How to overcome your fears as a beginner

Your back hurts, your muscles are tight, you are stressed from work and the doctor has suggested yoga hmmm 15 times to help you relieve your pains. In your mind, you understand it's good for you but you just can't get over yourself to actually try a class. Well, here are five how-to tips to get over your fears as a beginner:

You don't have to get it right the first time (or the first 10 times): if you were to take a piano lesson or a Spanish course, are you supposed to be Beethoven after the first try or speak fluent Spanish right away? Yoga is about learning to breathe deeper, aligning your joints in order to strengthen and stretch your total body.

You don't have to be flexible: Yes, I know you've seen beautiful, skinny and flexible women doing yoga on magazine ads. Just because that's what you see in the media, that doesn't mean those are the only type of people that practice yoga. I have women AND men of all different ages that come to my class with a wide spectrum of personal goals.

Spirituality or dreadlocks isn't required: another misconception people might have is that you'll walk into a room full of hippies chanting and praying to the yoga god. First of all, yoga is not a religion and there's no worshipping involved. Chanting OM is a tradition in the yoga practice. It helps to set the tone of the class and establish the presence for the students. If you feel uncomfortable, then just don't chant.

Feeling out of shape: isn't it funny how we have this thinking that we have to be in shape in order to get in better shape? You might think that you have horrible balance and there is no way that you want to fall on your face in the middle of a class. Honestly, I've seen students gain better balance after just a few classes even being overweight. And if you fall, it's only your mat. Don't let your ego stop you from taking care of your body. Taken from these true stories in the WebMD article, yoga is designed for people of all different sizes and can help you gain strength and lose weight over time with patience and practice.

It's really just in your HEAD: Sometimes we create stories in our heads and make things a lot worse than it actually is or seems. Oh you know what I mean.... I most definitely have some stories that I like to make up in my head. Fear is a natural and healthy emotion to have but don't let it stop you from living life and being healthy. If you really can't overcome your fears quite yet, I'd suggest investing in a package of private lessons or starting from a beginner's class first.

How to beat the cold with yoga

First, let me plead guilty and admit that I'm not the greatest blogger. What can I say? I'm a yogi and not a natural writer! :) I will make better attempts to provide helpful information or interesting thoughts when I do occasionally find the motivation or inspiration. I promise! 

It is November! The temperature has dropped drastically in the past week, leaving us Californians shivering in the cold. It was 44 degrees last night- definitely colder than average compared to the weather history (per weather channel) So, what are some ways to beat the cold- temperature and the bug that gets you sick this season? Here are a few helpful tips with yoga:

1. Kapalabhati breath (breath of fire): to help you stay warm, practice this breathing exercise will help increase agni fire, fire in the belly. (not recommended for people with hypertension, glaucoma, pregnant or on menstrual cycle) It is also great to treat people who have allergies to force the mucus out of the body. Practice by sitting in a chair and inhaling in and out of the nose to calm the central nervous system first. Next, move to the heating kapalabhati by inhaling through the nose, keeping the mouth close, and exhaling through the nose in short bursts. You will feel your stomach working naturally but try to engage the belly more by pushing the air out of the belly on the exhale and the inhale will come on its own. Try to do a couple of rounds a day. Each round can last up to 30 seconds but you will need to work your way into that length of time as a beginner. Maybe starting with 10 second per round. Here is a video to show better demonstration of this breathing exercise. 

2. Backbends: another way to build the immune system and improve sinus-related conditions are backbend postures. They are not only postures that create more heat in your body, they also focus on opening the chest, where the thymus gland is located. Thymus gland is the locus of the immune system.  It is stimulated when we open the chest and breathe deeply into it. The backbend postures that are good to practice are cobra (bhujangasana), camel (ustrasana), bridge (setu bandha), bow (dhanurasara) or upward facing bow (urdhva dhanurasana).  

3. Practice, Practice, Practice!  You want to relax your central nervous system in order to balance and strengthen your immune system. With more yoga, of course the more you learn to manage and alleviate stress with breathing exercise and asanas. Through relaxation, the nervous system tell the immune system to settle down and stop attacking the foreign bodies, which are naturally cleared out in a non-allergic person by sneezing once or twice a day. When the immune system backs off, inflammation and mucus decrease and symptoms diminish. In summary, practice more yoga will help you relax and beat the cold. 

I hope these tips will help you fight the cold this winter and through the holidays. So, see you in class soon? :D



You want to take this outside?

As many people are used to their exercise routine and the convenience of getting into the local gym or fitness studio, we don't even think about going out of our ways to go outside. I mean we are so busy with our lives, when do we find time to even exercise let alone going outdoors. I remember watching a scene from The 11th Hour produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, it showed us humans in the modern day and age have created a lifestyle with such a disconnection to our mother earth. We use, touch and live on man-made materials such as the concrete sidewalk we walk on, the plastic or vinyl chair we sit in, the metal equipments we touch at our fitness studios or even the artificial wood floors that we put in yoga studios to make it look "natural". So yes, let's take this outside. Here are a few more facts to get your motivated of get your butts moving outside:

1. Vitamin D from the Sun: quoting Dr. Mercola, 70% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. Recent evidence strongly suggests that if all Americans got enough sunshine, the number of cancers diagnosed each year would drop by 200,000 and the annual number of cancer deaths would drop by as much as 63,000. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin we need to function properly and the best source is from the sun.

2. Brain Stimulation: when you are outdoors, your eyes start to see different colors of the nature such as green grass, blue water and the brown sand. All these nature produced colors will stimulate your brain in a way that the colors in your office or your home cannot do. Not only your body is getting an exercise, so is your brain!

3. Cross Training: whatever exercise regimen you currently have (or not), moving outdoors will challenge different muscles that you usually work on. For example, if you are used to doing yoga on the hard wood floors in the studio environment, different muscles will be needed to balance your postures on the uneven grass or ground. If you think you have that tree pose mastered, let's see how you can grow your tree pose on the real ground with soil.

4. Fresh and Free Oxygen: air can to be stale in the office or the home with centralized air system filtering the same air. Have you ever caught a cold when a bunch of other co-workers are sick? It's because it's the same air they're coughing into being circulated back and pumped into your cubicle. Well, you won't have that problem outside! There is plenty of air and it's FREE. You will actually be able to smell the grass, the ocean air or the trees in the mountain when you hike and not that staged eucalyptus smell from the yoga studio.

So do you want to take this outside now? Yes, I hope so... :)

PS: I teach yoga outdoors on occasion as well as host hike/yoga events. Please check back on my website for updated event posting.


Can everyday be a birthday?

On Aug 9th, I turned 31 years old. And now I'm officially in my 30s, I also view birthdays differently. How so? Well, after the BIG 30 celebration, I almost feel like there's nothing to celebrate for age 31 or really any other numbers in the 30s. With some of my friends that are older than me, I've also witnessed a lack of enthusiasm as they step into their 30s. Maybe you can call it age or jaded with life, but I just couldn't really get excited about this day.

However, with no expectations and no mood to celebrate, I was surprisingly filled with bliss and love when this day arrived. When I woke up in the morning, my sweet 10 year old Maltese Ni greeted me as always with his love and affection. My boyfriend that I share an awesome new foam mattress with smiled at me lovingly and wished my happy birthday. As I moved on with the day with my yoga practice, I then received phone calls, texts and messages over Facebook with reminder that I'm loved. Once the evening arrives, I spend it with the BF at my favorite restaurant Akasha that serves wholesome local and organic food nourishing my tummy.

Yes, this day was just another day but I experienced "santosha"- contentment. With a change in my attitude and having gratitude for what I already have: things, people and most importantly myself, I'm able to be content rather being unhappy for what I don't have. Santosha is one of the niyamas (personal observance) that Patanjali speaks about in the yoga sutras. And the physical practice of yoga (asana) is only a part of the yoga sutras. Now, the challenge for me is to be able to cultivate santosha on the daily basis. What are some ways that you can cultivate santosha on or off the mat?


Can you do that?

"Can you do that? Can you put your ankles behind your head?" I often get that question when one hears that I am a yoga practitioner and instructor. I always answer with the smile and then further to explain that not all yoga styles or practitioners put their ankles behind their heads. While yoga has become so mainstream in America, there is still a misconception to what yoga really is or can be. Yes, while dwi pada sirsasana (ankles behind head pose) is truly an advanced yoga pose but that doesn't mean that everyone has to learn it in his or her first yoga class nor is the pose taught in every single class. Also, in the past eight something years I've practiced yoga, I've probably been asked to try that pose maybe two to three times.

Over and over, I cannot emphasize more to others especially beginners that yoga is not about getting into certain poses or being so flexible so you can become a contortionist. It is about the journey of building your strength, flexibility, focus, concentration and balance. It is not about the destination but the progress. In the American culture, we have been trained to be so results-driven and fed with these get skinny quick pills and get rich quick solutions that we miss out on the real experience in the journey. We tend to dismiss that it is the experience and the hard work that make us stronger, wiser and healthier. I can never forget what Bryan Kest said in a class that made me fall in love with yoga in my early years as a beginner. He said, "who really gives a f%^&k if you can do this pose right now? It's probably only you. You are your own worst enemy and teacher. So focus on yourself and your mat and not what everyone else thinks. If you can't do it, just come back to it again." Don't count on me for what he said word by word (it's been awhile) but definitely something similar. That was an aha moment for me and what kept me coming back to yoga.

For those that I've met who are interested in yoga but have the following concerns or common questions:

-I'm not flexible enough
-It's for chicks
-I don't want to put my feet behind my head or put in the position where I'm smelling my own butt
-I just like running, yoga is too slow for me
-Do I burn enough fat?

My answer is probably similar to Bryan Kest, "Who the "bleep" cares!?! If you want to be healthy, strong and pain free, there's no harm in trying it. There are a million proven benefits and documented since 5000 years ago. who cares if you can't do a certain pose? Just get on the mat and start breathing right at least, then all the things you want to happen will come eventually."


NO B.S., No Frills- Just is...

I've always been told since I was young that I'm direct, straight to the point, blunt, cuts through the chase, candid and you know, all the characters that essentially comes down to me not dealing with any B.S. Over the years, I've become more mindful in the delivery of my messages because I've learned that being "too" straight forward can be hurtful to others or myself. Now, I believe that I can still be authentic, honest and tell the truth while being respectful of others' feelings and compassionate to their situations.

With that said, I've also learned that this will translate into how I guide others into the practice of yoga- No B.S., No frills, No jargons- Just is... I want to let my students know that they can just come to the mat with no judgement, expectations or excuses. Forget what the girl or guy next to you who may look amazing in her or his headstand or some crazy arm balance pose. It's about where you are today and doing what's good for your body. There's no competition and no such things as she or he is better than me in yoga. None of that B.S. For me personally, I just want to share with others what I love and what has helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. So, come to the mat and feel better about whatever that's bringing you down in life. There is never any B.S., frills with my classes. It is just is- like me, like yoga.


Drop your labels and open yourself up

A question we often are asked is "what do you ?" As the answer's received on the other end, then we sort of get put in a box and just become what our occupation is. I mean, it is a very common question and a good conversation starter especially in Los Angeles (Although in L.A., everyone has 3 to 4 jobs). A job is often how people identify others and maybe also how some of us identify ourselves. If you really think about it though, are you just an engineer, a designer, a marketer, a lawyer, a teacher or a mom? I think not.... We all have hobbies, passions, dreams and hopes that are outside of what we do now for 40 hours a week. Outside of our occupations, we also identify ourselves by our age, race, size and many things that make us who we are. However, they are just labels... The fact is you are just you- a person who's constantly changing, evolving with or without those labels.

A very dear friend of mine was a marketing director for a billion dollar corporation for many years left a high-paying job to pursue her passion in yoga and has since opened a local yoga studio in Long Beach. Another friend of mine worked in finance while completing her masters degree decided to move all the way across the globe to pursue her writing and her lifestyle in minimalism. Lastly, Alex, a father of a 18 months old jumped into school for industrial design after leaving a government job because he's always been obsessed with sneakers. He has been driving to a city an hour and a half away from his home once or twice a week for a non-paid internship to work for shoe companies and now has been offered a full time paid job designing shoes!

There are endless stories of people who dropped their labels and didn't let it stop them from living their lives. The point here is don't label yourself and let the label limit your potential. Forget your age and be a child today and play. Forget what cultures you are used to living in and experience others cultures by traveling. I'm not saying to quit your job and leave your responsibilities but to try something new! So much of what inhibits us is fear- fear of failing, fear of making a decision that elicits others to question us or making a misstep and allowing someone else to get ahead. Why not be brave and drop your labels and open yourself up, even just for one day?