Category Archives: Reflections

HOW EVERYTHING STARTED…



During an Aarti along the Ganges in Rishikesh in 2005.

My first real exposure to Yoga was during one of our travels in South East Asia in 2003. My husband and I backpacked for eight months and ended our trip in India were we stayed for over a month.
I’m glad India was the last country we experienced because even after having travelled for many months, India is an intense country. Everything is “more” there: more people, more colors, more smells, more noise, more music, more poverty, more trash, more generosity, more smiles, more aggressions… It’s a country full of contradictions and I loved it!

The way we approached that trip, (which by the way, wasn’t planned at all: we were in Indonesia for two months and after meeting so many people traveling for a year or two, we couldn’t resist extending our trip so the day before our flight back, we made the decision to travel for another six months) was to learn something cultural in every country we visited: we did a Thai massage certification program in the Old hospital of Chiang Mai in Thailand, in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar we mainly visited the amazing temples, learned about the culture and visited some tribes and in India, of course, we wanted to learn Yoga.
We chose to stay in an ashram in Rishikesh and exposed ourselves to the yoga tradition.
Every day, we had some asana classes (the physical practice) and some meditation, philosophy and chanting classes.
To me, it was an absolute revelation that a discipline could be so complete and address each part of our being in such a deep and profound way. I literally fell in love with the practice.

When I returned to New York I wanted to learn more about that discipline so I went to yoga and meditation classes several times a week.
But the teachers I met in India left such a strong impression on me that I went back 2 years later to take a teacher training with them.
Our schedule was intense: meditation early in the morning, followed by 1 hour asana practice, breakfast, chanting and philosophy for 90 minutes, 2-hour asana practice, lunch, break, 1 hour karma yoga (selfless actions), 2-hour asana practice, 1 hour yoga nidra (deep relaxation), ceremony along the Ganges, dinner, meditation, bed time. Intense!

I’ll always be so grateful to these beautiful teachers: Karin O’Bannon and Mataji.
And yes, to my husband as well! (That day, he secretly organized a beautiful ceremony for my 29th
birthday.)

When I came back to NYC, I kept practicing diligently until I decided to take another teacher training here for my thirst for learning and understanding was still big.
At first, I was struggling with the lack of philosophy and spirituality in the classes in New York. It bothered me for a long time because I felt we were missing a huge part of what yoga is. It was so prominent in India. But I was also absolutely fascinated by the physical practice. It is such an intricate and sophisticated practice and there is so much to learn so I completely involved myself in it for a long time. 

Fast forward 16 years, I still (and I think I always will) love the details of the alignment and how the subtleties affect the way we can move our body, I love breaking down the poses and I deeply believe that being able to master our physical body is the first step toward mastering our mind and finding more peace and ease in our life.
But in our modern societies and maybe even more in NYC, the focus on the physical practice is so big that most people don’t realize that Yoga is so much more than that.
What really matters at the end of the day is how we are able to be in our life. Are we at peace, how are we interacting with our loved ones, do we have the tools to help us go through a challenging situation with more grace and ease? That’s what truly matters at the end of the day.
So I want to make a point of introducing some philosophical or spiritual concepts or principles in each of my group classes so hopefully they can inspire my students as much as they are inspiring me.

The past few weeks, I’ve been talking about the yamas (the social observances; it’s the 1st limb of the 8 limbs that represent yoga) in my classes. We’ve been exploring the concept of Ahimsa (absence of violence or non-harming). It obviously means, not hurting anyone or any beings physically but it also means non harming anyone with our words and with our thoughts. It englobes so many aspects of our lives. I’m trusting that we are not killing anyone but what about hurting someone with our words or our thoughts? Have you ever regretted some words that you said to someone? I have! Have you ever had any mean or negative thoughts toward someone? I have!
Between you and I, the negative thoughts for me tend to appear especially when riding the subway during rush hour…
And of course, this concept can also be applied toward ourselves. Are we hurting ourselves in any physical way (maybe an extreme diet, excessive exercising, not sleeping enough…)? What about the way we talk to ourselves and think of ourselves? Are we constantly judging ourselves, or comparing ourselves to others, are we feeding our self-doubts and fears of not being good enough? Are we self-sabotaging before even starting something?
That concept is at the heart of everything for it encompasses so many levels of our life.
Like everything else in life, in order to make a change, we have to be aware of what needs to be changed. So first, it’s all about awareness, all about observing ourselves, noticing the way we interact with others, paying attention to the way we talk to ourselves. 
It takes time… it’s a process, it’s a practice but oh so rewarding when we start to see some changes in our lives. When we become less tense, less frustrated, less affected by the situations that used to cause us some pain in the past. That is how we know that our practice of yoga is working.
So perhaps for the next few weeks, few months or even years, I invite you to observe the way you interact with others with your hands, words and thoughts but also the way you treat yourself until the pattern that causes pain becomes so obvious and clear in your mind that change is the only option.

As Elizabeth Gilbert is saying: “I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question getting tired of their own bullshit”.

As always, thank you for reading.
Namaste,

DEALING WITH CHANGE

After a class with my students

The closing of the Yogaworks Upper West Side studio last November got me thinking a lot about change. It's not the first time I experience the closing of a studio or a big change in my schedule but this one, really affected me emotionally because it was my second "home" for the past 13 years. That's where I took my teacher trainings, that's where I was given the opportunity to teach my first class and never stopped since, that is where I met some of my very good friends, that's where I met inspiring and incredible teachers, that's where I met amazing students and was lucky enough that they kept coming to class after all these years, that's where I was 5 days a week... So that is a big deal.
When I first heard the news, I was surprisingly okay with it. After studying yoga for so many years, if there is one thing I know and learned is that everything is always changing. In fact, the only constant is change. So I understood why Yogaworks needed to close.
But the days after, as I kept teaching at the studio, it really hit me. And what I was the saddest about was, not losing the space or my 5 classes, but the community.
What a community has been built there over the years! Many students knew one another, most met there and created strong bonds; there was a sense of family and kindness that I haven't seen anywhere else. And to me, that was the hardest to let go of. How can we loose this?
Because at the end of the day, that is what matters the most: the people and that sense of belonging that we are all yearning for.
At the time, one of my students told me it's as if a church was closing. 
A few days ago, another student told me that the thing she misses a lot is the "lounge" area where you could sit and chat with others before or after the class without feeling rushed.
It all comes down again to that sense of belonging, of sharing, of having a human experience rather than a virtual one.

The days and weeks after learning about the closing were consumed by finding a solution to keep that community going strong. Many of the teachers started to look for other alternatives, to try to rent a space in the neighborhood to accommodate their students. This is also what I did. At that point, even though the studio wasn't closed yet I had digested the news of the closing and in a way, I was ready to move on. 
I'm happy to report, that I found a beautiful space on 72nd st that I rent every Monday and Wednesday mornings: World Yoga Center. That place has been here for 45 years so let me tell you that there is a palpable energy in the space full of respect, love and spirituality.
And for my Saturday students, I'm now teaching at ZYogawhich is also conveniently located on 72nd st. It's a very pretty studio filled with sunlights.

Eventually, the day of the closing arrived and I taught my last class on Saturday November 24th. I had dreaded that day for I knew I would be emotional and holding the space for students when you are, yourself as well, affected by the situation, can be challenging. But that class was so beautiful. I ended up being light and happy. First of all, I was so touched that 60 students showed up for this class the weekend of Thanksgiving, my husband also surprised me and was there to support me. The students were actually the ones who lifted me by their presence and their appreciation. There was such a strong sense of being grateful for all the classes that were held there, for all the teachers. It was a meaningful gathering, very deep and thoughtful.

The next Monday, I was starting my new classes at the space I now rent. 
Although I apprehended the transition, it felt very seamless and smooth and for that I am so grateful to my students who followed me.
It's been now a month that I'm teaching my new schedule and somehow it feels like it's been much longer, almost as if nothing happened.

I know for a fact that transitions are hard and challenging for me. I experienced quite a few in my life and it didn't always go very smoothly (that's when I was still thinking that everything is meant to stay the same). So now, I'm much better with transition although it is still a source of stress for me. But I've noticed that in fact, it's not so much the transition I'm worried about, it's the unknown. Interestingly enough, I actually love change but it doesn't come easy to me because my mind goes to: "but wait, what if...?" and "what about..?" and “what if you don't make it, or you're not happy...?" Not knowing if that transition is for the best or the worst is the stressful part. And yet, it is in the unknown that lie all the possibilities; not when we are stuck or set in one way.
Most of the time, once the transition is done, I'm okay. I find new ways, I adapt, I reorganize myself. But that unknown moment, between learning the news and not exactly knowing what will happen is the scary part for me.
And it turns out, it is exactly what happened this time, I was okay when I learned the news then stressed out about the unknown and now that I have my new schedule it's as if it almost didn't happen.
I'm always very amazed by the capacity we have as human to be resilient and find new ways.
I'm not saying that I don't miss Yogaworks UWS because I do miss it but I opened a new chapter in my teaching life.

I feel extremely lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to teach there for so many years. That place will stay with me forever.

As always, thank you for reading.
Namaste,
My last class at Yogaworks Upper West Side

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,