How Yoga Changed My Life

Growing up I always saw yoga as only being for stuck up snobs who thought they were better than everyone else or just for skinny people. But once I graduated college, I decided to give it a try because after all the Zumba I was doing, I desperately needed some stretching to even out. And to my surprise, I found that I quite enjoyed yoga.

It all started with this YouTube playlist called the 30 Day Yoga Challenge (which you can find here) and I was looking for anything to get me into a habit so I clicked on day one. Turns out the instructor, Erin Motz, aka Bad Yogi, was the total opposite of what I expected from a yoga teacher! She was funny, she was down to earth, and she made yoga accessible to someone like me, who is quite full figured and not stick thin.

After I finished day one, I felt fantastic and looked forward to coming back for day two. As each day passed and I completed each class, I found that I enjoyed Erin’s teaching style. She made me want to come back for more. And on top of that, all the stretching I was doing made me feel better.

Yoga taught me how to have better posture. Instead of just saying to stand up straighter, it taught me how to straighten and stretch out my spine so that I actually felt what good posture should feel like. Yoga taught me how to be mindful of my body and Erin very kindly told us in her videos not to push past our limits because some of the harder poses could seriously hurt us. Now I know which pain to push through and how to relax my muscles in a stretch when I’m a bit stiffer. And the flexibility that has come with doing yoga for 5 years was definitely worth it! When I first started my Pigeon pose, I couldn’t come down into my elbows and my hips were fairly high off the floor. Now, not only can I come down onto my elbows and my hips are nearly touching the floor, but on a good day when I’m really warm and stretched out, I can rest my forehead on my mat and stretch my arms out around my head. And on top of that, when I am sitting up, I can reach back and actually grab my foot to pull for a quad stretch, whereas I couldn’t even reach my foot before.

In addition to Pigeon, I can now manage to get into a headstand, as long as I’m next to a wall, when before I couldn’t even manage to get up into a headstand. I used to not be able to hold plank pose for more than a couple seconds and now I can hold it for 30 or more seconds on my hands, and 60+ seconds on my forearms. And one of Erin’s more unique videos, I think, would be the one focused on hands and wrists. I had to agree with her statement that not everyone would even think they had tight hands, though as a writer it was not that big a shock to me. But I’ve watched her hands and wrists video so much that I have it memorized and I incorporate it into my daily routine because it’s so much more than just a yoga video for me. It’s a necessity because I am constantly doing stuff with my hands, whether that’s excessive typing or crocheting or writing or whatever. And her stretches make it easier for me to relieve some of the tension in my hands and wrists and it’s made all the difference.

Lastly, and most importantly, yoga taught me the joy of just sitting still and being quiet with myself. In its own way, it’s not only become my regular stretching practice but it’s also become a form of meditation for me. I can focus on the moves and my breathing, quietly keep time in my head for each move when I’m doing my own flow, and just drown everything else out. Which, for someone with anxiety that’s worsened in the past few years, some mental peace and quiet is much needed. And I don’t have to be moving through a flow to meditate. I can sit quietly on my mat and close my eyes, because once I hit that mat, no matter what time of day or whatever’s going on in my life, everything pauses around me. Being on my mat clears my head, gives me focus, and most importantly, calms my body down, all of which are important for slowing or stopping an anxiety attack from happening.

If you’re interested in learning more about Erin’s practices, you can find her YouTube channel here and her blog here. She’s a fantastic teacher and she has her own program now called the Perfect Body Yoga Program, which I hear is amazing (but sadly cannot afford myself). Go check her out and see for yourself. 🙂

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Post Vacation Madness

So I’ve had a crazy day. In coming back from vacation over the past five days, I was sent an email saying that I had gone into the negative with my paid time off and that technically I shouldn’t have been able to do that, but it happened and so I would not be able to take any paid vacation off for the rest of the year in order to “pay back” the time I’m currently negative. Quite frankly, I don’t think it’ll take an entire five months to pay it back, but what do I know? But the good news here is that I have no foreseeable “planned” vacations coming up in the next five months to worry about needing that paid time off.

That one email put me into panic overdrive mode and made me feel quite overwhelmed with things I wanted to do today. Not even things that absolutely needed to be done. To put it simply, my mind felt like a very busy train station, with six different trains running on six different but criss-crossing tracks and they continually ran the risk of colliding with each other.

After taking several deep breaths, I calmed down enough to make a list of things I wanted to get done and slowly did them one by one throughout the day. One of them was to sort through a massive pile of stuffed animals, mostly monkeys, and pick ones to donate/get rid of. While I was in college, my favorite band was called 100 Monkeys and my family and friends made it their mission to get me 100 monkeys and some time last year they succeeded. So I took one massive “family” picture of most of the monkeys and then sorted through them to divide them between keep and donate. Part of my desire to do this I blame on the show “Hoarders,” which I watched while I was on vacation because my best friend loves it, and while I don’t mind watching it, it makes me want to clean and sort and organize, etc. The other part of this desire to clean is from a genuine place of reducing clutter and initially I wanted to clean out the laundry basket these monkeys were sitting in so I could actually use it as a laundry basket. However, that didn’t work out so well because now the basket is full of the Disney toys that had been sitting on top of all the monkeys!

Now, granted, I still love monkeys, so I’m not getting rid of all 100, but I also realize that, with all of the other stuffed animals and other miscellaneous “nerd” stuff I have neatly arranged in various places in my room, I need to make space for new stuff and move some of the old stuff out. This is, in itself, a process and a time consuming one at that. Ideally, I’d like to go through all of my dressers, my closet, and a clear stacked “tower” and see if I can’t weed some non-essential things out of there. But I need to find time first.

So monkey wrangling was only one (well technically two) item on my list of things to do. The next two were fairly simple. One was to write a check to my dad to pay him back for several things he paid for me while I was gone. The other was to do some math for a store I wanted to buy from and find out how to get the best deal. Well, turns out the store had a flash sale so I ended up completing my transaction immediately and within my self imposed budget based off my latest paycheck. This will be my birthday gift to myself when it arrives. As for the check writing…well, I haven’t gotten to it yet, because I still need to finish working and then I need to balance out my checkbook.

The third item was actually making up a blog post. Since my mind was going a million miles a minute, making up this post actually helped to calm me down and slow down enough to remain calm throughout the day. This was probably the easiest one to do once I got rolling. I did a lot of venting this morning to my best friend so most of that was already off my chest.

Last on my list was making up several YouTube video playlists for working out. I have yet to find a good balance for me, since I love yoga for the stretching out, but I also like/need more cardio and strength training, which is where Pilates comes in, and a lot of the videos I end up watching become too challenging for me and it takes me a good hour just to get half an hour of actual working out done because I have to keep stopping. So my mad plan this morning was to do my cardio/Pilates once a week on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and yoga for the rest of the week. However, the yoga won’t all be just stretching routines. I know of some that include body weight based strength training in the flows. This task is easily the most time consuming. It will require making multiple playlists with multiple videos for different groups of body parts and searching for said videos to put in the playlists. I wholeheartedly believe this will be the definition of madness. If I get it done yet tonight, it’ll be a miracle.

The only relaxing thing I’ll get to do is some crocheting while watching one of my cooking shows. I’m making a very small, 3-inch figure of the spotted elephant from Rudolph for a friend. Last I recall, I had finished the head, body, and ears. Oh! Speaking of which, the Bumble has been finished and delivered to its new home. The recipient was absolutely delighted by it, even if mom did sew the arms on upside down.

So yes, my day has been quite hectic by my normal standards and to top it all off, last night on my ride home, I learned that I would have relatives coming up this weekend for our town’s annual festival for the drunks, and quite honestly, my first thought was, crap! That’ll cut into my gaming time!

Until next time, read on, peace out, and find time to chillax once in a while. Everyone needs their chill time.