Yoga: Beautifully, making sense of messy

Untitled-1Life is messy. Beautiful. But messy.

My family and I relocated to a new city two months ago. Well, new as in we haven’t lived here for almost 9 years. Regardless, we’re back in our hometown. The messy part, for me, comes in finding more freelance work and clients, a permanent home, and getting reestablished in a community.

I’m literally a mess.

But, it’s a good and welcomed mess. Thus, the beautiful part. Here we’ve got family, and believe it or not MORE opportunities (If you know anything about Kelso-Longview, you understand the contradiction. Or is it irony?).

It’s possible that our bodies and our yoga practice reflect life in this way.

Even the most beautiful and toned body has issues. No body is perfect. Think about the super strong Crossfitter and all their super-tight muscles. Or the extraordinarily thin super model with weak muscular strength. Or someone like me on a journey of finding healing from medical issues.

Our bodies are a mess. It’s the inevitable truth.

But yoga is beautiful. Yoga helps make sense of the mess. We get on the mat and we tune in. We can start to sort out and understand our body.

Yoga turns our body into a song and we listen.

signiture copy copy

 

 

Advertisements

Chicken Soup and Yoga for My Soul

It’s the end of March and it seems the cold and flu season isn’t even close to being finished. As I sit here typing, I’m listening as my poor daughter lies in bed, attempting to hack up a lung (Don’t worry I’ve done all the good-mommy, all natural tricks). She’s on cold # 3 or 4 since November while my hubby and I are on #2. My mom on the other hand has been sick for like 9 weeks straight. It’s been a rough season for sure!

Since going gluten free and paleo, I haven’t been able to enjoy the ever so comforting homemade chicken noodle soup. Likewise, I also haven’t been able to partake in the yummy processed goodness that is Campbell’s Chicken Noodle or Cream of Chicken with a ginormous handful of saltine crackers either (Honest to goodness, there is a really big 5-year-old living in my body who is throwing a huge tantrum about that one).

Either way chicken soup is a must during fall, winter, and the cold and flu season. I mean, I can’t imagine not having some sort of chicken soup. This year I’ve been working on a Chicken and White Sweet Potato soup.

Today, I think I finally perfected it.

chicken soup copy

Chicken and White Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients:

6-8 cups of Chicken Broth (homemade or low sodium)

1 medium onion

5-6 stalks of celery

5-6 whole carrots

1-2 very large white sweet potatoes

4-5 Slices Bacon

1 small Bacon end (optional)

1 cup (or more) cooked chicken

Salt to taste
Directions

1. Make chicken broth (I boiled/simmered 2 carcasses with fat and drippings in about 6 cups of water…added water as it boiled down) OR add store bought broth to soup pan.

2. Dice onions and celery, and peel and dice carrots and potatoes.

3. In a frying pan, fry bacon. Do not discard fat. Remove bacon from pan and sauté onions in bacon grease until caramelized. Dice bacon.

4. Add onions, bacon and rest of veggies to broth. Add bacon end to broth for more flavor, if using. Simmer veggies until sweet potatoes and carrots are soft.

5. Add chicken and salt to taste. Remove bacon end.

Yoga for Immunity.

If you are trying to boost your immunity and avoid a cold, a regular yoga practice can help. Your immune system is weakened by stress. Since yoga and yogic breathing helps to combat stress, your immune system will get a boost just by doing yoga.

If you don’t have a cold and are trying to avoid getting one, try a heated or a vinyasa class. No time for a class? Try three rounds of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara A) followed by a series of balancing postures such as Tree Pose (Vrksasanana) and Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana). Both flow and balancing poses help to build heat quickly in the body and is ideal for immunity boosting.

If you are currently sick, take it easy! Try a restorative practice. Start with five minutes of focusing on your breath.  Next move into a few rounds of Cat/Cow, take a Child’s Pose, Downward Facing Dog, a lying or seated twist, and end with legs up the wall with your hips supported on a bolster or stack of blankets.signiture copy copy

Time to love this body

yogadiary1aPractice: Core focused flow building into standing postures, including Utitha Hatha Padagustasana.

Inspiration: Yoga=to yolk, union with body, mind, spirit, God.

Life lesson: I am not this body. This body does not define me. It’s a vessel. As much as I want to just totally let go of this body — to forget about it, I can’t. Because yoga won’t let me. It’s a union of body, mind and spirit.  Yoga is a chance to connect with this body and what it’s capable of — to appreciate bones, joints, muscle. Strength. And brain and heart. Because without this incredibly flawed, diseased body, mind and spirit wouldn’t exist. Wouldn’t be living, experiencing or breathing. Wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy my husband, daughter, my life.

So here’s to this body: what it’s capable of, what it will be capable of. It’s time to stop hating. Time to start loving. Time to do yoga. ❤

signiture copy copy

Flexibility in Training

DSC_0194

Practice: Gentle practice centering around the neck, working into Fish pose and Shoulder Stand.

Inspiration: Flexibility in emotions, thoughts and life in general. ie. bending to be straight.

Life Lesson: I decided to take my daughter and niece to a children’s museum just a quick 40 minute drive up the freeway. The museum had rave reviews and an awesome website showing the fun attractions for my littles to enjoy. A 40 minute drive later…we find the museum is closed and in search of a new location.

Seriously!?! Well, (insert internal explicative here). So we stop at a gas station, grab a cheese stick for the girls and a Kind bar for me. I tell them, over our snack, that we’ll drive back home and go to the library. “Yay! Let’s go!” Their excitement baffles me.

They taught me a lesson in flexibility for sure.

I was grumpy for the rest of the day (could be from lack of carbs). But, the girls enjoyed the library and doing yoga with me, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss.

signiture copy copy

Self-Actualization in my Big-Orange Dress

DSC_0478

I wore a very orange, very long, and full dress today. It yells, doesn’t whisper, summer and feminism. After church, after toddler was down for her nap, I went to my backyard sanctuary to play around with some yoga – in my big orange dress.

I took my camera thinking maybe the dress would create an artful picture. Maybe I could blog about how beautiful and flowy it made me feel; an opportunity to spread some real yoga body-positivity.

DSC_0478aTimer set. Run to mat. Snap first picture.

Several poses and deleted pictures later, and the only one I could even handle looking at was one that perfectly hid my adipose tissue (ehem, fat) and my God-given awkward face.

I finally decided this was as good as it was going to get. It would never get any better. I felt defeated, no joy left to do yoga. I lamented in Child’s pose until my legs fell asleep, and then moved myself into a prone position until my arms tingled. Finally I moved to a chair and sat even longer.

I sat in deep contemplation.

My self-reflection had me wondering and playing out what ifs.  What if I were to be totally mangled, (face and body)? Could find happiness despite my ugliness?  This thought reminded me of that saying (or maybe it’s just a popular meme) that basically says I am not my body, my body is just a vessel.

DSC_0478bJust a vessel.

The person I am. The person I want to be. The person I hide. That’s who I am. Not this flesh, which by the way is incredibly strong thanks to yoga (I mean, check out the budding definition in my arms! Woohoo!). I am this geeky, overly emotional, awkward, wife/mom/daughter who likes pretty dresses and loves God, and loves teaching and doing yoga. My flesh doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Really, my flesh is not just a vessel. It’s a barrier keeping me from fully expressing, experiencing and appreciating my individuality.

I still don’t have the courage to share the pictures that show my tricep flab, or the ones with my pouty lip (which is almost Bubba-Gump pouty from a profile angle) and my 31-year-old turkey neck.

But, the point is: Self-actualization. And body acceptance, of course.

Contemplate. Meditate. Pray. Love. Yoga. That’s how I’ve been shifting from self-loathing to self-loving.

signiture copy copy

Why you couldn’t pay me to weigh myself.

Vashistasina in my space pants and feelin' fine.

Vashistasina in my space pants and feelin’ fine.

I don’t weigh myself. I don’t own a scale. I intentionally avert my eyes when being weighed at the doctor’s office. If I really wanted to I could get out my Wii Fit board and see the damage. But I don’t want to. I especially don’t want that damn little animated board telling me, “That’s overweight!”

Anybody ever flip off your TV? Cause I have.

I recently discussed this topic with a student of mine. We talked about how discouraging it is to see the number on the scale fluctuate: from day to day, from hour to hour. It’s like playing the happiness lottery. “Come on -1 pound, mama needs some chocolate!” I told my student how I refuse to get on the scale, and she told me I seemed to be pretty good about that kind of thing.

The truth is, I’m still learning to be “good” about that kind of thing.

Trying to undo 31 years of damage is going to be a life time of work, because until I can totally become immune to our society’s dysfunctional body image standards, my body-hate bucket will continue to be filled. Although, now, I imagine my bucket has a tiny, pin-point hole in the bottom, leaking out a little bit at a time.

I think I earned that pin-point hole about 2010 when I gave up dieting after reading “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. (Side note: I both recommend and do not recommend this book. Please see my brief notes after this post.)

Following a miscarriage in 2009 I gained a ton of weight, maybe 30 pounds, and honest to goodness I couldn’t figure out why. So I did what any girl would do, I worked my butt off. I ran a few miles every day, and kept my calorie intake to 1200-1400. I felt like crud and gained more weight.

That’s when in 2010 I read that book and gave up dieting. I finally discovered in 2011 it was a sluggish thyroid and Hashimoto’s disease to blame. I continued with my non-dieting mentality and was able to maintain my weight.

Fast forward to 2012 post baby, I did eventually lose my baby weight and most my thyroid weight with a paleo diet. I didn’t consider it dieting, however, because I ate as much as I wanted and felt very satisfied. I had my energy back, and felt semi healthy and normal.

But during this time, I did continue to weigh myself. I felt good physically, but I mentally and emotionally I still felt like a failure. I was still a chubby yoga teacher and I couldn’t quite get back down to my pre-thyroid disease weight. At times I wanted to give up teaching yoga, all because my self-worth is/was wrapped up in three little numbers.

I’ll admit, I have recently gained more weight. And I partially know why this time: Stress of a big move, stopped my paleo diet, thyroid numbers being off, discovering a new health issue, etc. But I don’t know how much weight and I really don’t care to know.

I have not weighed myself or looked at a scale for almost a year now. So I am oblivious to those three little numbers.

Here’s what I do know:

*I am WAY stronger than I was a year ago. Hello biceps!
*My belly is deflating due to merging back to a whole foods/paleo diet lifestyle and the plank challenge.
* I bought my first pair of patterned yoga pants, which are slightly bigger than the last pair I purchased, but I don’t care because I LOVE wearing them. They make me feel wonderfully geeky and happy.
*I love teaching yoga.
*My health journey and struggle with weight and body image can actually be very helpful for my clients who struggle with similar issues.

Instead of the scale I choose to measure myself by how I feel. I reflect on how much love, happiness and strength I have gained. And, in a practical sense, the way my pants fit is the best, least frustrating indicator of how I am doing in the weight management department.

Despite not weighing myself, these self-defeating thoughts still rear their ugly little heads, but after a good cry and some chocolate, I get over it a whole lot faster.

signiture copy copy

**A note about “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. What I love about this book is that it can teach you how to know when you are truly hungry and truly full, which I do believe most of us have gotten away from. The book helps you overcome your fear of food being bad vs. good. There is also a helpful exercise helping you discover your real ideal weight. I found this to be pretty cathartic and eye opening. What I do not love about the book is that it doesn’t acknowledge food sensitivities or allergies, follows the government food pyramid, and doesn’t focus on a whole foods, clean eating diet. Let’s face it if I followed the government’s recommendation for portions, the Wii fit would be calling me obese. The science is from the 90s – when the whole low-fat thing was still a trend. They did just put out a new edition, but it doesn’t sound like the ancient science and food recommendations have been updated. Anyway, read at your own risk.

Why do we hate Tess Holliday?

Image Credit: Torrid

Image Credit: Torrid

By now we’ve all seen her, Tess Holliday, the size 22 model.

She’s beautiful, don’t you think? When I read the articles and saw the magazine covers I was marveled by her gorgeousness. But it was all spoiled by reading the comments. People literally hate her and what she supposedly stands for: an unhealthy lifestyle.

Eat a salad; Go for a run, they said. Many commenters spouted nothing but negativity at this big beautiful woman.

But why? What is it about her that makes us, as a society, want to hurt her with hateful words and bigotry?

Here’s one reason:

Loving our bodies as they are, as Tess Holliday loves her body, means we’ve giving up on ourselves. It means we’ve given up on our health, on how we look, on our futures, on our love life, ect. etc. etc. Or that’s what we think, and it’s scary.

We (the collective we) hate Tess Holliday because we fear Tess Holliday.

Society tells us how we should look, how we should dress, and how we should live. If we follow these examples set by multibillion dollar corporations, then we will surely find happiness in this lifetime. But, if we embrace and celebrate our individuality, we’re doomed to live a life of ugliness and depression.

As all my years of yo-yo dieting were coming to a peak, I struggled with the idea of being healthy for health’s sake and not for the sake of losing weight. I thought if I started being kind to myself and letting myself experience grace, I would NEVER lose weight and it scared the Hell out of me.

Why? Because skinny = happy.

If I could just lose weight, I wouldn’t struggle with depression or confidence issues, I’d earn more money (because thin yoga teachers do), and I’d have more friends (because thin-happy people are more fun to hang out with).

Here’s the yogic truth in all of this: It’s a bunch of bull.

If I embrace my size 12, like Tess Holliday has embraced her size 22, and allow myself to be and feel beautiful what would happen? I’d obviously be eating cheese burgers and whole bags of chips at every meal. I’d never exercise and I’d generally stop caring about life all together.

Right?

No. Again, bull. You CAN embrace yourself no matter what size, or height, or awkward physical feature and STILL maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, if the goal is to really love yourself, you’d likely take better care of your body. The hard part comes in embracing yourself in this current moment and being kind to yourself through the whole process.

The real yogic truth comes in being in the NOW — living in the present moment. At this current moment, there is nothing I can do about being a little soft around the midsection. But I can love myself. I can love myself like Tess Holliday loves herself. In my mind she’s not promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. To me she is clearly promoting being beautiful in this moment, despite health and wellness goals. signiture copy copy

Because, Yoga: A story of body-hate, then love

urdvadahnurasana copyI have never been more excited about my yoga practice than I am right now.

In good ‘ole social media fashion, let me overshare my heart with you…

I, apparently, have had an emotional block, or disconnect with my yoga practice since, well, forever. I started yoga when I was 17, at the height of insecurities and body-hatred. I had recently lost about 40 pounds, and was looking and feeling smokin’. You see, my entire self-worth was wrapped up in how I looked.

My yoga practiced ebbed and flowed through college, marriage and first grown-up jobs. I was 27ish when I started giving yoga a second, deeper thought – when I thought maybe I’d like to teach. Even though it was close to ten years after I first discovered yoga, I still maintained all of my old insecurities (I could just hide it better), but I hated my body even more; because now I was sick and tired, and I didn’t know why.

All I knew was that I couldn’t sit behind a desk and keep my sanity any longer.

So, teacher training. Because, yoga.

I was still sick, and overweight. And public speaking was my biggest fear (second to giant house spiders). But through it all, teacher training lead me to diagnosing myself, which was confirmed by a real doctor, AND the training seriously helped me overcome my fear of speaking.

So then, teaching.

I was on the mend physically (minus lingering baby and thyroid weight) and I was ready to take on the yoga teaching world! I quickly landed a teaching gig and was given the opportunity to teach as much as I wanted. That was exciting.

But then, teaching.

I equally loved and feared my students. To be honest, I got a lot of judgement from students who thought a yoga teacher should look a specific way. It hurt, a lot. But I also had a group of AMAZING, supportive students who I loved. They encouraged me, and so I kept teaching.

But, I found myself in a giant rut. I was teaching in a way that catered to the athletic, able-bodied student, because I didn’t want to be judged. I think, however, teaching in this manner burnt me out, because my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t realize how damaging and how draining it was to please a group of people who were not even my target. I wanted to quit so. many. times. I am ashamed to share that, honestly.

And then, body positive yoga.

One day, feeling down about myself, I started looking at Instagram photos for the campaign #whatayogilooks and #yogaforall. These yogis defy the U.S. standards of a beautiful yogi and can do some amazing things with their bodies. Instagram led me to blogs, which lead me to some blogging of my own, which lead me to the Yoga for All teacher training (which starts this Tuesday!!).

These past few weeks of focusing my intentions on body positivity and teaching in a more gentle and loving way, has rekindled my passion for teaching yoga. I’ve literally done a home practice every day for about two weeks straight (I was only required to do 4 days a week during training)! I am just so excited to have an area of focus for my teaching. My goal is to reach those people who have felt excluded by yoga “standards.”

If you’ve been looking for a place in the Longview/Kelso area to do yoga; if you’ve felt excluded in a yoga class; if you’re worried you won’t fit in or won’t be able to do the poses; come try out Yoga with Shawnee at Summit Studios! I will do my best to accommodate you, to modify you, and to make you feel welcomed.

I am SO looking forward to starting the Yoga for All training and saturating my classes in body-positivity and yoga inclusivity!

signiture copy copy

Let’s be real: Loving yourself is hard work

DSC_0038 copyJust like loving a significant other, learning to love yourself in order to eradicate a negative body image takes time, work, effort, respect, and constant reminders. If you’ve battled your body your whole life, as I have, you are not going to, realistically, wake up one morning and just decide that you love everything about yourself.

You’re still going to have insecurities, fears, moments of sadness, and icky envy… <–Gosh, doesn’t sound very promising, eh?

But wait a minute! There is still hope.

I can’t guarantee this is how it will be for you, but when I decided to stop dieting and focus on intuitive eating, and then a couple years later decided to lose hate instead of weight, I felt lighter. I think it was years of guilt I felt float off my shoulders – a lifetime of being told by peers and media that, because I had fat, I wasn’t a significant human being—woman.

And I still struggle with loving myself at all times. Heck, my biggest trigger is seeing myself in candid photos. Eeek! While I didn’t cry this time, I sure felt all those nasty little emotions popping up as I looked through vacation pictures.

Here is the amazing thing, though. I didn’t cry. I looked at some of those pictures for a while. I sat with them until it didn’t hurt so much anymore. Then I made myself say something nice about the picture. Even something simple like, my hair looks shiny, or my legs are almost tan!

Then, in those moments of “feeling fat,” I start down the path of “I need to lose weight” really quickly. But not long after follows some internal dialogue about needing to stop that; if you exercise you do it out of love; if you eat, you eat for health; etc.

See?

It’s a process. It’s a journey. Hang in there. You can get through each and every icky moment!

Loving yourself is a commitment. You have to wake up every day, reminding yourself every hour, every minute, that you are special, important and beautiful.

signiture copy copy

Gentle, Reflective Resolutions

restorative 2
Inward, gentle, self-reflection. In yoga philosophy it referred to as Svadhyaya or self-study. Of all the Yamas and Niyamas (the yoga dos and don’ts) it’s probably the one I most easily follow.

I’m a natural at Svadhyaya, but not at gentle. My self-study, pre yoga, has mostly been critical and harsh. Self-bashing to the point of loathing. But, somehow (by the grace of Jesus? Yoga? Maturation?) my self-reflection has shifted toward gentle, soft, nurturing. It’s such a relief too, because I can be really hard on myself.

This time of year, being close to the hubbub of resolutions and all, I am turning inward again. I find myself reflecting on where I am in life, my goals, my shortcomings and my blessings.  I guess, in a way, I’ve been making some early New Years’ resolutions.

  1. To be more active and spend more time in nature. <–This is the gentle version of what I would have resolved in the past. I currently don’t feel well in my body. Part of that is lack of physical activity. But instead of resolving to unrealistically change my body, or adhere to some ridiculous amount of calories burned each day, I’m going to leave it at this. Move my body, preferably outside!
  2. Refine my morning routine. <–After doing a lot of nurturing, self-study, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for my sanity, my morning routine could be a little more disciplined. Now that I work a day job, my mornings are sacred. There is A LOT I want and need to accomplish in a morning. I’m blessed to work just part time so this can happen, but even still, I’ve been a bit of a lazy worker ant in this department. (While being gentle, I still need to be honest) My goal is to wake up earlier (which also means going to bed earlier, yikes!), do my yoga first thing, move my body a little more (outside), stick with my daily chores/upkeep and make sure to carve out one on one time with my daughter.
  3. Live, love, laugh, be thankful, be bold and be kind. I want to embrace Christ’s heart. I know it beats inside me, but I know I don’t always show it.

If you’re not a natural at self-study, like me, resolutions can be a great place to start. Take some time to reflect on your life. Your day to day activities, how you interact with others, larger goals, etc. Base your resolutions on these observations. Be realistic, fair, gentle and nurturing.

If you struggle with negative thoughts toward yourself, being no expert, the only tip I can pass on is to be mindful of your thoughts. Watch your thoughts, pay attention to what you’re thinking and then actively attempt to change it to something more positive. Or maybe you really do need some self-constructive criticism. How can you talk to yourself more softly? How would you treat yourself if you were a small child? Be nice.

Make yoga and reflection a part of your New Years Eve celebration! Join me on New Year’s Eve, December 31 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. for a Reflective Restorative Practice.

signiture copy copy