From a student of yoga

About two weeks ago, I showed up for a Steady Vinyasa level 1-2 class that attend regularly, and there was a last minute substitute teacher for the class. I knew a little bit about his teaching style and that it is not something I would actively seek out. Nonetheless, I looked at it as an adventure – a chance to explore something new. I tried not to have any judgments that would impact the experience before actually having the experience.

I am generally not a fan of what is typically referred to as “power yoga.” It’s just not my thing. I prefer a slower flow where I can maintain my breath, build strength in my body, sweat (plenty), and experience the mental release and meditative side of yoga.  This is also the reason I have no desire to try Bikram. If power yoga is your thing – great. Everyone is different, and I think it’s important that everyone find what works for them when it comes to physical and mental fitness. I’m not here to argue that power yoga is some culturally appropriated perversion of true yoga because I frankly don’t know enough to argue that, and realistically, any yoga class at a chain studio in the U.S. has some level of that. What I will assert is that a power yoga class is a fitness class disguised by phrases like, “Send your love to someone who needs it” or “Offer a prayer for that person you thought of at the beginning of class.” That was the last thing I was thinking about between the speed of the flow, and the poses being cued (a level 1-2 class normally does not include more than one forearm plank to dolphin pose, half moon, warrior 3, and multiple arm balances and inversions). This was not a level 1-2 class, not even close, and there was nothing “steady” about it.

I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for almost two years. I’m no sissy. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my own strength and capabilities of my body over and over again, and sometimes I can be found feeling my biceps for fun (because the novelty of having muscles I can feel has not dissipated yet). I’m strong and active, but I thought I was going to barf or pass out around minute 45, and I slumped into child’s pose for a bit to save everyone from having to scrape me off the floor.

I left the class in a worse mood than when I got there, which is the last thing that should happen after yoga. I thought about how that would have made me feel when I was just starting my practice. I got hooked on yoga because of the mental benefits I experienced. The physical benefits are a perk, but I was looking for something to ease anxiety and insomnia. And this is not unusual for yoga practitioners. When I started doing yoga, I was struggling with some social anxiety, as well, which made it very difficult to go to class sometimes. There could have been someone in that class who is like I was when I started, self conscious and scared of being seen. Going into a class like that would have been devastating for me as a beginner. Maybe I would have gone back, but I also may not have.

I felt a lot of resentment toward that instructor, and that is a weird thing to feel toward a yoga teacher. He had to have known how the class was advertised on the schedule, right? So as a student of yoga, who preaches its benefits to friends and family regularly, I plead that instructors take care to teach the class that the students came to be in, and I don’t feel that is asking too much. The physical and mental safety of your students and the future of their practice may depend on it.

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Namaste.

I guess it’s a New Year

I do not enjoy New Year’s Resolutions. I do not enjoy goal-setting in the way that it’s often discussed. I think it leads to a lot of disappointment because we set goals that we don’t know how to achieve and then wrack our brains to figure out what went wrong. We want to lose 20 pounds or save money. Okay, but how? And I’m guilty of this, too. Everyone is. Regardless of how I feel about this custom, I always seem to turn to self-improvement this time of year. It’s a natural thing for us to do. I begin to think about what happened last year and how I can make this year better. Keeping that in mind, I’ve obviously been thinking about the upcoming year and how I can make it better than the last by building on what I’ve already done and the things I know will offer me growth as a human.

Here we go!

Yoga goals

 This might be the only area where I’ll make a quantitative goal, and that is to get to a minimum of 3 classes a week this year or at least an average of that. By ensuring a consistent practice, I can only benefit. The amount of quality sleep I get far surpasses the sleep I got a year ago. I’m happier, my mind is quieter in the moments I need it to be, and I have strength in my body I didn’t know I could have.

There are some things that I still struggle with when I go to class. I found a studio that I love this year, and eventually, I could see myself teaching. I have a tendency to retreat and try to be as anonymous as possible, even though I see the same teachers and students all the time. I have a hard time embracing the community aspect of this practice. It’s an introvert thing, I guess. I have wanted to expand my social circle for a while, and this seems as good a way as any. Making friends as an adult is hard, and I have a place that is not work that provides that opportunity. I should take advantage of that.

Money

If I ever want to do ANYTHING exciting, I need to be a lot smarter about money. I eat out too much, particularly during the work week. I buy coffee in the morning instead of using the coffee maker I have in my kitchen. I have a bad habit of ordering in whenever Harrison is gone in the evening because I hate cooking for one. It’s such a waste of money. I’ve made some progress the first two weeks of the year. I’ve packed breakfast (because I definitely don’t get up early enough to sit and eat breakfast pre-work) and lunch at least three days a week, and I’ve made coffee at home about the same number of days. I’ve only ordered in once, and I made two meals out of it. I have a good stock of things in the pantry that are simple meals for one that I can eat when Harrison is not here. The challenge here is to avoid slipping back into old habits.

Books! 

Last year, I read more than the year before. I’d like to simply continue that trend and also read consistently through the whole year instead of letting it taper off around June. I’m not a crazy ferocious reader like some people. I was browsing the blogosphere, and saw someone who read 9 books in the month of December. Who has time for that? I love reading, and I love to learn. But I also have a full-time job and other things I want to do. I also enjoy television as an art form. Yes, I said art form… and also as a way to turn my brain off when I need to.

You can become my friend on Goodreads or look to the right and see what I’m reading.

Complement and congratulate 

I am incredibly even keel in my day to day. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I do think it’s a product of my incredible ability to go through the motions and not really pay attention to what’s happening around me. I’m really good at showing up, but I’m not the best at expression of feelings. So, things happen to people I’m close to, and I act like it’s just any other thing. I don’t know if this is a flaw, but it might be. People deserve to be complimented for good work and congratulated when something awesome happens. Doesn’t mean I have to had these out to everyone, but I should do it more.

Be present and reflect

 As I mentioned above, I’m really good at going through the motions, but I don’t feel like I let experiences penetrate the surface. Things just happen, and then I move on. Granted, most of my days are painfully boring. But how much is just passing by without a second thought. So I’m going to try this Bullet Journaling thing and see how that goes. Remember what your teachers told you? Writing things down helps you remember. I can barely remember what I did this morning, and I think that’s because I just move without experiencing. Every picture of Bullet Journals I see on the internet looks really pretty and artsy. I don’t think mine will look that nice, but we’ll see.

Things I’d like to reintroduce to myself this year:

  1. Cross-stitching- It’s the only crafty thing I’ve ever been decent at, it can include swear words if you so choose, AND it makes a really good (and inexpensive) gift.
  2. Music- I’ve become a bit lazy about keeping up on new music, which is a little embarrassing for someone with a Music Industry Studies degree.
  3. Some sort of creative outlet…or maybe I’ll try to make this thing better. I miss performing, but I need something that feels right.
  4. Activism because Trump is what happens when we become complacent. See you at the Women’s March next week, Denver.

I didn’t know this is what I needed

If you recall (the two of you who have read this since the beginning), at the end of last year, I made a few goals for myself. One thing that I wanted to accomplish was to do more yoga. I have struggled so much with yoga in the past, but it was something I really wanted to figure out how to enjoy.

That was my first mistake- trying to figure it out. But that’s how my brain works. I took a personality test a few months ago, and my result was “Logistician.” I’m the kind of person who scoffs at the internet memes posted by yogis on Facebook. You know- the ones with uplifting quotes on a background of a grassy field at sunrise with the perfect Instagram filter. I ask why…. a lot. If something is “good for you,” I need someone to give me the reason it’s good for me using citable fact. It’s obnoxious, I know.

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What I’ve realized is that most things take on a different meaning for everyone, and this is no different. And another thing- THAT’S OKAY! I really struggled with what I was supposed to be feeling when I practiced yoga. I had been occasionally practicing yoga in my apartment using a YouTube video as a guide, and maybe I would find it in myself to go to a class about every 6 months. I couldn’t get excited about it. I couldn’t get over my anxiety about being good at it or not. Then one day, something clicked when I went to a yoga class taught by a friend of mine after a night of battling insomnia. On that particular day, it offered a kind of focus and control that I needed to feel better. (You’d think I’d have figured out how to feel like a human on little sleep at this point, but I definitely haven’t.) That class, the sense of belonging and community that my friend offers to her students was a game changer for me. I was instantly hooked. I started going to class once a week, then twice a week, and now I catch a class as often as I can, and I crave it.

To be honest, it was a little bit surprising that I suddenly had this thing that I desired to put work into. I haven’t felt that way about anything in a really long time. It didn’t come without challenges, and it still doesn’t. I still bargain with myself every time I head to class. Sometimes, as I sit in a room before class begins and look around at the thin and athletic people there, I have the urge to bolt for the door. I am neither thin or athletic, and I never have been. But then I stay. Sometimes I’ll lay on my mat and close my eyes and remember that this time is about me and no one else. I’m reminded that I have a friend who teaches this stuff, and she thinks I’m awesome and have great form. Ha!

There are days my body doesn’t do the things I want it to. My hips lock up, my feet cramp, or I can’t fold over and grab my feet as comfortably as I could yesterday. I get frustrated because I’m the “Logistician,” and I just want things to work. It’s all part of the ride, and unlike most things in my life, I’m somehow okay with it when things don’t go the exact way I want them to. It’s all about how I respond to it, which is something I can take with me.

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I’ve only been practicing yoga consistently for about 6 months. I’ve noticed changes both physically and mentally in ways that are more noticeable than any other period of my life. I have muscles I didn’t know were hiding under my skin. Sometimes I make Harrison feel my biceps- just for fun. I feel strong in my body like I never have, and I like that. I have a better relationship with sleep than I used to. I still fight insomnia sometimes, but far less often than I used to.

The mental changes I’ve noticed have been far more surprising than the physical mostly because of what I said before about scoffing at the uplifting memes. I still do that, and I probably will for a long time, maybe forever. I make unfair assumptions, I’m cranky sometimes, I’m cautious and sometimes suspicious of most people. I’ve been described as negative and misanthropic (mostly by people that don’t know me very well or as a joke, so I try not to let that get to me). I know people who are more comfortable being unhappy than happy, don’t do anything to help themselves, and subsequently make everyone around them miserable. I do not want to be that person. I want to be someone who respects others, treats people with kindness, and has the capacity for compassion and empathy. I am becoming the person I want to be – day by day, class by class. What I’ve realized in the last few months is that being nice does doesn’t mean that you can’t have boundaries, and being open is not same thing as being naïve. Being happy does not mean you can’t take time to recognize the unhappy feelings. Being positive does not mean that you can’t also be realistic and logical. Yoga has allowed me a safe environment to work through my personal shit in a way that I completely doubted could be effective for me. What I’m saying is that all the angry and sad people should probably try yoga.

Also, my sister (she plays soccer) said to me, “I’m running the whole time when I play soccer. You’re just standing.” I’ll let you know what happens when I get her to a class. It’s going to be AWESOME.