San Diego, California, Yoga, Therapy, and Wellness

How to Prepare for Meditation

It’s important to approach your practice of meditation with an openness in mind and body to avoid frustration.  I understand that meditation seems unobtainable to many people.  “I can’t meditate.  My mind is too busy,” or “I tried to meditate once, but my body hurt so bad that I gave up.”   Before you abandon meditation, try these two tips.  If you are curious, this will help you begin a beautiful love affair with meditation.

meditation, ganesha, Bali

FIRST- the physical body:me yoga

Imagine centuries ago the ancient sages sat all day every day meditating to gain clarity and enlightenment.  On their path to Self-realization, their bodies became stiff and uncomfortable from sitting.  They began to move and stretch so that they could feel more stable and comfortable in their physical bodies.  This act of stretching is commonly referred to as yoga.  However, the “postures” or stretches are only one limb of yoga, called asana.  Yoga asanas were intended to prepare the body for meditation, also known as “dhyana.”  Last month I wrote about how sadhana is an act of self-love.  Sadhana is when yoga becomes a daily spiritual practice.  To meditate comfortably, you need to move before you sit.  Yoga asana will condition the physical body by building flexibility where you are tight and strength where you are weak. 

How can we support our physical body when moving isn’t enough? 27835779_10215835172611449_624068885_o

If you are experiencing a physical limitation, there are yoga or meditation “props” that are intended to support your body.  Prop support will allow your body to relax so that when you do meditate, your physical body will not be the distraction.  You can sit on a pillow, folded blanket, or a yoga block.  Other alternatives are Back Jacks or zafu pillows.  A good rule of thumb is that your knees should rest below your hips when you sit.  If sitting cross-legged is challenging, simply open your legs wide.  Connect with how you feel, opposed to how to think you should look.

SECOND- the mental body:me meditate

Dhyana is meditation.  Here we aim to free ourselves from suffering.  Meditation is currently being used as therapy for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, addiction, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, performance enhancement for athletes, just to name a few.  According to a recent discussion in my yoga therapy lecture, Scientists have determined that meditation plumps the pre-frontal cortex, which is associated with higher order brain functions, and the amygdala, which is associated with fear actually shrinks.

Knowing the benefits of meditation should inspire you to try and master your mind.  Prepare your mind for meditation by finding your drishti or focal point.  With eyes closed find a focal point inside of yourself to gaze upon, i.e. the space between your eyebrows or tip of your nose.  With eyes open, you could also gaze towards a candle flame sitting at eye level arm’s distance in front of you.  That technique is called trataka.  After finding your drishti, then focus on your breath to still the myriad of distracting thoughts.  When your mind wanders, simply return to your breath awareness.

Keep your initial meditation practice simple and you will fall in love with the practice over time. Next week I will publish a blog about How To Meditate.  Please subscribe to Shakti-Bhakti Travels and receive my next blog.  Together we will delve into meditation, and I will educate you on meditation for community, how to meditate, the art of walking meditation, and meditation for kids. Thank you.  Namaste.

Advertisements
San Diego, California, Yoga, Therapy, and Wellness

San Diego Full Moon Meditation Hike Experience

Recently a student exposed me to a free community event that played into my 3-part meditation series.  I felt inspired to attend, interview these altruistic yogis, and educate our San Diego community about this soul-elevating offering.  Eugene Kim and Sophia Hopson co-host a monthly public Full Moon Meditation Hike through Lululemon San Diego.  We’ve learned the importance of community from physicists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, spiritual advisors, and teachers.  We gather for survival, support, acceptance, validation, and connection.  Community reminds us that we’re not alone.  

27356007_10100111104926777_7153330952186970648_o

What is Karma Yoga?  

The path of selfless service which these two teachers exemplify is Karma Yoga.  It is their dharma to serve others without expecting the fruits of their actions.   According to the Bhagavad Gita, altruism brings forth spiritual fulfillment.

Karma Yoga teaches us that we should perform all actions without considering ourselves to be the doers of those actions.” -the Bhagavad Gita 

Preparation for a Full Moon Meditation Hike:

You don’t need any prior experience to participate in a full moon meditation hike.  However, you should be able to maintain the pace of the group. Hydrate your body in advance and eat 1-3 hours prior to the hike.  All ages are welcome.  

When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering, like the flame of a lamp in a windless place.” -the Bhagavad Gita

27336487_10156104462755948_2725262980454617704_n

This event was a Full Blue Moon Meditation Hike on Jan. 31st, 2018 in Mission Trails, instead of Cowles mountain, because of the group size.  There were a few hundred excited participants!  We gathered in the dark surrounding our teachers.  Then we flipped on our headlights and followed the parade of footsteps, giggles, and whispers up the steady inclined dirt path to the meditation clearing.  

The Interview

Me: Can you please tell me a little about yourself, and what inspires you?

Eugene: I’m a local fitness community leader who’s trying to bring more positivity and human connection to the world. I’m not a yoga instructor but do practice yoga and meditation regularly. I’m inspired by bringing people together and inspiring them to bring more positive change to the world. Last year I set a bold intention to live in the service of others, and I firmly believe that’s a big reason why I’m here.

Sophia: I have risen in love four times in my life thus far.  The first time was when I was a child and I had a direct experience that taught me there is a presence, I call God, that loves like the sun and is the reason I am here. The second, was when my fascination with human beings led me to realize, I love human beings. The third time was with the practice of yoga.  The last but certainly never least, my beloved, kind husband.

What inspires me in life is the belief and faith that my soul has a mission to complete here in Earth school. Part of that mission I know is learning to embody love, compassion, patience, tolerance, wisdom, courage and to have true experiences of peace, joy, love, harmony, and freedom. The other part of that mission involves bringing human beings together, to connect, to learn how to be with one another, heart to heart, soul to soul.

The practice of yoga has taught me to live awake, uplifted and inspired.  This is a path that is lined with effort, that is deliberate and unrelenting sometimes, but I choose it because it is full-filling, worthy of my time and energy and leads me to noble pursuits.

I believe that teaching is an act of service that embodies Maya Angelou’s quote:

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” This is the quintessence of my core beliefs as a yoga teacher. 

As a practitioner of yoga first, I am committed to learning in perpetuity. I am certain that the totality of yoga has something to offer anyone who shows up open, willing and ready to fall madly in love with where you are. Strength and Flexibility are not required, just an open mind and an open heart. 

27501006_10156132035711880_6452012780202851941_o

Me: Are you an avid hiker?  If so, what are your favorite hikes around San Diego?

Eugene: I’m a local trail runner, so I’ve spent some hours in the mountains. I spend a lot of time out in Mission Trails, bumming around the Fortunas. But other local hikes I really enjoy are Iron Mountain, Cowles, and Mount Woodson. For an easier leisure hike, I love going to Torrey Pines, hiking out to Razor Point, and taking the beach trail down and walking back along the water.

Sophia: I am a novice hiker! I would love to be more of a hiker. I admire and am inspired by those that venture off into mother nature, scaling mountains, climbing rocks and camping for days in the wilderness. I grew up on Lake Michigan beaches, Brazil beaches, and Florida beaches. I discovered the mountains, unchartered territory when I moved to San Diego in 2003.

27356274_10156132035716880_7740337392010584282_o

Me: Was this your first full moon meditation hike event? Where can people find information to join you in the future?

Eugene: This is our 6th full moon hike and meditation, and something we are continuing to provide every full moon. The next one isn’t locked in yet, but we post about our events through Lululemon San Diego, and will continue to do so in the future!

Sophia: This was not my first public meditative full moon hike. Eugene Kim and I have been co-leading full moon hikes with meditation at the top of Cowles Mountain since September 2017. We have done a full moon hike + meditation monthly since then.  Our next event will be in March (there are no Full Moons in February). To find out more about the upcoming events, please follow Lululemon San Diego as they are the host of our events. We have some exciting opportunities coming up and would love to have you. Also, we are creating a private group to connect all those who attend our events so we can stay connected and inspired. Follow Sophia’s Instagram and you can listen to her Om My Goodness podcast here.

27164971_10100111105800027_5883390537275175671_o

Sophia’s Meditation Intention:

The Full Moon represents a time of culmination. Scientifically, we know that the moon has a tremendous effect on us here on Earth. The gravitational pull of the moon makes the climate on Earth temperate, with predictable seasons, and tolerable temperatures. The moon stabilizes the tilt of Earth’s axis. The lunar cycles power the tides.

We are mostly made of water. If the moon has that strong of an effect on our planet, to think that it does not affect our internal tides (emotions, energy, body) is short-sighted.

During a full moon, it is a great time to cultivate more mindfulness-based practices to help us ground. Grounding is about using your body as a conductor of the Earth’s energy.  Allowing you to become present and connected to all that is.  

This Full Moon was in the sign Leo.  Pay attention to whether you are dwindling/contracting in fear or growing in courage.  You can still be aware of fear, and be afraid, but do you harness courage to expand and move towards the greater call? The whispers of your heart.

27356404_10100111105690247_5776903465243557345_o

On Meditation and Mindfulness:

We all have very busy minds. The practice of meditation is first and foremost this: A PRACTICE.  It will feel very different than climbing a mountain or running on a trail. We are training our ability to concentrate and be still. This is quite opposite to how we live most of our lives.

I have been attending mindfulness trainings at MOSAIC Yoga with Jim Cahill.  I say he is a yogi clothed as a brain researcher. Jim studies the effects of mindfulness and meditation on our well-being. He has as contributed greatly to the body of work that informs our scientific understanding.

Jim’s quotes:

  1. Believe it or not but you don’t have to go to the top of the mountain, leave your worldly life to cultivate a practice of meditation.   

  2. Practicing meditation with a group is encouraged! The experience is heightened because we are all committed to the practice.

Our Blue Moon Meditation, guided by Sophia.

[Leave space to explore the pause in your mind]

  • This meditation tonight will work a little more with the “conceptual mind” and is focused on the power of love to help us wield more courage.
  1. Close your eyes and let yourself acknowledge all the outside distractions.

  2. Begin to turn inwards to that which supports you. Notice your bones, muscles, joints, organs, systems of the body.

  3. And now rest your attention on where you feel your breath in your abdomen. Feel the swell and rise of your belly as you breathe in, feel the falling, contracting, moving back of your abdomen as you breath out.

  4. Ride the inflow of your breath, when you are ready- open mouth exhale (x3)

  5. Now let your breath become the backdrop, keep your attention on the touch of your breath( 1-2 min)

  6. Bring your inner gaze upward and inward, raising your consciousness up and then next time you breathe in imagine that the breath comes in through your crown, descends down to the base of your spine. As you exhale, the breath leaves the base of your spine and begins to travel upwards towards your heart where it begins to blossom your heart open. (5-8 breaths like this)

  7. Now bring to mind someone that you love. This could be a pet, a friend, family member. The first person that comes to mind.

  8. Think of a memory you had with them where you felt deep love for them and allow yourself to experience that loving feeling. As you summon the feeling start to breathe that loving feeling into every corner of your being.

  9. And now, let that person or pet go and see if you can stay with the feeling of love. Keep breathing it in.

  10. Recognizing that love IS you. This is what created us. This is where we come from. This is where we return to. You are love.

  11. When you are ready, feel the earth beneath you, the heavens above. Come back to feeling the breath in your abdomen.

  12. Please place your right hand on your heart, left hand over right, feel your magnificent heart- the one that beats for you every day, may the blessings of this moon continuously guide you to knowing the good, the true and the beautiful within you.

Post-Meditation Thought Provoking Questions:

Self Care – (winter months- even though we don’t feel it here in SD). We are in a season of doing less and being more. It is a great time to really nurture and nourish ourselves.

  1. What do you love, and how are you manifesting it in the world right now?
  2. What does your practice of self-care consist of?

Wherever you live in the world, check your local community calendar for upcoming events that interest you.  It’s a wonderful way to meet new friends and to explore new interests.  If you happen to live in San Diego, I highly recommend Eugene and Sophia’s Lululemon monthly Full Moon Meditation Hikes. Subscribe to this blog, and stay connected to all things related to yoga and travel.  Next week I will release the second part of my meditation series, which will focus on how to prepare your body to sit comfortably in Meditation. 

27624629_10100111105126377_3984702546453309502_o

 

 

 

Yoga, Therapy, and Wellness

6 tips for developing Self-Love:

We live in a society that bombards us with infinite amounts of information and noise. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and anxious on a daily basis. It’s also confusing to ascertain what information is true or relevant.  Instead of looking outside of yourself for answers and validation, you can strengthen your relationship with yourself.  But how?  It’s more simple than you think!  Here are 6 daily tips:

Svādhyāyame

Self-study:” Ask yourself ‘What’s up?’ everyday. Check in with yourself daily to assess how you feel and where in your body you are feeling It.  That’s right!  Observe where you’re holding your feelings like fear, anger, frustration, etc.  Get in touch with what has been going on that day or week, and how it is affecting you.  Rub your hands together and place them directly on the area of your body that is tight from physical or emotional tension.  Close your eyes and breathe into your hands.  Instead of ignoring the unpleasantness of your current circumstances, create space around it instead.  Sit with it.  Feel it move and dissolve with each exhale.  Imagine the exhale is giving this tightness an exit point to depart from your body.

TIP: Journaling can purge feelings from the body onto paper, and through Free Writing where you write without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic. It produces raw material but helps people overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism.

Self-love begins with knowing yourself.

“Sometimes confusion is the most powerful thing we can feel because the recognition of confusion is a form of clarity.” -T. K. V. Desikachar

Sadhana-urdhva dhanurasana, wheel

Cultivation of daily Spiritual practice.  These rituals will connect you to your most authentic Self and will give your life purpose.  Practices like yoga, meditation, martial arts, painting, hiking, kriyas, and reading spiritual texts are a few examples of daily spiritual practices that deepen the connection to life through humble ritual.  Through svādhyāya, you will learn to block unnecessary social influences and get to know yourself.  Sadhana unlocks creativity, humility, and passion.  Practice daily.  Feed your soul.

The act of Self-love begins with making time for yourself.

Sustenance-

In Ayurveda, which is the “Science Of Life” and the oldest known system of healing, the kitchen represents Mother Earth.  It is the most sacred place in the home.  In the kitchen, we nourish our self with prana (energy) rich foods.  In Nepal, the women dance and sing while they prepare the feast to infuse their food with prana and gratitude. Through svādhyāya, you will learn which foods, portions, times to eat, and frequency will nourish your body.  Healthy nutrition supports the functions of the body and it is considered one of the pillars of health along with lifestyle (habits like sadhana) and sleep.  Health is also determined by how we feed our mind.  How capable we are of digesting our experiences.  

Self-love is an expression of nurturing yourself.

Sensuality-  Goddess

Enjoy pleasure daily!  This is why we’re alive: to feel!  We experience through the senses.  Many people need to remember that we are sensual beings.  That we are beautiful!

TIP: rub your hands together and place them anywhere on your belly.  Breathe deep into the warmth of your touch.  Inhale: feeling of love for your Divine body, and exhale feelings of gratitude for what your body can do.  So many people focus on their limitations or their pain.  However, this exercise is an opportunity to revere your able body.  Gratitude attracts abundance.

Touch needs to be welcomed and feel safe.  With your permission, re-define your relationship with touch.

Self-love is about celebrating your life.

Support-friends

Find your tribe!  Ask for help when you need it, and offer your help where it can be given.  Socializing with safe, supportive, and inspiring relationships is key to self-care and self-love.  I mean, how can you truly love yourself if your toxic relationships repeatedly bring you down or tear you apart?  Love yourself enough to choose your company wisely.  They will elevate you, and you them.  We need people who allow us to be vulnerable and who will listen to us.  We need people who we can share our experiences with.  We are social creatures after all. 

How can you become a better friend?  It is an act of love to hold space for one another without trying to project our own experiences to alter the outcome of their destiny.  Lessons must be experienced and learned to gain wisdom for the next lesson to come.  Listen non-judgementally.  Empathize without “knowing exactly how you feel,” because you don’t.  Validate their feelings.  Offer suggestions and solutions only if you’re asked to do so.  Empower your friend.

Give and Receive love abundantly. 

Sleep-

This is one of the pillars of health.  Sleep heals and rejuvenates the brain. Throughout history, scientists and philosophers have wondered why people sleep and how it affects the brain.  Now we know that if we relax the mind before sleep, the brain will experience all stages of sleep, and during those stages, the brain will clean itself with spinal cerebrospinal fluid.  This action flushes waste from the brain and plays a vital role in memory, learning, and immune system functions.

Lastly, Self-love isn’t selfish.  It is about taking good care of yourself.  Honoring your body’s needs.  Love yourself every day.

Using these five suggestions to enhance self-love, you will feel a profound adjustment in your overall well-being, which will affect every aspect of your life.  Some people will experience this transformation gradually, and others will feel a radical shift in consciousness.  Connect with me on social media for additional motivation and support on your path to wellbeing.  Nourish your mind, body, and soul through these simple daily practices.  Remember that on the days we feel lethargic, it is an opportunity to have a mindful and healing day.  Give yourself permission to rest, so that you can rejuvenate.

STORY WATER

A story is like water
that you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire
and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
to light that’s blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

-Rumi

Mallorca, Yoga Retreat

A Yogi’s Top Tips For Exploring Mallorca

In 2017 I longed to visit Mallorca, which is the largest island in the Balearic Sea located off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean.  I mean, come on!  Have you seen the pictures?  This savory island is visually decadent, not to mention the tantalizing food, wine, and history!  One thing that feeds my soul is introducing travel to my students and pairing the experience with yoga.  So, I organized an intimate yoga retreat to Mallorca.  Listed below are the top activities that we experienced:

pergola

 

1. Tapas at Cafe España.
Palma de Mallorca

What better way to enjoy your first night in the city capital than with an authentic experience at a hip tapas bar located in the oldest part of the city?  You’ll walk down ancient cobblestone streets, pass delectable gelato bars, peek through boutique windows and drool over the vibrant Spanish fashion, and just when you think you’ve gotten lost you’ll hear it.  What you may ask?  The sound of music and laughter, and you’ll smell the saffron commingling with figs at Bar España.  Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs when we ordered our dinner.  Tapas are filling!  We ordered the chef’s selections, vegetarian and seafood tapas, gluten-free tapas, patatas bravas, and a blend of five local wines.  Everybody’s dietary restrictions were accommodated.  The total bill for eight people: 130.

2. SUP Yoga at C’an Pastilla beach.

SUP Paddleboarding

As you can imagine, Paddleboarding (SUP) requires a moderate level of strength and body awareness, and then add yoga on top of that experience.  Our group was diverse in age and abilities.  Rest assured.  There were women in their 70’s who felt stable and comfortable on the board. This activity was geared towards having fun in the sun!  The rental shop supplied the hard paddle boards and transported them down to the beach for our group.  The cost was 15 per person, per hour.  TIP: thermal waves are more severe after 11 a.m., which can cause motion sickness.  suggest booking your rental between 8:30-10:30 a.m.  After you’ve stimulated your metabolism with this invigorating activity, walk along the boardwalk and feast at one of the many restaurant selections.

3. Cuevas Del Drach

cuevas del drach

The name may sound menacing, but this experience needs to be at the top of your list when visiting Mallorca.  Simply because it’s unique! The cave was discovered outside of Porto Cristo around 1880, and in 1935 it was opened to the public.  This popular tour lasts for one hour.  Expect to walk down narrow paths and stairs, while gazing upon the illuminated stalactites and stalagmites.  Your walkway will unfold to Lake Martel.  The ushers will help you find a seat where you and a hundred other people may enjoy an extraordinary classical music concert.  It’s brief but spectacular!  Remain present and enjoy every unforgettable moment.  The cost was 15 per adult and 8€ per child.  TIP: if you are traveling with a group, purchase your tickets online and aim for the first tour of the day.  Also, use the bathroom in advance.  

4. Spanish cooking school

paella

Lonja 18 Open Kitchen is conveniently located near the Fish Market in Palma de Mallorca.   This experience bonded our group together.  We teamed up to prep the ingredients, cook, drink, and feast.  It was a blast!!!!!  We prepared: Gazpacho, Tortilla española, Paella, and Crema Catalana. Our chef demonstrated kitchen safety, educated our group on Spanish cuisine, and seasoned our experience with humor. By the end of the night, our bellies were sore from laughing and full of yummy goodness. The total cost: 65 per person, which includes a cookbook containing the recipes that you prepared.

5. Wine Tasting

son prim vineyard and winery

Mallorca has incredible wines made with wisdom from tradition, and passion.  To me, this encapsulates the Spanish culture!  The wine like the people is bold, beautiful, and interesting. We experienced three very different vineyards and wineries.  The first was Son Prim, which uses an artisanal process.  The second is the oldest winery in all of Mallorca called Ribas.  It continues to be family owned and operated after 300 years.  The last vineyard and winery was perhaps the most memorable, because of the fiery owner and her colorful stories.  It’s called Mesquida Mora.  Wine Tastings begin at 20€ per person/per winery.  They include snacks and a flight of wine.

6. Picnics

Spanish Tapas

Is there anything more satisfying than enjoying a casual picnic with friends in a foreign land?  We stocked our fridge for the week from the local grocery store in Randa.  TIP: this will save you a lot of money if you’re on a budget.  

Every afternoon we looked forward to creating the most decadent spreads.  As we ate outdoors, we would mull over the adventures of that day.  In Spanish culture, food is sacred. Taking the time to prepare a meal is sacred. Taking the time to relax, enjoy life, and share food with friends and family is sacred.  It’s not just food for food’s sake, but for the sake of sharing and celebrating.  In Spain, life slows down.  People chew, drink, and digest in a leisurely fashion.  The dessert was a quiet siesta.

7. Roadtrip!  Sóller, Valldemossa, and Deià

Valldemossa, Mallorca, Spain

These small towns located in the northern portion of the island are the most picturesque in all of Mallorca.  Even Frédéric Chopin and George Sand thought so, which is why they spent the winters in charming Valldemossa.   As you continue the breathtaking drive toward the dramatic hillside setting of Deià, you will be ready to stretch your legs and wet your palate with refreshments, before you continue to the elegant and artsy town of Sóller.  There you can ride the steam train after admiring the Gaudi-style cathedral in the town center.  Rent a car or hire a driver for the day!  You won’t be disappointed.  The mountainous drive and fresh air with perk you up.  The views are inspiring and off the typical tourist track!

8. Yoga

Randa, Mallorca, Spain

For our retreat venue, I booked a 13th-century mansion for one week with Breathspiration in peaceful Randa, which is located in the center of the island. Every day I had the opportunity to guide hatha and yin yoga to my group within the thick stone walls of the refurbished yoga studio located within the house.  The resonance of our OMs reverberated through this stable container. I felt the chants drumming deep in my body.  Practicing yoga in this space made me feel grounded and peaceful.  Each yoga retreat has its own energy that stems from the location and the intention created prior to travel. 

 

The more we travel the more we realize that we’re all connected.  We resuscitate our creativity and lust for life!  Subscribe to my blog and follow me on social media to get updates on my upcoming blogs and yoga-adventure retreats.  You’re invited!

yoga in Mallorca

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
― Joseph Campbell