What Does A Yogi Look Look?

Yoga is a vital part of my life. I feel so fortunate that it found me and I literally want to share it with everyone. However, sometimes I am acutely aware of how unaccessible it can feel to other people. Often I get the feeling that these inclusive constructs, poses and ideals can feel terribly exclusionary and only belonging to a very “special” group of people. I know I am not the only one who feels this way and have found great inspiration in Diane Bondy, Yoga International and the #WhatAYogiLooksLike campaign.

I decided to do my small part in the #WhatAYogiLooksLike campaign and will be starting my own version of the series with a set of interviews that I have planned to share here over the next few weeks. These interviews will showcase diverse yogis from all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and reasons for practicing yoga. I am absolutely loving the responses I am receiving so far. You will be hearing from new yogis and ones who have been practicing for years. You will hear from ones who see yoga as a completely spiritual practice and ones who see it as completely physical. They are various ages, shapes and sizes and a wonderful representation of #WhatAYogiLooksLike.

I am sharing my thoughts first and you will understand a bit more about what motivated this series. The questions below are what our yogis will be answering. If you are interested in being featured, I would love to have you share your perspective. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.

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When did you start doing yoga and why? I went to my first yoga class in 2008 after marathon training started to flare up and create new injuries in my body. I knew I needed help for: my tight hips, low back, and knee pain. I definitely found benefits for my body and pretty soon benefits for my mind starting creeping in. I gained more awareness of my feelings, thoughts, and actions. I had an excellent teacher who started introducing me to the other limbs of the yoga tree. My practice evolved to a different level after the murder of my father. I used meditation, the yamas and niyamas to begin my journey through loss and grief.

What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? I thought I would be “bad” at yoga because I was so inflexible. I thought that I could eventually get “good” at it by approaching class with the same type of goal-achieving mindset that got me to meet my educational and running goals. I used to think that I was not doing yoga correctly if I did not come out of class dripping with sweat and progressing in poses.

What is your favorite pose and why? Supta baddha konasana, reclining bound angle pose. This pose makes me feel incredibly open and vulnerable, which I am learning to be OK with. I feel it is very grounding and calming. I love putting one hand on my heart and one on my belly. These are two areas that I feel are often in conflict with each other (my gut feeling and my heart), I have been working on getting them to be more in line with one another, so I practice linking up my solar plexus chakra and my heart chakra with my breath.

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What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? Although I truly believe every body is a yoga body, that is not what is always portrayed and I would lie if I said that did not creep into my head sometimes and make me feel as though I was not worthy of this practice, especially in regards to being a yoga teacher.

One can be intimidated to see the Instagram yoga superstars who are: incredibly fit, thin, beautiful and overall, white. They are pictured doing “impressive” poses in bikinis on the beach and I feel like a complete fraud saying that I am also a yogini, and yoga teacher, but look nothing close to these portrayals of yoga.

It does bother me that sometimes I am one of the few people of color in a yoga class or particularly, at a workshop or training for teachers. I live in Southern California, where there is no shortage of diversity. However, I do not always feel like that diversity is aptly represented within the yoga community. I have to wonder why it can feel like yoga teachers are supposed to look a certain way and if this discourages others who do not fit this mold from pursuing an opportunity to share in the practice?

I have battled with some of these constructs mentally and even though it can shake my confidence a bit at times, I feel grounded in my practice and my right to be a yoga teacher. That has taken some time to build, but I know assuredly that I work on my practice both on and off my mat, and have the skills to speak from my heart and to share it with others. Yoga has given me the awareness that reminds me to focus on myself and what’s going on within the confines of my own mat. With that awareness, I am able to re-orient myself to my own practice and work within to be at peace with my own body, breath, heart, soul and practice.

Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? Yoga is now a huge part of my identity. Yoga has helped me re-establish a spiritual life and journey. There was a time when I did not want any part of spirituality, God or healing in my life, but I truly credit yoga with helping me to work on this part of myself and go within to explore what these things now mean to me.

I feel that yoga is a compliment to my identity as a Mexican-American woman. Mexicans are passionate, spiritual, emotional, and generally seeking connections with others and with the earth. Mexican woman, particularly, seem to have an innate sense of connection to themselves and others and I see yoga as a beautiful way to strengthen that connection.

Many of us cannot picture our abuelas doing yoga poses, but we can remember them making us yerba buena tea when we were sick, looking us in the eyes and know instinctively that something was wrong, and using touch as healing to comfort us when we were sick. There is something incredibly yogic about these connections to me and I wish more of my own people would find how these things link together and compliment our upbringing. I truly hope to see more people of my own, and all ethnic backgrounds finding (and teaching!) yoga.

What do you love most about yoga? Connection. Yoga has helped me find and continue to explore a deep connection within my own heart, soul, mind and body. It has increased my awareness of my connection to other people, animals and celestial beings. It has helped form more honest, meaningful connections.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? You do not have to be flexible, “good” at yoga, look a certain way, or be at a certain level to start (or at any point in your practice). You only have to have an open mind and step just a bit out of your comfort zone. Find a studio and teacher that resound with you. If the first class or teacher was intimidating, please find another one, immediately. If you are local, please join the inclusive community at Inner Evolution Yoga.

You can also start by trying some at-home practices through YouTube, YogaGlo or Yogis Anonymous. Please feel free to email me or comment if you would like suggestions of some of my favorite online teachers and practices.

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Thank-you for reading. It’s not always easy to put my insecurities and fears out there, but I truly hope to encourage more people to do yoga and spread the message that yoga is for everyBODY.

Intro to the Chakras: The Wheels that Heal

I am super excited to be hosting an Intro to the Chakras workshop at Inner Evolution Yoga on Saturday, June 4th from 1-4 PM.
If you have been following my blog or visit my spiritual blog Spiritual Bahana, you may have followed as I have been exploring my own chakras and doing some healing work. I have found a wealth of knowledge in Anodea Judith’s books, particularly Eastern Body Western Mind and I am deeply privileged that my yoga community at Inner Evolution Yoga is allowing me to share part of my journey and hopefully support others as they begin theirs, through the chakras.

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In the workshop, we will be discussing:

-What is a chakra?
-What are the characteristics of each chakra?
-What are the characteristics of a balanced chakra?
-What are the characteristics of chakra that is either excessive or deficient in it’s energy center?
-What are some physical characteristics that one may notice if a chakra is out of balance (ex: I feel that a -big reason why I sometimes experience migraines is because of an over-active third eye chakra)?
-What are some practical healing practices to balance my chakras?
-What are some yoga poses that I can do to balance my chakras?

The workshop breakdown will look like
1:00-3:00-Lecture and discussion on chakras.
3:00-4:00-Beginners level chakra balancing yoga class

I can literally talk about the chakras all day and I feel so excited that seemingly others may want to do that with me.

I would love to connect with you at this workshop. You can sign up online here or by calling (909) 798-2244. If you have any questions about the workshop, feel free to comment or email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.

For those who are not local, I am wondering if this information would be of interest to you? My third eye has been spinning (as it tends to do) and I am formulating how I could potentially offer this online, if there is an interest. What do you think? Any feedback is appreciated!

Exploring the Sacral Chakra

I declared 2016 as the year of CONNECTION and I continue to try to foster those meaningful connections with other people. I have been fortunate enough to connect with Maria, a friend I made from my reiki training last year, who is also passionate about spirituality, healing and overall wellness. She offered her beautfull house up this past weekend so we can discuss the chakras, explore creativity and drink wine. Lots of wine.

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I started off by sharing about the chakras, their definitions, functions, what they look like when they are excessive, deficient, balanced and methods of healing. I truly enjoyed having the space to share about a topic I feel so passionately about, especially with others who shared that curiosity. Sometimes I find it’s hard to talk with others about some of these spiritual or esoteric constructs without coming across as a complete kook.
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After discussing the chakras, we worked on our sacral chakra, specifically, through the flow of creativity. Maria provided us with tons of supplies and blank canvases to channel our energy.
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This is not my strong point. I feel like I can aptly express myself through writing, but feel lost and shy when it comes to visual art. This was my first time in my 32 years painting on a canvas and I had no idea where to start.
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I found myself continually asking my sister (who is much more visually expressive than I am. My sister is the one who painted Prince. Were still working through our denial of his physical departure from this realm.) what I should paint and how I should do it. She was the one who suggested the chakras with the minimalist background. I kept double checking with her and asking her to tell me what to do next. I think this is an area I need to work on more and continue to explore.
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Although this was out of my comfort zone, I am glad I explored this visual expression. I kept having to step back from criticism and just let it flow. I kept thinking about Elizabeth Gilbert’s discussion on creativity in Big Magic. She describes how the expression “creative person” is redundant. To be a person, she says, is to inherently be creative. We create things, that’s what we do and why we have evolved. I tried to keep that in mind when I was in doubt about my efforts.
How do you go about expressing your creativity?

Yin Yoga Off the Mat

The first time I went to a yin yoga class, I hated it. I thought it was boring and my monkey mind was spinning around as we held poses for what felt like an eternity, but was in reality, 5-8 minutes. I thought it was a waste of my time and preferred to spend my evenings getting a better “workout” by going to a vinyasa class or the gym. As I continued to train for marathons, my body continued to accumulate injuries. Eventually, my knee, foot and back pain brought me back to yin classes and although it took time, I begin to love it. It was in these classes that I first begin to soak up the philosophy and branches of the yoga tree and learn the benefits of time and stillness.

I teach yin yoga once per week now and often tell my students that I used to despise the practice. I can see looks of fear from some new students and can sense their discomfort and even anger in poses that are getting them deeper and deeper into their bodies, yet we continue to hold and hold and hold.

Dragon pose is one that is pretty confrontational. It’s a big stretch for the hips and groin. It gets deep into the hips and peels through emotional layers of the heart. It is very revealing about how one reacts when they are in an uncomfortable situation. I am sure that I have had a face of tension and agitation many times in this pose.

dragon pose

In my life off the mat and in my yin classes, what I have been trying to work is lengthening the time between a stimulus and a response. I tell myself that length of time should at least be five deep breaths and sometimes, even more.

In my yin classes, after my students hold a pose from anywhere between 5-8 minutes, I have been leading them to slowly come out of the pose and hold stillness for 5 breaths, before finding the movement that their mind and body is so strongly craving. I have been discussing how even though the stimulus of holding a pose is strongly leading to the response of wanting movement, can they add just five breaths of stillness between those two things and be at peace with the agitation?

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I am finding this difficult to do off the mat, but very beneficial when I actually succeed. This week I tried to be mindful of practicing the five breaths, when I felt the same discomfort that Dragon pose brings. I practiced the five breaths before replying to a triggering email, I practiced it before I analyzed something someone said to me at work, I practiced it before choosing my words with a student who was in trouble, I practiced it when my desire to stress eat rose up.

I think it definitely helped me make some better decisions and I am also sure there were times I forgot to use it and jumped to a less desirable reaction (an eye roll, an unkind word, a snappy comeback, a unnecessary Starbucks trip). However, just like asana, the other branches of the yoga tree are a practice. I hope to continue being mindful of this breath practice and become more aware of the time between my stimuli and response.

Soul Values

I just finished Rock Your Bliss’ 7 Weeks to Bliss program. The program helped me dig deeper and begin to explore the answers to the following questions:

  • HOW DO I ROCK MY OWN BLISS?
  • WHAT ARE MY SOUL VALUES AND HOW DO I GET GROUNDED?
  • HOW DO I WANT TO FEEL? WHAT WILL I CREATE?
  • WHAT DO I WANT, TRULY?
  • WHAT IS LOVE, BABY DON’T HURT ME. (NOW YOU’RE SINGING THAT SONG…)
  • THE WORDS I SPEAK CREATE MY REALITY. WHAT AM I LISTENING TO?
  • WHAT DOES MY FUTURE LOOK LIKE?
  • WHAT, WHO AND HOW CAN I LEARN TO TRUST?

I thoroughly enjoyed the program and am bummed that it’s over. I feel that it helped me establish some beautiful connections not only with myself, but also with others and get clearer on some of my heart’s desires. There will be another round of the program over the summer, if you are interested, you can click here to sign up.

In the first week of the program, we were led to discover our soul values. These are the things that bring us back home to ourselves, that make us feel most grounded and honest. I think of them as what I feel when my chakras are most in alignment. I feel safe, creative, empowered, trusting, truthful, intuitive and connected. These are my soul values:

  1. Yoga-This was easily my first value. Yoga is so important and necessary for my soul. Yoga for me is what happens both on and off my mat. It is critical for me to practice all of the 8 limbs of yoga and not just the asana or posture portions. Some of the necessary questions that I ask myself in order to bring me back to a connection with my soul and stay congruent with my values are; am I observing my breath? Did I make it to my mat today? Did I practice stillness? Am I breathing in between a stimulus and response? Am I practicing non-violence to both myself and in my thoughts to others? Am I practicing contentment or am I trying to distract myself from a situation? 100_3153
  2. Tribe-I first had chosen family, but changed it to tribe. Some of my family members are definitely part of my tribe, but there are also others who are not related to me that are there, or who I want to be there, that I lean on for support, inspiration, connection and community. I am still searching for members to add to my tribe, and as I make this a priority, I ask myself; am I being like the person I want to be around? Do I show up for others the way I hope they will show up for me? As I seek inspiration, am I also being inspiring?
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    some of my Tribe members

    3. Connection- I think this is the soul value of my soul values. Connection is the core of what I am seeking in all my other values. I desire deeper connections with others, a more honest connection to myself, the earth and all beings, the present moment and to my soul. Critical questions that I have been asking myself to help me honor connection are; how often am I scrolling through my phone and missing an opportunity to connect with someone-in line at the post office, on the couch with my husband, in the car as my step-son and I wait for his school bus? Am I seeking connection digitally, but missing the opportunities that are being presented in the moment? Am I giving myself enough time everyday to be still and quiet and listen to my guides? 

    connection to universe

    connection to universe

    4. Education-I first chose “knowledge” but switched it to education, because I realized knowledge just for the sake of knowing something isn’t always beneficial to my soul. I can gain knowledge through gossip, internet black holes and celebrity magazines, but it in no way feeds my soul. I think of education as the acquisition of knowledge with the INTENT to use it in a productive manner. Although it can be difficult, I try to separate myself from conversations that are only for the sake of gossip or spending my time reading about celebrity news. Learning has always been so important to me, but I want to make sure I am learning things that will feed into my other values. I also hope I am sharing that with others in a productive manner. I have the opportunity to do this through my yoga teaching and school counseling. I hope that keeping this value in mind helps me use this forum in the best possible way.

    Intro to Yoga Workshop

    Intro to Yoga Workshop

    5. Passion-I find that I need to feel compelled from my heart to do the work I do as a school counselor and yoga teacher. Most days, that’s easy to access, but some days, I am merely going through the motions. When I catch myself with low energy, a foggy mind or a bad attitude, I ask myself, why do I do this again? Sometimes, it is hard to formulate the answer, but it does always come back to the passion I have to help others. That passion is what fuels all my soul values and brings me back home to myself.15869420732_1306fec4ac_o

     I would love to hear from you. What are your soul values?

Gardein Beefless Tips

I do not love fake meats. Most do not taste very good and have far too many processed ingredients in them. I have found that I like most Gardein products. They do not have a weird, processed after-taste and their ingredients are pretty nutritious.

I have been loving the beefless tips lately and have been eating this meal about once per week.

gardein I found some beautiful asparagus at the farmer’s market last week, and sautéed them lightly in olive oil green onion. I only had them over heat for about ten minutes to maintain their crunchiness and nutrients. I sprinkled sea salt and added lemon zest on top before serving.

asparagus As another side, I sliced up two yams and lightly drizzled grapeseed oil on top. I sprinkled cinnamon, chili powder and cumin, mixed it all together and popped them in the oven at 375 degrees to bake for about 25 minutes.

The beefless tips already have a nice seasoning on them, so I just warm them through in a non-stick pan.

I made a quick sauce by whisking together vegan worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, tamari and grapeseed oil.

marinade I served up the yams, asparagus and beefless tips and topped it all off with the sauce.

relish This meal is comforting, filling, hearty and pairs wonderfully with a rich Syrah. It’s a great meal if you are craving a steak house type of meal, with no harm involved.

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Portland and 10 Year Vegiversary

When I saw the date finally announced for LA Vegan Beer Festival, I almost cried. My heart physically hurt. I have attended this event every year. It has always been scheduled in May and the date has now moved to June. I am usually off on a plane as soon as my school year is over and this year, I will be in India during Beer Fest. Super sad face.

My husband and I decided we would make our own vegan beer festival and what better place to do that, than Portland? March also marked my ten year vegiversary. In March 2006, I stopped eating meat and never looked back. This was definitely an occasion to be celebrated with massive amounts of vegan donuts.

This was our second trip to Portland. The first place that we have returned to in our travels as a couple. We knew after we left last time that we would definitely be back. It was hard to visit new places because I was eager to return to my favorites from before, but we still found some new favorites.

The weather is Portland was super spectacular. It was was sunny and warm. We were expecting rain and clouds and as Southern Californians, we were actually looking forward to a different climate. We still welcomed the beautiful skies and flowers in bloom.

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The first place we visited was The Bye and Bye and delved right in to Pretzel Knots and Chili Pie. All the food at The Bye and Bye is vegan. Their drinks are also pretty amazing. I had the Bye and Bye which was tasty and snuck up quickly.

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A few other favorites:

Bella Faccia Pizzeria

Vegan pizza and garlic knots. I almost high kicked when I saw they had a vegan option for garlic knots. They were super garlicky and super delicious.

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Voodoo Donuts

Necessary. That is all.

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Food trucks galore. We sampled a bit of this and that, but our favorite was a Korean truck with tofu tacos and burritos.

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Sizzle Pie

There were three different varieties of vegan pizza ready to be served. We took one of each, of course, and delighted in the vegan Cesar salad option. Rainier beer is my new favorite.

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Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ

A food truck so wonderfully located near a bar that allows you to bring outside food in, with purchase of a drink. I was happy to sit and have a beer with this huge amount of amazingness. We nearly ordered one of everything and I think the girl who took my order was surprised when I said I only needed two forks. We ate this all with no regrets and were happy we had a lot of walking ahead of us.

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A.N.D Cafe

Vegan brunch is hard to find where I am from. I was super appreciative to find this amazing cafe and tried to remind myself to breathe in between bites.

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We sadly rolled ourselves back on a plane after a few days and are back to sipping green juice and kombuchas.

Thank-you, Portland for the beautiful weather, delicious food, breweries, friendly people and memories.

Vegana Spotlight at Casa Coqui

My wonderful friend Jeshanah has started up a vegan, gluten-free, Puerto Rican restaurant! I have been fortunate enough to try some of their food and was blown away by the yucca fries, sweet and savory plantains and coconut custard (my favorite!). You can view the full menu hereCasa Coqui is currently available for pop-ups and festivals. You can join their mailing list by clicking here to hear about upcoming events or follow them on Instagram.

Jeshanah was kind enough to give me the Vegana Spotlight on her blog this week. You can read my post by clicking here. I share about my vegan journey, particularly as a Mexican-American and give some lifestyle tips to transition to veganism.

Giveaway Winner!

Rafflecopter has spoken! A great big congratulations to Paula for winning the signed copy of Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. I will be emailing you today for your address.

EPLMMDI is now out in stores. I hope you will all still pick up a copy and share your thoughts. <3

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Four Years and Forgiveness

It’s hard to wrap my heart around the fact that today marks four years since my dad was shot and killed. In one sense, it seems to have flown by and in another sense, it seems like so long ago that the world momentarily stopped and changed forever.

As the legal proceedings in my dad’s murder case continue to bounce around the judicial system like a pin ball, I am faced again and again with the task of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the force I am dealing with most in my healing journey. I have (slowly) been working my way through Iyanla Vanzant’s Forgiveness book and find that it is too heavy for me to face on a daily basis. I had to take a week off after writing a forgiveness letter to my dad. I have previously acknowledged and worked through forgiving him of so much of my childhood turmoil, but I realized, I still needed to work on forgiving him for dying.

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I hope this does not sound crazy and if you have dealt with a loss, I think it may make sense. There is a time when you are angry with the person for dying. I was certainly mad about the way my dad left this physical earth and I can’t help but sometimes blame him for the traumatic mess he left for his children to contend with.

And then I remember to release, to left some of the negative air out of my already challenging situation and continue to sit in the peace and assurance of my dad’s love and well-meaning intentions. He did not deserve or intend to leave the earth by homicide and I am no longer angry at him for it.

Many of these feelings were recently stirred up by an audiobook I listened to by Shaka Senghor, Writing My Wrongs: Life and Death in An American Prison. Shaka tells his story of growing up in Detroit, dealing drugs and running the streets as a teenager, being shot at by 17 and being convicted of second degree murder by the time he was 19. He shares about his 19 years in prison, 4 of those in solitary confinement. His story is not one of blame or an attempt to purge his guilt. He takes full responsibility for his actions and creates a plan to become a positive impact on his community.

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Shaka opens the book with a letter to his victim. He writes a letter asking for forgiveness to the man he shot and killed. He describes how the godmother of his victim reached out to him early on in his prison sentence and told him she forgives him, loves him and prays for him.

This gutted me. I sobbed through this section and really took the time to process the level of awareness, compassion and empathy needed for the victim’s godmother to reach out to the person who murdered her loved one. Her love changed the trajectory of his life, helped him to take responsibility and in turn, now help others. Shaka has become a renowned speaker and author and takes step to help others not follow in his footsteps.

And, although I might not be there yet, I want to be. I want to work on forgiving, letting go and let love extend to everyone who has been involved in this situation, even those who caused the harm.

When it comes down to it, I just want to remember my dad’s love for me and let everything else fade away.

angel (3) birthday