Hit & Miss

Life is a series of hit and miss. Having been raised by entrepreneurial parents, this is what has been ingrained in every fiber of my being. In life, you can have small victories and devastatingly huge defeats. But you have to keep going. Failure does not mean you haven’t succeeded. Failure is PART of success. And you have to keep trying.

Sometimes, trying comes with a pricetag. But I have learned that money is something you can always earn if you’re willing to work for it. The time you spend in trying is even more valuable than money will ever be, for time is something you can’t repossess. And time you spend in learning from mistakes is time never wasted.

It could take years to build an empire. But it takes only a miscalculated step to watch it all crumble down. And when you’re down in the rubbles, you must learn to claw your way back to the surface, wiser than ever before. And even that experience is never a waste.

Life is a series of hit and miss. You win some, you lose some. That is just the fundamental rule of life. You can’t have it all. But even then, you have to strive to have a shot at the kind of life you dream for yourself. I am not even talking about financial stability here. I am talking about peace and choosing battles. Choose whatever makes you happy. Choose what you think is best for your ultimate learning and growth. Remember that a seed has to come completely broken and undone during the process of germination. You will suffer in this life, you will be in pain, but even as the broken seed rises above the surface to find light, you too can do this if you only choose to.

In the wise words of my good friend, “your vision will sustain you”. And in the grand scheme of things, these painful episodes of the present will serve as learning experiences.

Life will offer you countless numbers of rejections and trials. You will have to make sure that the cruelties of life won’t harden your heart. You have to learn to be kind, because you know exactly how it feels when the world is just a little too unkind. The Dalai Lama says, “defense is the first act of war. Respond with love.” And indeed, the world needs more love. Love in non-verbal ways. Love even when you don’t understand. This is the real challenge. Love when you see nothing to be loved, especially when looking at yourself.

Life is a series of hit and miss. It takes quite a bit of courage and a great deal of risk.

Cracking Knees

This blog post is long overdue. I was going to write a long, depressing piece on the hassles, struggles and sacrifices of opening your own yoga studio. But I decided to sleep on it and write about my cracking knees instead.

Yes. At age 25, I can feel my knees cracking each time I climb steps or rise up from a squatting position. And while it’s not really painful (yet), I was alarmed at how early I seem to experience *symptoms* of wear and tear. When I first noticed of this *symptom*, I did what any normal 21st century person would do. I consulted with Dr. Google. But every tidbit of information I got points out to one thing: “If it’s not painful, there’s nothing wrong with you.” And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Still I refuse to accept that cracking knees are normal for a person my age. Let alone for someone who does jump-backs for a living.

I stumbled upon a writing by the great guru, B.K.S. Iyengar in his book YOGA: The Path to Holistic Health. In the Iyengar Style of yoga, complete with an array of props, never is the student allowed to bend his knees during a Standing Forward Bend (use a block if it’s impossible to reach the floor, but never bend the knees). I realized I have been guilty of micro-bending my knees when I’m feeling particularly stiff. Apparently, you have to completely engage your hamstrings when in forward fold. That’s kind of the point of the posture. So bending your knees would somehow undermine the the benefits of this posture. Of course, I did not relate my cracking knees to this. At least not right away.

Lately, I have dedicated my afternoons to the practice of Ashtanga Primary Series. Using Iyengar’s alignment in my Sun Salutations has greatly improved the condition of my knees. I no longer feel them cracking whenever I climb the stairs. There’s still some cracking when I rise up from Malasana (yogi’s squat) though. I have to research how to exit the pose safely.

I wish I could spend more time being a student so I can learn about the different styles and methods that work and don’t work for my body. It’s never a one-size-fits-all approach but experiencing these things first hand gives me greater insight on what my students could possibly go through. After all, when it comes to teaching yoga, nothing means more to me than keeping my students safe in their practice.

Respond with Love

I no longer have the energy to mind people who talk negatively about me behind my back. I have long since realized that what people think of me is none of my business. I wish them love and peace in their fragile hearts. I hope they too shall see all the beautiful things that life has to offer instead of noticing inevitable flaws in others.

Peace and Love to all ❤

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2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL YOU BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE! May you have the best year of your life yet.

And if you haven’t made any resolutions for 2015, that’s great! Don’t set resolutions. Resolutions are like promises that are made to be forgotten. It doesn’t matter if it’s the start of a new year, or the middle of a mundane month, if you are not committed to work on your plans and goals, then they will remain as mere plans and goals.

Only you can decide what you think is best for your life. You may be in a cloud of confusion as to which path is truly meant for you. If this is the case, always choose the path of kindness and compassion. Believe that kindness pays off in wonderful ways. Kindness is what the world needs. Be the one who gives the world what it needs.

If you choose the path of kindness, know that before you can be kind to anyone or anything else, you must first be kind to yourself. Be kind enough to give yourself what is good for you – for your body, your mind, and your soul.

To be kind to yourself is to nourish your physical body with enough food, enough activity, enough rest, enough fun, and enough work. Yes, “enough” is emphasized. Not little, not much. Just enough. 

Engage in activities that are good for the mind. Read an informative book. Sit in silence. Meditate. Remember mind over matter. You are what your mind says you are. Be sure your mind says you are capable. And you are enough.

Take care of your soul. Fuel your passion. Life is only worth living if you have something to live for. Again, if you have no idea what you’re passionate about, be passionate about being kind. Be encouraging. Be loving. The world will thank you for it.

Sometimes, showing kindness is easier said than done. And if at times, you impulsively become unkind, be kind enough to forgive yourself. It is often through conflict that you get to know yourself better. The more you get to know yourself, the easier it will be to make life-changing decisions.

Kindness to yourself also means trusting yourself. Trust that you are capable of kindness. Because you are. You just have to believe it. And when you finally choose this path of kindness, you will realize that the world is becoming kind to you as well.

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Happy 2015! 🙂

My Christmas Week Schedule

Monday, December 22
8:00 AM – Marichi Yoga House – Vinyasa

Tuesday, December 23
4:00 PM – MetroLifestyle Fitness Center – Vinyasa

Saturday, December 27
4:00 PM – MetroLifestyle Fitness Center – Vinyasa

Dear Yoga Virgin: An open letter to anyone who’s about to join a yoga class for the first time

Dear Yoga Virgin,

Namaste! First of all, let me congratulate you for finally coming inside the confines of a yoga studio for the first time. You may not realize this today, or not even in your next few days of yoga practice, but you are doing yourself a favor. You see, yoga has long been practiced in Ancient India as a means to reach one’s enlightenment. Sure, that image of yoga has been overshadowed by Western ads featuring bikini yoginis in wildly impossible contortions, but I hope that as you step onto the yoga mat, you keep an open mind and an open heart about the experience that is about to unfold.

Before we continue, please switch your phone to Silent Mode and keep it inside your bag. Most likely, you won’t need it during class. You won’t even get time to check it.

Since this is your first time (and you’re probably in the gym about to take a Flow class, or in a studio waiting for your Ashtanga teacher), let me tell you in a very calm, yoga teacher voice, it will be the worst 60 (or 90) minutes of your life as you know it. Or at least that’s how I felt during my first time (because really, this is just me sharing what it was like for me and I assume it’s going to be the same for everyone). Again I ask you to keep an open mind and an open heart, and if possible, a straight spine during meditation (unless you have kyphosis or some other spinal condition). Exaggeration aside, yoga is probably harder than you initially imagined. It’s not just stretching limbs, you know. In a full yoga asana class, we stretch, we bend, we lift, we balance, we do push-ups and one-handed planks, we stand on our heads, and sometimes we take a fun ride using our arms. It’s a full body workout and you will use muscles you’ve been neglecting for years. You will have to execute some of the most awkward postures you’ve ever done, and there will be strange sensations you’ve never felt before. Suffice it to say that you will feel really sore the next day. Honor your body at all times. If your body is telling you to rest, please do so. If your body is telling you that it has reached a certain limit (of flexibility or stamina perhaps), listen to your body and don’t push beyond that.

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Credits to the owner of this image

Which brings me to my next point: Whatever happens in class (unless it’s an emergency), please, please, please (and I say this as a teacher), stay on the mat until the final Savasana (that little nap time at the end of class). If you have already endured the rigorous Sun Salutations, odds are you’ve endured the hardest, most tiring part of class, and you are well on your way to making peace with the asanas. And if you’re feeling really uneasy, you can always rest on your mat in a seated or lying down position. Don’t get me wrong, if you step out of the class, no one is going to judge you. But it’s distracting for other practitioners to see someone walk out pre-Savasana. It makes your teacher wonder if he/she did something wrong to be walked out on. Don’t worry though. He/she will move on the second you close the door and forget it ever happened. No judging, no explanations required. If you absolutely must leave before class ends, please lie down in Savasana for a minute or two before heading out. I promise you, that exact moment when you open your eyes after Savasana is probably one of the best feelings in the world that it actually offsets any of the initial physical awkwardness that you felt during the class. Of course, the reason why you feel such peace after Savasana was those tiny awkward moments you had to endure, and the relief knowing that you’ve already survived that.

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Credits to the owner of this image

I’m not aware of your intentions in coming to this particular yoga class. If you’re like me, you’re probably here just to try it out, not knowing what to expect, and completely devoid of any intention. You may or may not like your first experience. If you don’t enjoy the first time, I urge you to try at least two more times before you decide whether or not yoga is for you (I’m sure it is).

The yogic journey usually starts with working on the asanas (or postures). But in time, if you give yourself the chance, you will find out that yoga has a deeper purpose than that, and physical fitness is only one of the innumerable benefits of yoga. I’m not gonna dwell on that for now because your class is about to start and I don’t want to overwhelm you.

So just try to have fun and try to see past the perfection of your alignment. You are already beautiful as you are. Embrace yourself fully, for all your strengths and all your weaknesses, and you will breeze through this practice. Don’t pressure yourself if an asana seems too difficult. Just laugh at it and do what your body can handle. 🙂

Until here. Have a safe and meaningful practice.

Hari om,
Leona

7 Ways Yoga Made My Life Better

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1. I found a job I actually love.
Money or no money, I love teaching yoga. Yes. I am a teacher. I claim it. Being a yoga teacher gives me the emotional fulfillment of watching someone grow and learn, but without the hassles of grading papers. 😉 Teaching is also a wonderful learning process. Every once in a while, people notice the methodology and I am met with compliments or criticism. Either way, I learn which methods are effective and I find out on which areas I need to improve. I learn, I earn, and I am thankful. Being a yoga teacher, I always try to be mindful of my words and actions. I try (not always successfully) to adhere to yogic principles of Yama and I always hope in my heart that my students do the same.

2. I no longer slouch (sometimes).
Yoga improves the posture. That’s inarguable. In fact, one of the eight limbs of yoga is asana, which literally means ‘posture’ in Sanskrit. Since I started practicing asanas, I’ve engaged muscles I never even knew existed. “Sthira sukham asanam” – asanas are steady and comfortable. And somehow, a level of comfort resonates in me when I do certain postures. I’ve heard my teachers (and myself) say “lengthen your spine”, “widen your shoulders”, and “open your chest” more times than any other phrase in the world that these words have already been implanted in my subconscious. And what the mind says, the body follows. That’s why yoga is so effective. It doesn’t just give your body a work-out, it gives your mind a work-in too.

3. I have established a deeper connection with myself.
One of my favorite things that my teacher says is, “Make a conscious effort to [insert specific verb of action here]…” Yoga is also about awakening your consciousness in a whole deeper level, and that usually starts with the breath. I notice that when my teacher says “close your eyes, take deep breaths, acknowledge your emotions, and let them go”, and if I do exactly that, that’s when my mind becomes hyperactive. That’s when I come to realizations about the way I’ve been living my life, treating others, treating myself. Those are the moments I’m grateful for. Those few moments before I let my thoughts go give me a chance to think about wanting to become a better person.

4. I make a conscious effort to take things in moderation.
Should I eat this cake? Probably not but I can take a few bites. Am I allowed to have wine? Of course. A glass or two would suffice. I don’t necessarily have to deprive myself just because I practice yoga. But it is very important that I become conscious of my habits before I can even indulge. Can I do Bakasana (Crow Pose) 10 times in a row? No, that’s how people rip their shoulders. Maybe try 2-3 times and then rest.

5. My patience has tremendously increased.
The thing about yoga asanas is that more often than not, they are very awkward to execute in the beginning. You have to deal with your limbs flaying out or bent in a way that doesn’t really give comfort if you’re a beginner. But these moments of discomfort have been my defining moments. Whether it was holding a Warrior 2 for over a minute daily, or slowly working my way towards a wall-less Headstand for nearly two years now, or painstaikingly engaging my core so my Crow can take flight, something in the awkwardness has changed me. Now I can (try to) breathe into the discomfort and know with mild certainty that my mind will not give in to the stress. And when your mind is calm and clear, you can handle anything with grace even under pressure.

6. I have forgiven those who wronged me.
I forgive the security guard who won’t let me park in front of his establishment (even though easement is public property and anyone is legally allowed to park there), because he is only doing his job. I forgive my friend who ditched me when I needed her most, because I’m not the only person in her life and I should be fine with that. I forgive the girl who stole my ex-boyfriend, because I’m also thankful that she did. I forgive the boy who broke my heart, because then I learned what to look for in a partner. I forgive the guy who commented offensive things about rape and sexism, and pray that violent things don’t happen to his sister or daughter. I forgive the girl who talks about me behind my back, or the guy who thinks I’m full of shit. Life is too short to be angry all the time. As the cliché goes: “You’re in my life for a reason – either you’re a blessing or a lesson.” I hope everyone extends the same understanding, or at least tolerance, for people who have different cirumstances and views in life.

7. I have forgiven myself for being human.
It is an unfortunate inevitability that humans are inclined to err. And this is something I accept about myself now. I won’t go so far as to say that I purposefully make mistakes, but I have allowed myself that certain margin of error wherein I can just let things pass and not give myself shit for days on end.


Join us for yoga classes at Bodhi Yoga Center GenSan! And check out our upcoming yoga teacher training courses.


Questions to Yoga Teachers from Non-Yoga People…and My Response

1. Can you teach me yoga…for free?

Yes, we can actually do that. Reaching out and sharing the gift of yoga to as many people as possible gives tremendous joy in our hearts. We would love to teach for free. It is our social responsibility to promote yoga and help others in whatever way we can. Which is why we have KARMA YOGA (usually for free) sessions. You know what we can’t do? Teach you IN PRIVATE for free AT YOUR OWN TERMS just because you feel like learning yoga isn’t worth paying for.

While we do love conducting free classes for groups who really need it, or for promoting wellness, teaching is also our means of earning a living. So we try to structure our free classes on timeslots that are available to a wider audience and for a demographic who would most likely respond positively.

Please keep in mind that if we have to give a free session, we would have to sacrifice time that we could have otherwise used to place food on our table (so ask us nicely). You wouldn’t want your teacher to go hungry, would you? Unless it’s for Karva Chauth 🙂 (Maybe if you ask a little more nicely…)

Also, as teachers, we need to constantly update our knowledge and improve our skills. This requires rigorous training programs that are usually not available in our own city. These programs do not come cheap. They most certainly don’t come for free. We have to pay for workshops, teacher training, books, and all other living expenses incidental to joining these programs just so we could provide quality service and keep our students safe.

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It ain’t easy ~

Please consider all these things the next time you ask us to teach you for free. And again, ask us nicely. 🙂

2. I don’t need yoga because I’m already flexible / I am not flexible enough for yoga

Improved flexibility is one of the many benefits of yoga. But what a lot of non-yoga people don’t realize is that there is so much more to yoga than just being flexible. Asanas (postures) alone can improve your balance, stability and coordination. Asanas will challenge your strength and activate muscles you never knew you had. Apart from asanas, you will also learn how to control your breath, which will subsequently lead you to control your thoughts and your responses to those thoughts. Yoga is more than just improving the physical body. Yoga is a union of the body with breath, of mind with soul.

3. Yoga is for girls / Yoga is gay

HAHAHA! I can’t help but laugh every time I hear that because it usually comes from a blatantly chauvinistic ignorant person who probably couldn’t even hold a chaturanga for 5 full breaths if his life depended on it. I wouldn’t even try to convince that person to try yoga because 1. he doesn’t have the heart and strength for it and 2. he’s a blatantly chauvinistic ignorant person and frankly, at the risk of sounding egotistical, who wants to associate with that? Hahahaha.

Do you even lift, bro?

Do you even lift, bro?

4. I can’t do what you do in your photos!

Don’t worry, neither could I before I started my practice. Everyone has to start somewhere. What you see in my photos isn’t the starting point. Not even close.

5. Yoga is against my religious beliefs

WHAT?! What religion is against non-violence, truthfulness, non-covetousness, purity, and non-greed?!?! Those are the 5 universal principles every yogi tries to follow.

6. Do you actually sweat in yoga?

I live in the Philippines. I sweat even when I don’t move. If you live in tropical regions where the climate is generally hot and humid, I would say “Yes, you actually sweat all your fluids out in yoga”. But if you lived somewhere cold, I guess you would need an intense Power Vinyasa sesh or a hot room for gentler classes, to break a sweat. So, this one depends on where you are and what season it is.

7. Yoga is just stretching…

I have read a fair amount of literature about yoga. I try to study yoga from its roots. And I can tell you with almost a full certainty that yoga is not JUST stretching. But yeah, stretching is a good place to start.

8. Does yoga make you lose weight?

No. Diet, exercise and discipline make you lose weight. Yoga just happens to be a discipline that somewhat requires moderate eating and light exercise. Also, I just happened to lose 20 pounds since I started practicing yoga. It could have been just a happy coincidence.

Life After Rishikesh

 

Taking all the energy I can so I can share the vibes at home

Taking all the energy I can so I can share the vibes at home

It’s easy to tell yourself (and others) that you have found inner peace when you live in a world where people literally seek the same thing as you. When you find yourself in the company of people who radiate certain positive energies, the vibrations tend to rub on you too. When the strangers you meet on the street smile at you for no other reason than to greet you “Namaste!”, those smiles become infectious. You hold those smiles in your heart for as long as you can, knowing you won’t meet strangers as jolly and friendly as they are anywhere else in the world.

Vinyasa Yoga School batch October 2014

Vinyasa Yoga School batch October 2014

When you meet authentic yogis – not those who merely practice asanas, post yoga selfies on social media and proclaim themselves “yogis” (yep, I’m guilty), but those who actually seek to become higher versions of themselves – you know you are in their presence almost immediately when you notice their lack of ego. You recognize their compassionate hearts. When you try to learn an art or a science from people who really embody what they teach, you know the knowledge they are trying to impart something authentic. They are sharing a piece of themselves to you, and you take in every piece and try to protect each one by practicing and teaching others to the best of your ability.

[I would like to thank my teachers in Vinyasa Yoga School. You’ve all been such a wonderful inspiration.]

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(L-R) Harsh – Mantra Teacher, Helen, Joan, Leona, Mahesh – Yoga Philosophy + Therapy Teacher, Kusshal – Yoga Anatomy and Physiology + Yoga Business Administration Teacher , Vikas – Vinyasa Teacher

It’s easy to drastically change your lifestyle when you have no other option. When you’re stuck in a city where your normal diet is no longer the norm, when the food you wouldn’t even consider eating back in your own home is the only thing that’s available to you, then you not only reconsider, but you actually partake. Not only that, you begin to enjoy what you have and wish it would always be your norm.

Celebrating my 25th birthday by being sung to in 7 different languages. Thank you, classmates and teachers for making my birthday memorable!

Celebrating my 25th birthday by being sung to in 7 different languages. Thank you, classmates and teachers for making my birthday memorable!

It is so easy to tell yourself and others that you are genuinely happy with your new life. You feel at peace and you love what you have when the world around you is very much conducive to peace and love. The only moments you dread in this new life of yours are the few short hours in the early morning when the temperature drops below what you’re accustomed to. But even with that, nothing can cool the new flame of joy in your heart. Of course you know deep within, this couldn’t be your new life. It’s a temporary retreat from the world you’ve been so familiar with, the world in which you were brought up, the world which happens to be your home, the world you need to come back to in a few short weeks.

Ready for river rafting at the Ganges. Not exactly waterproof. But I had an amazing experience.

Ready for river rafting at the Ganges. Not exactly waterproof. But I had an amazing experience.

What’s difficult is returning to your separate reality and see that the world you were used to, the one where you come from, the one where you’re supposed to thrive, hasn’t changed. You come back thinking you were supposedly a new person, only to find the same hustle and bustle when you come home. That’s the real challenge – to maintain calm and composure, and to keep a positive perspective in life in the midst of all surrounding tension and turmoil. That’s when you know if your retreat really made an impact on your life – if you still have that joy in your heart despite the external situation. And that’s when you become thankful that of all the new asanas and mantras and philosophies you have learned, letting go of attachment was one (and mostly emphasized) of them.

Thank you, Rishikesh!

Thank you, Rishikesh!

Coming to Rishikesh, as with most decisions I make in life, was deemed unnecessary by a lot of people in my life. But I’ve learned that sometimes you need to go seemingly insane and make unconventional and irrational choices so you can regain your focus again. Sometimes all you need is to completely overhaul your surroundings to realize that it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside. What you need, and what you hope to become, has always been inside you. Thank you, Rishikesh, for showing me exactly that. I will forever be grateful.