Monkey-minded Yogi’s

A few weeks ago I launched a product that I have poured my passion, time, and savings into over that last six years. I created The World’s First Yoga Doll series – a patent-pending doll that actually moves like a real person. My intention is to give future generations a toy that encourages young girls to embrace who they are AZ.I.AM, learn yoga, and is focused on healthy and positive play patterns.

I am very mindful to always create authentic, original content and products. I’ve been that way since I was a child. I take great pride in giving credit where it is due, if I was inspired in any way by an outside source. I couldn’t ever copy someone else’s work or idea, nor do I understand any value in doing so.  For this reason, I rarely attend yoga classes or read other people’s writing / books. I do not want my work to become a homogenized version of what other people are doing, or subconsciously be influenced by their experiences – I want my motivation for everything to be organic. My friends know that I am a secure and safe vault for their shared secrets and concepts.

With that said, our monkey-minded world does not think or act the same way that I do. To the contrary, most people feel more comfortable only doing what others do, wearing what others wear, copying the work, writing, and ideas of others – or even trying to change how they look with plastic surgery to appear more like someone else than who they are. The source of this is obvious: 1) they do not know who they are, and 2) they are afraid to be seen as “different.”

I became a yoga instructor for several reasons. Firstly, I have always had a robust spirituality and reverence for Nature. Secondly, I wanted to get out of a “limelight” (this is before yoga became a global rage). Thirdly, I hoped to be part of a community seeking and practicing higher states of consciousness and truth. Having studied Psychology, I also had a keen eye for character analysis, development, and personality based on reality; I never got wrapped up in the religious nature of yoga philosophy; instead I use the myths symbolically, not literally.

The last few weeks have been wildly disappointing and equally liberating on a few fronts. I reached out to fellow yoga instructors and peers to help me get the word out about my dolls. I was so excited to share my project with them and finally let the cat out of the bag, but this was definitely mixed with some nervous energy as well, having poured my bank accounts into funding the development. The events that followed completely rocked and shocked me, and the people who did show up to sincerely support my endeavors were not the people who I thought would have and vice versa.

The support that I received for my inspiring doll collection has been massive, and we are almost sold out of our pre-order production, but there was zero cheer from my yoga instructor peers. Now, I totally get that not everyone can support their friend’s endeavors financially, but everyone CAN support positively – even if that is only with positive cheer and/or sharing with their communities. Below is a list of how a few well-known “yogi’s” responded:

1)    40% of my fellow instructors responded with overt jealous anger, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that…” is the only thing they could mutter into word.

2)    Another 40% didn’t have the courtesy to respond in any way, or offer any sort of congratulatory cheer.

3)    One yoga instructor followed the phrase in #1 with “Y’know what? Lose my number.” Ironically, I had given her over $400 worth of AZIAM Activewear over the years at her request, books for her kids, and even donated each time she posted a spinning fundraiser on social media.

4)    Yet another yoga instructor (with whom I had practiced Ashtanga Yoga with in India before either of us had websites) replied back that my dolls were amazing – and that she wanted to invest in my doll project (after stating #1, of course). She finagled me into sending my business plan, which I felt hesitant about doing, but I approached the opportunity with a widely open heart and arms – embracing the idea of two yogi’s sharing this with future generations. It felt pure … until her ego got the best of her, and she stated that she “was going to make her own.”

5)    The greatest supporter was hands-down MindBodyGreen – they were quick to see the pure-message and share it with their community. Their recognition was so sincere that I cried. The post received 1600 likes within 2 hours and I received praise and cheer from all over the globe in response. I was (and am still) incredibly impressed with their editors, and how the ones I have experienced truly live yoga. Other yoga-related sites replied back with grand cheer and “congratulations,” but while including an attachment detailing how much they charge per blog, review, and mention. #Namaste

Once I realized that my peers weren’t there yet – that they weren’t fully capable of living yoga off their mats, I felt sad. I took a couple of weeks to mourn the loss of something that never existed. Then, to my surprise, I started to feel liberated. I had held on to an illusion of a like-minded community that was superficial and competitive – just like the monkey-mind that yoga seeks to educate and discipline. Having worked closely with many celebrities throughout the years, I recognized the same superficial elitist attitude from my peers. I have seen it time and time again with celebrity culture. They can only cheer for those who do not threaten them, and they feel that they have a right to use other people’s concepts because they have the money and influence to release them bigger and faster. My yoga peers do not have the same means, and therefore responded with anger and immediately separated from me so as not to feel “less than” in any way. This realization tied together the irony that most of my “yogi” peers are more focused on becoming a celebrity than living yoga, and that is why I witnessed the similarity in behavior.

Here are three hints to tell if someone has the capacity to live organically:

1)    Self-control. When you share or present an idea to someone, they are able to maintain confidentiality, express sincere cheer, give sound and honest feedback, and separate your content from their life and work. It’s like a monkey who has enough self-control and discipline to not eat his friend’s mango when it is set down in front of him.

2)    Humility. They are able to live “Namaste” and recognize how each person is part of a whole, not solely as a manifested aid providing them alone with some sort of gain or growth. You know the person, “I manifested this and that….” This is a yogi red flag showing someone with an undeveloped psyche and exhibiting ego insecurity behavior. Warning: they will take your mango.

3)    Look at their friends and partners. Do they choose to be around others who inspire them and speak truthfully? Or do they prefer “easy” friends who sugarcoat reality to feed their egos and illusions?

It’s so much nicer knowing the truth, and releasing the anchor of expectation. Only then can we gravitate towards our true like-minded communities. This also created an even greater motivation within me to teach the real yoga – where no Photo-shopped selfies of bikini-clad handstands are required.

You were born with a unique personality,  purpose, and genetic disposition. Why reject and ignore yourSelf out of fear of not belonging? Take time to discover who you are, and take actions to live true to who that is. There are enough mangoes for everyone!

I AM Authentic – 5 tips to Living True

5 Tips for Living an Authentic, Zen Life By Alanna Zabel


I believe that most of us have experienced moments when we feel, act or speak in an inauthentic manner. Sometimes we want others to like us or to think that we are intelligent, cool and “in the know” – so we may go so far as to present a false persona to feel accepted. Or, we do it because we feel unsafe being our true self – or maybe we want something so much that we are willing to diminish our truth to get it. This can result in a feeling of disconnect, and even painful feelings of guilt, insecurity and/or weakness when this happens. Worse still is when we’re inauthentic with ourselves because we’re unable to admit something intimate or difficult to express. If you aspire to experience more authenticity in your life, start by accepting yourself, exactly as you are – and committing to living authentically with who you discover. Below are five tips meant to strengthen one’s practice of living true to who they are:

1) Be Present. On average we have 28,000 days in a human lifespan. That really isn’t a lot, and therefore wise to make clear life goals – just hopefully not at forsaking your lifestyle and experiences. When we are present, we resume a natural flow to our life (or the Dharma Zone, as I call it in my book, As I Am). This flow is what happens when we let go of the limiting tethers of the past and future – where you forget about the outside world and are completely doing what you’re doing, whether that’s writing, drawing, practicing yoga, meditating or any other activity. Synchronicity occurs when we are in this Zone and our lives flow effortlessly. Knowing that our time is limited, it is wise to practice being present, and to embrace each moment as it happens. Even the more difficult phases of your life that challenge you are part of your journey, and learning to be present through them adds a deeper aspect of authenticity to who you are. Being afraid of them can potentially throw you off your personal path. An obvious example is parenthood. I empathize with parents who feel that they have to create a perfect, well-balanced life of education, athletics and art for their children, but hopefully they are not sacrificing the moments of being human and authentically discovering who we are (you know, laying in a puddle of rainwater while pondering the magic of Nature).

2) Be Kind. There is a strong correlation between the wellbeing, happiness and health of people who act with kindness towards others. It is difficult to be angry, resentful, or even fearful when we are showing unselfish love and compassion towards other beings. I really enjoy leading Seva (service) Yoga retreats, and one of the reasons is that I see a massive shift in my retreaters when we begin our service activities. For example, it doesn’t matter if they are cleaning dirty food bowls for elephants or shoveling dirt, they undoubtedly begin to settle into a deeper sense of happiness and presence as expectations and defenses are softened by the acts of giving.

3) Listen to yourself. Taking and following the advice from another person is assuming that: 1) They have lived through exactly the same predicament as you have (meaning that all the factors are exactly the same) and 2) That they have the same wants and needs as you do. Neither of which is probably true. However, taking bits and pieces of advice from others can be helpful, but it is always most wise to meditate alone and make certain that your actions are in line with who you are and what you want for your life. We can really second guess ourselves when we are the only voice trying to weight our options. Adding other voices and opinions often makes the process more confusing. Practice with the small stuff – for example, what movie would you like to see this weekend? Try making a decision not based on popular reviews, ratings or showings. Ask yourself what would inspire you and expand your perspective of awareness. Then go see that movie!

4) Spend time alone in silence. Alone time has a long list of benefits, which include boosting your immune system, strengthening your relationships and improving your outlook on life. Try taking 30 minutes every week where you turn the power off externally and amp it up internally. For example, turn off your phone and email. Spend the day sitting somewhere peaceful, where you can focus on your breathing and being present. The happy contradiction is that alone time like this—in such a pure form—will carry over to your other relationships and endeavors. When you connect to yourself in a deep and true manner, you start feeling more positive and powerfully charged. When you feel more connected and charged, you often connect to others with a greater capacity and joy.

5) Avoid gossip and drama. Judgment is making a “good” or “bad” assessment when we compare (implicit or explicit) how things or people are, and how we think they should be. So, in judgment, there’s an element of dissatisfaction with the way things are and a desire for things to be the way we want them to be. This makes it very limiting to maintaining presence and realistic awareness. We begin to judge other people based on past judgments and our perspective of reality becomes tainted. AZIAM has created a 30-day Non-Judgment Challenge to help us practice this vital virtue in our everyday lives. I offer a two-step formula: Step 1: Witness Your Reality – We are not going to take away your opinions or perceptions. We are simply taking away reactions to them. In every potentially judgmental situation you find yourself in, feel free to say whatever you want in your own mind. Ex: Someone snags a parking spot you were pulling into. In your mind, go for it – you have 5 seconds (only) to assess it and label it. Step 2: LET IT GO. Follow every 5 second assessment with “AND SO IT IS.” That’s it, “AND SO IT IS”. Then move on to the next activity you were planning or involved in. This group event and practice is meant to get us into the habit of not letting life’s imperfections drag us down while refining this highly beneficial practice of non-judgment.