Yoga and Other Drugs

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what is the meaning of yoga. What does it mean to me, since I am aware that it means different things to each and every one of us. I also watched the documentary ‘Who owns yoga’ by Al Jezeera, which is definitely a must see for everyone interested in the development of yoga and the modern perspectives on it.

This line of thought took me back to basics, so I did some more research on the philosophies behind the yoga practice:

  • The Yamas – they relate to what we should stop doing, in order to live in harmony with ourselves and those around us.
    • Ahimsa – refers to not practicing violence, in words, thoughts or deeds.
    • Satya – is related to always being truthful
    • Asteya – focuses on not stealing; it doesn’t only refer to material items, but also to stealing people’s spotlight, time or energy
    • Brahmacarya – is related to being moderate and controlling our human impulses of excess
    • Aparigraha – instigates to not hoard or possess, cultivate generosity and be helpful and giving towards others
  • The Niyamas – what we commit to ourselves
    • Saucha – being clean. Through the asana practice, the body is purified. More to this, this Niyama relates to eating mindfully and paying attention to what we read or watch
    • Santosha – being contempt with what you have and practicing gratitude
    • Tapahs – discipline and effort. Learning to work hard for your achievements
    • Svadhyaya – studying and loving yourself.
    • Isvara pranidhana – surrender to a higher force, or devotion to your practice. This is related to seeing outside your ego, and spreading love in the universe.

I believe these teachings to be truly beautiful. In a world that values individuality, career prosperity and material possessions, it is refreshing to take a moment and reflect on how we want our path to be. There are many voices out there saying that yoga is much more than asana, and that, as you practice, you cannot help but embrace some of the yoga philosophy. Do you agree?

The above mentioned documentary went from bodybuilders that make their living out of yoga because it’s the trend of this century and an easy source of income, to traditional teachers who still believe that yoga is rooted in hindu thought and that practicing just asana is not yoga. But in the end, who is entitled to define it? I believe we can all attribute our own definitions to it, according to what works for us, and where our personal journey has taken us. I also firmly believe that no one can say what yoga is not. May it be just asana, or may it be practicing while also enjoying a steak or a glass of wine from time to time. And I believe that all those practices the so-called ‘yogis’ have been frowning upon are nevertheless still yoga practices.

So what does yoga mean?

For me, it is balance. Tolerance. Gratitude. Shutting down the ego, when all it would do is harm. Accepting who you are, and who those around you are, and listening to what they can teach you. Silencing the mind when it wants to achieve physical goals (now!) and understanding that many things take practice, and other might never come easy. Appreciating what you have and being happy to be alive, to have a ray of sun caressing your cheek or a warm hug from somebody close. And most of all, remembering who the person you want to be is, and forgiving yourself when you stray away from this idealistic version of yourself. If you are ashamed or sad about your actions, this means you care, you acknowledge, and you learn. Be easier on yourself and try again tomorrow.

What about you? Feel free to share what your yoga practice means for you!

Yes or No to New Year’s Resolutions?

It’s again the jolly time of the year. The time when we take a step back, enjoy the Christmas joy and reflect on everything around us. Hopefully we all take a moment to be grateful for the wonderful people around us – those who crossed our path year, those who inspired us and those who taught us  a lesson. Another moment to reflect on what we have achieved, the goals we met and all the skills we developed.

It’s all in the mind, whether you decide to look positively at all the great things last year has brought, or focus on the things you failed at. It’s not just a pessimist/optimist battle, but more about how deep you dig in yourself and how aware you are of what each scar signifies.

Each year, we hear around “I will start exercising from January” or “I will try that new diet from Monday”, but how many of us actually keep up with these promises? Why start in January or next week, when we can start today? So many of our promises to ourselves involve radical changes, which are difficult to maintain in the long run. Why not try with small steps, celebrating each improvement and being realistic with our goals?

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I have to admit it, I am making new year’s resolutions every year. I think it is useful to reflect on what you want to achieve, and check them up a couple of times per year. I don’t assume they will come true on January 1st. Changing one’s lifestyle is a continuous process, and I believe that it is important to focus on real, needed and sustainable changes. Losing 3 kg to fit in a dress at a wedding next month is a small and not so sustainable goal. Sure, it’s possible, but it doesn’t bring longtime happiness (except feeling good about the great pictures in that dress).

I prefer goals related to cooking more healthy meals and eating out less. This doesn’t mean I will never eat a pizza again. This means that I am aware that I could make some improvements in this department, and I will try my best in the future. I also had a goal of being able to do Scorpion pose last year. It didn’t happen yet, but it’s not the end of the world. Everything is a journey, and as long as we’re moving forward, things will be fine. One day, I will get there. And if not, I will still benefit from other things I learn on my way.

Next to saving more money or changing the car, inner resolutions are something we should look more into. They are some sort of reality-check, showing us how we perceive ourselves and whom we would like to become. It’s not easy, and it can be discouraging for some, but they are needed in order to understand ourselves better. We can say “I will be more patient”, but if we don’t understand what makes us lose our patience in the first place, what is the point?

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How to understand yourself better?

Often, new year’s resolutions are related to things we wished we did or skills we wished we had. We tend to like and admire in others the qualities we desire for ourselves. Think about what you admire the most in your significant other, or in your closest friends. Is it that they are very detailed-oriented, or great at presentation skills? Maybe a friend always knows exactly the best thing to say in a difficult situation, or one is very fast at making decisions.

The next step is understanding that we cannot all be the same, and we cannot all be great at the same things. Yes, many things can be trained, and you have big chances of improving by asking advice from those who master it and then practicing. However, don’t be discouraged if you will not be the best at all those things, since it’s not humanly possible to excel in everything.

Try to focus on your strengths. They are what make you special. Those are the things you do with ease, and those others admire you for. Maybe you are great at organizing or you speak 4 foreign languages. Well, instead of focusing on what else you can learn, think about how to develop those skills even further, develop a career or a hobby out of them, or help others. This will bring you more satisfaction and self-confidence.

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Best Tricks for Keeping your Resolutions

Be yourself when stating your resolutions! There are common things people wish for, since we are programmed by sociecty to believe this is what we have to do. Even if everybody is aiming to set more aside in their pension account, maybe it’s not what would make you the happiest at this point in your life. Yes, of course it’s useful and needed. But if it’s the last year you can timewise afford to travel the world and discover new cultures, why not starting saving next year? Your reality is different than others’, so set resolutions that fit what you want to do with your life.

Create mini-goals. It is difficult to achieve major changes on the spot, so make sure to split your goals into smaller, achievable ones, that would make you see the progress. Keep track of them and reward yourself everytime a step forward is made.

Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s unrealistic to believe that all your new year resolutions will come true. You will definitely make improvements in the areas you want to, but, like mentioned above, it is a continuous process. Be happy and grateful for what you managed to achieve. And if you fail,  at least you have learned a lot in the process and will take it forward in the future.

Bucharest – Eastern Europe’s Unknown Gem

So many guides show you the little wonders of Rome, London or Paris. Some even dare to propose Prague or Budapest, but how many are actually revealing more about Bucharest?

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Located in the Southern part of Romania, this vibrant city has a lot to offer. From good food, to rich history and cheap cocktails, Bucharest can be an amazing city-break destination, while also opening your eyes to a new culture. Romanians are latin, loud and welcoming people, and a trip there will surely create memorable moments.

Here are some information and tricks for a first commer, that would help with organizing your trip. If you’re still not sure, read further – it might convince you that you won’t regret a trip in Eastern Europe’s little Paris.

Why was it called little Paris?

In the flourishing era between 1866 and 1946, Bucharest was developing at a high speed. Many buildings were inspired from French architecture, and long boulevards, like Calea Victoriei, ressembled Champs Elysées.

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                                                                              Source for picture: Florin Stanciu

Although not all these old buildings survived the Communistic times and the earthquake from 1977, some areas of the city still keep this wonderful spirit. What places are best at maintaining it?

Old City Center

Although being a ruin for many years, Bucharest’s old city center is now re-established and offers a wonderful overview on Romanian heritage and history. It is well-designed for foreigners, as it has maps and descriptions in English, guiding you through the little streets and introducing you to traditional and historical buildings. One of the best things to see here is the Stavropoleos Church, dating from 1724. With its beautiful interior garden and old architecture, it is a hidden gem worth seeing. You may have seen dozens of enormous Gothic cathedrals during your trips, but you most likely haven’t experienced yet something as cozy and beautiful as this one.

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The Old City Center is also famous for its restaurants and clubs. Two of these places are worth mentioning, as they offer a glimpse of Romanian tradition and old times. These are Hanu’ lui Manuc, an old inn, and Caru’ cu Bere. The architecture of these places is glorious, the food is traditional and the service exceptional. It’s worth giving them a try!

Another must-see place situated in the Old Town is the Carturesti Carusel Bookstore. Its opening was famous all around the globe, and its architecture is breathtaking. It is a very well-lit building, consisting of thousands of books, CDs, games, traditional souvenirs and gifts. It feels like you’re entering another universe, so make sure you check it out.

Calea Victoriei

Cales Victoriei is warmly recommended, if you feel like taking a nice walk on one of the city’s most beautiful streets, filled with great architecture, expensive shops and several museums. It used to be called the Romanian Champs Elysées. Some beautiful buildings you shouldn’t miss are: George Enescu Museum (Romania’s most famous composer), located in the former Cantacuzino Palace.  Not only is its architecture a great example of Art Nouveau style, but the museum is a cultural landscape, as you can  learn more about the life of Romania’s most famous composer.

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Photo: Nico TrinkhausMemorial of Rebirth | Bucharest, Romania – CC-BY-NC

Moving on, you will also be passing by the Revolution Square. Here you can find an emblematic sculpture, built after the fall of the communism. It is called the Monument of Rebirth, and it celebrates the memorial of those who fell in the revolution in 1989.

This beautiful square also hosts the Atheneum, which is an architectural jewel. On the other side of the street you can find the National Museum of Arts, which used to be the Royal Palace. This is a very big building, hard to miss, hosting both Romanian and foreign art. Make sure to reserve at least half a day to visit it, if you’re interested, as it is very rich and captivating.

This walk would end in Victoria Square, which also hosts a must-see museum: Grigore Antipa – Natural History Museum. One of the most modern museums Romania has, this one shows you nature at its best, from the beginnings until now. It is very interactive, not expensive and surely entertaining, especially if you’re traveling with children.

Let’s go back to tradition

Not very far from Victoria Square, you can find the Peasant Museum, containing arts and crafts, artisanal products and traditional clothing and architecture. If you want to learn even more about the traditional architecture, you can also try the Village Museum, close to Herastrau Park (Bucharest’s green lung).

But one of the best traditional things you will experience here is food. Romanian food is rich in taste, often made with organic ingredients and old recipes, spread over various generations.
The first picture above depicts probably the most traditional thing you can find, ask any Romanian. It’s a plate of sarmalute cu mamaliguta. Sour cabbage rolls, filled with minced meat, rice and spices (sarmale), served together with a corn pourrige (mamaliga). It is traditionally eaten at all special occasions, from Christmas to weddings. And it’s amazing!

The second picture shows a popular desert, called papanasi. These are the Romanian donuts, served with sour cream and jam. Give them a try, especially in the above-mentioned Caru’cu Bere restaurant.

People’s House – The Palace of Parliament

If you are not convinced already, there’s one more famous building to see – the Palace of Parliament. Built during communist times, it is the world’s largest civilian building with an administrative function. It is also the second largest building in the world, after the Pentagon of the US.

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Check timetables to see the schedule of the guided tours – they are available in different languages. This building is breathtaking, especially when enjoyed from the Izvor Park in the twilight.

Some final practical considerations

Public transportation might be tricky, as ticket cashiers tend to close early. There are different cards, some for metro, other (Active Card) valid for above-ground transportation, like buses, trams or trolleys. Buy them beforehand, so you don’t get caught without ticket in the evenings.

Cabs are, of course, available and cheap, but make sure to take trustworthy ones. There are some drivers well-trained at scamming foreigners, but use the accredited ones and you will be safe. Some companies that have been recommended to me are:

  • Speed (+40219477)

  • Pelicanul (+40219665)
  • Taxi Meridian (+40219444)

Tipping is not mandatory in Romanian restaurants, but it is extremely common. A 10% tip is expected, unless the service was terrible.

Finally, relax and enjoy. Romania is an underrated destination, but it has a lot to offer. It is surely to develop over the next years, as more and more tourists begin exploring it.

Yes, it is not as developed as London. The infrastructure is not the best, and not everybody speaks English. But you can learn so much about another culture, you can get to know welcoming and energetic people, see beautiful places and develop as a person. Traveling is a book, and you don’t wanna miss the Romanian page, as there is so much to learn!

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There is also so much more than Bucharest, and if you have more time to spend, you should definitely try a trip in the mountains. There are popular and well established skiing resorts, beautiful scenery to be enjoyed hiking, and old castles to be visited. If this doesn’t convince you, drop by Bran Castle in Transylvania and our friend, Dracula, might give the last push.

Is There Such Thing as Work-Life Balance?

We want to have it all – a balanced life, with a successful career, a warm family, great friends and hobbies and some time for ourselves. But is it truly possible, or is it just an urban myth? Can we actually achieve work-life balance?

A short and witty video from The School of Life tends to argue we cannot:

They argue in the video that, while we can juggle many balls in the air in the same time, we cannot devote the same resources to multiple areas, at the same intensity. So we can have perfectly fine careers and private activities, but having it all is an utopia.

Let’s look at some successful people and their family lives:

  • Albert Einstein – the developer of the theory of relativity. He was married twice, once for 16 years and the second time for 17, until his wife Elsa died. He had 2 sons with his first wife. In terms of hobbies, he had time to enjoy sailing and play the violin.
  • Roger Federer – one of the best tennis players in history, is married since 2009 with Mirka Vavrinec. They have together two sets of twins, two girls and two boys.
  • Barack Obama – president of the US. He is for sure a very busy person. He has been married with Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama since 1992, and they have two girls together. He is very fond of exercising and a Harry Potter fan.
  • Bill Gates, the man behind Microsoft, is as well happily married to Melinda Gates since 1994. They have three kids together. He is an avid bridge player, and loves tennis in his spare time.
  • Oprah Winfrey – America’s first lady of talk shows. She has been dating Stedman Graham since 1986, but stated she will never marry him.

To read more about interesting hobbies of CEOs, check this article.

We can, of course, not know what is happening behind closed doors. Public figures show themselves in the best light. However, many successful persons appear to be supported by loved ones, more or less publicly. People get married, people build families. Is it a requirement of our society or is it just because we simply operate better with a strong support system behind us? We do need love around to feel accomplished.

There is also this myth of people who want to focus 100% on their careers and state they don’t have enough time for fruitful relationships. Yes, fitting everything in your life can be tricky, but with the right person by your side and great time management skills, it can be done. Communication is the key – setting expectations and investing in your loved one as much as possible in the spare time. This way, they would feel wanted and respected, and they will support you in your actions.

LifebalanceSome say that if you want a successful career, you should make sacrifices in your workplace. That building a strong, happy family requires you to put less hours at the office. Is this the real issue, or the fact that our competitive market has made it so difficult to keep our work during working hours? 8 hours per day – isn’t that enough? Do we work so long hours because there is so much work to do, or because our productivity levels are very low, and we spend long breaks scrolling social media?

It depends from case to case, and there are many careers that do require extensive work. However, all normal jobs offer free time and holidays, and finding a balance should be possible. Especially for successful, well-positioned people, that have the resources to hire help. Can it be that you work so long hours because you haven’t been introduced to the wonders of delegating? Invest some time into finding a skillful right hand, that can make your life easier. Learn to trust this person and leave earlier on a Friday to spend more time with your loved ones.

I am a firm believer that you can have it all. Looking around, I see it happening – my grandma is my greatest example. She had a wonderful, long marriage, two healthy kids, a great accounting carreer and wonderful friends. She retired in her 60s, and was then asked back to work for 10 extra years. She raised my mother and my uncle to be successful professionals. She loved my grandfather until the end and raised me, her granddaughter, untul school years. She would regularly meet her friends for rummy on Sundays, and she’s the most amazing cook ever. How did she do it all? Great organization skills, supportive family, and resillience. And last, but not least – by not wondering whether it can be done, but just doing it instead.

This is for her, Eleonora – my rolemodel.

Would You Rent a Friend?

It seems like nowadays we are too busy being alone with our gadgets, that we forgot how to ‘friend’ anymore. It started with the Tinder-revolution, since apparently it got more and more difficult to meet people the old traditional ways. However, now we are applying this to friends, really?

What happens to our generation, that we cannot interact with those around us? People have been happy and social for centuries, without Facebook or thousands of interactive apps that make them forget how to look each other in the eye. We go through life burried in screens – smartphone, laptop, tablet or TV…If this is not an alarm-signal, what is?

Friends_and_gadgetsI came across today by the website Rentafriend.com. Pretty genius, some would say. I still fail to see this though – it feels more like tragic to me. The website offers you the option to rent somebody to be your prom date, go with you to gym or to family events, to be your wingman/wingwoman or just hang out with you. A world of opportunities, and they propose you available friends in your region.

This feels worse than Tinder – at least there, you get to interact with somebody, and if you discover things in common, they might date you. For free though!

There are two questions that come to my mind in the first second:

  1. We really have no one in our circle of friends, co-workers, family at least that could be our friend or accompany us to these events?
  2. Is it better to go with someone you rent than to go alone?

First of all – how do we end up alone? I cannot imagine that I couldn’t find anyone around me that would like to hang out with me. Nobody to interact with? May it be because I’ve been spending my days trapped inside my home, swapping TV channels and feeling bored? What about going out for a drink, and maybe meeting somebody? What about trying the public library and maybe run into somebody with similar interest? What about trying a gathering place (a party, a backpackers club, couchsurfing, any place where people meet each other)?

Oh, is that scary? Or is it that I really cannot meet anybody I find interesting? Gosh, what can be the reason for that? Maybe I am looking for somebody who has blue eyes, lives in my neighbourhood and loves Minecraft? Well, then maybe rentafriend.com is the best place for me.

It seems like some of us have become so picky with our relationships and so much risk-adverse, that computerized match-making seems the only option. Isn’t it awesome to get to pick a friend I know I would like? Who need to be adaptable, understanding or…make compromises? What is that? Why would I do something I don’t like for somebody else? Isn’t it easier to just pick online somebody who wants to do what I want? Oh, shoud I pay for that? Sure, why not! At least I don’t risk being rejected. At least I know what I’m getting into and I get to choose what we do. They will like me anyway, I made sure of it by throwing out some bucks. Great!

aloneandonlineSarcasm aside, we really need to stop and reflect on our actions and the turn this society is taking. We are becoming so afraid of face-to-face communication – is it maybe because we don’t know how it works anymore? An interesting article discussed the implications of sceen-time on the way we communicate. Of course, writing to somebody is easier that actually meeting them. Expressing our emotions via a screen or a emoticon makes everything easier – we don’t even need to clearly articulate our feelings – there are yellow little things that transmit this information for us. The more time people spend interacting through digital channels, the lesser affection they attach to that relationship.

We need personal touch, and we need relationships around us to be happy and fulfilled. Therefore, we cannot get our share of human contact from texts alone. But we are so used to this avoidant type of communication, that it might be tricky to actually hold a face-to-face, live conversation. In this case, I cannot just close a chat window when a disagreement appears. I am next to a person that deserves my attention and respect. The importance of these things is much smaller or less noticed in the virtual world. But strong, real relationships need these ingredients to function properly. And we seem to be on the path of forgetting about their importance.

Friendship takes effort. And part of being a friend is strongly related to understanding another human being, being there for them, making oneself likeable and express emotions to somebody who cares. These aspects are altered, if not innexistent, when you decide to rent a friend. What are you truly getting out of that?

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This leads me to the second aspect I mentioned earlier. I may decide to rent a friend, due to the fact that I am afraid of going somewhere alone. But why is that?

Is it the society dictating me that I cannot go to a restaurant alone? Why do I always need a date? When into a restaurant, I sometimes look around to discover how many of the customers are on their phone. Doing that is more acceptable when they are alone – but when they are with their friends, what is the explanation?

An article from 2014 shows a message from a restaurant to its clients, asking them to be more considerate with their time. They claim the average consumer spends 50 more minutes now in the restaurant than they did in 2004, and they blame it on smartphone use. Pictures, WiFi issues and other distractions are increasing the time they waste in the restaurant, therefore causing longer delays for other consumers and for the waiters.

Why am I going to restaurants? To avoid cooking and washing dishes, this is definitely on the top of my list! However, if I go there with a friend, I want to enjoy his/her company, spend quality time, without needing to worry about the heat of the sauce or bringing the dessert in time. It’s just our time, somebody else serves us the food, so I can finally spend precious time with those I care about.

What happens when I decide that whatever happens on Facebook is more important than the person I am with? Do I really need to show the world what we are eating? Where we are, whom we are with…why is that?

More to this, spending more time looking in a screen than in the others’ eyes…Is it lack of respect, sign of addiction or just habit? Habit of ‘multi-tasking’, of checking news and cleaning the house while chatting on messenger with a friend. We can do all that simultaneously, it’s not like we are missing any part of the conversation. We are still there, right? Who says it needs to be 100%?

If we are not willing to invest undivided attention to the person we are sharing our meal with (this is just an example, it can be theater show, bowling or wedding), then why can’t we just go alone in the first place? If we don’t care enough about our friends to maintain a healthy friendship, which would increases the chances of them joining us for free…then why do we pay to have somebody accompany us?

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Renting a friend awakens very strong emotions inside me, since it’s a stronger sign of how bad we’re having it. More development, more gadgets, cooler apps and more time spent in front of a screen. Is this what we want our life to be?

Autumn and gratitude

End of October always brings the most beautiful autumn days. It’s still warm enough to enjoy long walks in the park, and the last sunny days offer a wonderful view on the fallen leaves. For me, autumn is the season of reflection and inner journeys.autumn on its wayAutumn is associated with melancholy. I would put much more positive on what autumn makes me feel, as it’s the time to take a step back, reflect on everything, from the adventurous summer to all that was learned this year. Winter is coming, Christmas and a whole new year, which means new beginnings and hope.

The fallen leaves in autumn are a sign of the end of a cycle. But it is not something negative. We all know they will be alright. Seasons change, nature goes to sleep, but there’s nothing sad about that. Everyone knows that once spring comes, everything will blossom again. And this is the miracle of life.

Take this lesson from autumn and bring it into your present. Nothing lasts forever, not the grey days and not the strong winds. Even when you’re down, overwhelmed by storms or snow, the belief in the warmth of that very first ray of sun keeps you going.

On this same page, I dreamt last week about a grey chimpanzee that told me:

“Don’t worry, as long as our hearts are beating, everything is going to be alright.”

WisechimpanzeeI was told this is a pretty wise chimpanzee, and my dreams are strangely insightful. But the bottom line is that we are all going to make it. It sounds cliché, believe me, I know it. But I also know that after the rain comes good weather, like in a book I used to read regularly when I was young (“Après la pluie, le beau temps”, Comtesse de Ségur)

One important lesson yoga taught me is gratitude. People tend to get stuck in their problems, fear or routines, and forget to be grateful about everything that they have. This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest issues of our society. We are programmed to be in the search of the perfect life, with a happy family, a good career, enough money for all the comfort we can imagine, and, on top of everything, exciting adventures everyday. What happened with simplicity? What happened with the beauty of holding somebody’s hand? What happened with feeling grateful for small things, such as being healthy?

I once read an interesting article, stating that people rarely think about health, unless it is in danger. We do not notice how well things are going for us, unless we start feeling bad – that is when health becomes important. What if we tried a small change of perspective? Stopping sometimes to think how nice this day is, because we are full of energy, capable of carrying out with our daily tasks? We have food on our table, and a shelter on our head. These ‘basic needs’ Maslow would say are so often taken for granted. But they offer our support system, and we should really appreciate what we have. These are small sources of happiness, and acknowledging them would improve our quality of life.

Are you upset you cannot afford eating fish twice a week, and you don’t often have time to prepare pancakes for breakfast? What about imagining for a second eating just bread with butter every day? Terrible, no? This lack of variety. Unimaginable. What about imagining eating a piece of bread once in a day? … Are you happy with your life already?

Autumn is the season of reflection. Reflect on who you are. On what makes you happy and what makes you sad. If it makes you sad, have you stopped and tried to understand why you are sad? What makes you tick? Go deeper into your inner world, do it today, and try to know yourself better. And then be happy for the opportunity we have to do this inner journey. Cause it’s one of the miracles of being human.

Yoga and Competition

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” (The Bhagavad Gita)

I don’t know about you, but I am a pretty competitive person. I was raised to aim for the best, to try to push limits and do more. I got a secret rush from being better than others, or recognized for my merits. I loved contests and classaments, and would always strive to get higher. Being introduced to yoga, I was on unknown territory, where everything moves slowly and smoothly, and I wasn’t the best anymore.

I felt it’s so challenging, that I could never do it. I hear many people saying they cannot practice yoga, because they are not flexible enough. This is one of the biggest myths about it, since very few of us are. But gradually, through regular practice, flexibility increases. You start out by not being able to touch your toes, and you can end up after a while in a beautiful dancer pose.dancer_pose_yogaYoga teaches you many things. Among others, patience is one of them. You cannot just do everything from the beginning. You need to work your way through poses, learn to listen to your body, understand and respect it. There might be days when your body cannot balance as well as in others, and you shouldn’t force it. It will come back, when you are ready. This is one of the wonders of yoga, and this is what many of us fail to understand. It is more than a “sport”, it is more than a race to be able to do all the cool poses you saw online. You might never be able to do some of them. And that is okay.

My competitive self started by checking out the instructor, and wanting to be like her. She was so flexible, I assumed it just takes more practice, so I pushed myself. I started practicing daily and I was improving. However, I could always discover cooler poses, different girls online holding impossible positions. I started setting goals for myself: “next month I will be able to do the split”. My motivation got shaky when I felt I was not improving anymore as quicky as before, and reaching my goals felt very difficult.

This is when I met an amazing instructor, in a random gym in Seville, Spain. She opened my eyes towards yoga and myself on so many levels, I couldn’t be more grateful. Each of her classes was different, and she took us on inner journeys and introduced us to so many aspects of the practice. I have never met any other instructor like her. She was showing us how to believe in our body and in ourselves and explaining that sometimes we just need to shup up the mind. It is the one that tells us we are afraid or we cannot achieve something. Our body can do much more, if we just believe in it.

Sometimes, when holding a difficult pose, she would encourage us to think about something we are afraid of. To feel it, understand it completely. And then comprehend that we can overcome anything. Yoga is more than a body challenge to reach certain position. It’s discipline, hard work and relaxation. Sometimes it is okay not to achieve something, and other times we just need to be more patient and allow our body to get there. If we listen carefully to our inner self, we will understand our needs better.

serenityThis made me stop looking at others. Not compare myself anymore with instructors, fellow yogis in the class or skilled and flexible ladies on the internet. We all have our inner journeys, we all have our own challenges and limits. What matters is what we learn about ourselves after each practice.

Finally, I learned more about flexibility. I used to wish to be able to do those amazing back bends, and I’m sure you’ve felt like that. However, I read more on the topic and learned that this increased flexibility is more than regular practice and hard work. Some people are just born like that, but others are hypermobile. That might look cool, but can be painful and sometimes dangerous. So I decided to be careful what I wish for, and focus on what my body needs.

The only competition for me is knowing myself and my body more. Not wanting what the others achieve, but treating myself better. Improving whom I was yesterday, not necessarily physically, but emotionally.

“The study of asana is not about mastering the posture. It’s about using posture to understand and transform yourself.” (Gary Kraftsow)

Who is the most important person in your life?

Internet is full of articles, questionnaires and books about knowing yourself and self-development. We hear it everyday: love yourself or no one will love you. But we are social beings, and studies have showed that we are happier among others. Why is that? Because happiness is contagious – and this goes both for introverts and extroverts! Being among happy people makes us more positive and confident. This also influences our health, since it is easier to recover from illness for people who benefit from love and support of family and friends. Being among others also contributes to our sense of identity, since we feel accepted and belonging to a group. Not to mention the benefits and motivation others can bring, for example by encouraging you to continue a healthy lifestyle, go for that half-marathon or apply to your dream job.

This being said, why are so many of us so individualistic? I recently came across this question in an article: “Who is the most important person in your life?” and it got me thinking. There are so many factors you can take into consideration when looking at this: whom you care about the most, whom you spend the most time with, who is always there for you, whom influences your decisions, whom you make compromises for.

Knowing yourself

I asked this question to a couple of close friends, and the answers I got were interesting. From their life partner or their family (parents), to themselves. All these choices bring interesting considerations. Of course, it is an individual decision and many times it is understandable that it is difficult to choose. Choosing family or your relationship is tricky, especially when you are faced with distinguishing between different types of love. Firstly you have the love for the ones who gave life to you and have formed you to be whom you are now. Secondly there is that one person who is with you day after day, chasing away your demons, loving and supporting. You may be so lucky as to have both of them around you, and then why on Earth would you even choose?

Interesting for me was to hear the answers of those choosing themselves. What does it mean? Are they more self-centered than others? Are they afraid to let love in? Or are we just naive to ever believe we are anything but alone?

I am a believer in personal connection, learning from others, helping others, sharing your life, experiences and knowledge with others. I know I am happier when I surround myself with those I care about. Some may say this is insecurity – this is why it is important to know, understand and accept yourself, without needing constant confirmation from the outside world. Others may say that you are happiest when you follow your dreams and do what is best for you no matter what. In this case, you become the most important person in your life, since you independently choose your path, with small or even no outside influence. In the worst case scenario, this leads to the well known image of the person ending up alone in his/her 50s, with a lot of money and no one to share them with. This is, of course, an extreme case, but it successfuly underlines my point – making decisions only based on your needs will eventually lead up to disappointing those around you and alienating them.

I am not a big fan of compromise, who is? But I believe it is important to see the difference between putting yourself on the second place on the one hand, vs. not considering anyone else, on the other. You may make all your decisions based on what your needs are – but then, how much are you willing to risk for love? How much are you willing to give? How deep is the nature of your personal relationships?

friendship

The Smell of Copenhagen

It has been 2 months already since I moved to the Danish capital, and it starts feeling like home. Coming from a small city, the amount of people, tourists and traffic in this city can be overwhelming at times, not to mention the time spent in public transportation. I know, I know, it’s nothing like Paris or New York, but it is still a vibrant city, with an International vibe and tons of events.

An interesting thing I noticed when walking around on a sunny afternoon is that I feel mesmerized by the beauty of the architecture. I have been traveling a lot, and always saw new places with ‘tourist’ eyes, taking pictures of everything and imagining how lucky the people living there are. I was also sadly noticing that most of them forget to look around, being too busy thinking about to-do-lists and everyday routines. They forget how wonderful their surroundings are, and how many people pay little fortunes just to get to see the things they pass by every day.

copenhagenI still stop and admire the beauty of this city, everytime I cross the bridge towards the city center on a sunny day. And I believe we would all be happier if we would stop and look around from time to time, being grateful for what we have, where we are and what we get to experience.

Travel is my Drug

“Wind in my Hair, I’m a Part of Everywhere”

This is one of my favorite lines related to travel. It’s part of the song ‘Guaranteed’ by Eddie Vedder, and I believe it to be a travel philosophy. It’s not just about going places to change scenery and take beautiful pictures. It’s about emerging in a new world, learning from it, absorbing their way of living. That is as complicated as it sounds, since a traveler rarely has easy access to the hidden layers of a new culture. But one has to try.

The_Smell_of_PraguePrague – January 2015