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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Hello Starshine; the Earth says Hello

Throughout our lives we are constantly redefining, rediscovering, and relearning who we are. We are in a constant state of change. Ebbing and flowing like the tides- having our highs and our lows. But each time we take small pieces of our old selves with us-like little grains of sand. We may not know what these grains are until something occurs to make us stir the sea again and these little pieces of us re-appear.

My life has fallen apart around me at least 20 times in the 27 years that I’ve been on this Earth and will probably fall apart at least another 30 times. I’ve been in the rip tide of the latest falling for probably about a year now- using all the strength I have to swim with the undertones of the tide. It’s been daunting and exhausting, and simply painful sometimes. But, the beauty of life falling apart is the fact that you do get to build yourself up again. We get to reinvent ourselves using small pieces from each “life” we’ve taken part in. Right now I’m picking up the pieces of the identity that I lost in the whirlwind of relationship compromises, job obligations, and money-based motivations; and despite an aching loneliness for my former life, my heart is overflowing with more love and gratitude than I thought possible.

Only through these heart-wrenching challenges can we grow and develop and become more fully who we were meant to be. As I find myself slowly reaching closure in all forgotten aspects of my soul I have been forced to unlock the closed doors of my core; full of dusty memories and misplaced dreams.

My yoga practice really showed up to heal wounds inflicted through years of betrayal as it’s become sweeter, playful, and more soulful. I often think of yoga as a practice which moves beyond the boundaries of the spoken word. A place where lessons become threads in the strong weave of our own practice. Even within the held space of an asana, we find the dance of the breath, the constant subtleties of tuning that align the body more harmoniously. When we focus our gaze inwards, we begin to invite light into the shadows. We learn to take all our sorrows and our hurt and wrap them in the blanket of our own self-love. And then we learn to be compassionate and to trust the process. Through the darkest nights of your soul, a light shines forth and that light allows us-for a moment- to lay that weight to rest so we can finally begin that new cycle of breath; of life. We may still look the same; just as the ocean. But we are forever changed- forever ebbing and flowing.

 

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.

Blissed Out

Ok- so I think it goes without saying that I am not the greatest blogger out there. However- when something amazing or crazy happens I usually have to write about it or at least attempt to formulate some type of something to explain it.

A little over a month ago I made this crazy decision to start living my life FOR me. Easy right? Wrong. Once I made this decision so much shift happened and so many doors appeared- some in my favor and some were placed to dissuade me. It took opening and closing several doors for me to finally arrive at this one golden door. I had the key in hand and I knew how to open the door- but something was so terrifying about opening it. I did everything possible to convince myself not to open the door and then one day at 9:30pm I put the key in the lock and turned it.

Tears were flowing out of my eyes and dribbling onto my computer screen as I sat on the phone with my mom asking her “What if I fall? What if I fail? Am I crazy? Will you help me pick up the pieces?” This is one of the first times that my mother and I have fully agreed on a decision I’ve made in my life. And as she reassured me as much as she could I took a deep breathe and clicked submit.

I had just altered my entire life without realizing it. That submit button was for an intensive Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica and clicking that button meant I was officially done with my education job and was taking a step into the dark without a flashlight- hoping that someone would be in front of me-waiting with a light of some sort. Well- at 11pm that same night someone flipped on the switch and I was accepted into the training! The next few weeks were absolutely crazy! Prepping to leave my job, taking out a loan, saving as much as I possibly could, and packing…lots and lots of packing.

Fast forward to 8pm on October 9th where it all became a reality. I got out of my cab and walked into this hotel. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman sitting on a couch. I’m fairly good at reading energies and hers was beyond beautiful and calming among other things. My heart literally jumped as I  came to the realization that she was the teacher and was walking  towards me. Now- let’s remember that I was totally jet lagged and exhausted from travelling, beyond starving, and hadn’t had caffeine all day. Then you add in the nerves, the anxiety, and the shyness. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest moment of speaking like a human. And yet-somehow she managed to reassure me that everything was fine. The next day consisted of a 5 hour long bus ride with a lot of us feeling motion sickness, a stop for lunch, and selfies on a selfie stick.

Around dinner time we finally arrived at the Goddess Garden. I wish I had words to describe this place-but the only thing that comes to mind is magical. I mean imagine a beautiful garden near a beach and several bungalows with some of the most intense energy and lizards then times it by 1000 and you might get close to what it felt like on the grounds here.

Going into the training I truly had no idea what to expect. Teacher’s that I’m close to told me that it would be amazing and that people would probably get emotional. But none of my teacher’s had ever done a 3 week intensive and couldn’t really provide too much more insight than that. I went through it and honestly I still can’t figure out how to describe those 3 weeks. I can tell you that it was amazing, emotional, healing, challenging, thought provoking, encouraging, esoteric, delicious, safe, intense, gut wrenching, and the best thing I’ve ever done.

I don’t think every training is like that and I really think it depends on your group and your teacher(s). I was extremely lucky in both. I had 2 phenomenal teachers and 2 amazing assistants. Literally these 4 were the perfect match! Each one complimented the others and each person brought amazing wisdom,beauty, and visions to the training and to anything you came to them with. I will be honest- I spent the first several days fully avoiding the main teacher for several reasons. One of which I won’t discuss as it’s not my place to say. But the other reason was because I was so in awe of her that I was afraid to shatter this vision that I had built based off of the energy read I had done and the few things she had spoken about thus far. After I came to my senses I finally chalked up the courage to peel back some of my layers and I was met with understanding, calmness, insight, and encouragement. There was also a familiar sense and before I knew it I was talking about things I had never said out loud before. The two main teacher’s were exactly what I needed in my life at that moment. Between them I was able to hold onto strength and intuition; fire and water. Taking classes from both of them was the most awe inspiring thing. The knowledge, passion, and spirit they had was beautiful and admirable. On top of it we had the two assistants that complimented not only each other but both of the teacher’s. Working with these 4 women truly molded and mended so many parts of me that I had long forgotten about.

And to top it all off my group was extraordinary- not one soul was negative or discouraging or gossipy. Everyone was more than willing to listen and try. Each person brought something unique and astonishing to the training.

Out of everything those 3 weeks provided to me the most important thing it gave me was my voice back. Which is ironic, because having a voice and projecting was one of my biggest struggles throughout. I’ve been so scared to actually speak out loud for several years now. I guess that’s what happens when you feel suppressed in life. On Instagram I posted a photo of the beautiful Goddess Tree that I have completely fallen in love with. This tree stands so tall and the roots are strong and visible. For the comment I simply stated “Because I just lived in the rainforest for 3 weeks…”. That statement alone covers this training for me. For the first time in who knows how long- I lived. I didn’t just survive the days. I took the moments and I truly lived and it was amazing.

The lessons I learned on and off my mat are ones that I will always carry with me. And the knowledge is something I can’t wait to share with whoever is willing to listen. I’m most definitely trying my best to live in this blissed out state in a world that is more focused on negativity and what’s written on a Starbuck’s cup. Sometimes being out of the yoga bubble bliss is difficult- but it’s still there-in my heart, mind, and my soul and in each individual that experienced it with me, before me, and even the ones who are lucky enough to still anticipate it.

It’s beautiful to find peace in a location but magical to take that peace in your heart and carry it with you always.

Namaste

y1 y2 y3 y4

Practice Makes Progress

At my yoga class on Monday our instructor stated that she never tells her son that practice makes perfect because she doesnt know what perfect is. Instead she tells him practice makes progress. This really stuck out to me because ever since I was little I’ve only ever heard practice makes perfect. I think that if I had had someone in my life telling me that no one knows what perfect is and that you can only make progress I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking I had to be perfect.

I really love the idea of replacing perfection with progress because that’s really all we can do in life is move forward and continue to improve and grow. We will never be done learning or growing or improving ourselves. For me, expecially, this new version of that saying restores my hope. I know I won’t remember it all of the time, but if I can manage to get myself into the habit of saying practice makes progress maybe I won’t feel that daily pressure of needing to be that perfect person anymore.

So, remember, practice makes progress. We are all improving,learning, and growing every day.

Turning off the tape recorder

Ok, I lied. This post is not going to be about what I saw in the photo from my previous post. But don’t worry; I will get to that at some point. However, I just got back from one of my yoga classes and the focus of the class was one that really struck a chord for me.

Every week we focus on a certain chakra and what those chakras control and maintain. This week was about the chakra that controls stubbornness, your will, and your intellect- the Manipura Chakra.

Now, if you know me at all you know that I am very much a Capricorn and this makes me extremely stubborn. Yeah, I admit it. I can be very pigheaded and pretty much always want to believe I’m right. But, sometimes my stubbornness works in my favor- so it’s a good balance. But, what a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am also insanely hard on myself. I have a constant tape recorder going through my head that pretty much tells me I fail at life. Obviously this isn’t true- in fact based on facts alone I’m pretty damn successful. However, this tape recorder jades my view of this. During everyone’s favorite part of yoga (the part where you take a 10 minute cat nap) our instructor guided us through a mantra or meditation type thing. She stated that the only thing holding us back from being the new us and being successful is that stupid little tape recorder. Granted she stated it a bit more eloquently, but you get the point.

This really resonated with me and was kind of a wake up kick to my head. I know that I’ve been told a million times to not listen to the negative thoughts that go through my head on an hourly basis- but I’ve never really felt the push to really work on this idea. I mentioned in a previous post that I saw a therapist (yup- going back to this now). Well, she is one of the biggest advocates for turning off the tape recorder. Until I started seeing her I always half-heartedly followed the advice. But, with her I’ve actually tried (yeah she’s that awesome). Well, I felt and thought that I had tried anyways.

Now that I’m sitting here mulling over the words my yoga instructor stated tonight I realized that this isn’t necessarily true. I did try and truly thought I was making an effort- but, I was still letting my tape recorder control just how much effort I put in and what seemed like enough. This stuff isn’t easy ya know? I realize now that it’s never going to be easy to just brush off the thoughts and negative feelings, but I can’t put half the effort in and expect extraordinary results. I think I have also finally realized that it’s not going to be “all in a day’s work” and that it’s going to take time and a lot of practice.

I’ll probably mess up a few times and I’ll probably grow quite a bit more too. But, I guess that’s kind of the point of everything in life right? My challenge to you this week is to turn (or try to turn) off the tape recorder- even if only for a minute. Take those 60 seconds and realize just how epically amazing and awesome and unique and powerful you are.