoga!

(P.S. – After a couple of days, my energy and mood was back to normal.)