How I Learned to Love Myself

Name: Erin
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Occupation: High School Student and Yoga Assistant

I guess I never really realized how lost I was until I found myself… until I loved myself.

Yoga is the reason for my loving myself. Teenage years are some of the roughest years, the time when you are searching for yourself. But in reality, that’s silly… we are one person, we are unique, we are what we are. I don’t think it’s a matter of searching as much as it is about accepting: accepting who we are and then falling in love with the way God created us. I believe that once we can do that… that is when we have “found ourselves.”

When I was in 8th grade, I came home to a dark house and all I could hear was crying. Once I made my way to the living room, my mom told me the news that my dad had passed away. My dad had been in an out of rehab, which meant he was in and out of my life. I couldn’t control the way he acted but I knew he loved us so much. After his death I was ok as I knew that everything happens for a reason and that my daddy was in heaven with Jesus.

Looking back on grades 9-11, I realize now how I tried to control everything, especially what I ate and how much I exercised. Controlling these things was the only way I could feel good about myself. I guess I controlled those things because I couldn’t control that my dad had to go.

Over the past year yoga has become something more than exercise for me; it has become a lifestyle. I used to try to control everything about myself but then my mom taught me, “Who is there to really impress?” I guess before yoga the person who I was trying to outdo and impress was myself. I was trying to “better” myself by cutting back on food, keeping up with the latest nutrition fad so that I would look not just ok, but great. But I never achieved great. Exercising nonstop and eating all the “right” foods was never enough. There was no way I could out-do myself. I was trying to control my own life instead of just going with the flow and letting God do the rest.

After a year of practicing at Evolution Power Yoga, I started realizing a change in my life. I was not sure what it was but it was contagious. I had to go to yoga. Yoga had become a part of me.

Working at a local grocery store, I worked my butt off for a year to save for yoga teacher training. Finally it came. My training was an intensive teacher training (200 hours in 18 days, 14 hours a day). I made friendships with everyone in the training, including the instructors. I learned so much more than how to teach yoga: I learned how to listen to others and how to truly be myself. I learned that I am perfect, whole and complete, just the way I am.

Once the training was over, I fully accepted my body and myself. I was so grateful for what my body had accomplished (3-4 yoga classes a day) and the surprising ways in which my body physically changed. I now feel leaner, lighter and happier, however I believe I feel that way less because of my physical nature and more because of my self-acceptance. I am so much kinder to my body now because I am so grateful for everything that it has done for me.

It is exciting and unbelievable to me that by the young age of 17, I am a 200-hour yoga instructor and a 30-hour Budokon Yoga instructor. Yet I know that this is just the beginning of my life. I have so much love, joy and passion to share with people. I receive so much enjoyment from assisting classes at my yoga studio and I am constantly learning new things.

Before yoga I thought that all life had to offer was high school, college, marriage and then life would be over. And I wondered, “What is the point of learning new things if that’s all there is?” After being in this adult world I now understand how flawed that thinking is. Life is just STARTING! And I am so excited and overwhelmed by all the opportunities that I have. I am so thankful for the strong, flexible body that allows me to be a vessel for this beautiful practice, and I never want to stop learning. I want to keep shining the light that God has given me so that I may use it to brighten the lives of others.

Erin is a senior in high school this year. She is a certified 200-hour Yoga Teacher and a 30-hour Budokon Yoga Teacher. She plans to do more yoga training and massage training after graduating from high school.




Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.

Follow The Yoga Diaries on Facebook here.

Advertisements

My Yoga Story

Name: Elizabeth Anna
Location: Southern California, USA
Occupation: Olympic Gymnast & Medalist, Actress, Artist, Author, Entrepreneur and Yogi

I have been an athlete for much of this life, having trained in dance and gymnastics. Quite naturally, from the moment I heard of yoga, I gravitated towards it as a new form of exercise. My initial understanding of yoga was that it was a combination of stretching, balancing and holding poses, all of which I knew to provide a wonderful core work out.

I attended my first yoga class; It was a Hatha class, and there were five other people in attendance, not including me and my friend. We began with the basics and slowly moved through different asanas. As we did so, I noticed my impatience with the slow pace and the seemingly basic nature of the poses. The instructor repeatedly chose to use me as an example of the improper way to do the poses, stopping the class so that everybody could observe me doing the pose improperly. I truly never thought at the time that I could, after 20 years of training in dance and gymnastics, be used as an example of how not to do a basic downward facing dog, yet there it was. At the time I didn’t understand the finite adjustment required within the form in order for the energy and balance to flow freely within the pose.

My first experience with yoga left me feeling picked on, frustrated, annoyed and fairly stretched out. The next years saw me trying out the different disciplines of yoga, all-the-while seeking to experience the harmony and lasting inner peace that I knew could be experienced during the practice of yoga…but not yet knowing how to make it so.

Through one conscious, empowered choice, I “woke up” and life changed. I stopped smoking after many years, with no side effects, no cravings, and no desire to go back. And I realized that “Consciousness” made it so. I read a book, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, by Allen Carr, and in the book the author asked me to pay attention to my breath. In other words, be conscious of my breath as I took a drag off my cigarette, be conscious of my thought and feeling as I breathed in the smoke and blew it out, be conscious of my thought before reaching to grab another one. All of the conscious attention on myself was causing me to smoke less and less as I read the book, until by the end I threw away the remaining pack. From that moment on I never desired another cigarette again. Consciousness is Supreme Presence, the calm poise of thought, feeling and action in any given moment. Destructive behavior of any sort shall not thrive where consciousness resides.

“Freedom of Peace”- artwork by Elizabeth Anna

I began meditating twice a day, half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the evening, ever conscious of the movement of my breath in and out. The inner peace and moments of harmony began to expand beyond my morning meditation session and well into the rest of my day. Bringing my conscious attention to the movement of my breath throughout the day brought the harmony of my meditation into every aspect of every day. I was practicing the living meditation.

It was around this time that I was introduced to Anusara Yoga by way of John Friend, the originator of Anusara. The understanding of the inter-connectivity of life and our eternal interaction with the Divine flowed through the very practice of Anusara Yoga. Anusara Yoga perfectly matched my new understanding and my evolving consciousness.

Yoga, the conscious breath, is the vehicle by which the light of God flows in, through us and then back out unto It’s Wondrous Self. The asanas help to gently guide this energy to specific areas of focus to purify, bless, heal and renew the body in that particular area.

What was first a stretching workout, that any gymnast or dancer could do, evolved into a dance with God, a celebration of unity. Now, I practice breathing through different yoga asanas every day, whether it be for ten minutes or 90 minutes. The practice of yoga allows me the experience of resting in the balance point between outer and the inner, the point from which all creation takes place, that place of total awareness, harmony experienced. I have found myself quite naturally incorporating simple asanas, and conscious breathing exercises at different points throughout the day, helping me to re-center, after or while working at the computer, or after listening to someone express anger or sorrow.

The conscious attention to the breath, applied throughout the day, whether walking, stretching, working, or sitting, is “The Living Yoga” experienced; the eternal dance with the Divine, Great Spirit, the Mighty I Am Presence, God. And it is from this glorious place of presence, of conscious awareness that life is meant to be lived. Namaste.

Elizabeth Anna is an Olympic Gymnast and Medalist, an actress, artist, author, entrepreneur and yogi. She lives with her husband and creative partner, Jacob Daniel, in southern California where they  produce music, create art and are currently writing a series of books for both adults & children alike. Two of the short stories can be found on their website and downloaded through the Kindle and Nook platforms. To check out their Wisdom Blog, downloadable art, short stories and music visit: www.OneDropWithinTheWave.com

Follow on Twitter @: EOTL_BettyOkino
Like the Band page on Facebook @:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/EOTL/310124985667090?ref=ts&sk=app_129982580378550

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.

Follow The Yoga Diaries on Facebook here.

The Living Yoga

Name: Jacob Daniel
Location: Southern California, USA
Occupation: DJ, Producer, Artist, Author, Entrepreneur and Yogi

Artwork by Jacob Daniel.

Allowing my own personal yoga to bubble up from within, collect in my heart and then to consciously guide it, as to how it may express through my every thought, word and action – is a much different perspective of yoga than I had when I unknowingly stepped upon this path. My first perspective, which was shared widely among western men, was that yoga was basically for sissies who couldn’t or chose not to play competitive contact sports. My first class was attended in an attempt to win the favor of someone, and had nothing to do with breath, balance, calm or deep connection with the Divine within.

As I stretched fairly easily through all of the poses (I was playing collegiate soccer at the time and was in fair shape), I was marveling at the facts that not only did these people meet in a room to stretch together multiple times a week, they were paying to stretch together. It is safe to say that I did not instantly awaken to the gift hidden within yoga.

Years passed. Yoga enters and leaves, enters and leaves. Each time a little more presence is brought to the experience, as thankfully the difficulty in actually holding some of the more advanced poses offered a degree of challenge which required focus. During those handful of experiences, which happened over about 10 years or so, yoga became less associated with stretching and became a workout, something physically demanding and strangely relaxing.

Years passed. Meditation enters my life on a wave, and I am given an understanding that there is stillness contained within yoga, it is that calm, golden core of energy that I had tapped into while playing soccer when “in the zone.” I understood why it felt so relaxing, even as I moved. As soon as I was keenly and acutely present, the stillness from within would begin to flow out and seemingly guide my movements through an outer hush. During this time yoga evolved from a workout and something physical into something mental which allowed for becoming calm and centered, each time sensing the power that rested within the deep calm.

Next came my introduction to Anusara Yoga and a reinforcement of a major change that was occurring in my life, as my understanding of God was changing and expanding. The underlying philosophy and practice of Anusara is connecting with the Divine within us, and the idea of being an extension of the very energy that is God, was rapidly expanding within my consciousness. I had recently had an experience that gave me great insight into this seemingly invisible connection to the Divine.

Artwork by Jacob Daniel.

While sitting with my love, Elizabeth, I was describing a new understanding that I was given about our connection with God. I held in my hand a large rough-cut crystal. Science has discovered that crystals have a consciousness operating within them, which causes them to grow as they do. Knowing this, I said, “…then that means that if we break a little chunk of this crystal off, we will have a little piece of the Original Consciousness, contained within the little piece of crystal. The consciousness within the little crystal is forever linked to the Original big consciousness within the big piece of crystal, by the fact that it came from there. It is forever linked to it’s Source.”

Understanding what this meant caused me to realize my connection with God, and how it was unbreakable. With this blockage in understanding cleared away, a sharp sensation like a needle pierced through my side. I instantly grabbed it as if I had been shot, yet found to my surprise that it was not painful, it simply felt as if something had been released, as if a cork was removed to allow water to flow. I laughed and cried for an hour or so, feeling a heightened vibration within.

After focusing upon this connection with God with greater regularity, it became a simple obvious knowing that was always in the back of my mind, “I have an unbreakable connection to God.”

My love and I continued our practice with a few Anusara CDs. In between sessions I would find myself stretching more and more, and breathing consciously as I stretched. I was moving based on what I felt in my body. I was allowing my body to guide me into each asana. My own personal yoga was coming from within.

Then one day I asked myself, because I had recently posed the same question to another, “What is yoga to you?” It wasn’t until I asked the question that the answer came and gave me a deeper understanding. The natural expansion of yoga in one’s life, or any spiritual practice for that matter, is to completely fill one’s life with the practice. I had never thought about it, yoga “completely” filling my life. In an attempt to understand what that could mean my imagination produced an image of what life would be like “filled” with yoga, every breath conscious, every movement deliberate. Then I realized, yoga has been the physical preparation for existing permanently within the awakened or enlightened state of being, being consciously aware always of our connection with and the presence of God, union with the Divine. Shortly after this the “Living Yoga” and the “Heart Breath” came forth.

Breathe through the heart as often as possible to experience peace and true happiness and may all paths be showered with blessings and wondrous awakening.

Jacob Daniel is a DJ, producer, artist, author, entrepreneur and yogi. He lives with his wife and creative partner, Elizabeth Anna, in Southern California where they produce music, create art and are currently writing a series of books for both adults & children alike. Two of the short stories and an essay can be found on their website and downloaded through the Kindle and Nook platforms. To check out their Wisdom Blog,  downloadable art, short stories and music visit: www.OneDropWithinTheWave.com.

Follow on Instagram @: EOTL_ElizabethAnna
Like the Band page on Facebook @:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/EOTL/310124985667090?ref=ts&sk=app_129982580378550

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.

Follow The Yoga Diaries on Facebook here.

Blessed to Be Me

This week’s Yoga Diaries are being presented in honor of the 15th Anniversary of
The Atma Center of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.


Name: Almitra Hakeem (spiritual name, Shantibindu)

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Occupation: Yoga Instructor

I’m writing on this beautiful summer weekend as I spend time with my personal Sadhana (practice) which includes nurturing all of the forms of my being: spiritual, mental, physical, emotional and energetic. All of my tools are valuable instruments: sound, breath, awareness, movement and stillness. With regular classes and yogic studies I have learned and remember that the wisdom of Satyananda Yoga® teachings is exactly what is needed in my life, learning and teaching circles. I’m feeling very blessed to be me right now.

The place to which God sent me, after a loud inner cry for help, was Atma Center. I’m grateful to have a long-term relationship with teachers who hold space for me to grow, and I’m living in a space of awareness that growth doesn’t happen overnight but rather little by little, over time.

“No one else can do your growing up work for you,”  Swami Atmarupa would say, all these years giving me a gentle nudge forward. I wouldn’t be living in the space of grace without my teachers at Atma center, teachers who have introduced me to and taught me how to use our awesome God-given inner tools: awareness, breath, life force, meditation, subtle movements, sound, and many more.

Over the last fourteen years, my yoga practice has moved me from being 75% insane, 70% in pain, 80% physically blind, and an emotional basket case, to being a more calm, less stressed person with normal vision. And from my teachers I have experienced unyielding patience; they have never given up on me, they have invested in and had faith in me, and they have always seen in me that which I thought could not awaken. This has brought me great healing. I continue to learn, to grow and to improve every day. I see this. My heart is full of gratitude. Om.

Shantibindu has worked in the movement arts for years, with extensive experience in dance and Tai Chi. She first encountered yoga in a book store in her early twenties and remembers it as something “that looked weird and made me feel really good.” Shantibindu led programs in dance and movement for children in local libraries, and this experience makes her particularly effective at teaching yoga to kids and teens. When asked why she teaches yoga, Shantibindu responds that she has “an unyielding desire to assist myself and others in attaining greater awareness of living a harmonious life. Satyananda Yoga® practices move each practitioner closer to that awareness.”

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.

Follow The Yoga Diaries on Facebook here.

“Seeing” Through Yoga

Name: Krissie Jane Penney
Location: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Occupation: Massage Therapist, Reflexologist,Yoga Instructor & Owner of “The Lila Centre”

Photo by Flickr user Mokarta Graphic.

I have no other way to describe my childhood or teenage years other than to use the word “lost.” I was brought up in a regular family, in a regular neighborhood and never had to go without. Even at a very young age I did know how fortunate I was in comparison to so many other children. But despite that, I was sad….

About what? Good question. I didn’t like how people were mean to other people, how money seemed to drive people to evil, how people were judged on their appearance, or how everyone around me seemed to accept all of this in almost a defeated way. Why wouldn’t anyone change these things? It seemed so obvious to me what was wrong, how could others not see it?

I can remember the moment I was told who God was. Church was not a part of my childhood nor was religion. My father had lost his father at a very young age and didn’t feel we needed to attend church as he was so angry with religion and God. I was taken to a church by some friends, to a group called awanas, an evening play group where they educated children about the Christian religion. I could not believe what I was being told. These people seemed to have all the answers, at the tender age of eight. But the more I was told the less I believed it. I mean, really – There was a giant wooden boat with every animal on it and everyone in China was going to go to hell? It didn’t seem right at all. So, I gave up on the notion and decided that all religions were some sort of brainwashing cult. In my eyes, they passed judgment on others for no reason, just like the government or teachers in school. I wanted no part of that.

As a teenager I sunk deeper into depression. I suffered from anorexia nervosa, got into drugs and excessive drinking, and even had a couple of suicide attempts. Nothing mattered: not my future, not my parents, nor my friends. I moved out of my parents’ house at age 17 and into a drug house with my at-the-time boyfriend. He was verbally and physically abusive towards me. Every day was a big party. And being in such a state all the time really made me forget what kind of world I was living in. At the time I really thought I was happy.

Photo by Flickr User Vladimir I U L.

One night we were at a friend’s house at a party. I had been drinking and we all decided to indulge in some substance abuse. I had too much. I remember sitting on a couch and thinking, “This is bad, so bad. I think I am actually going to die.” The next thing I knew I was not in my body at all but I was above everyone in the room, looking down. I looked fine, but what was going on? I had this overwhelming feeling that life was a game. And I was losing terribly. The rest of the evening was a blur. I woke up the next morning scared to death. After that moment I just knew there was something more than this world. But what? I mean religion seemed so unbelievable. So I decided to follow the “Krissie” religion. I believed in God but not religion. I didn’t want to be a loser in this giant game. I needed to make myself a better person.

I quit the drugs, which was unbelievably easy after my experience. I applied for university and off I went to the nation’s capital. I was going to show people what I had seen, I was going to open the eyes of the world and help to change it, through journalism and television. People love TV!! I really did love University. I loved Ottawa. Coming from a small town it was such a change and it was so exciting. I did very well in the year at Ottawa University.

One morning I was in lecture hall and I found it a bit difficult to focus on the board. I had to move up to the front. “Bizarre!” I thought to myself. I called my mother and asked her to make an appointment with the eye doctor, as I obviously needed some glasses. I came home and off to the doctor I went. She flicked through the lenses asking, “Better or worse?” over and over. “My goodness this is taking some time,” I thought to myself. She left the room and asked if it would be ok to look into the back of my eyes. She took her light and looked, then left the room again. “Just give me a prescription so I can go home,” I impatiently thought to myself. She returned and asked simply, “Do you have a valid driver’s license?” “Yes,” I replied. “I’m sorry. I’m contacting the DMV and having it suspended immediately. And, I’m sending you to a specialist in the city. There is something wrong.” Shock waves ran through me. I didn’t know what else to even say other than “Ok.”

I saw the specialist not long after. I am legally blind, I will never drive again, never see the overheads again…. So I dropped out of university. I couldn’t hack it without being able to take my notes or see the TV in class. “It’s called Starguardts, very rare, only three people in the province have it. There is no known cure,” the specialist had explained.

Every possible negative feeling ran through me. HATE. I hated everything and everyone. And WHY? Why me? I was trying to be a better person and this is what I get? I went back to drinking, partying and not really caring. I felt sorry for myself and anyone that might have to be around me. I worked in a local restaurant and I met some good people, but nevertheless hated the work. One of the guys I worked with in the kitchen became one of my dearest friends. He was lost like me. He was scared to come out of the closet and I was scared to live. We decided one day to go to a yoga class. I don’t much remember how or why it even came up. But, we went.

Kerry, the teacher, was my lifesaver! I was hooked after the first ten minutes. So was my friend Cory. Kerry was so calm. I left the class feeling like I was alive for the first time in two years. On my mat there was no eye problem, no pressure, no judgment. I was weak back then and had so much difficulty getting into any pose. I really did suffer through the physical part of the class. Savasana, oh Savasana. Meditation came so naturally to me. I found myself in the state I had encountered so long ago on that couch. Being able to see my life from an outside view and detach from the mess of life and take a moment in time to relax and breathe. It wasn’t scary this time, it felt right. We went every week. I just knew I wanted to do this, to teach this to people. This is how I could reach people. This is what I had been seeking for so long.

I went back to school. I became a Massage Therapist, a Reflexologist and finally a Yoga Teacher! My 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training warped my entire life into a great one. I had come a long way but this course was the cherry on top. I overcame my drug problems, my drinking problems, quit smoking, started eating healthy, let go of the unhealthy relationships and negativity around me and most importantly, I embraced myself for who I am. I did this all on my mat, through my asana. There are no words to describe the changes that occur in you once you practice yoga. It happens even if you don’t want it to, even when you think you are going for an exercise.

I know now why I lost my vision. If I had not, I would not be doing what I do today. I have helped people heal in the same ways yoga had helped me. Seven years of people I have helped. I am the owner of The Lila Centre, the first yoga studio to open in my small town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I work with my original teacher Kerry and three other wonderful teachers. I feel lucky, happy and blessed in ways I could never put into words. I love going to work. I am at Peace.

Krissie Jane Penney owns and operates The Lila Wellness Centre and Yoga Studio in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. She currently practices massage therapy, reflexology and teaches yoga three days a week and loves every moment of her job. Krissie owns her own house, has a wonderfully supportive boyfriend and family, an amazing roommate and two very special fur babies. Words by which Krissie lives, “I Am Legally Blind and I Love Me!” She believes that everyone should feel this way and plans to help to heal people until the day she dies.

Edited by Jeannie Page.

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.