Perpetual Beginner

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

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Yoga in General Santos

I am happy with the way the yoga communities in GenSan are progressing. More and more people start to take interest in the practice, and the reception is with such fervor that we can no longer consider it a fad. I am also happy that there are more options for timetables and classes in the city.

In Bodhi Yoga Center, students can choose from Beginner to Intermediate classes. We have Vinyasa classes, Mysore-style or led Ashtanga classes, and simple Yoga Basics. We also started to roll out pre-natal yoga classes but are currently still private sessions.

We have a staple 6:00 PM class from Monday to Friday. Students can also ask us to schedule 8:00 AM and 7:30 PM group classes if they wish. Also, private sessions may be booked so as to focus on the student’s individual needs.

For bookings or inquiries regarding our Studio Classes, please contact me at Bodhi Yoga Center, mobile number (+63) 932 8891103 or e-mail at info@bodhiyogacenter.com.

For those aspiring to become yoga teachers, Bodhi Yoga Center is hosting a residential 200-Hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training program. This will be led by Vinay Jesta, an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher who currently conducts trainings across India and Europe. For more details about this program, kindly visit http://bodhiyogacenter.com.

Other places that offer yoga in General Santos are Marichi Yoga Studio, Metrolifestyle Fitness Center, Pacman Wildcard Gym, Tuna Smashers Badminton Courts, and AMSAI Gensan. 🙂

How to make your yoga practice sustainable

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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.

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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.
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Yoga Teacher Training in the Philippines

Hi everyone! You remember the baby that I gave birth to early this year? Well, my baby has reached a milestone! Bodhi Yoga Center is now a Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance. This means that we are ready to offer Yoga Teacher Training programs with an approved curriculum.

The first Yoga Alliance-approved teacher training course in General Santos will commence in April 2016. The course will be taught by Indian yogi Vinay Jesta, who has been training teachers in Europe and India.

Vinay Jesta - Bodhi Yoga Center's Lead Trainer

Vinay Jesta – Bodhi Yoga Center’s Lead Trainer

 

I hope that by training more teachers in our city, our yoga community will become more diverse and the practice more sustainable. 🙂

If you wish to join this teacher training program, please express your interest by e-mailing to info@bodhiyogacenter.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…

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…that you can have ALL TO YOURSELF on some days.

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See what I mean?

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Pay attention… TO ME. SEE?? ONLY. ME…

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…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?

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Which, I again have all to myself…

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Well, okay I’m never really all by myself…

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But, you get it, right?!

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Also, take a look at this beautiful countryside yoga studio in Alabel, Sarangani Province where you can practice all you want…

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Peacefully…. privately…

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Just tell me when you want to… because I’d be very willing to share this space with you.

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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!

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And you can come visit me here anytime!

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I’ll just be here. Hanging out.

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Stretching…

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Floating…

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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.

Kule Reveiving Center

Kule Reveiving Center

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Kule Receiving Center

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.

Falling for Holon!

Falling for Holon!

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.

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Natural hot springs along the Kule trail

Kule Trail

Kule Trail

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.

View deck

View deck

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Maybe next time the fog would clear 100%

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. IMG_1256 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.

Lake Holon Campsite

Lake Holon Campsite

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. IMG_1247 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.

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Strike a (yoga) pose!

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.

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Peaceful Lake Holon