Monday, January 30, 2012

1 and 2 and 3 and 4.....

The holidays, as well as slowing down on yoga (see this post), have had an unfortunate but expected side effect: I can feel my body gaining some weight. Since middle school, my body and I have played tug-of-war with my weight. I usually stay within a 15 pound range and before I end a twenty-year tradition by busting beyond that range, I decided to take charge. Since I began my yoga lifestyle, I no longer "diet". Instead, when I need a little help, I just hold myself accountable with a calorie counter. I recently found a great one for my phone,, where you can actually just scan in the barcode on the box and it adds it to your food diary - talk about simple! I had no excuse to not use it.

If you've never done it, calorie counting is a huge eye opener. First, it forces you to think in terms of serving size. The first few days I tried to not change the way I eat so I could just see what I usually put into my body. Holy moly! That bowl of oatmeal - 3 servings! That tiny bag of veggie chips I ate in two days - 8 servings! It really makes you start to understand the disconnect between the quantity your mind *thinks* you need and what your body truly does need. 

Second, it reminds me there are no free foods. Those red and orange peppers I mixed with my Quinoa? They added 40 calories to my lunch. I always think of veggies as mainly water and that I can eat as many as I want, but even those add up. I've easily eaten 2-3 times what I put in my lunch - that added over 100 calories to my daily total without me even knowing.

The last thing using a calorie counter does, at least for me, is bring up some pretty interesting insecurities I don't even realize I have. Often (as in, every day thus far) I have wanted to cheat. I have been tempted to not mark down a quick bite of something I grabbed while my main meal was cooking. Or put down 1 serving when in reality it was more like 2.5. My brain would rationalize this by saying "I'll just save a few calories at the end of the day and know in my head they are accounted for already". Huh?!?! WTF? I am the only one viewing my calorie counter so why do I want to cheat?!?!?! I have found myself having actual arguments in my brain about whether or not to mark something down accurately. It is almost like my unconscious mind considers those extra calories at the end of the day as "success" (even though I know eating too few calories is also an issue). If I can not eat all of my calories - even through cheating the system - then I am somehow stronger and better. Whereas my conscious brain wants to help me change. It's the white angel whispering that if I don't put every little thing down correctly then why do this at all? It is really interesting being an observer to this power struggle between my two consciousnesses (consciousnessi?). That is one of those benefits of meditation and yoga - being able to view your thoughts and actions as separate from yourself. To not get so caught up in your head that you miss seeing there are other options out there. Seeing things like this so clearly is well worth the motionless hours spent not scratching that itch

Throwing in things like this, a simple calorie counter, really brought awareness to a part of my life I was letting slip. What part of your life are you currently sleepwalking through, and what can you do to shake it up a bit?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wounded Dog

These past few weeks have been humbling.  I was in a Jonny class ("Jonny" being a synonym for "butt-kicking") and per his instruction was attempting "to float my plank". That essentially means you launch yourself into the air from a plank position so nothing is touching the ground (I know, who does that?!?!). Silly me, I tried over and over, each time feeling the impact of landing on my shoulders as my hands and toes touched down. Went home after class only to wake up that night with shooting pains. I had pulled something internally that connected from deep at the base of my neck, across my collarbone,  all the way to my right armpit/shoulder/bicep.

Yoga is often touted as a cure-all. While I do believe its benefits are immense, it is still physical activity. Sometimes we push ourselves just a bit harder than we should and don't know until it is too late. Almost every yogi I know has at some point had some sort of injury or soreness - if not from yoga than at least amplified by yoga. But the benefits (both mentally and physically) make a few battle scars totally worth it.

Since that class, I haven't been up to par. I laid off yoga for a few days after it happened and it started feeling better. So I went and after the break, yoga felt so good I really dove in. Mistake. The next day I couldn't even move my arm - it had seized up. I took a few more days off. This time when I couldn't stand it anymore I went to a class but with the intention to really listen to my body. I modified modified modified. Dropped a knee for support, put all weight into my left hand in down dog, even cut out all pushups or Chaturungas. And my shoulder, although still sore and achy, didn't seem worse. It actually felt a little better. I continued going just every 2 or 3 days (as opposed to once or twice a day) using this mindset as my guide.

And it sucked. I am about to admit something very un-yogi-like: I like competing with myself in yoga. I like trying new things, or sticking something I couldn't the day before. Instead of enjoying the fact I was in a yoga class at all, I began to resent it. I got very jealous at everyone kicking up into handstands while I took shoulderstand.  Mentally I had a hard time with dropping a knee in side plank instead of reaching for the bind. I hated that the left and right sides of my flows were completely different. Also, I was so worried about re-hurting my shoulder that my mind never got to a "yoga" state. I stopped having those amazing classes where you walk out all euphoric. Instead it felt like work.

That is, until yesterday. Last night, I hit up one of my favorite teacher's classes. Something about the familiarity of her voice began to open that place in my head that had shut down two weeks ago. I stopped worrying about my shoulder and trusted my body to do what it needed to to protect it. I concentrated on each posture as an island - not worrying what came before or what was coming next. Not comparing it to the other side. I worked with what I had, and reconnected with the true lessons in yoga. It wasn't about the bind. It was about breathing and moving. Feeling. It had taken two weeks before I could truly step back and observe my brain, to recognize that competitive mindset I hadn't even realized I had fallen into. I walked out of that class with my endorphins kicking like the good old days.

Do I miss Jonny's classes? Heck yeah. But I also have a new appreciation for making the most of my present situation. For probably the next month, this is my new reality. I will do the yoga my body needs right now, not the yoga my competitive mind wants. I will modify. I will hold back. And I will heal.

I am right where I am supposed to be.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lessons From a Garbage Can

With Christmas approaching, I had to get my house ready for having people over. Hosting gatherings is always a good reason to take a look at what has accumulated since last time and dispose, store or rearrange things. One of the things I rearranged was my bathroom - just moving a garbage can. I didn't put it anywhere crazy, just from one side of the toilet to the other.

That 2 foot movement has changed my life! Ok, maybe that is a bit dramatic, but it definitely woke me up to how often I am not present. How often my brain takes over a task without me knowing. It has been 3 weeks and my brain still thinks the garbage can is in the old spot. I now routinely drop Kleenex and Q-Tips onto the floor because the garbage is no longer there. It is amazing to me that I don't even notice the thought about throwing something away come into my brain to reroute it. It has become instinct to just toss garbage in a certain location. Then I remember, pick it up, and place it in the correct spot.

It is crazy how much we auto-pilot in our every day lives. Who would have guessed it would be this difficult to re-map the garbage can's location in my mind?! If you want to challenge your brain, try moving something simple yet well used like that. Trust me, it's harder than it sounds!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Life, Chapter 2

Most of you have seen me through this yoga journey from pretty much the beginning. 2011 was an amazing transition year. I transitioned from cubicle-dweller to my own boss; from clueless vegetarian to educated vegan; from fair-weather exerciser to dedicated yogi; and from drone to student to teacher. 2012 will be the year to settle into these transitions and cement them into a lifestyle.

I recently began teaching over in Ann Arbor. I am teaching for the studio I took teacher training through, which is a little intimidating. The main studio (not the one I am teaching at) is packed full daily. In a room that can comfortably hold 50, 100 people squeeze in on a regular basis. I haven't been able to open my arms to a T without fear of smacking someone in the face since I began. The interesting part is that there are probably 10+ other yoga studios within a 10 mile radius. Heck, within a 5 mile radius. Yet people flock to "my" studio, even though it almost always means getting meat-smelling sweat flung on you from the shirtless guy 3 inches away.

When I was asked to teach a few classes at a different branch of my studio, I readily accepted. I was warned it was not nearly as busy, but I didn't think much about it. In fact, I didn't think about it at all - it was my first teaching job! The first day I taught was two days before Christmas, and the second was two days before New Year's Eve. All of the classes had about 10 people in them. A far cry from what I was used to at "my" studio. But I figured it was due to the holidays.

Then I taught yesterday. I had assumed with the holidays over and New Year's Resolutions in full effect, the classes would grow. Even just slightly. But instead, each class shrunk to between 5-7 people!

During Teacher Training, Jonny Kest told us we had to check the ego at the door. That the number of students in the class was not how to judge your success, but instead your success should be judged on how open your heart is. Really connecting with 1 person is worth much more than playing Simon Says with 100 people just going through the motions. He said for many many years he would schedule classes and no one would show up. He would call people before class just to remind them and then not understand when people who had assured him they would be there, didn't show. This is the same guy who, last year, taught 600+ people in one class at the Wanderlust Festival in Squaw Valley.

I feel good when I teach, and am getting good feedback on my teaching, but that black cloud of doubt is still there. If I was any good, wouldn't the students appear? Teaching has made me realize how invested my ego is in everything I do. I have only taught 3 days - 6 total paid classes. No one in their right mind would expect a following after that. So why am I beating myself up over the size of the class? Instead of focusing on the connections I am making, on the students who are there, why do I keep going back to who is not? My eyes have really been opened to how I define success and how my definition may actually keep me from obtaining it. If I keep stressing about who is not there, I may miss opportunities with the ones that are. Starting today, I am making a Life Resolution (screw just for the New Year, this is for Life) to focus on the positive. On what I DO have and what is there. Not on what is missing.

Is there anything in your life that you are missing out on because you had different expectations? Where you can't allow yourself to enjoy the true reality because it didn't match what was in your head?