#YogaEveryDamnDay 10: Rest

rest 2Wednesday night, I went to dinner with a few awesome girlfriends. Our conversation veered in all kinds of directions: blogging, digital strategy, writing, co-working spaces, career goals, conferences, social media and so on. I noticed two things.

First, the subject of relationships hardly came up (except for a quick Tinder story and a breakdown of "significant other" v. "life partner" titles). I found that refreshing; though I love talking about relationships, sometimes there's an assumption that that's all women do talk about. Which isn't true. I remember watching Sex and the City in college and thinking, don't they talk about anything else, ever? One of my favorite episodes is when Miranda calls her friends out for that exact thing. I talk about all sorts of things with my female friends, and while sometimes relationships dominate the conversation depending on what's going on, there's also plenty of other things to discuss, both mundane and serious.

Second, one friend shared an excellent tip for business brainstorming: read as much as you can, on all sorts of topics, and then use post-it notes to jot down the key concepts, ideas or thoughts you come across. Save notes in one place, and every so often, just look at all the notes together. Notice patterns and see where your mind wanders, because you might stumble onto something novel. (This is apparently how the founder of Priceline came up with his idea.)

I like this idea so much. There is so much to read, all the time -- articles and books and stories, online or not -- and it can be hard to remember to go back to the things you've already read and actually use the tips, think about the ideas, and so on. You have to take time to see how the pieces of information might fit together. It's why creative types recommend taking long showers or walks or breaks throughout your process -- because you need time to just let it all sink in, and that's when you usually have the next breakthrough.

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Similarly in your life, it's so important to take the time to reflect what you've already done or experienced, instead of moving full speed ahead with blinders on. And in yoga, savasana is one of the hardest poses because you're not supposed to do anything during it. Your only job is to ... relax, rest, and enjoy the benefits of your practice.

So instead of fitting in a yoga class on Wednesday, I did a couple Sun A salutations at home and then focused on nourishing a few new friendships. And there was a moment at dinner, with our wine and pizza, where I looked around the table and felt grateful to be surrounded by such bright energy. Physical rest rejuvenates our bodies, but resting in the presence of other people sustains our spirits.

#YogaEveryDamnDay 9: Vulnerability

IMG_1973 Six years ago, when I went to my first yoga class, I would have looked at the above pose (also known as mermaid) and thought: uhh, no. I've always had super tight hips, hamstrings and quads, so this pose seemed like it was only for crazy flexible people. Since then, every time it came up in class, or I saw someone else doing it in real life or online, I thought the same thing: nope. Occasionally I would try it again to discover that ... yep, still couldn't do it.

Then I just stopped trying altogether.

But on Tuesday night, after an incredible heart-opening practice, we transitioned to half-pigeon and my instructor offered the variation of mermaid. I didn't think about it, I just ... started to move into it with my mind offering casual commentary.

Bending my knee ... that actually feels like a good stretch, for once ... leg lifts, reach back ... oh, here's my foot? weird okay other arm is lifting ... I'll just reach back and ... hello, hand. 

Then of course my ego was like F*CK YEAH! and I completely lost my focus and breath and came out of it. But for a few moments, it was like the puzzle pieces of this one pose I never thought I would ever do gently snapped into place, and all of a sudden I was doing the impossible.

It felt great to accomplish something like that, but more importantly, I noticed how surprised I was. I had no intention, before class or during, to try that pose. I guarantee if I had been stressing about getting into the posture, it wouldn't have happened. Chances are, if I had started stressing about exactly how my body should move or what it should look like or how can I force my way into it, I probably wouldn't have even tried.

We do this a lot in life -- try something new, and if we're not amazing awesome perfect at it the very first time, we call it quits. Somewhere along the way, we internalized this idea of excellence and action: that we should only do the things we're great at, and stop doing anything we're immediately not great at. Or we take it a step further. We try something new, experience a challenge or feeling of frustration, and that often feels icky, so then we assume all new things equal that negative feeling. And we stop trying, unconsciously or not. We don't like feeling vulnerable or less than for even a SECOND, not at our jobs, not with the people we love, not at our hobbies, not with our goals. Not ever, really.

Tara at Tea and Cookies tells a story about this: once she heard about a fantastic writing fellowship, and she really wanted it. But she didn't apply, because she was scared of not getting it and she didn't think she was good enough. Since her fear prevented her from applying for it, that meant she absolutely didn't get it, because she didn't even throw her hat in the ring for the chance.

After that, she decided she would apply for anything and everything she wanted. She would always give herself the opportunity to be selected. Tara said,

"Because, at the end of the day, they can still say no. The powers that be can tell me I’m not a good fit—but I shouldn’t be doing that job myself. Who knows if I would have been picked for the fellowship, but I made sure that I wasn’t. I rejected myself [let me repeat that: I rejected myself]."

How often have you rejected yourself before anyone else gets the chance? It happens when you tell yourself something you want won't work out, that you're not good enough, that you shouldn't even attempt it. We want to be open to love and change and growth and newness, because we know that's what makes life worth living, but we get in our own way all the time.

There's a running joke in my family about my mom and her sunglasses. She always has a pair on her head, sometimes even two pairs, but once in a while, she'll be running around the house frantically looking for her shades. And then one of us tells her, "Mom, they're right on your head!" And she reaches up, laughs, and discovers that, oh, yes, they are, because that's where she put them and that's where they always are. What helps her see, what she thought, was right on top of her head the whole time.

That moment of panic, of searching -- in yoga, it's when we start to lose our breath. It's that feeling of, I'm going to fall, I'm going to collapse, I'm going to look stupid, I can't do this. It's overwhelming, like when you dive into a deep swimming pool and on your way back up, you realize you don't have enough breath for a few seconds before breaking through to the surface.

In life, the feeling is called vulnerability. Its the times where you try something new, tell the truth, change up your routine, fully connect with someone, offer up your heart or your vision. It kind of sucks, in an exhilarating sort of way, but there's something beautiful on the other side of the uncertainty if you simply stay to see. Every time we are vulnerable, we take a risk, and the risks we take are in direct proportion to the fullness of our lives.

Part of being vulnerable means trusting that the things you want -- the things you are desperately seeking -- are already within you. Or they were right in front of your face; you were just too busy pushing and pulling your gaze elsewhere. It means allowing yourself to enjoy something whether or not you're any "good" at it, and it means taking chances on the things that really move your heart, mind, soul and spirit, just to see what happens.

#YogaEveryDamnDay 8: Can't Fake the Core

When my high school boyfriend broke my heart, my best friend sent me a note with this quote: door closes

That started my life-long fascination with doors. Like this Death Cab song. And the set of Clifton Henri prints I recently bought at the Des Moines Art FestivalI like how doors represent choices; it's reassuring to know that there is always another one around the corner, and at the same time, it can be a little terrifying if you're like me and ... want all the options, all the time. It's not that I'm indecisive. It's that I don't like the finality of closing doors; I want it all, or at least, the possibility of it all. I want to travel and yet feel grounded in a single place. I want commitment and freedom. I want a lot of things that run alongside each other or are perhaps exact opposites, and that can be hard to manage.

Even if I know which door I'd like to choose in a given situation, I still have that knee-jerk, panic button reaction of, Wait! What if I want this one instead?! And then sometimes I try to select all the options, and that just never works out because, well, you can't walk through multiple doors at one time. You don't get unlimited opportunities to explore everything -- as others have put it, you can do anything but not every thing. 

door prints

I heard once (in yoga class, obvs) that for a strong core, you need a strong spine, because your gut requires your backbone. That visual really connects the dots in terms of decision-making: if you feel something in your core, people often say it's your truth, your third eye, your intuition. But it's easy to ignore that voice or sense, which can have minor or major consequences. Acting upon a core feeling means trusting in your own stamina to get through whatever hurdles or challenges might come along the way.

To make matters even more difficult, sometimes the right door is really ugly and beaten-up and the exact opposite of the door you thought you wanted, the pretty, shiny, new one. You can't see what's behind each one, so you might try to guess, and you might guess wrong. That uncertainty is part of life, part of living and growing. Because if you simply stand still and pretend like you don't have to walk through any door, you end up ... in a boring room standing still all by yourself. That's no fun, is it?

On Monday, I taught two classes that were very different: one in a small place with three students, and another at a corporate gym with five times that many. One of the coolest-- and scariest -- aspects of teaching is that you never know what you're going to get. And when I say "get," I mean, teaching is not about you at all, so it's not about what you literally "get" out of it. It's that you can plan an incredible sequence, with great music, and the perfect quote to share ... and then you show up, and half your class has no clue what you're talking about in downward-facing dog, or the stereo isn't working, or you were going to do boat pose on a block but there aren't enough blocks, or people keep talking to one another during class, etc. (Aka, this may have been exactly what happened between the two classes...)

Then you're all, OKAY, universe, I shall scrap my plans.

cat hands

Now, that doesn't mean you literally throw up your hands and walk out. It just means when you entered the space and came through the door, figuratively or not, you had some preset expectations, and today maybe you were wrong, because you can't predict the future. (I have to remind myself that I can't predict the future, like, three times a day.)

When I finally made it to my own mat Monday night, wooooooo, boy. She asked us to think about our comfort zones -- how the thing we really want to do can be super scary, because we don't know exactly how it will turn out -- and how venturing outside of them often leads to the biggest rewards. Then I realized that class might be kinda hard. And it was. About halfway through, I was about 16 miles outside of my comfort zone. I was so tired and hot and sweaty. I kept waiting for half pigeon, but we just. continued. flowing. Afterwards, a friend echoed my sentiments exactly: "Wasn't there a point when you just thought, there's no way we're not done yet?" Ha. I got home and immediately showered, ate dinner, then relaxed on the couch with a magazine and a pint of ice cream (<-- buy this now)*.

Today I'm sore in weird places, which is a good thing. It's a reminder. In yoga, we get really set in our poses, we think we've got them down pat, so we stop trying as hard. Same with life. Everything gets routine -- our meals, our conversations, our relationships, the things we read and watch and see and experience -- which can cause us to slack off, to anticipate comfort and ease at all times. But I don't think that's really what any of us want in this one, short life we get to live, and it's not how life works. **

Go outside your comfort zone. Choose doors that you normally wouldn't, and let the ones you've already chosen or not chose slam shut. Honor your core and your spine, your truth and your strength. Make choices based on the knowledge you have about yourself and your situation and the world in the present moment, and then move on. (Shout-out to my mama for that advice!) Know that walking your own path will absolutely feel uncertain and scary and wildly uncomfortable at times, but:

don't look back

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**The kinds of ruts I'm describing have nothing to do with depression or anxiety; I'm focusing on the normal ebbs and flows of life. I feel like this is important to say in light of the tragic death of Robin Williams, and the difficult journeys so many people are on.