Archive for the ‘washington dc’ Category


I just realized this morning during my meditation practice (as the birds & fresh air surrounded me) how much I adore the month of May.  We’re beyond the cold, dreary winter and just out of the somewhat rainy, warm month of April.  For me May signals the start of summer and a year ahead, full of possibilities.  I’ve decided May is my New Year!

Living in the DC area for 15+ years now, I have been fortunate not to acquire any allergies to pollen, grass, etc. so I love the smell of fresh cut grass, mulch and flowers.  It’s warm enough, yet cool enough, to sleep with the windows open (before my husband seals our house up with AC for a few months).  Though I’m not a fan of birds, I do enjoy hearing them at 4:30am chirping in the distance.  As 6am nears, all of nature seems to all be awake.   I love being up early this time of year enjoying the quiet time out in the fresh air.

Coincidentally, May is my birthday month so maybe this is why for me it signals a new year.  I feel the summer holds a ton of possibilities for work, play and all things yoga.  I love taking my mediation & yoga practice outdoors this time of year.  I love teaching yoga outdoors when the opportunity presents itself.  It’s also usually around this time of the year I pick up a couple new private and/or office yoga clients (not sure why that is).  Everything just seems to flow naturally.

So as we near the end of the first week of May, the first week of my New Year, I’m looking forward to both the known -planned beach trips, the 5K I’m running 5/21, BBQs @ BQ’s, hooping, cocktails on our new patio, biking, etc.- and equally looking forward to the unknown -like me spontaneously deciding to send myself flowers earlier this week.  Which reminds me…for those of you who are curious about the card that arrived with the flowers I sent myself, here’s what it reads:  Thanks for being a fantastic person.  Wishing you a great day, week and year full of all things active (mountain biking, running, skiing, handstands, sex & more), love and fun.  Love, Me and You.  Happy May!

What’s Your Favorite Pose?

As some of you already know, I entered the Yoga Journal Talent Search contest.  The entry was two parts —submit a picture of yourself in your favorite yoga pose, and state how yoga has inspired you.  Let’s tackle part one here.

Really, who has just one favorite yoga pose?!?!?!  There are very few poses I don’t like —and usually I don’t experience them unless I take an advanced Ashtanga class.  Even then, I often experience a glimmer of goodness and sense of humility while in the pose.

So what fav pose pic did I submit?  Baddha Ardha Chandrasana (bound half-moon pose, aka sugar cane).  In fact it is just ONE of many fav asanas I adore.  And for as many favorite asanas I have,  I also have just as many ways in which yoga has inspired me —which I’ll address this in my next blog entry.

Specific to asanas/postures…one of the biggest things I love is the mystery offered as you venture into a posture.  There is always the base/root posture and the sensations you feel while you’re there.  And if you get bored there, well it’s time to venture on.  Almost every root posture offers a chance to grow and blossom into other pose variations.  Often, particularly when we are new to a pose, we seek to simply accomplish the base pose.  Our ego provides us with a nice pat on the back or a giant “I DID IT!” for perfecting what we think in that moment is the perfect pose.

Though asana, as with life, always has more to offer.  As soon as we think we’ve figured it all out, there’s a surprise around the corner.  Another view, each asana is also like Sunday.  Sunday is traditionally known as being the start of each new week and for some “the day of rest”.  For me, Sunday is the day to prep for the week ahead as Mon – Sat usually always demands more.  Another analogy…in order to reach the top of the mountain, you have to start from the bottom and move step by step (unless you own a helicopter).  And it’s in each step where a sense of discovery and awe arise, and that’s  way before you even arrive to the tip.

So when I picked bound 1/2 moon, I realized I love Warrior II, Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Ardha Chandrasana —all possible pre-postures that lead you to the bound version of half moon.  Again, I ask who has just one favorite pose?  And if you do, how is that possible?

Corporate Wellness Radio Spot

At the end of January, exactly two days before heading off to CO to ski, I was contacted by Voice of America to discuss corporate wellness programs, specifically yoga in the workplace.  Given it’s a passion of mine, I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to speak about yoga in the corporate world.  It’s what I live and breathe and love teaching/sharing.

The timing wasn’t great though since my focus was on wrapping life up before heading out for week of vacation.  When I asked what the deadline was for the story and she said “yesterday” I gladly obliged.  Instead of having her simply interview me, I invited her to attend the very last class I was teaching prior to my vacation —a Friday lunchtime office yoga class in DC.

With little notice and no clue what to expect as far as the interview, the story went live this past Sunday and has been well received by many around the world.  My name was botched a bit (Arbella instead of Abella) and a couple of other tid-bits are off but overall it’s a great overview on issues companies must consider when offering employee wellness programs as well as the potential benefits they deliver.

Tune in here at Voice of America to hear the full story.  Be forewarned:  most listeners are non-native speakers, so the voicing is S L O W.  You can also simply read it online here too (it’s quicker than listening).

And, yes that is us (RTI & me, aka Instructor) Omming at the beginning of the story.  That might just be my favorite part of the story 🙂

Accept “What Is”

Life is always talking to us.  The question is “are we listening?”  We usually only listen when it’s something we want to hear —something positive such as soothing words, fun music or children laughing.  Internal positive sensations such as the high generated from a long run or an energetic yoga practice are other things we often pay attention to because they make us feel good.  But what about the painful sounds, sensations and vibrations we often hear internally and externally?  Our tendency is to resist vs. accept them for what they are.

I learned today a root canal is in my near future (next Tuesday!) so I find it fitting this article “Suffering is Optional” just landed in my inbox this evening.  It’s also ironic that pre-dentist appointment/root canal news today I had just taught a corporate yoga class in DC and spoke of contentment (santosha) —learning to accept everything life throws our way.

Accepting doesn’t mean we simply tolerate an unpleasant situation.  It means we learn how to be open to “what is” in all situations.   It means we learn how to sit in the midst of the chaos, pain or whatever label you give it and use the time to discover creative solutions rather than flee.  It means fully understanding that all moments, good and bad, make up what we call LIFE.  This actually reminds me of a quote I read in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari…”when you miss out on the moments, you miss out on your life.”

As I prepare for my surgery next week, this YJ article is a nice reminder that suffering is optional.  We all experience suffering in more ways than one, many many times in life.  It’s how we decide to handle it each experience that’s key.  It’s always our choice to work through it or flee.

So as I prep to sit in the dentist chair next week my yogic breathing, mantra of the day and all the other lovely tools I’ve acquired in my yoga journey will help me accept “what is”.  In your journey of accepting, I wish you peace in whatever life throws your way.  As the Buddha taught, everything changes.  Nothing remains the same forever.

What’s Your 2011 Focus?

A month ago I shared with you all my vision board (VB) project and my initial reservations about doing it.  Well, I’m here to report I’m pleasantly shocked by its magic.  It has only been a month and I’ve already had an amazing experience in connecting with that $1.50 piece of bright blue cardboard.

One of my shout out phrases on that board is “get focused”.  I recalled it today as I was driving by the bookstore and thought about stopping to browse.  Then I said to myself “stay focused”.  This concept/power phrase I have on my VB also came up recently as I was reading A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.  She writes “We get in life that which we focus on.  Focus on the light brings us into the  light.”  This really resonated with me given my VB.

Need some focus and don’t have a VB?  The power of focus can still be yours.  As I recently suggested to students in a corporate yoga class I taught, bring to mind just one of your goals/intentions for 2011.  How can you incorporate it into your yoga practice right here, right now — or just every day life?  For example, maybe your goal is to be more artistic this year — pick up painting again or sculpting/pottery for the first time — then practice also being creative on your yoga mat and in other areas of your life.  Creative expression doesn’t have to be limited to something that can only be done on the weekends or periodically (when you have time).

If your intention is to cook new recipes or garden/grow your own herbs & veggies, then insert the practice of patience into your life as often as possible, i.e. while sitting in traffic or standing in line for your morning cup of Starbucks.  Or maybe your intention is to begin networking more (for professional reasons) or simply reconnect with long lost friends.  If so, practice connecting with yourself by taking time to focus on your breath periodically throughout the day.  Even better, step outside for a long walk, breathe to your hearts content and connect to yourself with nature surrounding you on all sides.  A deep connection with others requires a deeper connection with ourselves.

Find a way to turn your goals/intentions into small daily rituals (see my last post).  Pick a quality from just one resolution/aspiration that you want to cultivate and bring it to life daily.  Focus on your intentions/goals and they become reality.

Toss out the idea that you “don’t have time”.  It’s an excuse.  Maybe you can’t touch your paint brush or open the new cookbook until May.  At the very least figure out how to experience the qualities of your resolution(s) by finding & focusing on them in other areas of your life, even the most mundane.

Ritual vs. Routine

After writing my last blog entry,  I started contemplating the difference in meaning between ritual and routine.  When I look them up in my trusty book shelved Oxford dictionary they both have a very similar meaning:  regular course or procedure (routine) vs.  procedure regularly followed (ritual).  Look them up online and the “all-knowing” Wikipedia offers a similar definition for routine along with a slightly different meaning for ritual, being defined as a set of actions performed for symbolic value.

Here is my spin/definition.  To me routine is doing the same asana and meditation practice that no longer challenges & stimulates the soul.  Routine is just going through the motions so you can put a check mark on your “to do” list and feel a sense of accomplishment.  With routines, there is little sense of passion and curiosity.

Taking vitamins every morning, showering daily and grocery shopping are all routine for me.  Some might consider going to the yoga studio, gym or running a routine (again, a check off the “to do” list), whereas I view my daily asana and meditation practices as rituals.  They are a time for me to explore.  For me, there is a sense of excitement and freedom that gives them a more “ritualistic” quality.

This leads me to my personal conclusion which I’ve been pondering for several days now.  Rituals are special.  Life is special.  Shouldn’t life then be full of rituals rather than routines?  Is it possible to etch a little extra time into our routines to make them rituals in disguise, amongst the hustle/bustle type of lifestyle we live and thrive?  Or do things just have to simply be routine?

If challenge, excitement and surprise result more often from rituals, why can’t we create rituals within the routines?  I say we have a choice.  My choice is to keep stepping out of my routine, doing things differently and enjoying the rituals I discover along the way.  Want to join me for the ride?

Visions Dancing in My Head

A couple of weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night unable to fall back to sleep.  Instead of sugar plums and my holiday to do list cluttering my head, anxiety/thoughts swirled in my mind about the vision board for 2011 I was scheduled to do.  I had a date on my calendar to spend an afternoon with my dear friend/yoga teacher Ursula discussing our goals for 2011 and creating our vision boards.  Side note:  if you’re in the VA/DC area, visit Ursula’s studio Inner Power Yoga – it’s a beautiful space.

Why I couldn’t sleep that particular night, who knows!  Was it the thought of sharing my goals with someone else?  I haven’t really had to do that since having my own business.  Was it the notions of having to be “creative” for this project and living with a huge board on display in my home office/yoga studio space for a year? Or, was it the idea that I would possibly be wasting a precious afternoon just before Christmas to do a silly school kid project (as my husband referred to it).

I admit last year I considered doing a vision board but quickly nixed it thinking it would be a waste of time.  Why spend an afternoon ripping, arranging & taping pics out of magazines on a big piece of cardboard when I could simply type up my goals and refer to them daily just as easily.  Then I began to think…365 days is a lot of time to accomplish a few lofty goals, right?  Yet as the years fly by, I realize more and more how precious time is.  How we opt to spend our time is key to our ultimate happiness.  So shouldn’t my thought process & the time I spend goal planning/visioning be just as precious?  Does the tone/environment in which we outline goals set the foundation for what’s ahead?  Given everything is connected in some way, I’m starting to think goal planning with a girlfriend sets a solid and positive foundation.

In my pre-yoga teacher life (corporate marketing world), I tended to structure my typed-out goals around what others thought would be best for me and my career.  And just a couple of years ago, I created rigid goals that supported my business, abellaYoga, and not so much my heart.  I am a firm believer goals should be made to provide some direction and stimulation in our lives.  Though I also now believe goals should be flexible and reflective of what truly speaks to our hearts.  If we handcuff ourselves to written words we wrote 3 months ago, for example, we may miss a grander opportunity for growth by being limited to the goal.  Or worse, often we reach the goal and then simply forget about it as we delve into tackling the next one.  Maybe there was more to the goal then just checking it off the list.  A year is full of unknown possibilities so be flexible and open to what each moment presents.   So yes, commit to goals that challenge your spirit as well as create a smile in your heart but be open to venturing beyond the goal.

This brings me back to my vision board.  If you’ve never done one, do it!  It is way more powerful and inspirational than writing down a list of goals.  By looking daily at the board, a collage of inspirational words & pics related to my goals, I create a vision in my mind of me achieving the goals.  It’s also so simple to mentally refer to which I have already done a few times this past week.  At the same time, I am finding myself meeting 2011 goals already without really having to think about doing them.  It’s as if the visuals have been planted in my subconscious and they’ve started to naturally extend into my daily life.  Lastly, I’ve realized a vision board provides the flexibility the written word can’t.  Pictures invoke more than just the specific goal.  They allow the mind to shift thinking around and beyond the goal in a more creative way.  I know I’m not doing a good job explaining this but I’m thinking maybe this really can’t be explained.  As with yoga, a vision board is a personal experience.  It’s a personal tool to support my personal growth in the year ahead.

We are All Human

Last week I volunteered to teach yoga in Washington, D.C. to homeless women living in temporary housing.  I was thrilled to do it.  Though I wondered, other than guiding them through a few yoga postures what could I really offer them?  How was I going to relate to them when 1) I have never been homeless, 2) I am not illiterate and 3) I don’t have a family member in prison (let alone even know anyone locked up).  Needless to say, pre-class I was slightly intimidated as to what to expect.

Once they entered the room that night and step on yoga mats, I realized these women are human.  They are just like me and you.  We all have the same basic needs.  We all want to feel safe.  We all want a roof over our heads. We all have dreams and desires.  We all say “never” every now and then, i.e. I will never be able to do X.  We all want to be loved.  We all breathe, the same air in fact.  Simply, we all want to feel happy and healthy.

So as I taught class, I encouraged laughter and smiles.  I encouraged them to breathe.  I also encouraged them to do a few yoga poses that challenged them in a way no one probably has in a long while.  Best of all, I encouraged a sense of connection between each of us because the reality is they are just like us, human.

Too Busy to Pause?

I interact with many people on a daily basis.  Whether I am a student in a yoga class among 25 fellow students, teaching a corporate yoga class or talking with someone about my health coaching practice, a common thread I hear is the word “busy” which is often paired with the word “stressed.”

Modern day living dictates many people feeling overwhelmed with busyness.  Some literally don’t know when/how to take a breath – a key factor in stress.  Busy leads to boredom – people get stuck in a rut following the same routine day-in & day-out.  Busy leaves no space for creativity – which often can put limits on our highest potential.  Busy is not necessarily productive, particularly when some people are busy for the sake of being busy – as if it’s the socially accepted catchphrase of the decade.  To top it off, those who are overwhelmed with being busy often lack inspiration in their lives.  Does any of this sound healthy?

Yet why do so many think it’s a crazy idea to stop and take a break?  If we don’t take control and break for pause, eventually the busy pace will break us.  If you relate to any of the above just mentioned, pause is required in your life.  There is power in pause.  If you make the time to drop your “to do list” for just 30 minutes a day, you might start to discover that your life is full of inspiration, freshness and peace vs. boredom, busyness and stress.

Need a push for creating change.  Here are some ideas:

  • Adopt a dog – if you live in DC area, consider Lucky Dog Rescue
  • Block out 30 minutes at night to read a new book (non-work related)
  • Try a new venue – visit a new yoga studio, church, restaurant, bookstore, whatever
  • Drive a different route to work
  • Experiment with a recipe that looks super complicated
  • Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while
  • Get outside – nature is medicine for the soul

Growing Pains

Aparigraha, the fifith yama, means nonattachment or nongreed.  It is also often translated as letting go.

For the most part I’m pretty good about following aparigraha, this key ethical principle in yoga.  I’m fairly chill when someone cuts me off in traffic.  I let it go.  I don’t get overworked about being overcharged $1.  I let it go.  I’m even a huge believer of feng shui and it’s principles centered around letting go of old stuff (clothes, books, photos, etc.) to make room for new things.

So as I expand my Arlington, VA-based yoga business (abellaYoga) to include Health Coaching services (abellaWellness) I’m noticing I’m not practicing aparigraha so well.  Since inception of abellaYoga, I’ve run the books, managed my website, lived in the land of business development (networking, writing proposals, contracts, etc) and taught all the classes.  The reality is as I move into Health Coaching I can’t keep doing it all.  I need to let go.  I need to delegate some of these tasks that have been dear to my heart.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is an awesome problem to have as a small business owner.  “Without continuous change it would be impossible to grow” Charlotte Bell states in mindful YOGA, mindful LIFE.

Well, I’m heading out shortly to stare at the ocean for a few days, clear my head and come back ready to let go.  I am open to suggestions if anyone knows a great bookkeeper, website designer (who can merge abellaYoga and abellaWellness) and possibly business manager.

Happy long weekend!