Monique Borja on Health, Happiness and Yoga

Monique Borja


“Just beautiful, woman! This photo is peace, it’s love, it’s pure, pure bliss…everything everyone wants to feel…what we’re all striving for.” That was my comment under Monique’s post, a photograph of her and her goldie, Parker.

I thought it looked like a deep, smiling inhale. And you see it, too, don’t you? That dog’s smiling, no doubt about it. They both couldn’t be more content. Which got me thinking, goodness begets goodness. It just does. Good energy creates more good energy. The same applies to one’s skin and overall health: good nutrition, exercise and happiness are intertwined and strengthen each other…and help you feel and look better and better. I’m not just talking “aura,” I mean tangibly, repeatedly, scientifically — happiness and good health improve your spirit, mind, body and skin.

Besides how transcendent I found this photo, I also thought it was instructional! Pets and affection are well known mood lifters (and it’s symbiotic…Parker’s loving that love!) Plus, Monique is a yoga teacher. Exercise in and of itself is vital but yoga is unique in its combination of physical conditioning and meditative benefits (see page 5 for more on the importance of the brain’s downtime). Monique also happens to be two more things: a stunning creature and a VMV fan 🙂 How could I not ask her for tips?


What got you into yoga?

MONIQUE: I was in my early twenties, found myself looking for a meditation class, and eventually discovered the practice. It was a natural and seamless path. I explored Bikram yoga, Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa Flow. I fell in love with the art, the philosophies behind the asanas (poses), the different feeling I had every time I got on the mat.

What does yoga do for you inside and out?

M: I’ll be honest, yoga really does give wonderful benefits on a physical level. It is still a reason for me to practice. My body looks for the movement as over the years, it has been the best physical routine to shape and tone my body. And it keeps me in check with my posture. I am very open to other forms of body strengthening and conditioning. I mix up plyo training at the gym, Muay Thai and Plana Forma, but my priority is my practice. Which brings me to what really draws me to yoga: the ongoing spiritual work, the work that goes on inside (knowingly or unknowingly).
There is no single definition of yoga — one of its meanings is to yolk the mind, body and spirit. A lot happens on the mat and I am still working on many things — there’s so much to learn about yourself in an hour and a half practice! This is what I love about yoga. The deeper and continuous work.

L: I know what you mean. I love bootcamp and tennis and other physical activity but I feel yoga is so whole, so total. For those just discovering yoga,

How would you go about choosing a yoga practice or instructor?

M: A teacher of mine, Tesa Celdran, once told me, any yoga is good yoga. This is so true. It will really depend on what calls you in, what works for you now. It is normal to tend to attend classes of teachers you are familiar with, and whose voice, style of teaching, and energy you like. However, as one’s practice gets deeper, the quality and experience of YOUR yoga will depend on your very own movement, breath and depth of the understanding of what yoga means to you. It becomes very intimate and almost sacred — and something you will always have — regardless of who is leading the class.

Just to keep it real, yoga is not always so soulful and inward bound. There will be days when you are on and off the mat, no breakthroughs, just getting through your routine. And it can also be fun! Experiencing different challenges, laughing in class, crying (oh, believe me, I have had a few of those), or sometimes just staying in child’s pose — just because it feels good and for no other reason.

L: I can see myself crying in yoga…more for certain binds, maybe, but I can see it 🙂

How many times a week should one do yoga?

M: Ideally, the goal is to get to a self-practice routine of 6 times a week. Again, I’ll be honest, this doesn’t always come naturally. It takes commitment to get to this place. I would suggest to start 3 times a week, then work up to four times a week.

If you could share the all-time top 3 tips for someone starting yoga, what would they be?

M: One, have an open mind. Two, breathe. Prioritize the breath over the asana. Three, commit.

L: Can you share some tips for healthy living? Or, what I really want to ask,

How can we look as happy as you do in that photo?

M: First, surround yourself with positivity. In a any big or small way, find something to be grateful for., Second, everything in moderation. I try to eat clean most of the week, avoiding processed foods. Once every 2-3 months, try a 3-5 day juice cleanse). Third, balance work and play. Make the most of your weekends. Fourth, find hobbies that will spark your creativity. Get into activities you enjoy and will be passionate about. Fifth, laugh, smile and give and receive hugs (just like that photo of Parker and me, hahaha!). And sixth, of course, YOGA!

monique-instagramIn or traveling to the Philippines? Monique teaches a number of classes a week at a home studio, as well as at Echo Yoga Shala and Plana Forma studios.

Follow Monique for tips — or share your own suggestions — on health and happiness!


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