Thursday, May 5, 2016

#365daysofyoga. Impressions FromThe First 100 Days.

That's me with one of my absolute favorite yoga instructors, Christina LaMarca at Cleveland Yoga.
Why do I love her class? She's really into her music and she's not afraid to be vulnerable.

Okay, I lied.

It hasn't been 100 days. But I couldn't title this post "Impressions From the First (Roughly) 100 Days."

After my big #365daysofveggiesforbreakfast thang that I rocked on Instagram last year (which resulted in my losing over 30 pounds and regaining sanity around food), I decided to take on a new challenge for 2016.

During Thanksgiving weekend, on Black Friday 2015, I made a commitment to myself to practice some form of movement and/or meditation (preferably both) every day and I purchased an annual membership to Cleveland's favorite yoga studio, Cleveland Yoga.

So it's been more like 155 days of (almost) continuous daily practice of yoga. There were a few days in there where my car broke down or I had a migraine headache and I just didn't move my body that day. I'm the only one who's counting, right?

I just wanted to see what would happen if I moved my body for 365 days in a row.

How would I feel? What would happen to my body? That number on the scale? My peace of mind?

For someone with a dicey history with exercise, this would be no small accomplishment.

I wanted to take some time at this point on my yoga journey to reflect on what I have learned so far.

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to thank my inspirations--Chef AJ and John Pierre--because without their encouragement to move my body every day, I never would have gone down this road and experienced what I am experiencing.

And what exactly is that? Here are my top ten impressions of daily yoga/meditation:

#1: What you think, you become.

This shit is REAL folks. Whatever you tell yourself about yourself, you are that thing.

 If you regularly say to yourself, "I am a couch potato" then chances are really high that you are a couch potato.

If you regularly say to yourself, "Self, I am an athlete and a yoga goddess" then you will become an athlete and a yoga goddess.

Simple as that.

I have been using the technique of reading and repeating a mantra in my head several times per day. I have been developing my "dreams" extensively (with the help of a variety of books and world class life coaches--there is an art and a science to this!) and reviewing them several times per day starting in January of this year. I'm not going to go into gory detail in this post about it, other than to say that this is very powerful stuff and it actually works.

Chills.

#2: Life is a series of experiments.

Sometimes you get the results that you expect and sometimes you don't. I don't need to stress about about it, I just need to observe and do the next right thing.

When I set out to make a change to my diet and begin eating non-starchy vegetables as my first meal of the day, I didn't know if it was going to bring about positive results. But I needed to be open to trying it to see what could happen (amazing things happened).

The same goes for this change in my physical routine. I just need to be open to experimenting, without the stress of gripping onto specific results that I hope to materialize (like a specific body shape or size). I may get those results or I may not. I may get different results. It's one big experiment and that's OKAY.

If something doesn't work after a while, I change it.

Simple as that.

No big deal.

Yoga has challenged my veggies for breakfast routine. It turns out that eating a bunch of vegetables in the morning before going off to a rigorous yoga practice isn't the best idea. So, right now I am experimenting with not eating anything before yoga and having my VFBs at around 11:30 am or noon, after yoga. This is quite a challenge for me as I actually do experience hunger beginning at 8 am in the morning. But I am looking at the whole thing as an experiment! If I can wait until after yoga to eat, I get the benefits of  intermittent fasting, because I am narrowing my eating window and fasting each day from 8 pm until 11:30 am (supposedly that's a pretty healthy thing to do). So far, it's been going really well and the scale is moving in the happy direction for the first time in a really long time!

It's such a relief for me to simply looking at things as experiments without putting any more weight onto them. I'll see what works for me and what doesn't. I'll keep what works and throw out what doesn't.

Like I said, no biggie.

#3: Miracles really do happen.

Show up.

Wait for them.

Watch carefully.

Magic is happening all of the time if you are open and aware.

Poses that I thought I would never be able to do suddenly become available to me. Or a pose that was torture becomes something that I can do with ease because I hear something from the teacher that day--something I may have heard countless times in the past--but on that day, I hear it differently and I apply it differently and magic happens.

It seems that if I am paying attention I can identify that something miraculous happens with my body with each and every yoga practice.

Sometimes I just start to cry in the middle of practice when I feel this wave of gratitude come over me that I have this opportunity in life to experiment like this for my own self care.

I can literally feel myself getting stronger with each practice.

#4: Scales really are for fish.

Thank God for John Pierre. He's got this expression, "Scales are for fish." And he's so freakin' right.

He explains it so well--when anyone gets on a standard scale, we really have no idea what is being measured. Is it bone? Water? Muscle? Or fat?

When you lose a pound, what exactly did you lose? Do you want to be losing bone or muscle?

So this really saved me. It saved my from months of self-inflicted mental torture along this journey. Why? Because as I was working my arse off in the yoga studio, the scale wasn't budging. But I could see my body changing right in front of me, and friends and family kept telling me how great I looked . . . but how could this be if I wasn't losing any weight . . .

DUH.

I was gaining muscle and maybe bone, I could see that. And I was losing fat at the same rate. So my number on the scale was exactly the same, but I was changing for the better.

The old me would have given up at the thought of the number on the scale not changing. I would have convinced myself that this was a failed experiment. But not now. Not with the knowledge that John Pierre gave me. He's got our backs.

#5: No pain, no gain.

A lot of days, my mind tells me that I should be doing anything but going to yoga. Like those days when I wake up sore, or when Aunt Flo is in town for a visit. Or when I start my day thinking about my to-do list.

I missed a few days here and there, and that is okay. On a few occasions, life really did get in the way. I took three days off to get extra sleep and to let my shoulders and arms heal and it made a HUGE difference when I went back to my practice. Perfection isn't required.

But I have come to learn that I cannot rely on my thoughts as indication of how I should act. Far, far too many of the possibly 70,000 thoughts that we have every day are negative (roughly 80% of them). And 95% of our thoughts are the same ones that repeat every day!

So I have learned that we need to "talk back" to our thoughts or they will ruin our lives!

Here's what I say to myself when I feel a thought come up that tells me that I can skip yoga:

Wendy, practicing yoga each morning makes each day a joy! It gives you boundless energy. Whatever soreness you have in your body right now vanishes with movement. Yoga moves all of the stuck energy through you in the most incredible way. Just go to yoga. You won't regret it.

And then, just like that, my yoga clothes are on and I'm on my mat. Every day.

#6: Stress release is a basic human need.

Having some form of physical, sweaty stress release every day has made a HUGE difference in my life.

HUGE.

People look into my face and tell me that I look different.

I'm sure it's the stress that they are not seeing.

But this blog posting is getting so long that I'm convinced you are bored at this point, so I won't go into more details here. I'm sure I'll be touching upon this point a lot in future posts!


#7: Yoga not your thing? No biggie! Find any form of movement that you LOVE. 

That's one of the keys to success with exercise, you're not gonna do it unless you LOVE it, so find something, anything that gets you to your happy place. And then get that shiz in your calendar every day. And guard that time like it was the crown jewels.

#8: Laugh at yourself. A lot. 

What I am doing (#365daysofveggiesforbreakfast and #365daysofyoga) can clearly be considered by some as totally ridiculous and unnecessary. I've gotten multiple comments from people who live locally that I have some kind of mental disorder because I commit to things and then keep my promises to myself.

What they don't understand is the science of habit change. And that's okay, I'm not trying to change their bad habits, I'm just working on my own.

For more laughter, check out these hilarious videos poking fun of yoga culture.



and this!



Who else is obsessed with this other guy named JP?

 #9 I have a lot more to learn about yoga!

I see this experiment as the beginning of my yoga journey. I am very aware that practicing the asanas (poses) is one fraction of what a true yoga practice entails. I'm open to it all and ready for whatever the universe has in store for me as far as going deeper with my yoga practice.

#10 Any day that I seriously move my body is a far better day than when I don't.

I don't know if it's the runner's high or what, but yoga sets my whole day up for success. I'm calm, centered and happy and I just couldn't imagine anything better than that. It's the kind of drug that I'm fairly certain it's okay to be addicted to!

What's your movement story? Have you always loved exercise? Did you go from being a couch potato to being an athlete? Are you moving every day? What's your favorite movement to do? Are you still stuck in a rut? If I can get moving, I promise, anyone can! 
 
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