Category Archives: Reflections

HERE. NOW.

Having studied Yoga for 15 years, I’ve heard and read these two words “HERE NOW”, hundreds of times and even more. They represent a huge part of the philosophy of yoga if not its entirety if we have to summarize what the discipline of yoga is.
But it’s only recently that they took their full meaning. And even now, I wonder if they took their full meaning or if I understand them just better and in 5 years down the road I will have another epiphany that will make them even more relevant.
It’s always very interesting to me how we intellectually understand things or concepts but to fully inhabit them in our body and heart is another story. Very often, we are quick to judge and we think we know but, do we really? Did we really feel in our cells, in our gut, in our heart the concept talked about or the situation the person goes thru?

My husband and I did some rounds of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) a few years ago to try to get pregnant which unfortunately were not successful. That is a story for another blog and I’ll definitely share my journey at some point if it can help anyone.
While going thru the process, most people were understanding with me but even when they were, I could sense they couldn’t fully comprehend what I was going thru. Some people have more compassion skills than others so their comments and support were very comforting and helpful but I also heard some comments that were flat hurtful.
How can they be hurtful when they were actually trying to comfort me?
Because they didn’t experience it; in their mind, in their thoughts, in their body, in their heart. So as much as they were trying, they in fact couldn’t relate at all.
I’ve learned many things from that period that I’ll share at another time but one of them was if you haven’t gone thru something, it’s really hard to relate. You can have empathy and compassion and I think I have some if I judge at how often streets scenes (happy or sad) or movies, documentaries (happy or sad) touch my heart and make me cry. But if you haven’t experienced the same situation, it’s really hard to understand and yet most of us think we know.
How often are we quick to judge especially when it comes down to race or sexual issues. But have we really put ourselves in the person’s shoes?

One of my dear students whom I love so much suddenly lost her husband. My heart was deeply aching and still is aching for her loss. We cried together, we talked and I did what I could to comfort her. Even if I could have a sense of what she might feel and go thru I can’t even start to imagine the reality of everyday life because I’ve never experienced such a situation.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying because I haven’t lived such a situation, I shouldn’t try to relate and do my best to be of service I’m just saying that I will never completely comprehend what she goes thru when I haven’t lived it. And of course, to complicate things we all experience things differently.

I’m sorry to talk about these heavy subjects but they are part of life and should be talked about more often so we can be better equipped to deal with them.

Coming back to “Here Now”. You may think: what? as a yoga teacher, she never experienced being “Here Now”??!!
Of course, I have. I actually do very often during my day, and especially when: I meditate (although some sessions are tougher than others) and when I teach (I have to be fully present with my students).
But it’s just a little part of what “Here Now” means. Yes, I’m able to be “Here Now” for some parts of my day and I guess it’s better than never but what about the rest of time?
The rest of the time, most likely like you, I have my doubts, my anxieties, my fears taking advantage of my not being “Here Now”.
What I realized as I was listening to a podcast on the subject, is that I may have some stress, some anxieties, about a specific situation happening in my life right now but what about “HERE NOW”?
Well, if I take a good honest look, “Here Now” I’m actually fine. Maybe I’m taking a yoga class or I’m having a meal with a friend or I’m relaxing at home. And my mind wants to take me away from that moment when in fact I’m absolutely okay.
To me this is a big realization for most of the time I’m doing really good and I have a beautiful life. My mind wants to go another route sometimes and convince me otherwise; that I would be better off if I had a child or if I was more financially secure… but “Here Now”, at this precise moment, I’m fine: I’m healthy, I have students who love me, I love my job, I’m a French girl leaving in NYC (just in that sentence I feel so privileged), I have a husband who loves me, the list is actually long. Longer than the list of my doubts and anxieties but somehow, sometimes the latter list seems bottomless.

So every time I feel that my mind wants to spin out of control I come back to these words “HERE NOW”. I let them penetrate me and I want to experience them fully. They help me to recenter, to reground, to see the bigger picture which is beautiful rather than the negative situation I’m focusing on.

And maybe in 10, 20, 30 years I’ll be able to be “HERE NOW” all the time and finally inhabit that concept completely.
It’s definitely a process and I’m thankful to be part of it.

As always, thank you for reading.
Namaste,

Sutras, sharing and feelings

A few weeks ago, I finished teaching a teacher training in Strasbourg, France. On our last day, as we were doing a very emotional closing circle, I asked the students to tell me which sutra resonated the most with them. During the training, we discuss and study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which a is book describing the philosophy of yoga. It is a text trying to answer the questions on how our mind works and how to be less affected by our thoughts so we can find the state of yoga; a state of serenity. It is very methodic; giving practical tools to help us on our spiritual path.
A sutra is a short aphorism.

Side note: for those of you who may not know, the physical practice (what we call yoga but should be really called asana) is only the tip of the iceberg of what yoga represents. The asanas are only one of the 8 limbs of yoga, the 7 others have to do with our relations to others, to ourselves, to the breath and to the mind.

There are a lot of emotions during the training and the closing circle. The intensity of the days but also the discoveries the students make about themselves physically and mentally always bring a lot of feelings back up. Emotions are also running high because of how strongly and deeply people connect to one another during these weeks. It’s so beautiful to witness.
I, myself, took my training more than a decade ago and to this day 2 of the people I met then are still my very good friends.

As I was listening to every student explaining which sutra impacted him/her the most, I was fascinated to see that the sutras had a very profound effect on each of them. That makes me so happy because I remember at the time how they had a deep impact on me. I discovered the sutras when I was studying yoga in India and they talked to me very profoundly even though I couldn’t understand everything. And now every time I read them, there is something else grabbing my attention and allowing me to become a better person.
Each trainee was coming up with different sutras which was even more exciting for it means they resonated deeply with them and left a personal trace.
My turn came and two things came to mind at that moment.

First, sutra 2.14 which explains that our happiness depends our ourselves. In the commentary of Swami Satchidananda, it is said: “A happy or unhappy life is your own creation. Nobody else is responsible. You are your own best friend as well as your worst enemy
In the past, I used to blame others or my circumstances for my situation. It’s so easy to put the blame or the fault on something else or someone else. That way, we don’t have to deal with the situation because it’s not our fault. I think for me it started this way as a lack of awareness, also as a lack of confidence and most likely as well as a way to put the burden on someone else’s shoulders. It’s in a way a coward act since we’d rather endure the situation rather than take actions. What the yoga sutras taught me is that the circumstances may not be perfect, there will always be some challenging situations and while I may not have the control over these situations, I always have the control of my reactions towards them. It may not sound like a lot but it is actually huge.
We all have been in a vicious cycle of negativity and the more blame or fire we add to the situation, the worst it actually becomes.
On the other hand, when I’m able to adapt my reaction to the situation and take the responsibility of my situation I now have the power to make a change. I’m taking control.
I’m not claiming this is an easy task; it is so incredibly hard and requires a lot of courage but the overall outlook on the situation is completely changed and that is so worth it.

The second thing that came to mind during the closing ceremony was the concepts of Purusha and Prakriti which are referred to a lot in several sutras. Prakriti is seen as the Nature with a capital N; meaning everything that is surrounding us (the nature, the buildings, the interior of our home…) and ourselves included. Purusha is referred to as the soul, the pure consciousness.
Nature is always changing; the only constant is, in fact, the change. The 4 seasons, the sky, our pieces of furnitures, our clothes, our bodies, our thoughts… everything is in perpetual evolution.
On the other hand, Purusha is never changing, immuable.
To me, these two concepts are very helpful to ease some tough times I may encounter. Knowing that everything is always fluctuating and that nothing lasts helps me to come back to the present moment (the only moment we have control of) instead of letting my mind spiral into the unknown and worrying future. Whatever situation is happening right now may be completely different tomorrow if I take the time to let it be and find some solutions.
I also find it beautiful and so precious to know that our body is just a vehicle on this life. The house of our soul, our purest self. And our work here, if we are willing to do it, is to discover that pure jewel.

I leave you with one of my favorite quote on yoga by Donna Farhi:
Yoga is the process of deconstructing all the barriers we may have erected that prevent us from having authentic connections with ourselves and with the world.”

Thank you for reading.
Namaste,

Meditation and Courage

6 years ago I made a deal with myself that I would meditate 20 minutes daily. 6 years later, I can count on the fingers of my hands the days I’ve missed my meditation.

I started practicing yoga 15-16 years ago and while I was meditating on and off I was falling off the discipline regularly.
Oh the excuses I was coming up with: I’m too tired to wake up 30 minutes before my usual time, I’m too busy, I have too much on my mind, I’ll do it later, I don’t have a proper space to do it… I could honestly find another 10 excuses, easily.

This is very interesting to me for I had meditated in the past. When I was in India studying yoga, we would meditate twice daily for at least 30-45 minutes, when I took my 200H teacher training in NYC, I would meditate daily. I would also go twice weekly to my meditation classes with Alan Finger in New York. Even though I had these pretty solid experiences, it was still hard for me to commit to the practice. I was able to commit to the practice of the asanas without any issues, the physical practice, but that practice of the mind was still very elusive to me.
And the very interesting thing to me is that I had some profound experiences while meditating with these teachers. I would also notice how I would be more grounded and less affected by my emotions during my every day life but somehow I was still having a hard time to commit to it.

How is it possible that I can see the practice of meditation does a lot of good to me and yet I can’t find the will to do it? Talking to other people about it, I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. What I came to understand over the years is that self care and self development is challenging and requires a lot of courage. Yes, courage!
Courage because it is a discipline, it’s something that you have to do every day in order to make a change in your life. Meditating every day for 5 minutes is much better than meditating half an hour once in a while. My husband can tell you that I’m a pretty disciplined person at least, when I set my mind on something, but even I, had a hard time to keep it a habit. So here is what I did. 6 years ago, I made a pact with myself that starting that day, I would meditate every day, no matter what, no excuses. I would make meditation the priority in my life.
And because I’m a woman of my words, this has worked. I’ve been meditating since, every morning for 20 minutes. Of course, it hasn’t always been an easy and smooth process. Sitting in silence and observing your thoughts or focusing on the breath is a true challenge. There were many days where I didn’t feel like sitting down but I did anyway because I made a deal with myself.
In the yoga philosophy, there is the concept of “tapas”. I remember my teacher, Jenny Aurthur, translating it as: the willingness to endure difficulties for the sake of transformation. To me that is exactly what my meditation practice is about. Yes, it is a challenge to sit with myself every day but I know and I see that it’s making me a better and more centered person. And for that I’m so grateful.
Of course, after 6 years, the practice of meditation has become easier. Not easy but easier. It is still challenging to come back to the object of meditation but now I’m actually looking forward to sitting down and having that quiet moment with myself. It is changing the course of my day and my life. It’s changing for the best, the way I see myself and interact with others.

This makes me think of that quote from Blaise Pascal: “all the troubles in our life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly for a while every day in our room”.

Coming back to courage. It also takes a lot of courage for you’ll be face to face with emotions, feelings and aspects of yourself that you may prefer avoiding rather than dealing with. There is no easy way and the only way is to go thru it, all of it; the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a very courageous act to be willing to look at; excuse my French, your shit.
But how amazing to know that we have the ability to grow, develop and heal ourselves on our own. It’s a slow process but with really solid results.
And I’m full of gratitude to that tool for helping me so much the last 6 years. My meditation is so precious to me.

We have the power to make changes in our life. Somehow we fall into the trap that the others may know better. While having a community around us and getting inspired by others or getting help is crucial; at the end of the day, the work has to be done by us. And to me, that is a very courageous act.
If we don’t program our life, life programs us.

Here are a few tips to make your commitment easier:
– do it first thing in the morning. If you let the day go by, you’ll find many excuses not to do it.
– wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual. Believe me, you won’t feel more tired, you’ll actually feel more grounded and better prepared to start your day.
– do not check your e-mails or social medias before meditating. Keep the quiet energy of the morning to focus your mind.
– set a timer so you don’t have to open your eyes to look at the time.
– meditate seated in a confortable position. The lying down position will make you want to go back to sleep!
– focus on your breath. This is the object of your meditation.
– you mind WILL wander away. That is fine! Be aware of it as soon as possible and come back to the breath.
– do it anyway even if you feel that you suck at it. I promise it will get easier. The key is to stick to it. Show up for yourself; you are worth it.
– and please during that process, be gentle with yourself. Be gentle, for you may meet parts of yourself you have been at war with.

I leave you with this quote: “I’m showing up for myself the way I would show up for someone else”. I don’t know who said it but it resonates deeply with me.

Thank you for reading.
Namaste,

The Yoga of Relationship

On January 12th 2018, 20 years ago, I met the man who became my husband. Even I, can’t believe that we’ve been together for that long but I guess what they say is true; time flies. As soon as we met, we lived together so even though we only got married 7 years ago (yes, we waited 13 years to become husband and wife!), January 12th has a very special meaning to me for it is as if we committed to one another that day.

This has gotten me thinking about relationships, love and yoga.
I’ve heard many times in the past in my yoga education that the most challenging yoga is the yoga of relationships; any relationships, and I agree with that. As you may know, yoga is much more than the physical practice; the asanas. There are 8 limbs or steps in the practice of yoga and one of them: the Yamas, has to do with how we interact with others. There are five yamas: Ahimsa: absence de violence, Satya: thruthfulness, Asteya: non-stealing, Brahmacharya: moderation and Aparigraha: non-coveting.
Am I thinking, acting and expressing myself in a way that is not harmful to the other person? Am I speaking the truth and being honest with the other? Am I being careful that I don’t take advantage of the possessions of the other and/or his/her time? Am I staying faithful to my partner and not wasting my sexual energy? Am I desiring inordinately what belongs to the other or am I being content with what I have?
I feel that these are important questions to keep in mind in order to act in a more grounded, serene and truthful way while in a love relationship but really in any relationship.

What I learned in the process is that a love story is both magical and effortful. If you think of all the people you could have met in this world, there is definitely something magical, powerful and even beyond our control that brings two people together. The physical, emotional and intellectual attraction has to be there and that can’t be worked or forced. Although some people may disagree with this statement as I’ve heard of some amazing relationships in some arranged marriages. But let’s assume that for most of us the spark, the magic, the butterflies in the belly have to happen.
And as magical as it is, it also requires a lot of efforts. If you are a romantic person you may not like that statement so much as you would like everything to flow naturally without any hardships but honestly does anything in life work this way? So maybe efforts seem tough and rather we can talk about the fact that everything needs our attention, our nourishment, our care, our love to flourish and blossom. From gardening, to cooking, to practicing yoga, to going thru life, to meditating, to raising children, to being in a relationship… And that is what is so beautiful about this for the more we commit ourselves and take care of our relationships the better they get and the more balanced and stable they feel.
Now of course, the two people have to be willing to infuse the relationship with care, attention, love, for the union to get stronger. If it only goes one way or comes from one side, it will make things much harder and they may end up not working.

In no particular order, I wanted to share with you the values that are important to me in my marriage:
communication: this is such an important key to any relationships especially when things get more challenging. Your partner has to know how you feel about a certain situation and vice versa. And the hardest part is to be able to do it without putting any anger or resentment. For guess what? Everything we put out there attracts more of that same thing. And I’m completely aware that it is easier said than done and I’ve failed many times in the past but at least can we be aware of it so it doesn’t become an habit?
The communication piece goes hand in hand with honesty: being completely honest and being ready to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.
I like that advice from yoga teacher Ashley Turner. When you get into an argument with your partner, to make sure to repeat to him/her what he/she has just said before you reply. It goes something like: “you are saying that you feel…”. So many times, we get stuck in our own drama that we barely hear or we tend to interpret tremendously what the other is saying. So by repeating what the other has said before replying we make sure that we are understanding fully what the other has said. Full disclosure: I’ve never tried this but I will for I believe it’s a great tool.
trust: nothing can grow if trust is not there.
respect: in every sense of the word. Respect the person, respect his/her personality, his opinions, his views. This doesn’t mean agree with everything your partner is saying or think but acknowledging that people can have different opinions.
do things together: we travel, we meditate, we walk, we practice yoga, we go to the movies, we eat at restaurants, we go out with friends… and there are also so many things we don’t do together: work out, read in bed, cook, work, run, go to the Russian baths, listen to french news on the radio, go out with friends…
To me, it is actually very important and I think healthy that we keep activities apart so we have our own independent world from which one another can benefit.

To summarize: love is beautiful, love is hard, love hurts and love heals, love is everything and can break everything at the same time. Love is life. It is a necessity and a luxury. It is flowing and strenuous. Love is EVERYTHING.

I’ll leave you with that Harvard study that was released recently on happiness. It followed 268 people for nearly 80 years and found out that close and healthy relationships are what make us happy more than money or fame.
As always, thank you for reading.
Namaste,

True Belonging

 

A few weeks ago, I started to read the brilliant and powerful book from Brené Brown: “Braving the Wilderness: the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone”. If you haven’t read it, go and buy it today. It is such an important and precious read for everyone who wants to grow up/old in a meaningful and mindful way and take charge of their life with courage. I feel it is especially important in a world that feels more and more divided every day. That book is a pure gem and talks to me and inspires me so much. Some parts gave me goosebumps and were received deep in my heart.

Here is her definition of true belonging: “it is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are”.

Before writing on a subject, Brené Brown always spends years studying the topic, doing research and collecting data. So in her definition I feel she has extremely carefully chosen her words and I think this is why they are so powerful.

 

Growing up, I never felt that I was belonging to anything or anyone let alone to myself. I definitely felt a little lost, lacking directions and instructions on how to grow up and deal with that big thing that life is. So instead, I became very good at fitting in. Fitting in at school, at the university, with my friends, with my boyfriends, with my family… So many times, I felt out of place but I was still trying to fit in hard. You know, so I can be accepted and be liked.
I became so good at fitting in and pleasing others that I wasn’t listening or even trying to understand what was really important to me and what I needed to blossom.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think the day my husband and I started to go on a date was the first time I made a step towards what I really needed and wanted. I was 21 years old. It was the first time I asked someone out. To that day, It’s hard for me to believe that I did it because it was so unlike me. But I guess my heart, my gut and my intuition spoke a bit louder than my brain that day. And I’m so glad they did because this relationship allowed me and is still allowing me slowly but surely to become more and more who I am. And this thanks to my husband’s support and encouragement.

“True belonging requires you to be who you are”. Such a simple statement and yet how many of us know who we are and if we know, how many of us have the courage to live by that? It does take a lot of courage and may feel like a very lonely and overwhelming path sometimes but when we finally allow ourselves to shine and to be true to ourselves; the feeling of peace, ease, satisfaction and strength is tremendous. I had/have some glimpses of that feeling in my life and those are so powerful. But doubts and fears keep coming back knocking on my door and it requires a lot of strength to not let them in. Often I fail, but I always get back on my feet and find the strength within to stay on my path. The practice of yoga and my introspective work are giving me extremely precious tools to observe, feel, reflect, digest. Trust and faith are also my allied; they guide me to become a better version of myself and speak my truth.

Brené Brown was able to express so clearly what I felt for a long time but I didn’t have the words to articulate it. I want to thank her for all the important work she does and being such an inspiration.

Namaste,

How to navigate life with more ease

As I hear a lot of people around me having some hard times and going thru challenges, I’ve been thinking about how to navigate things with more ease. I also had my share of disappointments and heart breaking events in my life. As much as when we go thru them, it feels very heavy and challenging; we have to remind ourselves it is also an intrinsic part of life.
There are ups and downs, there is the inhale and the exhale, the receiving and the giving, the wave coming in and going away. It’s just how nature works. That is why I chose the above picture with this quote to illustrate my thought: “everybody wants happiness, no one wants pain. But you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain”.

We can’t control the rhythms of life, that is actually when we try that suffering is more likely to happen. They will always be stronger than our resistance to go with the flow. Instead of trying to control life’s events, what we can control is our reaction to these.
What has helped me and is still helping me a lot and perhaps is becoming more and more helpful as I’m becoming better at using this tool is: when I go thru a bad moment I apply a feeling of gratitude.
Not a feeling of gratitude for the tough time I have but for everything else that goes so well in my life.
Some of you will say easier said than done. And you are right! But the more we practice something, the more it becomes a part of our life, the more it permeates who we are. The first time you practiced the Sun Salutations, it was most likely challenging to remember the sequence and coordinate the breath and the movement and after practicing them hundreds, thousands of times; the breath is initiating the movement, it becomes fluid and spacious.
The same way we get better at what we practice regularly on a physical level, we also get better at retraining and rewiring our brain with what we practice on a mental level.

I’ll use a small example that happened to me while I was in France. After the training, I was supposed to finalize a yoga project I had in my mind for two years. Everything was scheduled to make it happen: the location, the crew, the dates… Nevertheless 10 days before it was supposed to take place, I received an e-mail stating it would have to be cancelled. Of course, my initial reaction was a huge disappointment. I worked on this for a long time, I booked my flight to stay longer in France, when I don’t teach I don’t make money, this is so unprofessional … the list goes on.
But after the initial raw reaction I could also say to myself: how lucky I was that I was even offered that opportunity, how lucky that people trust me and my practice, how lucky I was that I had 4 days off in my country (I never go to France besides when I teach so that’s a pretty big deal!)…
So I went on a 3-day trip to Paris and let me tell you I had a delicious time seeing a few friends, having a hypnosis session with a therapist I wanted to work with, staying at the hotel and playing tourist in that charming, sensual city.

Applying that feeling of gratitude works for very challenging situations of deep loss or sadness as well as for things less important.
If we have an argument with our life partner; reminding ourselves how lucky we are to have someone by our side. If we have an injury, nonetheless being grateful for all the other body parts that work so well. This can be apply to infinity.
It’s not trying to convince yourself that everything is beautiful around you; gratitude makes us acknowledge the reality and the truth. We can’t deny that we are extremely lucky; at least for us who have a roof above our heads, enough food to eat and some love from our families and friends. It’s just undeniable. That is the truth. Which may be hidden under deep layers of frustration, sadness, lack of confidence, doubts… but at the end of the day, it’s still the truth.

Gratitude helps us put everything into perspective.
Gratitude teaches us how to appreciate the present moment. To come back to that place of grounding.
Gratitude transforms the always wanting more or better into enough.
We have enough.

The impermanence of things

 

A little more than 10 years ago, I was teaching my very first official group class. Above is a picture of the sequence I wrote for that class.
I was terrified!!
Mainly I was terrified of failing and ultimately terrified of rejection. What if they don’t like me, what if they don’t understand my accent, what if my form is poor, what if I forget some instructions, what if I don’t know how to help the student to deal with her/his limitations or injury… ? The list could go on.
The interesting thing is that all these fears were purely based on me. ME, not being able or not being enough. I remember a great advice my husband gave me: “you are there to make your students feel good and to help them; focus on that and you can’t go wrong”. Of course, at the time, it was easier said than done for someone who has tried to be discreet her whole life but that is such an important piece of advice. For Yoga is all about sharing, about union and integration.
Fast forward 10 years: the terror has gone (thanks God!) even though I still get nervous sometimes, especially when starting a new project, but today I learned to appreciate that feeling because as a friend of mine told me once: “your are nervous because you care about your students”. And that is very true, I care a lot about my teaching and my students. I love what I do.

When I started practicing Yoga in 2002 in NYC, I was immediately attracted by the physical aspect of the practice. Then, my husband and I travelled for 8 months in South-East Asia in 2003/2004 and we stopped for a few weeks in an Ashram in Rishikesh, India. The teachers were amazing!! I totally fell in love with the practice. I understood then that Yoga was so much more than the physical practice. I was blessed to be introduced to meditation, pranayama, kriyas and chanting by the most spiritual person I know. And this totally blew my mind. Such an ancient philosophy and the yogis had already figured out and understood everything about life. In contrast, in our so-called modern societies we seem to drift further away from these crucial teachings; some of us feeling disconnected and burnt out. It was such a revelation for me to find a practice, a discipline, a philosophy that was so holistic.
I didn’t want to teach at the time but I went back there the next year to do a teacher training for I had that profound desire to know more, to understand more.
One teacher training in India and two teacher trainings in NYC later, I still had no desire to teach but my thirst of learning was deeply satisfied.

One day, I eventually said yes to a teaching opportunity after refusing a few and I never stopped teaching ever since!
My practice has evolved over the years. I’ve never been a competitive person so although the more challenging poses were seducing me and were fun to practice, I was also ok with the fact of not being able to do everything.
In addition, I quickly realized that I had some physical limitations due to my scoliosis and after ignoring the signals my body was sending me for a while (because of a lack of knowledge of my own condition and the teachers I was practicing with not being trained in scoliosis), I ended up making things worst and feeling some pain. Until I found that wonderful yoga studio: Yoga Union which specialized in back care and scoliosis. There, I learned about my condition and how to take care of myself.

Since then, my physical practice is a more respectful practice towards my body. I know my limitations. I’m not doing yoga to impress or to get “likes” on social media, I’m doing yoga because it feeds my body and my soul. I’m interested in turning my awareness inwardly, in listening. Maybe, as I’m getting older, I’m becoming more cautious. Maybe not, but what truly interests me is the connection between the mind and the body. Today my meditation practice is as important or even more sacred to me than my physical practice.

The reason I’m sharing all of this with you is because, everything is impermanent in life. Everything. The bad, the good, the painful, the pleasurable…
My practice has changed over the years and it will keep changing.
We have to embrace this impermanence to feel more at ease in our life otherwise we get too attached and pain arises. This is one of the greatest teachings of the philosophy of yoga.
Life flows, death happens, the seasons changes, joys and sorrows come and go…
That is exactly the reason why life is so beautiful and precious because it’s fragile and ephemeral.

LOVE, LOVE and even more LOVE

 

I have to be very honest, I had a hard time to gather my thoughts for this newsletter. As the world feels more divided than ever and people are suffering, how can I close my eyes to ignore this and pretend everything is okay? Once we know, we can’t say we were not aware. So I’m doing my best to do my part: staying informed by neutral media sources, signing petitions, giving money to organizations…

I am torn. One part of me is thinking I should be doing more and do more tangible actions. I’ve never been an activist but somehow this year I feel the urge to take actions because I know that shutting our eyes and ignoring what is happening aren’t the answers.
And another part of me knows that going, for instance, to Syria to help isn’t the answer either.
So to ease my inner conflict, I come back to what I know and what Yoga has taught me: that everything start with ourselves, that everything starts with a thought.
I always keep those powerful words in mind:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words
Watch your words, for they become actions
Watch your actions, for they become habits
Watch your habits, for they become character
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny”

I’m not citing the author of that quote on purpose for it has been attributed to so many people, it’s hard to know who really said it. However, the essence of that quote is so profound and so essential to how we can change our world and make an impact.
That is why it is so important to pay attention to our thoughts, that is why mindfulness is essential and meditation a necessity. So we can finally understand that one’s suffering affects every one else. And so we can spread even more love, more unity and more understanding than ever. Because, anyway, love is always the answer. Always.

Words have a huge power and do matter. So I choose to pay attention to the way I express myself for words have energy, they create repercussions; everything does.

Do not worry, I won’t leave you on such a serious note before the Holidays.
In my classes lately, we’ve been adding a short meditation to reflect on what is going well in our life. It is interesting to observe that if one bad thing happens to us in our day and two or three good things also take place, we tend to put our focus only on the bad one. That is a bummer!
But we can change this by coming back to the present moment and reminding ourselves all the good things we have and how fortunate we are. Try it! It doesn’t have to be long. Just sit for a few minutes with eyes closed and contemplate all the beautiful things you have around you, all the people that love you and are there for you. It will brighten your day and will make you feel good.
This reminds me of that excellent video that was shared by a dear colleague. It’s worth the watch!!

I wish you the most wonderful Holiday Season!!!
Keep on spreading the love around you and take good care of one another.
Merry merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!
With love,

Self-reflecting work

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If you know me, you know that summer is my favorite season. I feel myself during the summer more than any other time during the year. And because I feel in a good place, it’s easier for me to reflect and do some introspective work. Even though I teach as many classes during the summer as I do the rest of the year, I tend to feel easily rushed and busy when I’m full time in NYC leaving little time to deeply reflect despite my daily meditation practice.

But on Shelter island and especially near the ocean, it’s different…
Growing up in a city near the mountains I always wonder why I love the ocean and the beach so much. The environment deeply resonates with me and I believe it’s because all the elements are within reach. They feed my body and soul. I also love the infinity, the immensity of the horizon; that sense of freedom, that everything is possible. It’s my happy place!

I’ve been doing some introspective work for a while now. Having chosen to follow the path of yoga, it is only natural to want to evolve and get closer to the essence of my being. Doing handstand might be fun and I believe I’ll keep loving it but it’s not going to help me nor the world evolve.
This summer, I deepened my self-reflective work. Observing more closely, listening more deeply, feeling with all my senses, sensing with attention, asking myself tough questions, refusing to shy away from whatever is coming up. The latter might be the most challenging one for me.
How easy it is to close our eyes when a situation doesn’t feel right to us and avoid confronting ourselves to it rather than really facing it?

Fears are usually linked to our lack of making the right decisions. For instance, fear of losing something so we prefer staying in a more familiar situation rather than taking a leap. I, myself, have a lot of fears I’m working on. It is not an easy process but one I decided to undertake to keep growing and going in the direction that feels right to me. And during that process, nature is always a big help for me to get more clarity.
Nature has all the answers.
When surrounded by Nature and being able to be there for a while, I feel like my cells are in harmony with the environment. All my senses feel more attentive and acute but in a very gentle, soft way. I feel much more receptive and I’m able to listen to and to observe whatever is happening in my life at that moment. I feel much clearer, less susceptible to listen to my fears.

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I was lucky to spend a few days at the Yoga center Kripalu in Massachusetts this summer. It was another beautiful invitation to keep going a bit deeper with myself in a cooler and woodsy setting.

Another tool that has been very helpful to me is putting things on paper. This sounds so obvious as perhaps spending some time in Nature is, but let me tell you, the simpler the techniques, the better it works. Introspective work is all about listening, being present and this can only be done in a quiet environment, using tools such as writing, meditating or contemplating. It’s only when we find ourselves calm and receptive that the work bears its fruits.
Writing is extremely helpful for it helps letting go of any barrier we may built. We feel free to express ourselves and sometimes we may even surprise ourselves by what is coming out. I know I did, and in a very positive way.

The Dalai Lama was recently in Strasbourg, France and I was listening to one of his talks thanks to Facebook live. Many things he said resonated with me but on the subject I’m writing on today he said one thing that especially attracted my attention. He said that when we have negative emotions or feelings in our mind, it’s usually because we look at the problem from a very narrow angle and we forget to look at the bigger picture. The narrower the angle, the more anxiety or negative emotions it will add to the problem. This stuck with me for it’s true that sometimes we get too focused on a specific issue and we may forget that everything else is actually pretty good. This was a great reminder.
May we keep doing our introspective work but may we not lose sight of the bigger picture.

The paradox of knowledge

 

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I came back a few weeks ago from teaching a Yogaworks 200H teacher training and a couple of workshops in Strasbourg, France and that thought came to mind: the more I know about yoga, the less I know!

Since 2003, I took many trainings and workshops. Every year that passes I keep learning and deepening my knowledge. That is what keeps me in my practice, what inspires me and grounds me in my teaching, what keeps me interested. I have gathered thousands of hours of training and thousands of hours of teaching over the years and yet, this feeling of knowing less (I guess, little would be more appropriate) is present.
Don’t be alarmed, I’m not writing this with sadness or worries, I think this is actually a very healthy thought to have for it pushes me to keep learning, to get better, to experience more.

I’ve noticed that there are several steps in knowledge. At the beginning, we absolutely want to know the correct and only answer: it should be this way and no other way. I often see it with the students who take the trainings, it has to be black or white. And this is completely normal. Our brain needs to receive tangible, clear, precise information to retain them. We are already learning new information when taking a training so if in addition nothing is precise, it becomes destabilizing. If the feet are together in Tadasana, Mountain pose, then this has to be the rule, the truth for every body. But, is it that simple?
I’m giving you the answer right away: not at all and that is what I care to teach to my students.

I remember my first serious yoga experience. It was in India, in Rishikesh, with my Iyengar teacher: Karyn O’Bannon. She had one of the highest levels of teaching in the Iyengar tradition. She, unfortunately, passed away in 2013. Like many Iyengar teachers, her teaching style was strict and disciplined but at the same time she had a touching and moving humility. She’s the one who gave me the desire to keep practicing yoga in 2003 and to keep learning. I was in awe of her knowledge of the body and I thought at the time; if one can have such an understanding and connection with the body; even knowing what our pinky toe should be doing, it must open incredible gateways to our mind, to its control and allow harmony between the body and the mind. I’m so thankful to her for she had such a huge impact on my path.
I needed this guidance, these precise instructions, this rigor, to give me the wings I needed. And beyond her precision she was such a spiritual person.

So often, at the beginning, we are too rigid in our instructions to eventually realize that it’s not as black or as white as we thought but that there is a world between the two where most of us actually live. Paradoxically, this awareness can only come if we keep on learning, on continuing our education and on practicing. The more we learn, the more we discover the subtleties of yoga. The physical subtleties, the subtleties of energy, the mental subtleties…Yoga is such a vast subject and that is what I love so much about it. It’s like the Russian dolls except that in yoga, there is no end. We unveil new layers thanks to the maturity of practice and teaching we develop. And the more we learn, the more we realize that we are barely understanding all the depth of some concepts. Why? Because in yoga, it is all about feeling, everything is experience, everything is a practice to connect to oneself. And this take time and patience. Each person will have a different path, different levels of awareness, different approaches, different sensibilities in their learning.

In his book: “Outlier: the story of success”, Malcolm Gladwell explains the 10 000 hour rule to master a subject, a skill. Others replied that it’s not necessarily true, some people need more hours and other need less. It all depends on the quality of attention during the learning. If you are interested on the subject, here is the link.
I couldn’t agree more with this concept of quality of practice. The philosophy of yoga actually talks about this. I love when modern situations or discussions are being confirmed by an ancient text. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (compiled about 200BCE- 400CE), there is that concept of Abhyasa which means practice or effort. Patanjali says that our practice should be done with faith or with all our heart to have greater progress. They are saying the same thing!

So I’ll keep learning, I’ll keep practicing for the rest of my life with the same passion and curiosity I’ve been feeling all these years.  And perhaps as long as I’ll feel that I don’t know much, I’ll be on the right path because the day I’ll feel I know a lot, my ego will have taken too much space.