Sunday, February 26, 2012

freedom in manila

Metal sculptures, "Kaivalya I and II" by Grace Katigbak.

Love, love, love this: "Leap of Love" by Grace Katigbak.

I went to Alliance Francaise last week to see liberation in paint, metal and stone. Kaivalya, which in Sanskrit means freedom from the bondage of karmic patterns, is an art exhibit put together by painter, sculptor, poet and all-around-beautiful heart Grace Katigbak, fellow-ashtangi and yoga classmate.

To see Grace's artwork really brings it home, that yoga is wherever you find honest expression, that freedom comes in all forms and exists in all places. Of course, I can't help but especially relate to her work, so much of it inspired by yoga, especially ashtanga.

Yes! "Seed of Ashtanga Yoga"

Yoga is a creative process. As you clear the way with whatever yoga practice nourishes you, you create space for new things. Grace embodies this as an artist and captures this in her work.

As a yoga practitioner myself, her artwork evokes that creative energy that practice inspires. In "Seed of Ashtanga Yoga" I see my self, my practice, how it has given birth to a new me, many times over. In "Urdva Dhanurasana" I see how the practice has to opened me up in ways I am still trying to fathom.

This is the creative power of yoga, it transforms and sheds light to new possibilities, in the body, in the mind and in the soul.

Urdva Danurasana
By Grace Katigbak

"The one who is seeking, is the one you are

Why am I:
Mirrored in the bodies of sweat?
Plucked from the sanctuary of my solitude?
Fallen into a forest of young limbs?
Learning to find my cave
in my lowered lids?
Moving in order to be more still?

Who I am is more than what I am.

Learning a new dimension into my bliss?
Constantly asking, never knowing
Is it this? Or this? Or This?

Grace's work, like herself, is bold, infused with a quiet wisdom and wonder, and full of grace. I really love how her pieces relate the intricacies of yoga practice, the devotion that develops with it, and the liberation it cultivates. Her exhibit Kaivalya: Liberation will run until March 8 at Alliance Francaise de Manille, Nicanor Garcia Street, Makati.

Clearing the way: "Ganesha".

Friday, February 24, 2012

open to love


And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

Poem By Anais Nin

Love is a risky business. I think we all know this, which is why most of us proceed with extreme caution. There are no guarantees. No sure bets. No insurance plans covering broken hearts. Too risky. Premiums would sky rocket.

Still, open to love, I say. Open to it because the alternative is criminal, stealing from yourself the opportunity for honest to goodness happiness and vitally real connections.

Open to love. Pry open your tin can of a heart and offer it up to your lover, to loved ones, to friends, to strangers even. It will feed the masses, like fish and loaves in the Bible.

Open to love. Unlock your doors and throw open your windows, allowing it to air out your haunted mansions; release your ghosts and set yourself free.

Open to love. Surrender all that you have, all your hopes and all your dreams, all your fears and all your baggage. Love knows no gravity. Open to love and be weightless.

Open to love and it will open to you.

Open to love and it will open you.

Open to love to open.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

new kind of love

This is month of love has really sparked many miraculous things. Love transforms. It transcends. It reveals itself so surprisingly and yet so seamlessly at the same time.

This is my newest favorite love poem. That one can love oneself as much as one can love another is so often forgotten. That one can dive into love so completely and never forget oneself is so rarely done. Love, like everything, is a balance of forces. Thank you, Sarah Teasdale, for putting it so beautifully. Thank you, Universe, for helping me better understand it.

I too "long to be/Lost as light is lost in light."


By: Sarah Teasdale

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love -- put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

valentine's day, love and yoga

So, it's Valentine's Day, the one greeting card holiday that fills most single women around the developed world with absolute trepidation. How can it not? With the emphasis on dinner dates, heart-shaped chocolates, long stemmed red roses, and Valentine cards. The whole thing is built around the idea of coupling, having someone special to share it with.

Recently, I've been on the fence about V-day in general. I am single and female but decidedly not bothered by this detail. Last year's Feb 14 was a trial as I sadly moved out of an apartment I shared with a partner. This year's is a cakewalk in comparison.

More than anything, it feels odd to make a fuss about love one day a year. Surely, we should be celebrating love, declaring ourselves, being loving and generous with gifts, flowers and chocolate every day of the year. Maybe we might even break out of the mold and give each other presents of the heart rather than the standard tokens.

In fact, this morning, Valentine's Day seemed to be an afterthought. I casually greeted everyone at the start of my first yoga class at Yoga Manila, Chi Spa, remembering only because of the unusually small turnout, which I attribute to pre-Valentine date preparations. Then at my solo pho lunch, my server delivered my bill with a complimentary heart-shaped cookie with "LOVE" iced on it. I thanked her politely and went on my way, feeling too tired to really digest the holiday.

Later at home, exhausted, I wondered whether I'd missed the point somehow. Had I turned into some embittered single, a Valentine hater? Hater no, but my ambivalence worried me. Here I am writing about love and all that. What do I have to say for today of all days?

So this is what I came up with:

I'm not having a typical Valentine's Day, to be sure, but today is filled with love--the last few days, in fact. Weeks--no, more! And I feel so utterly blessed.

I have felt the support of the yoga community here in Manila, who have welcomed me into their teaching spaces, some of whom know me very little but have been so lovely. And it feels so good to be teaching again. It feels amazing to share with students.

I'm slowly reconnecting with my Manila network, within the yoga circle and beyond it. I am inspired as I practice beside truly committed yoga practitioners. I am overjoyed to meet in "sangha" or "community," to talk about practice, to share struggles, and to help build each others' dreams, which somehow seem to flow into the same pool eventually: teach, spread yoga, be happy.

I still feel the steady uplifting energy of my beautiful friends from Mysore. And, of course, I feel the support and patience of my family as I trek all over this sprawling mass of urban chaos, tying up the extra set of wheels they usually employ to get to and fro work; that-is-love!

So, after some thought, YES! I feel so incredibly loved today and not just today. If I really am aware, it's everyday! For me, at the center of this love-fest is yoga. Yoga, which means union. And well, St. Valentine, supposedly a renegade priest who illegally wed young lovers, resonates with the union of Shiva and Shakti, the divine couple, the unbreakable union. Love and Yoga. Same, same, no difference.

Friday, February 10, 2012

expect nothing

Just another stunning sunset in Boracay. June, 2011.

Been thinking a lot about the Bhagavad Gita, which--yoga geek that I am--am apt to doing when faced with everyday challenges. This poem by Alice Walker reminds me of it today, particularly the part about not being so attached to the fruits of one's actions, finding that balance between the desire of being and expectations of living and peeling away the layers to get to "the tiny human midget".

To living frugally on surprise...

Expect Nothing

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.

By Alice Walker

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

teaching in manila

Escape to Yoga Island: a day festival on Governor's Island, NY City.

How is it possible that waking up at 3 in the morning can feel normal? As if some strange order has been restored in the universe, at least in this extreme version of it, dominated by ashtanga yoga. Having my prana-inducing coffee, preparing for my morning ablutions, waking up, getting ready, plating my hair takes on ritual importance. All of it, inspiring the proper zone, where there is head and heart space for the practice.

Today is special. I will be teaching Mysore class in Manila--I've picked up Wednesday, 6 a.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. class at Echo Yoga on Perea in Makati, my first ever regular Manila gig outside the occasional subbing. It's also my first time to teach since I left Boracay and launched myself out into the world at large.

Since June 2011, my life has been, quite literally, a journey, spanning the Philippines, the east and west coasts of the United States, across Asia to Mysore, India, where I have been till now. All the while, taking seriously my teacher Sharath's advice: if you want to teach yoga, you have to be a student first. And for the last nine months (again, with this magical number 9, of regeneration and birth!) I have been a student of yoga.

I have been on this unconventional educational odyssey. My daily ashtanga practice went where ever I went. I danced with Pi Villaraza and the rest of the Bahay Kalipay family in Palawan. I took Mysore-style class at with Eddie Stern at Broome Street Temple in New York and Noah Williams in Los Angeles. I sampled some of New York's hippest teachers in a summer yoga festival on Governor's Island: the rockin' Dana Flynn from Laughing Lotus with live music from Sister Shree, the stoic Dharma Mitra, and a super fun breakdance-asana class with Anya Porter and hip-hop DJ. I was able to enjoy an array of teaching styles in the Telluride Yoga Festival in Colorado, from ashtangi David Swenson, shadow yoga teacher Scott Blossom, forest yoga with Alison English, yoga for the common folk with Mark Whitwell, blind-folded vinyasa with Alanna Kaivalya. I delved into bhakti yoga with my dear friends James Boag and Paul Millage in Seattle. I was introduced to Swami Lakshmanjoo through the Universal Shivite Fellowship in Culver City, Los Angeles. And, most importantly, for the last 3 months, I've been sweating under the quiet gaze of my teacher Sharath Jois in Mysore, India. At the same time I was taking philosophy classes, learning basic Sanskrit and taking classical Indian music lessons on top of kirtan. To look back at it now, I am amazed. I have learned a lot.

My main focus has not always been on my asana practice these months, however. I have been living within the context of yoga with family, friends--new and renewed--as well as my closest and dearest who were both "class" mates and teachers. The life lessons I've amassed is yoga beyond the mat.

And now, I find, it's time to bring it back into that rubber, rectangular space. I've been called home ahead of time. Now, one of the gifts of being in Manila is having the opportunity to contribute to the growing yoga community here. While I will always be a student, there comes a time when one must teach and that part of my own greater lesson is to also share some of this energy I've been blessed enough to accrue.

I will be teaching in Manila through the end of March: Mysore-style class, Echo Yoga, Wednesdays 6 a.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. Hopefully, more soon!

If you would like to inquire about Private Classes, call me at +639189049660 or email me at