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

Fireworks

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Happy Fourth of July Everyone!

I wish you all a fun, safe and joyful weekend of celebrations!  I’m pretty pumped about the fireworks on the levee of the Mississippi River tonight. However you choose to spend your time, I hope you live it up!  Every day is a new chance at life!

Louisiana yogis— come join me for some classes next week at Blooming Yoga in Prarieville!  I am delighted to get to sub a few classes for my dear friend, Marifer, while she is away.  Hope to see you there!

Monday July 6
10:00 a.m. – ABC (Absolute Beginner’s Class)

Wednesday July 8
6:00 p.m. – ABC
7:30 p.m. – Gentle Flow

Enjoy the fireworks in your life, in whatever form they manifest.

In Light,

Anne

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