I just finished reading this week’s Sunny Star post and it was, simply put, enlightening. Jenna Pacelli is our Sunny Star of the week and not only her words, but her yoga practice is truly inspirational. Jenna is a fellow blogger and she writes often about her experiences of yoga, healing, and happiness. As someone who treasures yoga practice, I can relate to so much of what Jenna writes about. But even if you don’t particularly enjoy yoga or if you’ve never tried it, I think Jenna’s mindset about gratitude and peace goes beyond the yoga mat. May you find peace in your life.
1. You are training to be a yoga teacher. How has this experience added to your happiness?
Yoga for me…. Hmm it’s quite a big topic in my life and hard to explain. Yoga means acceptance in my life. Every yogi probably has a distinct idea of what yoga looks like to them, how it affects their lives. Acceptance is extremely difficult for me for many reasons and yoga helps you to look at these things, note their presence, think about why those emotions or thoughts are there, and then allows you to let them drift on through your mind and heart, even if it is only for an hour or however long you are practicing.
2. You actually have a blog about yoga–what inspires you to write and share your thoughts with others?
My blog, Peaceful Vitality (http://peacefulvitality.wordpress.com/) helps me learn about the topics and ideas I most want to learn about: yoga, meditation, simplicity, health, and wellness. By writing about these things, I have to learn about them, research them, and present them in easy to understand ways. It helps me learn and fuels my passion.
3. What is the best part about yoga for the human body and mind?
Yoga, like I said before, helps you align your physical, mental, and spiritual bodies so that the good in you can shine out and bring happiness to you and other people. The idea of union is the basic tenet of yoga and when you are in harmony with yourself, you can bring harmony to the people and experiences you meet. Many people think of yoga as a physical discipline that you go to in order to get toned or get a 6 pack. These superficial motivations were not the original purpose of yoga but are merely possible outcomes. Treating your body as a temple in order to allow your soul to reside in it peacefully IS one of the physical pursuits of yoga because your physical body is the first thing you can change and control. Once you have begun to master the art of asana (poses in yoga), you can then attend to your spiritual and mental bodies.
4. Do you think yoga can help with healing?
Yoga and mantra can help a person manifest immense healing. One of my favorite books in life is “Healing Mantras: Using Sound Affirmations for Personal Power, Creativity, and Healing” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand. In it he explains how you can use sound mantra to re-align the chakras (energy centers) in your body to help you through any situation in life and manifest the change you need, as long as you want it. Mantra has calmed me when I’ve been stressed, centered me when I’ve been scattered, remind me of the lessons I’ve learned when I seem to forget, and helped me fall asleep when I felt I’d stay awake forever. On a deeper level, my experience with the Taraka mantra, the mantra Ghandi chanted throughout his life, has been a powerful one. The Taraka mantra is said to take a person across the ocean of rebirth. To Buddhists, this ocean of rebirth has to do with reincarnation but this concept can take on any meaning the user wishes. As for me, I am in the midst of many life changes and during my time using this mantra, I met many people who would confirm the decisions I was making, encourage me in my path, much more so than before I learned of the mantra. Yoga encapsulates mantra and I love going to kirtans (call-and-responsechanting or “responsory” performed in India’s devotional traditions, Kirtan practice involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments).
5. What is your happiest memory from your yoga experiences?
My happiest memory can’t really be fit into one little box or experience but I will try. I have two instances that come to mind at this moment. I remember one time, having set my intention at the beginning of class on the concept of gratitude, I worked really hard to keep the energy of that word and all of its connotations in my head. When you set an intention at the beginning of a class, you dedicate your practice to that intention or person, and throughout your session, you send all the positive energy you are drawing up and through you and send it to that intention, harness its power. So, I set my energy and thoughts onto gratitude. I was thanking the Universe and God throughout my practice for giving me the experience of the deepest love you can feel towards another person while on Earth. It was a physical and spiritual love and because it had been taken from me physically, I had to be thankful for what it was and accept that it was a spiritual union now. I forced myself to feel gratitude instead of sadness, just for an hour. At that period of my life, feeling gratitude over deep, engulfing sorrow felt almost impossible. I felt emotionally drained and fulfilled at the same time at the end of the practice. I cried tears of sadness and happiness throughout the hour I was on my mat. Gratitude in thought and mind is powerful and we must embrace the good and the bad, the yin and the yang of life.
The second time was about self-acceptance. I go through periods of time where I feel really ugly, fat, gross, whatever. I think many people go through times like these. I did an hour-long Jivamukti practice one day while I was feeling this way. Jivamukti means “liberation while living” and while you’re practicing, the teacher not only instructs you about the positions (asanas) but also talks about yogic philosophy. He or she delivers pearls of wisdom throughout the practice, in other words, as you stand in tree pose or what have you. Jivamukti is fast-paced. So much so that you have no time to criticize yourself because you must concentrate on simply doing what the teacher is telling you to do. After finishing, I looked in the mirror at myself. Instead of looking and engaging in the self-deprecation that goes on when I get in those slumps, I looked and my attitude had changed completely. I looked and felt love toward myself again. I wrote about this experience on my blog: http://peacefulvitality.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/self-acceptance-around-the-holidays/