This is my yoga now

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For weeks now, my left shoulder and left hip have been bothering me both on and off the mat.

The hip has been problematic for a few months – ever since I changed studios and amped up my class frequency, actually – but the shoulder really kicked in during teacher training, when all the sloppily-done Chaturangas finally did me in.

I haven’t really practiced in a few weeks. That’s the most I’ve ever gone without yoga since I began to take regular classes a couple of years ago. I’ve been working with a Corrective Exercise Therapist (and she’s fantastic if you want a referral), and while the shoulder is getting better in spurts, I’m not making much progress with the hip (which by the way, got worse after my half marathon).

I may not finish my teacher training after all. Continue reading

The un-glorification of busy

1947549_887313647986875_4493608073950915997_nI started training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago – or at the very least, I started running a few miles a week again, with my longest run being 5 miles, and a couple of three-milers thrown in during the week just to get back in the habit.

This is all in addition to three days a week of yoga, of course, which on weeks like this one (I had a business trip to New Orleans that threw me off schedule), means I’m doubling up on running and yoga on Saturday and Sunday. Continue reading

Tight hamstrings and unexpressed emotions

10369867_882883995096507_3644969196834567357_nI ordered my yoga teacher training books from Amazon, and even though our sessions don’t start until late March, I started reading them this week. There will be a lot going on in my life between March 28th and May 30th, what with my teacher training program and the Half Marathon I impulsively signed up for, and for once I wanted to make sure I got a head start on what I needed to do.

Most of the books focus on philosophy and history of yoga, but a couple zero in on human anatomy and how certain poses affect certain muscles. Not having had any exposure whatsoever to biology or any other natural sciences, I am particularly intrigued by that portion of the curriculum.

We talk in yoga about how we (we human beings) carry tension or emotions in our muscles. Some of us carry fear and sorrow in our shoulders, while others store anger and frustration in their hips.

Negative emotions and experiences become trapped in our tissues, and yoga is a method for wringing those emotions out. As you change your body, you also change your outlook and perspective on life, letting go of past experiences that no longer serve you.

I read somewhere that for many people, tight hamstrings Continue reading

Yoga as a source of anxiety

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My first attempt at painting, three weeks ago.

A friend of mine recently brought this blog post to my attention. The author asks a question I’ve explored a little bit myself – does yoga ‘cure’ anxiety, and conversely, can it produce it?

It might help for me to take a small step back and retell how my anxiety began to manifest itself, how I overcame my worst period of anxiety and panic to date, and why yoga helps me keep my anxious thinking from building up.

At the peak of my anxiety Continue reading

A few words about vulnerability

I have a hard time making myself vulnerable. Fully vulnerable.

I don’t mean that I have a hard time opening up or being transparent. I’m very free with what I share with people – my flaws, my failures, my insecurities, my inflated sense of self-esteem. No qualms about revealing my anxiety, my phobias – things that I didn’t even realize until recently other people keep as closely guarded secrets.

My quirks don’t make me feel in the least bit vulnerable. I’m indifferent to general opinion or how my flaws will shape other people’s views of me. After all, I know something about their flaws too. That they have them. That we ALL have them, and mine are no better and no worse than anybody else’s.

I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. But only for the most part, as it would seem.

Yesterday, my yoga teacher was talking about vulnerability during class. How she craves a connection with people, but is terrified when she feels one. Continue reading

The gift of generalized anxiety

Photo Credits: Alex Castillo Photography

Photo Credits: Alex Castillo Photography

A more somber post than usual, I’m afraid.

I had news of someone’s unexpected death today. He was someone who, while not very close to me personally, was close to many of my loved ones, and who left his family and friends much sooner than they were prepared for (as is always the case when just about anyone makes their departure, I suppose). He was a very good man and many people will miss him. I’m really sorry for his loss.

I’ve been hearing a lot about people’s passing recently. Enough to really catch my attention. At work, among my friends, on Facebook…. even in yoga this morning our instructor was telling us about the death of her dear friend who’d finally lost a valiant battle to cancer, leaving behind two nearly grown children who will no doubt miss their mother even as they move on with their lives.

Continue reading

Struggling with my own inner critic

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I’ve noticed a disturbing trend within myself.

I’ve never been one to hide my imperfections. I’m the first to laugh at myself when I fall, make a mistake, say something stupid or do something embarrassing. I LOVE retelling my embarrassing stories for the amusement of friends, family and strangers.

I started this blog to convince people to try yoga – especially people who, like me, struggle or have struggled with anxiety and depression, and who can benefit from the surge of endorphins and other lovely brain juices that yoga helps you release. My goal is to help people who are unhappy – with their lives, with themselves, with their circumstances – find a positive outlet for their frustrations.

Early on I recognized, though, that trying new things – yoga included – can be intimidating for folks. Ultimately it boils down to a fear of failure – I’m not going to try it, because I’m afraid I won’t be good at it. OR, I’m not going to try it because it’s not for people like me.

Everything I do on here is about showing that you don’t have to be “good” at it, or be flexible, or a hippie vegetarian to experience the benefits. And frankly, I love yoga (obviously) but the real core message I want to transmit is that finding something that keeps you active and out of your own head can go a long way toward creating positive mental health.

Writing here, though, has made it clear to me I’m not as accepting of my imperfections as I would I like to be (or more like, as I would like people to think I am).

I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for two years now, and fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve learned a few things about what the postures should look like. So now when I look at my own pictures (and other people’s, for the record), I can spot my imperfections everywhere, and they drive me absolutely bonkers.

I look at the beautiful collage up top and I think: bend your knee more, straighten your arm more, lift your heels more. I’m photo (24)OK with posting a picture of myself falling off the wagon wheel, but the images of the sloppy poses makes me want to cringe.

The same thing happened to me when looking at the picture on the right. For the record, when I started practicing yoga I couldn’t even lift a TOE in this pose. But despite my progress, I refused to post this image on social media because my foot is turned out, my knee is not positioned properly, my elbows are open too wide and I’m not pushing my head through my biceps enough.

It’s one of the hallmarks of anxiety sufferers, I suppose. It all screams “you’re not as good as you think you are” and it makes me crazy that I’ve become so judgmental of myself.

I don’t know what this means or how to fix it. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, and maybe I don’t have to fix it at all.

I think I just have to continue posting imperfect pictures of myself until I get over it (or even if I don’t), because perfection is really and truly not what this is all about.

After all, how can I convince you all that it doesn’t matter that you’re inflexible and that yoga is for everyone if all I do is post images of me perfectly nailing really complicated poses?