Dear Yoga, I’ve been seeing other people

Dear Yoga,

There’s something I need to tell you.

You might want to sit down for this one, maybe make yourself some chai.

Okay. Here goes.

Yoga, I’ve been seeing other people.

I’m sure you must have guessed. I mean, the signs were all there. The aching, shaking muscles. The absences from my mat. The new exercise clothes from Lorna Jane.

I know it sounds cliched, but really – it’s not you, it’s me. Through no fault of your own, I felt my fitness had plateaued. The kilos were creeping on and no amount of vinyasa or salad would shift it.

So I joined a gym and started attending group classes. At first it was just Body Combat, a kind of mixed martial arts-aerobics hybrid. It made me feel like Lara Croft and Buffy combined. So I kept going. My shoulder ached for three days after my first class, but it felt good to know that I’d worked hard.

Next, I tried boxing. Feeling my gloves connect with the punching bag was even more satisfying than beating up imaginary foes. And I can honestly say I’ve never done more sit ups or push ups than I did in those classes.

A few years ago, I’d joined a gym. One of my favourite exercises had been squats using a barbell for extra resistance. So the next logical class to try was Body Pump. Using the barbell and plates, working up to around 800 repetitiions per class, I have to say I walked (shakily) out of that class feeling like a champion. I felt STRONG. POWERFUL. A WARRIOR.

Yoga, I can see you cringing at all this high-impact cardio and strength training. I know you want this to be over. But, I’m sorry to say, there’s more.

You see, I was going to leave it at these three classes. But then I missed a combat class one week, due to a Tigress Yoga workshop, and wanted to fit some cardio into my week. So I tried Body Attack. It was like areobics on steroids. There were daggy 80s and 90s moves (grapevine, anyone?). There was plyometrics. There was high kicking and there was running to various to corners of the room. And when we split the room for some agility exercises, it felt just like West Side Story. And you know how much I love a good musical.

But yoga, please don’t think I’ve forgotten you. I still unroll my mat as soon as I get home from work, it’s just sometimes I have to make my practice a little shorter. And those days when I do have to leave without you – well, it just makes me miss you all the more.

You may not believe me when I say this, but – I’m doing this for us. After just a few weeks, I already feel stronger, fitter. more flexible (which wa a pleasant surprise). I’m more confident and motivated in all areas of my life, not just my physical health.

All of this translates onto my mat. My headstands have never felt so strong and stable. I chataranga like a champion. And my arm balances – just, wow.

I’m actually doing more yoga since joining the gym. Initially, it was to counteract and balance the higher-impact, strength focused gym classes. Now, it’s purely because I want to move more. Bending, stretching, high kicking and squatting – it makes me feel so alive, so happy.

Yoga, I hope this has helped to put your mind to rest. Please believe me when I say that you are my first and greatest love. And I promise, that even though one day, I may hang up my boxing gloves, I will always, ALWAYS, come back to the mat.

Hitting the reset button

Oops.

It’s been, what? Nearly two months now since I last blogged.

I’d like to say that it’s been because I’ve been CRAZY BUSY and just hadn’t got around to it.

And it’s partly true – starting up two yoga classes a week, whilst working full time, doesn’t just happen on its own, you know.

But the real reason?

I’ve been so exhausted, I barely have 2 brain cells to rub together, let alone the energy to pick up a pen.

Working full time, starting up and maintaining my classes, looking at buying a house, attending workshops, maintaining my own yoga practice, making time for family and friends and writingmy blog…one  or more of the balls was going to drop sooner or later.

Oh, and I’m also planning on going back to study later in the year. Because I am insane.

I finally had my lightbulb moment a few weeks ago, when I complained to a co-worker for the umpteenth time about how tired I was, and how I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this way. She observed that in spite of my yoga-loving, healthy-eating lifestyle, I’m constantly tired, whilst she’s a happy little omnivorous yoga newbie and mostly feels fine.

Hmm. Time to check in with myself, methinks.

Time for a little lifestyle examination.

And wowzers, do I not like what I see.

Too many nights spent on the couch watching My Kitchen Rules. Too many nights spent eating out or getting takeaway because it’s more convenient/too hot to cook. Not enough yoga. No meditation. No writing. Too many wasted hours on Facebook or Walking Dead memes.

Two recent workshops I attended (one on Yoga Nidra, the other working through the chakras) have rattled something inside me, reminded me of that feeling I got last year after I returned home from a yoga retreat. Feeling like my outer world is not quite aligned with my inner world. And how discontented that makes me feel.

So this post is not just a public whinge about how busy and tired I am. I actually LOVE being busy. But I need to take care of myself so that I don’t run myself into the ground.

This post is, in fact, a public declaration that I am going to clean up my act. And what better time than now, over the Easter weekend, when there are four long, blissful days begging me to do something productive and meaningful with them? What better time to hit the reset button? Switching off the telly. Getting back on my mat, my meditation cushion, and back into the kitchen. Upping my face time with friends and family, not my Facebook time. Trying out new yoga classes. Promoting and building my yoga classes. Living simply, fearlessly.

My Top Five – June

1) Green juices   I’ve started getting into green juices this month. Not everyday – sometimes I forget, and let’s face it, at 7am on a cold winter’s morning, a hot cup of tea is far more appealing. But they taste great, act as an instant nutritional boost and help to alkalise the body. My favourite combo is spinach, cucumber, celery and apple. Definitely keen to try out some smoothie recipes soon – maybe next month?

2) Black quinoa   I’ve been on the quinoa bandwagon for ages, but I’ve only ever eaten white quinoa. That was until my boyfriend brought home a bag of black quinoa from the Middle Eastern bakery down the road. It was a revelation – a little crunchy, with a wonderfully earthy flavour. It’s been on high rotation for lunch and dinner. And it looks pretty too.

3) Handmade skin care products  I’ll do a proper blog on this soon, but suffice to say that creating your very own products, whith complete knowledge and control of what goes into them is suprememly satisfying. Kind of like a quiet “up yours” to all those companies who insist on serving up cheap, toxic and downright nasty chemical cocktails disguised as moisturisers and soaps. And with ingredients like almond meal, poppy seeds and cocoa butter, they’re almost good enough to eat!

4) Workhealth Check    Because no matter how young you are or how well you think you’re doing healthwise, it’s always good to just get a little snapshot of what’s really going on. I was especially interested to see my results after increasing my fat intake – and turns out my cholesterol levels are excellent, blood glucose perfectly fine, blood pressure normal, waist measurement well below the recommended limit. Fat is not the enemy!

5) Rosehip oil   I recently switched to Trilogy skincare products, which use rosehip oil as their signature ingredient. This month, I started using their rosehip oil (with added antioxidants!). Rosehip oil has been shown to reduce wrinkles, scarring and stretch marks, and to improve the overall appearance of skin. My skin has never felt so soft! So nourished and healthy. Any pimples clear up quickly, my skin tone has improved (no more blotchy cheeks!) and I’m looking forward to seeing my acne scars fade.

On gratitude and abundance

I always used to think that gratitude journals were a bit of a wank. What was the point, I wondered? It’s just a bit of self-indulgent nonsense that helps fill in the time.

But more recently, I’ve changed my tune. I’m not quite sure why my stance has shifted. I can only assume I’m being carried along by all of the other positive changes occurring in my life. Maybe it’s this blog, and through documenting things I’m able to realise how important they are, even if they seem insignificant.

Whatever it is, I’m starting to recognise the beauty and wonder of expressing gratitude. And the magic! That whole “like attracts like” – the more you begin to express gratitude, the more the Universe provides us with things to be grateful for. Or perhaps it’s just that we’re more able to realise and be thankful for what we do have, rather than what we believe we lack.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to awareness, and questioning the messages that are constantly thrown at us. We in the West, particularly, are caught in an endless cycle of consumerism, of “when I have X, I will be able to do or feel Y”. Having things will make us happy, or so advertisers would like us to believe. But how many of us have bought that bag/pair of shoes/plasma TV/car, believing that once we had them in our hot little hands, we would be happy? Life, sorted. Until the next model – bigger and better – comes out. Until we’re told that our new iPad is already out of date, and we need to upgrade, or else be left behind. To quote (albeit out of context) Kurt Vonnegut, author of the brilliant Slaughterhouse-Five, amongst others: “And so on, and so it goes…”

True abundance doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with physical possessions or our financial situation. In fact, I would argue that, for the most part, they are mutually exclusive. And just to pre-empt any criticisms – yes, I completely acknowledge that I am writing from the perspective of a Gen Y, white, middle-class Western woman. I understand that the concept of abundance is subjective, and that for many people, there is less choice or access to much of what we take for granted. But when you consider how much we seemingly have, and yet appear to be increasingly miserable, it’s obvious that something’s not right with the equation. That maybe having “stuff” isn’t the key to happiness after all.

The Yoga Sutras introduce us to such concepts as Aparigraha (non-grasping) and Santosha (contentment). We already have everything we need. The Universe makes sure of that. It’s got your back (even when it doesn’t feel like it!). So let’s just enjoy, – nay, be grateful for – each moment, just as it is, no need for wanting or craving for more.

I still don’t keep a gratitude journal. I just don’t feel, personally, that it needs to be recorded. But I do like to end each day, just before I go to sleep, by listing five things that I’m grateful for – access to fresh, healthy foods, or quality time with my boyfriend and family, or that I even have a bed to sleep in. If nothing else, it puts things in perspective.

 And how about you? What are the things that you are grateful for?

My Top 5 – May

1) Coconut oil    Like many people, I used to be scared of eating fat. But there is absolutely no need – as long as you’re eating the right kinds. Coconut oil in BRIMMING with the good stuff – check out more info here –  they explain it much better than I could. I eat it in my porridge, my stir-frys and curries, slather it on my skin as a moisturiser. I think the lauric acid in it is even helping my skin infection! Go get some!

2) Raw desserts     I’ve been thinking more and more about raw foods lately, and treats in particular. Because, let’s face it, we all need a choccie hit now and then. And if there’s a way of making it healthier, I’m all for it! Cue experiments with raw chocolate avocado mousse, chia pudding and raw chocolate brownies. I used this recipe at My New Roots for the brownies – and they are DIVINE. Try them for yourself!

3) Natural skincare    I’ve been slowly switching my chemical-laden skin care products to natural, nicer stuff. Trilogy for the face, Perfect Potion for the rest of my skin, and Miessence for deoderant. All are absolutely beautiful, and work even better than my old stuff. I haven’t yet started tweaking my make-up brands, but I am wearing less, and less often, so it’s a start.

4) My snuggle rug      I really, really dislike the cold. And Melbourne is freezing right now! So I bought a cosy blanket a few years ago to wrap myself in each winter. It’s been getting a great workout these past few weeks! So toasty!

5) Florence and the Machine      I was lucky enough to see her earlier this month – definitely one of the best concerts I’ve been to. There’s just something so magical about her voice. It transports and transforms. Simply brilliant. (And as an aside, how good is live music?)

It’s time…

The past few months have been hard. But despite the stress, the health issues, the work dramas – or maybe because of them – I’ve noticed a shift start to happen. Instead of moaning about it all, I’ve started asking myself, what have I learned from this? Where has this led me?

And you know what?

I’ve learned A LOT. About myself, about others, about ways to live more simply, to undo some of the harm I’ve been unknowingly inflicting on myself. And all those bad experiences? They’ve turned out to be opportunities to create something new and wonderful in my life.

I’ve had a series of jobs that have either bored or over-stressed me…but they also reunited me with old friends and colleagues, people on my wavelength, people with whom I spent my work days talking yoga, spirituality, food, music, art, health.

Stress mucked up my immune system, and using a particular product from a particular skin care range made my resulting skin issues – now clearly an infection – even worse…but it’s taught (and horrified) me that many of the products we coat ourselves in daily, with claims of being natural, are actually full of toxic chemicals. For example, propylene glycol? It’s found in both my eye cream, and anti-freeze. Gross, right? So I’m really excited to discover that there are so many brands out there thatarenatural, organic, and/or handmade, and that work just as well, if not better, than my old products. Next month I’m even participating in a DIY skin care product workshop – stay tuned for a post all about it!

My doctor still can’t figure out what’s going on with my skin – I’m spent a small fortune on medicated creams, corticosteroids, fungal creams, played around with new (all natural) moisturisers, had blood tests and skin scrapings…the skin scrapings should finally reveal all, I suppose, but in the meantime, instead of waiting around, I’ve been busy making some lfestyle changes with the guidance of my naturopath, to see if I can provide the right conditions for my body to heal itself. Diet-wise, I’m eating more fats, less sugar, almost zero alcohol. I’m dabbling with raw food. I’m working with yoga practices that specifically target the lymphatic and immune system. I now have a job I love and that allows me to get enough sleep. I’m also using coconut oil on my skin again (in addition to a doctor prescribed cream) and, funnily enough, a few days after using it, my skin started to look just the tiniest bit better. Maybe it was just the cream finally kicking it, but it’s a bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?

Anyway, what all the above is trying to say is, I’m happy. I feel good. I’m learning and making mistakes and re-configuring.

It’s necessary.

It’s kind.

It’s time.