Thoughts on Confidence/Yoga Teacher Training – Weekend 8

Somehow I never ended up writing about Weekend 7. It’s funny: as soon as I think I’ll have extra time to study and write and start practice teaching, life accelerates even further and the opposite happens. I remember Weekend 7 being a good one and for the actual physical practice, Kate led us through a beginner’s level class. It was great. She is so good at what she does that even her beginner’s classes have value for anyone at any level due to the way she links poses together and has her students focus on fine-tuning. I may not have sweated, but I still felt like my body was put to work.

I am only halfway through Weekend 8 but I wanted to put fingers to keyboard on a significant thing that happened. We started today with Philosophy and had lots of discussion about Book Three of The Yoga Sutras. (I could probably write a whole post on just that.) But the actual physical practice was a more vigorous one and Kate had us doing Inversions again. One of the written assignments from Weekend 6 was to compose an essay about one of the Kleshas that resonated with us. I wrote about Abinivesa, which is literally translated as a “fear of death” but can be interpreted much more widely than that. There was a lot of personal information that I shared in that essay which explained why I had this fear, but ultimately I related it back to my mat and how it held me back from getting into poses like Headstand. I did not grow up very flexible or strong – physically, but probably in other non-tangible ways as well – but both of these things have certainly improved due to my asana practice. I feel like I am at the point that I could lift up into Headstand but then I (literally) feel my head getting in the way. During today’s more vigorous class, Kate called me out on this. I started to well up into tears; not because Kate was being cruel – because she was right. And she knew from my essay that I would know she is right. (Also, I have my period.)

But even when Kate was preparing us to do Headstand, I could feel myself getting anxious. I started to feel the tears welling up then, long before she said that my confidence was getting in the way. What’s crazy is that I have been criticized in the past for how confident I am and here I was being called out for not having any. Which is it? 

And as Demi Lovato sings, what’s wrong with being confident? But I am confident about the things that I know that I am good at. I am not taking this course because I think I am “good” at yoga or because I think I would make a “good” yoga teacher. I am truly trying to push my boundaries of comfort and see where this journey takes me. Although it has been stressful at times, so far it has taken me to a place that I haven’t regretted going. After this weekend, we only have four weekends left. We are 2/3 of the way through! But it’s true that I keep psyching myself out – which honestly is unusual for me. How humbling it’s been to step outside of my confident zone.

Thoughts on Sleep

The older I get, the more important getting a good night’s rest has become. It’s amazing how little sleep I was able to function on during college and in my twenties. After graduation, I had to work two broadcasting jobs to survive – one in morning radio, which required me to arrive at the station by 4.30am. As one of the assistant producers, I’d participate in our post-show debrief meeting/next day prep meeting and then spend hours on the phone booking guests. I’d leave around 2pm, get home in time to nap for an hour, shower again to wake myself up, then be at my evening job in TV by 5pm. I’d get home between 11pm and midnight, sleep for a few hours, then wake up and do it all again. During the fall, I’d even add to the madness by working at a popular Halloween attraction in upstate New York on the weekends – mostly because it was so much fun. I lived in a studio apartment and didn’t need much more space than that since it was just a terminal where I’d lay down for a couple hours at a time and get dressed.

Let me be clear: I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I SURVIVED LIKE THAT. Now in my forties, if I get less than a solid eight hours, I am CRANKY. I am also a light sleeper – a trait I inherited from my Father – so it is very difficult for me to fall asleep unless I am completely drained when I lie down, as in the aforementioned scenario. (Maybe that’s why I ran myself ragged like that!) Once I do fall asleep, any slight noise or movement wakes me up – and once I’m awake, I am awake the rest of the night wishing I could fall back asleep. I will look at the clock and think, if I fall back asleep now, I can still get three hours. And this countdown continues until the sun starts to rise and I decide to give up and get out of bed. It is HORRIBLE.Image result for emoji zzz

Sleep is particularly elusive if I am sharing a bed with someone. Enter my BF. I have always said that I would never live with a boyfriend, mainly for this reason. But my BF is special and I have found myself making many concessions that I never expected I would make. We have been living together for 2.5 years and he is wonderful, but I have hardly slept during this time. Compounded with a job that continues to pile more and more on me, I started to come unglued after the holidays – a time of year that I love but was particularly exhausted by this year because I was already exhausted going into it. I started taking more baths to relax (my New Year’s resolution!), which honestly did help, but the glass of rose’ (or two) I’d drink along with those baths DID NOT HELP. Do not drink alcohol when you are overtired! I finally had to own up to my issue to my BF: I just needed some sleep. Thankfully, we had booked a last minute cruise in February and it was a much needed break. Since it was a last minute decision, we booked the cheapest room available – an inside room with no windows – and it was a blessing in disguise. I fell asleep so easily on the boat. The room was cool, dark and quiet (we were inside so there was no foot traffic in our hallway) and I’d wake up naturally around 6am feeling refreshed and excited about the day. I’d even jump out of bed and head to the gym! After a full day in the sun and a great dinner, we’d go to bed around 10pm and my eyes wouldn’t open again until the next morning. It was UNBELIEVABLE. I felt like a new, happy person!

Then we returned to land and that feeling came to a screeching halt. But after our experience on the boat, my BF finally understood the gravity of my sleep issue and volunteered to start sleeping in our guest room during the week. It was sweet, but sad. I felt like I had failed us. Up to this point, I had tried everything else: a new mattress topper, a silk pillowcase, a Dohm sound machine, a sleep mask, a bed fan. I was at the end of my rope and didn’t know what else to do. I felt like I wasn’t enjoying life because I was tired all the time and I certainly wasn’t functioning at my best. But the separate rooms did the trick and I started sleeping again. In order to feel somewhat functional during the workweek, I’d have to start the process of going to sleep hours before I believed I would actually fall asleep, but my BF (rightfully so) would want to stay up and watch TV or play games. What would often happen is that he would come to bed just as I was finally falling asleep and BAM, I’d be up for the rest of the night. And the fact that he was sleeping so soundly next to me would only add to my irritation as I watched the hours pass!

The separate sleeping arrangements solved these problems but didn’t seem ideal for a young couple who are sharing their lives. Finally, a light bulb went off: I sleep more easily with him when we are traveling – because we are sharing a King-sized bed! The extra room prevents me from getting overheated (he runs HOT) or feeling/hearing every move he makes. I approached him about the idea of purchasing a King bed for our apartment and he was fully on board, but worried about the amount of room it would take up (we have an awesome apartment but the bedrooms are SMALL). With my experience living in NY-sized apartments, I promised him I could make it work, so we did the ultimate couple activity and spent our Sunday afternoon mattress shopping. Laying on all the mattresses was pretty hilarious and we made our salesman’s day by coming to a decision very easily. That same weekend, Target was having a sale on bedding so we were able to score a deal on new sheets, a mattress cover, a comforter set and a space-saving bed frame. And guess what? The King bed works! We got rid of the futon we had in the guest room and put our Queen bed in there, so now we have even more comfortable accommodations for our out-of-town friends. I still use my sound machine to block out his TV and games if he stays up later than I do, but even if he comes to bed after me, he doesn’t seem to be waking me up like before. The mattress we bought limits motion transfer and my body seems to be acclimating to a more regular sleep schedule.

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So, the lesson here? Be honest with your partner about your needs. I was so embarrassed about my sleep issues that I was afraid to push my BF away. But in actuality, I was getting so damn cranky that I was probably doing it anyway! Lucky for me, I found a true partner who understands that relationships require work and we are both willing to invest in building a healthy, happy life together.

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Thoughts on Life

I’ve been reading a lot about the “life force” as part of my yoga teacher training and how many people think the breath is the actual force of life (ie. you are no longer living when you stop breathing) – and how controlling the breath (pranayama) means you are connecting with this force. But according to the Yoga Sutras, the “life force” is an entity of its own – and it is one of divinity. Controlling the breath helps clear the mind and calm the nervous system so one can tune in to the divine vibration within them – the true “life force” – but the connection is not made solely through the use of pranayama. Pranayama is just a tool.

While digesting this information, I began to think about watching my beloved cat Norman die. He ultimately died of renal failure but the root cause will never be known despite many tests and procedures. His vet felt that he could pass at home with me – if I was up to the challenge – and he would not be in pain. I could tell that he was fighting to go home again after so many days in the hospital, so I did take him home and began a death vigil. It was a 2-day process. I had never watched any living creature die before, so I started googling what to expect. Will it be gross? Will I think he’s dead when he actually isn’t yet?

When the final process started, he laid on his side on the floor breathing quickly. Then, he lifted his head and neck to cry out and his eyes went dark and his head fell back to the floor. Some stuff came out of his mouth but nothing too gross. There was still air in him and his chest was still moving, but I knew he was gone. Looking at his body, you would think that he was still alive, but the life force had left him. What happened over the next twenty minutes or so was similar to putting a small pinhole in a balloon and watching it deflate. His soul escaped out that pinhole when the puncture occurred and the remaining air slowly seeped out. It was not the air in his lungs that gave him life; it was whatever had just escaped him. I covered his body (but not his head) with a blanket; in case anything else gross happened, I wanted him to have his dignity. My father, who also had a strong bond with Norman, was with me and was the one to remove the blanket. Before I looked, I asked him if he saw anything I should be prepared for. “He looks beautiful,” my Father said.

Norman Polaroid

What does animate us? What gives us life? I was raised Catholic and grew up believing in God. I disengaged from organized religion as I got older and simply started ignoring my own beliefs; I just didn’t bother to think much about religion or my own spirituality anymore. But this teacher training is the study of yoga in its entirety – not just the postures (asanas). What I’ve learned is that yoga is truly spiritual. A person who practices yoga postures to build strength or to get a good stretch is not necessarily practicing “yoga” – just one element of it. But if you are truly doing YOGA, you are connecting with the divine thing – whatever it is – that is the root cause of the life force.

Air did not give Norman life. He was no longer living when the life force left him. I saw it with my own eyes: there is something greater than us.

Thoughts on The New Year

The New Year went by very quickly for me. My BF and I host Christmas together for our families but I take on the bulk of the planning, organizing, decorating and orchestrating. It’s a lot of work but it’s work that I don’t mind doing because my parents finally get to enjoy themselves instead of them having to do all that work. Thankfully Christmas fell on a Monday this year so my BF and I both had Christmas Eve off. (I am not sure what we’re going to do next year when Christmas Eve is on a Monday, but we will figure that out then.) My BF helps a lot with with the heavy lifting and even shares in the cooking/food prep, but I still found myself completely exhausted for a few days after. Admittedly, I also ended up helping a girlfriend paint part of her new condo and threw together a last minute holiday luncheon for some of the admin folks at work, so I am guessing that compounded my exhaustion. Then there is also the reality that I’m not getting any younger. Ugh.

The few days between Christmas and New Year’s flew by due to the demands of my day job (plus yoga homework!) and then suddenly it was New Year’s Eve. I started audibly yawning at 3pm. Fortunately my BF and I made early dinner reservations with the intention of being home in our pajamas (with Dom Perignon) for the ball drop. We got dolled up and took an Uber so we could avoid the -5 degree weather by jumping right into a warm car. We had cocktails followed by a lovely 4-course meal and then came home to see the start of NYE programming. At 9.30pm I realized I wasn’t going to make it. I said I was going to take a nap but I was pretty much out for the night. (My BF did wake me up at midnight so we could kiss. He’s sweet like that.)

Since that night, I have been slowly rebooting. I am just now catching onto the fact that it really is a NEW YEAR. I made no resolutions and didn’t really have time to mentally reconcile my 2017 prior to it ending. And now that I’ve taken a post-holiday breath, I still can’t really decide on any resolutions. I took a nice long bath last night so I could pause and think, but the only resolution I came up with was to take more baths! Which honestly may be the best resolution EVER.

Although it wasn’t intended to be part of a resolution, I did also buy a balance ball on sale at Target (all C9 merch is discounted right now) and have added a variety of toning exercises to my cardio workouts. My abs are sore!! I am also especially motivated to tone up because my BF is so sick of the cold that he begged me to go somewhere warm with him ASAP and we ended up booking a somewhat last minute cruise in February. We will be in the Caribbean for Valentine’s Day and I have a short window to get swimsuit ready!

Balance Ball

Thoughts on Being Competitive

My writing assignment from my second batch of homework was to reflect on the sutras that I’ve read – so far, we’ve had to read up to Sutra 1.20 of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – and make sense of the somewhat conflicting ideas of effort (“virya” in Sanskirt) and non-attachment (“vairagya”). While pondering what I would write, I started to realize that I have been living my life this way for a number of years now – most likely as a result of the things I’ve heard my yoga teachers say in class. It’s so funny how things creep into your subconscious.

As an example, my BF and I ended up dressing as David Pumpkins and one of his skeletons for Halloween this year. This appealed to me on two levels: 1. the David Pumpkins skit from the Halloween 2016 episode of SNL cracked me the hell up – to the point that I’ve been using his picture as my user icon in a number of places, and 2. I found myself really wanting to dress as a skeleton – in general, not just as one of David Pumpkins’ skeletons. I had no idea where this urge to dress as a skeleton came from; it wasn’t a sugar skull thing, even though I have a strong affinity for Mexican culture. For Halloween, I typically channel an iconic character as part of an ensemble cast (think Darth Vadar, The Tin Man or Medusa), with my ultimate fallback costume being a witch with a prosthetic nose. But a skeleton? It was a whole new thing. And then I happened upon a slideshow of memorable celebrity costumes – Kim Kardashian in a skeleton bodysuit being one of them. Apparently that image was burned into my subconscious.

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But back to effort and non-attachment. It’s so funny because I, like most people, work in a sales-oriented industry. We sell a product and we are constantly “winning” or “losing”. We hire people that want to WIN. No surprise, a lot of these people have heavy sports backgrounds and our conference calls and meetings are filled with sports analogies. Let’s hit it out of the park! This sales meeting is our Superbowl! Go team! Do I like getting a bonus? YES. Do I work my ass off and have pride in what I do? YES. But this whole idea of “winning” – crushing someone or something else – just doesn’t resonate with me. I have never been competitive in that way. I have always been a “go getter”, an innovator, a task hacker, but I’m just not a mindless executor of plays. Does that make me not a valuable member of a team? I guess everyone has a role and I am probably in the right one, but I just cringe over battle cries of winning when there is no clear reason why we NEED to win. Are we curing cancer? NO. Are we trying to keep our jobs? YES.

At the end of the day, I do have faith in the universe. That faith has served me well so many times in my life. The best things have happened to me when I have truly turned over the reigns and let the universe do its thang. That is not to say that I didn’t put in any effort in these situations. I tuned up the car, put my seatbelt on, and let the universe take the wheel. What I learned in doing so is that the universe won’t actually show you any results unless you are truly genuine in your intention – unless you are truly okay with the outcome. Cause it can not be great. I mean, hey, you’re speeding down the road without your hands on the wheel! There can be casualties. But you need to know that going in – eyes wide open. And you need to have faith that when it’s not great, there might be a good reason. So you must detach yourself from the results. Vairagya.

But the best part of virya – the effort – is that we are supposed to be putting our effort into living selfless lives. Oh man, that is HARD. Especially when there are so many ASSHOLES out there. But honestly – I know it’s cheesy – I do really have the best time when other people are having a good time. That’s a very superficial way to put it, but I mean it on ALL levels. I just want us all to have the best time possible, no matter how long we have. That is my new mantra and it will continue to bubble up on this blog.

Thoughts On Pressure

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to “do” lately. Most of these thoughts haven’t stemmed from my own inner voice – they’re a result of conversations I’ve had and positions I’ve been put in. I have a good job but it is very corporate and when you’ve mastered your responsibilities within such a corporation, there’s an undercurrent of pressure to move up. Sure, I could do more – but at what cost? I am at an age now where I strongly weigh if a job is worth its price tag; a title just isn’t enough. In the cases where I could’ve moved up, there was very little benefit to me personally and I wisely stayed put.

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In my personal life, I had a conversation with a dear friend recently in which she asked me what my plan was. It honestly kind of made me feel bad – as if the life I was living wasn’t good enough. I know she was coming from a place of genuine interest, but I felt judged. As a result, I started spending too much time analyzing my life and wondering if I was giving too much of my energy away instead of using it to propel myself forward.

As much I was was hurt by that conversation, I am thankful for it. All the thinking I did led me to sign up for the yoga teacher training (which starts next weekend, fyi). But I fear that I mainly took that action so that I have a definitive answer to the “what’s your plan?” question. I have something that I’m DOING with my life other than going to work every day and helping out my family as much as I can – I’m studying yoga!

But in the weeks since I signed up for the training and started this blog, I have done even MORE thinking and realized my true answer – my true PLAN.

I just want to enjoy and appreciate life. What’s wrong with that?

Thoughts On Running

I have never been a runner. I have never been very athletic overall – but I have definitely never EVER been a runner. Growing up, I played basketball, which I hated, tennis, volleyball, and softball, which I was actually all fairly good at and liked, and was also a Pop Warner cheerleader – although I was usually a “base” at the bottom of the pyramid, which is not necessarily great for a pre-teen’s self esteem. Needless to say, hardcore cardio work was not for me. I didn’t have the heart strength or the breathing regimen for it. I just always felt like I was drowning every time I had to run.

It’s interesting how much more health conscious kids are today. I worked in a high school for about a year and the kids would actually go to the gym just to GO TO THE GYM. They weren’t even specifically training for anything, like football! And they were certainly more aware of what they were putting in their mouths. I did not grow up like that. I actually liked eating vegetables, but the ones I ate were usually soaked in cheese and butter. It was just a different world and I wish I knew then what I know now so I didn’t have to work so hard to undo the mistakes of my youth.

Twice in my life, I have lost a significant amount of weight. The first was in college: I actually joined a women’s gym one summer (it was kind of like Curves but they had actual food coaches and cardio machines). I went five days a week and dropped 40lbs before going back to school. For the first time since becoming a teenager, I was a single digit size! The entire experience was wonderful. I bonded strongly with the other women even though they were much older than me. They even threw me a birthday celebration with a sugar free ice cream cake. It was awesome.Image result for scaleThe second time was after I relocated from New York to New Hampshire just as I was turning 30. I came up for air and realized that I had put on a lot of weight while immersing myself in my career. I decided to treat this move as a complete life reboot and hired a personal trainer. I had never gone to a regular gym before but I was hopeful that the trainer could help get me over the hump. We had a comfortable rapport and he actually turned out to be a boy that had a crush on me when we were children, but it took us a few sessions to figure it out. He gave me a realistic regimen and I stuck to it, and slowly the weight came back off. I was once again a single digit! Although I fluctuate slightly, I have maintained it for the past 10+ years.

Now I live in a building that has its own gym, so I really have no excuse. The gym is small and the equipment is old, but it has two treadmills, two bikes, an elliptical and some weights. My BF is a runner and we’ll often be in the gym at the same time, him pounding on the treadmill and me on the elliptical or other treadmill with my hand-weights. My heart is in much better condition than when I was a child; I can sustain long periods of cardio activity now, as evidenced by surviving my weekly cardio kickboxing classes. What’s interesting is how all these things in your life can converge and lead you on a new path. The combination of watching my BF run and the breathing techniques I’ve learned from yoga has actually gotten me to consider running myself. One day while speed walking on the treadmill, I literally thought, why can’t I do that? So I just decided to do it. I cranked up the speed higher than I ever had, and I just ran. Not for very long – maybe a half mile – but I still ran.

I wouldn’t say that I actually enjoyed it, but I didn’t hate it either. And I felt like I accomplished something. Every once in awhile, I even do it again. Who is this person?