I don’t feel the need to be anything more than that – a beginner. Having said that, my practice is an amazing gift that I nurture with even more practice. It’s a gift from the universe that I do not take for granted. The whole experience is a plethora of emotions just waiting to be unleashed – delight, wonder, indifference, struggle, obsession, disappointment, breakdown, breakthrough, wonder, delight. I welcome each new emotion with an open heart, whether it appeals to my senses or not. I have learned not to dismiss any experience. Any aversion to unpleasant sensations only causes more misery than fully accepting the source of unpleasantness.
Nearly four years ago, I started my journey home to myself. Of course, back then, I didn’t really look at it that way. Back then, I lived a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I was overweight and borderline diabetic. I needed an activity – any activity at that – that allows more movement than my current lifestyle afforded me. I found a yoga studio around the corner from my house, and the rest was history. Each time I am one with my mat, I discover something new about my practice. I find something new about myself. Each time, with no fail, I am reminded that I am perpetually a learner – a beginner.
Fast forward four years…I still come back to practice. Mind you, my yoga has evolved in more ways than one. I’ve had to overcome my incessant ego several times. And I suspect I will still need to overcome its limitless attempts to undermine my journey. You see, ego is a funny little thing. It pushes you in multiple directions, but none of them ever really lead to liberation. It engages your self-destruct button and you have to succumb before you realize that you don’t have to. Ego will create and destroy relationships for you, so you will realize that all you ever really need is already within you.
I have come to terms with the fact that as far as yoga is concerned, as a practitioner and a teacher, I am a child. A stubborn child who has a lot to learn. But unlike a child, I realize now that I am not in a hurry to grow up. I enjoy being a beginner. I don’t really need to go far, I just need to keep going. Continue reading
Moments of Great Uncertainty
What is your vision? What do you hope to achieve? How do you propose to serve the world that has given you so much?
These are the questions I ask myself in moments of great uncertainty. Moments when I think myself useless or incapable of reaching the lengths of my ambitions. When I feel like my plan is doomed for failure. I think about how grateful I am to have found my passion, to be of service to others while doing it, and occasionally get paid for it as well.
I am nothing. I have reached nothing. I have proven nothing.
These are the things I speak to my heart whenever I feel like I have won tiny victories. Of course, I know every person has an innate brilliance that needs years of polishing experience. But surely there is a way of accepting destiny without letting it aggrandize the ego?
My inner yoga is a constant battle between contentment and improvement. I have an unwavering desire to go out into the world and learn. But my life is so beautiful that I know in my heart it would not be wrong to stay exactly where I am. How does one decide the next move when she has wings and she has an anchor?
How to make your yoga practice sustainable
The most difficult part of any journey is starting it. Whether we wish to learn a new craft, or work towards getting fitter, it’s always the most tedious of tasks to motivate ourselves to just go for it. After all, why would we want to wake up at five in the morning for a jog when we could just stay bundled up in bed for a few more hours of sleep? What’s in it for us?
For starters, it makes us productive. And if productivity isn’t attractive enough, working on towards a goal gives us a sense of fullfillment. Whether or not you achieve said goal, just knowing you’re doing your best to attain it is enough to keep your happy hormones pumping.
The same is true in establishing a yoga practice. Being a relatively new craze in my hometown, the people I often invite to join my yoga classes in General Santos City, Philippines almost always ask me the same question: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? I could go on and on about all of the published research on how yoga is beneficial to our holistic health. But paper is just paper. You will never appreciate just how good yoga feels until you have felt it yourself.
The only way to get yourself into something like yoga is to just get your ass up and DO IT. It takes a little push but once you get your groove on, it’s hard to shake it off.
I’ve compiled a list of ways on how to help yourself establish and sustain your practice. Yoga or not, these tips can really give you that extra push you need to achieve your goals.
1. Make it part of your schedule
To say make it a priority would be downright preposterous for some. Because let’s face it, we have other areas in our life that need tending to, like work and family. But if you know well enough to set a designated timeslot for your yoga practice and discipline yourself to follow it, then chances are you’ll be showing up to your mat more often than if you just go “whenever you feel like going.”
The only way you’ll ever show up to yoga if you don’t have time…is to make time! 🙂
2. Set REALISTIC expectations
So you finally muster up the motivation to show up to your mat. And then what? You turn to INSTAGRAM to find your #YogaInspiration. There may be a danger to this. Instagram-famous pseudo-celebs have been practicing for years! Even decades! To try and achieve in a few hours what these people have been practicing for practically their entire lifetime would be nothing short of silly, really. Don’t let it dishearten you. Instead, make these photos and videos your motivation to keep coming back to your mat.
Oh so you’ve been doing yoga for a month and you still couldn’t rock a headstand? I have news for you! There is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED for you to pressure yourself.
These things take time. Honestly, I still even find it extremely difficult to sit still and cross-legged for two minutes. But then again, I have only been practicing that daily for three short years. No pressure. I’ll get there when my body is ready. And you will, too. Believe you can and you’re halfway there, as they say.
3. Show up even on bad days
If you only come to practice on the days when you feel good, then you’ll be missing a lot! Bad days are a part of life. Not only is it inevitable, but it’s also necessary for personal growth. Unless you are ill and need bed rest, there’s really no reason for you to skip yoga practice.
4. Bring a friend or two
Encourage a friend to join you. Even if a yoga class isn’t really the best place to chat or hangout with them, having a friend by your side gives that extra push. You’ll have someone to talk to about the experience. You’ll have a cheerleader to give you encouragement. And you’ll have someone to nag you when you feel lazy.
5. Track your progress
It could be as simple as consciously holding your spine straight up to avoid slouching. Small victories are still victories. And if you want something to look back on, carefully track these tiny victories. You might not be able to come up into a headstand right away, but you can start with nailing your dolphin pose, which you can work on by mastering your downward dog.
Advanced yoga poses can only be achieved by working on easy ones first and then gradually building your strength and flexibility as you go along. It’s progression that keeps you hooked and coming back. But you should keep in mind that it’s being content with what your body is capable of doing that gives you a meaningful practice.
6. Offer a moment of silence to yourself daily
If you are able to handle your thoughts in moments of silence without wanting to get up and run, then that’s truly the moment you’ll know your yoga is working on your favor. Yoga is traditionally learned to stop the fluctuations of the mind. Now this doesn’t mean you stop thinking. We are more inclined to interpret it as being lucid and rational, regardless of the emotions brought about by our thoughts. It’s giving meaningful responses to various circumstances instead of impulsive reactions.
6. Find a class suitable to your level and schedule
If you live in General Santos, you will find different studios offering classes at various timings during the day. Assess your body and be honest with yourself. If you are completely new to this, join a beginner-friendly class. Bodhi Yoga Center‘s daily classes are always suitable for beginners who want to learn the safe and sustainable way. The teachers themselves assess each student and guide them to the asanas that provide adequate challenge and comfort (sthira and sukha). Check out the studio website http://www.bodhiyogacenter.com for more information on class timings.
Setting one-on-one private sessions with your teacher can also help you track your progress. It can answer whatever doubts or questions in your mind that are sometimes not addressed in a regular group setting. For more information on private classes, feel free to get in touch with me directly at email@example.com. 🙂
Yoga in South Central Mindanao
I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: When it comes to being a tourist destination, REGION 12 IS HIGHLY UNDERRATED. And as to being a Yoga Destination, it is UP and COMING. I mean, come on!
Just take a look at this fine stretch of white beach in Gumasa, Sarangani Province…
…that you can have ALL TO YOURSELF on some days.
See what I mean?
Pay attention… TO ME. SEE?? ONLY. ME…
…and the person taking the photo. And the group I came with, of course. You didn’t seriously think I would drive to the beach alone, did you? Or would I? Hmmmnn…
How about this super serene lake on top of Mt. Parker, T’boli, South Cotabato?
Which, I again have all to myself…
Well, okay I’m never really all by myself…
But, you get it, right?!
Also, take a look at this beautiful countryside yoga studio in Alabel, Sarangani Province where you can practice all you want…
Just tell me when you want to… because I’d be very willing to share this space with you.
Also, because I need to let security know to let you in. It’s not yet open to the public…
But this yoga studio in General Santos City is!!! Yoga – it’s more fun in GenSan!
And you can come visit me here anytime!
I’ll just be here. Hanging out.
Literally waiting for you to join my class hahaha…
So if you’re looking for your next yoga destination, please consider my beloved South Central Mindanao. Don’t forget to connect with Bodhi Yoga Center when you come here.
P.S. OUR REGION IS NOT A WAR ZONE. STOP SUBSCRIBING TO THAT IDEA. EDUCATE YOURSELF. Thank you! Namaste. Om shanti, shanti, shanti! 🙂
Lake Holon: Everything I should have known before going there!
Disclaimer: These are the POV of a FIRST TIME TREKKER. So when I rate the level of discomfort or difficulty, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m a yoga teacher-cum-entrepreneur, not a mountaineer. What do I know? Anyway, if you’re an experienced trekker, this blog won’t be any help to you. But if you’re someone who’s never been outside for more than 2 hours at a time, you might appreciate the info I put in here. So, read on…
Lake Holon is located on the crater of Mt. Parker, a stratovolcano… blah blah blah. Your tour guide will give you the geography and history lessons when you get there. This isn’t one of those blogs. Moving on, here are some things I wish I knew before I embarked on a journey to Lake Holon:
1. Transportation from T’boli Poblacion to Lake Holon receiving centers
Unless you take your own vehicle with you, the only method of transportation available from the T’boli Municipal Hall to Lake Holon’s receiving centers is the habal-habal. In case you have no idea what that is, it’s a single motorcyle with an extended seat to accommodate 3-4 passengers. The habal-habal ride is at least 1 hour and 30 minutes. And if you’ve never tried it, it’s going to be the most uncomfortable 90 minutes of your life. The moment you step out of T’boli poblacion (first 10 minutes), the concrete road ends and the entire journey winds up on dirt road. Prepare yourself for dust and/or moisture along the way. After the ride, I felt all my energy had been drained. I was told I sat wrong.
Apparently, the ideal way to sit on the habal-habal is to stick your torso as close to the person in front of you as possible and to place your foot directly under your knee. If you’re maarte like me, take the habal-habal. You need this experience in your life.
2. The Receiving Centers
Local Tourism Office in T’boli Municipal Hall – This is where our journey started, and probably yours too. This is the point of origin of the habal-habal ride. If you need to request for assistance such as vehicle and tour guide, coordinate with the local tourism office first, that way you won’t be lost. They will orient you (albeit not extensively) about what you can expect on the hike going to Holon. The tours are almost exclusively operated by the Local Government Unit. They are as helpful as they can be. Or at least they try. They’re working on it. Give them a break okay?!?! Hahahaha. Okay stop na.
From the Poblacion, you will need to drive to one of the receiving centers at the foot of Mt. Parker, either Salacafe or Kule. Which receiving center you choose will depend on how hardcore you’d want your trek to be. Again, may I remind you that my hardcore may not necessarily be your hardcore. And that’s fine. Don’t have any expectations na lang. 😉
Salacafe Receiving Center – If you want the “easier” trail going to Lake Holon, this is where you go. This is where you register and if you haven’t met your tour guide yet, this is probably where the tour guide will orient you. You must try their native coffee before you leave. I’m not sure if this receiving center is open for homestay.
Kule Receiving Center – Tourists can spend the night here in a traditional T’boli hut and experience T’boli hospitality. The locals can prepare their native coffee for you and they can prepare a warm dinner at a reasonable cost.
3. The Trails
Kule Trail – As a trekking virgin, the Kule Trail proved to be a real challenge for me. Of course mountaineers and experienced hikers would tell you otherwise. But I really felt like I risked my life walking this trail. I slipped and fell probably 5-7 times on the freshly watered ground (it had been raining). Once, I nearly fell off a ravine. Good thing we had 2 porters, one walking directly in front of me when I fell on him, and the other one walking right behind me and caught me by my backpack.
Halfway through our descent to Lake Holon, I was already walking barefoot in the jungle because my training shoes were not hiking shoes and my bare feet held a better grip on the muddy surface. Lol. Next time I know better to wear something more moisture- and slip- resistant.
But it wasn’t all that bad. The trail traverses a beautiful rainforest. The amount of flora in the jungle was enough to convince me that we chose wisely when we decided to walk this trail. Halfway through, we passed by quiet streams, hot springs, and plants and trees I’ve never seen before.
Nearly two hours in the hike and we reached the viewdeck where we’re supposed to see all 304 hectares of Lake Holon. But when we got there, the fog made it impossible to see anything downhill. So we sat and waited. Personally, I asked the universe to give us a glimpse of Holon. Lo and behold, as if the universe took pity on my group, the fog was cleared for few beautiful seconds! It was amazing. The lake was as tranquil as it can be. It was love at first sight. I couldn’t wait to descend to see the lake up close.
Would I recommend the Kule trail? Perhaps, if hiking is not new to you and you know the proper way to walk through mud without slipping. But if you’re a newbie like me, you’d enjoy the trip more if you take the easier route, which is the Salacafe Trail.
Salacafe Trail – This trail starts at Brgy. Salacafe receiving center. 3-4 hour trek going to the lake. The trail is wide and can accommodate an ATV. Fairly easy and suitable for complete beginners. It’s literally and figuratively a walk in the park. You can even do it on flipflops. Most of the trail goes uphill though, so your cardio-respiratory endurance will surely be challenged, especially for those who aren’t used to walking far (again it’s a 3-4 hour hike. Make sure you can last that long). We took this trail going back from the lake. By then I had exhausted all my energy to marvel on the beauty that was right in front of me. I guess it was still beautiful, I just no longer cared. 4. The Camp
Upon reaching Lake Holon, you shall set up camp directly by the lake side (ideally 30 meters from the shoreline but there’s just not that amount of flat land by the lake). Depending on your tour guide, you might have people there ready to catch wild tilapia from the lake and grill them for you. It’s gonna be a cold night. I did not regret taking a woolen blanket and a soft pillow with me.
My group did not camp in Lake Holon. We slept at the T’boli hut in Kule. It still felt like camping though.
5. The Costs
Be prepared to spend! From the tour guide, to the warm meals, to the porters, and the habal-habal, every experience merits a cost. The costs aren’t that high. But since they haven’t established a fee structure yet, it might seem like you are paying your way through the trip. Remember: WHAT HAS WORTH IS WORTH PAYING FOR!
Let me break down the costs for you (these are rough estimates, not accurate figures). Assuming you’re already in T’boli Poblacion, this will be the expenses you need to cover:
Habal-habal: Php 200 per person (from Poblacion to Sitio Kule one way, same price going back)
Habal-habal: Php 100 per person (from Poblacion to Brgy. Salacafe one way, same price going back)
Tour Guide: Php 500 pesos per day
Porter: Php 25 per Kg (to Holon, one way. Same price going back from Holon)
Meals: Php 50 per person per meal (This is a rough estimate, it really varies on what they serve. For instance, tilapia would be more costly than corn and that’s just how it is).
Native coffee: Php 15 per cup
Kule Receiving Center: Php 30 entrance fee
Kule Receiving Center Homestay: The cost of this hasn’t been established yet, but any donation from your heart to the local T’boli tribe would be of tremendous help.
6. The Yoga – my personal reflections I approached the entire trip like a moving meditation which I aptly gave the theme “Total Non-attachment to Comfort”. From the habal-habal ride to sleeping on bamboo floors, walking barefoot through the jungle, to feeling tired and sore by the time we reached the lake, and then walking back to civilization – every experience was, in a way, an activity so deviated from my comfort zone. Every time I struggled through the trails (which was practically ALL THE TIME), I had to remind myself that I chose to be there. I also reminded myself that my struggles WEREN’T REAL. I mean sure it was uncomfortable and tiring, but I was in there for an adventure. Unlike so many others who have real battles – people who are battling drugs, depression, anxiety, hunger, thirst, prejudice, war – these are the people with real problems, not me. And so I kept walking. And basically each time I wanted to complain, I chose to shut up. Every time I slipped, I could have complained about how slippery the trail was. But I laughed with the T’boli porters instead.
The way I see it, you can either complain at every single thing life throws at you, or you can laugh about it. You have to gauge which is a more efficient use of your energy. I chose laughter – because complaining can only do so much.
By the time we reached Lake Holon, I was so exhausted that all that was left to do was sit in silence for a few minutes and just let the overwhelming beauty of nature wash over me. I had a meaningful meditation practice by the lake. It was as if I had to be that tired to just feel content in silence and stillness. As I sat there, exhaustion and all, I decided that it won’t be my last time in Lake Holon. I would endure the journey all over again just to be in a place as peaceful and heavenly as Lake Holon.
The journey to Holon – or any hidden piece of nature – can be likened to our journey back to the Creator. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. And indeed, since all of us are “rich” – one way or another – we have to really prove our worth if we want to behold something as precious as paradise.
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.
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 ❤
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.
Life After Rishikesh
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.