The best of 2018: becoming a yoga instructor, buying this domain, and finishing half of junior year

As I reflect on 2018, I realize what an amazing year it has been! I am now more than halfway done with college (time is flying by so quickly!), and have loved living in the Bay Area. I am officially done with all of my pre-med classes and the labs that go along with them, and can’t wait to take more psych courses now. I also picked up a new role as head facilitator of The Happiness Advantage (the class I teach at Cal), and have loved guiding students through mindfulness, gratitude, kindness, and happiness.

Earlier in the year, I jumped into a 250-hour yoga teacher training program. My school schedule and extracurriculars were super hectic at the time, but there was a voice in the back of my head saying to do it. I realized that life will always be busy and that there truly is no “right time” for anything; rather, we just have to jump into whatever it is we want to do and fully embrace the journey. Although I was adding 16 hours of yoga a week to my schedule, I earned some of my best grades. I quickly learned that a mindfulness practice is absolutely necessary if we want to work efficiently, successfully, and happily in all assets of our lives.

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Sometimes I feel like I’m 35 (it must be the whole yoga, green juice, Soul Cycle sort of lifestyle), but I actually turned 21 in November! My best friend Sharon drove up from Santa Barbara, my family flew up from Orange County, and my other best friend Allison planned an entire day to celebrate (we did yoga, went to a farm-to-table restaurant, hiked, and explored San Francisco). I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to celebrate with my loved ones and am so grateful that they traveled long distances just to spend the weekend with me. Through experiences like these, I have begun to prioritize people over work; work will always be there, but we don’t always have the opportunity to spend time with others.

Throughout 2018, I also got some traveling in! I kicked off the year by exploring Zion with my dad. We did an 8 mile hike to the highest peak of the park and also hiked in The Narrows, where we waded through the river in a slot canyon. Later in the year, I ventured to Muir Woods, Joshua Tree, and Mt. Tamalpais. I love hiking and being outdoors more than anything, so I can’t wait to cross off more national parks next year. I also just got back from India two days ago! I learned so much and can’t wait to share it all with you soon in a more detailed post to come.

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The highest peak in Zion!

Lastly, I started this blog earlier in the year! I waited for awhile to purchase a domain because I wasn’t sure how frequently I would be blogging, but I’m so happy that I went for it. Sharing aspects of my life and connecting with this community has been amazing, and I can’t wait to continue down this path. I hope you had a lovely 2018, and here’s to more adventures in 2019! 

The Power of Visualization

I’m currently in finals week (go bears!) and in the middle of my bio final yesterday, I was between two multiple choice answers and just couldn’t decide. So rather than getting worked up over it, I left the question alone, moved on, and before going back to it, I closed my eyes briefly. With my eyes closed, I imagined myself looking at the answer choices and knowing exactly which one it was. I grounded myself down in all of the studying and work I had put into this one final exam and imagined studying for this exact question. When I opened my eyes, I all of a sudden had the correct answer. I obviously didn’t get smarter in that short amount of time, but I was able to gain more clarity. The power of visualization, my friends!

Visualization is the act of seeing your goal as already conquered in your mind’s eye. By seeing and believing that we have full control over any challenge that may arise, we are able to spring into action and fully overcome it. It may sound a little crazy at first, but there’s no harm in trying it out, and you’ll likely benefit from it! The mind is so powerful that just by envisioning what we want, we become that much closer to achieving it.

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Rather than shutting down your goals and desires right away because they seem too lofty and out of reach, shift your perspective and imagine that you are already living the exact life you want. Close your eyes for a few moments and make this positive visualization even stronger than any obstacles that may get in your way of success. By visualizing the future that you are striving towards, you will find that it is much more attainable than you think. Who knows—you may even find that your best life is the one you’re living right now. 🙂

 

 

With a grateful heart

Think of one thing that happened today that you are grateful for. Re-create in your mind what you were doing, where you were, and who you were with. Now, pull the corners of your lips up towards your eyes… Gratitude makes us smile! It makes us happy. And when we express our gratitude, we allow others to bask in this same happiness. By reflecting on the highlights of your day, you can embody those positive feelings that you felt earlier in the day.

Every night before bed, I jot down three things that I am grateful for. I feel like it keeps me grounded, humble, and happy, especially on those days where things just don’t seem to go as planned. I have noticed that I tend to write mostly about people in my gratitude journal, which has made me realize how important it is to surround myself with positive beings and to make sure that I express how grateful I am for them.

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I personally love the act of writing down what I am grateful for since writing allows ideas to resonate with me more, but a gratitude journal is totally optional! Just thinking of three things you are grateful for is perfect. It’s the first step in realizing that there is always something and someone to be grateful for. So now, think of another thing that happened in your day that makes you grateful. And another thing. And another. And then go tell those amazing people who you’re grateful for, that you are grateful for them. Remind them of how great they are and remind yourself of just how powerful gratitude is–not just for our own happiness, but for the happiness of those around us. So go on, ignite that spark of gratitude, and allow it to illuminate everything around you.

Transformation

My childhood home is surrounded by trails, which became my go-to place to run, but unfortunately was also a spot for brush fires. After a fire, I was always taken aback by how charred and broken everything was. I would see collapsed trees, barren land, and everything but beauty. However, my dad would tell me, “We needed this fire for new plants to grow.” And sure enough, just a few weeks later, the trails were filled with small bright green shrubs that progressively turned into bigger and brighter trees.

With the recent fires in the Bay Area and Malibu, it’s been hard to focus on any beauty in the environment, especially since I haven’t been able to go outside without a face mask. There has been so much destruction to homes, buildings, and people, and although this seems like a time of darkness that is literally clouded by smoke, there is and always will be light to find.

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Yes, fire has the ability to destroy, to burn down everything in its path, but it also has the power to cleanse and to purify. In the place of destruction will eventually rise new infrastructure, new plants, new perspective. Transformation doesn’t just happen–it requires sacrifices, it involves challenges–but it always results in new growth and vivacity. So as we fight our fires externally and internally, and it seems like things are continuously burning down in our paths, we must keep in mind that with destruction, comes new life.

Sweat & Think with Bright Pink

Sweat and think?! Name a better duo.

I was honored to be part of this event, not just for its name, which also rhymes and is therefore a plus in my book, but because it was a gateway to raise breast and ovarian cancer awareness. I partnered with Aerie and Bright Pink to teach a sunset yoga class that followed a short discussion on breast and ovarian cancer. Bright Pink works to raise awareness of healthy lifestyles that can prevent these cancers, which is why the event revolved around yoga. I may be biased, but I can’t think of a better form of exercise that unites the physical body and mind.

I encouraged my students to think of one person, perhaps a person affected by breast or ovarian cancer, and to dedicate their energy to them. Sometimes the best we can do to help someone is to send them our love and support. I have done this mindful exercise multiple times in my practice and always feel that I am somehow uplifting both the person I am focusing on as well as myself. It is an ineffable experience, so I encourage you to try it! You can even do this while walking around–just envision a person who has always been there for you and send all that love and positive energy right back to them. This practice is all about feeling, so try not to think too hard about it. Rather, try it with an open mind, because there is only good to come from it.

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Shoutout to Aerie for the fun gifts 🙂

Kindness Care Packages

“You teach ‘The Happiness Advantage?!’ I’ve been trying to get into that class!”

I’m always humbled by statements like these and am shocked to say that I am now in my fourth semester of teaching this class at Cal! Our students meditate, keep a gratitude journal, and perform random acts of kindness– all which are proven techniques to increase happiness.

For our kindness unit, we make care packages during class. I tend to give mine to students who are intensely studying (we always do this activity during midterm season), in hopes of brightening their days with some study snacks and motivational notes.

I am beyond grateful to our amazing sponsors this semester and would not have been able to do this without their help! With that said, a huge shoutout to Bare Snacks, Regrained, and Veggie Grill for donating yummy dehydrated fruits, granola bars, and cookies to our classes. I can’t thank them enough for giving us the spark to ignite kindness through our community.

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When we receive an act of kindness, such as a donation, it’s likely that we’ll be inspired to pay it forward. We add fuel to the fire and contribute to a ripple effect of kindness, in which one kind deed inspires one person, which then inspires another, and so on, until we are engulfed in kindness. By receiving, we’re inspired to give; by giving, we receive the many benefits that come from kindness. It’s a win-win!

 

Going nuts for this bread

This bread has become a staple in my family. I don’t even know if I can call it bread though–there’s no yeast or flour, and you don’t even have to knead it. Instead, it’s held together by psyllium seed husks, and uses whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It is simple, and it’s this simplicity that makes it so good and good for you.

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It tastes delicious savory or sweet, and I enjoy toasting it in the morning to have along with eggs. I have added other items to this recipe such as goji berries, cinnamon, a banana, coconut shreds, and even cayenne pepper. I have also added spreads on top of it such as almond butter, pesto sauce, peanut butter, and avocado. I have loved experimenting with this basic recipe and all of these additional items complement the bread so well. The bread is very filling, high in protein, filled with fiber, gluten-free, and vegan. If I haven’t convinced you enough about how good this bread is, I guess you’ll just have to make it. 😉

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Ingredients
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup almonds, walnuts, or pecans (or combine all 3!)
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
2 tbsp. chia seeds
3 tbsp. of psyllium husk powder (4 tbsp. if using psyllium seed husks)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 tbsp. maple syrup
3 tbsp. coconut oil
1 1/2 cups water

Instructions
1. In a loaf pan, combine all dry ingredients and stir well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked. Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let it sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
3. Place the loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the bread from the loaf pan and place it upside down directly on the rack, and bake for another 30-40 minutes. The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let it cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
4. Store the bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days in the fridge. It freezes well too–just slice it beforehand.
5. Enjoy!

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recipe adapted from Sarah Britton on mynewroots.org