Some may look at you like you’re crazy pants when you say you plan to travel while pregnant. You need to rest, they say. But I say go! Go and see something new. Go and hold hands with your partner under the moon of different sky. Go and see some of the magical world you plan to bring a child into. Go, woman! Go!* But before you do, read this: (more…)
When I was a kid, every time our family adopted a puppy my mother would create the same set up: a small bed and blanket with a heating pad and ticking clock tucked underneath. She said the clock would remind the puppy of his mother’s heartbeat and sooth him. I’d think of him searching for his mama during the night only to find a clock as a substitute for her heartbeat and wonder if that would suffice. I’d wonder when he would stop searching for the comfort of her beating heart, if ever.
Last week my boss popped into my office to use our printer and found my wedding invitation sitting on my officemate’s desk. “Girl!” she cried, “You’re getting married?!?” I make it a point to keep my personal life under lock and key at the work place so I hadn’t mentioned it. Since I come in contact with very few people during the work day, I imagined getting all the way down to the week prior to our big day without telling anyone. I would just return the next week – poof! – married.
My boss gushed the way I think most girls always hope their girlfriends will when they hear such happy news. It was sweet. I had the opportunity to smile and glow and bask in the glory of the engaged.
Instead, I acted like it was no big deal, in fact, I acted like it was a huge pain in the ass.
“When did you get engaged?” she asked, genuinely interested. “Oh…(pause)…March.” As if I had forgotten the one-of-a-kind proposal that Jeremy orchestrated on stage for me in front of all of my friends and family. And then I kept talking to fill the awkward space I had no idea what to do with, “We’re just…it’s a short engagement…we just want to get it over with so we can move on with life…you know, it’s nothing…it’s like, whatever.”
She stopped gushing and looked right at me, “Well, that’s romantic.” The sarcasm couldn’t have been thicker.
She finished up what she came into my office for and left me sitting in a pile of shit. Yep, shit. I shat all over my own wedding.
I realized I had actually been shitting on my wedding for quite some time. Tongue-in-cheek comments about my fiancee’s charming decor suggestions turned into all out complain sessions to anyone who asked. Complain, complain, complain, sigh, roll eyes, complain some more.
Complaining is a very seductive thing. Once you start, it’s really hard to stop. Complaining is cathartic in all the wrong ways. Letting one out can feel so good. And even if it took some coaxing to get it out, once your complaint has been released you realize what a burden it had been carrying it around. Lord help the complainer who has a captive audience! Because once the first has been set free, others are sure to follow.
As soon as you mention you’re engaged the knowing nods and streams of advice roll out. Everyone talks about how hard it is to plan a wedding. They say it brings up all kinds of issues you didn’t know were lying dormant, just waiting for you to plan the biggest party of your life so they can make themselves known.
Then, let the eye rolling begin.
I am not the bride-to-be who’s been dreaming of her wedding since she was four. When I got engaged, I didn’t know what kind of dress I’d wear: mermaid, princess, vintage, funky, glamourous, or whimsical. I had no idea what kind of bride I would be–DIY, green chic, alternative, or classic.
In the early stages of planning I scanned Pintrest trying to figure it all out. Wedding veterans and wedding hopefuls did something remarkable–they got me excited. Discovering images women everywhere have been compiling for their own dream weddings lit a fire in me. Finally, I was excited to plan and craft and imagine and create my dream wedding. I may not have been dreaming this wedding since I was four. But I did begin dreaming of it the moment I met Jeremy and finally it didn’t feel like a dirty little secret. It felt amazing. It felt fun.
Seeing my boss’ excitement sink into a puddle of crap made me realize how much I was giving up by allowing myself to be seduced by the eye-roll. I had the chance to [metaphorically] jump up and down and squeal with glee because I was marrying the most amazing man in the world. I passed it up to roll my eyes! Somehow, all the trying to please everyone and money worrying and arguing about colors, tradition, ceremony, and guest lists seemed stupid. Stupid because they were zapping all the joy out of the only wedding I’ll every plan to the only man I’ll ever marry.
I decided right then and there that I would enjoy planning a wedding. When anyone asks me if I’m excited, I’ll say, “Oh my goodness, yes! I’m soooo excited! I can’t wait! I’m planning the biggest party of my life. It’s so fun! I love it and I love him and I’m the luckiest girl in the world!”
Now, we are exactly two months away from our wedding day. Yes, we have invoices to check. But we also have songs to choose, flowers to select, clothes to try on, and dinners to plan. I couldn’t be happier. And when it’s all said and done, I’ll be married to my best friend. You can’t beat that.
Show me a woman and I’ll show you an eating disorder. In some way, shape, or form I guarantee she’s got one.
Body image is something that I’ve struggled with since 5th grade when Barbie stepped onto her Barbie scale and the weight read, 110 pounds–six pounds more than my 5th grade body weighed. It is still something I struggle with. Yep, pro-woman, yogi, college educated, Women’s Studies minor ME still struggles with body image.
My body image issue usually lays dormant. But about two and a half years ago I was trying to figure out some health issues and restricted my diet. Not in an unhealthy way; I was simply cutting some things from my diet to figure out what was triggering symptoms. This new diet, combined with a new found love for running resulted in weight loss.
I dropped 2 pants sizes. But there was this weird disconnect. I held up my new jeans and they looked so tiny. I couldn’t believe that I fit into them. Then I’d put them on and wish that the itty bitty pinch of flesh that hung over the waistband would disappear.
One day I overheard a gal pal tell my boyfriend how “smokin'” I was looking. His response (God bless him!), “She’s losing her ass. It’s no good.”
Well, there’s a quandary.
One of my closest confidants was singing praises to my new figure (Ladies, let’s be honest, we are more hell-bent on impressing other women than we are men–even men we care about). On the flip side, my guy was wishing he had a little more somethin-somethin to grab when reaching for my behind.
As a yogi, my priority is my health. So while I entertained these thoughts, wellness won. I figured out the culprit and slowly began to integrate wine, yogurt, sugar, and whole wheat back into my diet–in moderation.
Poof! Booty came back!
And let me add, so did my periods, which had mysteriously disappeared. Marvelous! Irregular periods, just another way for mother nature to let you know something’s not right. AND just another excuse for insurance providers to deny you coverage. Sorry, that’s another post.
Since then, no–since 5th grade, this is something I struggle with. What my intellectual self and my emotional self understand are two different things. It’s a constant conversation. So when I see things affirming what I know is true (intellectual self) I have to stop and take note.
I was reminded of this post today after a series of events.
1. Facebook post by friend, Anna Brown: “Awesome moment of today: I was working out at work (GO JAG GYM!) and a group of little girls, had to be 8, came over and were mimicking my movements on the balance beam (V-sit on beam while shoulder pressing dumbbells). I notice them out of the corner of my eye and had them grab smaller weight (2pders) and had a mini work out demo. LOVE LOVE LOVE! I will be a positive change in the world of child fitness… you have been warned!”
2. At home yoga practice: a few warm up vinyasas, a few standing balances, forearm stand with variations.
3. Passed by the mirror and wondered how my hips got so wide…
Yes, despite my support of the strong women I know and my appreciation for a practice that allows me to view the world upside down, I still measure the value of my physical self by the standards set by our culture.
I love being a yoga instructor and being part of a movement that promotes wellness and strength. Some of the most rockin’ yogis I know sport swimmer’s arms, round tushies, and quads that could squeeze the life out of you. I admire these women. Furthermore, I am not so blind as to discount the waifs of steel that can hold their own in a sea of inversions. We are all born with different bodies. Therefore, “strong” is going to look different on each and every one of us.
Skinny is one of those words that can be a compliment or an insult depending on how it is said.
“Ay, you look so skiiiiiny!” (said by my auntie handing me a plate of carbs) or “Damn girl, look at that skinny little thing!” (said by the man on the street)
Regardless, I’d like to replace skinny with strong. Piggy backing off of what Sophie so eloquently said, strong is the new skinny. But let’s keep in mind that strong is going to look different on different women. That may mean curvy calves, broad shoulders, or an expansive belly. It also may mean wide hips.
At the end of the day, I bow my head and smile to my practice and to my body, as I acknowledge how strong I am despite all the squishy, jiggly, and wide parts of me. Let my insecurities give me insight. Let my weakness give me compassion. And let my body give me strength.
It took less than 40 days. I set out to practice everyday so I could make a clear decision about my work schedule. I knew I needed to fill the well and nurture myself. Plus, I love a good challenge.
A challenge it has been. Squeezing my practice into a day that is already packed with teaching and writing is tricky. It means planning ahead and packing lots of snacks. But at the end of each day, as I tuck myself in bed, I feel good. I have peace of mind knowing that whatever has slipped through the cracks, yoga hasn’t.
Aside from a dewy glow and a sense of peace, what happens when you do yoga everyday?
Brass balls. That’s what happens.
Author Benjamin Lorr quotes his friend Anna in his book, Hell Bent:
“I don’t know how the yoga works, but I do know that I started practicing and I grew a pair of brass balls. I kicked my alcoholic husband out of my life. I got a better job. It’s a power tool for taking responsibility.”
This is not an uncommon experience. Many people experience this when they give yoga a go for the first time. They try it for the physical exercise and it ends up changing their lives. But the funny thing is that when you return to a regular practice after a hiatus of whatever length, the brass balls come back.
I experienced this about 3 1/2 years ago. I was tending bar and acting as manager at an Irish pub in Long Beach when I began my 200 hour yoga teacher training. I knew I was growing in all kinds of ways but I had no idea that all the while my ability to tolerate bullshit was decreasing. I had a hard time faking a giggle for drunk old mean and sleazy bachelors. And then one day I up and quit. I truly thought I’d rather shoot my own knee cap than spend one more day pouring beer and faking a smile. No more.
It was unlike me. I didn’t have another job lined up. Although, I had oodles of skills I really wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was going to do next. I just kept going back to the mat.
I eventually found my way, as I knew I would. But growth occurs in cycles. You find your groove, get down and get comfy. Yet, you are not meant to stay there forever. You will transition. It will be uncomfortable, maybe even painful and difficult. But you must. And then, you’ll find your groove again.
This is where yoga steps in. I don’t think transitional phases of our lives should last years at a time. For some they do. That’s unnecessary.
Yoga helps expedite the process of moving from one place to another. It gives you brass balls so you can call bullshit on the things in your life that bring you down or steer you off course.
What’s really happening is this: yoga breaks down the walls separating you from yourself and your desires. That’s when you tap in and the path that lies before you is clear.
So, my brass balls came back. And I had to call bullshit on myself. I really thought that I could manage 2 writing jobs, 4 yoga classes, planning a wedding, my own creative projects, and still be able to connect with the people I love, take care of my boyfriend, and nurture myself. Yoga says, HA!
I’m still practicing everyday for forty days. I like the challenge. And it’s keeping me connected to me. But it only took me four days to figure out what I need to do. Now I have to ask the big questions that will get me to the next phase. Brass balls and all, at least I know I’ll be there soon.
A daily yoga practice is no big deal over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday seem to be made for yoga. They go together like huevos and rancheres, especially when followed up with brunch and girlfriends.
But weekdays are tricky. There are jobs to juggle, errands to run, phone calls to make…at home there are dishes, laundry, stinky litter boxes–I could very easily put off my practice. But I didn’t because I set an intention that I really want to fulfill. And failing at day four would be sad and embarrassing.
So I convinced myself that 30 minutes counts. I tore myself away from the dozens of tasks that need doing, unrolled my mat, set up my iPad and let Felicia guide me through 30 minutes of sweet, sweet yoga. In less than a minute I was so, so thankful.
Yet how often do we put things off because we think we don’t have enough time to make it worthwhile? Reading, meditating, phoning a friend–all things to which we’d love to devote big chunks of time. I dream of a lifestyle that involves curling up with my cats, a fluffy blanket, and a good book for a good hour nightly. I love the feeling of being so lost in fiction that I am jarred by the sound of an incoming text message. This image is delicious to me. Books are meant to be savored. Sometimes I read passages over a second or third time just to take in the rhythm of the language, to admire the attention that went into crafting prose. It just doesn’t seem worth it to dive in for so short a period of time. But small doses add up.
A woman could slip a bit of arsenic in her husbands dinner night after night, and eventually he’d end up dead.
A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children who exercised intensely for only 20 minutes daily achieved measurable health benefits, such as lowered risk for diabetes, lower body fat, and increased fitness.
The point is, thirty minutes counts…or 20 minutes, or 15 or 10. Consider this next time you put something off because you don’t have enough time. When you can’t carve out as much time as you’d like for a restorative practice, create a little oasis of time in your day just for you. After my short practice I felt less back pain, more relaxed, and more centered. Totally worth it.