Why did Universe choose me to learn Health Coaching?
Those of who know me well are well acquainted with my passion with everything health and nutrition. This wasn't the case back in 2014 and before that for all my life. I used food to fill my empty soul and exercise to feel accepted.
After the birth of my son, I was at a very unhealthy weight. I was also considered pre-diabetic and obese when I tipped the weighing scale at 223lbs at the age of 32yrs. I knew that if I wanted to be alive to see my children grow, I had to do something. Before that, I did exercise off and on but it never became an obsession until I lost 100lbs and became competitive with myself. I always had an unhealthy relationship with food and it was a source of comfort when I felt unwanted. But, after weight loss, my relationship with food became worse when I started calorie counting and I also acquired something called "body dysmorphia". Even though I was just bones and skin weighing at 125lbs, I saw only fat thighs and fat belly in the mirror.
Calorie restriction, fat-free diet and body dysmorphia continued for a decade until in 2019, I decided to quit calorie counting not because I recognized that it was unhealthy but because I started gaining the weight back. It took me a lot of research to learn that I was actually in peri-menopause and calorie restriction backfires during this time. I started gaining weight around the middle (earlier it was around my hips). Started to do further research and learned that excessive workouts were also detrimental. All these were causing a lot of stress on my body which resulted in gaining belly fat. Thanks to the pandemic, I didn't have access to the gym anymore so I had to rethink my workout routines and to keep my immunity up, I started reading up on food and nutrition. As of today, daily walks, strength training, yoga, mindfulness practices and providing my body with the right kind of nutrition is what my body needs to stay healthy and strong.
After 46yrs, I finally recognized that a certain number on the scale doesn't mean anything. My body fat percentage is good. I feel healthy and I feel strong. I have learned to accept the number on the scale and shifted my focus on eating wholesome meals with adequate macros. My passion, my own journey from being fat to losing weight, switching gears from using food as comfort to food as nutrition, from developing body dysmorphia to breaking those mental barriers and blocks- I have come a long way. I continue to learn and evolve as I am finding new ways to incorporate a sustainable balance that will nourish me physically, mentally and spiritually for my remaining years. Health Coaching came at the most perfect time in my life when Universe knew that I was able to break the stigma around food and body image and be open to look at food under a different set of lens. Would I have been open to this new information if it had come to me 10yrs ago? No. I had to break the stigma both mentally and physically in order to receive new life changing information. This is how Universe works- you receive only when you are ready to receive! My eyes have opened to new possibilities and I am very passionate about it. I love learning and sharing and Health Coaching is the perfect platform to do so. During this time, I also started researching about hormones and how they affect women and men during different stages of their lives. I was given the perfect opportunity to learn about this as well in the Hormonal Health Coaching Program that I am studying simultaneously to deepen my knowledge and to attain a perfect symphony and balance between hormones, health, nutrition, mind and spirit.
I say time and again- Practice with mindfulness! When we come to a yoga class, there is a degree of intimidation that we feel when we are surrounded by "flexible " bodies. Then thoughts of comparison and self-judgements begin. Once the practice begins, we start to take our bodies beyond the limitations because we are trying to achieve someone else's pose. When our bodies can't do that then we start negative self-talk, push our bodies by the will of force called "ego" and eventually, cause extensive injuries. This is not yoga! Yoga is one's individual practice from the outside to the inside. When one practices within the limitations of their mats and then their bodies, there is different experience that takes place. Yoga is one's journey through life. All the body limitations are the road bumps and struggles we face along the way. How we handle these limitations on our mats becomes the school grounds for learning life lessons and therefore, helps us to navigate through life. Comparisons and self-loathing is not yoga. Acceptance and compassion towards self with all our limitations and practicing within those boundaries is yoga. It takes time to be aware whenever our minds get distracted and once the awareness starts to develop, it becomes easier to come back to our bodies, our practice and our experience. Attaching a great article below that talks about how we can hurt ourselves real bad if we don't practice with mindfulness. I personally know a lot of people who have seriously injured themselves from yoga. Hence, practice with awareness and be kind to yourself. 🙏
For someone new to yoga, there are a multitude of choices. There is Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Yin Yoga, Baptiste Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Yin Yoga, and many more. A newcomer usually starts their practice with the mainstream “Flow”. A flow is movements synchronized with breath. The “Flow” practice originated from the Ashtanga lineage- the original practice of yoga that was developed by Sri. Krishnamacharya, the father of the modern yoga that we are all familiar with. Other styles also originated from Ashtanga except Yin Yoga which has its origins in the Taoist traditions.
When I started practicing, I tried all modalities of yoga but Iyengar Yoga (yoga based on precise alignment) is what spoke to me on a deeper level. Here is why.
I like to experience stillness in a pose. I like the journey from the point of origin to the destination so my mind stays present with all the actions happening within that journey. In Iyengar yoga practice, I am able to penetrate my mind from the periphery to the deeper layers (koshers/ sheaths) namely physical layer, energetic layer and mental layer. Then I use the intellectual layer to reflect on my posture and make adjustments so I can attain “sthira sukham asanam” (comfort and poise in the posture) which leads to “citta vritti nirodaha” (cessation of the fluctuations of the mind). The mind becomes one with the body and breath- “Yoga” (yoking of mind, body and breath).
B.K.S.Iyengar has explained this very beautifully in his book “Iyengar, His Life and Work”,
“The mind is not easily gripped; it is like mercury. Mercury cannot be held in the hand, but it can be stored in a capsule. The body is like a capsule in which the mind is bound. As mercury spreads when spilled, so does the mind spread to every nook and corner of the body."
Only Alignment Yoga has given me the opportunity to spread my awareness like mercury to every nook and corner of the body as I make my way from the point of origin to the destination and then I use the discerning power of my intellect to reflect and make adjustments to ultimately attain freedom in the body and the mind.
To close the year 2019, we had the honor of hosting Michael Bettine of Gongtopia at Moksha.
We were blessed by sounds that created the perfect harmony of vibrations to clear the old and create room for new as our aura got cleansed of stagnant energy.
Unconsciously, we store a lot of unresolved trauma stemming from our lifelong experiences in our cellular memory and psyche. Due to these stored trauma, we might experience challenges in relationships, work, social interactions, health, handling stressful situations, etc. These challenges can sometimes occur subconsciously due to habitual patterns that have developed over time due to the unresolved trauma. Sometimes, we might be aware of the trauma but we try to avoid it by resorting to temporary fixes to numb the pain. Pain medications, sleep inducers, alcohol, drugs, smoking, unhealthy choices around food, overexercising, etc. are some of the ways we avoid getting to the root cause of our suffering.
The practice of sound bathing helps heal us from those wounds.
First of all, it helps relax the body and mind. Whether we allow it or now, the vibrations caused by the sounds of tibetan bowls, bells, gongs, chimes, etc. help release the strored trauma. Regular practice of sound bath therapy really helps us to release what keeps us from living a fulfilling life.
Here is an excerpt I found online to help you understand the benefits of sound bath therapy-
"Sound has a powerful impact on our lives and is all around us. Whether or not you use sound-producing instruments such as singing bowls and tuning forks, there is always music around you. Even a simple walk in nature will surround you with the harmonic music of the wild. Music provides relief from pain and discomfort and makes you feel relaxed.
Sound bathing is the practice of intentionally creating waves of harmonic sound which envelop and surround your body. Whether you are actively participating in the creation of the sounds or acting as a passive receiver, you will feel the healing effects of sound bathing.
Sound healing practitioners use different methods of sound therapy to enhance your emotional and physical well-being. These practices are based on the belief that sounds and vibrational forces can directly influence your health and well-being.
According to quantum physics, every cell is made up of small pieces of vibrating matter joined together by magnetic forces. It is believed that during illness or disease the vibration in the cells is less effective or there is a reduction in the frequency of the vibration. Alternative health practitioners theorize that when your body is exposed to healing sounds, the sound vibration helps to raise the frequency of your body which brings health and spiritual enhancement. This is the basis for the belief of alternative health practitioners that sound therapy helps you to achieve an optimal vibration."
To further enhance your interest and understanding, please check out the link below-
A few days ago, someone asked me what I teach. As I was explaining my offerings that includes inversions, this person said "oh, advanced practice". I wasn't really shocked not did I feel pride. I was more disappointed.
Coming from the Iyengar tradition, my understanding of an advanced asana practice is very different from what is mainstream understanding. As a beginner, the practice is purely physical. We exercise a certain amount of will power and force to practice. Eventually, with daily practice, that force should subside and practice should become more "silent". There should be a sense as if the inner being or the higher Self is performing the asanas, not the small ego self. If we continue to use aggression and will power to practice or achieve a certain goal in our practice, we lose sight and the practice becomes "mechanical" just like brushing our teeth in the morning. There is no growth.
An advanced practitioner, in my view, is one who practices with mindfulness, knows how much effort to put in and when to pull back, whether the effort is coming from a place of inner awareness or from ego, whether we are able to penetrate our awareness into our deeper being while we move through the asana from the start of the pose to whatever the end of the pose is for each individual (no set goal of what the pose should look like), understanding the nuances of each pose making proper adjustments using proper breathing techniques, scannning the body for proper alignment, breath eventually becoming softer, pausing in complete stillness, and finally, releasing all attachment and aversion to the pose or practice (not getting stuck on a pose well done or not so well done) with the understanding that this is a journey that has no physical goals, only spiritual goals of realizing the "Self".
With this understanding, I am never afraid to show up on my mat whether at home or in a group class. I don't set any standards for my practice. Every day is new day. I keep an open and a beginners mind and practice everything with complete mindfulness of the present experience without past imprints or expectations. Whenever my mind goes into those spirals when I visit a pose that I can do well or cannot do so well, I try to recognize those mental patterns of fear or attachments that come up and release them immediately. There are a lot of poses I cannot do but with this mindfulness, I am not afraid to try. There is always growth in my asana practice, not just on a physical level but also on a deeper spiritual level. Even if I might have done a pose thousands of times before, I still try to observe and use my discernment to learn new things in the same pose every time I do it.
For me, this is growth and also an "advanced practice".
In my opinion, this is also the most difficult path of practice - not letting the ego get in the way and to recognize whenever that arises and mindfully letting it go.
As Guruji says, the world is filled with movement (mechanical). We need more conscious movement (mindfulness).
In one of Guruji's books, I remember him saying that "a pose should look and feel different every time we practice ".
The tradition that I was trained in, Vinyasa, there is lot of movement, movement from one pose to another. That was good as it helped bring flexibility in the body but the mind was unable to come to stillness. By the time Savasana arrived, I felt too tired to feel the inner peace.
As I have become a seasoned practioner, I have noticed maturity in my practice. Instead of movement, I like staying. In the beginning, staying was hard as mind would race. Thanks to Guruji's teaching of alignment, I use the staying time to develop my sensory awareness of the physical body (sensations, alignment, breath). Eventually came a point where stability in pose developed, breath started to flow with ease and mind started to settle down. This takes me back to the yoga sutra 2.46 "sthira-sukham asanam"- asana should feel stable and comfortable to enable the mind to relax and experience the ultimate gift of yoga.
But, Guruji said above that asana should feel different each time it is practiced and over the years of practice, this is my understanding of it.
If I practiced Trikonasana today and again tomorrow or even a 2nd time today, it should "feel" different. It means that first we visit the pose, then make adjustments as we know but then, we use our discernment to try something or make an adjustment that was never taught or never experienced before. The new adjustment could be right or could be wrong but we start to develop our own mental faculty and awareness to develop our practice. This is "growth " in yoga. Not following posture descriptions as outlined in a book or as taught by a teacher but using our own discernment to develop even if the pose has been practiced hundreds of times before. This is how a pose blossoms, a practice blossoms and the actual essence of yoga is experienced.
You become your own teachers.
B.K.S.Iyengar was a genius and the gift he has given me will not fade ever. It will continue to grow and blossom every day as I continue to show up.
He planted the seed. It is my job to nurture the seed with regular and sustained effort and watch it grow by shining the light of awareness so I can enjoy the fruit of my effort- resting in the seat of Atman.