Reclaiming What Is Yours: Embracing New Beginnings

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Thalia, Me, Hazel

Welcome, Friends!

I recently led yoga and meditation for a women’s renewal retreat at an exquisite bed and breakfast called Minerva’s By The Sea. This island jewel is located in Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Emma Lapsansky, who runs the space, created an incredible sense of home for us all, joining us for delicious meals that she cooked with love, guiding us through conversation to help us all get to know one another, sharing her beautiful stories with us, organizing a mix of massage therapy, manicures, psychic readings and art projects, as well as making the house itself delightfully comfortable with whimsical, colorful decor, extremely lovely and relaxing rooms with names (my room was Anemone), puzzles, bikes, books and everything you could possibly need to feel completely at ease and at home.

During the retreat I met ten unique, beautiful, powerful women, each of whom shined her light to help create a special sisterhood. I was honored and blessed to get to know them, learn from them, and to hold space for them to connect more with themselves through a mix of meditation, restorative yoga and chair yoga. I was inspired and touched to encounter a mother, daughter and grandmother trio, a mother and daughter duo, three friends who had roomed together in college many years ago, and two friends who had decided to take a trip together.

In the latter duo was Thalia: an energetic, hilarious, amazing, inspiring, beautiful woman who has been on this planet for almost 91 years. When we met, she expressed her hesitation about participating in the yoga sessions, explaining that she sometimes gets dizzy and was concerned that the classes might not be accessible to her. Thalia shared that when she tried yoga in her twenties, the instructor told her that yoga wasn’t for her, that she shouldn’t do it because of an issue with her equilibrium. In that moment Thalia became convinced that she should never practice yoga asana (poses) again, and never did for over 60 years. I explained that yoga is about connecting with yourself; that the physical postures are just one tool to aid in the holistic union of mind, body, soul and Universe; that a physical yoga practice could be as simple as breathing with intention; and that every exercise could be modified to meet the capabilities and needs of the practitioner. She agreed to give it a shot.

Thalia blew me away in chair yoga! Her enthusiasm, playfulness, commitment to trying everything and finding her edge, her openness and the delightful feedback she gave throughout the session, enlivened the entire room. After the session, she expressed frustration for not having revisited yoga sooner; however, she was hooked and was determined to make yoga a regular practice for the rest of her life.  Here is a video  of her sharing her story.  😊

I learned so much from Thalia. Perhaps the biggest take away was the importance of embracing and celebrating our new beginnings, and that it is truly NEVER too late to make a positive change in our lives. How often have you told yourself that it’s too late to change [fill in the blank]? How many times have you felt ashamed, frustrated, angry or disappointed in yourself for the steps you have taken along your path that have led up to now? Perhaps in moments when you have decided to make a shift you have simultaneously felt upset that it took this long to get here. I’ve certainly experienced all of the above countless times. What if, instead, we choose to CELEBRATE the fact that we have arrived at a point in our awareness where we are finally ready to bravely change course? There are limitless ways that this can play out in our lives.

One area that I am applying this philosophy is in my decision to start studying Japanese again and to connect more with my roots. My father is from Okinawa, Japan. His father was from Lubang, Philippines, and his mother, my Grandma, is from Kohama, Japan. After encountering racism as a preschooler, I refused to speak Japanese with my Dad anymore. I wanted to fit in. I stopped learning what was inherently mine and missed out on opportunities to connect with my own heritage as well as to be able to have deep, fluent conversations with my Japanese relatives (particularly Grandma), as most of them are not fluent in English. I later realized how important it was to reclaim my language. In college I studied Japanese but gradually stopped practicing once I stopped taking the course, and have since forgotten much of what I studied. For years I felt guilty calling Grandma at all, out of shame for my limited language skills. I felt that I had fallen off track and that perhaps I would just give up talking to her until I had started studying again.

I have had Japanese on my list for years, thinking, “I’ll pick it back up when I have time.” But I realized that unless I decide to commit to it and carve out the study space in my schedule, I will never have time. Though I beat myself up over the years for rejecting my language and for not making it a priority to continue my studies, I realized that I could stop judging myself and embrace this new beginning. I realized that what mattered was that I reach out to Grandma, even if the conversations were very basic for a while. The heart can communicate beyond verbal language barriers. And I realized that it’s not too late to pick the language back up! It doesn’t matter what came before.

I am going to buy a language program this week and start studying Japanese regularly again, with the goal of being able to speak with Grandma on a deeper level by the time I visit her this December in Guam, where she now lives.

Thalia had the right to have a yoga practice. I had the right to learn and speak my language with pride. Both of us are reclaiming what is ours, NOW.

What are you ready to reclaim? What new beginnings are you ready to embrace? Is it a career, a relationship, a hobby, a habit, a new schedule that serves you more, a new way of expressing yourself, or something else?  Today is truly the first day of the rest of your life!  In yoga we practice embracing each new beginning (each new breath, each new pose, each new day of practicing, each new thought) and then letting go to make space for yet another beginning. Such is the beauty of Life.

May you experience gratitude toward Life, the Divine and yourself for each milestone of awareness and positive change along your path.

“Don’t let the past stifle your progress. Let it empower you.”

-Suguru Nakamichi Tangi (my Dad)

Namaste, じゃあまたね (jaa mata ne)

Anne

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Grandma Takiko Tangi and me in Guam, 2008

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Art project at Minerva’s By The Sea Bed and Breakfast

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With Emma, Innkeeper and Primary Owner of Minerva’s

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To The Edge

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Dear Fellow Global Citizens,

I find myself asking, “What is my role in the current political, national and global environment?”  The inundation of flabbergasting and traumatizing information, combined with the inspiration I find in so many friends who are standing up against injustice, is pushing me to discover my own Edge.  In yoga classes we always seek to find our edge: that place where our bones are in alignment, our muscles are being used in the right way, we are going as far as we can while breathing fully, free of pain, and our energy can flow freely, allowing us to experience the most vibrant versions of ourselves and to grow.  Our edge is always changing, depending on our anatomy, what we are going through on a particular day, or at a particular phase of life, and how all of that is manifesting in our bodies.  Everyone has a unique expression of each pose.  It doesn’t matter where your edge is, but it does matter that you find it.

In the yoga of daily life, everyone has a unique way to use one’s passions, skills and community connections to stand up for Greater Good.  This means that we must explore what resonates with each of us.  Are you more into protests, doing research, calling your senator, educating others about what’s going on by posting enlightening information on social media, holding a safe space for people to express what they’re experiencing, organizing, creating positive spaces for people to experience joy (which can give us fuel to go on), leading meditations and prayers, having very real (and sometimes very uncomfortable) conversations with others whose views differ greatly from yours, or something else?  

May we all recognize and remember that everything and everyone is connected.  All of life is connected. That is the meaning of Yoga: Union. To Yoke. Oneness.  And history is connected to the present. Mistakes of the past have the ability to repeat themselves if we lose touch with those connections and memories, and fail to take the lesson that those past experiences offer us.  When we stay in our bubbles, our comfort zones, and our fears, we miss out on opportunities to sink into that greater tapestry of Human Experience and Universal Consciousness.  In such moments, I risk losing sight of the fact that an injustice committed against you is ultimately an injustice committed against myself.  If I step out in an act of fear (disguised as an act love for my own, or the desire to protect my own AT ALL COSTS) then I may become blind to the moment when my sense of desperation to protect my well-being comes at the COST of YOUR well-being.  I may try to remove myself from the situation in order to avoid facing the difficult choices ahead, or I may act aggressively and senselessly, both paths yielding harmful results.  When I step out in an act of faith, hope and courage, however, I have the opportunity to cultivate Light in the Darkness. Love can then usher in the chance to build bridges rather than walls, to unite rather than divide, to develop friendships rather than enemies, to create space for conversations that can help to bring healing, understanding and forgiveness, rather than fuel chaos through rigidity and ignorance that can only breed more fear, hate and division.  

So let’s all work to find our Balance, our Edge: that sweet spot where we are aligned with our true selves, our best selves, which will allow our energy to flow freely, and enable us to use our power in the most productive, positive way, with AWARENESS, for the benefit of ALL BEINGS.   

There are times to walk and times to run; times to follow the path of least resistance and times to resist.  I invite you to connect with yourself and evaluate your edge, over and over, as it is always changing, so that you may connect with your community, the broader global community and the Oneness of All.  

Come discover your edge at a yoga class over the next couple weeks.  I’m teaching:

Tuesday Jan. 31
Area Yoga (Montague) – Express – 12.30-1:30 p.m.
Area Yoga (5th Ave.) – Power Yoga – 4:00-5:10 p.m.
Emerge Boutique Wellness Studio * Like us on Facebook.  380 MacDonough St., Brooklyn, NY- Basic Hatha – 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Monday Feb. 6
Area Yoga (5th Ave.) – Basics – 8:25-9:35 p.m.

Tuesday Feb. 7
Emerge Boutique Wellness Studio – Basic Hatha – 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Monday Feb. 13
Area Yoga (Court St.) – Sweat, Stretch, Relax – 4.20-5:30
Area Yoga (5th Ave.) – Basics – 8:25-9:35 p.m.

Tuesday Feb. 14
Emerge Boutique Wellness Studio – Basic Hatha – 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu.  May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.

In Yoga,

Anne

New Fire

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Picture a fire with vivid flames that dance through the air. This fire produces so much light, and serves as a source of warmth, passion and inspiration. At times, the flames can grow weak.  But the fire is still a source of light; it just needs to be rekindled.

In life, we are always returning to a state of balance. We never simply have it all together, at least not for long. If we did, there would be no room for growth.  Sometimes when we struggle in a certain area we feel flustered and unsure of what to do next, or of what to change.  The fires of our souls can grow weak. At times we need to reflect on the strategies that we are currently using, so that we can let go of them, and try new ones.

Moments come when we receive new insight about how we can improve our lifestyles.  This awareness can be accompanied by feelings of vulnerability, failure and inadequacy, or thoughts such as: “Wow, I have so far to go. I feel so off track. I should be further along than I am.”   Without checking in and gaining this insight, however, we might keep repeating the same old strategies, expecting different results, while getting frustrated, discouraged and burnt out when things keep going the same way.  Another way to look at this insight is to say: “How awesome it is that I have this information, this spark, so that I can rekindle my fire!”

Each day we encounter challenges on our mats. Some days we step onto the mat feeling on fire and excited, other days we arrive feeling as if our flames have grown weak. Either way, we keep the flame of breath burning. From there, the other elements fall into place.  Gradually we are able to move deeper into the poses. Gradually we teach our bodies new ways to express themselves. Constantly, we adjust as we receive new sparks.

In your yoga practice, not only on your mat, but also in your daily life, I invite you to be open and receptive to the new sparks, the new flames of insight that come your way, so that you can stoke your fire, or perhaps even start a new one.  It’s a new day; it’s a new chance at life.  Let’s celebrate it!

Come join me for a class this week and rekindle your fire.  You can find my up-to-date teaching schedule on my calendar. It is always changing, as I add different classes here and there. Please check it out.

May you be open and receptive to the sparks that come your way this week, so that your fire can burn with passion, inspiration, encouragement and light.

Here are some tunes to get that fire burning:

Feeling Good – Nina Simone
New Day – Alicia Keys
Girl On Fire – Alicia Keys

Keep the fire burning, y’all,

Anne

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Monster in the Closet

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Take a moment to notice your breath, without judging what you observe.

One night, as a little girl gets ready to go to sleep, she hears a sound coming from her closet, and concludes: There’s a monster in my closet!  She won’t open the closet door, because the fear of what she might find is too intense.  If there’s a monster in the closet, it must be big, scary, and overpowering.  The risk of not being able to handle what’s on the other side does not feel worth taking.  So, the child has to scurry to her bed, pull the covers over her head, and she can’t relax because she has to be ready to run if the monster comes out. The sounds continue to keep her awake.  Finally, the little girl concludes that the only way she’ll be able to sleep is if the monster leaves her closet.  She bravely approaches the door, opens it, and shrieks as a moth flies out.  After watching the moth that was searching for a way to get outside, the little girl opens the window, and the moth flutters out.  The child closes her closet door, takes a proud sigh of relief, snuggles under the covers, and falls fast asleep.

Sometimes we attach a certain meaning to something about ourselves, some factor in our lives, some idea, some possibility.  Sometimes we are too afraid to look at what’s there to even consider what it is.  Maybe, after giving ourselves the space to consider it, however, we’ll begin to see ways that we can deal with what is there.

Today I invite you to increase your awareness, without judging what you see or attaching meaning to it, so that you can truly see.

A yoga practice provides a space to observe without judging.  We draw our focus to the breath, which helps the mind to slow down and helps to take attention away from the stories that we tell ourselves, or the monsters that grow inside our closets.  In addition, as we practice mindfulness with the breath, we also practice mindfulness with our bodies and movements.  We learn to breathe through the sensations that arise and to be present.  Sometimes this means adjusting the pose so that we can find our true best or “edge”, rather than push beyond it to our expected edge.  We practice this constant communication between the body and breath without judging ourselves for not being able to achieve a certain expression of the pose that we might desire.  Through this practice, we train ourselves to remove some of the stigmas that we attach to our experiences in life so that we can embrace them, learn from them, and move forward.

Notice your breath again.  During your physical yoga practice, or asana practice, observe what’s going on within you in each pose.  Observe when you reach your edge, if you need to modify the pose, if your breathing changes and the thoughts that come.   Maybe certain thoughts need to come to the surface, so that they can then pass on by, or so that we can deal with them in another way.

What monsters in your closet are you ready to face this week, this month?  We Got This!!!

Check out my calendar for my up-to-date teaching schedule.  Hope to see you on the mat!

Peace and Sweet Dreams,

Anne

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Reflections on My Journey Through Brazil

 

Hello, Friends and Fellow Yogis!

I have returned to New York City after two amazing months of travel through Brazil. Through adventures of learning Portuguese, learning how to navigate new cities and a new country, learning about the culture, developing friendships, taking leaps of faith, facing many fears and exploring exquisitely beautiful places, I also had the chance to deepen my yoga practice physically, mentally and spiritually.

For one thing, I had to commit to maintaining my own practice throughout my travels, as I did not have access to classes at studios. One thing I learned was the value of consistency and routine. Some days my physical practice was only 20 minutes, or even just 10 at times; but the act of practicing almost every day helped my body to stay mobile enough to regularly practice poses that I used to avoid because of pain. For example, for years I would often have pain in my lower back during or after urdhva dhanurasana, or wheel pose. Because of that I would typically practice other heart-openers instead. In Brazil, however, I found that the combination of practicing asana almost daily (as well as taking a break from some of the other types of movement that I was accustomed to practicing in New York, such as certain dance styles) resulted in my ability to go into wheel without pain and without having to spend a long time preparing my body beforehand.

In Brazil my day-to-day asana practice did not vary too much, although every day was a chance to explore and discover what served me the best. A simple routine of warming up the spine, joints, and core, followed by poses to elongate my muscles and open my hips and heart, did me a WORLD of good while I was traveling in terms of preventing pain, releasing tension, staying flexible, and feeling connected with my body. As it was sometimes hard to find opportunities to venture into the city and move in other ways, being able to maintain a home practice was invaluable. Any poses that feel good to you (no matter how simple), when practiced regularly, can enhance your life. Yoga does not have to be practiced at a studio, and physical yoga does not have to be specific “asana”.  Simply following your breath while moving is practicing yoga. I invite you to take a few moments each day, wherever you are, to move in a way that feels good to you. 🙂

On another note, mental flexibility was a huge part of my yoga practice while traveling, as pretty much everything went differently than I had envisioned. My trip was quite a lesson in the importance of letting go of expectations in order to be ready to take on what actually comes up. While I have tons of beautiful, happy, exciting, rewarding, freeing, loving memories from my time in South America, I also had moments of frustration, loneliness, disappointment, discouragement, confusion and sadness.

Over time, I became aware that some of the frustration, anxiety and depression that I experienced during my travels stemmed from my desire to fulfill the expectations that I had for myself prior to arriving, as well as expectations that I thought other people had for me. Many people had recommended places to visit and things to do in Brazil. I, too, had big hopes of doing certain things, such as taking dance classes at studios that I my teachers had recommended to me. Well, I encountered many challenges in relation to transportation, safety, communication, weather and the fact that my plans were often so on-the-fly, that made it much more complicated to check out some of these places and do some of these things than I had hoped. Due to these factors, I accessed way fewer dance opportunities than I had expected, for example. This was really frustrating and disappointing for me at the time.

At moments I felt pressured to find a way to make certain things happen because I thought that it would be such a shame to return to the States and say, “Actually, I didn’t go there, I didn’t do that and I didn’t even find a way to do some of the things that were on the top of my list when I arrived.”  I felt that I would somehow be a failure if I didn’t follow through with these ideas. A friend in Brazil reminded me of the following truth: “You make your own adventure. Everything everyone else recommends is just a suggestion.” Touché. Yet, it took me most of my trip to come to terms with that and just let go.  In my classes, I often remind my students that part of yoga is constantly adjusting as your receive more information, allowing yourself to stay flexible (with yourself and others) and to embrace the present moment, then let it go. On the mat, this can manifest in the form of being patient to accommodate fellow students who enter into an already-crowded room after class has started, or in modifying a pose if you start to feel pain. In Brazil, this manifested in many forms, especially mental ones.

On the flip-side, MAN did I have some AMAZING times full of AWESOME surprises!!! The diverse places I did check out were so enriching and I would not trade those experiences for the world.  I developed beautiful friendships in unexpected situations.  I got to see things that were exquisitely beautiful and things that were ugly.  I had chances to experience Brazil with locals, allowing me to see beyond some of the tourist attractions and to experience aspects of Brazil that are not advertised.  Through my journey to learn Portuguese, I was reminded that we must be willing to make ourselves vulnerable in order to grow.  I DID dive into the dance scene as best as I could, through checking out clubs and festivals with live pagode and forro music, as well as attending the capoeira and dance classes that were in reach.  My experiences of having a tough time accessing some of the dancing that I craved actually reaffirmed my passion for dance and helped me to realize new horizons that I want to reach with my art.  All of these experiences taught me about the importance of realizing the freedom that you have to dramatically alter your routine, and then finding the courage to risk losing something from your current lifestyle along the way.  I became aware that the things that are most important to your soul will not simply diminish when you change your routine.  In fact you might even come back more driven than you were before.

In addition, I observed how powerful perspective is in shaping the quality of our experiences and altering our reality.  This makes me think about the idea that things are not necessarily positive or negative, right or wrong, helpful or unhelpful, great or small.  Our attitudes in a certain moment can cause us to see a situation in a particular light, and our attitudes can drastically change when we are caught off guard by new information.  If that’s the case, then where does the truth lie in any given situation?  Well, perhaps this can serve as a reminder of the importance of cultivating a steady mind so that we can have the best chance to see life as clearly as possible.  Coming to your mat to draw focus to the breath while tuning into what is happening within your body helps the mind to slow down.  As you move through postures (asana) and breathe through the sensations that arise, you begin to clear and stimulate different channels throughout the body.  This allows energy, blood, oxygen, as well as fluids throughout the brain, internal organs and joints to flow with more ease.  Meanwhile, you begin to release tension, toxins, and even mental clutter.  Through this practice, you are training your mind to be present in the moment, to accept what is and to move forward from that place.  As you practice listening to and nurturing your body, breath and mind on your mat, you are teaching yourself to live in this way throughout your daily activities and interactions.  Through a consistent yoga practice we can cultivate more steady minds, which benefits not only ourselves, but all of those with whom we interact.

I hope to see you soon in the City. Please check out the live calendar to stay tuned for classes.

Peace and Cheers to Adventures!,

Anne