It’s been a little while since I wrote to you. I fell off my routine of sending my newsletter every trimester but we’ll all agree that this past year has been so unusal so you’ll excuse me.
Lately the feeling that keeps coming back to me during my meditations and in my life in general is softness.
Permission to soften, permission to find more ease, permission to be more gentle.
Finding more softening mentally but also physically.
I don’t have to tell you how intense the period we are collectively going through is on every level, you know it enough by now. So we all need a good pat on the shoulder and big fat warm hug from a loved one (of course, someone from your household or your pet or even a virtual hug can work!) to have made it so far.
I saw these words the other day, which are très à propos: “as of this very moment, you have made it through 100% of the hard things you thought you’d never survive. You are strong. You are resilient. You can do this.”
While I couldn’t agree more with this and I feel it’s an essential reminder so we don’t loose sight of how far we have come; the energy behind these words seems very intense to me. I think we can arrive at the same place while finding some softness at the same time.
Even beyond the unprecedented health crisis we currently have to deal with, I feel we are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves all the time: the pressure to succeed, the pressure to make money, to stay fit, to stay healthy, to raise our kids in the best way possible, even sometimes the pressure to have fun.
On one hand, this pandemic which slowed down everything helped us coming back to what is important, to what is essential and thus lessening the pressure (of course that is assuming that we have enough ressources to have a roof over our heads and food on the table).
I love the clouds and the sky on this picture during one of my walks, they remind me to soften.
“Replace all your lists with things to do with lists of how you want to feel” Maryam Hasnaa
So I keep coming back to softening to counteract the intensity of this period and while it sounds easy to find, it can be challenging to change our mindset when we are used to always doing and putting a lot of pressure on ourselves.
But I think it’s what will help us feel more balanced and centered in our lifes.
Here are some tools I find helpful:
. my meditation
. moving my body
. coming back to my breath
. not judging myself so much
. and the biggest one: having faith, trusting. As soon as I trust life more, things fall into place more easily.
As always, thank you for reading.
Category Archives: Reflections
|There is so much to say that I don’t even know where to begin and I also want to keep this short as I know most of you have been flooded with emails and newsletters from pretty much everyone.|
It’s been a whirlwind of events that all of us had to face from one day to the other.
For me, it started with my trip to France to teach a teacher training being canceled (after having waited 2 years to be able to travel to my country again), then the logistics of transfering all my teachings online, then my father being diagnosed with Covid-19 and hospitalized for 2 weeks in France (he’s now feeling like himself again, thank God!), then the permanent closure of my beloved Yogaworks studios in the NY region after working for them for the past 14 years. Oh and I forgot to mention the water damage we had in our apartement in the city while we were away… All of this within 4 weeks.
I’m not sharing this with you to get your support and empathy, I’m sharing this with you because I know that despite these sudden events, I’m still feeling extremely lucky as many people have suffered way more than I did during this health crisis and I don’t want to lose sight of this as it is very easy to forget that people are suffering when things are okay for us or becoming okay again.
I’m also sharing this because it made me think A LOT about the impermanence of all things.
This concept is one of the pillars of the philosophy of yoga. Everything is changing all the time and nothing is here to last forever. According to the Yoga Sutras, we tend to attach ourselves too much to people, to things, to situations, to our body…and when they start to change or they disappear, it creates suffering.
The shutdown of the country and pretty much the whole world has highligthed that concept in huge ways. From one day to the other, everything stopped and we were asked to stay home. Even though this situation brought a lot of pain and discomfort to many, I think it realy taught us and is still teaching us how to surrender to things we have no control over and to detach ourselves from them.
These are gigantic lessons that are not easy to digest but I believe they will help us to create a shift in our cousciouness and become more mindful people.
Another thing that kept coming to mind is that dichotomy between the fact that us, human beings, generally dislike changes; I’m not talking about small changes in our daily routine but big life altering changes and especially when these changes are not our decision; and at the same time we, human beings, are extremely skillful at adapting to changes.
I feel the same way.
When I lost my job at Yogaworks, I was, first of all, so saddened and so shocked by the news that I could barely grasp it, but I was also afraid of the future. What is going to happen next, what if I don’t find another place to teach at, what if I won’t be able to teach another teacher training again, what is going to happen to my health insurance…?
While all of these were valid questions, I didn’t let in my mind the space for opportunities that could arise from that loss. I’m far from having figured out how things will look like when life comes back to normal but I’m also seeing some opportunities that I never thought of. For instance, I started to teach an online yoga class in French which is going well and allows me to connect with students despite the distance. It is a beautiful experience and something I would not have done if I was still teaching in person.
Resilience is the ability to adapt in the face of adversity.
I think we all did that very well and I’m actually very impressed by how well and how quickly people adapted: from my older students figuring out Zoom to take classes, people working from home while managing their children’s studies, restaurants offering food to hospital workers, people started their own gardens, friends playing live music for their neighbors in NYC, younger people grocery shopping for elders… The list is long and this is just a tiny illustration of how strong and resilient we are.
That makes me extremely hopeful for the future.
As always, thank you for reading.
SPACE: physical space and mental space
I recently took a class with one of my teachers, Rodney Yee. I loved how he was emphasizing the importance of receiving the breath rather than forcing it or working it too much during the practice.
The breath is absolutely amazing. If I could only cite one reason, it would be that it is the force, the energy that keeps us alive. And just for that specific reason, we should be paying a little more attention to the breath!
The breath is also extraordinary because we don’t have to think about breathing; it is happening on its own but at the same time, we have control over the breath: we can deepen it, lengthen it, slow it down, hold it… How cool is that!
Our breath is also incredible as it has an impact on our mind and emotions. I’m sure you’ve noticed when you feel anxious, stressed out or fearful, the breath is shallow and faster and we you feel at ease, calm; the breath is longer, slower.
So many things can be said about the breath…
But coming back to that concept of inviting the breath and allowing it to happen to us.
During a yoga practice, it’s very easy to exaggerate and work the breath. And sometimes we want to do this; for instance if we are working on a specific pranayama or a pose that requires a certain pattern of breath.
But what if, as Rodney was saying, we just receive the breath? This is something I teach in restorative yoga where we are trying to release all control and all efforts but not something I’ve been teaching in my regular classes.
It comes down to this idea of creating enough space in the body to allow the breath to flow freely and deeply instead of trying too hard.
He was taking the example of a friend who comes to see you at your place and in order to sit next to you to the sofa, that person has to step over all the mess that’s on the floor and the pieces of furniture in the way. Instead, you would clean your apartment before receiving your friend so its coming over feels welcomed and easeful. This is the same concept with the breath, how can we create enough space in the body so the breath doesn’t encounter any restrictions?
As I kept thinking about this, I realize that it is such an important concept in every aspect of our life: creating the space physically, mentally for things to come organically instead of over working, over analyzing, obsessing about a situation.
It is actually something I’ve been doing and using a lot in my life. Every time a stressful and anxiety producing situation comes along, I ask myself: do I have any control over that situation?
Sometimes I do, and then I take every step I can to make it better but at other times (which turn out to be most of the times!), I don’t have any control over the situation. In that case, I create some space around it and let the situation unfolds on its own.
A good recent example would be the green card process my husband and I are engaged in.
Even though we started our process more than 18 months ago and got approved quickly we learned just last month that we are allowed to travel abroad again (during the process, you are required to stay in the country). Every month we were waiting to hear from our lawyer to know if we could access the second phase of the process which grants the right to travel. The not knowing when this would happen, as we literally had no time-frame, was very stressful. But in that specific situation, I had zero control so what’s the point in over obsessing about it? I had to create some space around it and, as they say in the yoga world, “go with the flow”.
Have you ever noticed that when you have something in mind or you learn a new thing and all of a sudden you keep seeing that thing everywhere?
So, the other day, I was listening to a French podcast that I recently discovered and enjoy a lot called “Vlan” (podcast de Gregory Pouy). The person interviewed was Perla Servan Schreiber who is a French author (her latest book talks about the joy of growing old: “Les promesses de l’âge : A 75 ans, ma nouvelle liberté”) and among other things, she was asked what is her secret to happiness. Interestingly enough, she said that her secret is: “do not try to change what doesn’t depend on you.” She added that the more we do this, and the more joyful we’ll get.
It turns out there is a religious text written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (that you may know) called the Serenity prayer that says exactly the same thing and is full of wisdom:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
The wisdom to know the difference is the most important so we don’t exhaust ourselves trying to fix what we have no control of. Then the mind can feel free, at ease and we can use our energy towards what makes us happy.
So be it with the breath or the mind, may we create some space around them so everything flows more organically without over efforting.
As always, thank you for reading.
THE POWER OF INTUITION
As a child, I think our intuition is quite developed and as we grow into the world, some of us tend to loose it a little. It tends to fade away and gets covered up, most of the time, due to our education, the rules of society, the way we see ourselves, the fear of judgment…
Intuition, according to the dictionary is: “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” I would even add to that, it’s our ability to know right away if something is right or wrong for us. It’s a feeling that every cell senses but to me, it’s mostly located in the heart and in the guts.
For me, my intuition was always present in my life but for a long time I covered it on purpose. I think it’s started when I became a teenager or maybe even earlier having a group of friends and wanted to fit in and belong. Oh the things we do when we want to be accepted even when our intuition is yelling the opposite!
I grew up understanding that it’s better to be nice to people and not to make too much noise as we go through life. Basically living under the radar so you don’t get too bothered. In France there is the saying: “to live happily, live hidden”. So I did that for a very long time. And while it’s a totally honorable way to live, it’s also what they call here “playing small” especially if you have bigger dreams and ideas for yourself.
Coming to New York in 2000 was a pivotal moment for me and my intuition. Being in a new country and a huge city (I come from a small town in France), not knowing the language and having basically no money, I had to rely on my intuition a lot to be able to trust people and make decisions. But it’s not until I started to practice yoga and most of all study the philosophy of yoga that I understood how much our intuition is important. It is basically our guiding light, our north star pointing us in the right direction.
I’m still struggling sometimes about reconciling my intuition and my reasoning mind not even mentioning the fact that I’m a libra so I can be very indecisive. Oh the struggle! But, I’ve been working on sharpening my intuition if there is such a thing, making it stronger and having it taking more place in my life. Basically listening to it more and trusting it rather than hearing a little whisper of intuition and putting it under the rug right away as if it never happened. And then of course, we don’t want to fall into the complete opposite either of not being able to make the difference between our intuition and our fantasies, for sometimes, it is a fine line.
I’m talking more about something you feel and know deeply in your heart as being the truth.
In my experience, one has to work on igniting his/her intuition especially if it doesn’t come easy to us and of course, like everything else in life, the more we do it, the easier it gets.
Here are some of the tools or the practices I’m doing to help me enhance my intuition:
. daily meditation: this has been a tremendous practice and a way to daily get in touch with my feelings, my emotions, my state of mind. It’s also a great way to listen. To listen to your intuition, to what the universe has to tell you. It’s also a way to help suppressing the distractions and really connect.
. I actually don’t journal but I know (my intuition is talking here!) that it is a very important way to refine your intuition. Writing your thoughts but especially the ones that you feel are so wonderful and feel so right but maybe they scare you or you feel not (good, strong, mature, stable, fit…) enough to make them happen.
You may actually see that some of them come back a lot and pay attention because they are trying to show you the path. I do this mentally or sometimes I write down on my phone but I think if I was writing on paper regularly, this would be even more impactful.
. taking some time alone with no distraction, surrounded by nature if possible. New York is so busy and can be so loud that sometimes, it’s hard to hear yourself think! So I cherish these quiet times to kind of reset.
. learn to know yourself better, the way you are, the way you interact with people, what makes you feel good, what doesn’t… through spiritual lectures, chart reading, intuitive session, psychology sessions, healing sessions… whatever helps you to understand better who you are.
. read, listen to podcasts, meet with people that inspire you and that show you that what you want to do is possible. And make sure that your social media feed is a source of inspiration not one that is draining you.
This is a process but to me one that is so worth it for it brings me closer to what feels harmonious in my life.
Here is an example of me following my intuition: this summer I was offered the opportunity to teach a class in an old chapel on Shelter Island. While the task of marketing a class and bringing people in can feel daunting, it also felt completely right to try to make this class happen for the space was just perfect. And guess what, the class did really well this summer and it was such a pleasure to teach there.
Here is an example of me not following my intuition: a while back I agreed to teach a private session to a man who came to an introduction series I was teaching at Yogaworks. I got the sense that he was looking at me in a way that didn’t t reflect solely some interest for yoga but I wasn’t completely sure either. I went, we started doing the session and while he was in a specific seated pose, I saw more than I wanted to see as he wasn’t wearing any underpants under his shorts. So that was that! Should have followed my intuition on this one…
I’ve also noticed, that I have a better intuition for people than I do for myself most of the times. I get that strong sense of what they may go through or how they may feel or what they should do. And in fact, it makes a lot of sense, for I’m not involved in their life as much as I’m involved in mine so it’s easier to see more clearly as I’m not affected by the outcome.
So let’s try to let go of our fears, attachments and limiting beliefs as we tune in more and more to our intuition.
As always, thank you for reading.
THE COMPLEXITY OF EMOTIONS
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the different feelings we go through, all the different colors of the rainbow we experience, sometimes through a life time but more often than not, within a short amount of time.
It is a fact that everything changes all the time and the only constant is change. That is actually one of the first teachings of the Yoga Sutras: making us understand that our thoughts are fleeting all the time and they don’t define who we really are.
But I’m very amazed by our capacity to feel very extreme feelings or emotions at the exact same time. Fear and excitement, anxiety and hope, joy and sorrow, love and hate can coincide simultaneously or quasi simultaneously.
For me, the ones that come up the most are fear and excitement. At the exact same time, I can feel very afraid of something and very excited about doing it. Teaching yoga definitely falls into that category, especially when I first started. I would be so fearful but at the same time excited. Now it’s more when I teach a workshop or when I do something that brings me out of my comfort zone. The funny fact is I usually know that if I feel these two emotions simultaneously I’m exactly where I should be and doing exactly what I should be doing. It became a good barometer for me.
But sometimes, the fear takes over completely and I’m paralyzed even though the excitement was there. I always wanted to sky dive despite the fact I’m afraid of heights. So on our honeymoon in Namibia, I told my husband that I wanted to go for it. He did his military service in the paratroopers (at the time the military service was still mandatary in France) so he experienced jumping out of an airplane quite a few times already. We went to talk to the instructor and everything looked great. I was terrified but still excited. But the day of, I completely panicked, I got so much into my head and felt so much fear that I never made it to the place. As the quote at the top says: “fear is just excitement without breath”. And let me tell you my breath was quasi inexistant and my heart was beating really fast! I definitely regret not having done it but I was so afraid that I didn’t want to push myself.
And there is anxiety and hope: when you feel anxious about the results of a medical test but you are still hopeful and have faith that the results will be good.
And joy and sorrow: when you finally get pregnant and at the same time you are still mourning the miscarriages you had.
Or love and hate: when you love your partner and simultaneously hate some of his/her habits. Or that good old love/hate relationship we seem to all have with New York (at least if you live there).
There are so many other ambivalent emotions we can experience at the same time. I actually think we are able to go to these extremes just to bring us back to balance. How can you find balance when you haven’t experienced radically opposed feelings? How can we know love if we don’t know hate, how can we know joy if we don’t know sorrow…
Would I still appreciate summer as much if I didn’t know winter?
The important thing is not to get lost in the extremes so we can find a more balanced and grounded life. But thanks God we can feel all the feels and not only can we but it is our duty to feel them so we can start our healing process.
This is a shorter reflection than usual for I want to feel rather than analyze. This concept of feeling and just being keeps coming back in my life and in my diverse personal breaktroughs. So now I want to listen more closely, I want to give myself the permission to be and feel rather than doing all the time. I’m an achiever, once I have a goal I go for it but at this precise moment, I feel drawn to feel more. And what a better time to do this when I’m surrounded by nature on Shelter Island. The concrete jungle isn’t pushing me to feel as much so I’ll take this present opportunity.
As always, thank you for reading.
HOW EVERYTHING STARTED…
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
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.
DEALING WITH CHANGE
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.
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.
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.
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.