This past week, for the first time in many, many moons I attended a yoga class. I took it easy and made sure to pop in for a restorative class. When I got to the studio, I met Marvin, a soft spoken, gentleman with a curious motherly nature about him. He would be leading the class. I instantly felt glad I came, which was a nice a respite from the guilt I had carried with me on the 10 minute walk over there. I mean, I had conveniently “skipped” yoga class for about five months. A part of me felt like an imposter.
My fellow practitioners were not the usual yogi bunch I’m accustomed to seeing at this place. These were not the Lululemon-clad perfect girls I silently envy from my lowly Target-brand mat. You know who I’m talking about. This girl:
No, these were regular folks, just like me. Because I’m competitive (and maybe a bit judgey) this put me at ease. I hoisted my butt onto my block, sat cross-legged, and got ready to get my “ohm” on. Yes, honey. Even though the room was crowded, I soaked it all in: the soft lighting, the darkness, the beautiful mantras gently playing in the background. I suddenly missed the sweet sanctity of this space. Why the hell had I not been in over five months? This was awesome!
Around minute 60, I began to remember. Here’s the general list.
Reasons Why I Hate Yoga:
- I can’t do fancy handstands, or the splits, or hold my leg up next to my shoulder. This makes me feel awkward and unsexy.
- Class is 90 whole minutes long.
- Ninety minutes is too long because around minutes 45-50, I get squirmy. Sometimes my squirminess is physical, but almost always it is mental. I want to hurry up with the poses so I can get to shavasana and be done with it. Slow and steady is not in my yogic vocabulary.
- It’s quiet in there. And quiet space means thoughts, and worries, and to-do lists pop up in my little monkey brain. This makes me feel trapped in my skin. Incidentally, the yoga instructors know this, because they always remind us to drop our worries and concerns while in these ungodly poses, and this makes me feel angry. Because I can’t.
- While in shavasana, I want to be left alone. But I’m not left alone, because by the time shavasana rolls around, I’ve got at least 15 things on my mind that suddenly need attention this very minute and my only inclination is to run for the door as soon as that last “shanti” is hummed out. I try to manage this unsettling urgency and focus on my breathing, but that’s not always easy because there is a teacher walking around the room insisting that I instead focus on my leg and then let it melt into the floor.
- Just about the time I think I’ve got the monkey brain to settle down, I’m interrupted by the sound of my teacher telling me to return to my body.
All of these things happened to me during class last week, except for Number 1. I was not subjected to any stupid human tricks and thus felt good about my novice form (save that for the All Levels night). Numbers 2-6, however, were there driving me secretly crazy. It’s the reason I can’t justify the two hours of my day it takes to attend a class and why I’ve been absent for nearly half a year. It’s also precisely why I need to start a regular practice ASAP.
A lovely article entitled The Yoga of Darkness touches on many of the issues I’ve come to know from my yoga experience. See, I want to be one of those peaceful, glowing girls with killer arms and the ability to contort into a pretzel, but I’m not. And taking a couple yoga classes per week for six weeks or so isn’t going to transform me into one. That’s about the point I quit and move on to running or couch sitting. You know what they don’t tell you when you toy with the idea of starting a yoga practice? Shit gets real.
When you start a meditation or yoga practice, at some point, you’re forced to turn inward. This is not always a pleasant task, and frequently, what we see ain’t pretty. Every single thing I hate about yoga is rooted in this. As a society, we’ve gotten very good at anesthetizing ourselves with whatever we can get our hands on: booze, sex, relationships, cigarettes, food, drugs (pick your poison). I’m no exception. Yoga directly challenges my inner escape artist, and so when I’m in class, my monkey brain turns saboteur and that ego starts in on me in a way I can’t handle. I don’t come back to class for months at a time because it is uncomfortable and dark and ugly to deal with that part of myself, so I’d rather not. And because I’ve chosen not to, very little significant change ever enters my life.
Many spiritual gurus and practitioners will tell you (and I am paraphrasing here) that you can’t circumvent your own bullshit. You gotta go straight through it. Get knee deep in it. Confront it. That’s the only way we can ever really change. So if that means I go back to holding unnatural poses and wailing against the total lack of distraction from my squirrely, monkey brain, then so be it. I’m going to enter the muck and see what happens. If I stick it out, get past the current obstacles, and realize I still don’t like yoga, then that’s just what it will be. But maybe a yoga practice, no matter how uncomfortable, will be a catalyst for change. Hell, maybe I’ll even get a six pack and killer handstand out the deal. It’s worth a shot.
I’ve decided to do better with my little “Love” cleanse by revving up the first component: showing mySELF some love. Now, in the past, that’s always meant material rewards, things or services I could buy in order to make me happy. And whereas yes, a fancy pants massage or a new pair of boots (hey Fall fashion!) would certainly make me smile in the moment, I’m a woman on a budget and a mission. No, I have to think more long term.
My first little gift to self is an apropos play on words, but something I’ve been noticing a complete lack of these days – presence. Yes, presence. That ever elusive here and now that despite all logic slips away so naturally from the majority of us. Have you ever stopped to take notice of all the moments, minutes, or even hours in a given day you waste on thinking about the past, worrying about some unknown future, or even engaging in pleasantries such as daydreaming? The latter, especially with a love life being led exclusively through Skype and Viber, has been consuming the bulk of my free time lately. I honestly think I might be approaching some record for total amount of time distracted from what’s happening right now, by what did or will go on. Why do I do it? I can’t say for certain. What I can tell you is that sometimes that present moment I tend to neglect is scary – especially for an over-thinking, budding New Yorker like myself. It’s real. At times, it’s lonely. Often, it’s just really, really… quiet.
I think it’s about time I get out of my own head and into the world. In order to do that, I’ve decided every day to give myself a little pep talk, some mantra action if you will. And the mantra is this:
Yes, this tiny, two syllable reminder is a bit transcendental. Visions of monkish garb and gentle breezes sitting cross legged under an ancient oak tree spring to mind. Yet, its value rings true. If we (or I) continue to live in the past or future, we’re going to wake up old and gray one day and wish we’d been smarter with our time. And that is why I believe I just might live a longer and happier life if I start embracing what’s happening right now, rather then relive any number of past unpleasantries or get lost in some yet-to-happen wonderful future. It’s curious to me how both can manage to hurt.
There are few things more punishing than dwelling on a mistake you can’t take back or getting swept up in some fantasy that makes your current life feel disappointing and empty. Sometimes the very act of “snapping” out of such daydreams and remembering feels like a crash. Boom! You’re back in the now. And it’s quiet. And it doesn’t actually contain anything because you’ve ignored it. (Cue the Netflix).
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it well: ” With the past, I have nothing to do; nor the future. I live now.”
I hear you, Ralph. Challenge accepted! Here’s the game plan:
Each day, I’m going to give myself the gift of presence by catching myself in all these little trips down memory lane or girlish daydreams. Then I’m going to do the following:
1. Fixated on something unpleasant from the past? Stop. Recognize where my head is at, and ask a simple question: “What in this moment, here and now, is wrong?” Nine times out of ten, the answer is – “nothing.” In fact, unless you are being robbed, injured, or threatened, the answer should be “nothing.” There are too many crazy things in this world to keep dwelling on nonsense like a regrettable text or an opportunity that didn’t go your way.
2. Daydreaming of nice houses, or fabulous careers, or long overdue kisses, or vacations to places I’ve never been? Stop. Ask, “What’s good and wonderful right now?” Even when I’m squished against strangers on the subway, I can usually find at least one thing – a giggling toddler, a couple being sweet to one another. And then be grateful for it and keep it moving. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, but there is a line between dreaming and doing. I’m much more interested in pursuing the latter and it can’t be done in any other moment than the present.
Simple right? Not exactly. You know this, and I know this. Sorry, Echkart Tolle, I have yet to wake up and instantly be unburdened from the past and future. It’s going to take work, but nothing worth doing is easy. I don’t want to catch myself tomorrow regretting what did not happen today. So whether I discover some peace and quiet, or make some space for creativity, or even have to exist in some temporary discomfort – at least it will be real.
So here’s to the now! May it always be surprising and great.
I’m back! I haven’t been blogging or writing for some time now, primarily, I think due to a range of life changes and general ebbs and flows over the past several months. I’m pretty much convinced that I have some form of motivational ADHD, and thus am prone to abandoning personal projects, only to pick them back up again like sparkly, shiny things. It’s something I’m working on.
BUT… that’s neither here nor there. I’m writing again and I’m starting off with an introduction to what I am affectionately calling my “Love Cleanse”, a four-week reboot.
No, this is not a special diet. I am not eliminating any particular vice or food. I’m not starving myself and inducing unworldly headaches onto my body by consuming nothing but juice or lemon water with cayenne pepper or whatever else is hip this month (although I will admit to attempting a one day juice cleanse – no thank you, folks). This isn’t about that. This is about balance, and a plane ticket.
I guess it all started because I realized that in order to maintain my presently very long distance relationship, I was going to need funds for plane tickets and such. I also realized that in order to preserve my sanity in the meanwhile (because I miss the hell out of him), and as a generally good practice, I need to engage in better habits. To be totally honest, lately I’ve been feeling spiritually, physically, and mentally lethargic. Solution? Find a way to show myself some love (first and foremost), my bank account some love, and well (with the aid of a plane ticket), my man some love.
I started by defining my “wasters” in the key categories of my life that I was not satisfied with: money, health, and mind. I drew a chart somewhat like this:
When coming up with a list of solutions, I determined three criteria for how to make this all work. My solutions had to be:
- Realistic (no promises I couldn’t keep),
- Effective (i.e. produce actual results),
- And just beyond my comfort zone to promote a change in habit
After a little budgeting and soul searching, here’s what I decided on:
|Money Solutions||Health Solutions||Mind Solutions|
So there you have it! I didn’t sit down with the intention of starting a personal revolution. There was no “Come to Jesus” moment in the planning process, but sometimes even small steps can make big waves. In another month, when I’m back from Trinidad, I’ll re-evaluate and test my boundaries further to see how much more I can grow and improve. For the next four weeks, this is my little hill to climb.
At the top, I plan to find some peace of mind and a very tall, very missed, and very loved man waiting for me.
Forgive the cheesy title, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Okay, so bees and I have always had a curious relationship. I don’t run and scream like a little girl when they come buzzing by, but few small creatures have had the ability to make me hold my breath and freeze up like a statue as the mighty bee.. I’m also aware that if they go, life as we know it ceases to exist. They’re important. So in that regard, I’ve always respected them. Recently, however, I’ve found even more reason to respect this vital little insect: bee pollen.
I feel like every week those of us in the holistic community who like to geek out on this stuff hear about the latest and greatest “perfect super food”, but bee pollen has some incredible benefits that even the health skeptic can potentially get behind. I’ve been trying it out for a couple weeks now, and definitely noticed a difference in my energy level and focus.
A warning: one teaspoonful of bee pollen takes a honeybee 8 hours a day for an entire month to make, so consume with gratitude.
So what’s the quick and dirty on bee pollen? Here it goes. Let’s talk benefits. Bee pollen has all of the following:
- It’s 40% protein
- It contains 22 amino acids, including 8 essential ones which makes it a very lovely and complete protein
- Loads of vitamins including B-complex and folic acid
- Does a wonderful job regulating nutritional imbalances in the body
The science is still being explored behind the extent to which bee pollen actually benefits human beings, but many of the suggested uses are nothing to scoff at. Holistic practitioners have been using bee pollen for years to treat a variety of health issues with excellent results, so there’s no harm in giving it a go (unless you have a bee allergy in which case, avoid to be on the safe side).
Bee Pollen Uses & Treatments
- Allergies and asthma – Bee pollen is said to reduce the presence of histamines which helps with both of these conditions
- Eczema and skin rashes – Amino acids help with the regeneration of cells, which is important in the battle against skin diseases
- Increased energy level and performance – B vitamins, baby!
- Depression and alcoholism – It’s been suggested that many of the amino acids found in bee pollen help restore balance to our brain chemistry. Bee pollen contains tryptophan which functions as a natural anti-depressant, tyrosine (also linked to aiding depression), and methionine which is said to reduce withdrawal symptoms in the brain.
- Digestive problems – Bee pollen contains enzymes which aid in digestion and benefit our precious gut flora.
- Cardiovascular problems – Bee pollen contains Rutin, an antioxidant that helps strengthen capillaries and blood vessels which helps correct high cholesterol levels and lower risks for heart attack and stroke
So where do you go buy bee pollen these days and what’s the best way to consume it? You can get it in capsule or tablet form, but granule form is best. Take no more than 1 teaspoon a day. When looking for a good granule type, check for color consistency. More variety in color means more variety in sources, which you typically want to avoid. You can find bee pollen in most health food stores. The granule form should be in the refrigerated section. If you’re really feeling adventurous and eco-friendly, going straight to the source is best, a.k.a your local bee keeper. Check out the folks selling honey at your local farmer’s market and see what kind of deals you can strike. Bee pollen is also found in organic raw honey (key word: raw). You’ve got a variety of options to choose from!
As with anything new, start with a few granules to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions to the pollen and slowly up your dosage to a teaspoon-full. Once your body gives you the green light, enjoy the benefits!
Goals and dreams are big, heavy things at times. It can be hard to come down from that cloud, get grounded, and find the right level of perspective to actually see these things through to fruition. That’s why every year on January 1st, we say things like “I’m quitting smoking” or “I’m going to work out” or “I’m going to leave my job and become a (fill in the blank).” It is exhilarating to say these things. You feel lighter. The world is suddenly open and kind and in full support of you
Until it isn’t.
Because with all things in the land of goals and dreams, stumbling, stagnation, and even quitting are very real, and dare I say, very likely. So what does that mean? Do we all stop dreaming and join the rat race, falling in line like good little soldiers? Well, we can, and many of us ultimately do, but we can also get realistic and start chipping away at these lofty dreams of ours one month at a time.
Thirty-day goals are brilliant for a couple of reasons:
- They are smaller, and don’t feel as daunting/scary/impossible/insert terrible emotional word here.
- Thirty days is just enough time to get something significant done that can show you some level of results and make you feel good about yourself.
- Thirty days is a good amount of time to lay the foundation for a habit. By in large, the “it only takes 21 days to form a habit” myth has been debunked. However, that doesn’t mean you haven’t taken a big first step.
- Thirty days is a reasonable length of time to push and challenge yourself and is more immediate than the things we want “in one year” or “in five years”. It’s actually attainable.
Big picture dreams and goals can get pretty terrifying, especially if you’re a long ways away from that finish line. So take your life and your dreams thirty days at a time and see if you’re able to get more accomplished. You want to write a book? Fabulous! Commit to completing one full chapter this month and then go from there. You want to lose 30 pounds? You will. But this month, you’re going to lose seven pounds and commit to the gym three times per week.
Goals are important because they motivate and energize us, giving our lives a sense of purpose and direction. They make us happy. Without them, we become shiftless, empty beings going through the motions and occasionally lamenting what could’ve been and what will never been. Most of us, I would argue, are stuck somewhere in the middle. So let’s get unstuck. For the next 30 days, I’m going to work out a minimum of 5 days per week because I feel like my energy and spirits have been low lately and, well, bikini season is soon upon us. It’s kind of a win-win. I have this long-term vision of what I want my fitness level to be and my body to look like, but whenever I work out, the reality of just how out of shape I am sets in and that vision feels impossible and too far. That’s when the motivation tanks and I don’t work out again for at least a week or two. So I’ve decided to stop worrying about that long-term vision so much. I’ll keep it in mind, sure, but my focus for right now is the next thirty days and making exercise a part of my daily life. It’s a start, and there are days it will probably suck, but it’s going to feel really good in June when I accomplish it and can actually begin to see (and feel) the fruits of my labor.
What about you? What will you accomplish thirty days from now?