When I was a child I would have very bad stomach aches. So bad that I would be curled in a ball on the floor wincing and crying. It was inconsistent and hard to monitor when it would flare up. I saw specialists, did blood tests and exams, and tried various prescriptions. Nothing worked. I was frustrated, felt a lack of control, and as though my body was failing me.
My mother used to say that I worried so much that I caused myself to have a stomach ache. Even though I eventually discovered that digesting meat didn't sit well with my stomach and changed my diet, I think she was partially right. From as far back as I could remember I always put so much pressure on myself; a pressure to perform well in school, in sports, and in all aspects of my life. For me the concept of failure was never an option. So naturally, I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. And even though I no longer struggle with the same stomach issues, I still experience the lingering effects of anxiety.
In a year with so much loss, it is overwhelming to say the least. I am well aware that there are many things out of my control such as the global pandemic, the state of our country, racial inequality, the future of my work, and the health of my loved ones, even still, I feel it all. I feel it in every facet of my body to the point where I lack sleep, feel tense and anxious.
A couple of weeks ago I eventually broke down and told my husband, "I am failing." Through tears and frustration I felt as though I was losing control. But as I sat with what I had just said out loud, I realized that everything I was worrying about was completely out of my control. I can't control the outcome of the election, I can't control the hate I see, I can't control what other people say or do, I can't control the economy and the future of my work, I can't control the global pandemic, I can't control the health of my loved ones.
However, I can control how I respond to whatever is in front of me, making my voice heard through casting my vote, standing up for what I believe in, being compassionate towards myself and others, putting my health and wellbeing first, setting boundaries, and how I continue to move forward.
I know I am not alone in experiencing feelings such as stress, anxiety, fear and sadness which are often associated with the idea of failure. I also know that I am not alone in experiencing feelings of hope, love, joy, and abundance which are often associated with the idea of success. We all experience these feelings and yet it doesn't automatically mean we are one or the other. Unfortunately, how our society defines the idea of failure comes from a place of fear and leaves very little room for the idea of success. It is everywhere. We see it in the news, in advertising, and on social media. We see hate and violence in the news, we buy insurance fearing that we may loose our belongings or material worth, and we check our social media from a fear of missing out. Yes, we should stay informed but there is a fine line between getting information and overwhelming ourselves with fear of things we have absolutely no control over.
I have come to find that if we attach our self-worth to the idea of success, the moment we are confronted with anything less we will automatically label ourselves as failures - a vicious cycle that is not productive or healthy for anyone.
So what can we do?
How about we redefine the idea of success from a place of love and compassion, knowing the path isn't always clear, linear, or final? How about we focus on what we can control? How about we take everything one step at a time? How about we acknowledge the small successes that are part of the bigger ones?
My husband and I will be celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary this Friday and had originally planned to visit Big Sur and Carmel.
We planned to stay in a treehouse in the woods and enjoy a quiet weekend with just us and our dog, Ziggy. We planned to explore new hiking trails, gaze at views of the clear night sky, and enjoy our time away from the city. This at least was our original plan, but due to the recent fires in Northern California those plans have changed. Instead, we will spend the weekend in San Marcos and postpone our trip until later in the year.
Even though our anniversary celebration won't look quite like we planned, it will be just as special because we have each other. I know it sounds cheesy, but considering all hurdles this year has brought, that's really all I can ask for. All I can say is, I am incredibly grateful.
We are at the halfway point of 2020 and I think we can all agree that so far it has been a wild ride. Just in the month of July my husband and I bought our first home in Long Beach, California, I launched a brand new business, and found out about several family members' whose health was severely compromised due to COVID-19. From one high to a low, we have truly experienced what it is like to go with the flow. Thankfully, those family members are now on the mend and we are slowly adjusting to our "new normal."
One of the many adjustments for me in the last four months has been teaching and practicing yoga virtually. I will admit that at first I was hesitant and resistant to the change, but I have grown to love and value my home practice.
In our current times that we find ourselves in, I believe that investing in mental, emotional, and physical health is so important. I think all of us in some way, shape or form are finding new ways to explore that.
Personally, I have discovered so many precious moments of practicing yoga at home. First off, I absolutely love not having to fight LA traffic or parking nightmares in order to get "my spot" in class. I love having my clean, personal, and open space to move, flow, and breath as freely and loudly as I like. I love rolling out of bed, onto my mat, and in my pajamas. I love giving myself enough time to sit in meditation or lie in Savasana without worrying that the next class will rush in. The only disruption I receive is from my pup Ziggy, but his wet kisses are always welcome.
2020 hasn't been an easy year, but this time away from all that I was familiar and comfortable with has offered me so much perspective. From that I am incredibly grateful because I have found the freedom to be authentic and re-gained my power to carry that out in my community no matter how near or far we may be physically.
These past 4 months have been a rollercoaster of emotions and learning curves. I cried a lot, got really frustrated, and was ready to throw in the towel. And for a moment I did. But, not to quit, to reflect.
I took a step back and really thought about what was important to me and how I could fulfill my purpose in spite of the new road block of COVID-19. With my new open availability, I meditated, journaled, gardened, went on long walks, and sat with my thoughts.
In the process, I learned to lean into the unknown instead of fighting it or trying to convince myself that I had control in the first place. I think in many ways our "new normal" has woken us up to that inner wisdom.
The tools I actively learn and teach through the yoga practice have especially helped me to not just get through these times but to thrive from it. In this instance, the problem of not being able to safely teach yoga in person has created the solution of launching THE STUDIO by Lauren, my new virtual yoga studio!
In these last couple of months, I have come to the realization that although we may not physically be near one another, that doesn't have to prevent us from being apart of a community. I created my virtual yoga studio as a means to support you to find freedom in being authentic and the power to carry that out in your life and community no matter how near or far.
I invite you to lean into the unknown with me as I start this new venture. I hope you will join me!
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti,
I have been struggling to come up with the words to express my anger, frustration, and sadness in response to ongoing and more recent injustices and violence against my black brothers and sisters. Although I know I only have control over how I choose to respond, I can’t help but wonder when will we learn? I don’t just mean us as a country, I mean us as a human race. It’s a never-ending cycle.
As a woman of color from Japanese American descent, sure I have encountered my fair share of racism. Growing up, kids made fun of my eyes and asked, “How can you see?” I have been called derogatory terms such as “Chink” and “Jap.” Men have assumed I am submissive and won’t speak up for myself. I am not Japanese enough because I don’t speak Japanese, but I am also not white enough because I look Asian. And even though I was born in America, people always assume I am foreign because of the way I look. I remember telling my mother when I was younger that I wished I was white because I would fit in and be “beautiful” after a white boy told me I was pretty for being Asian (whatever that means).
Yet, even as a person of color, I acknowledge that I have privilege. I grew up in a middle-class family with parents who are married going on 31 years. I never had to worry about getting a job to financially support my family and was able to get a private college education. Most importantly, I never had to fear for my life because of the color of my skin.
Our world is sick and has been way before the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutionalized racism has even pinned minority groups against one another. Many of my ancestors fed into the idea that Asians are the so-called “Model Minority,” and that has created a divide: the narrative of, “we are not ‘them’ and therefore it is not my problem” has gone on far too long.
I am not telling you about my experiences because I am trying to equate my encounters with racism to those of African Americans. I am sharing my stories because that is what I know, and if I know and experienced racism, chances are you, your neighbors, family, friends, co-workers, and loved ones have as well. That is not okay and should not be normalized. Racism is not dead. It never died. It just evolved and mutated.
This disease of institutionalized racism and implicit bias is wide-spread and so deeply rooted that many of us are completely unaware of it or have become de-sensitized to it. Yet, underneath the surface, there is so much pain that festers among those who are oppressed, threatened, and left behind. So, what happens? We see the fight or flight response in action, which is the natural physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived event, attack, or threat in order to survive.
From the moment we are born we are like sponges soaking in what we hear, see, and how others act around us. We then take all that information and put it into action in order to survive. The challenge is, once we develop habits, opinions, and behaviors, it is really hard to change them. But the only way to see change is to be change. This requires us to sit with what makes us uncomfortable, listen with the intent to understand, acknowledge our wrongdoings, and do something about it.
It’s so easy to look at ourselves and ask, “What can I do? I am just a small fish in a vast ocean and there are bigger fish that have more power than me.” I know I have been guilty of that too. But that way of thinking is small and brings us right back to where we started. I can look at myself and say, “I am just a yoga teacher, what can I do to affect change?” Or, I can say, “I am a yoga teacher who educates the importance of living your yoga not just practicing it.” This means, I have an opportunity to teach myself and others the value in using the yoga practice as a means to start the conversation with ourselves. I don’t mean spiritual bypassing. I mean really sitting with our own attachments, aversions, triggers, judgments, and biases. I mean taking ownership of what we can do as individuals to do better and be better. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Especially those in our community, nation and world who need it most. Because if one person gets left behind, it affects everyone. We may not see it at first, but eventually it all bubbles to the surface like it is now.
So, I challenge myself and you to take action. Sending love and prayers is not enough. Yes call, text, petition, and vote. But also remember that if actions do not carry beyond that then we are simply scratching the surface. Let’s have those difficult conversations with ourselves, our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and those we disagree with. We don’t all have to agree, but we must acknowledge, listen, respect, stand up for, and see one another.
Yes, I am a teacher, but you are too. You are both the teacher and student of your life with the opportunity to observe, learn, grow, communicate, and change. Let’s not throw that gift away. And if you forgot or lost sight of that, let’s start now.
"You must unlearn what you have learned." - Yoda
It's May the fourth! A day to celebrate the Star Wars series about a galaxy far, far away. And yet, here we are on planet Earth in our own reality that seems quite similar to a movie plot.
Even though I don't consider myself a huge Star Wars junkie, I remember going to the movies to see every release with my family. An outing I especially miss these days. Although I didn't realize it when I was younger, as I began practicing and studying yoga I saw a strong correlation between the themes of Star Wars and the yoga practice. One Yoda quote that especially reminds me of the first yoga sutra is, "You must unlearn what you have learned." In the yoga sutras (a foundational text on the theory and practice of yoga) the first one is Atha yoganushasanam which translates to "And now begins the practice of yoga.” Essentially, these two principles remind us that we must continue to learn from each present moment experience and set aside old habits and patterns and do not serve us.
Even though it may seem as though each day is the same because we are limited in what we can do and where we can go physically. We are limitless in our minds. We have the capability to see beyond what binds us and to create our own reality based on our perspective.
One of my friends and fellow Yoga Teacher, Dene recently said, "We are not all in the same boat, but we are in the same storm." I know this is a trying and difficult time, but we can all learn something valuable whether about ourselves or our environment.
This time has personally reinforced the value of my yoga and meditation practice and the power of journaling my thoughts and experiences. I have also picked up a new hobby of gardening. Most importantly, I have learned that I am more resilient than I thought and that I am not alone in this.
What ever lessons you are learning in this process, may it carry you forward through this storm. And... May the fourth be with you.
With peace and love,
Like most of you I am going into week three of quarantine; something I never thought I would say. However, here we are. One day I feel optimistic and productive, other days I feel sluggish and depressed. In just a matter of three weeks I have gone through an emotional roller coaster and a complete lifestyle change, which is quite exhausting.
In my last blog post just two days into quarantine I said, “Remember, whatever you are feeling during this time is valid.” Every day since then, I have had to remind myself of that. It’s so easy to disregard your feelings, and I know I have gone through moments where I questioned the validity of them… Especially knowing other people in this world are going through so much worse.
In just three short weeks my income is nearly obsolete, and I will most likely need to file for unemployment and apply for a small business loan. This has brought up feelings of shame and negative self-talk. Yet, deep down I know that this is temporary, I am not defined by my circumstances and I am strong and resilient enough to respond mindfully to these conditions. I think deep down inside we all know that, no matter what we are going through during this time. Yes, we can feel what we feel and think what we think, but at a certain point we must pick ourselves up and keep on going.
More and more we are seeing the silver lining in all of this. Our world is cleaning itself from the clear canals of Venice to the improved air quality in Los Angeles. We are also working together to flatten the curve and keep each other safe and healthy. In my life the silver lining has been spending quality time with my family, connecting with friends, and still getting to do what I love. My husband and I are currently living with my parents, so we prepare dinner, watch TV, do puzzles, play board games, and are in the process of creating an herb garden. Since my schedule has slowed down, I have had the opportunity to connect with family members and even held virtual Happy Hours with friends. And, the most important thing is that we have a roof over our heads, enough food and water to sustain us, and we are all safe and healthy.
I still get to do what I love and am currently teaching meditation every weekday morning at 10:00 AM on Instagram live, recording guided meditation and filming online classes for my subscription, and will be teaching live classes on Zoom and Instagram. I am here to support you during this time and will keep you posted on future offerings. In the meantime, I hope that you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe.
With so much uncertainty, our default reactions can be triggered by stressors that can bring out some weird things. But remember, there is always a reason why people do the things that they do. Everyone is affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. Small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, employees are getting laid off, individuals including myself have no pay or minimal work for several weeks, parents are scrambling for childcare, low income families may not be able to put food on the table or pay their rent, and much more. Please remember to be compassionate, kind, and respectful of others. We may not have control of how others choose to respond, but we can choose how we do. And remember... this too shall pass.
I am currently on day two of quarantine and I am not going to lie, I am going a little stir crazy. I am so used to going outside, socializing with people throughout the day, teaching my classes, and driving around town. Yet, this time in quarantine doesn't necessarily need to be boring, unproductive, and useless. We can still make valuable use of our time while giving ourselves permission to rest when needed.
Here are some tips to make valuable use of your time during quarantine:
When I first began teaching, I solely taught public classes at various studios and gyms. I remember the excitement of getting my first class on the regular schedule. One by one I added more classes until I was averaging 10-15 per week. It worked for a while until I realized it wasn’t sustainable. I was getting sick all the time and felt burnt out. I then decided to expand my offerings to include private classes and yoga retreats. This is where I really shined. When teaching my private classes I enjoy creating a personal experience just for them based on their goals, wants, and needs. When leading my retreats, I get the opportunity to travel and build a deeper connection with my students through the yoga practice. So, for about 3 years I focused on these offerings.
My mission has always been to make yoga accessible for everyone and to teach based on an individual’s unique experience within the practice. Yet, when I sat down and re-evaluated the focus of my work, I saw some gaps.
Although there is value in taking public classes, going on yoga retreats and experiencing private yoga, I realized that daily challenges may prevent us from starting or maintaining a yoga practice. A lack of time, finances, resources, accessibility, and many other factors could play a huge role in this. Once I mapped out these challenges, I set out to try and offer yoga to as many people as I can and through as many offerings as possible. Therefore, I created my online classes and virtual private classes to fill in those gaps.
Online classes allow you to practice from literally anywhere in the world. My classes range from five minutes to an hour and I offer a wide variety because I know everyone is on a different journey. There is everything from pose breakdowns to restorative classes, chair yoga, morning and evening classes, guided meditation, educational workshops, trigger point therapy, and much more. My online subscription is also extremely friendly for your wallet and allows you to practice at your own convenience without feeling self-conscious.
My virtual private classes are a bridge between my online subscription and public or private in-person classes. Thanks to technology, you can take a private class with me from anywhere in the world. All you need is access to Skype, Google Hangouts, or even FaceTime in a pinch. You will get the same personalized class plan from me at half the cost of an in-person private.
Now that I expanded my offerings to include public classes, private lessons, retreats, my online class subscription, and virtual privates you can integrate a yoga practice that meets your lifestyle demands.
In the weeks following the shocking news of the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the 7 other people in the tragic helicopter crash, I have been at a loss for words. They say death is the hardest on the living especially for the families of those affected, but in this instance, I think the whole world is in mourning. After reading articles, watching interviews and seeing the outpouring of love and support at Kobe’s memorial and around the world it is clear that his impact is far-reaching.
Although, I initially felt as though my words would be insignificant, self-indulgent, and unnecessary, I have come to realize that if I doubt my own value, experiences, and words then how can I leave room for others to share their own?
I know life must go on, but I feel that in order to do so, it is important to reflect.
When I was a kid, my parents enrolled my brother and I in all sorts of activities. I tried tee-ball, soccer, gymnastics, hula, swimming, and volleyball. But from the age of five, basketball was my sport. The pure adrenaline of playing man-to-man defense. The roar of the crowd after making a basket. The thrill of blocking a shot or stealing the ball from my opponent. The camaraderie of being a part of a team. I loved every part of the game. I loved playing so much that even when I was given a rest on the bench, I would take a quick sip of water and go up to my coach and say, “Let me back in, I want to play.”
I remember watching Kobe and being in awe of his confidence, dedication, focus, and will to succeed. I always admired his ability to celebrate his wins without worrying about what other people might think of him; that is something that I have always struggled with. He inspired me to chase after my dreams no matter how big or small and to believe in myself.
Being on the court was truly the first place I experienced being in the zone, the equivalent of meditation in yoga. This is where I learned discipline, focus, determination, skill, intention, the importance of practice, as well as success and failure.
So now, whether I am throwing a wad of paper in the trash or grinding out the work to chase after my dreams I will be saying to myself, “Kobe!” Because it is the Mamba mentality that challenges us to push the envelope, work harder, and dream bigger. He has made an impact on my life and through his actions, showed me that anything is possible.
One of my dreams is to make yoga accessible to everyone to the best of my abilities. For years, students have approached me and asked whether I offer online classes or guided audio meditations. My response would always be, “eventually” or “one day.” So, I came up with excuses. I would say to myself, “I’m not ready,” “I don’t know how to edit videos,” “It is too time-consuming,” you name it. But I finally bit the bullet and decided to go for it.
I am excited and proud to announce that as of today I have officially launched my online yoga class library. I put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait for you to see it.
Hi, I'm Lauren and I am here to support people to find freedom in being authentic and the power to carry that out in their lives and community. Writing is one way I like to explore that for myself. Here is my archive of reflections.