Learning Never Stops

I became a 200-Hour Certified Yoga Teacher in 2013.  Since then, I’ve completed a handful of other certification programs, taught over 2,500 hours of Yoga in the form of classes, workshops, and certifications.  Through all of my experience taking and teaching Yoga, there is one common thread:  I’m still learning.

I have wanted to take a 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training (AYTT) to obtain my 500-Hour status with Yoga Alliance, but I felt like that was not good enough of a reason for me to enroll in one.  I didn’t want my motivation to be a status but rather for the pure joy of learning.  I did my own studies by reading yoga-related books and articles, and I became a regular listener of podcasts for Yoga Teachers.

I’m not sure if the reason why I didn’t enroll in a 300-HR YTT is because I truly wanted my reason to be a calling toward a certain program or if it was because I was afraid of committing 300 hours of my life to another YTT.  YTT’s are hard.  It causes you to grow in ways that you may not have wanted to because during YTT’s, you’re faced with… YOU.  You have to do the work to go through a transformation so that you’re able to grow in your journey to your authentic-self.  It gets messy.  There are often tears shed by classmates (or even by you).  But at the end of the program, you’re not the person that you were when you walked into your first session of a 200-Hr YTT.

It is exhausting to go through that much transformation while completing all your reading and writing assignments, and learning how to teach yoga in front of your classmates.  I think this is what I was nervous about:  All the reading and writing and practicing and… LEARNING.  But I also didn’t want to not learn (if that makes any sense).

I was thisclose to registering for a 300-Hour AYTT twice.  One time, I was supposed to meet with my future teacher and had my tuition ready to send to her.  I was excited about enrolling in her program, but it turned out that I had schedule conflicts that I just couldn’t resolve.  This happened two years in a row.  So I inquired about another AYTT.  The second studio is a well-known studio in the Southeast Region of the US.  They even offered to waive my application fee because I would’ve had to make housing arrangements each time I attended the sessions because it was a few hours away from where I lived.  In the end, I decided not to enroll in any of the programs… Until now.

Due to COVID-19, Yoga Alliance has granted all RYS (Registered Yoga School) to temporarily offer their programs online, preferably via livestream.  So, I started doing some research on yoga schools that I didn’t consider previously due to them being out of state or out of the country.  I wanted a program with flexibility with an option to take classes online and offline… and then I found one.

I enrolled in an AYTT program based out of Surat Thani, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia.  It’s crazy to think about going through an entire 300-Hour program without physically being present, but I’m really excited to start my program this morning!  I won’t know how I need to schedule out my e-learning yet, but what I do know for sure is that I’m going to dive in head first, with the mindset that I will learn something everyday.  Learning has to happen daily so that we can be better and do better.

Learning never stops.

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.

 

With Gratitude,
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Lessons from The Lotus Flower

Pink and White Lotus Flower · Free Stock PhotoI moved back to Texas (from North Carolina) 12 days ago.  I lived in North Carolina for 4.5 years, but before that, I was a resident of the Lone Star State for almost 10 years.  Even though I grew up in California (Los Angeles), I somehow feel that I’m more of a Texan than a Californian.  I was so excited to make the move back to where my heart is, but the move was not without challenges.  In my blog last week, I talked about the Dos and Don’ts of moving in the midst of COVID-19 (it’s so important to plan ahead because there are moving-related services that may not necessarily readily available due to business closures).  Today, I want to address the emotional aspect of moving, using the symbolism of a lotus flower.

“Be like a lotus. Let the beauty of your heart speak. Be grateful to the mud, water, air and the light.”
Amit Ray

A lotus is a very unique plant: While most plants in the northern hemisphere became extinct during the Ice Age, lotus plants survived, earning the distinction as a living fossil.  It also grows in muddy waters into a beautiful flower: This fact alone can be pondered over for many hours — and I promise to dedicate an entire blog in the near future — but today, I will talk about the following characteristics of a Lotus: Purity, Enlightenment, Self-regeneration and Rebirth.

Purity

The dictionary defines purity as “freedom from contamination.”  When I think of the word contamination, I think of something being dirty, dangerous to one’s well-being, and no longer being good for its purpose.  It seems kind of odd to think about the connection between purity and moving; but the way I connect it is by asking myself, “Am I dragging my personal baggage from state to state, or am I starting anew with a blank slate, with no pre-conceived notion of what this new chapter in my life will be like?”  Being that I’m a dreamer, I like to envision the way I think certain situations will be like.  It’s hard not to go into a new experience and environment with no expectation; however, if I want to approach this with purity, I must go into my life in Texas free from contamination of bad habits that I have previously created in my life.

Enlightenment

We use this term (or some form of it) a lot in Yoga.  Some words that are in this category are understanding, insight, awareness and awakening.  I’ve been missing my friends in Charlotte a lot the past couple of days.  I found myself wondering if we made a mistake by leaving Charlotte.  When I expressed this to my friend in Dallas, she seemed concerned for me.  But I assured her that I was glad I was feeling sad and having doubts because if I didn’t feel this way, how can I say that I gave my heart fully to my life in Charlotte?  It would also indicate that I was totally out of touch with my feelings if I didn’t feel this way.  I think part of being enlightened in one’s journey in life is to be able to have self-awareness and to be able to recognize the discomforts without avoiding or ignoring them.

Self-Regeneration

When I think self-regeneration, I think of lizards.  I remember when I was at a summer camp as a teenager, one of my friends caught a lizard and was trying to hold onto it.  When it squirmed out of his hand, he grabbed the tail (you know what’s coming next), and the tail detached from the lizard… and it was moving by itself!  This was the first time I had ever seen a lizard do that in person, so it freaked me out!  We know that lizards have the ability to regenerate their tails.  I found myself asking the question, “Are there any areas in my life where my heart has been hurt or injured?  If so, am I actively taking the necessary steps to heal and regenerate those parts of my heart?

Rebirth

Rebirth.  To be born again.  This makes me think about being like a newborn, where everything is new and fascinating.  Even though I have previously lived in Dallas for almost 10 years, I want to embrace this city with a new set of eyes and new perspective.  I don’t want to go back to who I was when I lived here before; I want to allow myself to approach this new chapter of life with freshness and excitement.

Moving is tough.  It is never without discomforts and bitter-sweetness.  If you are (or will be) in the situation of moving, know that I can relate to the myriad of emotions that you are (or will be) going though… and that transition feelings are completely normal and necessary.

With Gratitude,
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The Process of Transformation

Last week, I talked about the cost of discipline and how creating a habit takes more than 21 days like many of us had been previously informed.  Although the being disciplined is not the most fun or comfortable route to take in life, it is the more productive choice and an essential decision to make in order to improve who we are.

I used to teach a 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training program which would take 9-10 months for my students to complete.  On the first day of the program each year, I reminded my students that becoming a certified yoga teacher is secondary and that the self-transformation through the process is the primary benefit that they will experience.  At the end of the program, they have all agreed that they’re not the same person that they came in through the door on the first day.  I’ve had students that seemed to be polar opposites or conflicting personalities become best friends by the end of the program.  I’ve had students who seemed to “have it all together” break down and experience a sense of authenticity and vulnerability that they say they’ve never felt before (you can read more about it in my book, BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation“).  I took a break from running my 200-Hr YTT program last year so that I can focus on publishing my first book, and I am in the process of writing my second book which will be completed either by the end of this year or the beginning of next year; but once I am ready (and my schedule allows me to commit to teaching 200 hours), I will resume teaching my program… in Texas!  (Check out my blog next week for details on Texas.)  Now getting back on topic of transformation…

The reason why my students experienced a transformation is because they committed to learning how to be a good teacher; and part of being a good teacher is to be a good student.  Yoga is not something you can teach or regularly practice half-hearted.  Being a Yoga Teacher means you are also doing the work to get deeper in your journey towards authenticity.  As a teacher to future Yoga Teachers, I always say that I am not an expert as there really is no such thing (that’s why it’s called a Yoga Practice, not Yoga Perfection).  Even the greatest gurus in Yoga are learning and growing.  With learning and growing comes discomfort, facing your fears, and doing the work necessary to heal from past hurts, traumas and tendencies that do not serve us for our highest good (which is to meet who you were created to be since the beginning of creation itself).  I have had to face many obstacles (pride, bad habits, fears, etc.) in order to change and to grow… so that I can continue to change and grow.  We must be intentional about constantly transforming to be better versions of ourselves.  We never stay the same;  We’re either striving to get better or allowing ourselves to get worse.

The process of transformation is hard, and it won’t happen overnight; but if you keep persevering and staying disciplined, you will be able to look back and see how much you have grown!

 

With Gratitude,
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Get Out of The Way!

Since the onset of COVID-19 Pandemic and all the restrictions that have come with it, I was among the thousands of people who have lost their income due to business closures.  I was also among the numerous yoga teachers/fitness instructors that transitioned to teaching live-stream classes through Zoom.  Even though teaching through an online platform was something I had wanted to do for a while, I was “forced” into this situation sooner than I was anticipating.  I say “forced” because my other option was to not teach at all.  There are several reasons why I was delaying online teaching:

    1. I don’t like hearing my recorded voice (I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this).  When I hear my unrecorded-self talk, I like the tonality and the intonation in my speaking voice… which is not the case when I hear my recorded voice.
    2. I don’t like seeing myself talking in a video.  I start looking at how I move my mouth when I speak, my non-conscious movements, my lack of smile (making me look like I’m mad), my non-white teeth (from many years of tea and coffee drinking)… the list goes on and on.
    3. I wondered if people would actually switch from in-person classes with me to on-line/live-streaming classes.  Being that I specialize in teaching gentler forms of yoga (not necessarily easier, but I focus more on proper alignment and injury prevention), my morning classes consist of mostly women in their late 30’s to 50’s.  Half of these wonderful women are not big fans of technology, so I knew I would lose the number of people I can help by transitioning my classes online.
    4. I questioned my discipline.  Would I be able to consistently teach online every week, or would I start to lose motivation and quit?

It is interesting that it took a global crisis for me to take the leap into teaching classes online.  But before I decided to offer live-stream classes, I had to search in my heart and make sure I wasn’t doing it out of fear (check out my previous blog on overcoming fear).  Once I prayed, meditated and talked it over with my husband (who is often the voice of reason), I realized that this would be a great time for me to take a leap and see what God does with it.

Today is my second week of online teaching, and it’s going great so far.  Last week, I taught three All-Levels Yoga classes, two Yoga Nidra classes (if you don’t know what this is, sign up for my class here), and a Biblical Meditation Workshop (click here for future workshops)… and I’m happy to report that I did not feel self-conscious, and I was able to stay disciplined and organized with my schedule!  The greatest lesson I learned in this whole process is that I get in my own way (and in God’s way) which prevents me from doing and experiencing greater things.

How often do you convince yourself not to pursue a dream or an idea because you think it is:

  1. Too much work?
  2. Too much effort?
  3. Too scary?
  4. Too intimidating?
  5. Too out of your comfort zone?

Next time you feel any of the feelings above, remind yourself to get out of your way so that you can go after accomplishing and experiencing things that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  And if you don’t succeed in your definition of success (more on this topic next week), know that IT IS OKAY.  You are still wonderful.  You are still loved.  You are still uniquely YOU!

Misunderstood? Me too!

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

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

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

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

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

 

With Gratitude,
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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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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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