Emotions, Holiday Cookies, & Yoga

This afternoon I took a yoga class at one of the places I’ve taught. It was a tricky one for me. I wanted to attend to see how other instructors there teach (especially this particular person, as I’ve taken some of the time slots and locations she was previously in), to support her as a new friend and peer, and to get myself moving. Recently I’ve been dogged with more injuries, this time of my lower back and SI joint. I also knew this class was an opportunity for me to practice what I preach–in other words, to listen to my body and modify or not do what didn’t feel right to me in that moment. Some folks in the room recognized me as an instructor, which made me feel both more self conscious (at least at the start) and more intent on honoring my body’s wisdom so I could “model the way”.

Once the class began, I found that I was really able to get inside myself, to remain on MY mat and connect with my breath. I was able to listen to my body, and I modified or flat out did not do what was led because it started to tug on sensitive areas. As I laid in the start of savasana, I was feeling content (and OK, somewhat proud of myself too).

But then she started saying some things I do at the end of my classes: essentially to find something you’d like to let go of, and release it into the Universe. I was feeling relaxed and content, letting my mind go to see what it might come up with to release, and then all of a sudden she said something about “being who you are”. My eyes filled with tears, and I was transported back to being a tween sitting on a sofa with a book. I could hear my dad’s harsh words: “get off the couch, get outside and get to work you lazy bitch. Just like your mother….” His words trailed off but in my mind he stood there, right in front of me as I looked up, calmly (in reverie anyhow). And then I felt my body get hot. Not tense, the calm remained. I got angry. I felt RAGE. In SAVASANA. At the end of a nice yoga class.

Knowing this happens, I allowed myself to BRFWA (Breathe Relax Feel Watch Allow). In my daydream I started screaming back: “let me be who I am! let me figure out who I want to be and what I want to do already!!” He was frozen in time, I was screaming, raging at him. Yet, I was calm and centered lying on my yoga mat, over 30 years later. The tears didn’t get worse, but I found myself wanting to stay in that past remembrance longer than the savasana lasted. I wanted to confront him, calmly. I wanted to feel the anger at not being allowed to figure out who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do when I was at an age where that was important. I wanted to feel the sadness at the idea that it was really too late. That my ways of being (which are very protective, striving and not confident–even in my yoga practice and in my yoga teaching) are too ingrained at this point to change all that much, despite all my efforts.

Even so when we sat up, I was grateful. I felt like I had in fact released some pent up emotion. Some emotion which may in all earnestness, be part of my lifelong hip issues. And then I chatted with my friend and had a chocolate chip cookie on the way out. :-)

 

Interested in learning a new way to navigate the holiday food frenzy?

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What Voices Inside my Head?

shittyToday I was looking through the notebook I used for my 200-hour yoga teacher training. One of the many things it reminded me of was what one of my teachers, Sudha, aptly called the “itty bitty shitty committee”.

We were talking about the koshas, or different layers of being, which I’ll briefly summarize as:

  1. Physical / food
  2. Energetic / breath
  3. Mental / thought
  4. Witnessing / observer
  5. Connected / blissful

I fondly recall an exercise where 6 of us wanna-be instructors were each assigned to “be” a layer, with the one extra person assigned to do yoga postures. (Since at the time I was uncertain about what the others would be asked to do, I volunteered to do the poses.) While I put myself into different shapes, my 5 peers talked at me (continuously). It was an incredible experiment! My physical body complained about aching or tightness, my breath body was struggling to inhale deeply. My observer was busy being abstract about the experience from a short distance away, while my bliss body was thoroughly wrapped up in a feeling of peace. But that mental body–the one comprised of SO many judgmental and critical committee members, was telling me I wasn’t good enough, comparing me to other students in the class, planning my next meal, worrying about what was happening back home, and so on. It was a madhouse in my  mind!

Ordinarily I wouldn’t realize how ridiculous some of the things I say to myself are, but in these moments, I couldn’t stop laughing. “Is this what really happens?” I thought? Yes, it is. But the difference between this exercise and real life is that WE LISTEN TO THESE VOICES, rather than see them for what they really are.

So, what is your itty bitty shitty committee saying to you today? Is it something to listen to? Is it worth the energy to talk back to them? Or, can you just close the door on that meeting room and walk away with a smile on your face, knowing you don’t have to buy what they’re selling?

 

A Mind-body Approach to Goal Setting

20560266_sTired of setting goals with the best of intentions, using all your brain power, only to discover that you don’t actually DO the things on your list? 

It’s time for a mind AND body approach to goal setting. Check out my new FREE worksheet to help you discover realistic, purposeful actions that will get you to where you want to go!

13 Scary Ways to Take OFF Your Mask This Halloween

DSC00807Halloween is one of the few holidays that I really enjoy. This year is a bit chaotic, and I find myself not being able to participate as much as I would like. While reflecting on this, I started to wonder, “why do I like this holiday so much”?

Halloween is a time where we put on costumes, masks, wigs, makeup, and essentially pretend to be something we’re not. But it’s likely that we select something that’s enjoyable, something we feel happy “being” for a time. Maybe it’s something we wanted to be when we grew up, something we find pretty or sexy or outrageous. Maybe it’s a movie character we really like. We might put a lot of time and effort into creating this look, and we might feel that Halloween is the ONLY day we could display ourselves like this to others.

But what if we looked at it the other way around? What if we could see Halloween as a time when we can be what we truly are, or want to be deep down? What if it were a time for us to take OFF the masks and costumes–the personalities we wear for the world on a daily basis because we’re afraid to show any part of ourselves that our social circles doesn’t reward or accept? What if we instead used Halloween as a springboard for expressing our authentic selves!?

Here are 13 scary ideas for you to play with this Halloween:

  1. Accept a compliment. No, REALLY. Actually let it inside your heart so that you can feel it, and from the heart, sincerely thank the person offering it.
  2. Say “no” to something you think you absolutely have no choice but to do, but that you know deep down doesn’t excite you. Once you’ve said no, let any worry or guilt go.
  3. Take time to do something you’ve always wanted to do, or thought about doing but didn’t because you were afraid what others would think. Notice which idea makes you most uncomfortable and afraid of being judged or criticized, and DO IT ANYWAY because YOU’D LOVE TO.
  4. When an emotion (fear, sadness, anger, happiness, etc.) comes up for you, notice it as an authentic expression of YOURSELF, that is OK. Focus your attention on your breath. Relax your body. Feel any physical sensations. Watch your mind. Allow all this to happen instead of immediately pushing it away.
  5. Consciously communicate with someone you know you’ve been biting your tongue around. Express your true feelings kindly, and listen to their response. Accept your own part in where you are in your relationship.
  6. Explore your spiritual side. Perhaps explore something different than what you were exposed to growing up. Maybe embrace more fully whatever you truly believe. Or, investigate a different philosophy with an open heart.
  7. Ask yourself whether the career, hobbies, relationships, or other activities that you put energy into on a daily basis really FEED YOUR SOUL. A real hard and close look. If you find anything lacking, brainstorm ways you might transform this area of your life so it feels more aligned to you.
  8. Really SEE someone when you talk with them. Listen to what they’re saying that they’re not saying. Forget about your response. Be present with them, however they’re showing up for you.
  9. Wear something (non-Halloween) which you like and that might draw people’s attention. Notice what comes up for you when you are SEEN. When others see you, try smiling at them!
  10. Do something YOUR way, especially if you think others expect you to do it some other way: a presentation, a school project, handling a challenge with your parents or children, etc.
  11. Listen to your body rather than your mind’s “should’s”. Does your body crave movement, or rest? A bubble bath or a run? Kickboxing or yoga? A burger and fries or a freshly squeezed orange juice?
  12. Notice when you want to say (or have said) something that didn’t feel quite right, because you were wanting to be liked or loved. What things do you tell people that you don’t truly believe, deep in your heart? Practice saying only things you feel are YOU.
  13. Notice what stories you tell yourself about what will happen when you pack your mask, costume, or personality away. Are they true? Are they all negative? Can you see any positives?

Is Halloween really every day for you? How scary can you get this Halloween by finding YOU underneath your masks and costumes?

Feeling like a fraud? Alone? Fearful? It may be time to re-connect.

fearEvery so often, my world gets shaken (not stirred), and I end up feeling like a fraud.

What I mean by that is that one or more of the following automatic negative thoughts appear in my mind (and often more, creating that “negative thought spiral” I love so much):

  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • People who believe in me are wrong.
  • Why can’t people see the truth?
  • I am a hypocrite because I still have trouble practicing what I preach.
  • Soon I’ll be discovered, and then… (there’s never anything here, other than terror).
  • I should give up now, before anyone can see me fail (again).
  • Why do they think I’m ____? (smart, confident, capable–insert whatever here)

One might see these feelings as natural and to be expected, as I’m still in the early stages of completely changing careers mid-life, but I know it goes deeper too. I remember feeling this way walking down the halls of the high-tech job I stayed the longest at– even after a few years into the job when I might have felt “settled in”. So what is this “feeling like a fraud” thing about, really?

Ah, my familiar friend: fear. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. No one likes me. Follow that train and I end up in the place where fear morphs into sheer terror: I’m alone. Completely and utterly alone.

Why do we often feel alone? (Ironically I know I’m not the only one who suffers from this.) Is it because we’re not being truly open, but rather walking around coated in an impenetrable armor that doesn’t allow others to really get close to us? Is it because we’re all wearing masks that hide what we’re really feeling? Is it because technology has distanced us, even though in many ways it functions to bring us closer together? Is it because we prioritize work, chores, errands, and general busyness over cultivating our interpersonal relationships? Is it because we hardly ever look each other in the eye, or ever really see past the wonderful lives people appear to have on Facebook? Is it because we’re always comparing ourselves to someone who has something better than us?

Regardless of the causes, what can we do to re-connect with our fellow travelers in this life? Here are some ideas:

  • Really listen to a friend complain, letting her know that it’s OK to feel what she feels, rather than judging her or trying to fix her problem.
  • Ask a person in the service industry (your barista, your cashier, your bus driver) how they’re doing today, and focus on their answer and their body language enough intuit what might really be going on.
  • Call someone on their birthday rather than commenting on their Facebook page.
  • Write a letter–yes, a hard-copy letter and snail mail it–to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. Remind them of some small kindness or fond memory you shared.
  • Sincerely apologize for something you did and are not proud of, whether or not you know what triggered it or whether it was warranted.
  • Let a challenging topic go, especially if you’re not willing to be open to another point of view.
  • Pay it forward: buy the next person’s gasoline or sandwich. Leave an (anonymous but) inspiring note behind.
  • Smile at everyone, even if you don’t initially feel like it. Notice what happens.
  • Share something you know with someone, and/or learn something new from them.
  • Go to a Meetup or social event where you don’t know anyone, and make it a point to find out who 1-3 people are.
  • Sit at the sushi counter (instead of at a table with your iPhone or book) and strike up a conversation with the other lone soul sitting next to you.
  • Introduce yourself to the neighbor you’ve lived next to for N years and discover something you have in common.

And when all else fails and the fear takes over, build and hide in a pillow-fort until the storm passes, or someone digs you out (because they always will).

Other thoughts? Ideas? Can you relate? Share them please. None of us wants to feel alone.

New Look for A Journey Into Health

birdparaToday I’ve officially launched the new look of my web site, “A Journey Into Health”. While it may not seem like much (and there are still some things to do over in social media land), it marks the convergence of three web sites (and a blog!) into one, which will make things a heck of a lot easier on me! I’ll no longer be posting over on Blogspot, but will be keeping this blog and site up to date with wellness news and info. I’ve migrated my popular travel stories, and there are also some new pages here including my story (so far), some things I regularly eat to stay healthy and vibrant, and new pricing & packaging for my various services. I hope you will be a regular visitor, and I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Unconventional Music for a Run

I have a love / hate relationship with running. In my 20s I did a few 5Ks for charities, always thinking I was going to die by the end. I struggled with bad knees and bum ankles. In my mid-30s I picked it up again, stronger, more flexible from engaging in other sports and of course, in a more dedicated yoga practice. I was training for a 10K in 2010 or so, when I finally over-trained and tore my Achilles one week prior to the race. I had been up to 6.5 miles at a good clip for a short gal like me. After that, I pushed the pause button on the running for awhile.

Well I’m back into the running thing again, trying to up my mileage each week rather than caring how fast I go. The more I do it, the less I hate it. And having my mind occupied while doing my run is of primary importance–I’m just not the kind of person who can find “meditation” in a quiet run. What’s helping me run smoothly and calmly now may not be conventional, but I thought I would share in case you’re someone who practices yoga and running, like me. Yes folks, I’ve been running to chants.

Here are three of my current favorites:

Weird huh? Maybe, maybe not. In his book The Three Season Diet, John Douillard talks a lot about how deep breathing in and out through the nose can reduce the stress that an intense exercise like running can put on the body, and help increase the effectiveness of one’s workouts. I read this book years ago and it made a lasting impression on me, because yeah, who wants to be huffing and puffing out their mouth, feeling like they’re going to die after running? Not me. I wanted calm, relaxed running. And when I was training for that 10K, I remember using his suggestions on breathing and running that 6.5: when I stopped, I just, well…stopped. I wasn’t out of breath at all, and I felt completely relaxed.

What does that have to do with this music? Most runners I know are looking for upbeat music, and even using BPM (beats per minute) to try and pace themselves. That’s great. And it’s not for me. What this music does for me is get me into a state of extreme relaxation. I get lost in not just the sound of my steps and the belt on the treadmill, but also in the soothing instruments and voices. My breath remains deep and full, without as much mental exertion on my part. And because I’m focusing on the repetitive natures of both the physical movement and the chants, my whole body feels completely in sync, completely aligned. I’ve started going faster and further with this music, believe it or not.

If you like this sort of music, consider making it part of your runs. Let me know your thoughts!

Yoga for Restoring Mind-body Balance

Hour-long gentle yoga practice intended to reconnect students with the wisdom of their bodies. Letting go of the mind, the control, learning to surrender to the body helps us heal physically and emotionally / mentally.

So many have influenced me and thus this video: Swami Kripalu, Jurian Hughes and Carolyn Sudha, Vandita Kate Marchesiello, Rudy Peirce, Dana Moore and Bessel Van der Kolk. Thank you, Jai!