Mental health & trying to keep it together

photo by j parker photography

This post is for when you feel like life is getting the best of you.

I ran into a colleague of mine recently while I was working at a coffee shop, and he encouraged me to write this post on mental health – how to keep it together when it feels like you have too many things going on (he’s getting his doctoral degree). I’ve written about that sort of thing before, but I’ve never really written a “how to” post. I certainly don’t have a magic recipe or a button to push to make all of life’s hard things disappear.  But I’m always happy to share my own experiences and give advice, so this post is about what always works for me when I’m feeling way too overloaded. These tips have gotten me through graduate school, juggling several jobs, heartache, loss, and more.

This new school year is already proving to be a challenge for me. I can’t seem to keep my head above water and every day is a constant to-do list that doesn’t even get halfway accomplished. Clubs, department chair, budget, committees, lesson plans and grading – I have never been this behind on grading so early on. On top of that, add a second job, keeping up with this blog, trying to exercise, 2 dogs, friends, family, etc…you get the picture. I’m sure you also have your own list! I really started to feel overwhelmed this week and even as I sit here, I’m trying to squeeze in writing a blog post after school before leaving for my second job at the pub. SO. I am also writing this post as a reminder to myself of the steps I need to take so I can keep my sanity and not completely fall apart.

People frequently ask me how I’m always so positive, happy, upbeat, etc. or tell me that I always seem “put together.” I’ve gotten that comment (compliment!) a lot in my life, and I can guarantee you that I do not always have it together – I’m just really good at faking it ’til I make it! But I do tend to stay pretty positive and I try to look at life’s hardships as a growing process and as problems with solutions, rather than letting them ruin my life. Here are the steps I take when life is really sticking it to me and I feel like I’m about to explode:

1. Take a breath. The cheesiest, most overused cure on the planet – but if people would just take a second and actually breathe in and out a few times, the world would probably definitely be a much better place. Breathing does a few things, and there is a lot of science behind it, but I’ll save that for another time because I know I can get long-winded (see what I did there?). Breathing gives you a few moments between stimulus and response:  The moment something “happens to you” and however you decide to react to it. If you’re taking a few moments to just breathe in and out, you are saving yourself from overreacting, saying something you’ll regret later, breaking something, etc. You have a few seconds to think about how you want to respond. Doing this simple task – breathing – and being aware of it, has literally changed my life and my whole outlook on it.

2. Allow yourself to wallow – but not for long. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and upset. It is okay to feel like life isn’t fair sometimes, or like you don’t deserve “all of this,” whatever “this” is for you. I get it. So take that time to really get a good “Dang, this sucks” moment in for yourself, and then remind yourself that you are done feeling sorry for yourself because you have mountains to move. At some point you have to dust yourself off and start making a plan. You just have to. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in the dark place, and that is a hard place to pull yourself out of.

3. Distance yourself from whatever you need to. Give yourself space. Remember up there in #1, where I talked about stimulus and response? We often respond too quickly to a situation, a conversation, or a moment of frustration without giving it some time and space for thinking about it. If it’s school, work, social problems, whatever it might be, give yourself some distance. Physically walk away from whatever it is and take a break. Get some air, think about your feelings, all that good stuff. Weigh your options and then respond/act once you’ve been able to process everything. I wrote more about that here.

4. Vent to a non-judgmental ear. Sometimes we just need to get it out. Find that person that can listen to you without reminding you later what you said when you were stressed out. A sounding board that can understand you’re just having a moment and need someone to say, “I hear you,” and not, “I told you so.” Typically in these moments we aren’t looking for advice – we just need to be heard and validated. There is value in that. I believe there is true healing in just getting bad things out of your brain and into the open, whether that’s in writing, talking to friends or family, or even talking to a trained professional.

5. Prioritize. Make lists! Even if making lists isn’t your thing and it doesn’t bring you satisfaction like it does to me (which I can’t even begin to understand), making lists is the number one way to make sure you can accomplish all you need to accomplish – and in the order that it all needs to get done! So you’ve had your time to feel sorry for yourself, and now you have to make a plan on how you’re going to make it through. I usually keep several lists – for to-dos at home/errands, things I need to do at school, a list for the blog, a list for pictures I need to take for the blog, a list of workouts and groceries for the week, etc. You can do this easily on your phone, too. I set a million reminders a day and Siri always comes through for me if I don’t come through for myself. There are tasks that have to get done RIGHT NOW, and things that can always get done later, so put dates or times next to your items. Prioritize and then get to work. Focus on one thing at a time. Then the next thing. Then the next. And let me tell you, life doesn’t stop, so your lists will keep getting longer, but as you start crossing things off, it balances out. Even people who fly by the seat of their pants have to have a plan of attack if things are ever going to get accomplished.

6.  Do not be too proud to ask for help. I cannot stress enough that we are only human. We are not magical superheroes with more than 24 hours in a day or limitless energy and peppiness. If someone asks if you want help with something, or if you want to split something up, and you’re about to seriously go off the deep end, let. Them. Help. You. Give up the control and let someone know you are overloaded. There is no shame in admitting that you have a lot going on and could really use a little help. Then, the next time you’re feeling more on top of things, maybe you can pay it forward and help someone else who’s fighting to keep their head above water. It feels good to know we are needed, so let someone know you need them!

7. Be physically active. This is so key to keeping it together, and it is usually where I fall short, so I get it. You’ve heard the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog?” The same applies for humans! You may not be chewing up your favorite pair of shoes, but without releasing your negative energy, tension, and stress from your day-to-day life, you are going to be bottling up some pretty serious stuff, and when it has no outlet, it starts to leak like poison. No matter what you believe, you can’t deny the scientific proof that exercises releases endorphins. It also helps give you some head space and clear your thoughts. I know – you’re busy. You don’t have time to exercise, you’re too tired to exercise, you’ve got a million other things to do. But I promise you the payoff is so worth it. You can read all about how yoga changed my life here, but I also love to walk my dogs, do tabata circuits, and lift weights! Anything that gets you moving is better than sitting around feeling too overwhelmed to be productive. You will never regret it afterwards.

8. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Something that makes a huge difference for me is being mindful and aware of how I am feeling. That sounds so obvious, but a lot of us don’t stop to think about the why. We just go through the motions without thinking about what’s going on in our bodies or minds. Am I tired? Cranky? Does something just not feel right? Did something happen that made me feel this way? Am I clenching my teeth or wrinkling my forehead or tensing up my shoulders? Throughout the day I have to constantly remind myself to breathe deeply, unclench my teeth, and relax my shoulders. Those are the three biggest ways I can quickly just feel calmer. Make sure you’re checking in on yourself and taking care of your needs.

9. Fake it ’til you make it. My high school students can’t believe that I am “always in such a good mood.” What’s my secret? The secret is I’m not always in a good mood! But I DO believe that moods are contagious, and if you can fake it and put on a good face – even if it’s just to yourself – you can really help frame your mood, your day, and the moods of those around you. I’m not saying you have to act like Little Miss Sunshine, but even little things like not complaining when someone asks how your day is going can make a huge difference. Smile and tell yourself that you can handle this and have this covered, and then remind yourself of that as you start to take one thing at a time.

10. Celebrate. Life is short, and adulting is hard, and if we don’t give ourselves things to look forward to or celebrate our accomplishments, then what’s the point? When you cross a big thing off your list, or when you complete something you’ve been working on for a long time, do something that you enjoy, buy yourself a new something, treat yoself. Make plans with people you love and just go celebrate the fact that we are all making it through somehow. I think that’s something we deserve to celebrate, don’t you?!

Finally, and I think maybe most importantly, is to just be realistic with yourself and know when too much is really too much. Everyone has a different threshold level for how much they can pile on their plate. You have to be able to admit to yourself when your metaphorical food is about to splatter all over the floor. If you are focusing on too many things at once, you can’t do everything well. Sometimes you have to look at what’s really important and let go of one or two other things – even if it is only for now, until you can clear some space in your life. I continue to re-learn this every so often, but at least I’m really good at telling other people what to do 😉

 

I really hope this helps even one person out there who may be feeling overwhelmed like I am right now. We are going to be okay – we have to be! The world keeps on turning and life keeps on going. The sun will rise tomorrow and it is up to us to choose the tone of our days. Today, let’s choose joy.

Oh, and if you’re wondering…I didn’t get the post finished before my shift. That’s life! 🙂 

FriYAY feels!

It’s finally,   o f f i c i a l l y   summer! If you’re in the south like me, it has already felt like summer since April, but now we can finally be correct when we say it.

My sister and I planned on doing a free community event Wednesday morning for the summer solstice and international yoga day, but it got rained out and rescheduled. Since we were already up at the butt crack of dawn and dressed, I led us through a yoga class on our balcony while the sun came up. It felt so good; I have totally fallen out of a routine with my yoga and I always notice a difference when I get back into it.

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yoga mat + blocks (blocks were a gift)

For summer, I’m focusing on some goals, like I said. Doing more yoga is one of them. Being more active in general, actually.

I’m also trying to make time to read for fun, which I love to do. I started summer off by devouring The Girl on the Train. I know I’m way late to that game, but I finally got around to it. I’m about to start reading All the Missing GirlsI know I’ll be done with that one in a few days, so any book recommendations would be greatly appreciated! I also just got set up for Audible with my Amazon Prime membership, so I can listen to books while I’m driving or at the pool, too.

Speaking of listening to books, I finally jumped on the bandwagon and listened to the S-Town podcasts. I went to see my dad for Father’s Day in Charlotte this past weekend, so I had time to do some listening. I tend to doze off at the wheel if no one is in the car with me, so I needed something to keep my attention. It was so good. It was one of those stories that really leaves you thinking about it for days. When it was finished, I just sat there for a minute, brain whirring and heart stirring (see what I did there? But really). I wish there were more chapters.

Finally, since I’m limiting alcohol due to 1. trying to be healthier and 2. not having money in the summer, I’m fixating on a couple of guilty pleasure libations right now. (As in, literally drank both of these while writing this blog post). I said I never would, but I find myself loving La Croix now. My sister and I found a new flavor that we can’t get enough of:  Blackberry cucumber. So refreshing. We have only been able to find that flavor at Target near us. My other summer must-have is iced coffee. I drink it year-round, but in the summer it’s a given. Of course I can make my own, and sometimes do, but Emily (my sister) and I have been loving the Starbucks Dark Roast Iced Coffee. When I’m not paying a reasonable amount way too much for pre-packaged coffee, I use my french press to brew strong coffee and stick it in the fridge overnight. Yes, I realize I also just wrote a blog post about our new coffee bar. It’s a drug, people, I’m telling you.

i have way too many pictures of food & drinks on my phone

That’s all that’s really new with me! I’m waiting for some sunshine so I can have a pool day and work on my golden tan getting more pink and freckly. It has been rainy and stormy on and off here for a few days now, so I haven’t had a chance.

Enjoy the weekend, and let me hear those book and podcast recommendations!

Why I yoga

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Photo credit: Rachel Garrison Photography 

I have now had a few full meetings with my yoga club students at the high school. I decided last year I wanted to start this club at school so students could experience something they may otherwise not have the chance to. So, without really knowing what direction I wanted to take, I went all in and took the first step.

The students were, of course, a little bit awkward, a little unsure, and a little bit silly – only 3 or 4 of the almost 30 girls that showed up have ever even taken a yoga class before. It’s understandable! But watching the students as I was giving them the background of yoga, the principles and the ideas behind why people practice yoga, and directing them through our first (very brief) practice together, I started to realize something. We had pushed desks to the sides of a classroom, the floors were dirty, their mats were awkwardly sprawled everywhere, and it was this really neat moment of realization. It reminded me why, after those first few yoga classes I took a couple of years ago, I couldn’t wait to come back to the next one.

People always ask me what got me interested in yoga – the truth is, I needed some serious stress relief because I was going through a terrible time in my life. I went with my friend Abbie who made me try a class even though I told her I hated hot yoga the one time I had tried it before. But the reasons I kept coming back, the reasons I decided to do teacher training and become a yoga instructor as well as a student, those are the reasons I love to share.

Yoga, at the very minimum, increases strength, flexibility, breathing, balance, and coordination. It is an ancient practice that has been proven to reduce stress, increase health, and improve quality of life. Yoga heals. It forces you to quiet your mind and shut everything else out as your ears eagerly await the next cue in class, or as you struggle with how the heck your right foot can go any farther back as you keep your body standing tall and your arms twisted up like a pretzel (elbows above your heart and shoulder blades expanding to either side, please). Yoga is a place where a community is formed the minute you step inside the studio, because no matter what your story is or why you’re there, you’re there. There is no “good” or “bad” in yoga. It’s about how you feel and your own relationship with your own practice. You can be successful every single day on your mat if you just show up and let go of whatever it is you’re holding onto for a little while.

I love yoga because it gives me a chance to see a different part of people than I would out in the real world. I get to catch glimpses of their vulnerability, see if they are competitive with others or with themselves, know if they like to dance to the beat a little in their downward dog, or if they have the type of practice where they seem to float on top of their mats (as I seem to clumsily flop around on mine). We say things like “Namaste,” or call out the fancy Sanskrit names of poses as we teach or discuss yoga practice, but sometimes we forget why we’re really there. Yes, for strength and flexibility…but also for sanity, self-love, quieting the mind, and a support system.

Yoga is for every body type, every age, every race, every ability. It’s for every person. I believe fitness and health in this country are way too expensive in general, and unfortunately, the same is true for yoga. But there are many community yoga classes that are donation-based, free yoga classes for special occasions, and many studios do a first class free setup where you can come check out the studio without any charge. YouTube has several, several yoga channels and there are many apps that can bring free yoga to you. The internet has free sequences and poses already. So even if you just practice 3 poses every day for a few minutes, you’re practicing yoga.

A wise person and one of my favorite teachers reminded me in class last night:  The pose is what you’re doing. Yoga is how you are being. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a brand new practitioner, the idea that you have to do yoga ‘right’ or be a certain way to come to your mat is the opposite of what yoga is all about. If you’re considering trying a class for the first time, my best advice is just to take that leap and try. Bring a friend, go by yourself, put your mat in the back if it’s more comfortable at first, and let yourself laugh when you lose balance and almost fall over. Even the most experienced yogis fall on their faces. It’s a humbling experience to practice yoga, so try it with an open mind and a willingness to fail…and you’ll succeed 🙂

FriYAY feels!

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Hydration, goals, monograms, and daily reminders

It has been a while since I’ve written a Friday update! I have been covered up, but here I am. Things are getting a little more balanced around here.

-This week has been focused on prioritizing. I am teaching a unit on time management in one of my classes, and it always makes me take a look at my own life. I’ve been making plans (as you can see, I am no longer using my Passion Planner because it ran out – but I am trying this floral, $9.99 Target planner for this school year.) I’m trying to be better about looking at my weeks and being very deliberate about my priorities and when I can fit things in…as well as when I need to say no to things to take care of my own values.

-I was so excited this week to look at my progress on my six week shred! It really lifted my spirits and I know it’s only three and a half weeks, but it feels good to have stuck to something. My clothes fit better, I feel more energized and excited about picking out what to wear, and it has been a really nice way for my mom and sister and I to stay connected.

-I have picked up a new Monday afternoon class at Hot Asana where I teach yoga, and that has helped get me back in a groove with my own yoga practice. Lately I had felt like I was kind of in a yoga rut…using the same playlists, having trouble making it to take classes, not feeling inspired to write brand new classes. But with my new class time, more consistent practice on my own mat, and holding yoga club meetings for the students at the high school, I feel revamped. My new S’well bottle that is beautiful, bright, and keeps everything freezing cold doesn’t hurt, either!

-After buying a sample of it at Ulta, I finally bit the bullet and purchased the Living Proof dry shampoo (this one comes with a free gift!). It actually makes your hair feel and look clean, not to mention the a  m  a  z  i  n  g smell that stays in your hair all day. I still love my Dove dry shampoo the best all-around, but if I constantly had $22 to blow on dry shampoo, this would be the one.

But…most importantly…back to speaking of planners…I do have my eye on the pre-order 2017 Passion Planner in Blush. I just can’t help myself. I am who I am.

Happy Friday! Enjoy the weekend and stay out of the rain!

 

FriYAY feels!

We made it through another week (praise hands emoji)!

I wanted to start a sort of ‘week in review’ series up here, because I feel like my weeks fly by and sometimes I don’t take the time to really appreciate the small moments in the everyday.  Life is busy – believe me, I know that – but I think it’s important to reflect and touch base with yourself every now and then. And I chose Friday because…well…because FriYAY!!!

So here’s my first FriYAY feels post 🙂

-I started my week spending time with my big sister Emily – she came in for the holiday weekend and I hadn’t seen her in forever.  We had a great time! We checked out Cinebistro at Waverly Place to see The BFG, grilled out by the pool with Andrew, took the dogs for a walk, got our nails done, and she came to my regular Sunday night warm flow yoga class at Hot Asana Studio in Durham.  For the Fourth of July, we went with Lauryn to a Carolina Mudcats baseball game and saw fireworks – I got a foul ball! It was a great holiday weekend.

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I am currently dying for the glasses/braces snapchat filter. I can’t help myself.

-I recently purchased some new makeup items and tried them out this week. I’m going to do a full post soon, but I’m currently L O V I N G these:  Urban Decay afterglow 8 hour highlighter, Essie Spa Many Many Mani intensive hand lotion, tea tree skin clearing mattifying facial toner from The Body Shop, Sephora collection dry clean instant dry brush cleaner spray, and – I finally bit the bullet – The Philosophy brand Purity made simple face wash. I’ve bought travel sizes on and off and recently bought the big 8oz bottle, and I am so pleased.

-I finally had some time this week to get back to cooking! I made skinny buffalo chicken strips with homemade garlic parmesan potato wedges and balsamic brussel sprouts, and Romano chicken with lemon garlic pasta – I love Gina’s recipes from Skinny Taste and have used them for years.  I definitely believe in being healthy, but you have to find a balance – her recipes allow you to live a little without guilt.  The Romano chicken was one Lauryn made and I had to have it again!

-I got better sleep this week than I have been getting, and focusing on that has really helped me be refreshed in the mornings and ready to take on the day. It makes sense, of course, but this week I tried to stick to it. I love listening to the Instrumental Study playlist on Spotify before going to bed to help me wind down, and I don’t care if that makes me a nerd.

-I FINALLY broke down and started using the Starbucks app.  I have created a monster! But this week I ordered a new drink for in-store pick-up (YES THAT IS ACTUALLY A THING) and it was so delicious. It is a double shot on ice, a grande iced espresso drink with just espresso, nonfat milk, and classic syrup. Only 100 calories, velvety smooth and just sweet enough to curb the bitterness of the espresso. I don’t want to call it my new drink yet, but it’s a hard possible. Forgive me if I’m super late to this game, but I was excited about it!

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-I wrote a lot of new yoga classes and workouts to do at the gym.  One yoga class I wrote this week was on balance, and I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition of balancing with your body on your mat and trying to find balance in your life – we are all struggling to do that in some way, whether it is with fitness, food, finances, family, friends…man, that’s a lot of words starting with F.  It was a good week to think about balance for me.  I’m also excited about my gym workouts.  I used to be pretty fit and spent a large portion of my time in the gym, planning meals, counting calories, measuring and weighing, etc. and then there came a time in my life when that was the last thing I cared about, and it started to show! Now I’m really working on finding a balance because I like love to eat and have a good time, but I also love the way it feels to be working toward a goal and working toward a long and healthy life. So I’ll be working out hard at the gym between going to yoga classes, and it feels really good to be planning for that.

That’s it for me this week!  A lot of great things in addition to these, but these are my highlights.  I hope everyone had a wonderful week.  Enjoy your weekend!

Leap, and the net will appear.

Happy New Year!  I love this time of year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, the new year…so many opportunities to spend time with loved ones, get a little time off, eat delicious food, and enjoy festive decorations (most importantly, there are endless opportunities for soft clothes).  I’ll be honest…my Christmas decorations are still up.  I’ll get around to that this weekend if I HAVE to.

We went back to school yesterday, so I’m slowly trying to get back in the swing of things.  With the new year, I can’t help but think about 2015.  As cheesy as it sounds, 2015 wasn’t so bad, in the end.  I had stumbles, challenges, and despair, but I also found strength I didn’t know I possessed, hope in impossible situations, and light where there had been darkness.  With the start of 2016, I feel like where I’m standing is a wonderful place to be, and I can’t complain.  How much do we complain, when we have air in our lungs and shoes on our feet and roofs over our heads?  We have so few things to complain about when it really comes down to it.  Jobs, money, weight, wardrobe, friend drama…it all comes and goes.  We should be making New Year’s resolutions to be thankful for today, every day.  I have no idea what’s coming in 2016, and I really, really don’t mind.  The best part about life is that you  have the power to decide on good days and bad days, happy and hopeful or sad and regretful.  It’s okay to experience sadness, it’s okay to experience anger or stress or strife…but what makes a difference is the way we handle it and the way we let it grip us…or the way we let go.

Last week, I had my yoga teacher audition for the studio I’ve been taking my yoga training from.  I signed up at the end of the summer – a HUGE leap of faith for me, considering I could count on my hands the number of yoga classes I had taken up to that point.  My theme for my audition was about letting go and embracing the unknown.  Leaping into the unknown with grace and strength, and letting go of what we can’t control…something I still need to be reminded of all the time.

There is a quote we discussed in class one yoga teacher training weekend:  “Leap, and the net will appear.”  So often, we wait to ‘be ready’ for something.  One of the best lessons my mother ever taught me is that if you wait to ‘be ready’ for something, you will never be ready.  You just have to jump.  Leap…and if it’s right, the net will somehow, every time, magically appear.  I liked the quote so much, I ordered some beautiful hand-lettered and painted wood slices for some of my dearest friends and some of my yoga people (please check out @between_lines_by_b on Instagram!  She is one of my friends from Meredith College and graduate school at NC State, and she’s wildly talented!).  Here is her Etsy shop.
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Today’s post is about the leap I took when I decided to sign up for yoga teacher training.  Some of you have asked for this, so it is informative, but also includes some of the ‘juicy’ details of training that you might want to know about.

Most importantly, I have spent several jam-packed weekends with a close group of women (and one man!) who have taught me so much.  I can’t express in words the gratitude, respect, and love I have for these wonderful human beings.  I have formed wonderful friendships and connections from this experience that I truly hope will last.  Each person in the group brings something different to the table, as we all do.  Probably my favorite thing about yoga is that it really is for everyone.  It’s one of those things, like music, food, or rooting for the underdog, that brings people together who would never have crossed paths otherwise.  I love that. 

Our weekends of training are intense:  8 weekends over six months of Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 8am-8pm, and Sunday 8am-6pm.  We get lunch breaks on Saturday and Sunday, but it is a big commitment.  Any place that you get training from will be different – some do the weekend format, others do weekdays, others go straight through day after day and knock it all out at once.  You just have to find the one that works for you and read reviews to see if it will be a good fit.  There are also many different lineages of yoga, so you will want to read up and see what type of yoga teacher training you want to take.  I was completely  new to yoga when I decided to join, and I honestly didn’t do any research on other trainings.  My friend nudged me to do the training with her, and I loved my studio so much I just trusted my gut and jumped in – I got really lucky because I can’t imagine taking training from anywhere else.  Still, it’s a personal preference and you should find what fits you best.

My yoga teacher training is through Hot Asana University (reviews on Yoga Alliance here).  The owner of the studio I practice at, Virginia Gallagher, created Hot Asana studio in Southern Pines and since then has opened studios in several other cities and states, including Hot Asana Durham, where I practice.   Virginia and Angela Hsu have led our training; they are two women that I have big love and respect for.  They are both so knowledgeable, kind, patient, and make you feel completely at ease.  My training was a 200 hour yoga teacher training focused on hot vinyasa flow classes.  I am trained to teach multi-level drop-in classes.  When I graduate January 10 (this Sunday!), I will be able to register with the Yoga Alliance to be a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200).  Just like with teaching public education, the Yoga Alliance has requirements for continuing education and keeping your certification current.

Our weekends consist of so much information – we have covered yoga alignment basics, we have done clinics of every pose, learned some basic anatomy information, and discussed the principles of sequencing a class.  We have learned a 60 minute sequence that we can use and adapt, we have created our own classes, taught our training group our own sequences in the studio, and practiced yoga together each day we have met.  Other training information has included books we have read, meditation techniques and practice to learn to sit still with yourself, and a lot of deep conversations about life and how it connects to the eight limb path of yoga and just being a better person.  We have had spiritual and religion talks, energy talks, learned about our chakras, and have shared parts of ourselves with each other that are dear to me and close to my heart.  So much of what happens in yoga teacher training stays in yoga teacher training, but I feel like I have a seriously solid foundation in the principles of yoga, not just physically.

Through the 200 hour training, practicing yoga has become so much more for me than just going to take a class in a hot room and breaking a good sweat.  It has been a mind, body, soul transformation and it has forced even a lovey dovey, touchy feely person like me out of my comfort zone.  My spiritual journey has also gotten so much more complex since starting yoga teacher training.  It has made me really take a good look at myself, question some things, and stand fast by others.  Yoga is for the weak, the strong, the inflexible, the tired, the hopeful, the hopeless, and the faithful.  It is what brings us all to our mats together, no matter how high or low on our horses we are in the day to day.  Yoga reminds us that we are all connected, and that we need to respect ourselves and each other.  I think that anyone with an open mind and caring heart can grow immensely through yoga teacher training, even if there is no intent to teach yoga classes.  The personal growth and strength I have gained through these last few months is priceless.

I got the word on New Year’s Day that I will start teaching classes at Hot Asana studio in Durham in just a couple of weeks.  I was so delighted…not a bad way to start out a new year!  I feel really blessed (too blessed to be stressed, even), and I’m really looking forward to what the next little bit of my life will bring.  I took a few big leaps in 2016, making a huge relationship change, moving, going back to teaching, starting yoga training…and it has ended up to be such a blessing.  We should all take leaps of faith, even if we’re not sure we’re ‘ready’ yet.  Leap, and the net will appear.  If that isn’t enough to convince you…2016 just so happens to be a leap year.

 

Let there be light.

Laura – this one is for you.

I just came off of a weekend of yoga teacher training (I haven’t forgotten that I owe some of you a post on that!).  Teacher training always gets me deep in my feels, and it’s almost like a high I have to come down from to face reality again on Monday.  This training weekend was particularly special, though, because I taught my very first class with a partner who has become a dear friend to me.  It felt like winning the lottery.  On top of that, I caught a class tonight taught by the owner of my yoga studio who is also one of the best teachers I know and a woman who oozes strength, love, and elegance.  Her theme for class was so right for what I was planning on writing tonight.  It was about appreciating and loving yourself, and knowing that you have to live through the tough parts of life, the challenges that come your way, and welcome them.  Seize each challenge as an opportunity, and you will come out on the other end stronger than you ever imagined.

I am a happy person.  Especially by my teenage students, I get asked very frequently how I am ‘this happy’ or if I have always been ‘this happy.’  The truth, as far back as I can remember, is yes.  I have always been ‘this happy.’  That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my moments of darkness.  None of us can escape the traumas of human life.  Those of you who know me know that this time last year, I was in a strange life place, trying to figure myself out.  I was attached to an idea, a future, a person, and a plan…and we all know how much I love my plans.  When things started to crumble, I started asking a lot of questions.  I don’t know how to explain it without getting too into it, other than to say I felt like I was living in a hazy reality where I could both see who I was and who I wanted to be, but I could also see who I was trying to be in order to fit someone else’s mold.  I was trying so hard to go against my truest self that I completely lost myself.  And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel happy at all.  I felt utterly terrified.  But the further I let myself get away from that attachment, that plan, that future, the more I realized it was never my future or my anchor to hold onto.  And as cheesy and as silly as it might come across, my yoga practice and teacher training has been a huge part of that realization.  I feel free.  I am finally, finally loving myself exactly where I sit, and I am finally, finally letting go of needing to be anything for anyone.  I am healthy, I am stronger than I have ever given myself credit for, and I am finally so content in my life, completely by myself and standing on my own two feet.  This is me.  I am enough.  And so are you.

So yes, I was always ‘this happy,’ but I feel like I allowed my light to be dimmed for so long, truly without even knowing it, that it was silently building momentum.  And now I’m tearing and clawing my way out of myself loud and proud, and I have so much love and light to share.  When I was teaching yesterday for the first time, I felt a huge love for the strong and stunning women I am learning with and practicing beside.  I felt honored to lead them through a 60 minute practice.  And I felt a deep respect for our beautiful teachers who are leading us through this journey, supporting us and holding our hearts in their hands through this intense 200 hour training.  For those of you who think yoga is just about poses, which is what I used to think, stay tuned for a reality check on that.

For me, teaching is a great way to share my light and my love.  Helping people is what I feel like I was born to do, whether it’s through public education, yoga teaching, getting my personal training certification, and whatever else life might bring my way.  I ignored it for a while, but after giving subtle hints and gentle suggestions, eventually life slaps you right in the face.  We all have a light, a gift to give, and the world can take it from us so easily if we let it.  We allow ourselves to be brought down, to believe in the worst, to create situations in our minds that are inaccurate or will never happen.  We give other people the power to drag us down and we put all of our eggs into baskets that were never meant to hold them.  I know this because I am guilty, too.  There are a lot of heavy things out there, and the weight can be a lot to bear.  But if we choose to dig deep, to fight for what makes us who we are, if we demand to be cherished for exactly who we are and for what makes us shine…and most importantly, if we look ourselves in the soul and forgive ourselves for being imperfect, for being human – if we love ourselves right where we sit – we lighten our own loads.  We also lighten our loads by lifting others up when they need it the most.  You have no idea when your smile, hug, or even your hello can be the very particle of love someone needs to cradle their aching heart.

In order to counterbalance the darkness, we need to keep the light.  We need to be the light.  We have to share the light.  

Michael Xavier The Message

For those of you who love a life soundtrack like I do – check out ‘Worth Fighting For’ by Emily Hearn.  It’s about you.

Follow your bliss.

Is this thing on?

Hi!  Welcome to MAXOUThappy.  I feel like a first blog post is always going to be kind of an awkward leap, but here it is.  I started really thinking about my life, and life in general, a few months ago.  Very long story short, I was kind of in a dark and strange place, and I felt like I had really lost myself over the last few years.  I know what my values are, I know what I want out of life…but I hadn’t really checked in with myself in a while.  What do I like?  What are my hobbies?  Have they changed?  Have I changed?  What are my short-term, long-term, and visionary goals?  All of this was combined with feeling like I was being a big say-er, and not a big do-er.  I have always talked a lot of noise about writing a book, writing a blog, losing weight, being fit, doing this or that, and I finally realized that I was the only person who was standing in my way.  Sounds simple, right?  But it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I thought back to all the times I’ve ‘started fresh’ and tried to get on board with something new, and then it slowly but surely trickled away…and a song lyric popped into my head, as they tend to do:  It’s time to begin, isn’t it?  I deserve to just do me, and not worry about anything or anyone else.  This is my journey, it’s my life, these are my goals…so I decided to ‘start fresh’ and never stop this time.    

I felt like I had made a lot of excuses for myself, as we all do – and I’m not trying to put myself down here; it’s just the human condition.  The “I’m too busy”s and the “I’ll get to it later”s just pile up and before you know it, you have let yourself down and broken promise after promise to yourself…and as silly as that sounds, you should be the last person you break a promise to!

I made a pact with myself to be more of a do-er.  Try new things.  Put myself out there.  Be brave.  Try being more spontaneous and focus daily on being a happy and positive person.  Get in tune with myself again.  I got started on a lot of things I want to follow through on.  I started practicing yoga, I focused on being active, spending more time with myself, journaling…I made time for reading again, I began writing an e-Book about teaching with a coworker, I stopped being so crazy about calculating meals and calories and I drank some a lot of wine and ate some a good bit of delicious food without feeling guilty about it.  I started to seek out a really balanced life in all areas.  I made a huge career decision to go back to the classroom.  Finally, I enlisted the help of a sweet friend to create my logo and signature for this blog, and after several geeky and alliteration-heavy blogging brainstorm sessions, my lovely sister helped me find the perfect name for what you are reading now.

I watched a fabulously feel-good documentary called Finding Joe about the hero’s journey in literature and film…it’s all about going for what you believe in and following your dreams, even when you are afraid.  When you ‘slay your dragons,’ the film says, you have to face the deepest parts of yourself.  Once you can accept them, and even appreciate them, you gain the courage to move past your fears and “follow your bliss.”  Isn’t that what we all want?  To find our bliss – to be content in our lives and to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.  Some people stay where it’s safe and comfortable so they never have to fail or feel pain…but that sounds like a cop out to me.  The day is today; the time is now.  If you wait until you’re ready for something, you won’t ever get wherever it is you are hoping to go.  The more times we fall, the more times we get back up, the closer we get to finding our bliss.  I have taken some pretty big leaps in the last little bit of my life, and it is scary as hell, but I also can’t think of a time when I have ever felt more alive or excited for what’s coming.

So…what does MAXOUThappy mean?  It means never settling for second best, never taking what you don’t deserve, and above all, maximizing every single aspect of your life – friendships, romance, fitness, health, work, travel, whatever it may be.  MAXOUThappy is about living and loving your life, but most importantly, loving yourself, because we are all enough.  Life is short, and we’ve only got one…we better live it to the max.

bliss