My friend Alexandra has recently started a great blog called I Love Yogis. I Love Yogis is a site dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the global community of yoga teachers. The founding intention of the I Love Yogis project is to glorify all the hard-working, big-hearted teachers in the world who have the best interests of others at the center of their life’s work. While not everyone’s dharma is to act as a yoga teacher, we can all certainly cultivate yogic qualities and appreciate those who live their lives in service of those qualities. The belief is that the more we converse around these traits and the people who embody them, the better to aid the shift in global consciousness and keep the snowball of love rolling.
I am honored that she asked me to participate in this project. As each new interview unfolds, I am constantly awed by the different answers and perspectives, and all of the ways we find our Selves in the practice of yoga. If you are interested in reading my interview, I thank you for taking the time to if you choose and welcome your comments, as always.
This is well overdue, but I do have a good excuse… as I have been busy becoming a new mom and riding the waves of each new day as they are all an adventure of their own. (And that’s my disclaimer.)
A few months back, my friend Jenny, and also the founder of the Your Soul Style project, asked me to answer a few questions about my own personal style and how I have come to it over time. Your Soul Style is an online blog and platform dedicated to the ‘soul style’ movement, which is about self-expression through the vehicle of style. It clearly stands behind the notion that the most important thing to remember when developing your sense of style, is that you are at your best when you are truly being yourself. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment and strive hard every day to be the most authentic version of myself. When I am trying to be something I’m not, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and that shows in how I walk, talk and carry myself. Can you relate? How do you present the best and most genuine version of yourself?
To quote Jenny, “Mika has found the perfect balance of work and life, which for her are essentially one in the same. She has embraced the uncertainties of life with grace, poise, courage and strength and inspires others professionally and personally with the wisdom gained from her introspective experiences. Her biggest accomplishment happened this past October, when her and husband Ryan welcomed their son Jonah Mason Oakes into the world. She is glowing particularly brighter these days. As a brand new mom, she continues to welcome each new day with a lesson to be learned, a challenge to be conquered and emotional growth to be had. She is the epitome of soul style.” You can find the full article here.
Here I am in the very middle of the life that I’ve always known, and the life I’m about to begin as new mom. I am sitting on the fence and seeing both sides, but not comfortably grounded in either. It’s a very unsettling feeling and a very unsettling time, even though there is so much good to look forward to.
There are so many different forms of this in between place, existing in greater forms such as becoming a new parent, or lesser forms such as right after a yoga practice… you have just spent an hour or so breathing into your body, and that place – right as savasana ends and you are cued to rise up again into a comfortable seat and an aware mind. You are in between that quiet and still space you’ve just created after practicing, and the space before the rest of your day quickly kicks in.
We are so lucky that we even have these subtle yet important moments. As yoga practitioners, and as aware beings living through life, we sometimes get caught up in the moments. After all, we are human. Hopefully we have the ability to then realize we are caught up, and then take a step back and reassess.
Today I have reassessed where I currently am. I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first child, a baby boy, who is comfortably nestled in my womb at this time. I don’t blame him, as I’m sure the safety and warmth that the womb provides is the best place on earth. So in letting my anxiety get the best of me in certain moments, and while trying to stay busy and keep things moving, I am the farthest thing from relaxed. Even though I am engaging in “relaxing” activities such as acupuncture, reflexology, walking, etc… This imminent birth and life changing experience that is looming overhead is way more palpable than any of the relaxation I am trying to embody.
Today I took myself onto my mat. I played music loud, closed my eyes and allowed my body to move into shapes that it was thirsty for. What a humbling experience it is to be a pregnant body as someone who is “so in touch” with what the body thinks it needs. Sometimes we over calculate what we “should be” or “could be” doing during these times of in between, when really all we “need” to be doing is listening with intense ears, not by trying to control outcomes we will never be able to.
The mat took me back into my body and my breath and transcended me into a place of peace… the first real time I’ve felt peaceful in a while. I lost myself in the beats in the background and breathed into the backs of my legs… my shoulders and arms. It felt amazing. I felt inspired enough to put some thoughts together in the form of this blog and figured I’d share, as it’s not that often that our awareness is palpable enough to articulate.
My husband Ryan and I watched the documentary “The Business of Being Born” last night. As expectant parents, this might sound strange, but after watching the film, the actual notion of BIRTH itself hit home for me. It felt like the tip of the iceberg of information for the many questions already formulating in my mind. I realize now, that sadly, so much of the birthing and prenatal process is doing what we’re told to do. Without doing the research outside of what the doctor tells you, you follow western guidelines through the eyes of an OB/GYN and “normal” hospital procedures. As a complete novice to the world of pregnancy even with the experience of having worked with several pre and post natal woman along their journey… this film was eye opening for me.
“The Business of Being Born” was produced by Ricki Lake and follows different women (along with the actual film maker herself who was pregnant at the time) throughout their pregnancies. It focuses a lot on the medicalized experience at the hospital vs. a home birth. Often times, what we fail to realize as women who are going through this process is that much of the birthing experience is widely based on fear. Women are made to feel like they aren’t strong enough to withstand the pain of birth when actually we’ve been doing it for years… (think cave woman style) without the help of meds, epidurals, pitocin, etc.
Speaking from my own experience, when the initial news of the pregnancy happened, it was SUCH a loaded feeling. A mix of total excitement, absolute terror and then “now what?” When we first found out, the news came at a very bittersweet time. Ryan’s father had just passed away unexpectedly and two days after, we found out. We had the memorial weekend to get through first and then proceeded to tell our families. All I kept thinking about at the time, was that there was another soul inside of my body. That feeling was so real and so unknown. I felt that because of the recent passing of Ryan’s Dad, this pregnancy was meant to be. A true illustration of the circle of life… such a beautiful and hard thing.
With all there is to think about with pregnancy, oddly enough – the first thing wasn’t the birth itself for me. It was more like “will it be a boy or a girl” “will everything be viable with the pregnancy” worries and fears about all that could or might go wrong… then the excitement around the actual planning, while the change in the body starts to occur – it is seriously endless. When it came to thinking about the birth, I don’t feel like it truly set in until I saw this movie last night. I have thought about it on a somewhat superficial level, but envisioning myself in the actual moment is an entirely different thing. Obvious realization: in order to experience the joys of this child we are bringing into the world, I will have to give birth to him.
Here I am in full awareness now. I have planned on a hospital birth up until this point, and truthfully I feel I might still go with the hospital birth. The home births that were featured in the movie seem much more up my alley, but I can’t lie and say that because I have never done this before, being in a hospital provides me with a sense of safety. We hired a doula as well, and that also provides me with a great sense of comfort to take on birth feeling fulling supported. With that being said, I feel that it would be a diservice to myself to not research other avenues. In these next few weeks, I plan on meeting with both a home birth midwife as well as a hospital midwife just to see what some of the differences/pros/cons are.
The more information we have about the actual birth process itself, the better we can formulate the birthing plan that is right for us. As as yoga teacher and massage therapist, I would coin myself as someone who is very in tune with my body and my mind. Because of that, I truly want to create through empowerment of knowledge, the space for a calm birth not out of fear, but out of strength.
This past week, I was reminded of an important lesson… too much of a good thing, is never a good thing at all! I do my best to practice the act of moderation as a part of my daily lifestyle, but sometimes while practicing with the best intentions, my vision gets blurred.
On Wednesday, my family and I went out to celebrate my mother’s birthday. We dined at a delicious Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side called Pappardella. This restaurant, over the last few years has revamped itself… I don’t know for sure – but it seemed like there was a new chef, there was definitely a new menu and plenty of mindful options for the more health conscious diner. There were grass fed meat options as well as an entirely gluten free (GF) Italian menu! People like me… and possibly you (if you maintain a GF diet) hardly ever get the pleasure of enjoying (and devouring) a “traditional-style” Italian meal.
Well, we did certainly that on Wednesday evening….. TOO MUCH so! We ordered the GF garlic bread, GF Margherita pizza, GF pasta with mushrooms in a delicious white wine and olive oil sauce and ANOTHER GF pasta dish with tomato, mozzarella and basil sauce! Clearly this wasn’t all for me, and we all shared, but it seemed like I couldn’t get it into my mouth fast enough! I wasn’t consciously thinking about the fact that I might have been eating it all too quickly, and definitely didn’t pause to think about how it would make me feel afterwards… Almost immediately after dinner I felt completely stuffed, uncomfortably full and borderline SICK!
It comes back to the basic, but hard to manage “all in moderation” theory. It’s okay to splurge, in fact it’s important to listen to your cravings once in a while, but when you are not used to stuffing your face with heavier foods (even if they are GF)! it’s imperative to take it slow! Even if you are choosing to indulge in your meal of choice for an evening, moderation is a practice that should be maintained.
Although the meal we had was deliciously amazing, the way I felt afterwards took away from the experience as a whole… and even the way I felt the next day effected the experience too.
Bottom line – splurge, indulge and enjoy…. but just do it in MODERATION! Eat your hearts out and have a great weekend.
As a NYC based yoga teacher and massage therapist, there are times when I feel lit up and on fire with my work and my place in the world… there are also other times that I don’t feel that way so much. It all comes back to the very basic principles of self acceptance, I believe. (So easy, right?) More like YEAH RIGHT… In my opinion, self acceptance and accepting where we are and when we are where we are, are some of the very basic but extremely hard tasks to take on.
How can we continue to find our passions in life? As some days do tend to feel more inspiring than others, what do you do on the days where you’re left feeling uninspired? Do you have places you can go or people you can see or even blogs to read if you’re needing a little bit more UUMPH?
I’ve come to realize over time, that sometimes it feels like a seasonal thing… while other times it might feel more personal based on what’s happening in life specifically during a given time, or maybe it might even feel hormonal… With all of the above being said, it’s hard to switch a feeling off when it comes around, whatever that feeling may be.
I have worked endlessly to try to understand how to avoid these feelings, but they are natural. It’s important that we have tools to access in our toolbox so that when emotions surface, we can learn to rise above or take ourselves out of whatever we’re feeling. After all, E-motions are just that – they are feelings that run through us. They don’t stay, and they are never the same from one minute to the next. That’s sort of the beauty of it all.
A few things I like to do when I’m feeling uninspired or like a need an extra jolt of something…
1. Search for new music – creating the perfect playlist for a class really gives me great pleasure. Music in general lifts me up when I am feeling down… so I put on a good song, play it loud enough to cover up the thoughts in my own mind and see how that works.
2. Read an inspiring quote or passage from a spiritual text or book I know will have the words I need.
3. Talk to a good friend about what’s going on. Sometimes just a listening ear, and to feel heard is enough to let whatever is passing through move on.
4. Listen to my body and my mood. I try not to force myself to change or do anything at all. I remind myself that this, too, shall pass and not to be too hard on myself.
We all do the best that we can on a daily basis. Trust that you are doing your best and don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s in the quieter, lighter moments in life that we can look back on the darker moments and remind ourselves that it’s no so bad.
“It will all be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”
In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. – Albert Schweitzer
Over this weekend, I had six wonderful ladies over at my place for a little dinner soiree. Of the many (and few) things we have in common, we have our India experience in common. Funny enough, ever since I have returned from my trip to India, I have been processing, learning, digesting and thanking my lucky stars that I was able to share and more importantly be open to that kind of an experience in the first place. The others shared in my sentiments about not exactly knowing what to make of the trip… but knowing that it was something profound. “IT WAS AMAZING”… but those three words can only truly be understood by all that were there. And for all of us, for different reasons of our own, the trip seemed to come at a time in our lives that we were simply meant to be there together for those moments in time.
Friday night was a little piece of India in New York. Some of us hadn’t seen each other since the trip, but it didn’t feel that way at all. We were together again, recapping the experience – some of our best moments, our worst moments, and where we all are today. Not to mention some chanting, which felt really good and I only have opened up to that recently.
Each of these women inspire me, light me up and make me feel thankful that I was able to connect and find a deeper level of that connection within myself again. Connecting is such an important part of life… and though we all have it in us, it’s sometimes hard in our daily lives to find that depth. Routine takes over, life gets in the way… and it’s amazing to stop and refuel and feed your soul with inspiration, heart and friendship.
In our lives, we theoretically arrive in many places. This can mean both physical arrival but also mental and emotional arrival. Some of us might feel like we never arrive, and we keep searching for answers while perhaps asking the wrong questions. Maybe it’s not about the answers or finding them… but it’s about the continuous exploration and the journey. Maybe in the end, it’s not about arriving at all.
After having spent two weeks in India, and having been being home now for about two weeks, I find myself searching for ways to articulate the experience. It’s hard to say how it all affected me, because I know it has and I know I feel different. When people ask, “How was your trip?” All I can say is, “Amazing”… because it was. How can I possibly describe the profound attention and intention of prayer, to the extreme poverty, and the mid day and night time deep chats with new friends… so so much it’s impossible to define. Everything in India is heightening… that’s the magic of it all. Truly it’s not about trying to make sense of it, but rather giving it the time and space to work its way in organically. As each day passes, I accept that it’s not about making sense of an experience that is simply indescribable, but the process itself.
If I allow myself to pause and remember while in the midst of my busy New York life, it’s all there… fresh in my memory and quite visceral as the experience was. The great questions we feel should be answered are all a part of this process and instead of intellectualizing it all, it’s about letting the seeds that were planted grow.
Have a wonderful weekend, and I hope to see you soon in class.
Karma means to do. It refers to the universal principle of cause and effect and can be practiced through selfless service. In modern day terminology, it can described as volunteer work. As part of completion of my 500 hour yoga training with Sri Dharma Mittra back in January and March of 2011, community service and/or Karma yoga was one of the requirements. There are several ways one could meet the requirement, and at the time, my choice and intention was to donate my time to a local animal shelter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, BARC. As life and busy days have it, that never ended up happening… and throughout, there were moments of anticipation in knowing this was something I still needed to complete.
Fast forward to summer of 2012. A little bit of a background, I have always been a seriously huge cat lover. My sister’s cat Kali is now referred to as my niece whom I cannot get enough of, I grew up with a cat, Pebbles… and also had a cat throughout some of my college and post college years… Izzy. Unfortunately, my husband Ryan is allergic and the desire to adopt a new little furry friend has never quite been possible.
About a month or so ago, my karma yoga project literally knocked on our door. In the adjacent backyard to ours, we found a mother cat and her three kittens. There, she had cleverly found a safe place for the birth her kittens and where she could tend to them in the early weeks of their lives. There was no way I couldn’t have done something about this. Treading very carefully at first, each day I began checking on them several time throughout the day… as I was a total foreigner in her eyes, the mama got scared and protective of her little ones and all ran into hiding. I then began feeding them twice a day at a certain point and that was when they realized I wasn’t there to hurt them, but only help them. Our friendship and trust began there… and it’s as though I was meant to care for and help these cats in need.
In our efforts to help rescue (now known as) Mama Juno and her three Chipmunks – Alvin, Simon and Theodore, I did a ton of research online and after several failed attempts in finding a shelter, I reached out to a woman named Kathryn Walton. She is the Founder and owner of The American Street Cat, a non-profit organization born out of her love for cats that is dedicated to minimizing the stray cat overpopulation in Brooklyn and the greater NYC metro area. She helped us safely trap them all, get them vetted and helped provide the care they needed. The kittens all received a clean bill of health and were adopted and fostered this week!!! Sadly, mama Juno doesn’t have such an easy road ahead of her. She was diagnosed with a heart condition and also has FIV (equivalent to HIV for humans). It’s not the FIV that is of concern mostly, but her poor little heart. She will be monitored and given proper care and diet throughout her life… and she is a lucky little lady even with her health issues.
I have learned and felt so much throughout this experience. I have had moments of anxiety, in not knowing how to approach these cats, moments of extreme sadness for their hard lives and moments of utter openness in my heart of wanting to give and provide as much as possible for their little souls. The majority of the moments lie in this desire to give. I have learned so much about the stray cat population as a result, and also learned about the different dilemmas cats face on a regular basis. Our work wouldn’t have been possible without Kathyrn, and she is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Her love for cats is beyond love, and her endless efforts to help and provide for them is overwhelming. Her non-profit strives every day to continue helping cats in need, if you have a warm spot in your heart for animals and care to donate to her fund, you can donate here. www.theamericanstreetcat.org/donate
Did anybody get caught in the rainstorm yesterday? I did, and it was amazing… Those that watched it from a window said how fierce it was, but walking in it while shuffling onto the next place in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan was different. Feeling the thunder rock the streets of NYC, and continuing onward anyway and not caring that I was soaked, felt empowering.
When the weather pours in, literally, life proceeds in a different way. For that one moment or length of the storm we all take pause to recognize the shift – either hoping the heat will break, thanking the fact that we’re not caught up in it or simply recognizing nature’s beauty.
Have you ever encountered “the perfect storm” in your life? Be it with your emotions, your job, your relationship? When emotions take over and things pour out one way or another, that’s when shift occurs. It gets to that point where what you’ve been doing is no longer working, and you must go through the process in order to find change.
For the last several days in my own life, I have had a version of my own perfect storm. There was nothing that changed so severely, but realizations that surfaced that I needed to observe. For the last week or so, I have been processing and processing and trying to come to some sort of sound decision so that a shift could take place. As I slept on it, (or lost sleep on it rather), talked it out with trusted friends and family, the clouds faded and my heavy quality seemed to lift. Like a perfect storm, it’s literally like the sky broke open in my own heart and poured out into clearer skies. It felt cleansing and eye opening both at once.
It makes you stop to think for a moment, it really is all about perception. Is the storm a drag? Is it preventing you from going and doing something? Is it just a natural part of how things happen when shifts (either in weather or in perspective) need to occur?