30 Days Of Gratitude: Day 14

Well here we are on hump day, which I think is appropriate because…

Today I am grateful for:

  • Camel pose aka ustrasana. (Get it? Hump day? Camel Pose? hehe) This is one of my favorite poses for several reasons: I have a very tight back and this really helps to alleviate the back pain I occasionally experience; it’s good for your thyroid and I have a hypo-active thyroid; and it’s empowering! I feel strong and open in this pose. It really is one of my favorites.
  • Off Days. This sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes having a day that isn’t going your way is just what you need to put what you really have into perspective. It’s the perfect opportunity to practice gratitude or to practice your coping mechanisms. My main coping mechanism? Yoga!
  • Classic books. I’m currently re-reading Mansfield Park (I’m a girl, Jane Austen is in my blood). Next on my list is ‘100 Years of Solitude’ and ‘East of Eden.’ It’s replaced my nightly television watching and I think it’s definitely helping me fall to sleep better. Not to say that the books are putting me to sleep, but they are an excellent way to settle your mind before bed.

30 Days of Gratitude : Day 1

Early this summer, right as I was really getting back into running (it’s one of those interests that comes and goes in my life as it pleases), I sprained my ankle. Badly. Now, this isn’t so terrible in of itself; people injure themselves all the time, and ankles heal. The thing is, running had become something of a crutch for me. As I mentioned earlier this year, I suffer from some sometimes pretty severe anxiety (and panic and depression). So running has been one of the many tools* I use to alleviate the anxiety I experience throughout the day. Unfortunately, it became my main tool, so much so that when I was unable to run, I let my mind get the better of me and let my anxiety rule my day. Not cool.

Unfortunately, my yoga practice also fell to the wayside. It’s amazing how such a small injury can really inhibit your daily activities. And because I had come to rely on yoga and running as a source of anxiety-release, not being able to do them as I pleased was difficult. And ultimately humbling. The truth is, I could have practived some gentler forms of yoga, such as yin yoga. I could have also done as much stretching as my heart desired. Things like swimming were also still available to me. But I was stubborn and I took not being able to practice the kind of yoga I wanted to do and run when I wanted to as a failure. I quickly developed a cycle of negative thoughts based on my own stubbornness and what I perceived as a failure in myself. So here’s where my focus on gratitude comes in. One of my favorite persons on earth is Dr. Andrew Weil, and recently he wrote a post on Facebook about the power of gratitude. It was something to the effect that people who start the day thinking about what they are grateful for have reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression throughout the day compared to those who do not. I can’t (read: don’t want to scroll through the pages) find the exact post, but it was similar to this article. This idea really resonated with me because on of my favorite parts of my yoga practice is setting an intention for that session, whether it be for myself or for another. So I figured, why not? Let’s give it a try.

A month later, it has become one of my favorite parts of my day. And so I thought I would take it a step further and share it with the world. (Lucky you!) I hope that maybe you’ll give it a try. It takes just a few minutes, can be about anything, and really, truly, makes a difference. So here we go.

Three things I am grateful for today:

  • My physical body. Sometimes it doesn’t do what I would like it to do; it has limits and (often due to my clumsiness) can get hurt. But make no mistake – my body is strong and healthy. It gets me from Point A to Point B. It rewards me when I take care of it, whether through a fantastic hour of yoga, or by squeezing into my favorite pair of jeans (you know you have one of those!).
  • My dog, Valentino. He barks too much, is way spoiled, and is my best friend. He loves nothing more than to sleep in with me on the weekends and cuddle. He never fails to greet me like he hasn’t seen me in ages. He is truly, man’s best friend. My best friend.
  • Coffee. It’s hot in San Diego right now. Hot and humid. And yet, my greatest midday treat is an extra-hot, extra-dry double cappuccino. I’m not ashamed to say that it is one of the best parts of my day. The foam, the aroma, the spike of energy…I love, LOVE it!

And there you go! I hope you do give it a try. And if not, then maybe try setting a positive intention for yourself each morning while getting ready for work/school/your day. I bet you’ll see a positive change in your life 🙂

*The reason running is so effective, or really any physical exercise, is so effective as a relief to anxiety is because as your exert yourself your body releases endorphins (the “feel good” hormones) and at the same time reduces your stress. In a way, you’re get a two-for-one deal. A decrease in stress and an increase in “happy thoughts.”

Relax, It’s Just Life!

Valentino (right) definitely knows how to enjoy the moment.

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve really come to enjoy and appreciate my yoga practice. It not only eases my anxiety, but it adds a deeper level of awareness and balance to my day-to-day life. That being said, sometimes, for whatever reason, I find myself struggling to find my balance or to really get into a pose. And this causes a lot of frustration on my end. Suddenly, I’m focused on what I’m doing wrong, or rather, what I’m not doing, instead of focusing on that fact that I’m there, on my mat, doing something for myself. In these moments, it’s easy to lose my sense of self and obsess over the failings of my mind and body.

So bless my instructors heart, when the other night she so helpfully reminded us to “have fun tonight and don’t take yourself so seriously!” Umm…Duh!!! Sometimes, I just need to hear the words from someone other than myself.

We all fall. It’s a fact of life. But hey, it’s not so bad. Summer is around the corner, life is beautiful, and we’re all doing the best we can! Let’s all celebrate who we are and where we are today. Wow, I am so. darn. cheesy.

On a related note, I’m sooooo looking forward to this upcoming Memorial Weekend. I don’t have anything in particular planned, but I am looking forward to some general time at the beach and enjoying the (hopefully) beautiful weather. Hope you all have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

I Feel Strong

This is a big deal for me. As someone who barely reaches the 5-foot mark, I usually feel little…small. But after about 5 weeks of practicing yoga 3-4 times a week, I really do feel strong. This isn’t my first foray into yoga. I discovered it during my years as an undergrad as a way to alleviate the stress I felt from my Organic Chemistry and Calculus classes. Since then, I’ve practiced on and off over the years. But lately, the last few years especially, it’s been mostly off. So now, five weeks later, I’m feeling good. Apart from making me feel strong, it’s made me a better runner and most of all, it has helped bring a sense of mindfulness that I’ve been sorely missing these past few months.

I am a very anxious person, and these sessions on my mat have made a world of difference to my mental health. Focusing on yourself and your breathing, the connection between mind and body, can seem scary at first. Especially for someone who can’t stand to be quiet or still for a moment, lest their floodgates split open and their worries come flooding out in a big rush. But once you let that fear subside, maybe acknowledge those thoughts briefly and then let them go, even if only for that hour, you can truly appreciate the control you have over your body. Your body can do amazing things if you give it a chance.  The highlight of my week involved my roommate and I squatting around the living room last weekend and suddenly hitting Hurdlers Pose. Even now, it brings a smile to my face. I never would have thought myself capable of that a few weeks ago.

I’m still working off those winter pounds that crept up on me (they actually starting accumulating in Fall…) but they feel less important right now. When I look in the mirror I see someone who looks happy, confident, and I swear, taller than their 5’0 height would suggest. I know yoga has a lot to do with it.

happy girls