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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Letter to a Heart Breaker

Dear You,

There are days when everything seems to remind me of you. When every song is about a lost love, and the breeze seems to whisper your name. You know who you are. You know how you have hurt me. You have haunted my dreams and shadowed my waking life. I am not a hater but I hate that I couldn't hate you. I hate that I loved you this much, and I hate that there are times when I miss you. I hate that behind my soft smile was everything you never saw or understood. It really was my fault, I made you my everything and so when you were gone, I was left with nothing. I feel I wasted good love on you. For a long time, there was a girl crying in my mirror and there was nothing I could say to make her feel alright.

But I have moved on now. A part of me might always miss you, but all of me deserves someone better. There are days when I miss you, but we both know that in reality, you missed out on a lot, that you missed out on me. I could hear every smile in your eyes, and I could feel everything you didn't say. You chose to not fit me into your plans and now I have chosen to tune you out of my mind. No one can see the scar you gave me, but I don't mind it anymore.  Its slowly fading away and the melancholy blues are getting softer.  And just when this caterpillar thought the world was over, here I am, a glowing butterfly. It is bittersweet, this love, but my spirit is alive, my heart speaks loud and I do everything my heart tells me to. So move on and when you have faced your fears and when all your promises are gone, when your heart starts to scream for me, you will see that I was the only one for you.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Yoga at the Barre

Hello Everyone!

Yes, that is how 'barre' is spelled,  if you don't like it, take it up with the French :) After receiving my teacher's approval I have decided to put up my first yoga video on youtube. For those of you who come to my classes, this is not new stuff. For those of you who have never tried stretching on the ballet bar, you have been missing out!!

It all started one day when I happened to see my ass while walking across a room. It seemed to enter the room a good 10 seconds after me. And so I did what every normal person does, i dusted off my puma's and jumped on the treadmill. After running for about 47 seconds, I stopped, leaned over into a forward bend, held on to the handles and dear life, and thought, 'This feels kinda nice.' What started as one stretch became a 10 min routine. Ideally, this bar would be a few inches lower, and it might also be nice if we had a bar a few inches off the ground, we could explore seated and supine poses.

     Many of my students love this stuff. They see it as a complete treat when we do it. It's great for your upper back, neck, shoulders and hips. Having the bar to hold on to takes out a lot of the work. It also helps that we take the balance factor out of the poses. The poses shown in this video are not meant to be held for long periods of time as you would in your regular yoga practice. The goal is to work on tight spots and help facilitate stretching. That being said these exercises are a great way to complement a routine yoga practice.  I am sure there are many more poses you could do. If you come up with anything new, would love to hear about it. Remember:
  •  Feel free to explore what your body likes, your options are only as limited as your imagination.
  •  Maintain a curiosity, and adopt a safe approach.
  • This is your practice. You control how you feel and where your body goes.
  • Give in to your body and your breath, the release will come.
  • The most important thing to do is to breathe. You are physically making space in your body each time you stretch, so send your breath there and see what you find.
You will see my husband, Emre in the background. I also have a cold, hence the sniffling. I am also fairly conscious about the camera and myself. I am also battling a recent addiction to Lays Sweet Southern Heat Barbeque Chips.

 If you are not sure of something, about how it should feel or how to get into it, feel free to contact me. I am more than happy to answer any questions. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me and my students. 


Friday, February 17, 2012

A Muslim Yogi's Affirmation

I am a practicing Muslim, I believe in Allah, I believe in the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and I believe in the Koran. I also believe in Yoga. I believe in my breath and my sighs, in my angles and my curves, in my twists and my turns and the voice in my heart.  I believe that you don't choose your sexuality, that everyone has a chance to go to heaven, that being rich is as much a burden as being poor, and that Islam and Yoga can co-exist. Somewhere along the road, it has been insinuated that I might not be a 'good Muslim' because I do yoga. This post is to address that voice and to quiet it. 

Yoga did come through Hinduism, there is no denying that, but we are grown up enough to understand that you can take your practice where you want it to go. Who says when you meditate, you can't call out to Allah, Jesus, Yoda or even the Candy Man? In the end, you know what is in your heart and no God will deny your truth.

I have a feeling my parents don't like to tell people I teach yoga, because they are embarrassed and maybe even ashamed that their daughter went all the way to the United States to get a degree in finance and instead, is teaching yoga. It seems blasphemous, is not glamorous, and I could probably make more money baby sitting. 

A lot of people don't realize this but if you look at the Muslim prayer, the actual routine, it is very similar to yogic poses. It has the mountain pose, hero's pose, forward bend, child's pose and a hand mudra. To someone like me, there are many similarities between these two deeply spiritual practices and I find a natural flow and balance in living as a Muslim yogi. I am NOT saying that Islam came from yoga, or vice versa, I am simply saying that yogis and Muslims are more alike than people realize. In a place like India where Hindus and Muslims live side by side, yoga is a way of life. I once read a story about an Indian Muslim man who woke up at 5am to say his prayers and then did his yoga routine. When asked if he felt yoga was in contradiction to his faith, his response was that from a purely physical point of view yoga helped him perform his prayers better. (You can read this great article here: Can't Yoga and Islam Get Along)

Islam and Yoga teach you to be true (satya), do Seva or Zakat, Ahimsa or Non Violence, Anekantvada or multiplicity of viewpoints and Non Possesiveness (Aparigraha). Allah never forbade me from loving him in a downdog or a shoulderstand. If anything we are taught to take care of our bodies, good health is a gift and we should not be 'defiling' it with bad habits. What about Sufism? Do whirling dervishes experience nirvana differently from a yogi working on his crown chakra?
Every year I fast during Ramadan. When we observe the fast, we are not supposed to eat from dawn to dusk. Yes, nothing, no food, no water. Since we follow the lunar calendar we have years where Ramadan falls during the summer. You are not allowed any food or water from about 5am to close to 8-9pm.  Every year I wonder if I can do it, how will I face myself if I want to give up. But at the same time I am excited about seeing if I can live up to the test. It truly feels like a detox of body and soul, when you can't have a single drop of water, and you have to go about your day, you will feel grateful for everything you have and everyone you love. You will pray for the poor and you pray God shows mercy on the people you're not crazy about. And I don't think Allah has the heart to refuse a starving man's prayer. So far, I have gotten through Ramadan pretty well and I always feel invigorated. I am able to teach yoga just as normal and I feel I have no right to complain when there are construction workers in third world countries who fast.

Zakat or almsgiving is no different from Seva. You give what you can, when you can. And if you don't have much to give, the fact that you had the intention is enough. And I think that's what it comes down to. The heart of Islam is all about intention. There is a principle of karma in Islam. Muslims don't believe in rebirth but you will be rewarded or punished for your deeds in the afterlife.  There is no need to question what happens to you, do what is right and you will be alright. We are constantly given choices, to eat halal or non halal, to believe or not believe, to stand up to an injustice or to be quiet. You 'give in' to the universe or to Allah and trust that all will be well. No prayer or fast is going to save you from an evil thought or a cruel deed. If you read the teachings of the prophet (PBUH) and other Islamic scholars, you are constantly encouraged to work on your intention, you are told that Allah will bless you and yours for being true in what you pray for, and even if you are not able to see your promise through, you will still be blessed because your intention was true. At the same time, you are not punished for having an evil thought, because in the end, you are human and you are not perfect. You are allowed to have bad thoughts as long as you are aware of them and don't act on them. So its fine if you are so mad you want to kill someone, as long as you don't actually go out and do it. This to me is no different from energy or vibes. You send out the right energy and it comes back to you. So why should Islam and Yoga be at odds?

Does this sound like a militant lifestyle to you? Does this sound like an extremist, suicidal, ignorant belief system to you? I hope not, because Islam is my heart and soul. I would be so lost without having Allah to turn to and yoga has brought me closer to Allah than ever before. Yoga taught me to trust my instincts and to listen to my heart. That I should do what I truly love and I will stop to exist and I will start to truly live. Is it a coincidence that Allah planned my life in such a way that I came to yoga, that I got jobs teaching yoga? That opportunities keep coming my way? I feel confident and strong, I am grateful for every toe Allah has given me that keeps me grounded in my tree pose, I am grateful for the joy I felt when my tight hamstrings finally gave in and opened up in standing head to knee, I am grateful for every breath that has freed me, for every sigh that has released me.  I feel like a child born out of Islam and Yoga. A child with no ego, no lies, only strength, courage, conviction, grace and compassion.

Namaste and Salaam.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Crash and Burn

So I have been taking ASL classes and in an effort to pick up the language quick, I have been looking at songs I like that are signed in ASL. I love this song and this band, Savage Garden, and I just had to share it. Darren Hayes is an awesome writer and this girl does a great job with the interpretation. 
I hope you enjoy it, share it and know that you really are not alone. I appreciate the affection you have shown me and am with you in spirit always. Always just a few notes away_/|\_


Monday, February 6, 2012

The Delicate Art of Saying NO!

One of my all time favorite teachers, Mr. Roga once said something that made a huge impact on my life. He
wanted me to 'mind' class. I am not sure if that term is used in the States. It simply meant I was in charge of my class, had to make sure everyone kept quiet and followed rules. If you knew my class, this was a huge responsibility :) So he asked me if i would do it and I hesitated. I pursed my lips and he leaned forward, looked into my eyes and said, 
'Dont think about it, just say YES. Sometimes, just say YES and you will figure out how to do it.' I said yes,and nothing special happened, but what Mr. Roga said has stayed with me. I have repeated it many times to friends and fellow yogis. For someone like me who is self-conscious and prefers to stay in the background, those two lines almost became a mantra of sorts.

But while Mr. Roga gave me the courage to say 'YES' to life i found I had to dig deep inside me to learn to say 'No'. Saying 'NO' has too much negativity associated with it.  Saying 'NO' means you might hurt someone, or disappoint or seem rude. Somehow I feel that the way I was raised also encouraged my reluctance to say 'NO'. You dont say NO to your elders, parents, teachers, neighbors, grocers, it doesnt matter. Saying NO was being defiant, challenging authority. Ironically though, I think my Dad liked it when girls stood up for themselves and went against societal norms. But I was too afraid of personal failure to explore taking a chance on disappointing my dad. Daddy issues..thats a whole other post!

No, saying 'NO' is not easy. But if Gandhi had not said 'NO', there would be no India. If Rosa Parks had not said 'NO', we would not have equal rights. Aung San Suu Kyi's graceful 'NO' gave her over 20 years under house arrest, she was not given a chance to see her sons grow up or go to her dying husband's bedside.  She has shown dictators and oppressive governments everywhere what true patriotism and loyalty is.

J. K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss!! (a freakin genius!), Steven Spielberg, Van Gogh, The Beatles, Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison! all said 'NO' to rejection and giving up on their dreams. Can you imagine a life without Horton, the lightbulb??, E.T., or yellow submarine?

No, saying 'NO' is not easy. But, once you get past the fear, the dread, saying 'NO' becomes saying 'YES' to life. Our bodies are constantly talking to us, giving us signals everytime we encounter a choice. If your heart is whispering 'NO', you should be saying 'NO'. When you say 'NO', you are saying 'YES' to spending time with your family, you are gaining self respect, even from the person you have turned down. Saying 'NO'shows your strength, your convictions, your integrity and your acceptance of life, feelings and limitations of body and mind.

Saying 'NO' brought me to yoga. In my personal practice, saying 'NO', has protected my knees and my wrists. When the time was right, my heart whispered 'YES, you are ready' and my body soared into back bends and headstands. Saying 'NO' has shown people that I am not a doormat.  Saying 'NO' to a destructive relationship brought me to my husband.  By saying 'NO' to other people's demands, I gave myself permission to be strong and confident, I learned to get comfortable in my own skin.  Saying 'NO' at the right time has brought me to my most honest, authentic self.  

And if you still find it hard to say 'NO' to that internal or external bully, maybe Dr.Cox here can show you how :)