Revelation

imageMy life as a yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher in Malta was just a preparation for a real yoga which started when I moved from Malta to Taipei. It was a difficult move not only on the material plane. It was very challenging mental transition. From well-recognized yoga teacher to no-one-knows yoga instructor. From open hearts and hugs of many dear friends to loneliness. From easy and comfortable life to start-it-all-over-again. For a few years in Taipei my ego has crashed many times. Thanks to yoga and even more so to vipassana mediation I could recover with many new insights about myself as I really am – something behind all the beautiful images about myself which were created thanks to my loving students and friends back in Malta. Before, every time I mastered a new yoga pose or received another positive feedback from my student, my ego would get reinforced. Once I lost these ego-feeding sources, I had to re-evaluate my self-worth and self-image, finding new independent ways of feeling good about myself.
imageAnd then motherhood happened bringing new and even more challenging spiritual tasks, accomplishment of which required all these years of preparation in Malta (and before). The parenthood is the highest form of yoga, in my understanding. Parenting is more challenging than any other relationship since the responsibility for the outcome lies entirely on a parent. My son has been my most serious, deep, amazing, fun-filled yoga project from the time of pre-conception when his mantra came to me till today when we are struggling to nap on time not to get over-stimulated.
I am so very grateful for all these experiences, and especially for the “difficult times” which has given me so much stimuli to grow spiritually. I feel like I want to say: Keep it coming, Universe! But I have some fears inside, and also a desire to live a comfortable life with not too many challenges is quite strong in me. Well, this post is about my past, not my future. I might write more on my future in the future. It’s time to meditate now. Namaste!

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Meditate and love!

Is this the time of year in which you tend to think about love and romance and make effort to be more loving towards yourself and others? YES! Valentine’s is coming!

As you are reading this, I am enjoying most beautiful island of Bali with my husband and son. It is easier to feel loving and lovable when in the mood for holiday and surrounded by the beauty of nature. What about everyday life?
Sometimes I feel angry or powerless as things get out of control, or I might feel burdened by many responsibilities, or usual routine makes my life feel dull… Under these circumstances can I still feel IN LOVE with myself, my husband, my son, life itself? I say YES! and practicing yoga is my answer. Right, yoga is my answer for most of my questions (as it really does work!).
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When yoga is approached as a practice to deepen awareness, it helps to cultivate the skill for self-compassion and love which is especially useful when your life has become out of alignment. And the practice could be very simple – just feeling your body. Do you know that your body speaks your mind? Your body is a barometer of what’s really happening in your mind and in your life. Breathe deeply and notice how your body feels today. Where do you feel tightness? Any discomfort anywhere? Just bringing awareness to some place in your body stimulates the flow of vital energy to this place. It might intensify your sensations at first but if you keep your calm focus and deep breath, the physical discomfort will gradually disappear and it will release some mental pressure too! This is a practice I’ve been doing more than any other ones since my son was born. The reason is simple – it’s very effective in relaxing the body and mind and I can do it pretty much any time, even while simultaneously taking care of my baby. In this case I choose a smaller area to concentrate on – say, my feet if I’m walking, or my hands if I’m cutting veggies.

Since we talk about it before the Valentine’s day, I suggest you concentrate on feeling your chest and your heart area. Is your heart cold or warm? Open or closed? Soft or hard? Really feel into it. And stay with whatever comes up for you for some time. Keep choosing feeling instead of thinking. Don’t let your mind interfere. Then start exhaling anything that doesn’t serve you anymore. Empty it all out. Create some renewed space in your heart. As the next step, allow your breath get deeper and start inhaling love. Feel warm smooth soft sensations filling in your heart. And feel the well of love which is always in your heart pouring out. You ARE love. That’s what your deeper self is. Just pure love. Once you feel you’ve had enough, finish the practice with sending love, blessings and warm wishes of happiness to your loved ones and all beings. Repeat daily or as often as possible. I hope you will try this meditation for yourself, and will like it as much as I do.
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It’s important to learn to nourish our deeper self first, to feel love, to be love. Only then we can share it with others. It is also great to stay open to the love that surrounds us. You might be surprised at how much you are given when your heart and mind stays open. Giving and receiving freely is so much fun! As you learn connecting to your heart and your true real self – LOVE, you will find it much easier to stay connected and loving to others.

HAPPY VALENTINE’s DAY!

Zoya at http://www.zoyayoga.com

Feelings and new beginning

We’re near the end of January. How have the first month of the year been feeling to you? I’d like to emphasize – FEELING. It’s not about what you’ve done, but how have you’ve been feeling or in other words what and who have you BEEN.
For me who I am BEING is equally, if not more important, than what I am doing. And our feelings define the quality of our being. Am I feeling / being joy or sadness? Acceptance or resistance? Love or fear? Pain or pleasure? Freedom or limitation?

imageWhen we have emotions that feel good, we are vibrating at a high rate, aligned with Source Energy. And that helps us to attract more positive stuff in our life. So it’s vitally important to choose to do things that make us feel good, to have wonderful positive people around us, and to learn surrender and go with the flow of life when we can’t change what’s going on rather than struggle and get angry.

If you don’t feel you’ve been your best this January ( I personally don’t), we’ve got a perfect second chance! Well, yes, every day is a second chance, I know! but it feels good to do it in synchronicity with big natural cycles. The new year of the Horse is starting next week and it’s for me a more significant new beginning to compare with the 1st January of any year, since Chinese calendar follows natural rhythms of the universe. So let’s start anew and this time really do our best to FEEL our best by doing what we need in order to feel so.

The practice of self-study, or svadhyaya as we call it in yoga, is always compelling at the turn of a new year. As I look inwardly, I’m asking myself: Who am I most committed to being in 2014? What is my word or phrase (sankalpa) for the coming year? I might write about my answers one day but for now I love you and leave you contemplating on what YOU want to BE. And to motivate you, I’d like to finish with the words of the Dalai Lama: “Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.” If doing it for your own sake is difficult, do it for your loved ones, all people around you, your town/city, your country, your planet and all living beings!

Many Blessings for a Happy Horse Year!

Yoga, love and motherhood.

There were three major events in my adult life that directed me to the spiritual path and shaped my personality and life. First was yoga. It has slowly and gradually transformed my body – relieving physical pain and ailments, then my mind – removing emotional garbage and revealing the bliss of mental peace under the constant chatter, and eventually, my soul – allowing for deep connection to the purpose of my life and my higher self. I’m, of course, not talking about yoga as only practice of poses but yoga in its deepest meaning of Union with its meditative experiences, the feeling of the energetic body and its currents, and ultimately as a conscious way of life.
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The second transformation has started when I fell in love – a true love that has been removing the edges of my ego and opening countless opportunities for self-reflection and self-growth. This real love has been showing like in a mirror my ugliest angles in order to remake them through presence and awareness. Becoming ONE with my husband has been a truly transformational experience as it gives no choice but to allow, embrace, forgive, and savour each moment whether it’s bitter or sweet.

The last and the most recent biggest change was brought to me through the amazing journey of motherhood: calling for a soul, embodying it, giving birth to it and now taking care of the new human being I call “my son”. To know by experience what unconditional love means, one must become a sage or a parent. The latter could be easier but for me it’s connected to a huge responsibility to be the best person I’ve ever could. What can be a better opportunity for self-improvement then knowing that the little person you love the most in your life will copy everything in you including your worst unconscious patterns? Along my teaching and coaching past I’ve met way too many people with pains and problems all rooted in their childhood. Will I exaggerate saying that 99% of all problems are related to our relationship to our parents? The desire to bring up a healthy and wholesome being simply forces a loving parent to become a better person. It’s still a very new adventure for me but my son Veda has been the greatest teacher I’ve ever had. The spiritual potential that parenthood withholds is amazing. And I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming on the next page of my story.
Life is beautiful! I’m so grateful for it all!

Intimate Journeys

Namaste WordPress friends!

I’ve been silent for almost two years now ( oh my god, time flies!). Since my last post there has been so much change in my life! In fact, it’s a totally new life for me! I’m a mother of a one year three month old toddler now! Going through pregnancy, giving birth and taking care of a baby – all these experiences were life-changing and very very transformative for me.

Me and my babyI’m intended to start blogging again, and since my interests have slightly changed, my topics could be a bit different now, though spirituality will always be at the heart of it all. My writing will be more informal too. I’ll just try to share some thoughts and inspirations.

And I’d like to start by sharing an article which is written not by me, but about me. I was recently interviewed by Cosmopolitan, Taiwan, and you can see the photos and a Chinese translation on this link:
http://www.cosmopolitan.com.tw/?p=8756

Here is the original article:

Cosmopolitan, Taiwan
November, 2013

Intimate Journeys
By Cindy H. Wang (王傳瑄)
Travelers from all over the world make their journeys to Taipei, and many of them choose to stay. Each person’s journey becomes a small piece of consciousness in time, and contributes to collective beauty of our city. Many foreigners learn the local language, adapt, and grow as they settle down. Their stories are all different, but their journeys all come from inside out. No matter where is the destination in their minds, as long as they listen to their hearts, their experience will always bring them closer to home.

Zoya lives in Xindian with her family. Every afternoon she takes a small journey with her one-year old boy to the nearby park for some exercise. She has always been agile, and her post-pregnancy slender figure seems even more fit than before. People who come in contact and interact with her are often in awe that, the beautiful and gentle Belarus woman who looks like a doll happens to speak Mandarin like a local person. Besides of being a full-time wife and mom, she is also an advanced yoga instructor who is fluent in Russian, English, and Mandarin, and has taught yoga around the world.

When she was studying in college, if anyone had told her that she would one day live in Taiwan, married to a Taiwanese artist, and teach yoga professionally, she would had laughed like it was a far-fetched fable. But years later, she is not working at a competitive corporation, she no longer smokes, drinks, or eat meat, and looks like a lively teenager. Her story is not in any form a fictitious tale, but a beautiful woman’s journey. Zoya is from Belarus. She majored in International Relations and minored in English and Chinese languages at the Belarus State University. She always excelled in everything she did, and after graduating, she came to Taiwan to study Political Science, and was recruited to work for the ROST (Russian Center for Cooperation with Taiwan) Group, where she worked as the special assistant of the President of the company. But the stress from school and the demanding job aggravated the lower back pain she had since she was a teenager. She began to practice yoga for her health, then found time from her busy schedule to complete yoga instructor certification training in Taipei.

She then left Taiwan in 2004, and moved to Malta. She lived in Malta of 6 years to be with her loved one. She also continued more advanced yoga training in India and Europe, and established Zoya Yoga center in Malta. Her thoughtfulness and patience make her a very popular teacher. She also created extended courses that last for a few months. The students who enroll in her classes all want to participate on long-term basis, as she also prefers to teach long-term course and cultivate comprehensive teacher-student relationships. She would start with basic postures and breathing exercises, then gradually introduce more advanced components physical and emotional components into the class. Analogous of any journey, it takes a beginning to get to anywhere. She would say, “it’s like no one can learn to read a novel before learning the alphabets and words, right?”

Her kindness and gentle guidance is always reflected in her classroom. After travelling from Eastern Europe to Asia, India, and many different places, her teaching has always come the guidance that encourage her students to take on their own personal journeys. She says that, “I create safe space for my student to increase awareness and allow any needed change. I am not the one to take responsibility and decide what’s right for them. But I can share some yoga tools that will show them the way. However, they must choose the direction, not me. At the same time, I keep working on myself, changing myself with the help of others as they reflect my shortcomings.”

Even thou she has left school and the world of international trading, she is still majoring in “relationships.” Her marriage is the proof of the dedicated relationship with her husband. She mentions that when they were dating, her intuition let her know that he was the one person she wanted to be with. The relationship between her son and her husband is also influenced by the sense of closeness that she brings, and the baby is already very close with his father. She also acknowledges that men and women need each other, just like how the energy of the sun and the moon complement each other.

Regarding on how to build strong relationships with others, her principles are honesty, trust, and openness. Everyone needs shield for protection, and some form of disguise. But when the self-discovering process releases personal bondage, any kind mask will become unnecessary, and even words will become excessive. She is fluent in three languages, but she has never been conformed or controlled by any books, philosophies, or knowledge. She believes that only her own direct experience is true. Whenever she comes across some profound realization herself, then the experience in confirmed in something she reads, she always feel validated, but that does not mean the written words are her guidance in life.

She is also perpetually discovering her inner life. Without any religious beliefs, she believes life is eternal. The interior life is always more important than the exterior, because no matter what, everything starts with the self. She says that, “Everything relationship you build is a reflection of yourself, and it’s always better to change yourself than others.” She also recalls that compare to before, she feels her life in the present moment is better, because she always listened to her heart, and never ceased to change.

Being a Leo, Zoya is analogous of a beautiful and graceful cat. But her life is not at all about sleeping under the sun. She and her husband have moved back to Taiwan for 4 years. Her impressive credential has made her the ideal teacher many yoga studios are seeking. Many of her students are also expecting her to open new sessions again. Her teaching will always allow students of any age to uncover and build better relationships as they learn to relax and let of lies and pretenses, and become more in touch with their own bodies. The journey of happiness and self-discovery is a long path. It is also the ultimate relationship with one’s self. It is never too late, and there is never a wrong time to embark.

Change Your Life with Yoga Nidra

I was very lucky to learn yoga nidra (yogic sleep), a powerful raja (royal) yoga technique of conscious relaxation, during my first stay in India in 2004. I spent a month in a Bihar School of Yoga ashram in Bangalore where I learned yoga nidra directly from a yogacharya (yoga teacher) who was a disciple of Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati for most of his life. It’s Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati, an outstanding spiritual leader and the founder of the Bihar Yoga Tradition, who adapted yoga nidra from tantric yoga and made it accessible to all of us. I am so very grateful to Guruji and my teacher for sharing this powerful technique which since then had become a permanent part of my personal yoga practice and my yoga teaching. Thanks to yoga nidra, many of my friends, students and myself personally have benefited greatly and brought essential positive changes in our lives.

Nidra is a Sanskrit word which can be translated as sleep, and yoga nidra is known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness. It is a powerful technique of inducing complete and systematic relaxation on the physical, emotional and mental levels of our being. It uniquely unwinds the nervous system, which is the foundation of the body’s well-being. One can rejuvenate in a short period of time – 30 minutes of yoga nidra is as restful as two hours of conventional sleep! Practiced lying down, it does not involve movement, just listening and relaxing, therefore it is suitable for any physical condition.

The practice of yoga nidra consists of a few different stages among which are total relaxation of the physical body, breathing techniques to promote deep mental relaxation and guided visualization to resolve suppressed memories and desires. Another very important stage of yoga nidra, which turns it into a life-changing method, is sankalpa (resolution) but it’s a vast topic I wrote about previously.

Yoga nidra practice has been investigated in many research centers around the world and showed extremely favorable results in many fields. A state of profound psychophysiological relaxation and metabolic rest which occurs during yoga nidra is characterized by decreased sympathetic and increased parasympathetic nervous activity, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, altered levels of «stress hormones» such as adrenaline and cortisol, and enhanced concentration capacity. This state was given different names such as «the hypnagogic state», «the creative surrender» and «the relaxation response».  It is in this state, the awakening and mobilization of prana (vital energy) happens naturally, and with consistent practice the ability to consciously control and direct prana throughout the body can be developed. This ability to use pranic energy at will allows a yoga nidra practitioner to access unlimited potential of inner healing power and improve any diseased condition of body-mind system.

Doctors and healers in many countries now prescribe yoga nidra as a preventive and curative therapy for stress-related diseases. Stress is a contributing factor in everything from backaches and insomnia to cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some estimates say that stress is related to 40-80% of all doctor visits! Heart disease, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, arthritis, bacterial or viral infections, migraine headaches, asthma and respiratory aliments… Have you ever experienced any of these problems? Unfortunately, most of us have illnesses or conditions brought on by stress or made worse by it. Fortunately, yoga nidra has been successfully used in the management of many stress-related diseases, and is proved helpful in both acute and chronic conditions.

Yoga nidra is also a successful therapy for psychological disturbances of all kinds, such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc., as it helps remove emotional imbalances and mental fatigue and tensions. In yoga nidra the subconscious mind is tapped to bring out into awareness the source of psychic pain – previously suppressed emotions, memories and desires. Self-recognition and desensitization of these painful life experiences follow spontaneously, and it can be safely relived and reintegrated into the conscious personality. When practice yoga nidra you become your own psychotherapist, you follow the instructions and not the instructor. The instructor is only a guide who doesn’t dominate your mind or will in any way. In yoga nidra you do everything yourself, and when you become familiar with the technique you will not even need an instructor anymore. Yoga nidra helps you to recognize your own personal problems and systematically alleviate them.

You can also use yoga nidra to stimulate your personal growth. The combination of alert awareness and the deepest form of relaxation helps you to dive into the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind. In this «hypnagogic state» the mind is exceptionally receptive, and its nature can be easily changed: bad habits can be given up more easily, personality can be reshaped and direction in life can be chosen more wisely. In yoga nidra state you can also restore your creativity: we all have genius but we often cannot find it under the layers of tension and ever-busy mental chatters. You might find that right after yoga nidra practice, your mind is clear and still, and you feel inspired and called by your creative muse. This time is precious and can be used to write poems or music, to paint, sculpt or for any other creative process.

Applications of yoga nidra are very versatile, and one of them is to enhance the learning process by using our ability to absorb knowledge through the subconscious mind. Experiments are showing that yoga nidra is an extremely efficient mean of increasing learning capacity and memory function. Many pioneering educators now utilize yoga nidra to create the state of active and relaxed awareness in which knowledge is soaked up without effort. If you are a scholar, you might choose to use the stillness of your mind after yoga nidra practice to memorize and study.

The last and for me personally the most important use of yoga nidra lies in its meditative nature. If you find it difficult to meditate in a sitted position, you should start with yoga nidra. Achieving deep relaxation and perfect state of pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) brings out sensory inhibition that enables you to watch your mental activity. This can be more difficult to achieve while sitting but it is a necessary prerequisite to any meditation. Once you master pratyahara and relaxation, you will be able to get to the stage of dharana (contemplation) where your inner focus on one point helps you not to get involved in your thoughts and to reduce their number.  This might eventually lead to dhyana – defocusing or effortless focusing, the state in which you keep one single thought effortlessly and are continuously present in the now. That makes meditation a meaningful experience filled with spontaneous awareness and deep insights. Knowledge of truth only comes when you are free of tension and mindful. The ultimate purpose of yoga nidra is to take you even further into the state of samadhi where your body, mind and soul are completely united and become one with all there is. This is the true goal of yoga – UNION.