Yoga for Cancer: Yogathon LA – Join me!

If you take a moment to think about those you know who’ve been affected by cancer, you will realize that cancer is a large part of your consciousness. At age 17, my best friend’s dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Witnessing that process was a life changing experience and as a result, I knew I wanted to help others heal. Now at age 31, I’ve also experienced my aunt, grandfather, brother in law and future mother in law, among many others, battle and survive cancer. Deep healing happens through creating a calm and peaceful state of being. Yoga helps people deal with the affects of the disease through movement, breath, and rest, as discussed in numerous articles on Yoga and Cancer, such as the American Cancer Society’s Article, “Yoga” and Yoga Journal’s Article, “Yoga for Cancer”.

To help this cause, a group of yoga teachers and I are supporting YogathonLA to raise funds for the Cancer Support Community Benjamin Center, a non-profit offering free movement and empowerment programs (including yoga classes!) to those impacted by cancer.  If you have been affected by cancer and would like to join me for this important cause, please register and select the level of participation (individual, team, or virtual). In exchange you receive free yoga training classes every Sunday at 11am at the Cancer Support Community Benjamin Center leading up to the final 6-hour YOGATHON held on February 25 at Naam Yoga in Santa Monica, CA. I’m teaching the yoga training classes on December  11th and January 22nd – join me! For more information go to: http://www.YogathonLA.org or http://www.facebook.com/pages/YOGATHON/191211887631858?ref=ts&sk=wall  Remember that by healing ourselves, we help heal others.  

 

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Yoga Events this Weekend!

Hi Yogis and Friends!
Just a reminder about the two fun outdoor yoga events (below). Also, please note that my Friday 4pm class is cancelled due to a training taking place at YogaCO.:

Saturday: Yoga Day LA at Topanga Community Center – yoga classes and festivities starting at 8am and going all day. $20 for one yoga class, $15 for an additional. I’ll be attending Kia Miller’s class at 9:30am if you want to join me! More info: http://yogadayla.com/

Sunday: Yoga at Temescal Canyon Park – Outdoor yoga 10:00am-10:45am. $10 per person. Bring a friend and feel free to hike or picnic afterwards on your own.

Location: Temescal Canyon Gateway Park, Pacific Palisades – Map
Parking: Free street parking is available on Temescal Road or Sunset Blvd. Otherwise, parking in the park is $7.00 (cash).
Meeting Place: Meet off of Temescal Road and Sunset, at the picnic tables near the front parking lot located on the left as you enter the park.
What to bring: Yoga mat, water, hat, sunscreen.

I hope to see you this weekend for some yoga fun!

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My Man

He wakes up singing a song, announcing to the world he has risen. It’s a new day and he feels as if it’s his first. Keeping to himself, he rinses the sleep off and shrugs his shoulders, releasing an exhale. Rubber hits the street and petroleum flings him into his work space. His heart: it thumps like a submarine at sea. He plugs his ears and taps his fingers to carry his rhythm along. A quiet man, he makes his way throughout his day not saving lives, but saving souls. He is a monk in his own right. He shares his creativity, calms nerves, and provides a space for others to speak freely. Instilling trust and honesty with ease, he is such a gift to me. He is a leader, he is a director, he is my man.

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Hit on the Head – A Story of Compassion

Four years ago, I was out for a Friday afternoon jog in Santa Monica. With my ear buds in, I took in the beauty of the neighborhood while bouncing to the beats from my ipod. I came to the street corner and paused to patiently wait for the walk signal to illuminate. I glanced to my right and saw a woman walking slowly in my direction. I unconsciously observed her and then turned my back to watch the signal change. I suddenly felt a blow to the back of my head. I felt electrocuted; my entire body froze and adrenaline rushed. It was so strong, I instantaneously began to hypothesize about the object that had struck my skull; was it a rock, a piece of wood, or a force from God?  I looked back and saw a disheveled woman. She was enraged, raising her fist and yelling gibberish at me as she stumbled along down the sidewalk. She had punched the back of my head with her fist. I’ve never felt so much negative energy in a single human being. I placed my hand on the back of my head searching for blood. Drivers honked their horns, frantically punched buttons on their cell phones to call for help, and yelled out their windows to me to ask if I was ok…I couldn’t speak – I just began to run. I felt my heart in my head, the back of my skull throbbing, the blood in my legs pumping so hard that I thought I might explode. Only one thought surfaced, “I feel so sorry for her.” I began to cry. With tears streaming down my face, I ran home and called the police to file a report.

Over the next 3 days I learned that the police had picked her up, I had suffered a minor concussion, and I wasn’t the first to experience such an assault in Santa Monica. I no longer felt sorry for her, I felt sorry for myself and anger raged in me. I was mad at the City of Santa Monica for allowing this to happen in this lovely beachside community. I was furious that I would never feel safe again in this City that boasts walk-ability and community. This experience hardened me. I still have anxiety walking down the street, I jump when I hear something behind me, and I have occasional neck pain.

My life has changed dramatically since this incident occurred. I left my corporate job to become a yoga instructor and grant writer over a year ago. In my classes, I regularly teach letting go of old emotions to make room for growth. Yesterday, I was reminded of the power of compassion. I was in a yoga training and the teacher had us observe each other’s bodies in poses. We weren’t looking for anatomic corrections; rather, she had us look at their bodies with compassion. This struck me. I felt something open up in the back of my heart. I realized that difficult incidences in my life, such as the assault, have made me cautious in observing strangers with compassion. I had held on tight to compassion, waiting for a sign of weakness to know it was safe to open my heart and give it. This time, I stared at physically strong and beautiful yogi bodies, and I felt my perception shift to a place of observation from my heart. Observing them with compassion brought me to a place where I saw the feelings they were holding onto. I followed the lines in their forehead and scanned the furrowed brow holding on to pain, worry, and sadness. I saw the toes begin to pinch the mat, attempting to feel grounded, stable, and supported.  I watched the shoulders hunch forward to keep their hearts protected and slightly closed off. I saw the abdomen begin to puff, releasing the uddiyana bandha (core) and filling with fear. Knowing that everything one sees is a reflection of oneself, I realized that I started to see myself in them.  I learned that in order to be a great yoga teacher, I need to not only have compassion for my students who I’ve come to know and love, but I must practice compassion with everyone, even the woman who struck me, and even myself. It is compassion that allows us to accept life’s experiences and then let go of them to continue growing in life. 

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Yoga & Hiking Event Sun, October 16th for Women (and Kids)!

Join us for a fun Yoga and Hiking event led by me at Temescal Canyon. Enjoy 30 min of yoga followed by 60 min of hiking guided by me!
Date: Sunday, October 16th
Time: 9:30-11:00am – 30 min yoga, 60 min hiking
Cost: $10 per person
Location: Temescal Canyon Gateway Park, Pacific Palisades – Map
Parking: Free street parking is available on Temescal Road or Sunset Blvd. Otherwise, parking in the park is $7.00 (cash).
Meeting Place: Meet off of Temescal Road and Sunset, at the picnic tables near the front parking lot located on the left as you enter the park.
What to bring: Yoga mat (we can store before hike), water, hat, sunscreen.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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Yoga and Hiking Event this Sunday!

Hello Yogis & Friends!

Join me for a Yoga and Hiking event at Temescal Canyon this Sunday in partnership with the amazing organization, HikingwithHeart! Enjoy 30 min of yoga (taught by me!) followed by 60 min hiking.
Register Here: http://hikingwithheart.blogspot.com/p/hike-fees.html
Or you can also bring cash and just show up!
Date:
  Sunday, July31st
Time:  10:00-11:30am – 30 min yoga, 60 min hiking
Cost: $10 per person
Location: Temescal Canyon Gateway Park, Pacific Palisades – Map
Parking: Free street parking is available on Temescal Road or Sunset Blvd. Otherwise, parking in the park is $7.00 (cash).
Meeting Place: Meet off of Temescal Road and Sunset, at the picnic tables near the front parking lot to the left as you enter.
More info: http://hikingwithheart.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-hikes.html
 
 
Looking forward to seeing you (and your friends) there!

Want to know when I’m teaching? Add me on facebook here: facebook.com/joeychellasoto
 or facebook.com/sotoyoga
 

 

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I love my Chanel! – Yogi Confession

As a yoga teacher, I’m always trying to put the purest form of myself in the world. I spend hours getting quiet, looking inward, and listening to whispers of my truest self. It’s no small feat. It can be extremely challenging, yet immensely rewarding as I focus on removing the external and BEING the internal. This is easy when I’m alone or teaching yoga, but when meeting up with old friends parts of my true self resurface. This weekend I’m meeting up with close girlfriends from college and as I pack my bag I start to notice the colors, fabrics, and accessories that I’ll use for self-expression. I observe that I don’t wear half of these items regularly. Why do I choose not to? I take a moment to realize that I often don’t feel like these items are what a yoga teacher “should” wear. I’ve been listening to these amazing Yoga Teacher Telesummit talks by profound yoga teachers, life coaches, and scholars around the world and I’ve learned that I don’t need to change myself to be a yoga teacher. I don’t need to be a supreme, super powered individual because that’s not real and that’s not what people connect with. So let’s be honest: I like to wear my cute clothes, bags, and accessories and reek of feminine beauty and self love. It’s okay to use decorations to show self love from the inside out. I take another glance at my closet and see my black Chanel bag. “Oh, I’ve been avoiding you,” I say aloud to myself. I haven’t used it because I worry about what people would think: “There’s that yoga teacher with a Chanel bag.” Truth is, I got that bag in Paris and it reminds me of a time when I was deeply exploring myself. It’s exquisite and special and it makes me feel the same. The size is just right, it’s not too heavy or light, and it has the right accents of silver sparkle against the practical black. I grab it, hold it to my heart, and say, “I love my Chanel!” And in the carry-on it goes. I can’t wait to wear this bag and the beautiful items I’ve packed so I can sparkle with (not for) my friends and come back to THIS part of my true self: The part that knows I am the right size, I sparkle in just the right places, and without the dark parts of me, I wouldn’t be complete. Take a moment now to describe one thing you’re wearing and use the same words to describe your beautiful self. Be honest and be you…from the inside out.

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Gaining Perspective at the Eye Doctor

I was at my eye doctor today (Dr. Timothy Shannon) in Santa Monica for my regular eye exam. He took a little light and shined it right in my eye to carefully inspect every inch and while he did this, I started to see little red blood vessels. My inquisitive mind made me speak up and ask, “What am I seeing?” Dr. Shannon turned to his computer to show me a picture of my eye and explained, “Your eye is actually covered in red blood vessels and one would think that we would see them in our vision, but your brain already knows they are there so it doesn’t bother paying attention to them”.  He went on to say that when we make something different, our brain pays attention. Hence, introducing the light in my eye made my brain “see” or “notice” the blood vessels. Our brain literally dismisses what it’s used to, what is normal, what is present every moment of our lives. These little blood vessels allow us to SEE and we can’t even see them until we make them different; until we light them up for our brain to say, “Hey, something’s different here”. Consider how many little miracles happen every day to allow us to function not only in our physical bodies, but in our mental and spiritual capacities. Your heart beats, you breathe, and you feel: Be grateful for these. It’s easy to ignore things we can’t see.  When things are left untouched or ignored, they fade out of perspective, they disappear until they are no longer in sight. However, these things that support us and give us the tools to carry out our purpose in life are always present. What’s the lesson here? Have gratitude for the smallest miracles in life and trust them. Trust that the universe is always here to help you carry out your strongest passions which are truly your life’s purpose. Everything in life is working for you and your dreams. For me, this lesson reminds me to trust that all is in motion so that I may live my dream of better serving others by traveling and teaching yoga.  Thank you to my physical and non-physical supporters – I know you’re working hard even if I can’t see you!

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What the heck am I doing with my life?

“What the heck am I doing with my life?” I ask myself this question constantly throughout the day. It pops into my head while I’m preparing a multi-million dollar water grant, during my yoga practice, and even when I’m trying to take a nap. It’s so annoying; yet so important! I’m 30 years old and there is no one telling me what to do or who to be. So, what the heck am I doing with my life? This powerful question brings me back to the present and allows me to carefully take a breath while evaluating not only my actions, but my intentions behind them. All I want is to serve others and work with people who share the same intent. Sometimes this seems impossible. My monkey mind gets a hold of me and here come the “I’m such a victim” pity party thoughts: “I don’t like the people I’m being forced to work with, I don’t like the work I’m doing, I’m not good at anything, I’m not happy unless I’m traveling the world teaching yoga,” and on and on it goes. Then I stop, cast a line, and reel myself back in. What the heck am I doing? I am teaching yoga by sharing my own life experiences with others. I am preparing grants to help protect our precious rivers, creeks, and ocean. I am being a friend, a partner, a sister, a daughter. I am extending the truest part of myself to the world. I am being me and this is enough.

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Tale of a Yogic Journey to Gratitude

My friends keep telling me I’m not the same. When I ask them what they mean, they say that I just seem different, but in a good way. Maybe it’s my hair? I know my highlights are a little brighter than usual. Maybe it’s my tan? I ride my bike and walk as much as possible these days. One more thought emerges, but I now quickly let it go. Sadly, in the past I would have immediately thought they were trying to nicely tell me I was fat. Yes, I admit it. My mind was wired to associate happy with skinny and sad or “different” with fat and failure. It’s so effed up, I know.  So what is it they are referring to? What are they SEEING? I embrace the smile on my face as I realize that they are seeing me: the REAL me.

For the past few years, I let the struggle of fulfilling a synthetic version of myself supersede my emerging longing to simply be myself. I’ve watched my sadness slowly dissipate as I journey deeper into my real self. I think they call this self-realization. It’s when you do something and fall in love with it, then realize you’re falling in love with yourself. It’s not an act of narcissism, but rather the purest effort of changing the world by fulfilling your dharma and being you. This thing, for me, was yoga. Although I’d been practicing yoga for 10 years, I hadn’t let myself go deeper into what it was that I loved so much about it. Then my better half (aka my monk) encouraged me to do a teacher training and voila! Joey emerged.

Through yoga, I come to a place where the noise in my mind is muted (Russell Simmons refers to this in his book, Super Rich), leaving me alone with feeling. Just feeling. Here – I’ll try to explain it. When you sit and your entire being is buzzing with feeling, sensation, energy, whatever you want to call it, you feel so deeply connected to this world you almost dissolve into it. This may sound like you begin to feel insignificant; however, it’s actually the opposite. You feel so valued, so powerful, and so critical to everything around you. You feel as if you are a node in the grid of the universe, one of the twinkling stars, one of the sparkles in the ocean, one of the diamonds in the rough.  Beauty is EVERYWHERE! It’s crazy. It’s like you’re on the highest high.  Then you begin to glow. There is a reason they call it yoga glow. You start to emanate beauty, love, and compassion because you’re practicing these things for yourself everyday through yoga and you become infectious. One of my friends actually said my positive energy was almost too much for her to receive while she was in a down state. However, she later shared that it helped bring her to the path of finding peace and balance in her life. So now I’m happy and she’s happy. Done and done. Mission accomplished, right? Not so fast.

Even as a yoga teacher, I still question my positive impact on others. I wonder what more I can do to help. I recently read that Mother Theresa questioned what more she could do to be closer to God, as if her efforts weren’t enough. If the mother of all mothers questioned her actions, it must be okay to question mine.  Just when I felt justified in my questioning, my answer came.

Two weeks ago I went to Ojai and heard the answer from God/Source/the Divine/Allah/whatever name you prefer. I’m not crazy, just listen: During a yoga class the question was posed: “Think of one person you are grateful for”. Later that night two of my friends independently and lovingly shared that they thought of me. I almost cried. Okay, I did cry but it was silently afterwards by myself in the bathroom. I felt so good for impacting the lives of two incredibly beautiful and talented women.  It was at that moment that I vowed to always ask myself a question, which I will now ask you: Given a room full of people, who would be grateful for you?  Who are you grateful for? Consider that YOU are the answer.

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