The practice of yoga has played a significant role in teaching me how to like myself.
Liking ourselves may seem simple—but for some of us it is not easy or automatic. From ages six to fourteen, I was a competitive gymnast who was given the nickname “Thunder Thighs.” Every week, for eight years, I was told I had to lose another pound in order to be better. The takeaway message this young girl had stamped in her brain was, “I’m fat and not good enough.”
I've read that human beings have forty to eighty thousand thoughts every day – for the most part, the same ones stuck on repeat. Fast forward twenty-five years and do the math: I repeated those demeaning words more than four million times. I always felt fat and inadequate, however the weight on the scale fluctuated. Consequently, I didn’t even know what happy felt like.
When I heard the message that your thoughts, along with your feelings, create your reality, something clicked for me and I sprung into action. I spent a year researching the mind-body connection, practicing brain retraining exercises, and repeating positive affirmations. I also restarted my yoga practice. Twelve months later, my body had changed, but the most significant difference was within. I liked the way I looked and I felt good.
I started my yoga practice like many other students I know, attracted to the physical fitness aspect of the classes. I quickly fell in love with the feeling of deep connection to my true Self that was the result of the focus, breath and physical effort. It is that connection that keeps me hooked and lead me to search for more. My question was, "How will I achieve that connection, that inner peace, that moment of bliss when I can no longer jump back into chatturanga, kick up into a handstand or experience that heart opening joy of upward facing dog – how then?"
I am thankful and grateful to my teachers. Each of them has diligently done their job of helping me wake up to myself…to my gifts, the blessings in my life, as well as to my samskaras (habitual patterns in my mind and body). In addition to the fact that I felt stronger physically than I had in years, each practice gave me a few cherished moments of quiet in my mind, presence, consciousness. That self-awareness was the impetus of a necessary shift toward positive self-talk, uplifting speech patterns, self-compassion, self-acceptance and eventually self-love. I was so positively impacted by my practice that I became a yoga teacher at age 40!
My first teacher, Tamal Dodge taught me Vinyasa Flow; the basics about the postures and the beauty of the sacred Yoga Sutra’s and Vedic texts. My second teacher, Annie Carpenter taught me the SmartFLOW method; how to utilize a strong focus on structural alignment combined with the sweetness of pranayama as tools for safe practice, self-inquiry and self-acceptance. After teaching Vinyasa at Naam Yoga LA for more than two years, I finally tried a Naam Yoga class – and I am so grateful l finally did! My third teacher, Dr. Joseph Michael Levry, who is the founder of Naam Yoga and an internationally sought after Spiritual Master, taught me to utilize devotional mantra meditation, healing hand mudras, deep and powerful pranayama, ancient micro yoga techniques and Divine Spiritual Wisdom to utilize the laws of the universe and connect with the divine within and all around me. Naam Yoga was the answer to my question of how to Connect when I can no longer to the physical asanas...by vibrating Naam! My 4th teacher, Patricia Moreno is the founder of IntenSati and has taught me to be relentless with my word and allow myself to be vulnerably authentic as a Sati (mindfulness) Leader (change maker). IntenSati combines fun dance cardio moves with powerful intentions and positive declarations to change the state of our being, mind, body and soul!
Knowing how powerful our thoughts, words, feelings, and actions are combined - how we create our life experience – this is what I find myself drawn to teach. Whether it’s through a posture (the focus of pressing the outer edge of your back foot into your sticky mat and spinning that outer thigh toward the front wall); or a mudra and mantra (where you focus on your third eye and the tip of your tongue as you experience the vibrations in your mouth and brain as you chant); or by breathing so fully that you literally cannot focus on anything else; or simply observing the mind as you rest in savasana…I teach mindfulness. I teach self-inquiry. I teach how to slow down enough to observe and be present with yourself, your thoughts, your habits. I teach how to be compassionate with whatever comes up for you. I teach self-awareness. I teach unconditional love of self, no matter what. I teach consciousness.
Because, it is from there, and only there, that any of us can choose thoughts we want to think, say words that uplift ourselves and others, and take actions that feel inspired from within. This is how we create the lives we dream of…through consciousness! I am filled with gratitude that I have created a life where I get to teach my biggest lesson learned every day! Wahe guru!