How Yoga Saved Me

It’s international yoga day, and I shall celebrate by writing about my yoga journey because it has been on my mind a lot lately. I found yoga after graduating college at a local 24 hour fitness after moving home. I believe this was my first experience to yoga and I would go pretty frequently. I loved the mind-body connection that I found in the practice. However, the classes no longer challenged me, so I took a little bit of a break.

Then, I got my second introduction to yoga when I was working near Santa Monica because my coworker and I decided to join a nearby studio off groupon. It was an awesome way to beat traffic and reinvigorated my desire to practice. This studio was filled with some pretty serious practitioners and I remember the first class I went to was packed mat to mat. I was apprehensive because it felt like we were in somebody’s attic, but as we got to flow breath to movement, I felt better. This studio did not have mirrors and it helped tremendously with tuning into our own bodies without comparing ourselves to others. To this day, this is still one of my favorite studios, but I had long since quit that job. The studio ended up moving a city over and I would still go once a week on the weekends, but life hit and my momentum stopped.

In tandem with my experience at the windowless studio, my boyfriend (now husband) knew I enjoyed yoga, so he asked if I wanted to join him for a free class at a studio his friend taught at. Thus, began my serious love for heated power yoga and yoga sculpt. I used up that free week like candy and at my second sculpt class was seriously considering getting into teacher training. I enjoyed it so much so, that I am actually doing it at three years later! But in between I’ve dabbled in Bikram and Ashtanga. Not enough to become an expert, but just enough to understand the basic postures.

I went on a tangent just now to explain how I got into yoga, but my point is: Yoga has meant a lot to me these past few years. In my teacher credential program, we had a class that asked us to share five things about ourselves in a paper bag and one of the things I made was a miniature yoga mat, to which I said “Yoga saved my life”.  It literally shifted my mindset and helped me get by when I had to move home after college. After years of very negative mental conditioning, yoga became a tool to battle that with positive affirmations. I still have days where I get very down on myself and my friends anxiety and depression come up to challenge me. However, yoga puts all of that in check by making sure I tune into myself and find ways to arise through the challenges.

I used to drive and yell at every car, yoga has helped me keep my mind at peace and allowed me to focus on the present. I used to feel badly if I couldn’t do something and give up, yoga has given me the power of growth mindset and to push through without judging myself or others. I used to compare myself to others in a way that pushed myself further away from my goals, now I am inspired by other people’s accomplishments as I work individually on my own goals. It has saved me from perpetuating a pattern and cycle of anger, narcissism, and negativity that surrounded my childhood.

I am humbled by yoga constantly and in awe of it all at the same time. I have cried during Savasana and laughed out of joy in my Down Dogs. I have days where I drag my feet on the mat and days where I feel like I’m light as a feather. I know for a fact that after 8 years of on and off practicing and even just a few days break in between consistent practice, I have SO much room to grow and to stretch. I no longer feel “unchallenged” like I did when I began and I’m finding new depths within my body as well as my mind. I have many goals that I want to work towards with my practice, but once I get on my mat, most days that goal is to bring my head closer to my shins in forward fold. I have always been that child that needs to practice things a ton of times before I feel confident enough to go further, and so I nurture that inner child. Yoga helps me to absorb my feelings and digest them as slowly or quickly as my mind and body allow. It’s really a beautiful thing and I am so grateful to be able to do it as often as I do.

That is all. Namaste :).

 

Holy Yogi

This post is a little long overdue, but I’ve been so much enjoying the process, that I haven’t had the time to share it with the anonymous cyberworld. I started Yoga teacher training on May 12th and since then have attended 22 Yoga Classes (sometimes twice/ day). I started out slowly, by doing a few HIIT workouts and incorporating yoga, but now I am going to class almost everyday and because the changes I’m feeling mentally and physically are incredible and familiar (to when I used to go consistently).

Now, this yoga training would be considered by most serious yogis, probably not yoga at all. But the good thing about yoga, is that judgment is discouraged (or at least that is what I believe to be true). I have been wanting to learn to teach this format of a class ever since I discovered it in 2014. But, the timing was never right. Even now, the timing isn’t exactly, perfect, but something that I’ve learned about life is that there is no perfect timing. As long as there is a crack in the door, it’s prime time to walk through it. Yes, I’ve struggled with a schedule change, closing out the school year paperwork, marital issues, general life stuff. However, I am incredibly happy that I decided to do this because I love the yogi mindset.

The reasons why this is appealing to me varies on so many different personal levels, but here are two:

1. I wanted to be an expert in something I have a hobby in. Because I love so many things, I tend to only touch the surface of many things. Yoga is something that always humbles me and at the same time allows me to grow.

2. Embraces a quiet mind. I have lots of thoughts and have a hard time quieting my mind. Yoga is like a brain massage for me that I need to definitely keep stable and happy. As I go through the practice regularly, I feel more willing to take healthy risks. I also am less negative about myself and others.

I started out uncertain if I want to teach it, but I definitely want to stay as involved in the community I’ve found as much as I can. Working on this new skill has been a powerful experience because it pushes me to step out of my shell. I have a hard time feeling confident when I am speaking to a group of adults. Doing this definitely pushes me to become more comfortable with my personality. I love encouraging other people, but am always scared I will come off as condescending, so this overall is creating more comfort in my overall self. I’ve already noticed a change even in how I treat my students and my daily mentality. The positive people I’ve met have definitely inspired me to continue to cultivate a positive mindset and kick out the negative white noise. Additionally, it’s made me more weary of competitiveness in other people and has given me more space to embrace others. I feel like, back to my social media post, it also makes me want to focus on my present world as opposed to the exterior world. But, this is a struggle I go between with wanting to connect through sharing things I see and seeing negative posts where people complain about trivial things. I guess as long as the intention is positive, I can focus on whatever I want as long as I’m present.

Lastly, I restarted my Whole30 a week ago….I have a sugar demon and I guess it’s hard to tame.

Observations and Prioritizations

Yesterday, I was thinking about how much working out and nutrition has become my PRIORITY in the past three months. To be honest, I’ve always been the type of person to prioritize work above all else. Part of the reason why I wanted to leave the food industry is because I wanted to start prioritizing my relationships with my family and friends. However, even as I went into teaching, work was still my priority. At the beginning of the school year, I would wake up, be at school by 6:40AM and leave around 6:00PM. Or bring work home and work until about 8:00PM and then start thinking about taking care of myself. On the weekends, I would still work and lesson plan for at least 4 hours a day. About a quarter of the way through the school year, I started feeling a little burnt out, so I backed off on my hours. I still worked 7 days/week, but by the time February rolled around, I could no longer keep up. I started thinking about working out again and committing to it as a way to get my energy levels up and de-stress.

I went to the gym a few nights a week with my (now) husband. Then I started really getting into working out and started working out 6-7 days/week. When Whole30 started, food prepping became a priority hand-in-hand with working out. If I didn’t work out in the morning, I would workout when I got home. I am now going into work at 7:30AM and leaving every day by 4:00PM (the latest). I share this because, today I was getting observed (which usually means someone from the district comes by to check in). I found out we may be getting observed on Monday. When I prioritized work, I would spend hours ruminating over what to teach, how to teach it, and plan extensively for lessons to make extra sure that I was doing everything I could to make sure the observation went smoothly. Yesterday, I noticed a huge mental shift because I rushed home to work out and made sure I had dinner before I even thought to prep for the observation. Old me would’ve freaked out, panicked, rushed home, spent hours looking for the “best” lesson and then another few hours prepping everything. I am typing this up today because I wanted to wait and see how the observation actually went before I went on to say what I’m going to say now. The observation went just as well as any observation in a classroom can go. I got kudos for doing what the district and principal is focusing on for our school and I didn’t feel unprepared at all. I say this not because I’m an experienced nor excellent teacher (this is my first year and I’m far from both) but because I’ve realized that work should never be the priority.  If I don’t spend those extra hours obsessing over the details of doing things perfectly, and I spend some extra hours taking care of myself and my relationships, I can still excel at work. In fact, the positive mindset that comes from having taken care of myself makes me do better at my job when I’m at work and allows me to relax when I’m at home.

So, I guess what they’ve been saying all along is true. It’s important to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. Because I no longer miss a workout and am eating healthy 90% of the time (Okay maybe 85% if you count Almond Butter as a unhealthy food) I don’t feel guilty for letting myself down. Because I don’t feel guilty for letting myself down, I’m better equip to deal with all of the other things I may have to prioritize on a daily basis. So, here’s a little “Wohoo, go me!” I have a hard time telling myself I’m doing good, but I’m feeling it today!

 

Workout Freedom!

I was scared of becoming free of Insanity workouts because I was afraid without a program, there would be nothing to hold me accountable for working out. Maybe the fear is what has pushed me even harder to hold myself accountable. Life post-insanity has been awesome. Mainly because now I get VARIETY and I’ve incorporated weights back into my life. To preface, I wake up at about 4:30 every morning to knock this out before work and my lovely fiance has been my support system by coming along for all of my runs and gymtime. Here’s a layout of what I did last week:

Monday – Jillian Michaels -Shred It with Weights – I wasn’t quite willing to let go of the comfort of my own home, and I missed using my Kettlebell. Because of the added weights, this workout was definitely still a challenge for me.

Tuesday – 4.5 mile run with a 9.20/mi average. I must say, Insanity has done WONDERS for getting me in shape. I was able to complete the run with no breaks and I felt like I could keep going, but I knew I also had to go to work at some point.

Wednesday – Gymtime! I had my gym membership haunting me because, ever since I joined the Gym in October, I ended up gaining weight. I have total anxiety about going to the gym because I hate working out in front of other people if it’s not teacher led. However, we went early enough where it wasn’t crowded. I did the elliptical to warm up and a variety of weights. I won’t share my weight routine until I figure out what I’m actually doing because I’ll just end up saying something like I did the thing where you pull on a bar with weights. I did do some deadlifts, I know what that’s called.

Thursday – Corepower Yoga – Sculpt. This is by far, my favorite class in. the. world. You get to sit in a heated room, do yoga, with cardio, and weights. It doesn’t get more challenging than this for me. I’ve been incorporating this into my recovery days with Insanity almost once/ week. The only reason I’m not going all the time is because, I do like variety in my workouts.

Friday – 4.7 mi run 9:07/mi – I do miss my runs and I dread them less than I used to :).

Saturday – Rest day, but I did do some Yoga Sun A and Sun B Salutations in the morning.

Sunday – Gym time again, same routine for warm-up, but I worked on abs and legs.

I actually have my week scheduled the same this week and just finished my home workout right now. (I did an Insanity video). This probably isn’t a big deal for people who have a regular workout schedule (something I kind of threw by the wayside a while ago). For me, this is EVERYTHING. I’m finally free of my insecurities telling me that I can’t do it or that I can save it for another time. To be honest, I think the biggest motivator was actually seeing changes in my body. I keep getting scared that these baby abs I’ve worked on will suddenly disappear. (Like I actually check to make sure they’re still there). But knowing that what I’m doing is actually working, feeling great on a daily basis, and actually having fun challenging my body is something I haven’t felt consistently in years. I’m definitely becoming more and more of a “YAS!!!” person and back on board with taking some fun risks.

The Dark and Uglies

Today was a pretty uneventful Whole30 day for me, no new foods, nothing new as far as symptoms go, but it was a very reflective day for me. I guess maybe I’ve been thinking about the symptoms that I’m “not” really feeling. First, I decided to do this during my cycle, so everything coincides with PMS, but then again, nothing has been AS bad as it normally is every month. Secondly, I’ve been contemplating if I’m simply denying the symptoms or if mentally, I feel so positive that what normally knocks me out, can’t bring me down. Get ready for pretty much my life story, so don’t go past this if you’re not into that :).

So, now I’ll get into WHY I’ve taken such an interest in my own physical health. I had a pretty adverse childhood that led to a lifetime of symptoms that can most closely be labeled (and have been) as depression and anxiety. The trauma that I took on led me tumbling through my developmental years and well into adulthood on a hazy path of self-destruction, self-doubt, and self-loathing. I started adulthood, pretty much the same way and realized through a series of very destructive patterns, that I needed to make a change.

Since,  I knew moving my body made me feel good (as swimming was my outlet through most of those years) I started taking yoga classes, and it pretty much saved my life. I learned to become much more present and grateful through taking care of my body. It didn’t dramatically change my life, but it taught me that a new mindset was possible. One filled with gratitude and self acceptance. Through this acceptance, I decided to take more healthy risks.

I went to a therapist, but she recommended medication, which I vehemently opposed to. It was at a time where I was very low, cried almost everyday and had suicidal thoughts. I knew also, that when I loved myself enough to take care of myself, those feelings  went away. So, I fought for myself and decided to workout regularly and that was around the time I became a pescatarian. Slowly, the feelings did subside and I started feeling better.

Then, I changed jobs and the new job set off many triggers for me and I was straight back to the dark and uglies. I knew at the time, I was doing everything right to take care of myself. I worked out and ate healthfully. However, the job was a land mine for old feelings, so I took a huge leap of faith and quit. For a while, I was really happy that I made a change and was working towards a goal.

Fast forward to pretty recently and again, I was sinking pretty deep back into this dark hole. I was using sleep as my coping mechanism and pretty much only woke up to go to work. I had no energy to workout and used sweets and alcohol to help me when I felt “too stressed” and would indulge after school or on the weekends. Even though, I knew both of these things pulled me further down. I had to push myself to attend social gatherings and dreaded that invisible judgment.

Which brings me to the present. I’ve realized about a few years ago, that my depression/anxiety symptoms will never just “go away” unless I actively try to do something about it. I also know now that I have very specific triggers that will shut down progress, if I don’t recognize them right away. I know that I have to actively make sure I’m using positive self-talk because my default is negative self-talk. I also know that scientifically, both depression and anxiety stem from a chemical imbalance. Although I have these symptoms, I have been able to stay resilient because I have always been optimistic. I know, it seems silly to equate depression to optimism, but depression isn’t an outlook on life. Optimism is.

THIS is the reason why I’m open to doing things like the Whole30 and I push myself to workout. Although, I know I’ll look good, boosting my self-esteem through appearance alone is hard for me since, well…negative self-talk. Because it’s kind of essential to my growth and mental health. I am very aware of my body and my mind and when it’s being pulled out of balance. I know that I may always stress out before EVERY social gathering and afterwards. I will probably constantly think my fiance is mad at me, when he’s not. I will also always have days of looming sadness that I have to find the trigger for. However, I am certain that managing those symptoms has to come through managing my physical well being. So, in short, whatever symptoms I’ve felt have really been “okay” so far because the self-love I have overpowers any minor physical discomfort.

I am also happy knowing that Whole30 is bringing whatever balance it means to all of my friends who are doing it and kicking a** at it :).

“HI”atus

I do this with my writing often, I take massively long breaks. A really small part is due to me adjusting to a new schedule (which feels constant) and the other part is due to the overthinking that is my brain. I don’t know what to write, what the point of sharing my thoughts publicly is, etc…etc. Also, wedding planning and lesson planning are both pretty mundane topics that I don’t feel the need to extensively talk about.

But, this morning, I’m clearly inspired and I feel that I have a direct source of a personal journey that I would like to share. I enjoy writing about journeys. Spiritual, travel, health/fitness, life, etc. I suppose I’ll write to this new journey that I have embarked on. Well, it’s not necessarily new, it’s been following me my whole life, but it’s new for me to talk openly about. That is my journey through health and fitness.

A few years ago, I lost about 20lbs by changing my diet and working out pretty regularly. I wouldn’t say that I stuck to a strict regime, but I did work out a few times a week. I stopped eating all meats, for ethical reasons, (except for fish) and I felt a change in my body composition and energy. For me standing at about 5’8″ and weighing about 140LBS (a normal weight) for about 4 years (since gaining weight in college) consistently, it was hard for anyone to understand that I was a) dieting or b) felt the need to lose weight. But, I did…I lost 20LBS, which was way more than I had ever expected, but that definitely boosted my confidence as well as my general outlook on seizing opportunities and believing that change (in any form) is possible. I also felt that it was my most natural weight and I didn’t feel restricted on my “diet” if you could call it that.

At some point though, between the ups and downs of making a real career change, moving in with my fiance, and planning this wedding, I stopped taking care of myself. I indulged in things and told myself that I was just “enjoying life”. I would work out occasionally, but gave up easily because I was “tired” and “deserved a break”. The whole time, I was telling myself these things, I knew I was letting myself down and making excuses.

Which brings me to, me trying on my wedding dress at the tailor and her telling me that I had “gained weight”. I was the same weight on the scale, but I also knew that I hadn’t been working out as much as I should have been. So, instead of asking her to take out the dress for me, I decided to commit to working out consistently again. The first two weeks were horrible, I gained almost 6 pounds and felt so discouraged.

But, I didn’t give up, and now, two weeks later, I definitely see a progress, as evidenced below (2nd week, 3rd week, 4th week). There are another four weeks to this program, so maybe I’ll share the few weeks as I complete them.

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I share these pics because, I’m not a crazy gym rat who spends hours at the gym, this is 40 minutes a day, 6 days/ week. I also do not share because I think my body has achieved some perfection, more so that I really am a normal person that has committed to something and I can see a difference. I also do not share my workout plan because, I really feel that everyone has to find the one that is tailored to them, and I don’t want to be an advertisement to say one is better than any other. I’ve never felt that one diet, workout, lifestyle was better than any other, which is why I never push my feelings on what works for me on others. I truly feel that everyone’s body is different and I experiment with mine and stick to what works.

I guess, what I’m really trying to say connects to what my meditation teacher has been telling me, to stick to the plan, do the readings, follow the instructions, and I will achieve what the teachings are trying to tell me. I definitely have far more work to go through in my spiritual journey, but I now see how that applies to the simple health rule. Stick to a workout regime that works for you and a diet that is sustainable in supporting healthy habits.  All that it takes to stay healthy is to work out regularly and to eat healthy (which is a very basic nutritional outline)…but above all, stick to the plan.

Which brings me to how recently, a friend posted about the Whole30 and that is something I will also embark to journey through because I want to be able to control my cravings for things that cause me to feel immediately sick or disoriented (mainly sugar and alcohol). I love feeling clear-headed and energetic (who doesn’t?). So, we’ll see how that goes and I’ll share my journey as I work through it :).