Posts Tagged ‘changes’

Do You Still Do Yoga?

16/11/2018

2013-08-04 17.59.18

When I first started practicing yoga in the early 2000s, when I was in high school, I must have realized this practice had so much to offer me. I couldn’t really articulate it but I knew something was happening each time I practiced. Back then, I only had a VHS copy of “MTV Yoga.” Yes, that MTV, the channel that used to play music videos – and this yoga practice was led by Kristin McGee and hosted by Lori from The Real World (the Back to New York season, in case you’re curious). Yoga wasn’t as readily available as it is now, especially in a small town, so this tape was really my only way of starting a yoga practice – but it was my practice and it was helping me cultivate valuable skills in how to cope with the ups and downs of life, which I desperately needed. My astute parents recognized that this yoga thing was helpful to their anxious and easily-stressed out child so a few nights a week they dismissed me early from farm duties (a privilege for any farm kid) so I was able to have the house to myself and practice along with that beloved VHS tape. That display of love was and still is not lost on me. After being released from chores, I set out to my ritual. I’d clean myself up then change into my comfy sweats and loose-fitting t-shirt, fire up the VCR, pop in the VHS, roll out my purple Gaiam yoga mat (still in use more than 15 years later) and would “get to work.”

Following my practice, after a restful savasana, I’d put away my mat and then often would take myself out for a walk down the side road that runs alongside my parent’s farm. This walk gave me time to enjoy the lingering peace I felt from my yoga practice, not to mention give me a break from the anxiety that had a way of quickly overcoming my mind and body. As I was living my final chapter of high school, I was sitting on the edge of transition and before long would be moving away to Minneapolis for college so these walks were also a time for me to take in my home – my roots as my mom always reminds me. The farm, the soybean and corn fields, the woods that was and always will be a sanctuary for me. This 17-year-old wandering up the gravel road was actually pretty wise for taking this time and for taking it all in – but she didn’t entirely realize it.

I’ve come to recall these memories lately as friends and family ask me, “Do you still do yoga?” I assume they mean the physical practice. The short answer is yes. I still do yoga. Of course, I have a more drawn-out answer. After moving to Manhattan over a year ago, I made an intentional decision to not pursue teaching – not right away. For the previous five years in Minneapolis, I had taught a variety of formats at different venues and the problem was that teaching became my priority; not being a student. I craved simply being a student again and not always have lesson planning at the back of my mind. I needed to take a step back and return to my roots. I needed to channel that 17-year-old walking slowly up the country road.

Quite fortunately, I came to find a beautiful studio called Yoga Shanti within a month of moving to Manhattan. I was immediately drawn in by each teacher’s intelligent sequencing, attention to subtle detail and authentic nature. It also helped that the teachers were simply warm and welcoming, a standard that should be easy to meet but unfortunately in today’s commercialized and saturated yoga world, this is harder to come by than you would think – but I digress. Practicing with these teachers helped me land back into the yoga practice I so love and now realize I had lost in my years of teaching – ironically, I was invited to reconnect with the very ideas that I was trying to teach. Releasing the burden I put on myself while teaching brought me back to the healing that is possible in being a student who is learning how to simply connect mind and body. The idea of mind-body connection is so simple we think it’s abstract. This is one of the first lines I heard from my teacher, Matthew Sanford. I think of that often. Especially when I’m thinking too much.

While I don’t exactly have a quiet country road to walk down here in Manhattan, I have different ways to find yoga in my life today. I have come to realize that my yoga practice takes many different shapes and not necessarily ones you make with your body. I found it once talking to a homeless man named Shawn on the corner of 29th and 5th who slept on the church steps. He hoped to clean up his act enough to be permitted to see his adult daughter and grandchild in Baltimore. He didn’t even ask for money or anything from me. I think he just wanted someone to listen to his story. I’m also the weirdo who while standing shoulder to shoulder with the mess of humanity that is the New York City subway, I can’t help but smile that this too in its own way is yoga. We’re united by the struggle and we’re in it together. Most exciting to me is that taking a step back from teaching yoga and allowing myself to be a student has opened space for me to revisit a lifelong yet often ignored passion – my writing practice. For me, this is just another vehicle to connect with the realization, peace, and healing that I discovered was possible back when I first “did yoga.”

So, do I still do yoga? Yes. In more ways than you can even know – and probably in even more ways that I have yet to realize.

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Tips for Moving: A Retrospect

25/10/2018

dachshund moving boxes

Moving is no joke. It’s rarely never easy. Yet, since my fella and I moved to the U.S. back in 2013, we have been moving on a nearly annual basis. Each time we had our reasons but that’s not to say I enjoy it. But, over the course of August and September, as we packed up, hiked bags of donation items to HousingWorks, and awkwardly weaved through busy Manhattan streets carrying stacks of moving boxes from Home Depot, I realized that I’ve learned a few things about moving. Both the upsides of moving and few ways to cope.

One of the upsides of moving is the opportunity to minimize and consider what you actually need. Even with our frequent moving habits, it always amazes me just how much “stuff” we accumulate in the span of a year. I tend to think I’m pretty thoughtful about what I buy or acquire. Do I really need that extra sweater? Is there room for another cute coffee mug? Yes, these are small items but multiply this by say, 20, and you actually have quite a bit of extra stuff on your hands. That’s not to say you should never acquire anything new or treat yourself, but it’s worth considering. Over the years I’ve tried to adopt the mentality that if I pick up a new piece of clothing, for example, then something has to go. One in, one out. This helps and whenever you do need to move (or just undertake a good spring cleaning), it’ll make the task that much easier. I mean, it’s still a pain but the payoff is extra space along with the light feeling that you only have what you need and what’s important to you.

With that said, and even with the excitement of change ahead, moving can be incredibly overwhelming. Before diving in, I give the disclaimer that I’m far from perfect (GASP!) and I’ll admit that some of these tips come from a place of retrospect. That’s life though, isn’t it? We tend to learn from our mistakes but I suppose the willingness to learn is better than nothing at all.

  • Space out packing. This really only applies if you have at least a month to move and may not work if you have only a week to pack up and get out. Rather than try and finish your packing in a few days, tackle it by room. If you have a big space like a living room, then take an extra day or two to finish packing that space. I found that spending a few hours packing and purging items from one room then stopping for the day was a boon to my sanity. Sure, one could wake up early to start packing and go like a marathon runner until late into the night. It’s a short timeframe of pain but for someone like me, it would also take me a great deal of time to recover, not great for mental health. So, if you get easily overwhelmed by big tasks like this, then try to approach this part of the process one room, one box at a time. I also like to give myself extra time because, without fail, I always get sidetracked by photos (one below that made me smile) or some long lost sentimental items. And, personally, I think taking time to appreciate these pieces of our history and life is important. Nourishing your soul is always time well-spent.

    funny family photo

  • Take time to rest. Spacing out packing means there’s time to rest and take care of personal needs (and you know, do some work. In my case, thank goodness for the remote work life!) Rest is so, so important – especially during these hectic times. It may feel entirely counterintuitive because you have SO MUCH TO DO but I’m telling you, pushing through the work just because you feel you should can be really counterproductive. We’ve all heard this and it applies to life, in general. Allowing yourself time for a nap, a nice walk, or whatever recharges your batteries will actually help your productivity more than soldiering through. Be honest with yourself. You can take at least 15 minutes to lay down, do a round of sun salutations, or sit with your eyes closed (trick yourself into meditating).
  • Eat well and stay hydrated. I really don’t care to admit how much pizza my fella and I ate during our moving months. Look, I love pizza. Who doesn’t? But I definitely hit a pizza wall, which sounds way more delicious than it actually is. Ordering takeaway or eating out kind of comes with the territory of moving since all of your cooking utensils are packed away and you’re typically not adding fresh groceries to the fridge. So, instead of gravitating towards the greasiest thing on offer, order a salad and/or pick up some fruit to have around as a snack. There are plenty of things we can eat that aren’t terrible for us that are quick and also easy to have on hand. And water. Drink all the water. Again, the stress of moving makes it entirely too easy to pop open a bottle of wine while you’re packing and this can make the process much more tolerable but limit the alcohol.
  • Or, just eat. Contrary to what I just said, stress and anxiety can actually make you lose your appetite. In which case, just eat. Eat until you hit the pizza wall. I also really like smoothies when my appetite needs a kick start. They’re easy to take in and they provide nourishment for the body. And, the rule for water still applies. Obviously, I’m not providing nutritional advice here. I just want you to eat.
  • Find levity. For me, this came from my own dogs (see photo at top) and in the form of looking at funny dogs on Instagram. I will forever be grateful to this little lady in Germany for helping me through the stress of moving. (@madame_eyebrows if you’re on Instagram). Yes, that’s right. The saddest dog on the internet made me super happy. But c’mon, look at that face! Look at those eyebrows! My point is find your own source of levity.

@madame_eyebrows on Instagram

These tips are provided in the context of moving, but they really apply to any stressful period during your life. A work project, planning an event, or whatever big task you have on your plate. Self-care is always worth the time and you’ll come out on the other side much healthier.

Fresh Start: 3 Ways to Embrace Change

06/12/2013

Guilty. I have not made this blog a priority for awhile. Although, I think I have a few pretty good reasons for my ten month absence. You see, I’ve been busy with some pretty big changes. With a new year upon us, I find myself reflecting on all of the transitioning of the past year, and there are two words that repeatedly spring to mind.  Fresh start. Leaving my job, undertaking yoga teacher training, moving (across an ocean), redefining my professional path, bringing home a new mini dachshund puppy named Doug and really, starting over in so many ways. Making a fresh start.

I’ll be candid though. While it has been an exciting year of possibilities and adventure,  I’m also going to hypothesize that I would be slightly super human if I handled all of these changes with complete grace and ease. I cried. I moaned how much I missed my friends. I got frustrated when Doug made a mess. I doubted my choice to forge a new path. I doubted myself.

When we react adversely to a plot twist in life, we aren’t exactly fretting the change itself. We fear the unknown. When we feel groundless and uncertain we experience a disconnection to our true selves. So how can we shift our perspective and bring ourselves back? One way to do this is to remember that not all change is scary and it can provide you with a fresh start. Here are three tips for embracing change and seeing it as a clean slate:

Remember it is a START. When working toward a goal or through a transition, you may find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed when things don’t progress as quickly as you’d like. Some change comes slowly. Be patient. And be kind to yourself too. When faced with a new city, job or situation, it can be tempting to think about how good you had it in your old routine. You might forget why change is necessary for living. Look forward and remember that the changes you’re facing are only a start. Big changes like moving or starting a new job take time to settle into. Everything will fall into place. I read a funny yet wise fiction this year called ‘The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window” and I’ll always remember this line which I believe captures my point.: “Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be.”

Every moment is an opportunity for a fresh start. Try this next time you’re feeling anxious about your circumstance. Close your eyes for a full breath. At the bottom of your exhale, open your eyes. Welcome to your fresh start. Repeat as many times as needed. (I also recommend this great little video on how to meditate in a moment)

I get by with a little help from my friends. If you begin to feel overtaken by life, remember that we’re part of a larger community. If you’ve been dealt with a change too enormous to face on your own then ask for help. Maybe you need to pay for help in the form of a life coach, removalist, financial planner or other professional. But sometimes all it takes is a call to an old friend who understands you and can help put life back into perspective.

The bottom line is change is really only scary because sometimes we’re not quite sure what lies beyond that door we’ve decided to enter. But it can also be exactly what we need. I love this quote by Joseph Campbell. ‘The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.’ And that treasure could be your fresh start.