Exploring Self Through Yoga

GingerIf you have ever been to a yoga class you have probably heard your teacher say “listen to your body” or “pay attention to your breath” or “honour your body” or something of the like.  To be honest when I first started participating I had no idea what these nutty teachers were talking about.  Listen to what? who? where?  I was so focused on looking the way everyone else looked or figuring out how to do one of those crazy push-ups (chaturanga) to realize that I had no idea how to listen to my body.

I approached yoga like I approached my running. Grin and bear it to get to the end! Initially it was more important to make it through a class and get a good sweat on than it was to pay attention to any of those “fluffy” things my teacher was saying. I mean really how do you  “listen” to a body anyways it can’t say anything.  Then one day it happened I heard it! I was doing my best at forcing my body into some crazy hand balance pose (Bakasana or crow) when I realized I full on wasn’t breathing. I was holding everything in so tight that I didn’t realize it was this misdirection of effort that was continuously knocking me out of the pose. I wasn’t listening to my body!

Many years later I began teaching yoga myself. I would find myself giving the same direction about listening to your body and your breath, while encouraging my students to find their personal edge.  Then it occurred to me…do they have any idea what it feels like to listen to their body? do they know what I mean when I say “find your edge”? or are they doing the exact same thing I was doing trying to do…win at yoga?

It was through this realization that I allowed me to modify my queuing, and *fingers crossed* this has helped my students. Yoga has afforded me the opportunity to not only explore through my solo practice but I have also been given the gift of teaching others and learning through their experience, breath and postures.  It is during these times of exploration and learning that I have found yoga to open me up to exploring alternative ways of absorbing new material and allows me to actually understand what my body is saying.

Now after that huge lead up…time to explain what I mean by our bodies talking.  Through my life as a runner and a poor food choice maker (is that a thing?) my body has told me things weren’t right but providing me with achy knees, eczema, a sore stomach, irritated bowels, and now you probably know more about me than you probably ever wanted to.  It was by not listening to these discomforts that I drove myself down deeper into this spiral of pain and unpleasantness. However, not sure if you are or ever have been on one of these spirals, over time my body stopped telling me what it didn’t agree with (probably because I told it to shut it so much with the use of antacids, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.).  After my body found its equilibrium again I started to feel “normal” so the next time I had some type of unpleasant flare up I once again blamed it on my body instead of what I was doing to my body.

How did yoga help with this? It gave me one single second.  It gave me a second here or there to just sit with my body.  It gave me the opportunity to learn that pain isn’t some type of punishment that my body is dealing out, but it is more like a memo. Once I was able to start slowing down, getting out of the mind set of winning at yoga I was able to listen.  Now, please don’t be mistaken, I am still a fairly competitive person (and in the worst way…you know one of those people that says they aren’t competitive but are) but I respect that part of me and use it to motivate me but understand that it isn’t always the right voice to listen to all the time.

So what, right? Who cares if I can understand what is up right? Well for one really care.  It is awesome to know that when my stomach acts up I should probably lay off the dairy or that when my yoga teacher is telling us to push deeper but listen to our breath I know what my breath should sound like for me.  It is awesome and empowering to know that achy knees means I need to build strength, that low energy means I should check how many veggies I am eating, that moving deeper into a pose might be right for some but it’s not right for me.  Yoga has taught me how to use those precious seconds in my life to learn a little bit more about myself and what my body needs.

So next time your yoga teacher says listen to your breath or your body use those seconds to listen and hear what your body is throwing your way, and then ride the wave of the positive benefits of the new connection.

Happy Thursday Everyone!

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It’s More than just Physical

Throughout my life I have struggled with accepting my own accomplishment and have even found it difficult at times to graciously accept a complement. Over the past few years this has been something I have really worked on about myself. Through my regular yoga practice, my running and my lifting I have found small and some not so small portions of my life that I was able to find tangible accomplishments as a way of practicing my gratitude.

Being able to assign a number, measurement or flexibility range to “progress” made it easier for me to physically observe and enjoy my accomplishments. Yet over time of doing this type if physical life based accomplishment/reward system I began to notice I was  obsessively tracking and I was missing out on all that my accomplishments could be.

20140420-100840.jpgI think for me when I began to go deeper into my yoga practice I started peeling off the superficial layers of my accomplishments and my view of them started to shift.  Sure it feels great to do a yoga pose I have always found challenging and adding another 20-50 pounds to a lift doesn’t feel so shabby either, but I began to realize it was more than just the physical. Yes, of course all my yoga practice is making my shoulders look great and those dead lifts are providing some perkiness to my butt, but this whole journey/ adventure has become so much more.

Over the past two years I have done detox diets, juice cleanses, insane workouts, yoga teacher training, etc. etc. But what really came out of all of this has been an incredible sense of self and confidence, something I had believed to be lost not too long ago.

20140716-080300-28980516.jpgIt has been through my exploration of my physical changes that I have learnt how to stop and take it all in and to at times turn inwards.  Sometimes these little journeys inward aren’t always the most fun thing in the world and this is likely why it has taken me so long to open up to the idea of self exploration in more than just a physical sense.

I think as humans it is easy for us to sit there looking at our external appearances and to judge (ourselves and others). I believe it takes some time to feel comfortable and confidence enough to stop and look at our person not as someone with a long yoga body or a six pack or a perfectly balanced macro diet, but as the sum of that and our nature, love and humanness.

Although my realization of this has not make the struggle to acknowledge this in myself much easier, it does provide me with the comfort of knowing there is much more than just my physical accomplishments.

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All of this to say it is important for all of us where ever we are in our lives to take a second  to honour who we are, what we have accomplished and all the good that we can do for others. Although our physical accomplishments demonstrate amazing resolve and determination they are not the sum of all of your parts.

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

Summer Time!

This summer seems like it is really trying to wrap itself up. I am definitely not ready for the warm weather and sun to be over though so hopefully time starts to slow down a little bit, so I can add in some more relaxing and outdoor time.   In the mean time this summer has been a super exciting one for me. I have wrapped up a handful of challenges and started new ones.

My goal this summer was to start getting myself out there and working a bit more to achieving my goals of teaching yoga in an established yoga studio.  I have been class time from a local studio since I received my yoga teacher certification but there is something comforting and encouraging about having the opportunity to be apart of a yoga studio and the yoga community in your hometown.

I am proud to say that this past month has brought with it many successes, one of which is having the opportunity to sub at a studio in our Byward Market here in Ottawa and another one happened this morning.  I had the opportunity today to be on a live news broadcast to tell everyone who was awake and tuned in this morning about my Rock n’ Roll yoga class.   It is something that I came up with before even heading off to Costa Rica for YTT and I am so happy I have the opportunity to share what it is all about with people through a new medium.

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A huge thank you to CTV Morning News Live and to Studio X Ottawa for giving me this fantastic opportunity to talk about something I love, and love to share with others. If you want to see the whole little segment click on the link (News Clip)

I also have one more surprise, but I am waiting for it to be announced officially before I share it with everyone here on my blog.  So stay tuned to find out what my other big adventure/opportunity is!

blissI am so excited and feeling so blessed and lucky for all these positive and awesome things that are seemingly happening all at once. Thank you for all the support from you my readers and from my friends and family.

Hope you are all having a glorious Tuesday!

 

Back Again – Recap

I have been dormant for a while and for that I apologize but I am back and trying to get back into the swing of blogging. The school year had been coming to a close which meant lots of reading and writing and studying. Now after a week of recovery and relaxation I am back to give you all a fun recap of the past little while.

20140716-080301-28981438.jpgBack in March I started school again, heading back with the goal of becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, since finishing my university degree years ago, heading back to school has been an interesting experience. I forgot just how exhausting using your brain on a regular basis could be, the program I am enrolled in is also a one year intensive so it is exactly that, intense.  But enough about school. I don’t have to think about that for another 10 weeks or so.

What have I been up to.  Well quite honestly school has taken up about 80% of my time, but in the mist of all that craziness I have managed to complete the 101 day Digestive Detox I started in the spring and I just wrapped up a 30 day yoga challenge with my yoga studio, so I thought figure I would do a little recap, and then I am hoping to start bringing you delicious recipes and fun workouts again really soon.

So the 101 days of clean eating is over and thank goodness.  It was great to know that I was able to remain 100% committed for the majority of the experiment, however it is even more fantastic to know that it is over!  I have discovered that I have a pretty good 80/20 balance and I am keen on committing to that.  I found that the full on 100% clean eating, no drinking etc. was a little too extreme and made me dig my heels in at some points.  But it is always great to push your boundaries to get to places that make you feel a little uncomfortable.  Now it is over and I am back to a nice balanced diet of healthy, live, fresh foods with the occasional glass of wine while sitting on my patio.

20140716-080301-28981108.jpgThe clean eating challenge wasn’t the only thing I was challenging myself with this spring, I also signed up for a 30 day detox yoga challenge.   Now this was an incredible experience.  After returning from my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica and enrolling in school I was finding it challenging to attend more than one or two yoga classes a week.  I realized that I wasn’t committing to myself, my personal development and my practice.   The 30 day challenge really helped me to refocus and to make my practice a priority.

20140716-080300-28980516.jpgMaking my own yoga practice a priority allowed me to be more creative with the classes I was creating for others and helped me to find a little clarity in the midst of school, training, half marathon training, my part-time jobs, family and friends.   This challenge also provided me a way to start becoming a part of the yoga community.   The studio I frequent here in Ottawa has a great yoga community but I always felt like I was in a rush so I never took the time to say hello and speak with others.  This challenge showed me that I have the time to say hello and make new friends.  I strongly recommend if your local yoga studio does a challenge like this you make the commitment to yourself and try it out.

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Now that all of the challenges are over I am settling back into my regular gym, running and yoga routine and enjoying the outdoors as much as possible.   I have also started teaching my first outdoor fitness class and it has to date been a complete blast!

All in all I am happy to say it is officially summer for me. I get some time to relax and rest before school starts up again in September, I get to do some yoga outside on Parliament hill and in my yoga studio and I have a half marathon to look forward to in August.  In the mean time I am going to be spending time catching up on my personal reading and spending time in the sun.

20140716-080301-28981809.jpgHappy Humpday everyone!

Question:  What types of recipes and workouts would you like to see in the future?

Football

Yesterday I had the incredible pleasure of teaching a group of 20-25 young football players some yoga.  Most of them didn’t quite know what yoga was all about and like most people out there (I did at least) assumed yoga was for wimps and hippies.  The group of boys was between the ages of 17 and 19 and despite their maybe preconceived notions of what yoga was all about they were all more than willing to jump in and try something new.

I am currently in my 7th month of teaching yoga on a regular basis and not that I don’t love all of my classes, but this one was so much fun.   Not only was it a nice big class, it was full of a bunch of young athletes looking to help improve their “game” so to speak.  This class also helped to highlight to me the differences in each of our bodies.

20140512-085153.jpgAfter teaching a couple yoga classes full of yoga enthusiasts you can start to get lost and start thinking that everyone can touch their toes or that chaturunga really isn’t that difficult, because those that practice on a regular basis have a way of making these things look simple. With this group of boys there was so much variety in flexibility, strength, endurance and focus.  It was so fascinating to my teacher side to see each of them put in as much effort as they could afford and to find their own personal edges when it came to holding poses.

My only regret about last night’s class was not snapping a picture of them doing, what was most of their, first yoga class in the grass.  They were definitely troopers putting up with the mosquito for the evening, and trying something that was maybe outside of their comfort zone.   I can’t wait to have more opportunities to teach them yoga and hopefully help them out in the area of injury prevention.

I hope everyone is having a great week so far and that you have all had the chance to enjoy some of the beautiful spring weather (hopefully you are all getting nice weather too!).

Happy Thursday!

 

Monday Motivator

Well folks it is Monday once again. I hope you have all had a wonderful weekend and hopefully had some time to get outside sit under the sun and recharge your batteries. Now it is Monday and it is time to refocus (for me at least) get your plan ready and get ready for the week.

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I have recently signed up for a 30 day yoga challenge with my studio and I can’t wait for a the challenge and having the opportunity to be involved in a fun community building activity like this.

Sometimes in order to motivate yourself you need to become a part of a community to pull additional support and energy from other like minded individuals. Personally I feel like I really need this type of motivation to stay on track as the weather starts warming up so I am definitely excited to get started on this adventure. So for this week to keep me on track for my personal goals I am going to take this excitement and run with it.

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I wish you all a great Monday and a great week.

How are you getting yourself motivated this Monday?

Dealing with Discouragement

Discouraged, disheartened, exhausted, at a loss, etc. There are so many ways to describe the feeling of being lost, tired and not sure what your next steps should be. Like workout and eating healthy the motivation for getting the life you want can wane over time. It is in these moments that we have to dig deep and remember what we are doing, why we are doing it, and yes re-assess some of our decisions.

It is great to put all of your energy into something, but if you are putting out a lot of energy into something with little to no return it is good to stop, sit down and re-assess your action plan. Much like losing weight, if you kick your butt in the gym but you are still going home to eat a medium pizza afterwards the likelihood of seeing substantial progress is pretty low. Same with school, you can study your heart out but if you are focusing on the wrong material you aren’t going to get the grades you want to receive. So our life gives us these little checks to make us stop and take stock in what is going on.

20140501-055010.jpgSo it was after a recently humbling moment that I had to actively remind myself of a couple of things:

1. Was I actually giving it my all or were there aspects of my effort that weren’t 100%?

2.  If I was giving it my absolute all I had to now let go of the outcome and allow what was meant to happen to happen.

After sitting down and asking myself question #1 I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t giving it 100% I was maybe giving it 70-80% which is only enough to be kind of successful at something and definitely not enough effort to get me what I want. Then I had to remind myself that working myself up about what might or might not happen is not serving me, nor is it serving the outcome.  So it is best to let go of the stress I cause myself for wanting perfection and instant success and instead place my effort and energy into working towards the best possible outcome.

So my new self challenge will be to be sure I am putting all the effort I am able to into my success and to releasing myself from the worry and stress of the outcome and trusting that all the effort I have placed in my projects, life, and work will be compatible with the outcome.

Is this type of stressing something you do?  Does your desire to have a perfect outcome sometimes cloud your assessment of the actual amount of effort you have put into something?  How do you keep your head on straight during all of this?

Happy Thursday!