What Is A Yogi? (And How Do I Become One)- Part One: What Is Yoga?

What do you picture when you hear the word yogi? Do you picture a “hot” girl decked out in Lululemon, carrying a Starbucks latte and a yoga mat under her arm? Do you picture a girl in a bikini doing handstands on the beach? Do you picture an Indian man in a pose that you could never imagine being able to do? When you hear the word yogi, do you picture yourself?

I wanted to spend a little time talking about what I believe a yogi is, and I want to give you some insight on how to become one. Because most likely, yoga is not what you think it is. Did you know that the yoga you think of, the physical yoga practice, is only one of the eight limbs of yoga? Yes, EIGHT. Yoga is so much more than what meets the westernized eye. So, I’m going to dedicate the next ten blog posts to breaking down the practice of yoga, its eight limbs, and how you (yes, YOU) can become a yogi.

A yogi is defined as someone who follows the path of yoga. So, let’s start at the beginning: What is yoga? The literal meaning of yoga is to bind, to join or to attach. It also means union, and it is most commonly understood as the union of the body with the mind and the mind with the soul. I think it could also apply to several other unions. The union of breath and movement. The union of people in their communities. The union of a person with their environment and their surroundings. Basically, yoga has the power and the means to bring people together and most importantly, to bring you closer to yourself.

How many of you think yoga is just stretching? Or for those of you who have actually practiced yoga, how many of you think it’s a great workout? How many of you think it’s a weird cult-like, hippie religion? Okay, so yoga may include stretching and can be a great workout, but no, it is not a religion. It is a practice. It’s a lifestyle. And it is so much more than stretching and strengthening and burning calories (and if you don’t believe you burn many calories practicing yoga, you haven’t tried Sun Salutations. Hint: more about these later).

Yoga is an ancient tradition dating back 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, developed in Northern India to gain mastery over the mind, the senses and the emotions resulting in spiritual growth. The first time a yoga master brought the practice of yoga to America was thought to be in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Hatha Yoga, which is a yoga style that is physically based and designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life, is the style of yoga that is typically practiced in America and was originally developed as a way to prepare one for meditation. Over the past few decades, Hatha Yoga has really begun to gain popularity in America and has kind of taken over as the norm when it comes to yoga style. Unfortunately, most studios here focus solely on the physical practice of yoga, with the occasional breath work and meditation, leaving a lot of us misinformed about what the practice of yoga is truly all about. Of course, there are many yogis in America who understand the full practice of yoga and do everything they can to pass this onto their students. However, the general view of yoga in this country has been limited to the physical practice, especially for those who have never tried it. This is an idea that I hope will shift in time, and I am passionate about shining light on the true practice of yoga and sharing it with as many people as possible.

Although the physical practice of yoga is wonderful and is a powerful source of self-transformation on its own, I think the other aspects of this beautiful practice are just as life-changing, and absolutely worth learning more about and incorporating into our lives. Besides, it’s never (EVER) a bad thing to learn more about the unfamiliar. Being a student is a big part of being a yogi, and that means forever looking for new opportunities to learn and study and grow.

My next few blog posts are going to be dedicated to diving deeper into each of the eight limbs of yoga. These eight limbs are basically guidelines (designed by Patanjali – one of the original and most honored yoga sages, creator of The Yoga Sutras) on how to live a meaningful life and are the basis of a yoga practice.

1. Yamas (universal moral commandments)
2. Niyamas (rules of conduct)
3. Asana (posture/physical practice)
4. Pranayama (breath)
5. Pratyahara (control of the senses)
6. Dharana (concentration/stillness of the mind)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (state of super consciousness)

You will learn what each of these limbs entail, how they all connect and support each other, and how to incorporate them into your daily life. These eight limbs are a practice, something you have to keep working on and coming back to over and over again. A practice that you dedicate your life to, in order to become the best possible version of yourself. A practice that is by no means easy, but always worth it. This practice is yoga.

B.K.S Iyengar nailed it when he said:

“As a well cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different color of light, so
does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning and revealing
different aspects of the entire range of human endeavor to win inner peace and
happiness.” (Light on Yoga)

Yoga can give you these things, inner peace and happiness. But it’s a never-ending practice. And there are many ways to get there. Many different aspects to consider. And yoga for one person may look completely different for the next person. So, it requires an open mind, an open heart, creativity, and a willingness to practice self-love. Because yoga and self-love and creativity are all one in the same. And anyone, even you, can become a yogi. So, the next time you hear the word yogi, I want you to picture yourself.

This Is Love

As a young girl, she gave boys too much of her. More than they asked for. More than they deserved. It’s not even that she was trying to be the girl they wanted her to be and she was giving them what she thought they wanted. She was just herself. Completely and vulnerably herself. And she gave them every bit of that.

She wanted them to see that she was different. She wasn’t like all the other girls. She was as deep as an ocean. She was passionate. An old soul. Fun, yet soulful. Silly, yet intellectual. Beautiful. It would work for awhile. They would have great conversations. Have some laughs. But the thing is, the boys always ended up picking other girls over her. Girls that were just like the rest of them.

She gave these boys all of her, and they turned away and went, instead, for girls with less soul. These boys never asked for her, but she gave them everything anyway. And silly girl, she thought it was love. And this “love” always left her feeling that maybe she’s not as special as she thought. Maybe she wasn’t enough. Maybe she should be different. That is until she met the only boy who’s ever come to her and asked her gently, and sweetly, to give her whole self to him. He wanted to see more. He wanted all of her. And he wanted to treasure it. He wanted to keep it.

She’s been told she was beautiful her entire life. But he was the first one to make her believe it. He was the first to make her feel it. He made her feel special for being who she was when no one was looking. The parts of herself she was most self-conscious about? Those were the parts he loved the most. And the parts of herself that she was most proud of? He loved those, too. And encouraged every dream that she had. She wasn’t looking for his love. Wasn’t expecting it. But there he was, standing in front of her, offering his heart. No matter the questions she had and the doubt she felt, he knew that he needed her. And that she needed him. He knew that they were supposed to be together. He just knew, with a certainty that took her breath away.

It wasn’t complicated; he was playing no games. He promised to be patient and to never give up. Because he saw something that she just couldn’t yet see. But eventually she realized, that this… this friendship, this closeness, this comfortability, these deep conversations, these confessions of dreams, this laughter… This was love. He wanted her. The vulnerable, fun, emotional, soulful, silly, intellectual, passionate, beautiful her. He wanted her heart. He wanted her soul, and he was sweet enough to ask for it. And, thankfully, she was smart enough to give it to him. To give him everything. All of herself. Because now, they share a life. A heart. A soul. Because now, she knows that she is enough. Just as she is. This…. This is love.

Feeling Uninspired? Run For Your Life

Are you waiting for the right moment? The right moment to chase your dream? To follow your passion? Are you waiting for the right moment for your life to begin? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be feeling stuck. In a rut. Uninspired? Tired? Do you feel like your life is suffocating you?

I am someone who really does believe in magic. I believe in fate. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything will work out as it should. But I used to be someone who would sit around waiting for everything to work itself out. I was stuck, suffocating, running on a hamster wheel. Going nowhere. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Until I got sick of it. I jumped off that hamster wheel and starting running. I felt my feet hit the pavement, and I realized that I was starting to make progress. Yes, I was working hard, but I was moving forward. Once I found the courage to jump from the comfort of the wheel, I found that my life began. I started to actually get somewhere. I was meeting goals. I wasn’t wasting my energy; I was using it to make my life better. Instead of running on a wheel, fixed in place, experiencing the same things over and over and complaining that nothing good was happening for me, I started coming upon new things. Experiencing new places. Running upon new doors and walking through them.

While I was sitting around waiting for my life to happen, it turns out that my life was sitting around waiting for ME to MAKE shit happen. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and you will be forced to leave your comfort zone. But running on pavement, moving toward a destination, moving toward my DREAM is so, so much better than giving energy to the wrong areas of my life, running in place, going nowhere.

I know jumping off the wheel can be scary. What if you fall? Scrape your knees? Twist your ankle? That’s okay. You’ll be able to work through it. And once you get your pace down and use your breath to guide you and keep pushing you forward, nothing can stop you. You will feel like you are invincible. You will start to see inspiration all around you, and the ideas will start pouring in. You will be alive. And you will know, finally, that you are where you are supposed to be. You will no longer have any excuses. You will be making things happen for yourself. If you put in the work, you will be rewarded. Trust me. Lace up those running shoes, and get out there and hit the pavement. Chase down those dreams. You are the only one who can win this race that is your life. You are your only champion.

Through the Eyes of My Cat

Through the eyes of my cat, I am a provider. Provider of food. Provider of comfort. Provider of shelter.

Through the eyes of my cat, I am a lover. Lover of snuggles. Lover of playtime. Lover of blanket forts.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I am beautiful. Strong. Funny. Compassionate. I have a soothing voice and a kind face.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I can be stern. Sometimes disapproving. Sometimes bossy. Sometimes sad.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I am a protector. I am a friend. I am a companion.

Through the eyes of my cat, I am perfect. I am worthy. I am love.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I can do no wrong. I am a place of comfort. A warm body. A soft kiss. I am gentle. Thoughtful. Caring. Loving. I am home. I am mama.

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When I think of myself through the eyes of my cat, I am everything I could ever wish to be. My cat sees so much beauty in me, so much goodness, that I must accept it to be true. Therefore, I declare that I am all of these things. These beautiful things. When I think of myself through the eyes of my cat, I am enough. I am worthy enough to go out into the world and shine. To spread my love and my warmth and my kindness to those around me. Maybe we should all try to give ourselves to the world in the same way we give ourselves to our cats. Maybe we should open our hearts wide to the world, allowing all of the goodness inside of us to spill out into the streets, washing away all the pain, and the fear, and the self-doubt. Maybe we can learn the act of self-love from our feline friends. And maybe then the world will see us the same way we are seen through the eyes of our cats, simultaneously feeling the joy of being a cat and the joy of being loved by a cat. Because maybe the simple act of loving and being loved is enough to melt away all the cold hatred in this world. Maybe love, from a cat or otherwise, is the answer.

Maybe, just maybe… L O V E is all we need.

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(**Photos of Milo & Clarkson by Me)

xoxo nicol.eliz

5 Things I’ve Learned From My Boyfriend

The beginning of a new year is always such a magical time for me. New beginnings. A clean slate. Endless possibilities. The world is a canvas just begging for me to splatter it with the paint of my soul. This year especially, I feel very deeply that this new year symbolizes a true change for me. Something new and exciting is coming, I can feel it. And in the wake of this big change, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Checking in with myself. My desires. My dreams. This year will be a year of passion and inspiration and creativity and making my dreams come true.

One of my biggest inspirations in this area is my most favorite person in the entire world. My best friend. My partner. My love. My heart. I am so grateful for the love that we have and so grateful for the life and the laughs and the special moments that we share. I recognize what we have as a rare and special thing, and I feel truly lucky to get to spend so many of my breaths here on earth with him. He is my strongest supporter. My biggest inspiration. My number one fan.

I decided to share some of my favorite things I’ve learned from him, because although he likes to tell everyone that I’m the smart one, he certainly has no shortage of wisdom. And I believe that everyone can benefit from a little more of the following:

Say F*** It
I am someone who stresses out about every little thing, and although I tend to pride myself on my ability to be empathetic, I often throw my wants and needs aside to please others. I am constantly worrying about upsetting someone or letting others down. I have an obsessive need to please everyone around me, and I usually end up suffering myself in one way or another as a result. This need of mine tends to leave me in a crippling ball of anxiety, which in turn stresses my boyfriend out because he hates to see me hurting. Recently, he was fed up with me stressing out over something that basically boiled down to this fear of disappointing someone, and he said “You need to say ‘F*** it’ more often.” We’ve since joked around about it, but in that moment, he was 100% sincere. And it really resonated with me. He’s so right. This is my life, and it’s the only one I get. Do I really want to spend the majority of it worrying about things that don’t mean anything? Worrying about disappointing people who are most likely too concerned with their own anxieties to even be affected by my decisions? No. I have more important things that I could be focusing my energy on. So, from that point on, I vowed to say “F*** it” more often. To not let the little things get to me. To be open to the possibility of disappointing other people if I am doing what genuinely feels right in my soul. I encourage you to say “F*** it” with me, and live your life for YOU.

Be Unapologetically Yourself
One thing I’ve been working on a lot these last few years is caring less about what other people think of me. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but it’s definitely becoming a lot easier to be authentic and to let my true self shine no matter where I am or who I am around. Since I started dating my boyfriend over five years ago, I’ve learned what it means to be adored, even loved, for being 100% myself. And let me tell you, I am one strange girl. But he has seen it all, and he loves me so much. I started from that space of feeling celebrated for being myself in my own home, and I’ve begun to branch out, letting other people see the real me. It’s scary, and I have a long way to go. But it’s necessary to be authentic in this world. And it feels damn good. It’s a bit easier, too, when I see my boyfriend being himself wherever we are, whoever we are with. He’s not worried about other people not liking him. He is just concerned with being himself and doing what feels good to him. Goals… am I right?

Work Hard
My boyfriend is one of the hardest workers I know. He is not someone to half-heartedly do anything. If he’s committed to something, he puts all of his heart into it. He strives for perfection, while still recognizing the fact that perfection is more of a general direction than a specific destination. He puts long hours into the things that he cares about, and he believes that hard work is the only way to succeed. Any time I am having a tantrum about not being good enough at something, he gets fired up. He believes that no one is good at anything without hard work, dedication, and practice. Maybe most importantly, he believes no one is good at anything without at first failing. He encourages me to read more, watch/listen to experts, and practice practice practice. If I want to be good at something, I need to get my hands dirty and put in some serious work. I need to fail at it and fail again. And then most importantly, get back up, dust off my hands, and try again.

Never Give Up
Before my boyfriend and I started dating, I wasn’t so sure about the idea of us. But he was certain from the very beginning. After he was extremely brave in confessing how he felt about me, he told me that he knew that I didn’t feel the same about him yet. But he promised to never give up on me, because he knew that we were supposed to be together. And sure enough, after months of patience on his part and months of me attempting to get my shit together and realize that he was right, he was there for me. He kept his promise; he never gave up. This is also true in his professional life. He was in a job that he hated, but he knew where he wanted to go. He was persistent in contacting prospective employers; reaching out to hundreds of companies until someone decided to give him a chance. And now he is a rising star in his industry. So, never give up on your dreams. You are the only one who can make them come true, and if you are persistent enough and you work hard enough, good things are bound to come your way. But you have to put in the work. And you can never EVER give up.

So, find people who inspire you and encourage you to become the person you were always meant to be. I am lucky enough to be spending my life with one of my biggest inspirations. He is living proof that it is possible to live your dreams. As long as you say “F*** it” to the haters and insignificant stress that life throws your way, be unapologetically yourself, work super hard, and never give up, then you really can’t go wrong.

Idea of Home

Home is a funny thing, isn’t it? Some people have a very clear, very happy definition of home. Home is family. Home is comfort. Home is that place that you can always return to. For others, home is not a place but a person. Wherever he or she is, as long as you are together, you are home. Some people can only dream of any kind of “home,” and for some others, “home” is what their nightmares are made of. Home is something that can stir anything from the darkest to the warmest memories. Sometimes I wonder how a single word, a single idea, can have so many different connotations and can evoke so many varying feelings. But then again, I wonder a lot. About a lot of different things. I spend a lot of time in my own head. Wandering into its depths. Exploring the dusty corners and dark alley ways of my soul. Sometimes I even dare to leave the flashlight behind. I guess in some sense, you could say that my mind is my home. My soul is my home.

“Excuse me.” I am suddenly thrust back into reality when a woman’s husky voice reaches my ears. I scoot to the side of the aisle I am currently occupying. I look up and smile, receiving no such reply. I sigh to myself as I watch the stranger in the green peacoat shuffle impatiently through the store. I feel a slight weight in my hands and glance down to remember once again that idea of home. That strange, strange word. A version of which sat in my very hands. The word, carved from wood and painted a distressed blue, had caught my eye as it sat on a shelf occupied with many other decor items marked with the bright red sticker: “SALE.” Ha. Home is on the clearance rack. I noticed a small chunk missing out of the upper left corner of the “H” and a crack wrinkled across the “O.” Kind of fitting, I thought. My home is also broken. I wonder if anyone would even pay the sale price for a home like mine.

I put “home” back on the shelf. As I begin to walk away, I suddenly feel home tugging me back. Is this what is feels like to be forever drawn to the place where you grew up and where your family resides? Huh. This is new. I decide to give home a chance. I grab the broken, cracked word and make my way towards the checkout counter. This word may have a few pieces missing, but everyone deserves a home. Even home itself. Clever, I think to myself. I smile. The clerk thinks I’m smiling at her, so I pretend that I am. “Hi there. How are you doing today?”

“Fine, thank you. Is this going to be everything for you today?”

“Yes, please.”

“Two dollars.”

I hand over the cash, refuse a receipt, smile again. “Thank you. Have a good day!”

I don’t even receive so much as a grunt of agreement. What is it with people today? Maybe they, too, have a broken home. Maybe they could use a wooden reminder that home comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. An ad idea flashes through my mind: “Don’t be sad, buy a new home on clearance today!”

The cold wind hits my face as I step out onto the street. March 17th. Where’s the sunshine? New York could use a little sunshine today. So could I. I make my way to my current home with my new home waiting patiently in a paper bag. This “home” thing could get awfully confusing. Good thing no one else can hear my thoughts.

LOVE (Feel it. Say it. Give it.)

Why is love so exclusive? People talk about how lucky they are when they find love. And that’s great. But when did love become such a limited commodity? My whole life, I’ve questioned the entire idea of love. Mainly when it came to romantic relationships. What is it? How will I know when I find it? What if I never do? When is it too early to tell someone you love them? How can you can tell if it’s real? I was very careful about when I said those three magic words to someone, as if once they came out, things would never be the same. Even with close friends. I didn’t say it to just anyone. Maybe it was only me, but it seems like many people struggle with this idea of love.

There is someone who came into my life recently. We spent a lot of time together over a short period, but then we parted ways and quite possibly may never see each other again outside of social media. The other day, she told me that she loved me. This struck me so profoundly. This woman, who I barely know and who barely knows me (no matter how wonderful the short time we spent together was), loves me? How? But questions aside, it felt wonderful. I immediately told her I loved her back. And I truly do. This got me thinking… Why don’t I do this more often?

We are born with such a large capacity for love. All of us. No matter where we come from, who our ancestors are, which culture or religion we are born into, love is universal. We are all capable of love. And a lot of it. So, why not share it? There is no benefit to being stingy with the love you have in your heart. Give it. Say it. If you feel a connection to someone, if you feel grateful for someone, if you simply exchange smiles or a laugh with someone. If you share a moment of any nature with another person that makes you feel happy to be alive, tell them you love them. Just say it. It doesn’t have to be so scary. And it feels so good! It’s something we all experience in one way or another, so why don’t we spread it around and use it to make our world a brighter place?

From this point on, I vow to love more. To open myself up to the wonderful feeling of connecting with other people and sharing love. To show others that love doesn’t have to be exclusive and that it feels good to express it. You will not run out of love, I promise. So, don’t worry about saving your love for that one special person. We are all special people, and we all want and need to be loved. All of us. And guess what? I guarantee if you give more love, you will receive more love. How great is that? So, let’s do our part in bringing more love into this world. Let’s open our hearts and let our love spill out onto all the people and places that need it. Love is the greatest power of all. It’s time for us to recognize it as such.

I love you.

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xoxo nicole