Archive for the ‘Alexandria’ Category

Key to Life: Tapas

Many years before I was familiar with Yoga & Tapas, I recall observing the practice of discipline in every day living.  For instance, my Father regularly changed the oil in the cars.  He would tell me if he didn’t do it often the cars wouldn’t run properly.  My Mom always insisted my Sister and I have our hair trimmed every 1-2 months growing up.  Unwillingly I did it because she said otherwise my hair would get out of control, knotty and dry.  I always noticed how my Grandparents went to church every single Sunday —even when they weren’t feeling 100%.  Personally, I discovered the more I did something (roller skate, play piano, study a subject) the more I improved in the activity.  As a kid, based on my limited life experiences, I remembering deciding consistency was key to everything in life.  Now I think, as a future yogini in disguise, the practice of Tapas was unknowingly being cultivated within.

When I did my first yoga teacher training program in 2005, I remember we discussed the Yoga Sutras in length.  At that time in my life I felt a lack of connection with the third Niyama in Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras:  Tapas.  I understood what it meant but I didn’t find it as important as the other ethical principles discussed.

My viewpoint has definitely shifted over the last few years.  I now believe Tapas is foundational to the Niyamas just as Ahimsa is foundational to the Yamas.  To fully progress, in what ever it is – creating loving relationships, learning to ride a bike, eating properly, abstaining from intoxicants, meditating, practicing Asana, Santosha, Saucha, etc. – everything in life requires consistent discipline.  In fact, last year I had t-shirts created for my DC based mobile yoga business (abellaYoga.com) that read, “breathe, burn, be” on the front.  Often people ask, “What does burn mean?”  They usually try to guess before I’ve had a chance to respond.  I’ve heard:  burn calories, sweat, hot yoga, and intense yoga.  In creating the shirts, I realized how important Tapas has become in my personal practice and life.  So the burning answer to, “What does burn mean?”   The simple answer:  Tapas

Just as burn has many interpretations, Tapas has many translations.  One of my favorite translations of Tapas is discipline.  Discipline is a practice.  And I believe it is at the foundation of everything we do whether one consciously practices yoga or not. In order to truly practice or accomplish something (whatever it is) and reach a state of peace and happiness in the process (whether it’s Samadhi or the perfect headstand) consistent discipline must reside at the core of the activity.  Along with discipline, there is an element of faith and trust we must cultivate.

Developing faith and trust enables us to surrender to the practice of discipline.  We may question, “Why do I need to keep doing this?” or  “Will it really work?”  These may be exit strategies to get us out of an uncomfortable situation/discomfort/burning sensation.  What we learn is Tapas/discipline isn’t always pretty.  In fact, sometimes it burns.  Tapas teaches we often must do things we don’t want to do (like getting my hair cut regularly as a young girl) or sit with discomfort in order to eventually reach a better state of comfort or a new stage of growth.

Keep in mind, there are definitely times when questioning the action/discomfort is necessary.  For instance, the adage “no pain, no gain” is true in the practice of Tapas (99% of the time).  Yet through the various practices of yoga, one learns to live mindfully and be present in the pain.  Being present in the pain enables one to know when to wisely back off to avoid injury or harm (the other 1%).  It is in this “no pain, no gain” practice of tapas, that a strong sense of faith and trust is yet again required so we are clear as to what is present in the pain (and in our minds) as we are experiencing the situation.

Lastly, tapas/discipline to me is similar to shedding.  It requires a mindset of letting go and trusting that the old ways of doing things are no longer of service.  It requires us to change habitual ways of doing and thinking.   In the midst of practicing discipline/Tapas, there’s space to keep burning/going or just to simply give up.  If you give up, you often land back at square one.  In asana if you give up after falling over, you will never advance to the next stage of the posture.  If you get back up and patiently try again, you move forward and learn something new about yourself.  The heart of the asana practice is to show up physically (discipline!), commit to being on the mat mentally (disciplined focus!) and practice from where you are in the moment (trust!).  Another example is mountain biking.  I’ve had to shed a lot of my limited thinking/beliefs about what I think I can’t do.  If I give up on the trail, I’m carrying my bike more than riding it.   So often when I begin to doubt myself, I tap into my yoga breathing & Tapas to get me up, down or through what looks like impossible feats (climbing steep hills, jumping logs, splashing through streams).  Letting go/shedding my limiting thinking of myself has required a lot of trust & faith.

Today, whether I’m on my yoga mat or mountain bike, I know things flow better when I fully breathe and relax into the situation at hand even when it’s a little uncomfortable.   I’ve learned to commit to me on my mat and bike so I can show up fully as me in my life, not just for me but for others too.  I’ve also learned that faith & trust are powerful and stronger than fear, no matter how big the fear appears on the surface.  I believe without discipline one remains stagnant in life –wondering around without guidance. Until one can commit to work through areas of stuckness/stickiness (whether in the body or in life), they’ll remain stuck.   In asana, one remains stagnant in a posture – always wishing to be at the next level.  Without regularly changing a car’s oil, as my Father taught me, it will one day die.  And as with life, we either evolve (which requires discipline/Tapas) or die.  I will conclude with a quote I recently stumbled upon by Dale Carnegie:

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

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Spring Clean Your Life

Part of the fun of being a small business owner is every single day is different.  Of course, I primarily teach yoga Mon-Fri but I also do things like writing documents (i.e. contracts, proposals, handouts), attending networking events in the Arlington area and running to the bank to make deposits.  I love the variety each day offers including what’s on tomorrow’s agenda:  abellaYoga is exhibiting at the City of Alexandria Health Fair. 

One of my booth giveaways is a handout I created on with simple Spring cleaning tips for the body, mind and soul.  I cut & pasted the tips below hoping  you might find something here useful for your life this Spring.  If you have other ideas, please share.

Do Yoga – Wring out the toxins in your body with a simple twist every morning.  Try this:  Lie on your back & hug your knees into your chest.  Open arms wide and drop your knees to left, look right.  Take 5 long inhales and exhales.  Switch. 

Stop Catalogs – Clutter in our homes mentally weighs us down.  Visit dmachoice.org to stop getting junk mail you don’t want or need.  Online banking & billing is another great way to lighten your mailbox and keep your counters/desk clean.

Eat Greens – Don’t just go green, eat green!  Swiss chard, kale, arugula and mustard greens are high in cancer-fighting nutrients.  They will put pep in your step, sharpen your brain and boost your immune and circulatory systems.

Get Outside – Nature is powerful medicine.  Rain or shine, get outside and move daily.  Try working up a sweat –walk, run, bike, dance or do whatever you love– to get your heart pumping and rid your body of toxins & waste.  Bonus:  20 minutes outside without sunscreen will also give you a healthy, natural dose of vitamin D.  21 minutes and beyond?  Be wise and use sunscreen.

Water, Water, Water – The healthiest thing you can drink.  No calories, carbs, sugar or fat.  It fills you up.  Keeps your skin glowing.  Bored by the taste?  Add a lemon, lime or orange to give it a hint of natural flavor.

Put It Out There

Put what out where?  Five to ten years ago when people use to say to me “whatever you want just put it out in the universe and you’ll get it”, it always sounded like hocus pocus/hokey/nonsense.  Now tell me to “put it out there” and I’m all over it.

Prime example is when I finished my meditation practice this morning at home, I thought I really could use a great backbending yoga class to start my Saturday.  As I had planned last night, I arrived to the 7:45am class at Pure Prana this morning in Old Town Alexandria and the teacher says “the theme today is compassion.  opening your heart to yourself and others.”  Okay, I’m not much into “theme” classes but when she said that I was like “was I talking to you this morning after my meditation?”  Magically, I got the heart opening practice I needed.

Ask and you shall receive!  Obviously, it’s not always this easy.  The point is if you really want something and put your energy into wanting it, it is possible to get it.  Whether it’s talking about it to others, meditating on it or taking baby action steps towards it, these are all ways to potentially turn your intention/goals/whatever it is into reality.

Know that it can often require a ton of patience.  Also, know that sometimes you won’t get exactly what you wish for whatever reason.  Maybe because it’s not the right time/place for it in your life today.  Or as you “put it out there” something else may pop into place that’s even bigger and better than you ever could have imagined!

Try it!  What have you got to lose?

Who Inpires Me?

Wow, what a question?!?!?!  I was asked this after teaching the community yoga class last night at lululemon in Arlington, VA (Clarendon).

The main foundation for my teaching is Baron Baptiste.  Of course, Baron and the Baptiste community inspires me but I only get the opportunity to study with him and other Baptisters (I just made this term up!) once a year.  And unfortunately I don’t have a teacher (aka someone I can call my guru) that I study with on a weekly or monthly basis.

To keep my personal yoga practice alive, I tend to bounce around studios in the DC area primarily unrolling my yoga mat at Down Dog (Georgetown), Flow Yoga (DC) and lately, Pure Prana (Alexandria, VA).  Each studio has something to offer as does each teacher.  I dabble in Jivamukti when I’m craving a more spiritual flow.  I practice Iyengar and Ashtanga when I need a good kick in the tush.  I hit Down Dog regularly for the sweaty vinyasa flow.  When I can’t make it to the studio, I unroll my mat and follow my heart with my own home practice.

Regardless of where my mat lands, I keep an open mind as every teacher has something to offer.  And this holds true for when I teach as well.  The reality is everyone – including my students – has something to offer.  Yes, many times I get my biggest inspiration from my students.  One reason I don’t practice while I teach is so I can be completely present with them.  I breathe with them.  I look at their faces and overall bodies for energetic cues as to where I can give them the best guidance in that moment.  I encourage questions (Malasana is a pose I usually guide students into and then ask if there are any questions).  I’m inspired by the questions they ask, even the funny ones (i.e. how long are we going to be in Malasana?).

So who inspires my teaching?  Sorry I don’t have a clear answer.  There really isn’t just one person.  I can’t say it enough…everyone has something unique to offer and so many people have taught me so much.  I guess I’ve learned (and continue to learn) to keep an open mind, listen to others (through both verbal and non-verbal cues) and just be the best I can be in the moment.  Life’s best lessons and inspirations are often in disguise.

Caroline, Again sorry I don’t have a clear answer.  Without even knowing it, your question “who inspires you?” inspired me to write this blog post.  Thanks!

Eventful, Energetic, Ecstatic

In celebration of Yoga Day USA today, I am ecstatic to report abellaYoga’s donation-based yoga class raised over $1,000 for Soles4Souls.  The class was held in the historic ballroom of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum in Alexandria, VA —the exact place where Presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson once danced.

35 people showed up for the 80 minute power vinyasa flow.  It truly was a spectacular turn out.  Prior to the event, I was thinking I’d be thrilled if 20 people show up for this yoga class on a cold Winter Saturday morning.  Well, the sun shined and people came.  People showed up who had never tried yoga.  Many of my City of Alexandria yoga students participated.  A yoga teacher/friend of mine drove from Rockville, MD as well as a friend from D.C.  A bunch of my Arlington, VA neighbors took up the front row.  And mixed in the middle were some former yoga clients and old friends I hadn’t seen in years!

We flowed, breathed and definitely sweated with the intention of doing something good for others.  Of course, each participant was doing something good for their own well-being but the connecting thread was “others”.  So I concluded the class with the following quote from the Dalai Lama. 

The True Meaning of Life:
We are visitors on this planet. We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.

P.S.  If you wish to give to Soles4Souls, it’s not too late.  Visit soles4soulsfundraising.org/abellayoga

Do Yoga Today!

The abellaYoga Soles4Souls donation page is live!  A small donation is a great way to do some karma yoga today.

Karma yoga is yoga of service.  Service is helping others.  Donating helps others!

If you are attending the free class I am teaching on January 23rd (Yoga Day USA) in Alexandria VA, please make your donation in advance via www.soles4soulsfundraising.org/abellayoga.  All event details are also available here.

So why wait til Jan 23rd, Yoga Day USA, to do something good?  Do some karma yoga now!

My New Year’s Resolution

I always set business and personal goals for each year but I can’t recall every really setting a “core” resolution that I felt whole-hearted about.  Thanks to my good friend Michelle, who moved from Del Ray Alexandria, VA to Santa Cruz, CA nine months ago, I have a New Year’s Resolution that my life will revolve around for the next 210 days.

Here’s how it went down and how I came to select a 2010 resolution:  On Christmas Eve, Michelle called to say “I’m going to surf 200 continuous days in 2010”.  Over the next few days I started thinking I should support her challenge on the East coast.  What can I do? We talked a few days ago and she updates me that 200 consecutive days could be unrealistic with the power of Mother Nature, work, travel, etc. so she changed it to 210 days of surfing in 2010.  And she set up a cool blog:  210 days of waves.  Hmmm…

At first I thought, I should commit to 210 days of yoga the first 210 days of 2010.  Given yoga really encompasses asana, meditation, philosophy/reading, ethical principles to live by (yamas & niyamas), etc. 210 days of yoga seemed too easy.   Honestly, I already do something yoga-related every single day.  I’m a yogini so I live yoga as well as teach it 5 days a week.  To truly step up to the 210 challenge, I decided to turn my aspirations of daily meditation into reality.  I am committing to 210 days of meditation and I’ve set up a new blog a) to keep me honest, b) because Michelle did 🙂 and c) to try something new (daily blogging).

If you’ve been an abellaYoga blog fan for a while, you’re probably thinking “don’t you already meditate?”  Yes I meditate but not consistently.  I sit about 4 days a week for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.  So what does “210 days of meditation for 2010” mean to me?   The answer is here.

Follow our 2010 journeys:  210 days of waves / 210 days of meditation The ride may be bumpy but we’ll do what it takes.  July 29, 2010 is now only 209 days away.