Starting December 5 and onward I’m excited to begin teaching Thursdays at 6pm at the new Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts downtown studio. I hope to see you in the new space!
Tonight will be my last night teaching the Wednesday 6pm Yoga One/Two class at Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts’ Becketts Ridge studio. Class will be canceled next Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve, of course) and then in December the fabulous Mary Justus will continue the class at the same location.
In the meantime I’m subbing for a couple of Paula’s classes at the Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts downtown location:
Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 12:45pm, Downtown: Lunchtime All Levels Yoga
Monday, Dec. 2 at 12:30pm, Downtown: Lunchtime All Levels Yoga
My Tuesday 6pm class at the Becketts Ridge location will continue as usual, with no cancellations.
See you soon!
Our next yoga class at Grow Well is this Saturday, October 19 at 3:30pm. If the weather is nice, we’ll practice out on the lawn, in the large stretch between the goats and the garden. If it rains, we’ll move our practice into the warm studio. Rain is the best background for savasana, after all! Space is limited, so please let us know you’re coming.
If you haven’t visited the farm before, it’s between Carrboro and Hillsborough, near Maple View Farms (which could be a nice post-yoga visit).
One of my favorite things about teaching with Grow Well is yoga on the lawn at the farm. Outdoor fall yoga starts this Sunday (October 13) at 3:30pm, and continues for a couple of Saturdays later this month. It might be gloomy today, but it’s supposed to be pretty this weekend! As usual, please RSVP to let us know you’re coming, and don’t worry too much about the weather. There’s a lovely indoor studio with a great farm view in case it’s too cool to practice outside.
There’s a cold going around my partner’s workplace, and he brought it home with him, so we’re both sniffling and coughing. A breathing practice I use when I’m congested to breathe more comfortably is a variation on alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana), but it draws less attention when you’re practicing it in the doctor’s office or on the bus! Here’s how to do it:
Sit tall. If you’re in bed prop yourself up on a few pillows.
Take a couple of deep breaths through your nose (if you can). Begin to imagine what your breath would look or feel like if you could breathe freely. Maybe it’s a cool breeze, or a gently moving stream.
Visualize your breath in the form you’ve imagined, beginning at your left hip. As you inhale, watch your breath travel up the left side of your body, through your left lung, the left side of your throat, the left side of your nose, and all the way to the crown of your head. Pause here.
As you exhale, watch your breath travel from the crown of your head, down the right side of your nose, the right side of your throat, right lung, all the way to your right hip. Pause.
Repeat the breath, starting the inhale on your right side and exhaling down your left. Continue this for 10 breaths, but stop at any time if you start to feel dizzy. I practice this every couple of hours when I’m sick, and I hope it helps you feel less frustrated about being congested, too.
Questions or special requests?
Send me an email, leave a comment, or use the ‘ask me anything’ link to the left.
Feel better soon!
I think I like Beauty Redefined’s captioning on Facebook even more than the blog post itself!
Are you a mom? Or a female friend? Or a sister? Or a grandma? Or a girl or woman in any form? Please do this one thing for you and us: Never, EVER say another negative thing about your body out loud. No more “I’m so fat!” or “Look how disgusting my hair looks.” or “Could my skin BE any uglier?” There’s a better way. Not only will cutting out your negative self-talk actually help you to stop thinking so many mean things about yourself, but it’ll make a truly massive difference in the lives of those that might hear you.
You are more powerful than you know, and your negative self-talk is literally ruining those girls and women that hear you. That body-shaming talk leads them to look at themselves and see their own flaws. It teaches them they are bodies to be looked at above all else. It stunts their happiness and progress in every conceivable way.
Can you promise to at least try to stop the looks bashing? It’ll change your life and the lives of those who hear you. Read this post about how moms teach their daughters lies about their bodies and their worth FAR too easily and then set a goal to stop telling these sinister little lies.
First off, I want to thank you guys for responding to my most recent blog post. It’s been humbling to hear your replies, calls and emails. Many of you experience similar struggles, and I’m honored that you’re sharing your stories. Let’s keep the conversation going!
The next couple of weeks are full of yoga opportunities and more at Grow Well, to help you be your most mindful, well self:
Thursday, August 29: Mindful Yoga at 8:30am
Saturday, August 31: TLC for the Belly Workshop at 10:00am
Saturday, September 7: Day of Wellness, including Qi Gong, a cooking class, lunch, and gentle yoga. This is a tranquil most-of-the-day retreat, and you can come for all or part of the day.
These classes are for all levels, including brand new beginners, but if you’re nervous and have questions, please contact me. As usual, if cost is prohibitive let us know. Please sign up here.
Here’s a portrait of Betsy, who supervises Grow Well classes through the window:
I want to braid that goat beard SO badly.
Potential eating disorder triggers below.
I often talk about yoga as a way of healing our relationships with our bodies, and facing the ways we abuse ourselves with negative self talk. My journey with yoga has led me to this point, but the challenges that initially brought me to yoga are still lingering in the background.
In high school I adopted an eating disorder almost intentionally. I’d always resented my “pleasantly plump” figure. I can remember friends in elementary and middle school saying the cruel things that kids can say, and I couldn’t blame them. I was thinking and saying them, too. “You look pregnant.” “You’re right, Emily. You really are fat.” Exercise and going outdoors didn’t appeal and team sports were misery. Reading and playing music and stillness felt really natural and happy. But in the mirror all I could see was a lazy slob. And words from family members cut deep, even when they were intended with care. By high school I became more active and busy, and decided I didn’t have much time or need for food. God, how I reveled in the way my body shrank. I can remember my glee and self-admiration when I one day looked down in the shower, and could see my hips jutting and my concave belly. A couple of friends referred to me as “Skelly.” Counting calories and running made me feel vibrant, loved, and admired.
By college my eating disorder occupied my mind for a huge part of the day, but it felt somehow darker. I closely tracked my food intake and deliberated over the minute calories in mustard or my breakfast puffed rice. Over the summer I obsessed over my calorie intake, and I thrived on the compliments I got at church. During the school year, with regular and guilty access to jelly beans, I worked out as much and as hard as I could to punish myself for eating. Even when I developed an arrhythmia where my heart would sometimes race to 180 bpm from gentle walking, I pushed through as much as I could despite feeling heavily fatigued. On top of getting straight As, volunteer work, and clubs, I tracked my calories and by the end of sophomore year I was fitting in at least 3 hours of exercise a day. My body was constantly sore and the tissue in my knees had microtears which would sometimes catch behind my kneecap, making my knees buckle. On the way home from the gym at night I worried how I would possibly run away or fight someone if they were to physically threaten me after a hard workout. I can remember being home during a break and planning to walk with my dad, and when he wasn’t ready within 10 minutes of when we’d planned to leave I became so agitated I threw a tantrum, sobbed, and left the house without him so I could do my workout. It was tiring and all consuming.
Junior year I was doing an exercise video in my apartment with a friend, and my body finally gave me the clear message that enough was enough. The meniscus in my right knee called it a day, ripped and folded itself under my kneecap, and I couldn’t stand. I had surgery soon after, and recovery was emotionally draining. I tortured myself by pouring over a workout book and felt deep shame and anxiety about being forced to rest. As my knee started to recuperate a bit, I slowly got back into exercise, but my routine had to change. Running turned to training to walk a marathon, and water aerobics replaced lower body weight lifting.
Then, over the summer, a family friend lent my parents a couple of Rodney Yee yoga videos. They were a different, kinder pace. But yoga had to be added to my hourly tally. When school started back up I started attending a yoga-pilates hybrid class at the campus gym, taught by a student from my eating disorder support group, triggering the competitive impulses many sufferers contend with. Yoga classes were an opportunity to outhold a neighbor in a warrior pose or outstretch the teacher in a forward fold. I committed to yoga as yet another means to disciplining my body for eating.
Studying abroad stopped me cold. In the States, on my home turf, the body struggle was related in good part to an unhappy relationship and both real and perceived pressure from loved ones. It was a way of controlling anxiety attacks and being at the top. In Australia, I was surrounded by students who were enjoying school and life. I lived on campus with fun-loving people, who drank a lot and danced a lot and laughed a lot. My workouts quieted, and I got a little less tightly wound. My anxiety attacks lessened. Negative relationships became clarified. I started to resent the power of my drive to succeed in school and control everything about myself, surrounded by people who were far more balanced than I’d ever been. I felt happy. I. Gained. Weight. When I got home I had to buy new clothes for the rest of the school year, and when I realized I couldn’t wear junior’s clothes my heart sank. In the dressing room with my mom, I tried on clothes in double digits, and panic ensued. It started again.
In grad school I ended my college romantic relationship and became deeply, at times suicidally, depressed. I’d lock myself in my bathroom with the fan turned on, and cry from the fetal position on the bathmat. The thought of taking my clothes out of the dryer made me want to never leave bed. I listened exclusively to total bummer music. My body shrank, my smaller jeans became a sense of pride and again, the compliments. “You look great! What’s your trick to losing weight?” “Oh, you know! The usual. Misery.” But I was living with a wonderful, loving friend, who worried about me and checked up on me when my food intake dwindled to lentils and wint-o-green Lifesavers. I found a great therapist, who I still see, and tried out all manner of antidepressants and mood stabilizers until I found a suitable fit. The medication I landed on unfortunately exacerbated my heart arrhythmia to the point that exercise was damn near impossible, and I was often exhausted. But I started to adjust to life in the real world and turned my attention to recovering from pain and exhaustion. And I came back to yoga. I occasionally went to classes at the gym with a teacher who I later took yoga teacher training with, but mostly I either practiced alone or informally taught yoga to friends on the beach or early morning mini-classes to summer campers. I felt intimidated in many classes because I didn’t feel like I fit in, but at home or as an informal teacher I felt good. Stronger. Calmer. Gentler. My heart and my knees could handle it, and my drive to be the best body in the room slowly backed away.
This isn’t to say the drive to quantify exercise disappeared after grad school. At one point I got hooked on a barefoot, expressive dance class called Nia, and kept dancing even after my foot developed a painful stress fracture. After my foot recovered, I started taking swing dance lessons, (which I’ve since returned to but this time more mindfully), and wrenched my injured knee again. And again, I returned to yoga. This time, with my knee often in pain, I eased into a much quieter practice and began an internal conversation, a practice I encourage when I teach. I’d listen when my knee gave clear signals that I’d gone too far, and I’d back up a little. I developed a better ear and a better loyalty to care for my punished body. Late nights when I couldn’t sleep, I’d find a couple of songs that spoke to me, and happily settle into a steady shoulderstand. I could feel things shifting. My body was larger than it had ever been, but I was seeing something entirely different in the mirror. I could see myself a little better. Clearer. And for the first time, I was beginning to see my body as a vehicle carrying who I was at my core, more frequently than I could see it as something to be looked at and fixed. In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her weight gain during happy travels as “existing more.” I took up more space. I began to feel like I deserved to occupy as much space as anyone else. And there it was. Yoga was helping me heal.
I’d been very self conscious of attending yoga classes, because I felt like bodies like mine rarely made appearances on students, and especially not teachers. But in this time of starting to accept my body, I realized that was a role I could fill. I accepted that I may never be able to stand on my head while chanting in sanskrit, and that didn’t matter for being a good teacher. I wanted to finally allow my journey to benefit others, by teaching classes exactly as I was, and encouraging students to celebrate, or at least appreciate their bodies, regardless of experience or appearance.
These days when I teach, I forget to think about how I look, and I focus on what I’m saying. Maybe sometimes I succeed in getting my message across, and other times I flop, but more often than not I feel like it’s working. And more often than not I can model my brand of being body positive, and observe myself with more appreciation than judgment.
But recently I’ve backslid a bit. I’m seeing my belly a little bit like my grad school brain might. Our bodies change as we age, and I’m carrying my weight differently than I used to. Sometimes I really enjoy that I’m not a static being, and my physical body is changing much like my emotional and spiritual body continues to evolve. But recently, more than usual, I’m finding myself holding in my belly even when I’m alone in my house. I’m less vigilant about hiding Facebook posts about people’s workout regimens or dodging the so-called “Health and Fitness” boards on Pinterest. I feel vulnerable at the gym, where I’d grown to feel much more emotionally safe. And the thought of shopping for clothes makes my heart race. I know this has its source in greater goings on in my life mostly unrelated to physical appearance, but it’s still frustrating, with an added layer of embarrassment, since I’m not practicing what I preach about body and self acceptance. I’ve found, though, when I look at my students, who inhabit a variety of forms, I see so much beauty. It’s yet again time to reexamine why, like many of us, my default is to see myself as less lovable when I see others as so lovely.
My mantra recently is “You are already whole, and exactly where you’re supposed to be,” but sometimes that affirmation feels a little hollow. I have folds and curves and padding in places I didn’t before, and I’m trying to make peace with them, particularly with my stomach. For a multitude of reasons, and as is recognized in many traditions, the belly can be deeply connected with vulnerability. Some of us lash out like cats when our bellies are so much as touched. In light of this, my daily practice right now is about reframing and reconnecting with my belly as a source of love, light, and soft strength. Focusing on my belly is therapeutic but in many ways harder than tending to any other physically injured part of me has been. In light of this journey, I’m teaching a workshop on August 31 dedicated to cultivating care and kindness for our bellies, in whatever form they come at this very moment. But whether you can make it or not, I’d love to hear your story. Please send a message or comment below, to share something about your journey. I’ve got a feeling we may have a bit in common.