Discovering the Yogi in me

It was a beautiful, sunny day at one of Bicol’s white sand beaches. The sun burned my skin while the sea glistened, inviting me to take a dip. But instead of jumping into the water, I stood like a warrior, my arms outstretched and my feet digging into the sand. I tried to stay still, refusing to wipe the sweat that was dripping from my forehead.

yoga warrior pose

That’s me at the right side with the polka-dotted shorts. My friend Char at the center is #BackGoals!

The year was 2011 and my friend Martin was a newly certified yoga teacher. He decided to use our prayer group as guinea pigs to practice teaching. Once a week, we would gather at my house and do our sessions in the lanai. And when we went on a trip to Bicol, he decided it would be fun to do yoga at the beach!

yoga at the beach

It’s been seven years since I started practicing yoga. Though I’ve been doing it on and off over the years, it never ceases to amaze me how this practice helps me become strong and centered.

As I mentioned in previous blog posts, 2017 was a tumultuous year composed of huge changes and a major surgery that left me feeling weak and lethargic. I felt like I was back in square one, especially when it came to my career and my health.

I wanted 2018 to be a Brave New Year, and to achieve that, I committed to starting a regular yoga practice by joining Adriene’s free 30-Day Yoga Challenge on YouTube. Though it took me a little over 30 days to complete the challenge, doing it helped me develop a regular workout routine and gave me the confidence boost I needed. After 30 days of showing up on the mat, I realized that little by little I had gotten stronger and I could literally stretch myself farther than I ever thought possible.

yoga triangle pose

Doing the triangle pose has always been a struggle for me. I could never reach the ground without bending my knee. But after 30 days, I was able to touch the floor on this pose for the first time ever!

I also joined Urban Ashram’s Beginners Yoga Course, which was a wonderful way to learn more about yoga and ignite my passion for the practice. But more than learning about the basic poses and the physical benefits of yoga, the course reminded me that there is strength within—that I have the power to transform myself, one step at a time. (I wrote about my learnings from the two-day workshop at the Urban Yogi blog so do check it out!) For those who want to jumpstart or refresh their practice, I highly recommend this workshop. They have one coming up this weekend (Feb 24-25) and a few more in March. Check out the schedules at Urban Ashram’s website.

yoga basics urban ashram

Though I still have a long way to go when it comes to my health and career goals, I know that with patience and hard work, it can be done. Just as we mindfully go through each step in a sun salutation, the road to progress cannot be rushed. We just have to breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy every stage of the journey.

 

A Brave New Year

I can still remember the time I sat at the airport in 2004 with eight virtual strangers, waiting for our flight to Singapore. I had just graduated from college and was about to participate in an ASEAN exchange program for five months. I was excited, sure, but mostly I was terrified. It was the first time I was traveling without my family, the first time I would live away from home. I was tempted to turn back, but despite the fear, I left anyway. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life—and those strangers turned into some of my best friends.

When I joined AMCI Mountaineering Club in 2005, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t know I had to run every training day, climb the toughest mountains, and push myself to the limits. I was afraid I wouldn’t survive. But after all the hard work, I made it! And I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. Plus, that’s where I met the love of my life. 😉

I’ve always been a fearful person, but when I was younger, I managed to push through those fears and take big leaps of faith. But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to take risks. Somewhere along the way, I got stuck. I got lazy. I got too comfortable. The fears grew so big that they blocked my path. They said, “Just stay where you are. Stay where it’s safe. There’s no need to move forward.”

Last December, I celebrated my 35th birthday. It was fun being with family and friends and eating to my heart’s content. But deep inside, I had this gnawing feeling. I felt anxious about the future. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? If I died tomorrow, could I honestly say that I lived life to the fullest? That I reached my full potential?

So when 2018 rolled around, I knew I had to do something about it. I couldn’t just sit around and let my fears get the best of me. I had to BE BRAVE.

I know it’s going to be challenging. I could just as easily slip into old habits. That’s why I’m committing to a few things to help me stay focused.

1. Write in my journal once a week.

I love journaling because it helps me make sense of the things going on around me. This year, I got two unique journals.

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The Best Year Ever kit is a tool to help you review the past year, set new goals, and set your intention for 2018. Made by my good friend Micah Sulit, together with life coach Aurora Suarez, the kit is also filled with surprises you can open when you hit your milestones. (Spoiler alert: The inspirational stickers are a part of it!) Available at ShopEdenStreet.com.

Also crafted by Aurora, the Sunday Night Journal is a weekly “self-care ritual.” It contains insightful questions to help you reflect on the past week, and start the coming week with gratitude and positivity. I’m hoping to make this a weekly habit! Available at YourSundayNight.com.

2. Join The Purposeful Creative’s Braver Goals Bootcamp.

When pursuing a goal, it always helps to have a mentor and a supportive community cheering you on. I joined Arriane Serafico’s Purpose Driven Branding class last year, and it was so useful in terms of helping me define my personal brand. Since I joined the VIP community, I was also able to meet wonderful new friends who took the class with me. This year, I decided to invest in her Braver Goals class—it’s just perfect since my intention for the year is to be brave! Care to be brave with me? It’s not yet too late to join! Just log on to join.bravergoals.com.

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3. Stay healthy, stay TRUE.

Last year, I had a host of health problems so one of my main goals this year is to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. To ease myself into it, I’m doing Adriene’s 30-Day Yoga Challenge on YouTube. I love how her theme is to be TRUE—as she says on her site, the challenge is designed to “trim, tone, and circle you back to YOU.” And really, what could be braver than staying true to yourself?

4. Pray daily.

One of my favorite bible passages of all time is Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus Walks on Water. Whenever I feel anxious or afraid, I always take comfort in the words of Jesus: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” If you need a guide to prayer, I’ve found the Sacred Space app to be very helpful. Or if you simply want to meditate, Insight Timer has plenty of guided meditations on different topics. My favorite is the one entitled “Transforming Fear” by Sarah Blondin. You can also listen to it here.

Have you set your intention for the New Year? If you have other tips on how to face your fears, I’d love to hear them. Cheers to a #Braver2018!

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Refresh Your Health in 5 Easy Ways

When I was working as a full-time managing editor, I found it extremely difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. I would spend long hours at the office just sitting at my desk, writing and editing articles. I used to run a lot (I even ran a marathon once), but as my workload got heavier, I found myself working out less and eating more. I have to admit, it was really hard for me to resist sweets, so whenever a bag of goodies would arrive at the office, I always had to have my share. Our food editor was also an excellent cook so whenever she would prepare dishes for an upcoming issue, the team would always get delicious, free meals!

Perhaps it was this combination of stress and unhealthy eating habits—not to mention the fact that I’m now in my thirties—that led me to gain weight and have a host of health problems over the years. Last year, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and just last July, I had some myomas removed via a laparoscopic surgery. This was part of the reason why I decided to take a break from full-time work. I needed to take care of my health so I could continue doing what I loved and taking care of the people I loved.

Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited to an event that was perfectly aligned with my goal of having a healthier lifestyle. Entitled “Refresh Your Health,” the event taught me a few things I could do to live a more well-balanced life.

1. Develop a regular yoga practice. The event started out with a 30-minute yoga session led by GoWell ambassador, Bubbles Paraiso. I’ve always believed that yoga is a great way to strengthen the body and calm the mind. Now that I’m cleared to start working out again, I hope to develop a more regular yoga practice. (For days when I can’t go to a yoga studio, I practice yoga at home by following this YouTube channel.)

Of course, it’s even better when you have a community to support you. If you’re looking for resources on holistic wellness and people to help you fulfill your workout goals, check out GoWell. (The Bull Runner Jaymie Pizarro, one of my ultimate running idols, is a GoWell ambassador too!)

Fairmont Fitness Center

The yoga class was held at Fairmont Makati’s clean and spacious fitness center.

2. Choose the right beauty products—or better yet, make your own! It’s no secret that many products in the market today are filled with toxic chemicals. If you’ll be applying something to your skin every day, you better make sure it’s safe. One way to do that is to make your own beauty products—that way, you know exactly what you’re putting in your body. I thought it would be hard, but turns out, it’s super easy! I even managed to make my own body polish using Himalayan salt and coconut oil, as well as a refreshing Lavender Peppermint Mist.

body polish and mist recipe

3. Apply acupressure on your face. Did you know that applying pressure on different points of your face can produce a variety of interesting results? For instance, pressing on point 1 (see image below) can calm the mind and relieve stiff neck and headaches. A representative from Kerstin Florian, a line of award-winning beauty products featuring natural, plant- and marine-based, active ingredients, taught us how to do this 16-point acupressure facial exercise. Now this is one workout I can easily do every day!

acupressure

4. Have a massage. There’s nothing like a relaxing massage to release the tension from one’s day. The Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Makati focuses on energy renewal. I’m glad I got to try their massage—from the peaceful ambiance and the soothing music to their well-trained staff, it was definitely one of the most relaxing massages I’ve ever had. Visit their website to see their other offerings.

Willow Stream Spa Treatment Room

5. Go on a wellness retreat. I cannot express enough how wonderful it feels—and how absolutely necessary it is for one’s sanity—to take a few days off to nourish oneself. And I don’t mean a hectic vacation with a packed itinerary, where you come back feeling even more tired! What I mean is a retreat where you can take a few days off to spend some quiet moments in reflection. With an emphasis on health and wellness through fitness, movement, travel, and healthy eating, Flow Retreats are the perfect way to  nourish your body, mind, and soul. Check out FlowRetreats.com for upcoming retreats in Baler and El Nido.

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If you don’t want to go too far from the city, check out Flow Retreats’ fun, halloween-themed event this weekend.