Yoga is for Everyone

Yoga is for Everyone

There are many misconceptions about yoga.

“Yoga is for hippies”

“I could never do Yoga, I’m not flexible”

“You do Yoga? You must be a vegan, like crystals, and diffuse essential oils.”

For many, these things may be true. However, like most things in this world, stereotypes are formed and often drive people either towards or away from things. Yoga has helped me in immeasurable ways. My physical, mental, emotional and social lives have all benefitted. I truly believe that yoga is for EVERYONE, in some way, shape, or form.

So, why do yoga?

Physical:

With a background as a competitive gymnast, yoga didn’t seem too far off from the stretching and balance that I was used to. So I thought, this will be easy, right? Not exactly. Yes, some poses for me, especially when it comes to flexibility, are a piece of cake because of my already flexible limbs. However, I’m not a yoga expert or guru. I still don’t quite understand the correct form on certain poses, and lets not even get into the regret I feel instantly for not working out my legs more as I’m struggling to hold chair pose. Yoga takes the time to focus on the way your body should be positioned in relation to how it will benefit you in the present moment as well as outside of the current pose you are in. The focus is on the entire body and most importantly, your breath.

There are a ton of different types of yoga practices and classes, which is great because everyone is different. Even depending on your day or mood your body and soul may be calling for something different. For example, on days when I’m looking to sweat and work my muscles, I may take a Bikram yoga class, or even a Vinyasa yoga class. When I am feeling compelled to work on my breathing, or core I may explore Kundalini yoga.

Mental/Emotional

Often times, we fall victim to rushing through life. It can be difficult to juggle a a social life, family, your professional or school endeavors, as well as individual alone time. Whether it’s a 75 minute warm vinyasa class at a studio, or 15 minutes in Savasana at home, this is the time I get to slow down, and focus on the present moment. I have one yoga teacher who always stresses that we take the tools we use in the yoga room with us outside into the world. Now, when I feel life is moving too fast and that “I don’t have enough time,” I channel my yoga breathing, and put myself into the frame of mind that I know will decrease my stress and anxiety.

Social

For many, including me, the fear of embarassment and humility has kept me from trying new things. It can be intimidating walking into a yoga class where you dont know anyone, and you may not feel very confident in what you’re doing. You may have a yoga teacher speaking an entirely different language, naming poses that you have no idea what they are. However, I’m so glad that I didn’t let all of my insecurities and these negative thoughts keep me from trying it. You will come to find people in the yoga room are not judging you. This is one of my favorite things about the yoga community. A couple of weeks ago, I was so pleasantly surprised when the girl in front of me turned around and said, “Oh you’re so close! You got it!” As I was trying a new arm balance for the first time. One teacher I had always would say ” There is no yoga olympics.” Yoga teachers will usually stress to go at your own pace, and to push yourself, but not too far where you will hurt yourself or feel discomfort.

Theres something about the energy in a yoga room. Everyone comes together for a common purpose, to find some sort of release. We are always instructed to set an intention for our practice. In a room of about 10-20 people, there are probably some people with similar intentions, and also people with totally opposite intentions. However, I think there essentially is a common purpose that everyone is there for, and that is to benefit from the practice of yoga, and that connection in itself is energizing.

Understandably, making it to a yoga studio isn’t always possibile. It may be due to a lack of time in your schedule, financial inability, or many other obstacles. The great thing about yoga, is it can be done anywhere and any time. Even though there is nothing quite like the connection with others in a yoga room, Youtube is a great platform to be guided through a practice. Yoga has also led me to connect with others through social media. As much as scrolling through instagram looking at other yogi’s isn’t truly social interaction, it can be inspiring to see others yoga progress, or inspiration to add some new poses into my practice when I find myself wanting to spice it up.

I hope out of this, someone maybe will realize that yoga isn’t just for those who are hippies, athletes, or some other stereotype. Yoga can be for everyone. I mean, people must be raving about it for some reason, so why not give it a try? Showing up is the most difficult part, and if you have made it that far, than that is an accomplishment in itself.

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New Year, same bullsh*t. Stop waiting and just DO.

“I’ll start on Monday” 

“I’m just waiting for the summer” 

“In the New Year, I’ll start” 

These are things I catch myself saying ALL the time. Especially around New Years this is something most people fall into. In many cases, New Years Resolutions can actually be more damaging than helpful. 
We set expectations and goals that we probably won’t follow through with, or that are unrealistic. New years resolutions often set us up for failure, and that’s why I’ve decided to stop making them! Whether it’s eating healthy, exercise, or journaling everyday, sometimes it seems that the start of a new year is the perfect time to step outside of your comfort zone, and get started. Last new years, as the clock struck midnight, I turned to a stranger and proclaimed
” I got it! I know my new years resolution: I want to start using more chapstick!”
This may have been the champagne talking… but I think I had something going there. I was setting a small and realistic goal. The big question… did I do it? Was my 2018 filled with un-chapped lips? NO. I’m sure for the month of January I regularly made sure I had chapstick on me and made a conscious effort. However, that soon went out the window and back to my habits of never having chapstick with me, and cracked lips of winter begged for relief of carmex. If I really wanted to fix my habit of never having chapped lips, then it didn’t matter if I made this decision on January 1st or March 6th.
News flash, the only thing that is changing is the date that you write in the top right hand corner of your notebook, or the small space on the new gym membership release form that youre signing because it’s your new years resolution to join a gym and get active. 
It’s in ads all over social media, on TV, the radio, big signs in stores flashing “NEW YEAR SALE.” They lure you in by trying to convince you that you can put the slogan “new year, new me” to use. 
We don’t just do this with the new year. This happens on a micro level as well. We say that we’ll start a “diet” or eating healthy after the weekend, or after the holidays. We say “when things calm down at work” or with school, then we’ll make the time to start journaling, or read that book we have been saying that we would for 2 years. 
STOP WAITING. 
For people who are planners, as I often do, I get caught up in planning out my week, and my month. I like to know when I’m going to do something before I do it. Well, this doesn’t always work out. I did this for too long with Yoga. I loved going to Yoga classes. Like some people may feel amped up after a good lift at the gym, I walk out of the yoga room and feel refreshed, as if I’m a new person, every time. I knew this, yet I kept making excuses that I would join the studio when my college classes began, when I made a little more money, after labor day, or I would start on Monday. I could come up with 1,000 excuses on why not to do something because I was making the mistake of waiting for the right time. There is no “right time” for anything. 
JUST START. 
Here are a few tips for successfully accomplishing a goal you have had for a while yet can’t seem to follow through:
1. Take it one step at a time 
Maybe starting to eat healthy means making a smoothie for dessert instead of ice cream. If your goal is to get fit in the new year, don’t put the pressure on yourself to workout 7 days a week, maybe set a goal for 3 days. Baby steps may not seem significant, however a start is better than nothing. 
2. If you’re taking too small of steps, PUSH YOURSELF OUTSIDE THE DAMN BOX 
As great as starting is, you need to follow through. If its been 6 months and your still not where you want to be, bite the bullet and take a risk. I love to write and always wanted to start a blog. I created this blog about a year and a half ago which was a great start for me. However, after about another year of letting it sit here, I realized I just needed to start writing, publish articles and get myself out there. Being vulnerable and doing things that make you uncomfortable is not easy, but for me, using my writing to communicate to others is totally worth it. 
3. Find a friend to do it with you 
Get yourself a gym buddy. Have a friend try out a new healthy recipe or cafe with you. If you’ve always wanted to get into painting, grab your bestfriend, mother, or maybe someone who you don’t know very well but would like to get to know more, and head on over to a painting class. Trying new things by ourselves can feel so scary that we just don’t do them. When you have someone to do them with, you have someone to hold you accountable and set a day and time to go.
4. Affirmations
What is an affirmation? Affirmations can be anything you want them to be. For me, I like to keep my affirmations short and to the point. These are phrases that you say to yourself aloud, in your head, or write down. Writing down is useful. I write on post its and stick them in places I’ll see them as reminders. As uncomfortable as it is, I also have been practicing saying them aloud. This feels awkward, but after a while of staring at myself in the mirror and saying ” I am strong, I am beautiful, I am loved” You bet I’m going to start believing it. 
This cycle of waiting for things to be at the right moment, or feel right carried over into my gymnastics. When I was in my head about doing a skill, the only way to get me to be sucessful, would be for my coach to say ” Dont think, just go” and I would have to say this to myself every single time before I got on the uneven bars, or ran down the vault runway. Little did I know, this was one of the first affirmations that had been created and I will use forever to help me put aside the jumble in my head and “just go.” 
5.  Be your biggest hype girl 
HYPE YOURSELF UP. We spend too much time seeing our failures and getting frustrated and upset over our flaws. I spent too many hours, too many YEARS being down on myself. This is part of developing into a teenager, as our self esteem drops and the gap between our real self and ideal self widens.  If you asked me when I was 14 if I could look at myself in the mirror and say I was pretty, I would have laughed in your face. If you asked me to do this even a year ago at 19, I still would have been uncomfortable. However, I was constantly seeking validation through others. I realized soon, even when I was getting the validation of being told I was nice or pretty or kind that was great, but it wasnt totally filling up my self esteem bucket. Somewhere along the path of development, society, or maybe even an individual tells you it isnt okay to be confident, and self deprication gets mistaken for modesty ( this is a whole different post I could dive into.) SO, its time to start believing in your goals and in your awesomeness, and get fired up! Now, how is this going to help you accomplish a task, by truly feeling pretty and confident?? Because it takes confidence to push your comfort zone and try new things. And trying new things will lead to success, because if wbhat you were doing is working, then why are you still reading? ( just kidding, keep reading please). Some days I have to hype myself up to get out of bed, we all do! I have to say to the girl who just wants to lay there and be a lifeless potato ” youre going to go dominate this day! You can be productive, you can get all you need to done, and you WILL be sucessful as long as you try.” NO one is going to read your text book for you to get that A on your exam. No one is going to write that paper for you ( unless you pay them, but why would you waste money on that when you are fully capable?). NO one is going to get that internship, or that job, and they sure arent going to go to the gym and work out either. Make a playlist of songs that make you wanna do a happy dance and stick post its on your mirror reminding you of your greatest attributes.
 
 
So… New year new me? How about new day, fresh start. The great thing about every sunset, is that in a matter of hours the sun will rise again and you have a chance to create a different day than the day before. Happiness is a choice, being productive is a choice. These realizations have turned my life around, and I’m so glad I stopped waiting for “the right time” to do things, and now I’ve started getting sh*t done!
 

Letting Go of Gymnastics and Finding my Identities

 

The judge salutes. Inhale, exhale. This is my time.

I bend my knees slightly to swing my arms backwards past my hips and push through the balls of my feet to jump and grab a fiberglass-wooden bar that I’m about to muscle my self up, swing around, release and catch, from low to high and high to low, to balance on my arms upside down, using all muscles of my upper body as well as lower body squeezing tight as a board, finally to finish with two flips in a straight bodied position and stick to finish. This was one of the highlighting moments of my gymnastics career. A   collegiate team, that made me feel like I was like the college gymnasts I used to watch on TV, jumped up and down waiting for me at the dismount mat, screaming my name with arms wide open for a hug.

I miss it, I really do.

Gymnastics was my everyday routine from 4 years old to Nineteen. Wake up before the sun to do 20 minutes of cardio, Shower, eat breakfast, go to school. Seven hours later have a quick snack, a 3/4 hour practice and my mom ready with dinner on the car ride home, so I had enough time to shower and do homework until it was 1 in the morning and I fell asleep at the kitchen counter, surrounded by textbooks.

I chose that life, and I may not have loved every minute of it back then, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Writing this brings tears to my eyes, overwhelming emotions, and tons of nostalgia. It was the hardest thing I ever did, yet it was the best thing I ever did.

I learned how to be a leader, to speak up, and use my voice. I learned the importance of cheering team mates on, who then became family. I built irreplaceable relationships with coaches with whom I would often spend more time with than my own parents.  I learned how to take instruction and apply them to use my body to create something beautiful. I had to take failure as motivation to work harder and dealing with criticism. When feeling overjoyed upon victory , I learned how to be humble. Overcoming fears of the “what- if’s” and trusting my brain, my body, my coaches, and the universe.

All good things must come to an end.

Something had told me that after 15  years, sophomore year of college was the time to move on. Maybe it was because I had done this same routine for 15 years straight, and was burnt out.

Maybe, it was a call from my body that had endured enough pounding, stretching, breaking, and even surgery.

It was my body telling me it wanted to try new things, reach beyond horizons I ever have.

It was my future calling me, telling me I needed to take my energy elsewhere.

It was also a call from my desire to discover what other parts of me I had been compressing.

This has affected me more than I’d like to admit.I had to learn how to create my own schedule and structure my time  which used to be structured for me around gymnastics. I figured with all of this new time I had, this new freedom, life would be a piece of cake! Upon first letting go, I centered it around academics and money. I overestimated the amount of free time I would now have and became overwhelmed. Then, I centered it around academics solely and let down my body for a period of time. I shut down completely, and counted walking up 3 flights of stairs to my dorm room as my daily exercise. I didn’t have coaches and team mates to report to, to help out and support, I didn’t have to be anywhere.

Now,  I am slowly finding the balance I have missed for quite some time. The balance I felt was there when I was a gymnast. because that was one of the only ways I defined myself, a gymnast. I am so much more.All gymnasts are, all athletes, are more than their sport title.

But who is that?

How much time do I devote to my school work? How much time do I devote to my body, to keep it healthy and happy? How much time do I devote to myself, to my thoughts and my soul? Where does a social life fit in?

These are all questions I’m sure any athlete who has let go of a long-time sport has asked themselves. It is this confusing period of time to find yourself and create a new path. So, what has my life after gymnastics been?

One force that has truly helped me transition, is yoga. I had called my mother when I was feeling overwhelmed, and she had suggested I tried yoga.  So I did, and I wasn’t consistent with it. The occasional youtube video and I had attended a few classes at my college’s wellness complex, which I liked, but still had not completed dove in yet.With time, I realized that yoga is not a sports practice I had to attend. I started incorporating yoga into my daily activities because I want to. It is not about being competitive, or receiving a score by a judge.  As one of my yoga teachers says, “There is no Yoga olympics.” I love the competetive nature that gymnastics instilled in me, however yoga has almost taken some of it out of me, and in the midst eased some self-criticisms and pressures I placed upon myself physically. Yoga to me, is about appreciation. Appreciation for my body and appreciation for my mind. It is a time to do something positive for myself in many aspects.

So…. does this now make me a Yogi? Is this my new identity?

Well, it’s one of them. Along with being a woman, a daughter, a sister, a significant other, a friend. I am also a peer, a student, a writer, an artist, and human being. I have discovered and explored identities I didn’t even know I possessed.

To any ex-athletes out there, and parents of ex-athletes, it is good to look back and appreciate all that your sport has given you. It would take an entire other blog post for me to explain all that gymnastics has given me, because anything stated previously  barely scratches the surface. However, enjoy this self-defining and self-discovering time. It will be difficult and confusing, however you must be your biggest supporter, and listen to what your mind and body is telling you.

 

Thank you gymnastics for everything you have given me, that I will forever hold within me. Thank you to all of the teammates I’ve ever had, the coaches, my friends, and my family.

 

What am I doing with my life ?

What am I doing with my life ?

Learning to be comfortable with the unknown.

Journalism was the first major I chose. Then I though maybe English. Nope, just kidding I’ve always loved animals I think I want to be a vetrinarian. Highly allergic to cats? Maybe extensive contact with these beloved creatures isn’t the best idea. The fear of not knowing what I am doing and where I am going makes my head spin, stomach flip and toes tingle. What am I doing? Where am I going? What is my plan?

It’s great for those people who are born knowing they are meant to be a physical therapist. It is their lifelong dream to own a practice, and rehabilitate those in need. Or for the people who know they’re meant to be an elementary educator, or accountant, or rocket scientist or firefighter. However, the times are changing.

More and more millennials are taking a risk, and gambling all they got. Some people need steady, they need structure and others may think that what they need, yet once its what they have they are totally suffocating. I want to know where I will be in 10 years from now. Will I be a homeowner? Will I have a kid? two kids? Marriage?  A job or living on the streets? I wish I knew and I wish there was a set path that I would take to get there. But newsflash, winds change, peoplele die, people are born and the energy in the air changes.

Right now I want to be an occupational therapist, and I really do. I’m not simply saying that because its the latest path of career I have decided seems most realistic (although it probably is) but because I’m really interested in the field and in helping people. Maybe in a month I’ll decide I want to be an archaeologist. Maybe, in 10 years I’ll decided to go back to school to be a lawyer. Maybe, I’ll sell everything I own and backpack through South America. Every day I battle between knowing an not knowing what I will be most satisfied doing.

From my ever-changing career path decisions I have realized one thing. I simply want to chose a career which I will be satisfied with, and enjoy all aspects of my life. Careers have a large impact on your life on the amount of money you make, the people you surround yourself with, and your daily schedule. I used to look at careers as simply a way to make money. If you make the most money, you will live comfortably and your success will be equivalent to happiness. However, I don’t believe that is actually the case. I also feel that the process to getting to that career must be enjoyable and worth it as well. We never know what tomorrow will bring, and what if its your last week to live before the zombie apocalypse? I don’t want to be in a place where I am not enjoying myself just so I can eventually reach some high prestigious job that makes a ton of money, to maybe not even like it or be uber stressed out 24/7.

For any other emerging adults out there, not everyone has it all figured out, which doesn’t mean you’ll be working at your high school job scooping ice cream (unless that’s what you genuinely love than keep it up!) for the rest of your life. Keep adjusting your plan as the circumstances change and in the words of Bob marley, “Every little thing is gonna’ be alright.”

Movie Review: Downsizing

We hear more and more each year, how the world is doomed, global warming is real, and basically us humans suck at taking care of the planet. There are so many conflicting views on the issue of climate change. I could get all political and say what I feel we should do to progress and help save our beautiful earth, however, I think that the movie “Downsizing” says it all. Starring Matt Damon as the protagonist, the 6th mass extinction, the mass extinction of humans, is underway, and speeding up quickly. However this genius scientist man Jorgen Aborgsen from Norway develops a solution. Downsizing. not the kind of downsizing like moving out of your house into a cute studio apartment, or downsizing your wardrobe by getting rid of a few shirts, but physically decreasing the size of humans to 5 inches tall. Just a cup of water could be a yearly water supply for a house hold. Humans take up less space, use less resources, and less CO2 destroys the atmosphere. It really does seem like the perfect solution, if you could convince everyone of this

http://www.impawards.com/2017/downsizing.html

before it is too late. Before too many people ignore the fact that we are heating up our planet and as much as the extinction and endangerment of bengal tigers or polar bears may not directly affect us, we are next.

We are taken on a journey that is not only informative through this fictional scenario, but it is truly F U N N Y. An unexpected friendship, unexpected romance and unexpected ending. We may be able to predict the earths demise but I certainly didn’t predict the plot of this movie.

 

 

The Sensitive Sunflower

fullsizerender“Turn your face towards the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you”- Charlotte Whitton

I took me approximately 3 minutes of searching thesaurus.com and weeding through my brain trying to comprise an alternate way to say the first word that popped into my head to start this blog post.  The hesitation, the fear of judgement, the societal filer. So, to start this off and be true to myself, to accomplish what I want to with this blog, I will unleash the vulnerability I most fear.

“Greetings!”

Who even says greetings anymore? What am I some sort of space alien interacting with human life for the first time? at almost-twenty years old, most of us have experienced fears of social acceptance, of being “cool” or “popular.” Some people figure it out fairly quickly that the best and only person who’s opinion matters is yourself, others never figure it out. Some, like me, are always working on it.

I would like to kick this off with explaining the title I tossed and turned on for my blog, “The Sensitive Sunflower.” Sunflowers are of new inspiration to me in their appearance, significance and behaviors.

Sunflower: A commonly known fact about sunflowers, is that they grow with their face to the sun.  The scientific name of a sunflower is Helianthus annuus,  directly in Greek, helios meaning sun and anthos meaning flower. They are heliotrophic or phototrophic, which means that they start the day facing the sun and to make the most out of the sun each day.

In a study completed at UC Davis, “To see what happened if sunflowers were prevented from their usual rounds, the researchers lashed the plants to attention on stakes, or came in every night to turn their pots around so they would be facing the wrong way when morning came. Plants treated this way had 10 percent less mass and leaf area than those left to follow the sun, suggesting that tracking helps substantially with growth.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/08/why-sunflowers-follow-the-sun/497711/)

The following of the sun that these sunflowers naturally do, is inspiring. There is something liberating that these flowers who look to the light to guide them and make the most of the day. Now next time you come across a sunflower field take note of how they all face the same way, a sea of beautiful positivity leading into a brighter future.

Sensitive: Many, many, many times I have been described as “sensitive.” In my past I have taken this description to be something negative about myself. I have tried to change it, to try to be more “tough” however I would not be true to myself if I didn’t admit, that I am a sensitive person. The first three definitions I found of the word “sensitive” are:

1.) Quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.

2.) Having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.

3.) Easily damaged, distressed, or injured by slight changes.

One of the ways that I’ve been able to justify my sensitivity to stress-provoking stimuli, is to come to the conclusion that I that through all of my highs and lows in life, I have adapted to feel my emotions deeply. I would say that I can agree with the first 2 definitions of sensitive.

I would consider myself to be introspective, so this stealth to respond to stimuli, I often feel and am aware of. Often times as well, the feelings of others is an automatic concern of mine, whether it is their feelings on something I can help them with personally, or even what they may be feeling about me.

So with this post/future posts, my goal is not to display my weaknesses, search for pity, or gain reassurance of positive traits. Here, I want to connect with others. Even with each individual being unique and different, I know that there are people out there who can relate to some of what I think and feel. And even if you personally can’t relate, maybe now you can read out of interest, or understanding of others.

After all, Sunflowers are sensitive to light. I may be sensitive but this isn’t something broken about myself that needs to be fixed. I may become damaged by the wind and rain, but will wake up to the sunrise pointing towards the sunlight.

– The Sensitive Sunflower