charina cabanayan

It all started when…

I was lost.  After 10 years operating a fashion design business while raising two babies, I closed up shop and had a mid-life crisis. In my twenties. 

In 2004, about 4 years before I closed my design business, I stepped into my first yoga class. On that day I remember feeling overworked, fed up, burnt out, a heavy feeling in my gut and an underlying level of angst that would not go away. I was feeling so out of shape. I remember thinking, hey maybe I should go try a yoga class and see if I like it

The yoga class I selected was a Bikram class at Yoga Source Palo Alto. I’ll never forget that class.  First off, I thought I was literally going to collapse. While I was still somewhat flexible from my years training as a dancer, I quickly realized where I was NO LONGER able to bend. I remember the pools of sweat as they dripped off my body and onto the loaner mat and thinking “I’ve never worked up a sweat like this on a run before!” 

90 minutes later and after multiple episodes of nausea and feeling faint, I finally lied down in savasana and felt an incredible sense of lightness and well being.  For the first time I felt a sense of ease. I felt like I could breathe. 

This was the start of my yoga journey. 

Since then I have had the incredible privilege to be able to study with so many teachers.  Over the years since that very first class, I’ve tried a little bit of everything.


From Iyengar, to Hatha, Vinyasa, Power, Yin and Restorative, my yoga journey eventually led me to the practice that I do today. 

Since 2004, there were moments that I took breaks from practice because, well life running a business and raising two kids meant that my personal practice was the last on the list of priorities. There were many days I simply could not make it to class.  There were moments where, like in the event of my divorce I stopped practicing for 8 months.  

Nevertheless, my soul was always called back to the mat.  Every time I came back to practice were moments of incredible insight, a reminder to why I needed to stay consistent, to keep coming back to myself.  

The reason why I believe in the yoga practice and why I teach is rooted in it’s power to transform us. This is my story: 

For years I struggled with an impulse control disorder known as Trichillotomania.  It’s categorized along the obsessive compulsive disorder spectrum.  Trich is often accompanied by co-occuring illnesses such as anxiety and depression. The main symptom of this mental health disorder is hair pulling.  

I suffered from this disorder for years, and I was not even aware of it as a mental health issue until I was an adult.  While to date there are no certain causes for this disorder, for me the main cause was stress. 

The disorder is a self soothing or coping mechanism, meaning when my level of stress got too high, I’d feel an urge to pull out my hair. You know when people say, “oh my gosh I’m so bleeping frustrated I could pull out my hair?” Well, I literally did. 

Trichillotomania is incredibly damaging to many individuals. Those who suffer from this long term, the action of self soothing is not only a form of self abuse, but also becomes a source of more stress.  

For me this daily cycle meant I felt comfort from pulling but then I would berate myself later for doing it. I caused myself even more stress due to the growing bald spot that started to form on my head where I pulled.  

The more I pulled, the more I was ashamed of my self.  The more I pulled, the more I was frustrated.  The more I pulled, the more I felt the incredible need to hide this truth from those around me. 

I would be so embarrassed every time I would get my hair cut. I began to wear a lot of hats to hide my spot. I would often make sure that no one would stand behind me for too long because I was sure they could see my spot. I could never style my hair down because it made it impossible to hide the evidence of my illness.  

And yet, I kept doing it.  

And yes, I did try therapy. Unfortunately, at the time, I did not find a therapist that felt supportive to me and so after a few sessions, I did not go back. 


Sometime in 2013 I found my way to Ashtanga yoga.  It took me a while to convert to this practice. In the beginning I did not understand it and was frustrated by all the different moves, like picking up and jumping back in seated postures.  But I decided to give it a try.  It was in this year that I felt the awakening in my practice.  The awakening to my suffering and the tools to overcome this suffering.  The combination of the discipline of a daily yoga practice and the routine I spent each day working with the breath provided the foundation towards healing.  

Mindfulness began to enter my lexicon. I soon learned how to isolate the triggers that would bring upon my urge to pull. I began to notice my breath and learned how to pause, shift and realign myself so that I would not pull. I soon learned how to set boundaries in my life that supported my journey towards healing.  I learned an incredible amount about myself and a lot  about the practice that goes far and beyond the scope of asanas. 

I accredit much of this learning to my teacher, Magnolia Zuniga. She continues to remain my primary teacher, mentor and a driving force behind why I teach. Much of what I share today, I have learned from her. 

Magnolia once said to me, “Teaching yoga is a a huge responsibility. Teaching yoga is not just teaching postures, if that is all you do as a teacher, you may as well just be teaching a body pump class.” 

At the time I did not understand the true weight behind these words. Now, I realize what she meant by them. 

First and foremost I consider myself a life long student of this practice. No matter how long you practice, there will always be so much to learn. Every practitioner has their own history or set of impressions, experiences and conditioning that they bring to the practice. A teacher’s responsibility is to really see the individual in front of them and teach from what they know. And so, I am blessed to be able to share this practice and I hope to do so for many years to come.  

This is my story. Thank you for reading.

May all beings be happy and free.