Love yourself. It’s a common quote. Type it into Pinterest and it’ll appear in a million flowery fonts with several thousand variations on the theme:
Yeah, that’s nice, you’re thinking. It’s a cutesy dose of daily inspiration, and it may make you feel warm and fuzzy for a few minutes or so.
However, cutesy quotes fail to get to the root of the problem.
It is an ongoing struggle to stay in love with yourself.
There, I said it. The Pinterest police are probably on their way to arrest me.
But it’s a good thing to mention anyways.
Any type of relationship requires upkeep. We all have friends that have faded to the wayside because somewhere down the line, we consciously or unconsciously let the lines of communication go dark. It’s part of life. Sometimes you get into fights with even your best friends, or your partners or your family. Sometimes those arguments and irritations heal quickly, sometimes they take a long time to smooth out. It’s never effortless, however, because love isn’t effortless. Sometimes it’s a delicate flame, sometimes it’s a raging fire, but you always have to fed it.
You have the exact same relationship going on with yourself.
No, you are not going to spontaneously decide one morning that you’re perfect, and leap out of bed completely happy with every aspect of yourself, because life isn’t a romantic comedy, and love doesn’t work like that. You have to work at it, bit by bit. And no, I don’t mean you have to go to the gym and wear makeup and look sexy all the time.
I mean you have to make a conscious effort to appreciate yourself, and to not look down on yourself, and love yourself exactly like you want someone else to love you. And then you have to keep doing it, day after day, and know that some days it’ll be hard, and some days it’ll be easy, and everyday it’ll be worth it.
To sum, there’s a beautiful quote from one of my favorite shows (okay, it’s Doctor Who) that perfectly describes what I’m trying to get at:
You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful — and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later they’re as dull as a brick; but then there’s other people. And you meet them and you think, “Not bad, they’re okay,” and when you get to know them … their face just, sort of, becomes them, like their personality’s written all over it, and they just — they turn into something so beautiful.
Turn into something beautiful, internet.
Another article from Burn This! Click through to read the whole piece.
When it comes to yoga, the key to success is knowing what you are getting yourself into, what you need to do to prepare yourself, and how it’s going to impact you after yoga class. Here are my favorite, time-tested quick tips on how to get into yoga and love it the first time around:
1. Shop Around
There are many different kinds of yoga and each one speaks to different people. Are you an active type of person who loves to sweat? Try a heated vinyasa class. Love structure with your workout? Look into bikram classes. Do you want the full breathing, meditation and movement package? Hatha or ashtanga classes are probably more up your alley. Do a little research, look into the studios in your area, and ask around before you make your choice.
A startling number of y’all fell for my April Fool’s day prank yesterday. No, my male cat is not pregnant. Gotcha!
In the vein of April Fool’s, I talked to my yoga class yesterday about the idea of perfection and wanting to be seen as ideal and not looking foolish. I saw a lot of different reactions to the “holiday” yesterday online and a lot of people seemed to think that the entire concept is a stupid waste of time and almost seemed to be upset about it, calling April Fool’s Day the “worst day of the year” and telling people not to trust anything or anyone today.
While I believe that thinking that the tradition is stupid is a valid viewpoint, I don’t understand why anyone would get so upset over a few harmless pranks.
Actually, that’s false.
I do understand.
I understand that for a lot of people, being seem as “stupid” or gullible, even for a few moments, is really nerve-wracking, because our modus operandi in this culture is to be seen as perfect 24/7. Perfect really isn’t even the right word for everyone in this case, so substitute what you will – intelligent, mature, sophisticated, above it all, whatever you pick, the concept is the same.
This is so relevant to yoga. I see so many students come into class so afraid to fail at something, they won’t even try it. Crow pose is a big culprit for generating this fear. Airplane is another one. We get so fixated on doing it right the first time, so fixated on not falling out of something or not doing it wrong that we won’t even try it. Some people go the opposite way – they come into the studio and they feel like they have to fit a certain look and attitude, a certain gravitas, that forbids them from laughing or joking or even taking a half second’s rest in child’s pose.
What I told my class last night is to loosen the reins just a little bit to see how that feels. Laugh at me. Laugh at themselves. Try something on. Lose the rigidity. Notice what it’s like to stop trying so damn hard.
Try it out, internet.
Okay internet. I promised y’all that I’d tell you about this amazing yoga dance party I went to last week. However, I also recently went to a class taught by a friend of mine that I really want to talk about as well. So I guess I’m going to kill two birds with one stone today.
It’s funny because on paper, these classes were very similar, but they couldn’t have been more different if you tried. In practice, these classes were seriously salt and pepper. Black and white. East and west. Arts and sciences. You get it.
Internet, I’ve never been as gross as I was during these practices. I was rancid. I had to flip my mat over in the middle of both of them and I was still sliding around in a puddle of my own sweat (reasons why I’m single #24- I sweat like a fat tourist in Cancun during the summer solstice). Both of these classes were in heated rooms with 40-50 other people for an hour and a half. They were both power yoga classes, meaning that we did a whole ton of pushups and core work and all that craziness. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.
The yoga dance party was amazing. It was so much fun. We did it as an end to our 40 days program, but we left it open to anyone who wanted to come and made it free. I got to figure out the playlist and included such hits as “Beauty and a Beat”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, “I Feel Good”, and “Sexy and I Know it”, because my taste in music is flawless (reasons why I’m single # 37- I have terrible taste in music). Essentially what we did was tag-team-teaching- mi madre started teaching, then passed it to someone else, who passed it to someone else, and so one. It was fun and spontaneous and there was a lot of screaming and yelling and laughing and singing involved. We even got some of our students who aren’t teachers to teach a little bit. Most of the people in the room knew each other or had at least been in the studio and the community before, so we all felt like we could let our hair down and get weird. Totally mindblowing, and pretty much everyone left saying that we absolutely had to do it again.
The other class was taught by a friend of mine from yoga teacher training, Samuel Robinson, who teaches at both of Baron Baptiste’s yoga studios in Boston. He’s been to pretty well every Baptiste training there is, he’s Baptiste certified, and he’s brilliant. I begged Mater to go and I’m so glad we did. It was a no music, no frills, bare bones traditional vinyasa class. Lots of long holds and breathing and some really good verbal cues that I’m absolutely stealing- sorry Sam, those toe mound pointers are mine now! I loved being anonymous with a bunch of like-minded people. It was a welcome change from being a teacher in a studio that everyone knows and feeling like I’m being looked at or evaluated. It was a refreshing reset.
In both classes I sweated, I breathed, I moved, and I had fun in completely different ways. They were so dissimilar, it’s hard to even classify them as the same type of yoga.
I’ve heard people talk about what is and isn’t yoga, and I think that’s poppycock. Some people like music during class, some don’t. Some people like laughing and silliness during class, some like meditation and breathing and serious practice. Some people like ketchup and mustard on their burgers, some like BBQ sauce, and sometimes it depends on the day. You’re still getting the burger, just with different toppings. The movement, the workout, the connection, the “meat” of the practice, is still there for you to tap into.
Personally when I practice alone, I put on a mix of techno music and gangster rap. I guess that’s a burger with cheese and sautéed onions?
Man, now I’m hungry.
I was nominated for a Beautiful Blogger Award by FactoryMaid!! Come back tomorrow to see who I nominate in return!
I got this beautiful quote from Peaceful Daily in my email this morning:
“The thought that you think, you think, which attracts to it; so you think it some more, which attracts to it; so you think it some more. In other words, when you have an expectation, you’ve got a dominant thought going on, and Law of Attraction is going to deliver that to you again, and again and again. And you say “The reason that I believe this, is because it is true.” And we say, the reason that you believe it, is because you’ve practiced the thought. All that a belief is, is a thought that you keep practicing.” – Abraham
That’s so me right now. I keep thinking about grad school and the fact that I STILL haven’t heard from four of my schools. Over the past two days I’ve just been sitting on my computer refreshing my email like a moron trying to make it come quicker (it didn’t work).
For 40 days this week, our goal is to find our center, and for a lot of people in my studio, practicing yoga has been the key to that. However, for the past few days the studio has made me edgy and uncomfortable. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been there too much teaching and taking classes, or because people have been asking me about grad school there, or what’s going on, but I knew today I really needed to take a break, even though I usually go to practice on Tuesday nights.
I’m so glad I did, because I went to the archery range for the first time in several months, and I feel SO MUCH BETTER. I guess for some people it’s meditative practice, for me it’s killing a baby bunny.
In all seriousness, if you’re at all into meditation and you’re never tried archery, I highly recommend it, especially if you can learn to shoot without using a sight. If you compare the techniques for centering in Aikido (a form of martial art) to archery, you’ll find that they are very similar. This explanation is from stenudd.com and details the exercises a student uses to increase their ki (natural life energy):
- A straightened posture opens for belly breathing.
- Belly breathing leads to awareness of the center.
- The center is the source for a strong spirit of extension.
- The spirit of extension equals a good ki flow.
Straight posture to aim, breathing to focus, moving from the core to draw back, and shooting the arrow outwards. Bingo. Meditation.
Breathe in- load.
Breathe out- prime.
Breathe in- draw.
Breathe out- aim.
Breathe in- hold.
Breathe out- loose.
Like yoga, every movement is linked to the breath, and to aim, you need to center yourself and pay attention to every aspect of your body. One little misstep between your breath and your loose can send the arrow two inches off from your target. It’s a beautiful practice, and no, you don’t have to aim for an animal if that weirds you out.
I was on Pinterest last night- I knowww, but it’s a guilty pleasure and I love it – and I found this really awesome quote that I wanted to share with y’all.
Let go or you’ll be dragged. – Zen proverb
This quote was accompanied with a goofy picture of a man hanging from a hot air balloon which I shan’t be including here because it’s dumb-looking. Oh, Pinterest. Haven of good quotes stuck onto terrible Instagram photos.
But I digress.
I find both this quote and this concept really powerful for two distinctly different reasons. Firstly, the consequences of hanging on to the past. In yoga, we talk about this a lot. Letting things go. Living in the moment. Realizing that time only exists as a current moment that is linked to a series of current moments. It’s a little abstract sometimes, but nonetheless important. I love this concept so much that I got the phrase here now tattooed on my ribcage, as a reminder to myself to let things go.
The second reason I love this quote is that we forget that the future can be just a dangerous to cling to as the past. However, we can be pulled and dragged in many different directions, and if you aren’t ready for it, being dragged forward can be just as caustic as being dragged back.
In yoga, we often seek positive changes in our lives. There’s obviously nothing wrong with that, but it’s often easy to focus so much on positive change that we forget what is good about ourselves as we are. In light of that realization, I asked my yoga students in class on Sunday to go home and write a list of five things they really like about themselves, just so they realized that change doesn’t mean throwing yourself out and starting over. Here’s my list:
1. I’m self-confident.
2. I’m gregarious.
3. I’m strong.
4. I operate well under pressure.
5. I push people to be the best version of themselves.
Now, I know this list will shift and change and develop over time, because life isn’t stagnant. However, now I’ve got a baseline to return to. Instead of saying, I need to change everything, I can say, I feel like I’d be happier with myself if I changed some things, but I like a lot of things about myself as I am right now, too.
That’s my two cents, anyways.
What’s your list, internet?
I recently read an article on the blog The Not so quiet Feminist called New year, same body-shaming crap. It’s a bit late to bring it up since we typically reserve all the New Year’s resolution hoopla for the first week or so of January, but the author makes a few great points I’d like to touch on.
The article talks extensively about how social pressure and media outlets shame women into hating their bodies and hurting themselves to change the way we look, because “if we do not adhere to this ‘ideal woman’ that is probably photoshopped within an inch of her life anyway, that we are doing something wrong… It’s very fucking clever, and it works. I have seen so many women, including myself, spend hours panicking about a bit of cellulite here, and a bit of wobble there. I’ve even looked at my hands and thought, shit are they getting fat”.
As an alumni sorority girl and a yoga teacher working in a studio that teaches three different disciplines of exercise -yoga, pilates and barre – I think about the ideal of “perfection” a lot. Sadly, like most girls my age, I’ve struggled with weight, dieting, and eating, had a flirtation with eating disorders and body dis-morphism, gained and lost a ton of weight, and came full circle back to where I’m supposed to be on the scale. My story is not particularly unique, and at the moment, I love my body wholeheartedly. However, as a fitness instructor, I do feel a certain amount of pressure to look a certain way, much like a hairdresser isn’t allowed to have a bad hair day.
If you asked me whether or not I exercise to look “fit”, my honest answer would be no. I exercise to feel strong and capable. I like being able to run up a flight of stairs with a mini fridge when I’m helping people move. I like feeling the strength in my quads as I ski down a hill. I love knowing that I could run a mile if I needed to without collapsing. The fact that I also happen to look damn good in a pair of skinny jeans is a nice perk, but not Objective #1.
I am fully aware of the fact that some of my students come in so that they will look good, and to an extent, that bothers me. I don’t want my students to come into class because they looked in the mirror and noticed a little pudge on their bodies and they think they need to punish themselves for daring to have extra weight on their bodies. In an ideal world, I’d think that everyone could and should feel perfect and beautiful the way they are, but humans are insecure and scared and sometimes incapable of seeing how fabulous they really are.
Yoga is about empowering people. That’s what I like to think that I am good at doing- at helping my students feel like they have achieved something beautiful in class that day whether they mastered something new or spent 75 minutes in child’s pose. To use the classically misquoted Gandi cliché, “You have to be the change you want to see in the world“. It’s not enough to complain about the media hype, the magazines, and the judgment. If we don’t start to change our own attitudes, nothing will happen- and the perfect place to change someone’s attitude is in the yoga studio.
This is what I want to happen for my students, myself, and for you, dear reader. I don’t want you to look perfect. I want you to feel perfect. I don’t want you to commit to losing ten pounds because a supermodel on T.V. looks good in a bikini. I want you to commit to being able to climb 4 flights of stairs without losing your breath. I want you to come in and tell me that your goal is to be able to run a marathon or touch your toes or go to a yoga teacher training, and hell, if you happen to look good doing it, that’s an afterthought.
I want you to know that the sexiest person in the room isn’t the twig in the sports-bra. It’s you, sweaty, tired, and smiling, because you just love flip dog and it just makes you grin every time.
Cheers to 2013. Let’s make this the year we all get over ourselves and start living, internet.