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  • The hackers in my head

    About a month ago my personal Facebook page was hacked! My first reaction was “who on earth has all this free time?”. I guess some people do. I immediately took measures by reporting my concerns and this is exactly how it went: “Please FB help me with my account, someone stole my FB page, I think someone is using my FB page without my permission, someone is misusing my account, FB I need you to urgently respond to my problem”. And as I am writing this I can’t help but laugh. 

    Guys this is a serious situation, I can’t post any selfies or let the rest of the world know what I’m up to. Really? No! For some people this can create a serious catastrophe or a mental breakdown. I do have to say that as I was trying to gain control of my account I thought I was losing my identity simply because someone else was pretending to be me.

    Hacker #1:  “You are your image” 

    “What if someone decides to post an obscene picture of me and it lingers in cyber space for eternity?”, I thought …

    Hacker # 2:  “You are your thoughts” 

    I lost total control of my account and for a few moments of my life, I felt as if an alien entity had violated my most basic rights of privacy. But wait, isn’t FB a platform to make our lives public? For a moment I felt embarrassed and ashamed, as if I had done something wrong to deserve this.

    Hacker # 3: “You are not good enough”

    While I was trying to regain control of my account the invisible hacker had gained access to my business account. They managed to post two irrelevant and inappropriate pictures on our studio’s page. I sat in complete disbelief staring at the page and not knowing what to do. I called everyone I could to help me find a solution and I immediately posted a warning message on the studio’s website and emailed every member. I drained all my energy into making things appear normal. 

    Hacker # 4: “Do what you ALWAYS do … react”

    For a few seconds I panicked and thought my business had been compromised.  The fear had creeped into my mind. 

    Hacker # 5: “Life is out there to get you”

    Days passed and my personal account was wiped out from virtual reality while the business page remains active but useless. There was nothing else to do but to let it GO! 

    A sense of uncomfortableness still creeped inside my head and that’s when Hacker #6 showed up: “You need to re-invent and protect your new ego”. But from who? Or what? 

    You see, unfortunately, we live in a world infused by fear, anger and retaliation. We remain asleep from the real hackers in our heads. All that time I spent trying to gain control of the situation and fight against an enemy out there, I couldn’t see that the real threat was inside my head. These mind hackers are the habitual patterns of thought that keep us numb and unaware of our toxic and repetitive behaviors. They are with us 24/7 telling us how to live, react and think. The real challenge is not the uncomfortable or “bad” things that happen to us, but the fact that we become surprised and upset when things happen to us that we don’t like, or think we don’t deserve. 

    Once I realized that my true problem were the hackers in my head telling me how I should react, I took a few deep breaths and began to create some space and gain perspective. Because there's always one more hacker that sneaks up to remind you: “You are a victim, you are guilty, you need fixing.”

    And just like the hardware in a computer, I began to reboot, refresh and reprogram. I used my yogic tools to center myself and seek creative solutions. I regained my trust and sense of confidence knowing I have the support of an amazing yoga community. Things will always be as big or as small as our senses want to perceive them. In every life experience there is always an opportunity to move beyond our limited beliefs and ways of being and doing. 

    This past month I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with people by phone, which is something I hadn’t done in a long time. It was refreshing to have meaningful conversations and listen to their voices, rather than just clicking “like” and moving on to the next post. 

    We can learn so much about ourselves when faced with situations that are out of our control, which is 99% of the time! Social media can teach us valuable lessons about our fears and also about those things that most matter to us. Being overly concerned with our image and what others think of us can hinder our capacity to be courageous, resilient and creative.

    In the end, I realized that what matters to me is the trust of my yoga community and that whatever happens to us is not who we are!

    My anchor is my practice, my home is in my heart and my life is in each conscious breath that I take. 

    Btw, I’m working on my new FB page!


                                                                                                             ©Alejandra Botero

  • Impermanence

    The only constant in life is change…I can hear myself repeating these words again and again. But what happens when that change is the death of a dear friend? How are we to prepare for the loss of someone whom we’ve shared genuine experiences with, someone who’s life has given meaning to many others and someone who we’ve deeply respected and cherished? 

    In class I often talk about being at peace with life as it unfolds and allowing things to be as they are…but this is easier said than done. In the yoga atmosphere one will hear teachers (including myself) share inspiring words, reveal philosophical answers to life’s challenging questions and at times even offer spiritual advice. We make references to Patanjali’s sutras, we quote Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron, or recite Rumi’s poetry in hope that our words will bring some sense of healing and hope. We ask our students to deal with heavy and strong emotions by offering alternate nostril breathing, we play our singing bowls to align the heart chakra and with a smile and a “Namaste” we brighten someone’s day. If my words  sound a bit cynical it’s only because I’m trying to make sense of the pain in my heart.

    One month ago, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a weekend silent retreat. Upon my return I felt centered and peaceful. I was happy to teach and to be able to share some insights and experiences with my students…why not? Two weeks after my retreat my sense of equanimity and clarity were put to the test. My dear friend and former school teacher Michelle had been killed in a car accident. My heart felt heavy, my stomach was a mess and for a moment my dreams, goals, accomplishments and everything I thought I was or had become didn’t matter much.

     The only constant in life is change…it was my turn to live these words that I constantly repeat in my classes “breathe into this present moment and allow life to be as it is”.  We all know death is inevitable but there’s a part of us deep in our soul that is never ready no matter how many sun salutations, breathing exercises, meditation techniques, silent retreats or how peaceful we think our mind is…it hurts. It hurts because we are human, it hurts because we love, it hurts because we try to hold on to the memories, it hurts because we need to cry, it hurts because we are afraid to let go, it hurts because we don’t know it all and don’t understand it all, it hurts because we know someday we will also leave this human life and those that stay behind will hurt. I do not feel sorry or pity for feeling this way but I must allow myself to feel what is inside of me. I need to know that it’s ok to be hurting for the loss of a true friend. 

    The only constant in life is change…winter has faded away as the pink and purple soft buds of an early spring bring warmth and hope for my aching heart. Spring is here to remind me that life is a cycle of beginnings and ends, a spiral of experiences, an ocean of emotions, and a journey back home. So your journey Michelle has ended sooner than we expected but you left a print in our hearts. I can finally say goodbye to the woman, mother, wife, teacher and friend that I knew. Today my heart feels at ease knowing that one day I too will make the journey back home. 

    As our lives continue to move forward those that have left this human form will be our reminder that the only constant in life is change. 

    I am grateful to you Michelle.

                                                                                                           Alejandra Botero©

  • When a tall, young and muscular man comes to your Candlelight class!

    Have you ever made an assumption about what yoga practitioners might look like, eat, talk about, read, and so forth?  Well, you’re in for a delightful treat! 

    About a month ago, a very tall, young and muscular man walked into the studio. He had on sweat pants, sneakers and a black jacket. Not that I was staring at his body but I could tell this guy took his workout seriously. I immediately greeted him and asked if he had ever done yoga. His reply was “I’ve done some yoga here and there” of course! Everyone has done some yoga “here” and “there”. I asked him how he had found the Nook and he said he had looked us up online. My mind immediately went to one of my assumptions “this guy is completely unaware of the class he’s about to take”. 

    “Do you know this is a Candlelight class?” And before I could begin to describe what Candlelight class was, he said, “I know!”. “I Just came out of the gym from working out and some stretching and relaxation sounds good”. “Sure”, I said, but I couldn't end the conversation just yet. 

    “Do you know that at the end of the class we have a brief guided meditation”. “Yes”, he said. Ok, time to let it go. 

    He clearly knew the type of class he was taking and better yet, he was looking forward to it. I continued to process his first visit and checked everyone else in.  It was a big Wednesday night class. As I walked in the yoga room, practitioners were rolling out their mats, others getting props and some were already sitting tall with their eyes closed. I made sure to check that everyone had all the props they needed for class, adjusted the lighting and the music. As soon as I walked towards my mat I noticed the young man had arranged his mat next to mine. I instantly thought “this is wonderful, if I need to adjust him or provide modifications, he’s only a few inches away”. I didn’t question anymore why he had chosen to come to this particular class; my wish as a teacher was for him to have a pleasant and relaxing experience.  To conclude this brief tale, as class progressed and we moved through a series of long held restorative postures, I peeked through the right corner of my eye just to see that the tall, young and muscular man had his eyes fully closed and his long strong limbs splayed out in complete surrender. 

    I strongly believe that in our fast pace, highly productive and result driven society we all want to remember and relearn the art of relaxation. Where goals, dead lines, and accomplishments are not always the driving force of our existence. That creating a kind and loving space where we can be ourselves and learn to appreciate our bodies and rest our minds bring us closer to a more meaningful human experience. The beauty of a yoga practice is not to judge our performance but to recognize what needs healing and allow it to happen. That night as I turned off the lights, organized the props and locked the studio door a warm feeling settled in my heart.   I am always in awe by the lessons I learn from my students even if I only get to see them once.  

    That young, tall, and muscular man confirmed that yoga is a practice beyond form, age, gender, physical ability, mental capacity and all the other assumptions one can have. Just when I thought the young man would struggle in his attempt to relax, he gave in and allowed the practice to unfold naturally as it relaxed his body and eased his mind.

    ©Alejandra Botero

  • Dear Students.....

    Dear Students.....

    by Emily Parkinson Perry

    To the students who are busy: Thank you for your time.

    To the students who are nervous: Thank you for teaching me about courage.

    To the students who laugh when I fumble my words: Thank you for teaching me that imperfections break down barriers.

    To the students who gently correct when I make mistakes: Thank you for teaching me the value of patience.

    To the students who offer criticism: Thank you for teaching me humility.

    To the students who execute an arm balance for the first time: Thank you for teaching me about perseverance.

    To the students who tremble as I help with your first handstand: Thank you for your trust.

    To the students who seem bored and restless: Thank you for teaching me about facing my fear.

    To the students who struggle: Thank you for teaching me to face insecurity.

    To the students who watch the clock: Thank you for teaching me to confront inner doubt.

    To the students who left early, without explanation: Thank you for teaching me about offering space and understanding.

    To the students who never came back: Thank you for teaching me to let go.

    For every kind word, every smile, every gift, every gesture of gratitude, and every single time you attend my class, I thank you. You have taught me how to be a teacher.

  • Our Personal Narrative

    Our Personal Narrative

    When our story lines become the driving force of our actions our experiences are limited by our perception of who we are. Our personal narrative has become so deeply embedded in our human fabric that in order to shed the layers of personal identification we must intentionally want to look inside. What does the face in the mirror say to you each morning?

    We spend our life telling others our story and listening to others tell theirs. We introduce ourselves by name, age, position, status, race, nationality, religious and political affiliation. We describe ourselves by our physical characteristics, our food and music preferences, and the hobbies we enjoy. I like this, I don’t like that. We carry around our physical and emotional prescriptions and often times blame our parents or society for our current state of mind. 

    When does our real life begin? 

    Last year I had the opportunity to attend a powerful workshop in which I was instructed to mentally let go of my physical body and allow the practice to take over. As I began to breathe into each pose forgetting about how I looked or whatever everyone else was doing, I began to experience a sense of weightlessness. As I continued to expand my breath, my story, my name, my job, my experiences, my education, and my body slowly disintegrated. Who I thought I was, was no longer there. The breath had filled the space of my personal narrative. I didn't  have to make any effort, I didn't have to pretend or justify what I was experiencing. For a brief moment I felt completely supported and integrated and without any sense of identity I recognized nothing. 

    From that day on, I have began a process of emptying myself by recognizing that I don’t always have to have an opinion about others, myself or the world around me. It has been liberating! Therefore, allow yourself to feel the fullness of each moment, give your undivided attention to those around you, enjoy spontaneous moments of joy and laughter, see the good qualities in others and most of all remind the person you look at in the mirror each morning that you love him or her unconditionally. 

    You don’t need to be your story, no one says you do. You don’t need to arrive somewhere or accomplish anything specific. Take a few moments everyday to look inside. Try not to judge what you find and with compassion begin to shed pieces of the story you no longer wish to recall or identify with. There’s an infinite source of love and peace that can heal even the darkest of your narratives.  Be courageous and kind as you take small steps towards your true self which is beyond form, self concepts and emotions. Create space within you so that life can express through you. In all, give yourself the freedom to be no one.

    Let your life be an open story…

                                                                                                            ©Alejandra Botero

  • The Power in Dedicating our Practice

    The Power in Dedicating our Practice

    As part of my practice I like to set an intention as a way to connect to something deeper than just my physical body. This intention reminds me that I’m not just a set of muscles, organs, bones and fluids but that I’m also my breath, my thoughts, my sensations and the subtle pauses between one breath and the next. As I move on my mat I notice that I’m also made up of  brief moments of silence, and that beyond the postures there’s a constant feeling of gratitude that my feet feel as they ground. The sweat that falls down my back becomes a reminder of the effort and discipline that it takes to practice even in those moments when I am just craving for “Savasana”. 

    For the past month I have taken a different approach to my practice by dedicating every breath, drop of sweat, pause, internal smile, as well as the release and unfolding of my body and mind to the well-being of others. 

    In Buddhist philosophy, “Bodhicitta” compassion is the ultimate attainment and wishing for others to be happy a path of selfless love. Therefore, as I release and let go of tension I wish the same for others. As I experience a sense of calmness and peace I wish for others to find clarity and bliss. As I strengthen my body I wish for others to have the means to a healthier way of life. So you see, by opening our heart and wishing others all the joy and wellbeing we are creating the conditions for a happier community and world. It all starts by planting a seed in our heart and wanting others to be healed.

    We have the potential to transform our view of this world as well as heal the wounds of others. When we redirect our focus outside of ourselves we will find multiple opportunities to give love and be of service.

    I’d like to believe that our yoga practice can transcend the boundaries of time and space; so that through our own healing we can reach and touch the lives of others even if we never get to meet them face to face. 

    The next time you find yourself on your mat, dedicate your practice and give your heart an experience beyond the physical self.

    ©Alejandra Botero

  • Off the Mat

    Off the Mat

    How far does your yoga practice take you off the mat?

    Many of us feel pride when bragging about our flexibility, strength or being able to get into advanced and difficult postures. But do we have the composure to take a deep breath when being challenged or agitated by others? Where is our patience when dealing with a difficult person or our sense of equanimity when a situation does not go our way? These are all yogic principles for our daily life. Engaging our muscles, lengthening our spine, or keeping our body and mind awareness to name a few, are all important aspect of our physical practice. But once we begin to move from the gross into the subtle a shift occurs encouraging us to live our practice beyond the mat. Therefore, being vigilant regarding our speech, thoughts and actions becomes a priority in the way we relate to ourselves and to one and other.

    So ask yourself, “How does my practice translate into my daily life?” What you DO on the mat should have an effect on how you respond to life’s experiences. It seems easier said than done, I know, that’s why it’s a continuous self-reflective process. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers a set of moral conducts that can serve as a guide to a more meaningful and compassionate way of living. Bringing health to our joints and keeping a healthy immune system are as important and essential as practicing non-harmfulness. An example of this is listening to the signals in our body but in the same way paying attention to our response. For thousands of years human beings have used violent conflict resolution methods but we are very well aware that if those in positions of power practiced mindful breathing and some form of meditation perhaps our worldly problems would be solved in a more humane manner.

    “Satya”, being truthful to ourselves also allows us to gain insight, clarity and develop a sense of ownership. Taking responsibility for the choices we make will open the door to a more authentic way of life. Another yogic universal law is “Santosha”, the ability to be content and appreciative of what one has. A practical way to cultivate this awareness is by jotting down the times in which you find yourself complaining. We all know the benefits of maintaining an optimistic attitude when faced with difficulties or limitations. Clearing out old frustrations and dissatisfaction will create space in our mind and give us new light. One of my favorite Niyama’s (moral conduct) is “Svadhyaya”, self study. It’s through self inquiry that we have the opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror and take full responsibility for our practice and for the choices we make. So as you can see, yoga is not an isolated part of you is an integrated system of self healing and self discovery.

    On a last note, familiarize yourself with the concept of collective wellness by supporting your yoga community. In this way, your personal growth will have a direct impact on the well beign of those you come in contact with.

    How you take your practice into the world will have an effect on how you experience this life.

    Be grateful, be compassionate, be kind and always move in the direction of the better YOU!

                                                                                                                                       ©Alejandra Botero

  • The Perfect Pose

    When our yoga practice develops two things can happen; we either become extremely invested in proper alignment or not. So what’s more valuable? How the pose should look or how it feels in our body? Alignment is the means in which we can communicate, learn and explore the dynamics of the posture; on the other hand, intuition is the way in which we develop a relationship with our body, breath, and mind. Learning the proper alignment of a posture can be as important as how the pose develops and transforms in our own body. Whether you decide to place your attention on alignment or on feeling is just a matter of where your mind is in that particular moment. We tend to over think right? I know I do.

    From a practitioner and student point of view, I’ve had many teachers correct my posture in a wide variety of poses; some adjustments have felt better than others. But is personal integrity what allows us to determine whether an adjustment, correction or suggestion feels right. Ok, so we don’t know all the anatomical cues, or names of bones and muscles to determine the “correct posture” if that even exists, but we have intuition, an internal source that we can access at any time during our practice. Through intuition we learn to communicate and listen to our body and therefore make decisions that will bring about personal benefit. And it’s through the exchange of sensations, emotions, feelings, and insight that we allow the practice to unfold on its own.

    During a workshop a student asked “what is the perfect pose” the teacher replied, “the one you are in”. Often times, we want guidance beyond our capacity without taking a moment to ask, “Why do we do yoga?” “What does it do for us in our daily life?” and so forth. Personally, the “perfect pose” is the one that I am able to do in the moment. Postures are just postures, but if practiced with intention, integrity and kindness they can enhance our experience on the mat. Touching our toes, getting upside down or holding a warrior II can be our biggest challenges but it’s the focus and quality of the breath that determines how present we are.

    If yoga is union, then linking the breath with the movement should be the guiding force of our practice. The “perfect pose” is not revealed… it is experienced. 

                                                                                                                                      ©Alejandra Botero

  • Self Discipline

     The Tapas of Effort and Purification

    Often times when we hear the word “discipline”, we think about rules, our parents, our teachers, our bosses, laws, regulations and so forth. But isn’t discipline doing an activity with consistency? If we look further, we’ll notice that everything around us is permeated by discipline. Nature is consistent by offering us day and night every day, oxygen is produced with consistency so that we can all breathe, seasons invite us every year to embrace the changes in weather and scenery, and all our cells and organs in our body consistently work together to allow us this human experience. Therefore, discipline is no more than the natural way of allowing things to happen, transform and renew.

    When I step on my mat to practice yoga, the practice itself reveals my internal state, my mood, my attitude, my energy level, my potential, my strength, my weaknesses, my stubbornness, and all the other subtleties of my being. My practice becomes my internal thermometer and as I tune to its readings I can choose to embrace what I discover or change what does not serve me. When I consistently practice I can co-create the day ahead. “It’s through this self discipline that the yogi develops strength in the body, mind and character. He gains courage and wisdom, integrity, straightforwardness and simplicity” B.K.S. Iyengar.

    Why wouldn’t we want to be disciplined in something that brings about so many benefits to our life? Because we’d rather be consistent in self doubt, self punishment, self guilt, self sabotage, negative thinking, and worry. If you think about it, we are pretty disciplined about having that cup of coffee every morning and if we don’t have it… our entire mood will be out of balance for the rest of our day. The chattering in our head is also pretty consistent and we seem to fall into the same relationship patterns with others and the world around us. Yoga can be a powerful tool to help us see the staleness in our life and bring about insight to make genuine changes. Why yoga? Because yoga is movement, breath, shedding, connecting, grounding, unfolding, synchronicity, and insight to our human potential.

    Self discipline is a choice; a choice to be consistent with our kind but powerful nature. Being kind enough to want to do things that nurture our body and spirit and powerful enough to make a commitment to live a more genuine life. In all essence, discipline is a burning sensation within that ignites us to reach beyond something bigger than ourselves.

                                                                                                                                  

    As I learn to trust the practice; I witness the unfolding of the self.

    ©Alejandra Botero

  • How it all began...

    How it all began...

    It all started with noodles and rice sitting at a table at Lemon Grass. Natasha with a digital list on her I-phone and me with a pen-paper outline of what Yoga Nook would become. Our vision the same, our personalities… well, what can you say about a hyperactive Latina and a passionate red head? The universe knew it was a perfect match. And that’s how our marriage began.

    Long meetings took place at Tash’s place while attempting to write a “business plan”, most of the time we would end up upside down, on the floor trying a new pose or with a big glass of red wine. Numbers, mission statements, research, website design, contracts, waivers, orders…you name it; the list of things that needed to be done was endless. Probably one of the hardest things was coming up with the name, all of our friends and family members had a say on the matter. Countless texts were sent back and forth until finally we agreed on Yoga Nook. The name was not a coincidence; we wanted everyone to feel welcomed, nurtured, and happy. Finding the location was a total challenge, too big, too small, too narrow, too expensive, too serious, too far, too much traffic, how do you please two perfectionists…?

    The floors, oh the floors, talk about forced labor. I learned from the master; Natasha had done the floors at her old house so I had no excuse. And there I was, squatting like never before, slamming and hammering those freaking tiles made of cork. For more than two months our entire time was invested in making Yoga Nook the most nurturing and accessible place for everyone to practice yoga. Every nail, screw, light bulb, shelf, had our signature…well, mostly Natasha’s. She is one crafty and handy chick, just give her a hammer and of course a tall chair and she’ll get the job done. Of course we can’t leave Kyle out for his wooden shelf master piece and Natasha’s four sons for helping out carrying and assembling every piece of furniture. We also have Tabitha our beautiful friend to thank for the artistic work on our walls. In all essence, Yoga Nook was the result of cooperation and collaborative work.

    One week before the open house, the anticipation turned into nerves, and the nerves into excitement. This was a totally new experience for both of us, and even though most of the time I say “I don’t know what I’m doing” this time I had no hesitation, Yoga Nook would become a long life project.

    On February 15, 2014, Yoga Nook opened its doors to family, friends, and community. The dream had become a full reality. The support we received was endless and when challenges came our way we reminded ourselves to simply trust the process.

    Today, we feel blessed and genuinely happy to celebrate our first year anniversary with our families, our incredible yoga teachers Debbie and Muning, and all of Yoga Nook’s friends. Our biggest satisfaction is watching our community grow and witness the development of our member’s personal practice. For us, contributing to the well-being of our yoga community through a mindful practice continues to be our main priority.

    We are grateful for all our members and friends for trusting and believing in what we do at Yoga Nook. We can only hope to continue growing and empowering each other to create a healthier and supportive yoga community.

    On the mat, we have all shared our common humanity through laughter, play, and even frustration when we just can’t get that stubborn foot over our head.

    It is with all the love that Natasha and I thank you for making Yoga Nook a warm and inviting place for the practice of yoga.

    We love and appreciate every single one of you.

    Let’s kick off for another awesome year!!!