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Searching for Sue.

Beautiful!

I’ve been practicing yoga for a long time – several years, off and on. When I say “yoga” here, I am referring to the movements you’ve probably come to know whether you’ve taken a yoga class or not.

Last month, I signed up with a yoga studio for 30 days to see how I liked the different classes they offered. My 30 days is up on Tuesday, and in just this short time, I’ve learned so much about the practice of yoga, and how much I needed it without even realizing it.

Many years ago, I did yoga poses at home from a VHS tape. Eventually, I got a few DVDs, and once I started taking regular boxing classes, I joined a yoga studio where I strictly took hot yoga classes.

It was there I really started to enjoy some of the mental clarity that comes with a yoga practice. But at the time, I wasn’t really looking for it.

This entire year has been a struggle for me, mentally, between my grief, and working a digital job, I get cloudy and feeling like I can never stop my brain from buzzing.

But between my meditation practice (thank you, Calm app), and taking yoga classes at the studio, I’ve discovered what a true delight it is to take even just 45 minutes or an hour all to yourself.

One whole hour just to breathe and let the outside world fall away.

Typically, when people think of yoga, they think of the poses. But it’s also about breathing, meditation, and a general system of well-being. It’s about awareness, and being present.

During these 30 days, I’ve taken traditional flow classes and barre – both of which I have tried before. But I tried two new classes: Yin and Restorative.

Yin yoga is slow-paced and the poses are held for up to five minutes each to work deeper into the muscles and fascia. I have LOVED taking these classes, and have also learned so much about my body and mind during them.

Restorative yoga is similar to yin in that you hold the poses for up to five minutes, but they are gentler poses meant to help you center your mind and body. This is really nice to take at the end of the day!

Since I already have a membership at a dance studio, I wasn’t really looking for cardio classes or even strength courses – I know I needed something for my mind.

In the first few classes I took, I kept finding myself on a mat next to the same woman – Sue. I don’t know much about Sue – which is one thing I enjoy about the studio: everyone pretty much keeps to themselves – she always seems to be on a mission to find COMPLETE relaxation.

She wears a thick headband that she uses to cover her eyes when our eye pillow just won’t work (when we are in a seated position, for example). She’s the first to cover up with one of the heavy blankets, and I believe Sue has mastered the ability to silently sleep mid-class.

It’s a trait I envy.

I haven’t seen Sue lately, and although we’ve only exchanged a few words over the course of the month, I’ve found myself searching for her in class. She is a great reminder that no matter what’s happening outside of class, this small bit of time is whatever we need it to be.

At the start of each class, we are invited to set an intention. I used to set my intention to just try and do my poses the best. But lately, I’ve vowed to focus on my breath, focus on being present.

With each practice comes progress, and I’m so thankful for the mental clarity I get from even trying. The studio has become a bit of a sanctuary for me, and I’ve got a feeling I’ll be hanging around for awhile.

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Meditation: Day 21.

Words of wisdom.

I’ve been wanting to try meditation for years, but I always assumed it was something I just couldn’t do. But I knew when I set my goals for 2018, I had to do something to practice regular meditation – I’m 100% sure my sanity depended on it.

Truth be told, I could have gone without the second-half of 2017. I had a few major blows in my personal life and it’s taken a toll like I’ve never experienced. I’ve spent the last 14 years of my life analyzing the romantic relationships I’ve dabbled in, and then turned around and hoped that I could offer some kernel of advice to you all.

Over those years, I’ve come to learn that heartbreak completely sucks. It’s all-consuming and hurts to the core. But I’ve also learned that just about any distraction [including, but not limited to, drinking excessively, picking up new hobbies, getting a revenge body, getting a pet, killing it at work, meeting new people, etc.] can mend the wounds of a bad relationship.

But the dish I’ve been served? It may as well be poison. It’s got nothing to do with romance and everything to do with seeing the true colors, even after 32 years.

This hurts like hell.

All of my usual cures just don’t work. Tears take over on my drive to, well, just about anywhere. My drive to work on my Etsy shop has subsided; my desire to blog has all but died. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store for the first time in a month (I’ve been living off ingredient delivery services).

And that’s just not me – it’s not even close.

It’s safe to say that stress, anxiety, and depression have finally taken their toll on my mind and body. That fact was driven home when I suffered a panic attack right before the holidays. I knew I had to do something in 2018 to find the other end of this funk.

I consulted my online networks, and even asked around at work, for advice on any meditation apps. I knew I was going to need guidance and something to hold me accountable. Here’s the advice I got in return:

  • Headspace, Calm, Bhuddify, Simple Habit, & Insight Timer

A few days into the new year, I downloaded the Calm app and the Headspace app around 4am one morning during a bout of insomnia. I’ve been using the Calm app ever since!

21 consecutive days of meditation!

So far, I’m really enjoying it. I am still trying out all of the free content on the app, which includes several different guided meditations, a meditation timer, a breathe bubble, various music, and bedtime stories. I have tried all of these, and I’m considering doing the paid subscription soon.

Now, I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that I do not think I’ll be “cured” with meditation alone. I am currently looking (and financially preparing) to see a therapist regularly to help me work through some of what’s happening in my life.

But I also know that it’s good for me to take a few moments to myself each day, get some good breathing in, clear my mind as best I can, and gain some perspective.

I want to make it clear that I’ve never really tried to meditate before I opened this app. I didn’t even know much about it. So, the first few attempts at it were…interesting. Even keeping my eyes closed for the entire 10-minute session was a struggle.

But I quickly learned that meditation is not about perfection; it’s a practice just like yoga (and I’ve been working each week to better my yoga). It’s not necessary to get mad at myself if I can’t keep my eyes closed or if my mind starts to wander – that’s what it’s done for 32 years and old habits DIE HARD.

There are some days I feel really good and into the meditation, and some days, all I have time for is a few minutes of regulated breathing and I’m onto my next thing. But it all helps!

Meditation started from several different religions around the globe, with some of them on a mission to clear the mind in order to make way for communication with God. Other religions seek meditation as part of the path to Enlightenment.

Even just 21 days in, I am starting to understand and adopt the ideas of mindfulness that can help reduce stress in my everyday life. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in accomplishing so much in one day – we see stress as normal, when it’s not healthy or normal.

What’s resonated with me the most is the observation that I let what happens to me completely take over my emotions and determine my happiness, or my sadness. On the flip side, things can change in an instant, and you just never know what direction your luck will take you. In other words, “This too shall pass.”

It may as well be my new motto.

I’d say, so far, so good. I’m really proud of myself for including this new practice into my every day life – and I hope what they say about 21 days (that it becomes a habit) is true, because I know this is a habit that won’t hurt me.

Aside from meditation, another goal of mine was to cut back on social media. I’ve basically cut out Facebook and stopped looking at and posting Instagram stories. I’ve also cut back on mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, and it’s led to a lot less social comparison (which is basically me wondering how everyone is ALWAYS on vacation) and a lot more time to read and actually meet a goal (I’m in the middle of my first screenwriting class).

I set lots of goals for myself this year, but those two really dealt with my mental health. It’s going to be slow-growing, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the corner.