Tag

growth

in Inspiration, Kundalini Yoga, Spirituality

Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training

A Transformative Journey

I will never forget my first Kundalini Yoga class. I don't think most people do.

My friend Elsa, who was in the middle of training to become a Kundalini Yoga instructor, asked me to attend her "yoga" class, which she held out of her real estate office. I was experienced in Vinyasa Yoga so I was thrilled to have a chance to practice, no matter where it was.  LITTLE DID I KNOW...this was NOT Vinyasa.

"ONG NAMO GURU DEV NAMO!!!!!" Elsa chanted loudly to start the class. We were supposed to have our eyes closed, but I peeked through my right eye to see what the heck was going on. I had never heard of Kundalini Yoga before then but I decided to just go with the flow. I was absolutely stunned to see how effective this practice was in getting me to relax and quiet my mind in such a short time. Yes, I felt awkward at first, but after a few minutes my body remembered. It remembered that this ancient practice was a part of my ancestral lineage. It was a part of who I was. My soul reveled in this recollection and now all that was needed was for my conscious mind to catch up to the Truth.

And did it catch up!! I was hooked after the first class. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about the practice. I stayed up several nights watching YouTube videos and reading tons of articles about Kundalini Yoga. I read great things, controversial things, and also scary things, which deterred me for a while [ugh, fear *eyeroll*]. But then I came across an article about the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan, and I was surprised to discover that his birthday was the same day as mine. I took that as a huge sign from the universe. I wanted to go deeper....so after just a few months of being introduced to Kundalini Yoga, I signed up for Level 1 Teacher Training.

Image result for so it begins meme

TEACHER TRAINING

Level 1 Teacher Training took about nine months and was a pretty big commitment. Once or twice a month, we would meet all weekend long. The first day, my stomach was in knots.  I didn't know what to expect nor did I know anyone there. We all had to sit in a huge circle to introduce ourselves. I am naturally outgoing but speaking in front of 40 strangers gave me a bit of anxiety.

Truth be told, it went pretty well. As the months passed, we got to practice speaking in front of the class and interacted in smaller groups. We thoroughly discussed topics from our books and many personal matters on a one-on-one basis, which allowed me to get to know some of my fellow classmates on an intimate level. We even took turns in teaching our first yoga class in small groups. Oh, and the workload was not for the faint of heart. We had to read and take in A LOT of information but fortunately our teacher, Deva Kaur (a/k/a the Queen of Kundalini 😉 ), was amazing at explaining everything to us. For me, it all felt so familiar. It felt like home.

Our Level 1 Teacher Training Graduation Ceremony in Yoga Source

WHAT I GAINED

  • KNOWLEDGE: What didn't I learn!? We were taught so many things: The roots of Kundalini Yoga; yogic philosophy; humanology and yogic lifestyle; Western anatomy; yogic anatomy; awakening consciousness through pranayam, mantra, asana, mudra, bhandas, and meditation; the role, responsibilities, and identity of a Kundalini Yoga Teacher; proper yoga class structure; teacher etiquette; and SO MUCH MORE. The beautiful part about the knowledge we received is that we were not "talked at" all day long about these topics. Instead, we were very interactive and EXPERIENCED most of the things we studied.

 

  • GROWTH: My vulnerable side and I had been out of reach for yearrrrrsss. I equated it to weakness. Boy was I wrong. There is so much power in acceptance and vulnerability. We had to speak in front of the whole class at times. Other times we had to speak to a partner about a sensitive or personal topic. We were told to get up and dance in many instances. Or walk around the studio. Or lay down and suck on our tongues. Or chant with our eyes open. Or watch others cry. There was definitely no room for embarrassment or judgment here. These experiences helped me gain a stronger acceptance of myself and others. It allowed me to embrace vulnerability in a way I had not before, which helped me to grow as a person.

 

  • PERSPECTIVE: My perspective on spirituality definitely changed. It does NOT have to be serious all the time. For God's sake, life is meant to be FUN! For example, at lunch we were always given a delicious Indian meal. It was all good until those beans started kicking in and farts started flying out of people left and right. Man, I had my fair share of giggles. Also, there were times where we had to stay in baby pose for a while and I felt like I was drowning in sheep hair. I would sit up, spitting all over myself, trying to get the hair out of my mouth [in Kundalini Yoga, we sit on sheepskins while practicing]. This was the epitome of human-ness in spirituality. And I loved it.

 

  • PUSH PAST LIMITS: This training helped me push past the limits of my mind. Sitting on the floor for 8 hours was not easy. Plenty of times it hurt like heck, but I did it. Keeping up with the 40 day meditation challenges was also difficult, but I did it. Studying textbooks for hours and preparing class schedules was daunting.....but I did it. Your mind can play tricks on you and make the tasks at hand seem insurmountable...until you overcome them. Having the confidence and belief that you CAN do things is key; because in reality, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO. 

 

  • COMMUNITY: Lastly, I began to put my guard down and was more open towards others. I actually started to TRUST people! And I am glad I did, as I gained a sense of what a real community is. I felt supported, guided, and loved the entire time. I met some amazing friends and I was finally able to come together with members of my soul tribe who love me just the way I am.

 

Me, speaking at the Graduation Ceremony

HIDDEN JOURNEY

I went into Teacher Training with a insatiable hunger for knowledge. What I left with was far more than just that. In the process of learning the origins and intricacies of this ancient practice and the methods on how to teach it to others, I learned so much about myself.

It has given me such an appreciation for life (and my body) that otherwise I do not believe I would have attained. The relationship with my mind has significantly improved and continues to get better, one meditation at a time. Before being introduced to Kundalini Yoga, I was on a fast track to disaster. Unhealthy thoughts and habits, destructive relationships, stressful career, and harmful behavior patterns were my norm. I did not know who I was or the power I possessed as a woman.  I can honestly say that Kundalini Yoga played a big part in being able to let all that go. It taught me to self-reflect in order to self-correct.

In the span of nine months, I shifted right before my very eyes. The amount of transformation that occurred in that time is monumental for me. It brought me closer to my true authentic self.  I discovered that this was not a regular yoga teacher training, but a gentle nudge towards a profound inward journey.  I can honestly say that all of my classmates and I left this training a changed person, in one way or another. I recommend this training to anyone who is looking to teach Kundalini Yoga, but more so for those who are willing to grow and evolve as a spiritual being having a human experience.

SAT NAM!

Class Picture

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4 Reasons Why You NEED to Start Journaling NOW

There are times where I have had thoughts and feelings that I just could NOT share with anyone.

I am pretty sure everyone has had these moments as well. We do not want to hear advice or criticism, we want to express ourselves without having to censor anything. We want to let it all out without repercussions. Well, I can tell you that my trusty journal has allowed me to do just that.

I began journaling years ago, at the request of my spiritual teacher. At first, I was a bit skeptical. "I am not feeling this 'Dear Diary' crap", I would say to myself, pouting with pen in hand. It felt like a chore. But as time went on, I was surprised at the relief I felt every time I finished. I was amazed at the things I would discover about myself. Who was this brave new women shamelessly and unapologetically writing whatever the heck she wanted? Whoa. I realized I had a voice, and it mattered.

A beautiful ceramic teacup placed on a diary while the tea evaporates as steam

Journaling is a personal writing practice that allows you to vent. It's like an adult diary. It becomes a safe space, a place where you are not judged or condemned or scrutinized for your thoughts. Journaling has become my best friend, and it can become yours too. Here's why:

1. You Get To Know Yourself

Most of us don't know who we truly are. We have been conditioned to act and behave in certain ways to please others. We have acquired so many masks throughout the years that we actually believe we are those masks. Journaling lets you put those masks down, at least for a while. It allows you to be free, to be yourself. What dreams are you putting off? Do you have healthy boundaries with others and yourself? What are your triggers and why? How do you talk to yourself? What are some habits that you want to let go of?  Self-awareness is born out of observing the the things you do, think, and say. Dig deep, get to know yourself.

2. You Receive Insight

Wouldn't it be nice to have someone to guide you all the time and give you the best possible advice you should take in any situation? NEWSFLASH: You already have that person - your Higher Self. Your soul is always guiding you. You just have to quiet your mind and listen. Journaling allows your Higher Self to step in and provide you with insights and wisdom regarding anything you are going through. There are times that I would journal about a particular concern and feel stuck. Then, I would meditate for a few minutes and quiet my mind. In that quiet space, I would proceed to journal again. I noticed that this time, I was writing from a bird's eye view. I no longer felt stuck. The answer became clear as day. THIS is how your Higher Self shows up and shows out in journaling. 

3. You Can Set Goals and Track Progress

A big part of why I love journaling is that you can set goals, write action steps, and track your progress. When you look back, you actually see how far you have come. It is inspirational really. Not going to lie though, there are many 'goals' I had set for myself a while ago that I look at now and I think, "THIS is what you wanted to strive for? You gotta be kidding me." I see how far I have come spiritually and mentally. Half the stuff I set 'goals' for I no longer care to obtain because I am in a different place of consciousness. It is all about growth and changing your goals according to how you are growing.

4. It Facilitates Healing

Hands down the best perk of journaling is that it facilitates healing. It lets you release emotions you did not even know you had. By feeling those unwanted feelings and writing about them, you are initiating healing. You are releasing the old, making room for the new. This is particularly hard for me because I conditioned myself to stuff down and ignore unwanted emotions (like most people actually). As you know, this is unhealthy and later bites you in the butt. Journaling has helped me acknowledge suppressed feelings and shed light on it, little by little. There is something so powerful about seeing your writing becoming smudged by your tears, almost as if you are washing away your pain. The only way you start to heal, is if you feel.

SO HOW DO YOU DO THIS MAGICAL JOURNALING THING?

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Grab a pretty notebook and start writing what you think and feel for at least 5 minutes a day. That's it. If you don't like writing or if you feel like your privacy might be comprised in any way, download a diary or password protected notebook app and type away [I like Microsoft OneNote and Evernote]. The main things are to do it consistently and DON'T HOLD BACK!!

HAPPY JOURNALING 🙂

 

 

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4 Things I Learned From Spiritual Solitude

With a show of hands, who loves to be alone??
Image result for cat raising its paw
Chances are, unless you are a cat, you do not like being alone. The majority of human beings go to great lengths to avoid being alone, mostly out of fear...but do you want to know a secret? Being alone is NOT the same as being lonely.
See, I've discovered that loneliness stems from a belief or thought that something, outside of yourself, makes you whole. When the person or thing you are codependent on is no longer around, you feel empty, or incomplete. I've never met anyone who said that they CHOSE to feel lonely; the cause of loneliness is mostly due to the departure or absence of something external. This is what most people erroneously refer to as "being alone".
However, 'aloneness' [or in other words, solitude] is NOT a result of uncontrollable variables, but rather a CHOICE. A choice to separate yourself from people, places, and things that are clouding your vision or reality. Ultimately, spiritual solitude is a choice to experience your WHOLENESS and to uncover your TRUTH, by yourself.  Despite our constant efforts to stray away from solitude, it is a core part of our 'human-ness'. HEY, WE ARE BORN ALONE AND WE DIE ALONE RIGHT? To some extent, that saying has validity. I recognized that although energetically we are all connected, physically we are our own mini world. [[So we are a little universe within a huge universe, but we are still THE universe, get it?]] Being in physical form allows us to experience 'separation', a notion that does not exist in higher realms. Almost every spiritual teacher in the history of mankind has attested to the importance of solitude, and the need for that time period in your life to be embraced and built upon. WELL, WHY IS THAT? Ahhh I am glad you asked 🙂 Allow me to share 4 aspects of spiritual solitude that I have learned and experienced:

1. CLEANING HOUSE

Solitude 'cleans out your closet', so to speak. The demons hiding in those cracks and crevices come out to play. Addictions, emotional wounds, childhood traumas, toxic beliefs and behaviors, etc. rear their ugly little heads. Let them come out! They have been hiding for a reason, maybe to give you protection or comfort from the outside world. Observe them and their core meanings, then make the decision to let them go if they no longer provide a healthy purpose. Their aim is to be acknowledged, to be held, to be loved, to be understood, to be accepted, and to be released. By doing this, you have essentially learned to heal yourself. [By the way, sometimes these little suckers will come back again and again until you are really ready to  completely release them. Many of them have several layers that need to be healed one by one. So have patience with yourself in the process, Ok? 🙂 ]

2. BREAK DOWN

Solitude has the same effect on you like a snake shedding its' skin. Once you 'clean out your closet', you slowly begin to 'shed' or let go of the low vibrations that no longer serve you.  All of the things that bought you comfort, that once helped you hide or distract you from your pain, are no longer acting as your crutch. [SCARY!] Solitude exposes all the lies/false beliefs you've been fed [or have been feeding yourself]. This will leave you raw, vulnerable, and HUNGRY for answers. You will want to seek Truth. S**t needs to change for the shift to happen. 

3. SELF-DISCOVERY

Solitude sends you down the path of self-discovery. Keep your mind and heart open and choose to grow in this season. If it is answers you seek, answers YOU SHALL RECEIVE.  Explore who you really are and what your Higher Purpose is. Dig into your own psyche to know the reasons why you say, think, and do things in order take inventory: if it is authentic, if it is your Truth, it stays. If not, Toodle-Lo! Solitude will help reveal one of the most important keys to life: SELF-AWARENESS.

4. REALIZATIONS

THIS IS THE SHIFT.  In the space of solitude there is enormous opportunity for growth that is accessible through introspection, awareness, and meditation.  YOU FINALLY REALIZE YOU ARE YOUR OWN TEACHER, HEALER, AND GURU! The more you are aware and clear out the low energy vibrations, the more you ride the high vibrational flows of the universe. By riding the flow of life, you receive all sorts of beautiful signs and messages, and experience synchronicities up the yin-yang, confirming that you are doing a great job and are on the right track. You realize that you CAN trust your Higher Self. You realize that you CAN trust the growth process. You realize that the universe DOES have your back. You realize that you are NOT alone, you have you. And you are WHOLE.

The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself....and sometimes, your elevation requires your isolation! 

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My Experience at White Tantric Yoga

I recently attended a White Tantric Yoga event hosted by the studio where I practice Kundalini Yoga.

[Before diving in, I want to clarify that White Tantra is not the same as Black Tantra (directing energy to manipulate other people) or Red Tantra (directing energy solely for sexual purposes). White Tantra is a meditative group practice in the practice of Kundalini Yoga that directs energy to cut and release blocks from the individual's subconscious mind.]

My friend Elsa, who is actually about to graduate from her Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training, had attended a Winter Solstice White Tantric Event last year and although she didn't go into too many details, she did say that it was a bit like childbirth: extremely exhausting while you are there but the pain of it is quickly forgotten after and it does change your life. Gee thanks girl, not exactly what I call motivation! Regardless, I had wanted to attend out of curiosity and of course reap the benefits that this type of event proposes to give you. Yogi Bhajan had said that attending one of these events is equivalent to meditating 10 years in a cave. The claim sounds fabricated to me, but hey, why not!?

Not Quite 'Yoga'

The sea of yogi's dressed in white swarmed the auditorium. Everyone was told to find a partner and was directed to sit on the floor. We formed about 20 rows of partners sitting criss cross in front of each other. Although everyone was very friendly, I was grateful that Elsa decided to come with me and be my partner. Here I was, all dressed in comfy white yoga clothes, mentally ready to perform a bunch of rigorous, physical kriyas. HAHA! Think again Nelsy. All the exercises we did were meditative, meaning, hardly any movement was performed. In some of the kriyas, we were instructed to either hold hands and ask each other questions, hold each other's shoulders while looking into each other's eyes and chant the "Ang Sang Wahe Guru" mantra, or put our chin on each other's shoulder and chant the "Ardee Bhaee" mantra...EACH KRIYA FOR 62 MINUTES. Yes. 62 minutes.

Elsa and I

What I Learned From My Experience

Elsa and I shared several moments of vulnerability and intimacy during 2 of the kriyas by voicing our biggest fears, concerns, hopes, aspirations, and joys in life. We were open and supporting with one another. This taught me how it felt to be genuinely vulnerable with someone and BE ACCEPTED for who you are. After being hurt by so many people in life you learn to keep them at a distance. You build walls, masks, and false beliefs to avoid pain, criticism, and feelings of unworthiness...only to realize at the end that it does nothing but distance YOU away from your true, higher self.

We also shared moments of stillness and oneness while meditating and chanting together. Staring into each other's eyes while chanting made us laugh a little [OK A LOT], but the times we surpassed our laugh attacks and went still were very powerful. I felt how we are all connected. The feeling is pretty hard to describe but it was as if we mended or meshed into one, along with everyone else in the room.  Some people were crying, some were laughing [us], but all of us were in this experience together at the same point in our time space reality, separate but united.

Finally, the discomfort of holding positions with someone else for so long and being in such close proximity to others irritates and frustrates a few if not most people. Their squirms, loud breathing, opera-ish version of the chant, or maybe even body odor can be downright annoying. But once you get past all that nonsense, you kind of just surrender and accept the space you are in.  This taught me how to honor and accept my space while simultaneously honoring and accepting someone else's. No matter how loud they chanted or breathed, I loved them for it at the end.

Was It Worth It?

After the event was over, I was able to understand why Elsa had described the experience as childbirth. It was in fact very intense and draining. Holding a posture alone for 62 minutes was exhausting. Add the talking exercises, powerful chanting, and meditation and you are sure to be pooped by the end of the day. BUT MY EXPERIENCE WAS WORTH IT! 🙂 

Have you attended a White Tantric Yoga event? How was your experience? I would love to hear about it!

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How To Rise From The Ashes

In order for a Phoenix to rise from the ashes, it must first burn and die.

The same goes for you and I. After a traumatic experience such as being domestically abused, or going through a horrible breakup, the pain is intense. But these feelings of regret, disappointment, anger, loneliness, grief, and sadness are actually calling our attention to peel off a layer of our ego so we can get closer to being our highest and best selves. How do we do that? By feeling, accepting, and ultimately growing.

FEELING

Our society has conditioned us to hide our pain. Conceal, don't feel, don't let them knowww...Disney's Frozen anyone? We attempt to subdue pain with temporary harmful behaviors that create a snowball effect which leads to addictions, disorders, self-injury, and breakdown. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Own it. Be aware of it. Don't rush this stage. Journaling is a very effective tool for releasing emotions and thoughts in a healthy way. Once you actually feel it, you can begin to accept it.

ACCEPTING

This doesn't mean you should turn pain into a little luggage and haul it around. It just means being at peace with the way things are at the present moment. It's being comfortable in the uncomfortable. Easier said than done I know, but mindfulness is the key here. I find that meditation and exercise are great for being in the now while also lifting your mood. Acceptance is the fertile ground upon which understanding is born.

GROWTH

Once you understand the pain, you start to see it with a different set of eyes. It is clear that pain actually taught you a lesson (or lessons) and you realize you will never be the same person again. You are wiser, stronger, full of compassion, forgiveness, and love. You have successfully removed a layer of your ego. That old part of you has died. This new part of you is now a reflection of your higher self...reborn, renewed, and risen from the ashes, just like the Phoenix.

Image result for phoenix

Photo credit: © Chanel Baran via C. Ara Campbell

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Transformation

Truth be told, we can take on a hefty load of other people's crap.

How many times have we said:
"If they cheat on me one more time, I'm done."
"If they hit me one more time, I'm done."
"If they come home late again, I'm done."
"Fill in your own... you get the point."

The next time they do it, we make up another excuse and say the same threat over and over again....UNTIL ONE DAY. Now seemingly that day, you feel as if you've had enough of them and you just cannot take it anymore. You've cracked; when in fact, it has NOTHING to do with them, it's all about YOU!

Real Transformation

Here me out: REAL transformation doesn't happen until you truly decide to get real with yourself. When you are done making excuses. When you are done being hurt & mistreated. When you realize that you must put yourself first, no matter the consequences that lie ahead.

[This can also happen outside of a relationship context, for example, you could be taking drugs or living an unhealthy lifestyle.]

Regardless, transformation initiates when you faintly begin to recognize your worth, your truth, your path. It's not easy. As a matter of fact, it's crazy scary because you start to question your entire existence. Most importantly, it's not an epiphany. It is a journey that takes you in spirals, revisiting the same issues until you ultimately capture what your soul is trying to show you.

You will start to shed habits, beliefs, relationships, careers, friends, and interests that no longer resonate with your truth and who you really are. Your life will slowly re-build itself in the most beautiful, painful, and awe-inspiring of ways. It isn't for the faint of heart, which is why until you are TRULY tired of your own crap, will you embrace the journey of transformation!

Image result for transformation

Photo Credit: Copyright © 2015 BrandStrategy, Inc.

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The Path to Forgiveness

Mindfulness...the path to forgiveness?

Recently I stumbled upon the blog post of a man, Noah Levine, who had a very rough upbringing and made quite a few wrong choices. While in prison, he began to meditate. He's been practicing for over 10 years now. Although his story was inspiring, it wasn't his decade long dedication or his past experiences that moved me- but rather what he learned about forgiveness by meditating.

Forgiveness Is NOT A Magical Prayer Or Mantra

It is not something you say and >poof< you're done, on to the next thing. He said, "The experience of forgiveness is a momentary release. In reality, we don’t and can’t forgive forever, only for that present moment." So in essence, forgiving someone for the moment gives us temporary freedom. But then we remember...that thing....so we start to feel angry, hurt or sad again....anddddd we are right back where we started.

Nothing is permanent in life. Forgiveness, just like love, compassion, patience, and kindness need to be practiced moment to moment. Cue in the magic key, MINDFULNESS. Being mindful of our thoughts and actions help us to make the right decisions in our lives. It helps us to be IN THE MOMENT. Meditation allows us to achieve just that. 

Forgiveness Is A Choice

I don't know about you, but I find it difficult at times to remain present, especially if I am remembering past injustices or how much someone hurt me...but it is at that specific moment mindfulness should be practiced. It is a split second choice to forgive once again instead of perpetuating the hurtful thoughts and feelings. It is the choice to our FREEDOM and INNER PEACE.

This was such a beautiful reminder of our human-ness...thanks Noah! 

If you are interested in reading the full article, click here. 

 

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