Meet Your Kula: Nina Monobe

Meet Your Kula: Nina Monobe

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we’ll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

Meet our Maitrī Yogi, Nina Monobe.

Hi Nina! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Nina (Marina) Monobe and I love to help others through my veterinary and yoga practice. I’m a Veterinary Doctor who moved to USA to work as a PhD researcher and teacher assistant. During my cultural transition time, I found myself practicing yoga as a therapeutic exercise to fight anxiety and depression. Nowadays, I’m an Alliance Certified Yoga Instructor and AFAA Fitness Instructor. I consider myself living between two different worlds, veterinary & fitness, which I love equally.

How did you begin your yoga journey?

As an immigrant in USA, who left family & friends back in Brazil, I had a difficult time trying to adapt to the new American culture. I always felt overwhelmed trying to prove my skills as good as or better than my co-workers. Subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I considered a variety of therapies that could potentially help me, including yoga. Soon enough I realized yoga as a life changing experience and I can definitively say it saved my life.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

In 2018, I decided to take my practice to the next level. I wanted to deeply understand the alignment, benefits and history behind it. Since then, I found myself always enrolled in a different training. At this moment, I’m working on finishing a 500-Hour Orthopedic Yoga Therapy Training Course.

What type of yoga do you teach? What lead you to this particular style?

I teach a wide variety of yoga styles, from traditional Vinyasa Ashtanga and Restorative Yin Yoga with mediation music, to Power Yoga and yoga with weights, with pop music. My mission is to bring awareness to people that yoga can be fun and make you flexible, balanced and strong from the inside out and there is always a style out there waiting for you to fall in love!

How has the practice of yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Yoga is body-mind work. It makes me more flexible and stronger from the inside out. Physically I now have better flexibility, range of motion, endurance and muscle strength. I’m more aware of my body limitations and how to mindfully progress my practice. From practicing Pranayama, I’m more centered and present. I’m more grateful and appreciative towards everything in my life. I feel more complete and accomplished. I’m more understanding about situations and patient with people and myself. All of those feelings developed through yoga decreased my anxiety and stress levels.

How do you find compassion for yourself in your journey?

Yoga is a constant learning process. It was through injuring myself (on and off the mat) and not being patient with my body that I learned how to better listen to it. At some point you not only become aware of your limitations but you start loving yourself. As you recognize yourself as a human with ups and downs but in constant progress, you find compassion.

How do you incorporate what you've learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

By becoming more aware and learning how to love myself, I learned to always make adjustments to improve my physical and mental experience on the mat. Sometimes taking easy modifications or taking a slow and gentle flow. This allowed me to see that those small adjustments could always be applied off the mat. Situations I cannot control or plans gone wrong, I always find a way to adjust. Not blaming myself and likewise, taking it easy. Treatment myself with love, sometimes a relaxing bath or playing my favorite playlist to boost my mood. Also, yoga taught me to always take a minute for gratitude, during Shavasana or Pranayama. This is a practice I take everyday even when I don’t step on my mat. Allows me to find peace even on a chaotic day. Finally, by exploring the eight limbs of yoga on the mat, practicing it daily off the mat improved my relationships with family, friends and strangers. Being more patient and compassionate to others and not only with myself.

What would you share with a beginner?

First of all, I always had this misconception that yoga would be a stretching routine, mostly performed by seniors, or people with injuries. I remember being afraid of trying a class and it being super boring, with long meditations. I was totally wrong and I immediately discovered Yoga has many different styles and most of them aim to improve strength, flexibility and endurance. My first yoga class was Power Yoga. I remember taking breaks and feeling ashamed for not being able to touch my toes in a “simple” fold, while people twice my age were so much more flexible and stronger. The shame, combined with the physical challenge made me a regular in Power Yoga. However, I know many people never come back for the same reason. My greatest tip would be to never compare yourself with another person. Yoga is a journey and we all start somewhere. Our bodies are different, therefore, they perform differently and progress happens with practice. Knowing that, let go from frustrations. Focus on where you are and what you want to achieve. Sometimes, record your movements or poses and later on your path come back to see how far you’ve come!

How has your understanding of Maitrī grown and changed over the years, both in your practice and in your everyday life?

At first, most of the meditative practice was extremely difficult for me. Dealing with my mind wanders was always challenging. Maitrī meditation through Chanting helped me to channel my energy, center my mind and body and find peace. Over time, I found self-love and gratitude and consequently, I learned to be less judgmental and goal oriented as I used to be. As I became a yoga instructor, I nurtured my mind to become a beacon of light for others to feed off of, in a way that now what was a way I would use to find peace and happiness helps others to find them as well.

You can connect with Nina and follow along with her yoga journey at @ninayoganow.

You can also practice alongside Nina this with with our Maitrī Grounding Flow and our mantra:

May all beings be well, may all beings be happy. May I treat all beings with love and kindness.

 


5 Ways to Cultivate Your Passion Through Your Yoga Practice

5 Ways to Cultivate Your Passion Through Your Yoga Practice

Whether you’re embarking on a new career path or seeking out a creative hobby to fill your spare time with, discovering what you truly are passionate about can prove to be as confusing as ever.

While it can be frustrating to know that you must be passionate about something, yet not have a clue what that something might be, there’s reason to embrace this unknown.

Contrary to popular belief, passion does not typically arrive out of nowhere. In reality, we become more aware of what we’re passionate about by exploring a variety of interests, experiencing new things, taking risks, making mistakes, learning, and readjusting what we think we could do better or what we think might bring us more joy.

The meditative and self-explorative aspects of yoga make it an ideal practice for cultivating your passion. Here are five things to focus on in your practice to help move you closer to what you’re truly passionate about.

 

1. Breathe Your Way to Calm

To find your passion, quiet your mind. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the key to connecting to your Higher Self—that part of you that knows what will bring you utmost joy and satisfaction in life.

Consider starting your practice off in meditation or in supine pose with gentle breathing. As you begin to move, try deepening your breath in standing poses to help expand the chest and upper back before finishing on the floor with hip openers and poses that lengthen the spine.

 

2. Notice Attachments to Desired Outcomes

Sometimes it’s our attachment to the ideas we have of what a passionate life might look like that hold us back from discovering and fulfilling our passions.

Use your breath work to detach from thoughts from a mindful distance to observe what outcomes you might be clinging to. Don’t try and change them—just notice them for what they are.

 

3. Greet the Morning With Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)

Traditionally performed at sunrise, sun salutations are wonderful for sparking your internal fire by targeting the major muscles in your spine, legs, and arms.

Starting your morning practice with sun salutations acts as a rebirth ritual, reminding you to seek out and embody your truth. A 20-minute flow through surya namaskar has incredible physical benefits and can even be powerful enough to bust you out of a mental slump.

 

4. Practice Grounding Poses to Heal Your Root Chakra

The root chakra is at the base of the chakra system and represents your solid foundation for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-bing. When out of balance, we may feel stuck or unconsciously caught up in desires.

Located at the base of the spine, practicing yoga poses that ground this foundational energy center to the earth can help you feel more secure and stable in all aspects of your life. Try poses like easy pose (sukhasana), garland pose (malasana), mountain pose (tadasana), and savasana (corpse pose).

 

5. Embrace Poses and Sequences That Encourage You to Release Negativity

Moving unwanted energy out of ourselves is key to clearing away the blocks that keep us stuck or unconsciously repeating bad emotional and behavioral patterns.

The breath work and poses discussed above will certainly help, but you can always go above and beyond. For example, you could create an emotional release ritual out of chair pose.

Start by standing tall in tadasana, visualize something you no longer need or want in your life and imagine grabbing it with your fists as you extend your arms up over your head. Then as you sit back into chair pose, quickly sweep your arms down in front of you toward your sides and back behind your torso as you release your fists and throw that unwanted thing away.


7 Grounding Yoga Poses to Calm and Center Your Spirit

7 Grounding Poses to Calm and Center Your Spirit

When life gets busy, thoughts and emotions can run wild and make you feel like you're out of control. To get back to a balanced state, you can use simple grounding practice for some much needed relief.

Grounding involves rooting yourself to the Earth both physically and mentally to help you find your center. Taking the time to ground yourself in your yoga practice, in your meditation practice, or even just in everyday life can help restore balance back to your body and mind when stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, restlessness, and other negative experiences get in the way of living your life.

Look toward the following yoga poses to help ground you and find a quiet, calm space within.

 

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Image via WeTravel on Flickr

This is a standing pose where you’ll often hear your teacher instruct you to ground yourself down through the four corners of your feet. You’ll instantly feel supported and connected to the Earth without having to bring your awareness to any complicated balances, twists, or holds.

 

2. Warrior I (Virabhradrasana I)

Image via Daku Resort SavuSavu Fiji

Warrior I is harder than it looks as you pivot your back foot and press firmly down into the ground while keeping your pelvis turned toward the front of your mat. With proper alignment, however, this pose becomes a great source of strength, courage, confidence, and stability.

 

3. Warrior II (Virabhradrasana II)

Image via Tom Britt

When the thoughts flowing through your mind seem especially turbulent, the stable nature of Warrior II pose can help bring you back to a more balanced mental/emotional state. Remember that heel to arch alignment, press the blade of your back foot into your fat, and engage both quadriceps.

 

4. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

Image via pbkwee

Triangle pose is a similar grounding pose to Warrior II and is often performed right after Warrior II in many sequences by straightening the front leg, adjusting the back leg as needed, and reaching through the hand pointed toward the top of the mat to fold and rest it on the front ankle or shin (or a block of course). Consider practicing triangle pose after and Warrior II to enhance the grounding effects.

 

5. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Image via WeTravel on Flickr

Trees ground themselves to the Earth, which is why tree pose is truly one of the best grounding poses. It helps promote balance and centering, helping you to develop greater physical and mental steadiness. Regularly practicing this pose may also help you improve your ability to focus and concentrate in your everyday life.

 

6. Easy Pose (Sukhasana) with Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

Image via Teofie

Don’t forget the power of breathing! Sitting in easy pose while practicing alternate nostril breathing helps the balance out sympathetic nervous system (which governs your fight or flight mode) with the parasympathetic system (which governs your rest and relax mode).

 

7. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Image via Shawn Perez

And last but not least, never skip savasana when you’re intention is to feel more grounded and centered through your practice. Savasana is all about surrender, and though it is physically the most uncomplicated pose of them all, it’s said to be the hardest for the simple fact that it involves learning to let go entirely in the moment.


Healthy Foods to Favor for Staying Grounded

5 Healthy Foods to Favor for Staying Grounded

Ayurveda states that we feel the changes of the season in our bodies. In the midst of the autumn season, you’re much more likely to feel restless, anxious, unable to focus, or even out of control due to aggregated vata—the dosha that's at its strongest this time of year, characterized by air and space.

To balance out excess vata in the body, it’s recommended to adopt lifestyle habits that keep you grounded. This means sticking to a daily routine and enjoying foods that are warm, heavy, moist, and nourishing.

To help pacify vata and feel more grounded, start looking toward these healthy foods.

 

1. Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are great for grounding and stabilizing vata because they grow underground. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, onions, parsnips, turnips, garlic, radishes, rutabagas, and ginger are all ideal examples of root vegetables that can be cooked up in warm dishes throughout the autumn season.

 

2. Pumpkin and Squashes

Ayurveda recommends going for sweet, sour, and salty flavours rather than bitter, astringent, and pungent ones. Many root vegetables and squashes fall into the sweet category when they’re cooked, so get creative by adding pumpkin to your baked goods, or incorporating squashes into your soups and sides.

 

3. Lean, High-Quality Meats

Yogis who are not vegetarian or vegan can help themselves feel more grounded by taking advantage of the high protein content in high-quality meat sources like fish, poultry, and beef. Just be sure to select meats that are as cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly as possible by looking for labels like organic, hormone-free, free-range, grass fed, etc.

 

4. Naturally Red Fruits and Vegetables

The root chakra, located at the base of the spine, is the chakra that governs grounding and is associated with the color red. Root vegetables help to balance this chakra but you can go further with it by incorporating red foots into your diet. Tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, apples, and pomegranates are just a few suggestions to try—especially when they're cooked or stewed.

 

5. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds offer plenty of protein and healthy fat (in additional to several vitamins and minerals), making them ideal to snack on or add to meals during vata season. Stock up on cashews, almonds, pistachios, and peanuts during this time. Sesame seeds in particular are also good to have this time for their powerful vata-pacifying effect.

 

Other Foods to Favor

During vata season, ground yourself in warm, nourishing meals that incorporate the above foods plus others like whole grains, some dairy products like milk and homemade cheese, naturally fermented foods (such as sauerkraut), warm spices, and healthy oils. You’ll want to cut back on anything that’s dry, raw, cold, or iced to avoid aggravating vata.

Though many dry and raw foods are healthy in general, now is not the time to be serving yourself a bowl of dry cereal for breakfast or a salad with raw veggies for lunch if you want to keep vata balanced. Liquids including milk and water should also be consumed ideally warm or at room temperature—with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a dash of spice like ginger.

Take this as an opportunity to really hone in on your diet, check out some new recipes, and enjoy the foods that this season has to offer. You’ll get to enjoy new tastes and feel better too.


5 Ways to Supercharge Your Practice With the Power of Gratitude

5 Ways to Supercharge Your Practice With the Power of Gratitude

Gratitude is the way to happiness. Rather than seeking happiness outside of yourself, which is a trap that almost everyone falls into from time to time, you must cultivate your happiness from within by becoming aware of everything you have already.

While sitting down to journal, meditate, or indulge in some good old self-talk on gratitude is always encouraged, you can also integrate gratitude with yoga by making it the theme of your practice anytime you decide to step onto your mat. Here’s how.

 

Set your agenda aside.

Many yogis start their practice with a goal in mind—to sweat, to destress, to become more flexible, to soothe back pain, to grow stronger, or even to show everyone else how great they are at yoga. But by constantly focusing on acquiring something you think you need to feel satisfied, happy, or more whole, you can’t properly focus on being grateful for what you already have.

For your gratitude practice, give yourself permission to forget your goals. Practice to celebrate and given thanks for the moment as it is.

 

Set an intention for gratitude.

Whether you decide to start your practice in easy pose, thunderbolt pose, mountain pose, downward facing dog, or whatever else, it’s worth consciously taking a few extra moments to call up an intention for gratitude before you transition into the next pose.

For example, you might set an intention to be grateful for the simple opportunity to move your body today, or you might want to intentionally be grateful for a valuable lesson you learned from an emotionally difficult life event.

 

Practice grounding poses.

Gratitude is naturally grounding on its own, but it can always help to facilitate groundedness with certain yoga poses to further inspire a greater sense of gratitude.

Tree pose offers the challenge of balancing to help you calm your mind and surrender to the moment, inspiring you allow your growth to grow and soar toward the sky. Warrior poses also anchor you to the ground and encourage you to be grateful for the strength and focus needed to take on life’s challenges.

 

Do your sun salutations.

Sun salutations are performed to appreciate the energy of the sun and all of the life that depends on its light.

Even on the coldest, windiest, and rainiest days of autumn, you can connect to the sun that’s hiding behind all those clouds and use that connection to stoke your internal fire. With more heat and blood flowing through your body, you’ll find it easier to be grateful for all that you have when the weather seems dull and bleak.

 

Surrender in resting poses.

Once you shift back into child’s pose after an intense sequence or feel your body to melt into the floor in savasana at the end of your practice, allow yourself to surrender to what is. The real power of gratitude comes from surrendering not only to the good things, but to the struggles and challenges of life as well.

So give yourself a few extra moments to sink into the present state of reality in your resting poses. Open yourself what’s already here with you, what you have, and who you really are—and gratitude will naturally fill your heart with more love.

Image via Minoru Nitta


Balance

Ayurveda tells us that autumn is a vata season. Its dry, windy, rough, cool, and unpredictable qualities can leave you feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually imbalanced if excess vata is not tamed.

To balance vata, look toward cultivating the following practices in your life. Doing so will help make the seasonal transition not only easier but more enjoyable as you continue to grow yourself in the dark and quiet months leading up to winter.

Stress Relief

Now is the time to take a step back and be honest about what’s stressing you out. Whether it’s a bad habit you’ve developed or an excessive amount of responsibilities keeping you busy, you have to put your well-being first if you want to resolve it. This might involve taking more time for yourself, replacing a bad habit with a healthier one, making an effort to get enough sleep every night, or even making it more of a priority to indulge in therapeutic practices (such as yoga and meditation).

Warmth

As the temperature continues to drop, your body will begin to crave more warmth. By warming up the body, you essentially help ward off many unwanted effects of excess vata—including bloating and constipation, dry or chapped skin, and difficulty tolerating cold and wind. Build heat with sun salutations in your practice, take warm baths, give yourself a soothing self-massage, enjoy spices in your meals, and eat cooked rather than raw foods. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to cuddle with your pet, spouse/partner, kids, or anyone else with a warm body!

Nourishment

Nourishment goes hand in hand with both stress relief and warmth. Take good care of your body by keeping your skin moisturized, your mind calm, and your body well fed. Favour foods that are higher in fat and protein, giving preference to sweet, sour, and salty tastes. You can also add a generous amount of oily foods to your diet as long as they’re of high-quality. Think olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil, and ghee.

Relationships

When vata becomes imbalanced, you may find yourself suffering from mental and emotional states like nervousness, anxiety, fear, restless thinking, and scattered feelings. In addition to meditating on these feelings, be sure to keep close friends and family members near. Knowing that you are loved and connected to others during the colder seasons can help pacify negative thoughts and feelings when they have a tendency to get out of hand.

Groundedness

Last but not least, establishing a sense of groundedness to the the Earth and the present moment will help you stay balanced as you work on letting go of what no longer serves you while embracing what is. Try to get in a good routine with your daily habits (meals, exercise, bedtime) and engage in healthy practices that encourage you to turn inward. Here are a few one-minute grounding techniques you can use this October and beyond as you quietly work on discovering more about yourself and prepare to grow even further into the new you.