yoga in mexico

The Beauty of Connections

international yoga teacher sound healing

It has been an amazing summer devoting my time and energy to a variety of offerings. From teaching internationally in Mexico, hosting a sound healing and meditation workshop at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, and completing another school year of teaching yoga to preschool and kindergarten-age children, I am beyond grateful for the connections I have made with people from all ages, cultures, and locations across the world.

Through my interactions with many beautiful souls this summer, a larger awareness and appreciation for life has manifested in me continuing to undeniably believe that the right opportunities, people and experiences come into our lives at the right time for a purpose.

As human beings, we are internally wired for a sense of belonging and the ability to thrive through our connections. Yet, at times we may ignore the signs or deny the experiences, lessons, and people who are being divinely guided into our lives due to something deeper happening within ourselves. Fear, living in the past, or closing ourselves to fully living in the present to name a few, can rob us from enjoying life-changing connections and believing we are not worthy to receive goodness in our lives.

Although the many hours I spent planning for my offerings were of great purpose, I didn’t anticipate nor deemed to expect being a witness to immediate transformation as a result of my offerings. It was eye-opening to console someone who had tears rolling down their face as my message of self-love struck a chord with them. I was honored that a couple wanted to get one more class in before boarding their flight back home as their perspective about yoga had changed. Furthermore, seeing a child being led by their intuition to close their eyes and chant OM as a way to calm themselves from being hyperactive.

As much as people who I connected with learned something more about yoga and its impact, I equally learned something special from them. It is by continuing to show up, be present, and vulnerably being myself that I am able to create space for connections to exceed past the “hello” in order to have lasting effects.

We can spend a lot of time planning and preparing for things in life. However, it can be enriching to let go every now and then and just flow with the pulse of life without the need to control, but rather with a sense of trust that we are divinely protected and supported. We just may be surprised by the things that weren’t planned to appear and shift our perspective in unimaginable ways that lead us toward our true calling, amazing friendships, and a community where we ultimately belong.

“Let life happen to you. Life is in the right, always.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

self-care

Practicing Self-Care

In teaching yoga for employee wellness programs, I have witnessed the astronomical amount of kindness that employees within the social services industry display to those in need. However, due to their giving hearts, they often neglect caring for themselves.

Slowly, this develops to a point where they feel depleted emotionally, mentally and physically. After teaching classes, I receive feedback to the effect of, “I’ve been very exhausted and this is what I needed to reset the button on myself.”

Caring for others is a beautiful thing. However, it’s also beautiful and important to practice regular self-care with ourselves, which in turn fuels positive mental health and expression. I’m a firm believer that it all starts with us – If we don’t take care of ourselves, how will we have the strength to help others? How will our beams of kindness remain radiant with others if our own light is becoming dim and frail?

If you’ve been feeling lately like you need to hit the reset button or would like to invite other self-care practices into your life, here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Connect with Yourself: One of the first suggestions that comes naturally to mind of course, is to take a yoga class and/or meditate to help foster clarity and peace. Taking time to connect with your breath, body and spirit can do wonders. If finding a serene area is not accessible in your home, locally, there is the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in Encinitas. SRF is located by the ocean and has meditation gardens open to the public during certain hours.
  • Compliment Yourself: It can be very easy to compliment others, so why can’t we practice that same level of kindness with ourselves? Look into the mirror and say something kind about yourself. I know, it might sound funny and feel weird at first! However, as you practice this action more, you will develop a greater sense of confidence and appreciation for yourself and the life you’re living. This practice is also good to do when a negative thought about yourself creeps into your head. Instead, replace that thought with one of kindness and appreciation.
  • Treat Yourself: Simple things can uplift our attitude like listening to a song, watching a funny movie, or even receiving a smile or “thank you” from someone. The same can go with treating yourself to something that will help shift your mood without the fear of guilt or money. Is there a place you’ve been meaning to try out – whether it’s grabbing a cup of coffee or smoothie? Could you pick a beautiful bouquet or succulent the next time you’re at the grocery story to have in your house as a reminder of practicing self-care? Could you get some new workout clothes as a way to reward your progress with a current exercise regimen or to motivate you toward trying a new activity that will raise your vibration on a physical level?
  • Disconnect Yourself from External Noise: It seems like we’re constantly on our phone or making plans several months out, which can create unwanted stress. Taking time to disconnect weekly for an hour or even shifting your plans to make time for yourself, can invite calmness into your life. It could be walking on the beach, going on a hike, taking a bath, watching the sunset, or exploring a new hobby that will bring happiness into your life. Whatever it is, try to enjoy that time for yourself without thinking of your to-do list or feeling guilty for shifting your schedule around.

succulents swamis

happy mind

Choosing to Live a Life of Happiness

follow your heart ganesha happiness

The saying, “Life is too short”, had been a repeated topic of conversation over the past few months between me, and my friends and family. The changes that occurred in our lives were eye-opening to say the very least – from revelations of the past that triggered unwanted feelings, the abrupt changes and ending of relationships, to the unexpected passing of people – our lives had been completely rocked.

Although these hardships were initially difficult to fathom, they have become less heavy through a strong faith, active gratitude for life, and the presence of people who lift us up. As time has passed by in digesting and assessing these life changes that occurred in a short period of time, the saying that I have acknowledged and respected of “Life is too short” has evolved beautifully into a new frame of thought that “Life is too short not to be happy”.

In yoga, there is a principle called saucha that describes a form of cleansing internally and externally in order to live a fuller life of purity and contentment. Such form of cleansing is done not only on the physical level, but also in removing barriers that are hindering our emotional, mental, and spiritual growth.

Some few examples could involve cleansing unhealthy thoughts, negative feelings, the consumption of unhealthy food and substances (internal) – and – addressing the neglect of personal hygiene or physical movement, working toward not communicating debilitating words or displaying hurtful behaviors, limiting interactions with certain individuals who cause more harm than good (external).

As I make a conscious effort to practice yogic principles in my daily life, these life experiences over the past months have propelled me on a grand scale to really put into action what I believe in and share during my yoga classes. In actively observing my internal wiring and interactions with others, I was able to consciously determine what needed to be released from my life. This wasn’t a quick cut of the ties either or a one-day effort, but more so reflecting with time whether these things were either building me up or bringing me down.

By releasing what I needed to with peace and no regrets, I have been able to make room to welcome thoughts, activities, and people who bring extreme joy and care to my life. And, who additionally, are helping my soul evolve during this current chapter in my life.

Just as we have a routine to get out of bed, brush our teeth, and get ready for the day ahead, we can also choose what activities, messages, energy, thoughts and people to allow into our lives who will add value and happiness. The more we can regularly cleanse from an internal and external form, the more we can realize what is really important to invest our time and energy in.

Slowly, feelings of control, resentment and fear will dissipate in order to allow a sense of freedom and trust in knowing that what we have experienced up to this point in our life has been for a purpose. We all have a choice to either stay stagnant or take an active leap of faith to live our life to the fullest because at the end of the day, “Life is too short not to be happy.”

Are you at a stage of cleansing in your life – a type of “spring cleaning”?

  • If so, write down what you feel is weighing you down from living a fuller, happy life (i.e. activities, behaviors, people, thoughts, etc.)?
  • Why do you feel each of these things is weighing you down?
  • What can you do to actively adjust them, or bless and release them from your life? And, to do so from a place of purity and contentment rather than with resentment or fear?
  • What brings happiness to your life?
  • How can you make room to allow more time to expand these things that bring you happiness? Is there a way you can incorporate them daily, weekly or monthly so they become positive and regular habits?
  • What are you grateful for today in your life?

Helpful Suggestions to Consider

Don’t rush this process, but rather trust divine timing! We each receive signs and experiences that nudge us a little closer toward realizing where we need to go next in our life even if it might result from unexpected, depleting situations. There is always a bright side to life and just like changes occur with our seasons, we too can experience change if we allow to flow with the rhythm of our life.


“As we purify ourselves from the heaviness and clutter of toxins, distractions and scatteredness, we gain clarity to meet each moment with integrity and freshness. We become more pure in our relationship with each moment.”

Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice

high lunge stretch

Yoga Poses for the Holidays

It’s that time of year when you might be traveling by plane or hitting the road to visit loved ones. Traveling or even the busyness of preparing for holiday festivities at home can become stressful on the mind and body.

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I found as many opportunities as I could to incorporate more yoga postures in order to minimize physical strain from sitting long hours on a plane and to help stretch my body before my adventures in exploring the beautiful country.

Carving 5-minutes to do one or perhaps all of the stretches below can help create a physical release and make you feel more relaxed. Happy stretching, and best wishes for a happy holiday season and new year!

Before exploring these suggested postures, please consult with your doctor, especially if you have any physical limitations or have had a recent surgery.

High Lunge

Benefits: Stretches hip flexors and psoas, with options to open your chest and shoulders.

high lunge high lunge stretch high lunge stretch

Getting into the Pose: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, all your toes point forward. Place one foot back about 3 to 4 feet. You will know the appropriate distance for your body by having your front knee directly above your ankle while your back heel is comfortably reaching to the sky. All toes continue to point forward.

Place your hands on your hips to begin and maintain your hips parallel to the front area that you are facing. Shoulders remain stacked directly above your hips. Scoop in your lower belly to activate your transverse abdominal muscle, which will also help protect your lower back and aid in balance.

Squeeze both of your thighs together as you rotate your back thigh internally, which creates a sensation that your thighs are being magnetized toward one another. Continue to keep your front knee above your ankle and pointed forward. Option to straighten your back leg or instead, have a micro-bend in your back knee…explore which option is most comfortable for your body.

Reach the crown of your head energetically to the sky in order to create more length in your spine while keeping the back of your neck relaxed. Hands can continue to be placed on your hips while you energetically reach your elbows toward one another to open your chest. Continue to scoop your lower belly in.

Another option to further open your chest while also opening your shoulders is to interlace your hands behind your lower back, glue your palms together. Reach your knuckles energetically down while you keep your chin parallel to the earth. If accessible and comfortable on your body, you can then lift your hands away from your lower back area while keeping your palms glued. If you tend to hyperextend your arms, invite a slight micro-bend in your elbows.

Stay in this posture for 5-7 deep breaths, then switch sides to stretch your other leg.

Side Bend

Benefits: Stretches quadratus lumborum muscle, which opens your abdominal wall and lower back area.

samastitihi urdhva hastasana quadratus lumborum stretch quadratus lumborum stretch

Getting into the Pose: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, all your toes point forward. Create grounding in your lower body by squeezing the front of your thighs to activate your quadriceps, all while keeping your knees soft. Have your tailbone neutral or reach it slightly down if you tend to arch your lower back.

Press into the four corners of your feet while keeping your toes soft. Place your hands by your side, palms face forward. Take a deep inhale as you reach your hands to the sky to open and create length in both of your side bodies, palms now face toward one another. Scoop in your lower belly and keep your abdominal wall squeezed to activate your muscles.

Have one hand softly grab your opposite wrist. Reach the fingers of your wrist that is softly being grabbed to the sky to continue stretching that side body and to create length from your hip area. Press into the outer edge of the foot on that same side that is being stretched in order to equally ground both of your feet. Then, reach your fingers to the opposite side. Option to look down in order to not strain your neck while you keep your lower belly engaged.

Continue to reach your fingers over as you breath into the areas between your ribs, focusing attention on your intercostal muscles. Stay in this posture for 5-7 deep breaths, then switch sides to stretch the other side body.

Neck Stretch

Benefits: Stretches sides of neck, specifically your levator scapulae muscle, while opening your shoulders and chest.

samastitihi bicep tendon stretch neck stretch neck stretch

Getting into the Pose: Same routine as the side bend in creating grounding in your lower body. Though, with different variations for your hands. Instead, reach one hand away from the side of your body, palm faces down. Have your hand in line with your side body to keep your shoulder neutral. Reach your fingers energetically down to the earth and slightly roll your shoulder back. With your other hand, lightly grab the opposite ear.

Scoop in your lower belly and slowly reach the ear that’s being lightly grabbed to the opposite shoulder. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to open your chest. Keep on reaching your fingers energetically down to the earth, which may also stretch your bicep tendon.

Stay in this posture for 5-7 deep breaths, then switch sides to stretch the other side of your neck.

childrens yoga

Yoga through the Eyes of Children

Children are such a fresh burst of energy, filled with so much sweetness and curiosity about the world around them. I’m always amazed by their ability to stay present and aware of what’s going on – even though we may think they’re not listening at moments, they really are!

Their excitement and imagination always warms my heart, while also reminding me to stay flexible and on my toes in maintaining them engaged throughout their yoga session. In addition to the many endearing qualities that my little yogis have, I credit their ability to look for the simplicity in things and speak with such honesty.

Enjoy these fun and simple reactions from the hearts of my little yogis when asked, “What do you like about yoga?”

“It’s fun!”
“I get strong!”
“Playing the singing bowl!”
“It makes me happy!”

Despite one’s age or experience with yoga, I feel many would agree on one or maybe all of the above :).

baddha konasana childrens yoga childrens tibetan bowl childrens yoga class yogi squat childrens yoga tingshas

Being Present

Being Content with Living in the Present

When I was a child, one of the things I would do with my mom was sit outside gazing at the clouds.  As we laid on our backs, we would point at individual clouds and shout out which animal they looked like, or wait to see what shape or creature they would eventually form into. Those were moments I always cherished as we just laughed about how our imaginations were being led by the canvas of art taking place high in the sky.

As an adult now, those childhood memories make me reflect on how there wasn’t a worry in the world that would take me away from bonding with my mom or from being present to the movement of life through the beautiful clouds.

Through the asana practice (i.e. physical poses) of yoga, one knows how beneficial it is to be present.  We are being present on our mat by listening to our body and breath through every pose.  Regardless of whether someone regularly practices the physical poses of yoga or not, we all go through motions of life that can prevent us from being content with living in the present. We may be worrying about our past, such as things we regret doing or not doing. Or, perhaps fearful or unsure about our future, or even the inability of not feeling in control of our destiny.

When we let our minds get sucked in by a blame or fear-based mentality, we are causing more harm than good in our lives.  How can we accept to be okay with living in the present moment?  How can we create more lightness in our lives rather than feel the weight of the world that slowly funnels into anxiety or depression?

As human beings, it’s completely natural to experience immense feelings caused by the highs and lows of life.  Though, with an attentive mindset, we can consciously create some balance in our lives to feel more lightness by living in the present. Not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, but rather finding comfort and appreciation with just being.

If you’re interested in living more in the present, here are some suggestions that you can consider incorporating:

  • Attitude of Gratitude: After you wake up, say 3-5 things that you’re grateful for in that very present moment.  This can also be done throughout the day too. Some mornings I’m too groggy to get my mind straight, but I quickly remember when walking my dog to practice my “attitude of gratitude”.  There is research that the more we practice gratitude, the more content we are with our lives and in understanding the situations that are happening.
  • Feed Your Soul with Good Content: Instead of rushing to check your email or social media accounts first thing in the morning or even constantly throughout the day, perhaps instead Google a quote or article that can help pull you away from the busyness of life even if it’s just for a minute.  Take this as a moment of self-care, and to also expand your knowledge and perspective on life.
  • Meditate: Click here for tips from a previous blog post.
  • Healing Vibrations of Music: Play one of your favorite songs and sing or dance to it…let loose!  The happiness you will create instantaneously by doing this can help alleviate any stressors or harmful thoughts that might be negatively consuming you at that moment. Music can be very healing and therapeutic.
  • Make Time for Loved Ones: Sometimes we may forget how precious and short life can be.  Instead of being consumed by your “to do” list, consider instead taking a break in order to FaceTime or call (yes – call – not text!) someone who you’ve been meaning to connect with if you can’t meet in-person. Give yourself the opportunity to talk about what’s happening in both of your lives presently, both the good and the bad.  Tell them how much you appreciate them.  Talk about funny things or whatever it might be!  Allow yourself to experience genuine connections with those you care for, rather than sending a text that doesn’t fully allow for a deep conversation.  We soon realize, whether through personal experiences or from others, that the people and connections in our lives are more important than the mundane things that in the end won’t hold much importance after we leave this earth.

Some more food for thought…

  • What childhood memories do you have that created a feeling of being present?  Can you incorporate these memories or activities within your day, week or month?
  • Is there any artwork, pictures, or quotes that you can have in your house or office space to help remind yourself about the importance of living in the present moment?

Leucadia Clouds Cardiff Clouds Leucadia Clouds

“Contentment, santosa, the second niyama, manifests as disinterest in accumulating more than one’s immediate needs of life…True happiness comes from contentment with whatever one has, not with thinking that one will be happy when one gets all that one desires.”

Edwin F. Bryant, The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali

संतोषाद्  अनुत्तभ:  स्सुखलाभ:  ॥ ४२ ॥
II.42 santosad anuttamah sukhalabhah
(Sanskrit translation to English)
From contentment, the highest happiness is attained.

meditation at the beach

Find a Way to Meditate that is Right for You

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who asked me what is the correct way to meditate. They had grown an interest in becoming more in-tune with their inner self given a health setback, and as a way to also slow things down to truly appreciate what they had in their life.

I was really intrigued by their question and interest, and it made me reflect on how sometimes we can trap ourselves into thinking that things are supposed to be one way, or there is a right or wrong way of doing things.

Their perspective on meditation was that it only had to be done in a quiet room for a long time and that your breathing and posture had to be perfect. Otherwise, it was a major fail if you got it wrong.

In sharing with this person my perspective that yes there is a quote unquote way to meditate based on imagery we see or what we might hear from others as the “right way”, meditation is first and foremost a personal experience that can be practiced in a variety of ways in order to help a person become present, centered, and mindful in that exact moment in their day, which in turn can bring lasting benefits within their life.

Sometimes, people don’t have an opportunity to sit in a quiet room at any time of the day or it might not simply click with them. As I started sharing more about what I know of meditation from my training and own practice, I could see them become more relaxed. They then said, “So, Veronica, I guess I already do meditate.”

Whether you’re curious about starting or creating a more consistent meditation practice, below are some basic tips that you can consider. Finding time to chill, connect with your breath, and invite good vibes is so important regardless of whether your day is calm or crazy busy.  Meditation can be a wonderful tool to help lower stress and anxiety, and increase mindfulness and positivity in your life.

A few basic tips for you to consider.

Posture

  • Find a tall spine whether it’s sitting cross-legged or even standing or sitting in a chair if that’s more comfortable for you. Sitting on a pillow, blanket or even having your back rest up against a wall are options to promote further relaxation on your hips, knees and back if you’re experiencing any discomfort or strain. Before exploring these suggested meditative seats, please consult with your doctor if you have any physical limitations or have had a recent surgery.
  • Placement of your hands can be lightly on your knees – palms facing down if you would like to find more grounding or palms facing up if you are in a state of receiving. Hands can be on your lap or in prayer mode (palms and fingers pressed against one another) near your heart as well. There are many options to consider, but again just the basic tips right now :).
  • Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath, heart, or have a light internal gaze at your third eye which is the point between your eyebrows to allow exploration into your intuition. By a light internal gaze, I mean doing so with relaxed eyelids and eyebrows rather than creating tension in your forehead.
  • Allow your breath to flow naturally or consciously activate an Ujjayi breath of inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Meditation doesn’t only have to be in a quiet room!

 

Other Options

  • In nature. For example, sitting on the beach listening to the waves, sitting on a rock and feeling the breeze while you take a quick rest from your hike, or even after a run to close your eyes and catch your breath while you stand still in a safe place. Perhaps even finding a bench outside of your workplace to sit and invite some calmness and mindfulness during your day.
  • Play a relaxing jam. Have a song play in the background or use headphones if that will help you relax more. There are instrumental, nature sounds and positive affirmation tracks available online. Play whatever resonates with you in that moment. And, maybe each day during the week you might want to listen to another tune.
  • Light a candle in a safe place away from any hazardous materials. Instead of closing your eyes, focus your attention on the candle. Everything from the color, texture and movement of the flame. You can also practice this form of meditation by watching the sunset while still being conscious of your breath and being present in the moment.

Other Tips

  • Meditation is a way to help disconnect from disruptive external noise and any busy thoughts running wild in your mind. Therefore, turn off or silent any devices that can distract or interrupt your meditation. However, setting a timer on your cell phone is a good idea, if needed, to keep you on track.
  • Get the wiggles out before you begin your meditation and throughout if needed. Yes, the ideal goal is to meditate without making too many physical adjustments or movements, and to work on your breath becoming longer and steadier with every inhale and exhale. However, don’t get down on yourself if you’re having a tough time relaxing your mind and body. Be kind to yourself without any judgment as it will make it easier on you and more enjoyable to meditate. I meditate regularly and some days might be tough.  Not because I’m not actively trying to ground myself, but because I’m human and there might be experiences and emotions that I’m trying to make sense of in my day-to-day life that might come up. We need to remind ourselves that we’re not perfect and meditation isn’t about perfection either.  So, roll your shoulders, hips or take a deep inhale and exhale out your mouth to let any wiggles out!
  • How can I stop external noise and unnecessary thoughts from disrupting my meditation? If anything is trying to creep in to disturb your meditation, try focusing your attention back on your breath. Examine the texture and length of your breath while also allowing your shoulders to naturally rise and fall with every inhale and exhale. By focusing your attention on something that is positive, such as your breath, the thoughts will slowly dissolve over time.
  • Are those thoughts still creeping in? Invite a mantra or affirmation to repeat silently in your head and/or even silently repeat 3-5 things that you are grateful for in your life. This can be done regardless of whether thoughts are persistent or not. A mantra or affirmation could be for example, “I invite peace into my life right now.” Or, “I am a happy person and wish happiness for my family and friends.” There are mantras and affirmations available online, or you can also create one that is personal and feels right to you in that moment.
  • Not in the mood? Don’t force yourself to meditate if it’s not coming from a genuine place. Otherwise, you could possibly resent the experience. Instead, try meditating at another time during the day, if not after a while from waking up or before going to bed.
  • How long should I meditate for and how often should I meditate? There’s no time limit, so invite what’s good for you in your schedule and what you’re also longing for. So, it can even be 1-minute, 5-minutes, or over 15-minutes, and the time can change from day-to-day too. Ideally, it’s good practice to incorporate meditation every day if you can regardless of the length. However, do what’s right for you and in time, you will be able to see the benefits that are being created in your life from a consistent practice.
  • Getting bored of meditating the same way? Explore some of the other options I listed above to add variety from day-to-day. Also, don’t expect every day to be the same. We’re human and we experience new situations regularly. So, we can at least apply this same perspective with meditation.
  • Lastly, have fun and meditate on!

Yoga Poses for Moms

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of sharing my passion for yoga live on KUSI News as part of a Yoga for Mother’s Day segment.  It was wonderful to have my fellow yogini, Audrey Sarquilla, join me for this segment reported by Ginger Jeffries, who was so hands-on and curious about yoga.  Click the above video to enjoy yoga poses for moms that can help reduce stress, create relaxation, promote self-care, and carve some “me time”.