Pregnancy, Parenthood, and Beyond
The past few years have been amazing, full of discovery and joy. As I was saying goodbye to my work community, transitioning to a new adventure, I started reflecting on how much my relationships have changed, and how grateful I am for the work I have done on and off the mat.
To set the scene (and my point) I will have to go back a bit: As a child, I was never great at having a lot of friends. I only had one or two best friends. I always interacted with a lot of people and cared about everyone I met, but I was very guarded with my own feelings. I was so worried about being perfect that it was difficult to let anyone ‘in’.
Once my friendships took a difficult turn or when I exposed too much of my own flaws, I would instinctively pull away and that deep friendship would end. I would then become so worried that I would lose friendships that I would never voice my own opinion, worried to upset, and then years later a built up explosion would lead to the next ruined friendship.
This trend continued past my college years. Not just with friendships, but relationships as well.
It was after a particularly dreadful and embarrassing relationship breakup that I began to observe the patterns happening over and over. I realized my people pleasing nature wasn’t helping anyone, including the people I wanted to please in the first place. I needed to figure out who in the heck I was, and why I felt so unworthy of a voice.
It took years of self-exploration, using running and yoga as my primary tool. I started to observe that although I was involved in many different communities, I guarded myself. It was this need to be perfect that prevented me from really experiencing the opportunity to connect with individuals all around me.
I started to slowly speak my mind; I surrounded myself with people that respected my opinion and encouraged me to speak up. I found mentors in work and other areas of my life that exuded the qualities I wanted to cultivate.
The key thing I realized – I needed to become Vulnerable.
For someone that always wants to be perfect to everyone in every situation, this is a REALLY difficult thing to do! The funny thing about life, you are always placed in situations that will help you grow the most.
Through personal and work situations, I slowly started opening up, showing my imperfections and every day getting closer to my own authentic voice. My mat practice was about connecting with my inner self, and my runs taught me I was strong enough to conquer any situation.
I found courage to stand up and say something wasn’t right, even if it wasn’t the ‘easy’ thing to do. When I made a mistake or handled a situation incorrectly, I found the voice to say that I was the person that made the mistake.
It was easier for me to connect with my team, and my personal relationships had a solid foundation of respect and understanding. Most of all, that community that I had craved all of those years, began to form around me.
It wasn’t that my actions had changed too much, but my ability to open my heart, expose myself flaws and all, with the courage to not run away, that made all the difference.
As I reflect on my life now, I realize how much richer my relationships are. I have beautiful people I care deeply about in my professional, personal, and yoga community. They all know my flaws: I am a micromanager, I can get very anxious, I go from goofy to serious in two seconds flat, and I think way too much, but they love me anyway.
I am still a perfectionist. But I am getting better about cutting down my emotional walls and I am incredibly excited to continue this journey with an amazing community by my side.
If this struggle of perfection and wanting to connect with your community resonates with you, then I encourage you to read a beautiful book one of my beloved yoga teachers, Jes, recommended to me: ‘The Gifts of Imperfection” written by Brene Brown.
I wish you a wonderful exploration on your mat, and on the road, finding a bit more vulnerability, courage, and self-love. Cheers to imperfection and the people that love us even more when we are our true, authentic self.
I have had body image issues all of my life. I have been 30 pounds overweight to rail thin and everywhere in-between.
I avoid cameras. If there is a picture, I want it to be waist up, with me sideways to show the thinnest part of me. That is why I freaked out when my mom announced right before a trip home, “My good friend Judy will take your Yoga photos when you are home next week…”. My response, “I am so pale and I was going to lose ten pounds…”
Yep, I am a Yoga teacher. I believe every person deserves and should do Yoga. Yet as a teacher, I feel if my body isn’t perfect, students will not be as interested in practicing with me. This is quite the double standard.
I had a wonderful time at the photo shoot, and Judy did a remarkable job of making me feel comfortable and beautiful. It was only after I received the pictures that my inner critic came out. “Oh look at the extra stuff when I am sitting down, ahhh, there is way too much going on…” That is when I realized; every pose breakdown I look at in photograph form is from Yoga Journal. Not to discredit this wonderful publication with amazing information, but all of the models are mostly stick thin women. My Warrior II is always going to look different, even with great alignment.
Yoga isn’t a skinny woman’s sport to show off their hot bod. One of the main reasons why I love Yoga is because it forces me to connect with my body. I spend all day mentally bashing it, disconnecting from it, and my practice brings me back to gratitude and love for the amazing machine my body is.
I encourage everyone to take a moment to really listen to the messages we send our body. Hear our critical words and realize how much this is affecting our entire lives. If we would all take just one moment to pause, say thank you, and appreciate ourselves rather than berating our body for always having cellulite no matter how far your run or how much you diet.
In the end, it isn’t an issue of thin or not. I know beautiful fit teachers that I go to, but it isn’t because of their bodies, it is because they are amazing individuals. I also have teachers that have beautiful curves that can hold handstand longer than I ever could. What this is really about is self-love and being OK in the moment with who you are. Non-judgment, you always start from now and there is only now.
I am obviously nowhere near where I need to be with loving my body, but I feel today I am one step closer.
Look in the mirror. Want to know what the perfect Yoga body is? It is right there, in front of you.
“AHHHH” I scream in my office as a whack my ‘dammit doll’ on my desk. This is a weekly if not daily occurrence, and not just for me, but my peers and team as well.
The great thing – I work with people that understand we all need to release tension, and behind closed doors is the best way to do it. The ‘dammit doll' came from a peer with the intent to help you let go of your frustration in a ‘constructive’ way. I know it isn’t very Yoga like, but it is incredibly therapeutic…
Monday was no different, with numerous concerns, and a line full of individuals finding their way into my office to cry, vent, and problem solve. The only thing different on this Monday, over the weekend I spent 20 hours studying Yoga, specifically Sthira Sukham Asanam.
Sthira = steadiness with focus and concentration
Sukham = comfort and sweetness
Asanam = posture/pose
After being immersed in Yoga philosophy for days, it is quite the shock to go back to ‘normal life’. I continued to listed to my team, give them support, but I also reflected on the imbalance of our focuses. Rather than say “Yes, this is super frustrating, let it out with the 'dammit doll'…” I started asking my team (and myself) “What makes you happy at work? Where is the sweetness within your day?”
In a competitive environment, it is imperative to be number one. This is not only true in one metric, or function, but in everything. If we do really well in one category, but not in two others, where do we spend our time? The sad thing is, if we do not nurture our win and celebrate, maybe all three metrics will go back down since we are so focused on things we are struggling with.
I am not proposing we should all think of the world as a perfect place, and not have drive to raise the bar. That is where Sthira is essential. Focus and steadiness in any business is key, and I am an individual that LOVES goals and results.
I am proposing we find a compromise, and that we do not forget the Sukham in everyday life. I have team members that are not comfortable. They are afraid. They are afraid to fail and they have lost the joy in what they do. Just as on the mat, if you are strong enough to do a handstand, but you are so afraid of going upside down, you will struggle to get up, and if you do, you will not enjoy it. Both Sthira and Sukham are needed for any activity, on and off the mat.
I still will use my ‘dammit doll', but before I offer it up, I am going to work on being a Sukham coach – helping others and myself find the sweetness and joy, in even the most difficult poses.
Where could you use a bit more Sthira in your life? How about some Sukham?
That is what my nurse said as he swabbed my hand trying to clean my finger, ready to test my blood. I looked down and realized for the first time, “Wow, my hands really are orange…”
To give a bit of background: I only eat plants, and that has been my diet for almost two years. I have never been healthier, my blood counts are the best they have ever been and I never get sick. Before changing my diet I was sick for a week every month and in college I had high cholesterol. I am a happy plant powered yogi and runner, but I am still working on creating the best on-the-go meals for a busy individual that only has a few minutes to eat at their job.
Flashback to a few weeks earlier: My solution – eating carrots for every snack and meal! I was sure to purchase organic, and they were more affordable than having other organic veggies. Plus I could easily carry them, eat them, and they didn’t always have to be refrigerated. I enjoyed the crunch, and I was so pleased with my savings on the grocery bill. I proudly showed my husband the empty bag, declaring I ate over 5 lbs. of carrots in less than a week!
Now lets get back to talking with my nurse: “I guess I shouldn’t eat over 5 lbs. of carrots every week.” He looked at me with great concern, as if I told him I consumed over 5 lbs. of ding dongs, “Oh, I don’t think that is good for you.”
We were at a work event, a biometric screening for employees, and I was the person that organized the event. While waiting for my numbers I became a bit frustrated. What on earth is wrong with eating a bunch of carrots?? Seriously, it isn’t like they are bad for you! It was then that I realized my issue – I was attached to my solution for a quick healthy meal, that even when my hands turned orange, I wasn’t able to see that maybe it was too much of a good thing.
A few minutes later the machine beeped and my results were given. The nurse took a look and said, ‘Wow, maybe you should keep eating a ridiculous amount of carrots, your results are amazing…” We had an awkward chuckle as I sat on my hands.
How many times in our life do we do something that is really good for us to the point where it throws other parts of our life or body out of balance? Sometimes even our best intentions can be too much. Perhaps we always need to go to a powerful yoga class, missing the other essential parts of the breath and being aware of our body. Maybe we are too caught up in being healthy, that we refuse to let go one night to enjoy a nice meal with family or friends.
The opposite can be true as well. We feel that if we are going to be fit, we need to be a size 2, and if not, why bother going to that yoga class, or eating healthy 80% of the time.
I am not a perfect example of balance (and I will never be a size 2), but that isn’t the quest either. Awareness and action to find a bit more of the middle, while still finding peace and health is.
I am holding off on eating carrots for every meal…maybe broccoli ever meal will do the trick instead, until I write my next blog post about beano. :)
I have heard and even said this phrase hundreds of times. Yet when times are tough, the winter will never end, you feel minimal support, and you may be in a difficult job or personal situation, it is hard to make gratitude happen.
There has been hundreds of studies on happiness, and most of them have concluded happiness is the outcome of gratitude, and not vise versa, but how do we get to that point, when it we find ourselves in a difficult spot?
I agree that 'fake it until you make it' is one way, but I also feel in our society we do not feel our current state of mind enough to move past it. When I am frustrated, disappointed, or just want to experiences something above 10 degrees, I do my best to ignore the feelings. I tell myself that isn’t being grateful and I shame myself for having these thoughts.
This isn’t productive – not only am I not being grateful, but I am belittling my feelings, diminishing my self worth.
Sometimes life sucks! The Buddha understood this by saying ‘life is suffering’. We cannot become grateful by withdrawing from the situation, or pretending it isn’t there. Instead, acknowledge your feelings. Feel it in your physical body, mind, emotional body, and energetic body. Really experience your feelings and thank yourself for taking a moment to really acknowledge your current state.
Only from this place, of true connectedness and awareness, can we work through our current situation and find gratefulness, and then happiness.
The next time you are in a difficult situation, I encourage you to not run from the feelings, but instead use your breath to connect to the situation with a deeper understanding. Thank yourself for really understanding your own feelings, and from there, work to find gratefulness.