Inside all of us is a Wild Thing

Over the past month or so several people have contacted me regarding my yoga journey since I’ve started documenting it. Many people have said that they’re in awe of the progress I’ve made, some have said I’ve inspired them to start up a practice of their own, and others have had questions regarding what led me to yoga, how it’s benefitted me, where they should start, and if I was scared when I first started to document everything.

I’m going to answer that last question right now with a flat out- FUCK YES. I was terrified the first time I video-taped myself during a practice…and the 2nd time, and the 3rd, and the 30th. Honestly I’m always a little nervous because I’ve spent a long time battling body image issues and was afraid that what people would see wasn’t the progress or the practice; but the fat rolls, thick thighs, and giant breasts. It took me almost 3 years to be able to document my practice and I still have anxiety when I hit that record button. What I’ve learned through recording myself though has really helped me grow in my practice both physically and mentally.

However; I have also grown because I have some amazing teachers (that I constantly go to for advice). One of the first things I always tell someone who is interested in beginning yoga is to make sure they go to a studio and/or find a teacher to work with as well as beginning a home practice. There are several reasons for this. Probably the most important is that taking a class with a certified teacher will help you catch any alignment or safety issues. You also have the chance to really learn different ways of practicing outside of what you see on whichever DVD you’ve been using. It’s also SO much different when you have the chance to be physically adjusted in a pose. You get to feel what you were doing versus what you are now doing and how it effects every other part of the practice.

Several people have told me they’re scared to try a studio out. Some have been afraid because they are scared of being judged and others are nervous of doing asana in front of other people. When I first started practicing I did privates and semi privates because I wasn’t comfortable being in front of others- so I’m very familiar with this feeling. If you are scared of starting out at a studio just know that it can take time but I guarantee you that almost no one else in that room is going to be watching for you to mess up or look funny because the secret is…probably everyone in that room is thinking the same thing as  you. And  if they aren’t it’s because they’re focusing on their practice or on the teacher or both. I promise you that if you truly start practicing yoga at some point going to classes does get easier;especially if you have an open mind and are willing to give it a shot.  Now- we can’t be with our teachers 24/7 because privates and classes cost money and unless you’re a millionaire or can find a really good deal it’s really difficult to practice every day at a studio or afford numerous amounts of privates. I get that…trust me I get that! The only reason I’m able to go to studios for practice is because I work at one and do photography work for another in exchange for classes. I’m very familiar with that “let’s see how far we can stretch $5 out for” boat.

I have to be my own teacher a lot of the time and having that handy video feature on my phone really helps me catch myself. I’m also able to double check any adjustments, alignment issues, etc. from classes I’ve taken during the week that I’ve been working on and I’m able to talk to my teachers about some things that I may have noticed in a video of my practice that I’m unsure of.

Outside of developing my practice and progressing through it I’ve been able to slowly work on the body image issues as well. When I’m looking at a video afterwards I’m no longer paying attention to the body in a negative way. I’m more so looking for alignment, lines, what my hands and feet are doing versus what they maybe should be doing, etc. I still notice some things I don’t like-but let’s be honest- sadly, it’s a hard wired feature in most us. And sometimes my body type is brought up in public conversations. (I debated discussing this part but one of my teachers encouraged me to write about it so here it goes.)

One of the first studios I auditioned at told me flat out that I was “pretty enough” to work there, but they were concerned at the type of person I would be bringing in due to my body type. They even went as far as to say “we just haven’t hired someone as big as you before.” Mind you- I’m not stick thin and I’m not all muscle. I have curves and stretch marks. I’m heavy chested and am short waisted. And these are things I’ve had to learn to work with and stop fighting against. Things like what that one studio said definitely hurt to hear and it still gets to me. I’m only human and acceptance is a long road. But because of where I am in my practice mentally it is unquestionably possible to push past those comments and to not dwell on it for too long. Now I don’t always feel the urge to desperately need to fix whatever is wrong to someone else’s eyes.(Also- I know from experience that most studios aren’t like the studio mentioned above.)

In fact, I think the most inspiring thing about this whole process, to me, has been how many people have said that seeing someone of a different body type doing what I do has given them the courage to finally be okay with themselves, to try yoga and/or meditation, to let go of the past, or has inspired them to start making healthier choices. I’m truly honored by all of your presences and so proud to know each person that has contacted me regarding this. I honestly never could have imagined the amount of support I’ve received with this life transition or the volume of people that something as simple as a video and honest statement could reach and encourage.

“Inside all of us is hope,fear, and adventure. Inside all of us is a Wild Thing.” Where the Wild Things Are.

 

Namaste

Andie

 

 

 

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Mirror Mirror

I had an interesting experience the other day. A friend invited me to her yoga class at the YMCA so I could get a feel for the environment that I’d potentially be working in. As with most Y’s it was noisy, smelled like chlorine (one of my favorite smells), and was muggy. I walked into the multipurpose room and immediately started searching for a spot to place my shoes and bag. It was like a flashback to taking classes at the wellness center at USD. After finding a little corner to store everything I scanned the room looking for a place to set my mat down. The room was rectangle shaped with ballet barres lining the walls on 3 sides and equipment stacked high on the fourth wall. There was room for about 2-3 lines of staggered yoga practitioners. I decided on a spot close to Kelly, the teacher, as the class was starting to fill up and it just seemed natural to go towards the front. I set my mat down and started to take a seat. Then I saw it. How I missed it when I first walked in I still don’t know; but now there it was staring obnoxiously straight back at me- my reflection. I could feel my heart sink into my gut; this is REALLY a lot like the wellness center.

The last time I practiced in a public space surrounded by mirrors was my last semester of college. Ever since then I have subconsciously purposefully avoided them. What I mean here is that I never made the decision to NEVER practice in a space with mirrors. I have just always, without too much though, opted for a choice without them. I don’t mind seeing others moving in the mirror or seeing multiple images through multiple mirrors throughout a room. These things don’t tend to bother me and it’s easy for me to blur them out. But seeing myself- that’s a whole different ballgame. When I practice on my own it’s a very internal practice. I just move and go and flow with whatever my body needs, decides to do, or wants. When I practice in a public space I’ve learned to focus more on the alignment and the dance between breath, muscle, bone, and joint. The one thing I have been fairly good at avoiding in both practices is seeing myself on that superficial level.

However; when you’re literally faced with yourself it becomes rather difficult to not focus on how you look and I don’t mean in an alignment or posture way. I’m talking shallow. You start to ask yourself all of these judgmental questions. How many zits have decided to grace my face today? How long have those circles been under my eyes? Is that really what my hair looks like right now? Why did I decide to wear this shirt- you can see every roll I have. Are my arms really that gross looking in Warrior 2?

It becomes tough to concentrate on you when you’re too fixated on the superficial you. It adds a whole new level to the practice- one that I didn’t think I was truly ready to focus on. The true level of fullness and wholeness. I’m about to get pretty raw here-so bear with me.

Since high school I’ve had a lot of insecurities when it came to the way I looked. It led to some not so great and not so smart choices and life decisions. Slowly over the past couple of years I’ve tried my best not to focus on those insecurities. I’ve learned to thank people for compliments even if I don’t believe them and to ignore the inner monologue going on whenever I’m getting ready for something. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough anymore. This mirror class was more than likely a much needed wake up call to this false reflection I was trying to portray but couldn’t fully buy into.

I made it through the class- even nailed a pose I hadn’t been able to do before. My focus shifted a lot during the class as I desperately wanted to look anywhere but at myself. But as I began to let go of what I was seeing on such a surface level I was able to start breaking apart another wall that was built so long ago. I’m not sure if I’ll be practicing in front of a mirror again any time soon without having a set intention or focus- but this lesson has definitely been heard and acknowledged and will be one I start to focus more and more on. It’s time to truly work on this particular thought process and this little yoga lesson has proved to me that I am ready to.

An Interview with Anxiety

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Since starting my blog and informing, what seems like, the whole world of my “personal” issues I’ve gotten a lot of questions. Most of these questions have centered around anxiety, how I deal with it, how I learned about it, and etc.  Now, I’m far from an expert, but there are some questions I think I’ve either a) earned the right to answer or b) can answer based off of what I’ve learned.
 
One of the most common questions I get is what is the difference between Anxiety and a Panic Attack. To be honest I’m not really sure. Based off of my encounters with both I’d say anxiety is something most people get and it’s usually brushed off as nerves. It is definitely more unnerving, but you can still usually work through it. A panic attack, on the other hand, can be quite debilitating. Many panic attacks are compared to heart attacks based on the severity of the symptoms. Even though a lot of people have anixety does not mean that they have Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety Disorder kind of just takes that anxiety and intensifies it by about 1000%.
 
 
Some people have approached me and stated they feel that they may have experienced a panic attack, but weren’t sure. This usually leads to the obivous question of- What are symptoms of a panic attack? There are so many different symptoms and every person is different in what they may feel. The most common sypmtoms accoriding to WebMD are:
“Racing” heart
Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy
Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
Sense of terror, or impending doom or death
Feeling sweaty or having chills
Chest pains
Breathing difficulties
Feeling a loss of control

However, for myself I tend to lean more towards: racing heart, lightheadedness, breathing difficulties,nausea and shaking. Either way I always direct people to a doctor. They are going to be able to tell you for sure what’s going on or at least have tests done to prove or disprove a theory.
 
Since stating that I have GAD I’ve had a lot of people ask me how often I get panic attacks and how I get myself out of them.
Before I started back on medication I was getting them several times a day. Now, I still have days where I have several, but I have gone a few days here and there without having a panic attack as well.  Sometimes I’m able to ride them out and just kind of let them happen. It sucks, but these ones are usually over fairly quickly. For longer ones I’ve tried multiple methods: some include drawing, counting in German, staring at a white space and just letting myself be in the moment,and talking to someone who knows about them.
 
But, out of every quesiton I get the one that always pops up is if anxiety affects me everyday life.That answer is simple-  YES! It affects me in every way possible. GAD is something that adds a second guessing element to your decisions and physically it can exhaust me. I have some really good days where I can function fairly normally. But, for the most part- everyday is filled with pushing thoughts of second guessing out of my head. Some days are also really bad and filled with panic attacks which cause me to be cranky or make it harder for me to work on things. But, I’m learning to push past these triggers and over time I’ve noticed a lot more good days occurring.

When to say when

It’s no surprise that I’m a stubborn woman. Let’s face it- I’ll be first to let you know that I’m pretty damn stubborn, but, sometimes you have to know when to say when.

I don’t like being wrong,  and I don’t like asking for help. These are just some of the not so great characteristics I have come to claim over my 24 years here. However, I’m learning that sometimes you need to admit being wrong and sometimes you have to ask for help. If you don’t you can end up in some serious trouble.

I posted a while back about having Anxiety and an Anxiety disorder. I mentioned that I’m still learning how to work with it and not let it overcome me. Well, as of late, I haven’t been doing so well with that.

My anxiety has definitely spiked an all time high. It’s been so severe that last night was the first time I actually got any amount of sleep in over 2 days.  Now, I’m all for working things out for yourself and not relying on medication. But, you have to know when to say when. I let my anxiety get way too intense and it definitely started to affect me. Finally, after a very difficult debate I was able to convince myself to go to the Doctors (granted I had a little extra nudge due to an ear infection) and finally discuss medication options.

I was on anti-anxiety medication my first year of college and did not have a good experience at all. I went through at least 8 different medication and probably close to 2 to 3 dosages on most of them. None worked, most made everything worse. So, I was not 100% on trying this appraoch again. But, it was time to say when and weigh out my options.

I could either try to deal with these attacks on my own and with help from my therapist. This would mean riding out each attack as they occurred and hoping it didn’t start to get to me emotionally. Or, I could try medicine and see what happened. I opted to try an anti-anxiety medication that’s been around probably even longer than I have been. Sometimes old is more reliable than new and since all the meds I had taken previously were new it seemed like a legit idea.

You can never expect miracles from medication like this. Sometimes things get a little worse while your body adjusts and I had to keep reminding myself of that this morning after I took the first pill. I’m giving this medicine a month as requested and hoping that it at least takes the edge off.

So, what was the point of this whole ramble? Well- it’s quite simple. You need to know when to say when. Don’t wait for the situation to become so dangerous or dire that you become desparate. Sometimes we have to let down our shields of stubborness and take off our bull headed helmets and ask for help.