It’s easy to get caught up in life. Not just the everyday mundane routines, the people we see and the things we eat when we don’t have time to make real food. Not how we lose track of time, money, patience. But in the way it’s easy to get caught up in taking things too seriously. In believing everything we haven’t experienced is probably a hoax or how the hippy-dippy bullshit really does seem like bullshit – because if all it took was a couple of minutes of breathing and listening to ourselves a day to achieve some peace then we would all be fucking doing it.
But the truth is, it’s easier to ignore the things that seem simple. Eating well, drinking water, and getting enough sleep does actually clear up your skin. Breathing deeply does calm you down. Saying “no” to things you don’t want to do does not make people hate you.
Anyway, my point is, the good stuff is often pretty simple. It’s usually inside of us. And consequently spending time with ourselves is one of the last things we want to do. We want to be alone, sure. But so that we can watch what we want on Netflix, not worry about our weird habits or holding a conversation, because it’s easier to indulge in our external distractions when it doesn’t feel like work. And other people can be work.
But we don’t often listen to ourselves. When was the last time you spent a few hours just thinking, writing, drawing? Last time you meditated? It had been a while for me since I had last took consistent time for myself. Consistency is important because it builds stamina and routine. So sure I know how to sit with myself, but I don’t often allow myself to do this.
31 days of yoga was great because I didn’t really feel like I had the energy to be working out everyday, nor did I really want to be. It was structured just enough to hold me accountable and to notice how to was making me feel, and not enough to make me feel burdened or overwhelmed. I learned a lot about myself, and what I need in this process.
LESSON Nº 1
When I say 31 days, what I mean is over the course of 36 days I finished 31 videos, took about 3 days off and did a couple days of my own stuff when I really needed something specific.
31 days was a good idea to work with. It wasn’t realistic that for 31 straight days I was going to have the energy or feel good or have the time to do this, but it was fathomable. Missing 3 days out of 36 was a huge feat for me, and the only reasons I didn’t do it were as follows:
1) the first day of my period
2) a day that I was jam packed from beginning to finish and
3) a day I was so incredibly hung over I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to make it through
It’s okay to have off days and to miss things every once in a while. If, like me, complete rigidity is a turn-off it’s great to have that guideline of 31 days to hold you accountable but also to learn when you need to take it easy. I committed to trying. And I tried very hard, with success in my eyes.
LESSON Nº 2
Almost nothing is a hoax. Yoga brain is a thing (aka when you feel kind of high after practice). The body holding emotion is a thing. Especially your hips.
A couple years ago when I “started doing” yoga I was much more flexible than I am now. For the first couple weeks of this journey I felt barely any give in my hips. Then one day after an intense hip opener in which I cried after my practice, my flexibility in my hips increased significantly.
It is said that hips hold emotional and relationship related things. I don’t know what I let go of that day, but it was powerful and painful and I stopped crying in all of my practices after that. And yes, for the first 2 weeks I did cry during every. Single. One. of my practices.
I decided to try guided meditations, which also left me feeling legitimately high and once took me from a state of pure panic in the middle of the night into one of the best sleeps of my life. I also cut out coffee, started making fresh juices every week so I could get proper vitamins and minerals, and tried to commit to going to bed at a reasonable time. I stopped smoking weed about half way through, and started writing a hell of a lot more. Most of these things have stuck with me (so far) because I recognize how much better I feel doing them and the value of that vs. the challenge of breaking habits and starting new ones.
LESSON Nº 3
It really pays to listen to your body. As I was told many times, it’s not about getting into the pose, but about the journey of the pose. About honouring where you are and finding what feels good. If you have the shape right but the stretch wrong, then what have you achieved? Yoga, or anything really, should not be muscled into. That is to say, if you have to force what is supposed to be natural are you really gaining anything from it? What are you learning or understanding? My forward fold is still pretty weak, but my balance is a hell of a lot better than it was. It might take a few years until I can put my torso on my thighs, but I can kill a crow pose.
There were days that I was really, really hurting from yoga. Not because of the practice usually, but because I didn’t get enough sleep or drink enough water. It brought me more in-tune with other parts of my body and my life, and I started to see how I was treating myself as a whole affected everything. My moods, my appetite, my motivation. It’s all connected.
LESSON Nº 4
The best act of self-care is self-regulation. Self-control. It’s saying no to that extra episode of True Blood so that you can do your practice or get a good sleep. It is making a half-assed dinner when you’re tired instead of ordering in. It is knowing where the balance lays between indulging yourself and giving into yourself. Because there is a side of you that does not care for your overall well-being. That just wants to be satisfied in the moment, and doesn’t think about the future or the different ways it will affect you. This is the part of you that wants to keep eating pizza when you’re full. That keeps you awake on Netflix when you’re tired. Being able to understand that YOU have to take care of yourself, and that doesn’t mean giving in to yourself, was so important.
There were many days I didn’t want to do yoga or didn’t get to my practice until 1030 at night, but I felt proud, calm, accomplished, and a host of other things by just doing what I had committed myself to. I carried that into other parts of my life, where I knew one thing would make me feel good and another would just be easy. Sometimes the easy way seems more beneficial, and there are a few times it is, but for the most part when you forgo feeling good for feeling less burdened you forfeit a lot more than you realize at face value.
Over all, I learned to be real with myself. I learned that my ego is telling me I deserve the things that won’t serve me. That fear is what keeps me from doing things that seem strange, like guided meditation. That progress is a slow, and often fickle bitch that will not give me what I want but instead keeps me aware of what I need. I learned that taking time for myself and saying no to giving more to others is not going to hurt me or anyone else. I am not giving anything up by spending 30 minutes or an hour on the mat. I am learning to be patient with myself, to be in control of myself. Basically I am parenting myself. Saying no you do not need to eat ALL the ice cream, but you can definitely have some.