why the world needs yoga

and/or meditation. or any/all mindfulness practices: because of all the horrific news we hear every time we turn on the tv. most notably at the moment, of course, the innumerable shooting incidences right here in our own country. the yogi in me sees that these knee jerk reactions (i.e., the cop who assumes a man is reaching for his own gun and thus shoots him) are fear-based. the visceral reaction is, “this person is going to harm me”. and that is fear talking. what needs to happen is a massive shift in consciousness from fear to love, in which instead of assuming the worst, we expect the best (or at least better). i understand how that shift might seem impossible, precisely because of all the terrible stuff that happens in the world on a daily basis. but it is has to start somewhere. personally, i’m trying to be the proverbial “change i wish to see in the world” by not always being on the defensive (a stance learned from one too many years as a new yorker!); by not immediately and irrationally reacting to every little thing that i perceive as a slight. that could be anything from a friend making a slightly passive-aggressive comment, to feeling a bit uneasy walking past a shadowy-looking character on the street. rather than assuming that my friend meant to offend me or the guy on the street will attack me (extreme case, i know. i hear to many stories of this sort of thing happening in nyc), i’ll give both the benefit of the doubt. i won’t always be perfect at this, but i’ll try. by putting that expectation out into the universe that everything will be ok, hopefully the law of attraction will bring that to me in kind. and to you, too.

i went off on a tangent here, so back to the matter at hand: i know there’s a whole lot of love in the world but WE NEED MORE. any sort of mindfulness practice not only connects us to our own emotions, insecurities, and vulnerabilities and helps us to deal with them, but makes us aware of those same things in others. which allows us to connect with them on a human level. so often our interactions just scratch the surface and we fail to recognize another’s humanness. either because we’re scared, or self-involved, or just oblivious. i feel overwhelmed by the events of the past couple of days, so my thoughts and therefore my words are sort of all over the place. but the long story short is: choose love over fear. <3

the little things in life

once upon a time, a holiday like the fourth of july would have given me a small bit of anxiety. if i didn’t have plans to go out of town and “celebrate” in the conventional sense, i would have suffered that god-awful millennial disease of fomo. but with age comes maturity (well, for some, i guess) and an appreciation of life’s quieter moments. i spent the holiday with a very dear and special friend who currently lives in istanbul, but found herself back in new york unexpectedly. we picnicked in central park for hours and the day slipped away before i’d even realized it was a holiday and i hadn’t been to a barbecue nor had i donned a clichéd red-white-and-blue outfit. (not that there’s anything wrong with those things! just sayin).

i had gotten to the park about an hour before my friend, and set up shop underneath a large tree. i pulled out a copy of the happiness project that another friend had lent me, and settled in to read until my friend showed. i quickly became distracted by the flurry of activity around me: groups of tourists taking a break from sightseeing, dog people walking their furry friends; kids playing and shouting; couples strolling hand in hand. each site was heartwarming in its own small way. then this little birdie flew down and landed on the grass right next to my blanket. i was completely mesmerized by this creature for what felt like several minutes, while it hopped all over the grass, presumably looking for food. i don’t know what it was about that bird- maybe the fact that it didn’t have a care in the world? i have no idea what a happy bird looks like, but this little guy seemed pretty damn content. it was such a beautiful moment of being totally present and in the now, of appreciating nature in all its glory, and not wanting to be anywhere else, with anyone else, than there in the park with that little bird.

so: it’s the little things in life. i feel grateful that i’m learning the lesson to slow down and appreciate right now for all it’s glorious simplicity.

write it down!

it seems as though any and everyone who believes in the law of attraction has read the secret; i myself was a little late to the game but am finally reading it now. i’m about halfway through and can tell that it’s working wonders already. in the span of a few weeks, some pretty awesome things have happened. taken alone, each is minor; but as a whole, they are evidence that this stuff is real. for example, a concept that keeps showing up in my life is to “write it down”. meaning, it’s great to have a vague sense of what you want your life to look like, but the best way to actually make all of that happen is to get super clear and specific on what you want and put pen to paper so that the universe knows it unequivocally. the secret uses the analogy of placing an order via a catalogue: when you place an order, you know with certainty (barring a freak delivery mess-up or crazy snowstorm. but you get the point) that your package will eventually arrive. so too with your dreams and desires. once you’re clear about them, write them down, and let the universe know you’re serious about them, you can consider your “order” as having been placed. and you can know with certainty that you can expect them…eventually. hey, better late than never! for you skeptics out there (and i know there are many- i used to be one of them): i get it. it sounds real hippie-dippie and esoteric and maybe just plain ridiculous. but consider taking a chance, doing something different and giving it a try. worst case, your life stays the same. best case, it transforms into everything you’ve ever dreamed of.

an ode to yoga

in honor of international yoga day, i’m taking a moment to sing the praises of the practice that has changed my life so much for the better. i recently wrote an article for a website whose target audience is latina women in my age range, in which i talked about how for much of my life i felt like sort of the odd woman out (albeit not necessarily in a bad way); but once i really embraced yoga, i was able to embrace all of me. it’s made me kinder, more understanding, and more comfortable in my skin. it has greatly quieted my nerves (inherited from my amazing but often nerve-addled father) and has taught me the hard-learned lesson of acceptance of both myself and others. it’s made me healthier in body, mind, and spirit. and lastly and probably most importantly, yoga is a constant reminder that love for self and all of life should be our number one goal. i have some very non-yogi days when i worry about any and everything, walk around with rbf (resting bitch face, in case you’re not familiar with the acronym) and generally feel angry at life. but lately, those days are rare.

pre-yoga cristina would have cringed at all this hippie-speak; i used to judge all the yoga types for being too happy (imagine that! these days i’m pretty sure there’s no such thing). but now that i’ve seen the proverbial yoga light, i totally get it. the feelings yoga gives me aren’t ones i can easily articulate; all i can say is, they are like crack, but without the negative side effects (though for the record, i’ve never done crack so can’t say definitively!)

i’m not one to impose my thoughts and opinions on others, but i do think yoga can change just about anyone’s life. if you need a little more love, patience, acceptance, joy, [insert positive noun here], maybe give yoga a try. because hey, you never know. but i honestly believe you won’t be disappointed.

love and light to all on this special day.

all of my favorite yoga teachers begin class with an intention-setting practice and it’s one of the things i appreciate most about their classes. in yoga it seems that intentions are meant to be personal; so i can think of only one time in which the instructor asked the class to send their thoughts, love, and good vibes to a specific cause (it was right after the earthquake that devastated japan in april of this year). i agree with having each student dedicate his/her practice to the person/group/cause/what-have-you of the individual’s choosing, but after the not one, but TWO cases of gun violence over the weekend, it was very clear to me that our thoughts and prayers need to be sent to the victims of said violence. the world is becoming an increasingly scary and hostile place, and as a yogi and citizen of the world it’s my duty to do my small part in sending love where it’s needed the most.

that being said, last night i started off my community class at area yoga in park slope by asking my lovely students to close their eyes, focus deeply on becoming fully present in that space and time, and to devote their next hour to the memory of those who lost their lives over the weekend, and anyone else who was personally affected by the tragedies. it may sound hokey, but i felt a different energy in the room last night: it was somber but also hopeful. one of the multitude of benefits of yoga for me personally is that it has made me very sensitive to the energy of others. this makes me a better person and friend in general, but hopefully will some day make me into a yoga teacher like the ones i’ve had the pleasure of knowing; one of those teachers from whom her students can’t wait to take another class because she just makes them feel so damn good.

anyway. i think that as a teacher it’s my responsibility to set the tone of my class; to gauge how students are feeling and cater to what they need in the moment (of course, you can’t please everyone all the time!). but as a member of the larger yoga community and again, a citizen of the world, i think the ultimate goal is to spread peace and love and endeavor to make the world slightly better. because it’s in desperate need of those things right now.