New Year Resolutions?

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For the past few weeks I have been struggling with my motivation for yoga. I initially attributed it to the end of the 30 day challenge, that had taken a lot out of me emotionally, but as I processed with Mari yesterday, I think I’ve come up with some interesting reasons why it’s been hard lately. I mean, really there are probably a million factors, like I’ve been doing it consistently for a year, I’m not seeing any more weightloss or health benefits, some of the initial newbie growth has slowed down, and the premature dark weather has left me wanting to just sit around eating bon bons. But in processing, there were a couple more things that trickled do the surface and seem a little more substantial. Namely, the idea of fitting in to a community, and that reasons/motivations for doing things change.

Fitting in is exhausting.

I’m not sure people think about fitting in as exhausting, but for me it is. I typically self-identify as other in a lot of ways, sorta dancing on the edge of the campfire, rather than really getting in to the fray. I figure there’s a bit of adoption trauma and some personality traits at play here, because this idea of fitting, of being ‘home,’ or comfortable with people puts me on edge. Because if I’m ‘in’ then I could be ‘out’ and it’s easier to be ‘out’ when it’s by choice rather than fucking up and getting kicked out, ya know? It’s easier to be seemingly ‘less predictable,’ because when I do things a certain way for a certain amount of time the routine starts to stick to me in a way that makes deviating from it difficult. Like being the ‘funny one,’ in a group of friends. I am funny (despite what Boof things), but I’m also a really deep thinker. I like playing the fool as an archetype, but I don’t want to live there permanently. So part of my hesitation for even starting a yoga studio was because I knew it would fit me. I knew I would like it. And then what? What do you do when you find your place? Settle in? Get into a rut? That rebel part of me wants to bail before I get too comfortable. I love my yoga studio. I love feeling a part of something. And yet, feeling a part of something is also exhausting.

My other thought was about how much I’ve grown and changed in the past year. I think if I’m to do new year resolutions, or old year reflections, I should honor myself and the rhythm I feel in the academic calendar year. Fall feels like newness. Fall feels like the time to look back and see, who was I this same time last year? And the answer surprised me. Because last year I strongly advocated for myself to have 2-3 nights off for ME time. I went to therapy on Mondays, and Tuesday/Thursday was about yoga. Boof had worked a crazy busy season as an accountant AND THEN worked a second job all summer at the Mariners, and with long home game stretches left me alone with an 18 month old toddler and little sanity. I forcefully took back time for myself and treated my yoga as a body and spouse empowerment exercise. I got sexy in the weightloss department, finally shedding those baby pounds. I felt like an adult and like I mattered in my relationship because I wasn’t just being a doormat martyr whiny wife. It rocked.

But this year? This year feels different. Rather than wanting time away to feel empowered, I crave those connecting quiet moments with Boof and Potamus. And yet the consistent routine getting me out of the house twice a week is actually a good thing for my mental health. Otherwise I’ll want to go to sleep at 5pm when I get home. So I realized that my perspective had to shift in order to enjoy yoga again. That I was clinging too tightly to the old reasons and not allowing it to change to embrace my new reasons. Like introvert time after a long day of teaching. That rather than driven empowerment competition with myself, it was more about relaxation and fun and simply being present in the moment.

The instructor, halfway through the class, as we were lying in our first round of savasana, read a quote about happiness. That happiness needs to be allowed to come in many forms. That it needs to be allowed to grow and change like a child would grow and change. And that seemed to fit and make everything click inside me. It felt right to be in the studio even though it felt different than last year at this time.

So that’s my new academic year resolution. To simply allow happiness, or my yoga practice, to be different and change and grow to meet the present moment. It feels right that way.

The Impossible Sticker Chart

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Bikram yoga is pretty well known for their 30 day challenges (go 30 times in 30 days), but that is simply unreasonable for me to attempt with a job, toddler, husband, unless they offered like 5am classes and that would be ridiculous anyway. But this summer my studio is offering a 30 day summer challenge, from June 21-August 31. I felt that it was going to be a reasonable, but still not cakewalk challenge, and so I happily placed my name on the 30 Day Summer Challenge sticker chart in the lobby, and stepped into my first (challenge) class. 

At first nothing felt different, but then June clicked by, and most of July, and I realized that there had been some days that I had mentally prepped to go in advance, but things like being on-call, or doing random training, got in the way. And I saw the people around me with their stickers mounting, and I started to feel defeated. How had I felt so good about going 2-3 times a week before suddenly feel so…inadequate? Mid July came and I only had 9 stickers on my chart, and I felt like giving up. Because hello anxiety and perfectionism and those all-or-nothing-thinking of ‘welp, if I can’t do it perfectly, I might just not do it at all! And while I’m at it, lemme just gain 50lbs and eat chocolate on the couch!’ Doesn’t help that there’s this super  annoying  extroverted girl wrote “wins!” on the chart because she finished the 30 days already. And she brags about how she’s really doing a 60 day challenge, on the back of a 30 day challenge she just completed, and that up next she’s doing a 90 day challenge, and that she has endometriosis and is married to an ex professional athlete. Seriously, that chick drops some really personal stuff all in one braggy breath. 

I know I’m not alone in this struggle, but it feels weird to admit, that as an adult, I am struggling with a damn sticker chart. I am having flashbacks to childhood when I wanted to zoom through sticker charts as fast as I could, which I look back on I can’t help but wonder if it was more for the reprieve in between the sticker charts than the actual completion of the case in general. I want to kick the whole thing to the curb, and yet the Italian dinner I’ve promised myself at the end of it is still luring me. Leaving a chart half finished is so not my style, anyway, though I might be causing myself undue stress in the meantime. 

But the lovely side effect of this whole sticker chart debacle, is this immense compassion I am having toward children. As a summertime crisis counselor I meet with a lot of families, and one of the things I find rolling off my tongue with children is behavior modification and sticker charts as a way to motivate kids. And I know it works for some, but I wonder if, for others, it causes undue stress on poor little undeveloped brains. Like I must be good in order to be loved, in order to earn a sticker. 

Boof doesn’t understand. He says, “just stop if it’s stressing you out,” but keeping on is the less stressful option than failing at this challenge. And my brain would just keep tracking anyway, so stopping charting is not going to do shit. Because I’m a perfectionist. And I have an anxiety disorder. And I’m a Bikram yogi who’s gonna finish this damn summer challenge if it’s the last thing I do.

And then after the last thing, I’m gonna eat some badass Italian food with Mari, and drink an entire bottle of wine. Yeah. 

 

 

Triangle Trauma

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It’s the pinnacle pose in Bikram’s series, designed to use every muscle in the body: trikonasana, or triangle pose. It comes about 45 minutes into the sequence, right after I’ve built up a sweat and am breathing hard. In my first few weeks of yoga, the instructors corrected my leg positioning (open them up wider!), but then after that first month or so, I just…haven’t done the posture.

Sure, I try, every once in awhile. But to be honest, with my legs spread that far apart, trying to sink down into my pelvis, it feels like I’m going to break in half. The sweat pools make my feet slip, and I fear losing control. So, with the justification of being tired from a long workout so far, and not wanting to hurt myself, I’ve sat out of this pose. For the last 7 months or so. Only trying it sporadically, and then giving up, because really I don’t even want to do that pose.

But a week or so ago, I went to a posture clinic at my studio, and something profound happened when he was explaining to focus more on the arms in the posture, specifically the top arm reaching it up, and when I tried it I was able to sink down into the pose for one set on each side. I felt super proud of myself! And when I told the owner, Gina, about my breakthrough, she was really excited, and said something profound: sometimes trauma is held in the hips.

Whoa.

I had told her that when I sat down in the pose, it felt like my pelvis was going to shatter, and the feeling was EXACTLY like how I felt right before Potamus was birthed out my tiny little vag-hole. The whole concept that this pose could be bringing up birth trauma felt SO REAL, and it actually helped me to even verbalize that…yes…two and a half years later I can say…my birth experience was traumatizing. Was it amazing in the result? Yes. Was the whole thing taking only 4 hours and feeling completely batshit out of my mind traumatizing? Yes. Was having my water break and him come crowning out in one fell swoop amazing in retrospect? Yes, who wants to do hours and hours of pushing? But was it fucking scary in the moment? YES!

And in triangle I’ve been feeling that. Hot. Sweaty. Tired. Completely overwhelmed and knowing the rest of the class stretches out ahead of me. Sinking into my hips and feeling just like I’m going to give birth again. Totally trauma held in my hips.

I have no idea what this information will do to change my pose. Maybe I’ll try it more and be easier on myself. But knowledge is power, and I hope to use it to my advantage!

use your ears in yoga

I was a yoga newbie once, too, so I’m trying to extend my compassion and empathy toward the newbies I’ve seen lately, but sometimes it’s really hard. I see them in the mirror and my focus breaks. I try to telepathically send them messages, but none of them pick up on my frequencies. And I notice that their fledgling practice has a big impact on my own practice, and for that, I’m annoyed (mostly at myself of course, but a teeny tiny little bit at them, too).

It’s not the out of shape newbies that bother me. Or the ones who come dressed in completely non-yoga appropriate dress (one girl was wearing an outfit best for strolling down the Santa Monica pier, and one was wearing a non-breathable track suit in neon purple, and yet another wearing a dress and leggings…yeah…). The “bad” dressers provide a moment of amusement or extreme compassion (I worry about them overheating and dying in their fancy outfits), but it is the bad listeners that really drive me crazy.

Like tonight, in the back row, perfectly aligned with my vision, was a a guy taking his first class next to his girlfriend who seems to be a regular practitioner (so I would have thought she would have given him some instruction prior). But I struggled watching him. Because he didn’t listen to the instructor. Bikram yoga is all about doing things in a precise, controlled order, to get ‘maximum benefit’ and to keep safety in mind. I’ve seen new students struggle in this way a lot, trying to get their body to bend into the bendiest pretzel position without regard to their personal safety. And in their newness they aren’t even aware that they’re putting themselves in danger. I am mentally shouting at them PAY ATTENTION! but they don’t listen. They hold their positions too long and then get winded when they could be resting. It throws the energy of the room off, and I sometimes get annoyed. And like tonight, I sometimes get worried for their safety.

I haven’t yet come to a good conclusion for how I should handle myself. I know that I wasn’t perfect as a newbie, but the one thing that I focused on was listening to the instructor and tried to follow their directions as much as I could. So it is hard for me to see people struggle with postures when it appears that they aren’t even listening to a word the instructor is saying!

I think the biggest muscles used in yoga are the ones for listening…

Teacher Discouragement: How Being a Yoga Student is Helping Me See My Student’s Differently

Yesterday’s class sucked.

I don’t think I went into the afternoon session with a foul attitude, though the one repeat student did ask me before class “um, are you okay, you look upset?” At any rate, we got started and the whole vibe was just off and this is repeatedly wearing me down, despite the good heart-to-heart conversation I had with them a few weeks ago. It just feels the same, and I want to focus on the 10 students who are paying attention, but I get distracted by the remaining students who are screwing around, or sleeping, or just generally spaced out not paying attention.

And so, when I let my class out early, I posted about my chronic discouragement on Facebook, with a somewhat plea for ideas…and the things that I was given back only futhered my frustration with the whole day. It feels like the people who responded, also teachers themselves, just didn’t understand what I already do in my classroom. Calls for using humor, more youtube clips, asking them about their interests, are all well and good…and things I do already…but at the end of the day, I also have to present to them material from the course and expect that the soft-skills of being able to FUCKING SIT IN YOUR SEAT FOR A GODDAMN 20 MINUTES AT A TIME isn’t too much to ask for. How are they ever going to get a job, if that’s what they indeed want, with their milling-around slacker attitudes?

In my almost-ragey attitude, I headed home and off to yoga. Where I proceeded to feel just as angry and this time, not only at my day and my students, but myself. The poses seemed more challenging than before, my mind wouldn’t shut up, I became hyper critical and noticed all the others around me. It didn’t matter that my instructor was positive, gave compliments liberally, and believed we could all do our best. It. Did. Not. Matter. I sat there on my mat, grumpy, almost determined to have a shitty class, and fumed. My day had been shit. My class was going to shit. And my best friend practicing next to me looked like a yoga goddess and it didn’t matter that I knew she cried at work and had as shitty of a day as me. I was in a place of glump.

But even though my brow was furrowed and I didn’t want to be there anymore (but you can’t very well just huff out after only 4 poses), I could tell that I was my student. For whatever reason they can’t get outside their heads, their past experiences, and no matter amount of coaxing, sweet-talking, gentle chiding, sarcasm, humor, or exasperation is going to motivate them to get off their butts and onto their mat and try Trikonasana if they don’t want to. Because anything short of that instructor marching over to me and physically manipulating my limbs into a contorted pose I was NOT going to do it.

I’d like to think it helped me have clarity about my own circus-monkey act in front of my class. But I was still angry and resentful and discouraged when I left, though this blog post was milling about in my mind, so there was probably some movement at least. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I teach them tomorrow. How I’m going to react. If I’ll use more humor, or You Tube clips, or whatnot. But I can’t do the work for them, and I saw that pretty clearly in yoga. She provided the space, and it was up to me to bring my game. And it was my deal when it didn’t go as planned.

My Body as Public Property

Yesterday I had lunch with my co-teacher, and I was bitching about the lame pasta salad the cafeteria was offering and he said, “yeah, you’ll probably need something more than that with all your hot yoga,” and I replied with “I know man, I can’t believe it, I’ve lost 30lbs doing hot yoga.” His response shocked me, as he said:

I know. You can tell. Bethany (my friend and co-worker) and I were talking about it the other day. You look good.

There was nothing weird about his statement, though it did catch me off guard. Because I spend a lot of time in my head, I rarely even notice that I have a body. And after 31 years of life as a woman, I have rarely had moments of body image issues (related to weight, because I’ve certainly had insecurities about my height). I don’t hate my body because a) it’s super functional (carrying my brain to and fro is a necessity) and b) it brings me quite a lot of pleasure. It wasn’t until I was pregnant, though, that I really started to notice how my physical body was suddenly on the public stage. Grannies and co-workers and grocery store clerks all had some comment, ranging from “oh, you don’t look pregnant,” to “oh, you’re having a boy,” to any number of other random things. Fortunately nobody touched me, but I for that I blame my 6’1 frame and badass-I-will-cut-you-if-you-come-too-close attitude.

So here I am, a regular practitioner of bikram yoga, 30lbs lighter (yay, I’ve lost the baby weight finally! and actually weighing less than I did at my wedding), and I’m suddenly…doubting myself? Feeling anxious? Feeling uncomfortable in my own skin? Not exactly. Even Boof has noticed, that the regular yoga practice has only increased my confidence level. I feel more in control tune with my body. I feel strong, and flexible, and sexy. And I’m not even focusing on weight.

But.

But.

As someone with an anxiety disorder, I worry. A LOT. And I’m starting to worry about things like:

What if I really like being thin and then I gain weight? And then I start feeling bad about myself for gaining weight? And then I develop an eating disorder?

Yeah, my brain works like that.

But it is an interesting experience suddenly being more in the public eye with how I look. I look back at pictures and I can’t really see much of a difference, though overall 30lbs is quite a lot of weight actually, and think I looked fine before, but definitely feel more fine now. Does that make sense?

 

 

Yogavangelist: Introducing Friends to Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga with friends!

Growing up as a fundamentalist Christian, I am no stranger to the ‘evangelist’ idea. I was taught about how to ‘witness’ to my friends, and the importance of ‘preaching the gospel’ so that people I knew could be ‘saved’ and ‘go to heaven.’ I wonder if I just never believed any of the hype, because as an anxious person I never felt comfortable blabbing about Christian doctrine with friends, let alone with strangers. Sure I’d have discussions, but never in an evangelist sort of way.

I wonder if I was just never a good enough Christian, that I must never have really believed in all of it, because my evangelist-anxiety has not extended to things like Bikram yoga. Yesterday my bestie The Anxious Hippie drove up to visit me for the long weekend, and we headed on out to coffee and a FREE bikram yoga class thanks to the Valentine’s Day special my studio was having.

This makes the 6th friend/family member that I’ve convinced to try a Bikram class, and I’ve invited at least as many more that have politely declined (or outright said HELL NO to the heat!). But she freaking KILLED IT YA’LL. I mean, totally. The heat didn’t seem to bother her one bit, and she had a great balance of working hard, but not pushing herself past her comfort point. It was so great to have her in class!

So there you go. I’m the crazy yogavangelist, and I might come knocking on your door with pamphlets and fliers about the benefits of Bikram yoga! Because Lord knows it’s certainly changing my life (did I mention I weigh less than I did at my wedding 5 years ago? WAHOO!).

How do you share your love of yoga with others?