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.
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.
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?
Although I can’t say that I made all of these up from scratch – I learned from the best and have since adapted these 10 things below into my ongoing (if not weekly or daily) life.
1. 1 tbsp of Braggs Apple Cider vinegar per day cured my Eczema.
2. Oil after a shower makes my skin oh so soft. Try Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil. It doesn’t smell like a bottle of sunscreen, I promise – and you have to leave it somewhere that will keep it liquified. (It tends to harden if left in a cold place). I leave mine over my stove!
3. One of my favorite things to make for breakfast is a banana shake. It’s extremely easy to pull together; fast, nutritious and it tastes delicious. It also fills you up until lunchtime!
Handful of peeled (or blanched) almonds that you can buy this way
4. My mom is my rock.
5. I am secretly still extremely old school. I have had the hardest time adjusting to technology, and wherever I can manage to keep it real, I do. I read paperback… it wasn’t until just recently that I switched from my handwritten calendar to my iPhone. I am on Twitter but never check it. I still enjoy a phone conversation as opposed to a text message conversation.
6. Face time is priceless. (And far too rare these days with best-friends).
7. I would never go back to my 20’s, but I had the best time of my life… even though much of it was tumultuous and filled with hard life lessons.
8. If I am feeling super reactive, I take 3 deep breaths wherever I am and reassess.
9. I worship the sun, even though it’s bad for you. I still believe there are many benefits to Vitamin D. All in moderation, of course.
10. I try to meditate for 5 minutes a day. It makes a difference.
What are some of your best kept secrets?
”Realize that the lack of self-knowledge is the greatest of all the impurities.”
-Sri Dharma Mittra
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about this notion of “opening your heart”. In one sense, it’s an organ inside of us all that beats and keeps us alive. On the other hand, it’s the organ that we use to feel compassion for others with, love, and sometimes pain and suffering too. Through yoga, I have learned that as we begin to go deeper into the practice of the physical poses, what comes with the understanding of your body and the correct alignment, also comes the knowledge of places where we carry our tension, and burden the weight of our “hearts”. The heart carries so much – aside from the mind and memory along with the science of all of that – our hearts bring us back to moments that we can literally feel and taste all over again. In our practice, we can become aware that these barriers that we create or hold on to, can be shifted and replaced with opening, becoming more vulnerable and in conjuction with, accepting of ourselves and others.
So in thinking about opening our hearts? What does that really mean? What does it mean to you? Can we find a way to let go some of the pain that we have felt in the past to become open to what we might find as we explore a more vulnerable place in the world by opening our hearts?