As a yoga teacher and student, I always encourage those who attend my classes to love and accept themselves unconditionally just the way they are. I have respect for each person who enters my classes simply because they chose to show up and work on themselves. For some, it is their first encounter with the practice, and this can be a big deal! And for others it is part of their lifestyle. But I respect them for actually trying it, and also those who stick to it. There are many people however who perhaps want to try yoga but feel intimidated, scared they are not fit enough for it or simply don’t know what it is. Of course these fears can be self-limiting beliefs and insecurities, but they can also rise from what they see or hear in the media and other available resources.
So I wanted to write this article in the hopes that everybody understands yoga a little bit more for what it is and not what it looks like necessarily on these platforms.
MYTH # 1: YOGA IS ONLY PHYSICAL
Whilst one school of yoga is dedicated to purifying the physical body, there are different kinds of yoga. Hatha yoga, which is one of the most well known around the world, is the practice of yoga through physical poses or asanas. In this type, the person engages in different asanas to purify their physical body, by movement, building physical strength, tonight the muscles and increasing flexibility. From hatha yoga, over the years other styles derived such as vinasa, ashtanga, yin, Yiengar, all which use the classic poses of hatha yoga but in a different type of flow and manner. But there are schools of yoga such as Kundalinin yoga which is the practice devoted to raising the kundalini energy throughout the inner body, involving a mixture of asanas, mantras, mudras and pranayama (breathing yogic methods). Bhakti yoga is the school of yoga with the practice of devotion which is practiced mainly through mantras and mudras. Raja yoga or royal yoga is a practice devoted mostly to meditation. Another school of yoga is karma yoga, known as the yoga of service, in which one devotes themselves to be of selfless service such as volunteering. Jnana yoga is the yoga of intellect and development of wisdom through studying scriptures and texts devoted to the yoga tradition. Tantra yoga is the school of yoga which involves connecting with the divine energy through different rituals including sexuality, however contrary to popular belief, tantra yoga is not just about sex. It's about channeling the feminine principle of the cosmos, called shakti. All these are different branches of yoga and you can choose which one you want to explore more.
MYTCH # 2: YOGA IS A RELIGION
Some countries dismiss the practice of yoga completely because they think it's some kind of weird religion when the person starts mumbling in a strange language and does weird movements with their body (I actually had people saying this to me). Yoga is not a religion, yoga is a lifestyle. Practicing yoga does not ask of you to believe in any other higher power than the one you already believe in. In fact it actually encourages the individual to connect with the divine (whatever that means for you) and to acknowledge that there is more to the world than just what the eyes can perceive. Whilst there is an influence of both Hinduism and Buddhism in yoga, this does not mean you have to change your faith. There are different schools of yoga such as Bhkati yoga as mentioned above which is a yoga of devotion to different gods or a personal god. But you don't have to conform to a certain type, you can practice hatha yoga and still be very connected to your own Divine creator. Whilst some mantras do focus on bringing in the energy of the universe or Shakti, the female divine energy of the cosmos, you don't actually have to use mantras if they are not your thing. For me, yoga is a personal journey and a connection with the self, others and all that is around me. For others, it might be something else, but please know that it is not a religion.
MYTH # 3: ALL YOGIS ARE THIN
Whilst many of those who practice yoga can have a slender type body, yoga does not require a person to have a specific type of body frame. There are yogis of all shapes, some larger built, some smaller built. The physical frame of the body is not so important, as it is its moving ability and the person's willingness to explore their body. One can be bigger, have a belly and thicker thighs and still be able to practice yoga at a very high level, just as somebody who is thinner can struggle with some aspects of yoga. In fact, some experienced yogis in India or Buddhist traditions can have a larger frame or a belly, but their practice is strong, deep and beautiful. The yoga practice is about learning to appreciate your body and work with it to allow it to move freely, so you can open the energy blockages acquired through mental, physical and emotional tension. The number on the scales has nothing to do with it unless you notice that it is limiting you.
MYTH # 4: ALL YOGIS ARE ACROBATS
Instagram is one of the most popular platforms for yogis to share their practice these days with others around the world. We see many who can do amazing things with their bodies, flexibility wise. It’s important to note however that acrobatic abilities are not necessary because yoga is not about handstands, headstands and inversions only. Yoga can indeed increase the body’s flexibility over time but this is not its sole purpose nor it is required. Acro yoga is a style of yoga derived from the classic hatha yoga asanas, but it is also mixed with some acrobatic movement, hence its name. A lot of the practitioners of this kind have a gymnastics background or incredibly flexible bodies by nature. Others have gained this flexibility over the years, by practicing hatha yoga or coming from an athletic background. But you don’t have to feel intimidated by such yoga styles. Ultimately, yoga is a personal practice in which you bring connection between all parts of the self. It is not about performing a pose, it is about your journey of getting into the pose and exploring yourself through this.
MYTH # 5: I NEED FANCY PROPS TO PRACTICE YOGA
Back in the days, when yoga was first introduced in India, do you think they had fancy brands that provided them with mats, yoga gear and other props? No, of course not. They probably had a small carpet to protect their joints from the ground, or even better, they used the grass. What better way to connect with Mother Nature than to practice bare foot on the ground…Although it’s great that now we have access to mats, bolsters, blocks, straps, yoga wheels etc, know that these are resources to aid you in your practice. You don’t actually need any glamorous type mat to do your practice. Whilst I was travelling around, I used a towel to do my morning practice on. I didn’t have my yoga mat with me and my practice was just as strong and deep, with or without it. I am totally pro props, they are so helpful to help us during the practice, but you don’t need to spend a fortune on these. Also, there is no fashion forecast specific to yogis, so you don’t need to buy the latest brands of matching tights and sports bustiers, unless of course you want to. You can practice yoga in anything that your body feels comfortable in and it allows your skin to breathe. Traditionally, yoga was practiced in cotton cloths wrapped around the body. Thankfully now we have more options, but style should never be a goal through your yoga practice. After all, yogis are not fashion stylists, they are yogis.
MYTH # 6: I NEED TO BE VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN TO PRACTICE YOGA
Yoga doesn’t come with any specific dietary requirements, it’s a practice of discipline, devotion, love and self-discovery. Whilst traditionally, many yogis did not eat any living beings, it is not required for you to have a specific diet. If you eat meat or are vegan, and you keep true to your yoga practice, live your life in harmony with the internal and external world and do good for yourself and others, then just embrace what you are. Only you can decide what’s good for your body and if you feel ok with your diet, then continue to follow it. It is encouraged to keep a healthy eating routine, mainly because any foods which are heavy or full of preservatives can create toxins in the body and impede your practice and body movement. But just know that no, you don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to practice yoga.
MYTH # 7: I NEED TO BE A CALM PERSON TO PRACTICE YOGA
The practice itself is for everybody, regardless if you meditate all day and are completely stress free, or if you have anxiety, suffer from sleeping disorder or any other emotional behaviours. In fact, many people who I have met and practice yoga daily were lead to the practice because they wanted to minimize such behaviours and they call yoga their coping mechanism. The truth is we are all human and we will never be perfect, nor we should strive to be. Yoga is about bringing balance in our lifestyle, not perfecting ourselves to the point that we become robotic. Sometimes, a yoga practice will feel frustrating to the point that you want to cry or scream with rage. Some days you feel great, and others not so much. It’s ok, you are not the only one experiencing these states. Yoga teaches us to be patient, to get to know ourselves and accept these moments and learn how to release them in a healthy way. You don’t need to be anybody else, but yourself on your yoga mat. More so, embrace who you are and go through all the motions. It is after all what the asana practice is about.
MYTH # 8: I CANNOT DRINK ALCOHOL, COFFE OR SMOKE CIGARETTES TO DO YOGA
There are people all over the world who are experienced in their yoga practice and who love their daily cup of coffee, the occasional wine and some even smoke. Get over it, yoga is about non-judgement of the self and others. If you remain true to yourself and to your practice, throughout time you will realise that these behaviours are not the best for your body and you will slowly learn to let go of them. And if you don’t, you can learn to at least balance these to the point that they don’t interfere with your health, emotional, mental and physical self. Yoga is about being kind to ourselves, and as you get deeper in your practice, you can assess which behaviours serve you for the higher good and which ones are needed to be released. Most importantly, yoga teaches us to love ourselves unconditionally and to bring balance into our life, by purifying your mental, physical and emotional self and by freeing yourself from all limitations and dependencies. Drinking alcohol creates toxins in the body, in the mind and also impedes your practice; smoking cigarettes can of course interfere with the benefits of pranayama or the healthy state of your breathing/lungs and overall physical wellbeing; and coffee is a stimulant which can influence the body and the mind in an unnatural state. In yoga they are referred to as negative habits because they affect the body in a negative way and so they are not encouraged, but certainly not frowned upon. But if you do these habits in moderation and can manage to keep yourself in balance, by all means continue to do whatever feels right for you. You know your body best and you have the right to live your life the way you feel it's best for you. Remember anything in excess is not good though...
As you start practicing yoga and begin to know your physical, mental and emotional body better, you will also start making different choices in your life. This is part of it, as it is a self-discovery journey.
Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed enough to experience some epic break-ups, some which brought me heartbreak, others a sense of relief. I refer to them as a blessing because I have learnt so much from all these relationships. Of course, I only came to this realisation during the aftermath and after letting go of my resistance to it, when I was able to reflect and understand exactly how these breakups affected and benefited me in the long term. Isn’t it funny how we put ourselves through so much suffering only to find out in the end that everything worked out for the best? Of course, this is the mystery of life. The thing is that we all want to be loved and to give love, it’s our most natural state of being. But when we do find love, we start to claim some sort of ownership for it, which means that it slowly loses its pure essence. Or we lose the appreciation for the other person by simply taking them for granted, knowing that if we have made the decision to be in a relationship, we can just act like anyway we want to, assuming the other person should always be there for us. Some people find their match quicker than others, but it’s not about how quickly we find that special person we want to be with, as it is about the journey we take towards and throughout this experience. Relationships, like everything else in life are a process in which we discover ourselves all over again whilst getting to know somebody else too. We learn to open up to the possibility of love every time, and to a new opportunity to open our heart. Every relationship will be different and every heartbreak comes with many lessons to be learnt. Although in the first stages it can totally feel like the worst experience ever, know that it’s not the end of your life, it’s just the beginning of a new chapter. Break ups teach us to surrender and let go of our ego’s desire, of the illusion that somebody else is meant to be ours forever and we theirs, disregarding the fact that we are constantly changing. This is why I don’t really believe weddings are necessary. How can we truly make a vow to stay with one person forever, when we are in constant evolvement ourselves? Although one of the best aspects about a relationship is the collective development, we cannot always guarantee that the other person can move through their life’s path the same way we do. Instead of learning to appreciate the love for one another, we place our attention on all the external glamours which ultimately come with pressure of fulfilling a certain ideal. Here are some reasons why you should see every heartbreak as a blessing. Whether you believe it or not, with time you will realise it’s all worked out for the best.
FIND YOUR INNER POWER BY LETTING GO
We tend to interpret power as something that comes from external factors, often associated with status, physical strength and being detached from our emotions. But these factors only take away more of our true authentic power. The real power lies within each one of us and it is always manifested through love and good intention. The reason being is that when we feel self-love, we can always feel complete therefore we dismiss the idea of dependency upon another human being. Often times, in relationships, couples become so dependant of each other that they forget who they are. Suddenly they find themselves lost and try to blame everything on the other person, wondering what has happened. The answer is simple: you forgot to be your own self, the person they fell in love with and vice versa. And when the break-up happens, it’s common for people to say “I feel like I lost a side of myself”. This is true because you allowed yourself to become somebody else based on an experience you shared with another individual. I’ve been there before and it’s so easy to fall into this type of thinking and what’s worst is that it is due to this that we create more suffering for ourselves. There is a tremendous powerful shift when you are able to simply let go and understand relationships as an experience you were meant to have in life. It doesn’t mean that you are ignoring your emotions, it just means that you are choosing to take it as an experience, instead of coming from a place of ownership and ego driven desires. No matter how much we would want it to be different, understand that everyone is required to follow their own path in life. If they happen to cross yours and you allow them to be part of it, just let it be. But don’t think that it’s meant to be forever, when we are not even certain of what the next moment in life brings for us.
FEEL FREEDOM FOR WHAT IT TRULY IS
If we allowed ourselves to be completely free, we would be completely at peace with anything. Our self-limiting beliefs cage us just as relationships do. As we allow ourselves to go deeper in a relationship, we also begin to conform ourselves according to it. This is not because of the other person, it is because we were never truly free to begin with. If we allow ourselves to live with complete freedom, we can accept to be part of somebody’s life and also accept if this changes. This doesn’t mean that all people who are single are free. The state of freedom comes when we let go of any expectations, of possessiveness, of anything that holds us away from the present moment. We enter relationships to feel loved, not to give it; to feel wanted, not to share ourselves with somebody else; to bring validation to our existence not to embrace it together. These all bring the idea of attachment and dependency upon somebody, because we cannot feel all these things for ourselves to begin with. One of the best definitions of genuine love I have ever heard was from Buddhist monk Tenzin Palmo Jetsunma who said: “The problem is that we mistake the idea of love for attachment. Attachment says that “I love you, therefore I want you to make me happy” and genuine love says “I love you, therefore I want you to be happy regardless if that is with me or somebody else”. How many of us actually think like this? If this was the case, a break up would simply be the end of an experience, and not a traumatic event. Freedom empowers us to love ourselves regardless if we are alone of with others. It teaches us to embrace all experiences and not feel restricted by them.
YOU LEARN WHAT YOU REALLY WANT IN A RELATIONSHIP
Break-ups may sting because we believe we lose a person we are meant to be with. But over time, you can actually thank thins event by realising that it was not really aligned with your vibrational field of authentic needs. We lead with our ego, often finding ourselves in relationships we think we want to be in, but somehow are not good for us. They don't happen to cause harm to you, but simply to open your eyes to what you truly deserve and need. The universe works in its magical ways and we must see a reason in every relationship. I had been in many different relationships and two of them I actually put myself through so much heartache when they ended because in my heart I felt they were the right ones. I resisted the break-ups so much to the point that one day I just had to wake up and face the music. Looking back to these, I learnt to see the events through a different vision, this time for what they truly were. And I suddenly realised that whilst I enjoyed being with these men, they were also not meant to stay with me on my life journey and me on theirs for any longer than they did. My ego was painting a completely different version of the relationship because I was holding onto the things I thought I wanted and the type of person I wanted to be with, but as soon as I began to see everything as it was I understood why and learnt to let go. Without any regrets, I simply chose to move on, this time with a clearer understanding of what my next love encounter will have and not and realising what I deserve. Break-ups teach us in their own dark ways to appreciate ourselves and find our self-worth, because if we don't, how can anybody else know it? Of course, we must allow ourselves to be open to every experience, but with every break-up we can learn to be wiser and identify certain patterns more easily and most importantly, trust ourselves more.
ACCEPT YOUR VULNERABILITY
Break-ups teach us to be vulnerable, to expose a softer side of ourselves and to acknowledge and awaken our emotional self and the blockages created in our heart. In one of my favourite books, The Untethered soul, Michael A. Singer writes that “Spiritual growth exists in that moment when you are consciously willing to pay the price of freedom. You must be willing at all times, in all circumstances, to remain conscious in the face of pain and to work with your heart by relaxing and remaining open.”
Pain is part of life, and it’s actually something we need to go through in order to create balance within ourselves. Without the feeling of emotional suffering, we wouldn’t acknowledge and appreciate the happy emotions. Take your attention away from what happened, and instead focus on what you have learned from this experience. The reality is that the break-up has already occurred. Instead of going over it a million times and assessing every if, but or maybe, you can shift your focus so that you can find your inner peace from the experience. Ask yourself the following questions: How have I grown as a person from this? How is this teaching me to look within and express myself freely? Sometimes, we think that some relationships were completely pointless, or we take a victim role of “Why is this happening to me” but this is just the way we perceive it to be. It is a choice who you start a relationship with, therefore you must take responsibility for it, even if it wasn’t your decision to break-up. The pain from it is just a way you are expressing yourself to what has happened. The pain itself is a response to the way you interpret the break-up, and the fear of this loss. The truth is, nobody in this world can complete you, because you are already complete. And until you realise this, every relationship you will go through will continue to bring you confusion and possibly heartache. But exposing yourself to your vulnerability will ultimately help you move on and embrace your strength. And that you are ok.
LEARNING HOW TO FEEL
Your emotional self is an important component which creates your complete self as a unity together with the mental, physical and the spiritual self. If you lack in one, then you will feel incomplete. The power of your emotions is truly beautiful if you just allow yourself to discover it. Often, we try to ignore our emotions and instead cover them up by keeping ourselves busy with everything that can distract us to feel, usually with work or social commitments. But the truth is that we have to go inward and just sit with our emotions. Without judgement, guilt, shame, revenge or other negative mental impulse reactions, simply allow yourself to be in this moment. You can ask yourself questions such as: Why am I feeling like this? How can I release these emotions in a healthy way so I can free myself from them? Everything in life is temporary, including your emotions! Yes, you may feel down at one point, but once you have recognised this, done the work and released it, you can free yourself from everything. If you feel like crying, just cry. It’s your body’s way of telling you that there is something you are holding onto to and it must be released. The more you bury emotions deep down, the less likely you are to become even more connected with yourself. The physical body will be affected, as negative emotions can often cause stiffness and tightness in some parts of the body. Eventually, one day they will come out and it will be a more painful process that will take longer to heal. Learn to just feel and start enjoying it. Once you do, you will learn to appreciate what you are in this moment.
I know suffering is part of life and this is why it’s a blessing. Through suffering, the soul becomes stronger, meaning that we walk further onto our path. We can take these lessons of suffering and switch on the light inside to free ourselves, instead of adding more layers of protection, which in the end we realise they were simply mere illusions of our fears. Remember that to be alone does not mean that you are lonely. We meet people for a season, a reason or a lifetime, and regardless which one it is, we can at least give ourselves the opportunity to let thing flow naturally and appreciate our courage through each one. Free yourself from the dependency of needing anybody or anything, and just allow yourself to truly experience everything as it is, knowing that you are enough, you are complete, you are a soul amongst other souls.
One of the most important ingredients for any type of human relationship is trust. Without trust, we are not able to completely open up to another person. But what I have learned over the years is that it’s not so much about the trust between ourselves and others, as it is about the trust we have for the self. If we learn to trust ourselves, this can change every relationship we form. Why? It’s really simple. When you trust yourself, you are at peace with yourself. This allows you to be completely aligned with your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual self and you are no longer requiring any validation from others. Self-trust allows you to express yourself freely, regardless if this is in front of a family member, a best friend, a co-worker or even a stranger. When you trust yourself, you are comfortable with what information you share with others but you are also somebody who can completely be trusted. You find a certain balance within yourself which opens you to the idea of truth, honesty and integrity. Everything you say or do comes from a space of honesty and from the heart, allowing yourself to feel free and act from a good intention.
EXPECT LESS FROM OTHERS
When it comes to our relationships with others, we are so caught up in the rules we create for these bonds that we unconsciously or sometimes consciously begin to create belief systems and values around what we see as trust worthy or mutual respect. We expect others to be loyal, to listen to us, to be kind with us, to be interested in what we say. But what would happen if you just simply allow them to be exactly as they are? The true beauty of a relationship is not only about the value we get out of it as the self, but more about a collective. If somebody chooses to be disloyal, cheat or lie to us, they are actually doing so to themselves. Let it go, you cannot control other’s behaviours. Yes it may sting, but if you trust yourself, you will know that you will be ok regardless and will move onwards with confidence and grace. We associate ourselves with people from all different backgrounds with similar and sometimes completely different interests. Remind yourself why you connected with this person in the beginning. There is no need to try and change them, it is us that we need to figure out exactly who we are and allow ourselves to express freely within the relationship. When you start to trust yourself, you learn that everybody you connect with has something of value to teach you and you them. Nobody owes you anything, nor you owe anything to them, so let go of the idea that they should be a certain way, and just be who you are whilst accepting them also for their authentic way. When you trust yourself, you start to create bonds with people whose energy aligns with yours.
APPRECIATE, DON'T COMPARE
It’s so easy these days to see how others are living by looking at social media and instantly comparing their life with ours. Yes some people do live amazing lives, but remember that what we perceive as an amazing life is just through what our eyes choose to perceive. What is it that you consider a beautiful life? Instead of comparing your life with that of others’, ask yourself what would it be like if you just accepted that everybody is at a different stage in their journey. Yours might look different, but it’s still your journey. You are a warrior, a beautiful soul worthy of wonderful experiences, just as others are. I used to think that having everything I wanted would make me happy, and it did to a certain extent, but I was focusing so much on polishing the exterior part of my life and not focusing on the inner layers. When I began doing so, and I allowed myself to explore a different kind of lifestyle, all of a sudden I felt happier, more grateful and happy for others’ success also. Start your day by taking 5 minutes to bring your awareness to what you appreciate in your life. Forget about the things you want and don’t have, focus on what you have and you are grateful for. What you are doing is projecting an energy of being open to receive, a sense of gratitude and a shift in your mindset. When you focus your attention on the things you don’t have and wish you did, you create a resistance to all that’s being offered to you. And why would you do so when you can look at your life with a more positive approach? Trust yourself every day to know that you can live gracefully and with an open heart to all that’s before you.
BRING YOURSELF INTO ALIGNMENT
Most people only acknowledge themselves as a physical being with a brain to think and a heart to feel. Yes that’s partly true. But there are more layers of the self and when you create harmony between these, you can start noticing what you need to work on to bring yourself into an aligned, balanced state. The inner most layer of the self is the energetic part, the soul whilst the outer most layer is the physical self, the body. The layers that connect the two are the mental self, the emotional self and the spiritual self; all being connected with the physical and energetic self. Become an observant of the self and notice what is not aligned, without any judgement, just simply observe. Start with your mental self and notice how you think about yourself, about the world, about others. How is your behaviour shaped by these thoughts? How does your physical body react to these thoughts? Moving onto the emotional self, how do you feel about yourself, about others, about the world? And then observe how your actions are affected by this. And moving onto the spiritual self, how do you view life beyond what your eyes can see? Do you acknowledge your intuition or a divine force with which you connect with? The effects of these three layers affect both the physical and energetic self. If for example you think negatively about yourself, about the world and those around you, the energy you give reflects on this, attracting into your life exactly what you give out. On a physical aspect, you will begin to feel disconnected from your physical self, ignoring the true potential of your body as a vessel, causing a blockage in alignment. With time, the body becomes more sluggish, less mobile and loses its abilities. If however you acknowledge the nice aspects about your life and think positively towards yourself, others and the world, everything starts coming into alignment. You start using your imagination and passion which leads to opportunities created. You learn to appreciate your body and how it can move; you notice the beauty of Mother nature and all its changing states which simply reflect upon your changing moods.
The notion of trust has more to do with how well you know your true being, and less about others. Although it’s easier to point the finger at others and shift the blame away from ourselves, the truth is that we are completely responsible for how we feel, think and act. Therefore, learning to establish a trusting relationship between all parts of the self, will always serve us a positive experience in whatever relationships or situations we are in.
In a world that often creates ideals to live in a specific way and strive to be a certain type of person, we can get pretty lost and miss out on what it is that truly makes our soul sparkle. Life is full of events that surprise us in every moment. We can make endless plans, but very rarely we can completely predict these. I used to start my days with a list of goals which I will achieve for the day. I would set targets for myself and most of the time I would get these done. But what I learned by doing so is that although I would tick everything off the list, I was also missing on being present in the moment, because I was constantly focusing on an outcome. Now I start my day with affirmations, with kind words towards myself and with gratitude for this day. My life has changed tremendously since. I still get things done, but with an encouraging approach, empowering myself to believe in my abilities, to be open to possibilities and to explore each moment as a special experience instead of pushing myself.
I have learnt that in life we should find something we love doing, something that brings us and others joy and spread this happiness everywhere we go. Sometimes it’s not that easy to identify what you love doing, especially if you haven’t done some self-development work to really go within and figure out who is behind the mask of your physical self. Asking yourself the following questions will challenge you to discover yourself in a whole new light, to be open to explore new avenues and share your talents, skills and abilities with the world.
*For this you will need a blank piece of paper or a notebook and a pen. Read the questions below and before you answer, allow your true self to come out by giving yourself time and space.
1. What is it that you are passionate about?
Being passionate about what you do is very important for your overall wellbeing. You might think that this will not help you make a living, but that’s not the point for this question. Simply identify what it is you are passionate about. Passion brings your feelings into what you are doing and when you attach positive feelings to an action, everything seems better and you completely stay in the moment with true intentions. Write down at least two or three things that you love doing. This could be anything like painting, writing, building things, running, speaking, selling… Whatever it is you love doing, just write it down. Try and find at least 2 different things and no more than 8.
2. What would you do every day if money was not an issue?
I know it can sound very cliché, but if you think about it, most of us are currently doing or have previously done jobs we don’t really enjoy but we do so just to get money. I completely understand that this is important, after all we need to survive and have a roof over our head. But if money wasn’t important, what would you be doing? Ultimately the happiness an action brings you should be the primary objective behind it and not money. Write down at least 2 different things and no more than 5.
3. How do you express yourself?
Freedom of expression in everything we do is an important component to being true to ourselves and also to allow others to see this. By expressing our ideas freely, we learn to communicate openly with others and truthfully. How do you express yourself to the world? For example, for me a main way I do so is through my writing. All the ideas that I have, I can easily put down on paper and write, turning them into a story/blog/article. Maybe you are a painter, a musician, a teacher, a great public speaker,….What is that allows you to completely express yourself freely and to share your ideas with ease? Write down at least 2 different things and no more than 5.
4. What are you good at?
This in my opinion is one of the most important discoveries we can make about ourselves. Finding something we are really good at can open doors to other aspects of self-expression and lead us purposeful living. Some people are great at sales, others are really good with technology, with people, creating strategies, inspiring leaders etc. Admit to yourself at least one thing you are really good at and see if you love it. If it’s something you know you do really well, but don’t really enjoy doing it, is there another way you can express this? Chances are there are various paths to doing what you are good at and incorporating this into something that could potentially become beneficial for you. Write down at least 2 different things and no more than 5.
5. What are 3 unique qualities that you have?
Everybody is unique. We all have abilities and skills that set us apart. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others, but simply a way of acknowledging our unique self. By finding these qualities, you can also learn to appreciate those parts of yourself and become more confident and loving towards who you are. I know it can feel a little bit strange to answer this question, because often we tend to be better at criticising ourselves rather than embracing our qualities, sometimes identifying these unique traits as flaws. It's sad to think this is the case but we can change this approach and learn to value our unique self. Take some time to think about this question and when you are ready, write down at least 2 different things and no more than 5. As you write these down, bring your awareness to how each quality makes you feel as you identify it. Stay in this moment and learn to bring appreciation for it.
6. What is something that you would do most days, even if it meant missing out on social events?
FOMO (fear of missing out) is never an issue when you are engaged in actions you really enjoy doing. And if you find yourself disagreeing, maybe go back within and assess if what you are doing truly fills your heart with joy. Because when we have a deep guidance from within to do something, nothing can distract us from it. We only have FOMO when we are unhappy or dissatisfied with what we are doing or our current state. FOMO brings out our insecurities by perceiving what others are doing is so much better than what we are doing. It’s very common to compare our lifestyle with those of others, taking the approach of “the neighbours garden is much better than mine”. But what if your garden is truly beautiful and you are not paying enough attention to it, leaving it rot instead of bloom? Thinking about this question, find out what is it that you would be doing, even on the most beautiful sunny day, when your friends invite you out and you happily say no because you are committed and engaged to that one aspect you absolutely love. Keeping focused on our passions requires discipline and commitment. Keep true to yourself on this one and know that even if you are the most social butterfly on this planet, there is at least one thing that you can come up.
7. Write down the names of 3 people in your life that you admire, love or look up to and then write the reasons why for each one….
I love this one so much because it is a really good way for you to find out more about yourself. The qualities you admire in others are actually qualities within yourself that you may not yet be aware of or have not yet manifested in the physical realm. Identify why you admire these people, love and look up to them. Chances are, the reasons would be the same or similar for each person which will give you some guidance into your own qualities that you can bring to light. Write at least 2 reasons for each of the 3 individuals. Take your time for this one and really think about what attracts you to find these people interesting, loveable and admirable.
8. Write down the names of 3 people in your life that you don’t enjoy being around and write the reason why…
In order to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually, we must look at all aspects of the self, the positive and the not so positive (I rarely use the word negative). Yes it might not be the prettiest sight to see, but that’s not the point. If you want to elevate, you must admit to yourself aspects of yourself that are not serving you. Once you identify these and come to accept them, find ways in which you can let go of or bring them in a more positive light. For example, if one of the reasons you don’t like to be around “Johnny” is because he is too loud and talks too much see why this bothers you so much. Is it because you want to express yourself that way and cannot, or is it because you want to also be able to be as open in a crowd as he is…Of course this is just an example, but you get the point. Always remember that everything we see it is part of our perception, so the way we perceive others to be is because we can recognise those qualities. One cannot see and identify something they are not familiar with. Highlight 2 reasons for each one without judgement, just observe, explore and identify these.
9. If your life was a painting, what would it look like?
The million-dollar question and one of my favourite ways of discovering my life’s mission. If you could paint your life, what would it look like? What colours would you use? Are there people in it, what places are in this painting? Where is it set? All these clues would give you an idea of how your life is looking like in this moment. Be open to look at all the details and be honest with yourself. Use your creativity to completely express your life in the now.
10. If your ideal life would be a painting, what would it look like?
An extension from the above, this question prompts us to look at the bigger picture of life, and how we would like to be living. Using the same outlook from the above, what colours would you use here? What is in it? Where is it set? What are you doing in this painting? Who is in it? Let your imagination come out and find your guidance from within, trying to not let your ego guide with desire. Once you have identified this, paint the picture in your own words and bring both scenarios together (question 8 and 9) and see what is the difference between the life you are living now and the life you would want to be living from your most authentic self? The difference between the two can give you clues about what you could change or introduce more into your life so it can lead to the latter scenario. What are some steps you can take to start moving towards the life you would want to be living? This idea of course is not to stir you away from the present moment, but to simply allow yourself to connect with that inner part of you which can guide you towards living as your most authentic self. Self-development is a practice we engage in daily. We cannot continue to go back to the moments we once lived and be stuck in the past, because those moments are now gone. Remind yourself with each inhale that you are part of a new experience, and then let it go with each exhale. Self-discovery and exploration of the self requires patience and openness for what we have failed to recognise or what we can further bring to light about ourselves.
Give yourself enough respect to honour your existence, respecting every part of yourself. Find what you have come here to be of service for, and enjoy the ride.
We are in an evolving stage within society, where women are finally starting to be given the opportunity to shine for their abilities. We see more women CEO’s now than ever, single mums doing an amazing job, successful female athletes and so on. It’s a wonderful thing to see that we are “allowed”/free to express our ability to just make things happen. Having been one of these women who was climbing the corporate ladder and ended up in high management roles, I also noticed a decline in my feminine energy. I became so focused on constantly doing, on being on the move to continue to achieve, to get things done, to work in competitive markets. Whilst this was bringing me more financial growth, success and recognition, I became more and more distanced with my feminine self. Looking back, I understand why people would say they felt intimidated by me, but in that moment I couldn’t really see why. My internal self was soft and sweet, but the way I was projecting myself was with such a strong force of achieving everything I wanted which was simply confusing. So why did this happen?
Feminine energy is known as nurturing, one of connection, of constant flow, soft in approach and gentle in actions. This doesn’t mean we cannot be leaders, on the contrary this is what makes us fantastic leaders. But due to the competitive dynamic we have been taught to strive between men and women, we strive to become more masculine in the way we go about things. We want to show that we can be just as productive as men are, so we take on a more dominant approach. This is of course not our fault, but in this state we ignore that inner female power we truly have. Being a strong female does not mean we have to give up being nurturing, kind and flexible to change. On the contrary, these are some of our best qualities that make us amazing and strong. We don’t need to become like a man in order to run a company, hold a household, or be really good at what we do, we can just be ourselves and embrace all that we are.
I have been in a conundrum about this, because over the years I have become so used to taking on the role of The independent woman, being able to do everything for myself, and whilst this felt good, my relationships with men failed. Most of my ex boyfriends would say to me that they felt as though they couldn’t give me anything, and for years I was so confused about what they meant until recently when I finally gave myself the time to reflect and understand it all. I wanted to feel protected, loved and looked after, but because I was able to do that for myself, I did not allow them space to do it also. In the end, we’d end up breaking up, because the energies would not match. When a relationship has too much masculine energy, it simply won’t work. My inner feminine energy was craving the man to appreciate me as a goddess, a soft gentle female because naturally those qualities are within me. But how I have been expressing myself over the years has completely blocked this energy to be shown to others. I was completely depriving myself from feeling all these wonderful qualities and being adored, because I was so focused on constantly achieving, of being on the go all the time that moments like these brought very little for me.
So what are some aspects we can focus on to connect with our feminine energy?
CONNECT WITH YOUR BODY
The energy centre in the body which governs the feminine energy is the sacral chakra, located in the pelvic area. Its element is water because it flows and moves freely. As women, we need to learn how to become more connected with our physical body. Our body is naturally curvy and softer than a man’s. Don’t confuse this for less strength though, let’s not forget we are able to carry a little one inside of us for 9 months. Look at yourself in the mirror naked, and start to appreciate every curve, every part of yourself. Honour your body and its amazing ability to move freely. Touch your skin and feel how soft and sensitive it is. Appreciate your breast and don’t be afraid to wear clothing that emphasise these, not to show off to men but to embrace your womanhood. Play some music and just let your body flow to the rhythm, without any outcome other than exploring your feminine self. Yoga is a great way to channel our femininity by connecting with our body and its movement. Some poses focus solely on the activating the sacral chakra and it’s truly magical when you allow your body to naturally move. Activating the sacral chakra requires us to move our hip area freely, to just let go and simply allow the hips to move, opening and releasing all the tension built in over the years, whether this is physical, mental or emotional. When we release this tightness, we feel lighter, more creative and open to exploring our sensuality and femininity. It’s important to note that the way you dress doesn’t necessarily define your feminine energy. You could wear the most sophisticated dresses, but if you project a strong-willed, powerful and loud character, your femininity takes a back seat. In the same way, you can also wear a pair of jeans and a casual tee and still be very feminine. It’s all in the energetic field, not in the physical realm.
BE OPEN TO RECEIVE
This one was a biggie for me and in some ways I am still learning to become comfortable with receiving. Having learnt to do everything on my own for many years, I did not accept any help from others. It’s true I was able to do it all on my own, but this came with a price and that was stress and becoming so hard on myself. The feminine energy receives openly without having to analyse everything. This type of energy empowers us to invite others to help us at times, by acknowledging that even if we can do everything ourselves, we can also welcome others to help. A few months ago, I was walking to the airport in Naxos to catch a flight. The airport was about 10 minutes away from the place I was staying at and my good friend who is a man offered to walk with me. My suitcase was heavy and two of the wheels broke, so it was very difficult to drag behind me. He offered to carry the suitcase, and I kindly declined saying it’s not that heavy. Knowing me very well, after a few minutes of walking he stopped, looked at me and asked me again. I said it was not a problem, that I could do it. He then looked at me again and said “Miriam, this is your problem. I know you can do it, I can see you struggling without you showing it but I want to do it for you, it’s in my nature, let me help you”. Not really understanding the big fuss, I allowed him to carry my suitcase. Arriving at the airport he looked at me, sweaty and puffing and said “Woman you are really something. This suitcase is heavy and broken, how can you just carry it with such ease? You are a woman, let a man help you sometimes!” And it is then I realised the masculine energy within me was still the dominant one. I realised that I have been so hard on myself and deprived my feminine energy to the point that even physically challenging experiences would no longer get to me. Although I thought this was great at first, I also realised that it was not healthy for my inner womanhood. Accepting help doesn’t make us weaker, it simply allows us to be looked after whilst always knowing that if it came to it, we could handle any situation on our own.
The throat chakra or vishudi is the energy centre in the body responsible for the way we communicate and express our ideas to the world. By nature, women who have a balanced feminine energy of expressing themselves are just as great listeners as they are communicators. Think of a female friend who is so open to listening before she provides her opinion. And then think of another female friend who communicates very freely but does not really listen. Which one is more enjoyable to be around? The feminine self is not afraid to listen, pause and then speak. A masculine energy approach is always more inclined to debate and express opinions first, fighting for what they believe is right. Neither is wrong nor it should be denied, but as women we have this amazing ability within ourselves to channel our inner power by listening, by being open to allow others to express themselves, knowing that we are completely comfortable with our own truth and not needing to impose this on anybody else. And when we do decide to speak, we do so with grace and ease.
Tapping into your feminine energy doesn’t mean giving up your goals, dreams and denying yourself from your abilities. It means being a strong, empowered and confident woman who remains true to her natural state of also being understanding, compassionate and kind. A nurturing woman can be an amazing leader, just as a strong-willed man can do so. The secret is not in the outcome, but in the way we manifest our behaviour. It’s not wrong to be strong, independent and powerful, but always keep your natural feminine edge because that is what makes us unique and remain true to ourselves.
Practicing mindfulness is not the easiest thing to do especially since most of us are living in a rush, always planning for the next thing ahead. Very rarely, we allow ourselves to just be still, in the moment, with no thoughts of the past or pressure of the future. It’s not our fault, in a way society has convinced us that this is the most effective way of living, and indeed sometimes things move quickly in life. But it’s important to take time for yourself, to acknowledge your existence and to connect with your physical, mental and emotional self in order to gain more balance and grounding in your life.
FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH
How often have you given yourself some space to just focus on your breathing? After all, it is what keeps us alive, yet we take it for granted, paying very little attention to it. Our breath directs everything and the rhythm of it indicates your current state in life. If your breath is shallow and fast, in this moment you may feel anxious, stressed and your life may be moving very quickly. If it is slow, balanced and steady, it can indicate a feeling a peacefulness and calm. Allow yourself some short daily breaks, in which you just sit still with your breath and assess what is going on within you. Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale through the mouth, allowing yourself to experience each inhale as a new moment and every exhale the opportunity to let go. This will help you bring it to a steady pace, bringing a state of tranquillity to your whole self, the mind, body and soul.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Our lifestyle has become so fast paced, that we have learnt to multitask very well. Indeed this is a good skill to have, but it doesn’t always benefit your overall well-being. Throughout your day, whilst you are in the midst of an activity, just stop for a moment and acknowledge what you are actually doing in the present moment. If you are replying to an email, stop for a moment, take a deep breath and bring your attention completely to the fact that in this moment, you are typing an email, letting go of any other thoughts for the next activity you will take part in. If you are having dinner with friends, take a moment to just look around you, acknowledge each person taking part in this experience with you and all that is happening in this present moment. Learn to savour each moment, letting go of any other distractions. Bringing your attention in the now teaches you to surrender to this moment, without having to go ahead and think of anything else. Things can change in a second in life, so to truly live every moment we have, we must actually allow ourselves to really be in it and experience it fully.
The practice of meditation itself includes both of the above points, because ultimately meditation is about being still, in this moment, completely letting go of any thoughts, feelings and actions. It sounds complicated, but we all practice it at some point without actually knowing we are doing it. Take 10 or 15 minutes every day (usually first thing in the morning or evening before you go to sleep is the best). Get yourself in a comfortable sitting position, keeping your back straight or you can lie down. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths, inhaling through the nose, hold for 2 seconds and then exhale through the mouth, completely emptying the lungs. This will bring your body in a state of complete relaxation. After your breathing exercise and with your eyes closed, perform a full mental body scan. Go through each part of your body, starting with the feet and finish with the whole head and mentally look at all parts without judgement; just acknowledge how your body is feeling in this moment. Being aware of your breath, just sink in deeper and let yourself relax. If you have thoughts coming to your mind, let them be, they will go away. Follow the flow of your breath, knowing that with each inhale you are bringing fresh new supply of oxygen into your body and with every exhale you let go of anything that you need to release. Perhaps this will be challenging for the first few times, but the more you practice this, the more you will learn to enjoy it and savour this moment. After you have reached a centred, balanced self, if you are lying down you can turn to your right side of the body and just stay there for about a minute and then come to a comfortable sitting position and open your eyes. If you have been sitting, you can just gently open your eyes. And when you decide it’s time to get up, do so in a gentle way, allowing yourself the time you need to do so.
Very often, the yoga students attending my classes tell me that they don’t have the time to meditate and my response is always the same: Learn to give yourself the respect to honour your body and your existence on this planet, and this means that you must focus on you first before you get on with others.