Sometimes life gives us lessons when we least expect it. Yesterday I was trying out a new yoga studio while visiting friends out of town. While practicing crow I advanced into headstand, mainly to give myself a little challenge since it was a Monday and I haven't been on my mat a lot with recent travel. After class, an exceptionally fit looking woman (who I later learned was a kickboxing teacher) asked me incredulously, "How did you learn to do a headstand??"
I was surprised someone with a physique like hers would ever ask me for advice, but answered her earnestly - "with a lot of practice!" I explained to her that after years of doing crow one day a teacher encouraged the class to try headstand. It was something I never imagined I could do, but once I tried I was surprised how easily it came to me, and with enough practice I felt confident to do it near others. Now it's simply a part of my practice the same as triangle or upward facing dog. She seemed impressed, so I went on to let her know, "That's not to say I'm comfortable with all inversions..."
I do love arm balances and am always excited to try new things, I have practiced a lot of handstands, and while I can't stick them well enough to pose in public for a vacation photo (someday!) I am very controlled and comfortable kicking up and usually even get a little hang time. I certainly don't practice them often enough - generally only when it's cued in class or occasionally when I have a few free moments in a studio alone. But there's one inversion that has remained my nemesis. Forearm balance has never been on my radar. Except for a few workshops where (because the teacher made me) I gave it the old college try and basically walked away no more able than when I came. It wasn't for lack of trying on the teachers' part, it was a mental block I had set up for myself: "I just can't do this."
I never felt defeated about it, I was more just resigned to the idea that "everything is not for everybody" and was perfectly content believing forearm balance (or feathered peacock pose, if you wish) was simply not something I needed in my life. But upon further inspection I realized for some reason there's been a fear there- despite my rather adventurous, risk prone nature, as a person who has sky, SCUBA (and stage) dived, I was afraid to go all in on this one pose.
So what, you may wonder, was the inspiration for me to give up these blocks and dive head first (literally) into my worst yoga fear? The realization that I would have never learned crow to headstand if I let fear prevent me from practicing it. After I left class yesterday, I was thinking about this woman, who was absolutely ripped and no question in better shape than me, who had asked me how to do a pose that to me was child's play. And the only reason it is "child's play" today is because I worked at it - with no fear. I decided that it's absolutely unacceptable for me to tell a person "All you have to do is keep at it" regarding one pose when I'm afraid to even try another.
When I rolled out my mat this morning I was determined to see what I could get out of this pose. Granted, I should have warmed up with some sun salutations and maybe even prepped with some dolphin planks, but never being one to really prep anything in life I went right in. I set up my phone to video my first attempt and gave it a few kicks on either leg before launching myself all the way over. I went and watched the video and realized my arms were set too far apart, and went back and tried again. This approach, twice - practice, critique, try again - led to my *almost* nailing it on the 3rd trip to my mat.
Inversions can be exhausting, so I gave myself a break and decided to share what I had learned. Not just the "almost nailed it" video (go me!) but the overall lesson. Here I am, 11 years into my yoga journey, and probably 5 years after my first inversion workshop and today is the day I have decided to hell with fear, I'm going to do this. It may take me weeks, or even years to actually land this pose - but that's a lot sooner than never!
I made a decision today to add forearm balance to my ever updating list of "goals for 2017" - who needs a new year or even a new week to set new goals? So what it's a random Wednesday? It's never too late to start!
#noposeleftbehind #scorpionsomeday #practicemakesbetter
See video here: http://bit.ly/2obuCmS
You may recall the hit song by John Mayer that had young women swooning in the early 2000s. While the song was rumored to be inspired by his girlfriend Jennifer Love Hewitt, she is on record denying that fact, with a self-deprecating statement saying her body is “more like a pawn shop.”
While the relationship between John and Jennifer has long since disintegrated, the uphill battle for a positive body image rages on. Think about it, when's the last time you looked in the mirror and said to yourself, "Self, you look fantastic! There's nothing I would change!" It's probably been a while, if ever.
We are programmed from a very early age to think that our bodies are meant to look a certain way. Tall - but not too tall, lean - but still curvy, tan - but not too tan, and hairless - but with a strong brow. Any departure from that ideal is something to be worked on, or hidden away. There are countless articles on how to look taller, lose weight, tone up, get tan, camouflage problem areas and every other thing you can imagine to increase your appeal to whomever it is you're trying to appeal to.
A quick google search of "how to look better" pulled up 1,000,000,000 articles in less than a second, while a search of "how to love yourself" only discovered 3,000,000. For those familiar with the "Three Comma Club" (thanks, HBO's Silicon Valley) apparently improving your appearance is in, self love is out.
Most of us would admit without question that the real you is inside, and what's outside is merely a shell. Yet we spend so much time and money on the outside and rarely stop to consider what's going on inside. We need to do a better job of taking care of our whole selves! Certainly all of us could benefit from more sleep, better food and some exercise, but where the real work begins is internal. Starting with how we view and appreciate our physical self.
When you really think about it, it's silly to be this obsessed about our bodies. After all, it's literally a bag of skin holding a bunch of bones and goo in place. You are who you are as a person because of your mind, heart and spirit, not because of how long your legs are or what color hair you have, or if you even have hair at all. While the human body is nothing short of a scientific miracle, at the same time it's just a vessel in which we reside. Its sole purpose is simply to serve as a vehicle to carry the real us, what's inside, around wherever we wish to go.
Imagine your body was a person, would you say the hurtful things out loud? Would you say, "I hate you!" to a person who has literally carried you around in the best and worst of times? Imagine if your body went on strike every time you offended it. What if next time you confided in a friend, "I hate my hair," you woke up without any. Sure, sometimes we may see a need for improvement. But if we don't like something about our appearance, think about where that comes from. If it truly comes from wanting to have stronger legs that don't tire as easily, then sure - you should work on that. Go running, work out, do something to improve your leg strength. But if it comes from looking at the latest issue of Airbrush Magazine, change your perception. "Sure, my legs may not be as long, tan, and hairless as this photo, but honestly whose legs are! I love my legs; they get me around and if I'm being honest, they don't look too bad in heels, either." You will be amazed at how differently you view yourself when you consciously change the conversation in your head from negative to positive.
I am currently participating in an Instagram yoga challenge, something I have always shunned, because one thing we aren't short of in this world is people taking selfies. But because the theme is body positivity and self-love, it has purpose. Typically selfie posts can seem as if one is yearning for external validation: posting your photos, feverishly checking for likes and hoping you chose the best one of 57 you had to take after putting a million filters on it. This challenge requires you to simply post a picture of yourself in the pose of the day and give yourself a compliment. I’ll testify, it’s much harder to come up with things YOU like about yourself rather than relying on the generosity of strangers.
The funny thing is, while it’s difficult for me to post pictures of myself on a daily basis, I am LOVING seeing everyone else posting their pictures! Each in various stages of their yoga journey, from beginners to advanced, the casual yogi and the committed teacher in training, some even proudly participating while recovering from injury. Seeing their poses and reading their compliments has really been great. And not once have I seen a photo and thought, "oh that picture is just awful" or "that's a bad angle." Good thing to remember when posting your own! When you look at a photo of yourself you immediately go into critique mode - but no one else sees your photo through that lens.
Each of us is completely and utterly unique and beautiful (or handsome!) in our own way. Think about your 3 closest friends right now and immediately you could name 10 things that make that person beautiful. But if I asked you to make a list of just 5 things about yourself it would likely be a struggle.
Not only are you less apt to like things about yourself, but even that thing you do like - maybe you secretly know you have pretty feet - you aren't able to say it out loud. No, it's more socially acceptable to demean yourself, right? I mean Jennifer Love Hewitt was widely thought to have been the inspiration for a song about someone having an amazing, wonderful body, and she couldn't even take the compliment.
How many cocktail parties have you been to where a group of women sat around and told each other the things they loved about themselves? While it sounds icky at first, I would definitely take that over sitting with a group of women who spend an hour discussing how one hates her eyebrows and another thinks her hips are too wide.
Let's all be more loving to ourselves - and to one another. After all, when you have compassion for yourself, it's easier to share it with others. Most of us upon greeting a friend or even a stranger will offer a genuine compliment. Our eye is drawn to the positive in others, why do we go on so harshly about ourselves? I’m challenging you to change the conversation you have with yourself about your body. I'll bet if you start your day by looking in the mirror and saying, "You know what, I look pretty damn good. I don't have to be a certain size or a number on a scale, or have curly (or straight!) hair. I am a wonderful person inside this body and it shows!" you will radiate an inner beauty that others will notice.
Maybe even John Mayer.
The Instagram challenge referred to in this post is hosted by Noya Yoga, an apparel company (and maker of The Yogzi!) that plants a tree for every purchase. Check them out at noyayoga.com (Instagram: @Noya_yoga).
We all put off doing the less pleasant things in favor of more enjoyable tasks, whether at home, work or even on the committee we signed up for. Certainly there wouldn't be hundreds of cliches like "eat the frog" (or "you have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce") if not. But other than facing the small inconvenience of prolonging the inevitable when it comes to doing laundry, or the larger consequence of missing out on an opportunity when it comes to business, consider how procrastination doesn't just affect you. Not doing the thing we're meant to do actually has an impact on the world around us.
For example, when a neighborhood restaurant closes too soon and you think, "Man, I kept wanting to go there." Well, probably so did a lot of other well meaning folks. But they never did and ultimately the restaurant shuttered its doors. Of course you could say the restaurateur should have had more significant cash reserves, or done better market research, or a dozen other things - maybe they procrastinated too. But the bigger lesson here is what opportunities are passed by on a daily basis because we just never got around to doing what we meant to do.
How many people have great ideas and never follow through on them, for various reasons, be it fear of failure (everyone's fav!) or not enough ____ (insert time, money, experience - a close second). What if Steve Jobs (and the Woz) had just never really gotten around to starting one of the most technologically innovative companies in the history of the world? Beyond grasping the idea you'd probably be reading this on a Blackberry (#RIP), just think of all the things the iPhone was a catalyst for - not just in the tech sector but also for the economy, the market, the world.
When you pass up something that is meant for you to do, in favor of doing nothing, or at best, in favor of maintaining the status quo, you are robbing the world of something great. The burden may not be on you personally - we're not all creative geniuses (genii?) destined to change the world with our shower thoughts. But it could be you who provides an inspiration or opportunity for someone else, you who opens the door and paves the way for the next big thing. Not every changemaker has global name recognition, but there are amazing people doing things right here in our own communities that we can hire, mentor, or support.
Making decisions to actively contribute to the world around us, whether they be starting a business, returning a phone call or striking up a conversation in line at the dry cleaner are each small but proactive moves that can set in motion larger ones that will ultimately inspire significant results. There's always the chance to be in the right place at the right time, by the favor of the universe or creative design - you can chalk it up to whomever you wish - but that right place is not typically found while shirking responsibility or ignoring that voice that is telling you to GO.
Every day we have dozens of opportunities to do something. Something new, something different, something small - but something just the same. When we choose not to, even with the intention of maybe doing it later, we take away a contribution. No matter how small, and no matter how not fun it may be in the moment, choose to act. The world needs all of us, we're all connected and we all have a role. In your household, your office, your community and your country, someone's next move is affected by yours. If you've been wondering if you should do something, the answer is probably yes. Don't sit on the sidelines, jump in and do your part!
"Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water,the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects." -Dalai Lama