Bend and Stretch: A Non-Yogi’s Discovery of Self-Yogament

Let me just preface this by saying that I’m NOT trying to claim I’m all at one with the world and all that razzamatazz. I’m not a walking ball of light and fulfillment. I’m not at peace with my inner being. You can’t steal my sunshine, I cannot be your guiding light, I am not a firework – my sunshine is mine so rack off.

I did however, do a yoga class last week.

On my lunchbreak. As part of a 10-week pass that I bought from the yoga studio around the corner from my office.  And I also just recently booked in for class no. five.

“Ooooooh, how impressive”, I hear all 15 of this blog’s followers utter mockingly.  Yeh, but no. It is impressive, for me, OK?  It’s impressive because I was once the lady who worked through her lunchbreak, worried incessantly about something or other, already suffer from a full-on stress disorder anyway yet still put myself through the misery of never slowing down, never catching a breath, never taking stock.  And yoga, at least once a week IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, lets me slow down, catch my breath, take stock.

And I fuckin love that it does that.

In 2006, I was a little lost.

This feeling would last until 2011, when I would tell myself, “stuff it, it’s your life, lady, live it how you need you”. But anyway, 2006. I felt I had accomplished nothing of note, I could see everyone else excelling in whatever the hell it is they were doing, and everyone just looked so damn happy.  Outside of my circle of friends (dramatically changed now, since that time), the people who looked the happiest were the yoga teachers from my gym.

I sort of idolized them.  They slinked into the room like agile cats. They wore little, or no, makeup. They looked fit and healthy. To me, they looked like they were living a life free from stress, living as if they were free from the grasp of consumerism. And then, you know, there’s all the bendy-bendy shit, which surely helps them in the nighttime hours, know what I’m sayin’?

So I incorporated yoga into my workouts. I made sure I did it regularly, and while I felt looser and energized after the session, I couldn’t say I felt any happier overall. It wasn’t like little yoga angels embraced me as I huddled over in my Child’s Pose. I’d return home and there’d be booze with the flatmates, stress with the demands of work, something not going right in my love life. Something, always something, and the yoga wasn’t doing anything to make me feel better, really.

But now I’m realising that yoga isn’t about being like other people.

It’s not about emulating anyone, or aiming to be another version of yourself.  At least, that’s not how I’m looking at it.  Coz I’d suffered from comparisonitis for a long time, and I realise that life’s not about keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians or the yoga devotees.  So my yoga practice now is about what I get out of it in my busy day, when I’m answering a billion emails, reading through complicated contracts, living inside my brain trying to come up with copy that doesn’t read like crap.  For me, yoga is about stepping away from the everyday busyness and allowing my mind to take a breather, to focus on what I carry around with me all the time (my body) and letting myself take stock of how my mental and physical selves are coping.

photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc

photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc

Mindfulness is a funny thing, isn’t it?

When I first heard that phrase I thought, “ohhh, poo-poo, I’m totally aware of everything, I think in fact I’m HYPER-aware of everything”.  But that wasn’t helping.  Now mindfulness to me is about taking in even the things that I want to brush away – loud noises, negative thoughts, little stressful reminders, letting them run through my brain, and then letting them peter out.  I will get to them, but I’ve heard them.  And I love how yoga really lets you be mindful of your body.  For people who have been doing yoga for a while, this sounds like duuuuh … basic stuff, but for me it’s a revelation.  You’re allowed to focus on tiny little minute muscles.  The way the backs of your legs touch the floor.  How you’re standing in certain poses, how you hold your breath when you’re trying to balance.  I’ve even noticed me clenching my teeth sometimes.

It’s nice, you know, to know what your body does when it’s under stress, and also when it’s allowed to let go.

But it’s nicer that I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else in the room.

Some people in my class do the lunchtime classes to get away from their desks.  Some people do it to avoid injury.  Some do it for relaxation.  I do it for all those reasons, but also for the simple fact that it’s training my brain to think a different way.  Not through goal-setting, hitting deadlines or number-crunching.  It’s not even like other physical exercises where you weight gain or loss, muscle gain etc.  It doesn’t have to be about that.

The things I’ve noticed about my body and my mind since I’ve just accepted that yoga is a part of my life now include:

  • My body not moving and working like it used to, like it did when I had these lofty ideas of being as agile as a ballerina if I did “enough yoga classes”.  I’m older, I’ve had injuries, my lifestyle has changed.  I can’t pretend it hasn’t.  I can’t go back to the way my body used to be.  I just have to make do with what I have now, and not take my movements for granted.
  • The non-comparison thing is a big one for me.  I don’t have to look around the room and feel inadequate. I don’t have to measure up to anyone, except to how I was in the last session.  Can I go further this time, or should I take it easy?  It’s up to me.  And it doesn’t matter what I do – as long as I don’t injure myself.
  • It’s nice to think about my body in a serious way, the way I do with work and finances etc.  You know how being “detail-oriented” is a good thing in certain careers?  It’s great with yoga too.  OK, so my left side moves a little better in a certain pose than my right side.  Interesting. Like, seriously.  It IS interesting.

So like I said, I’m not joining a yoga teacher’s camp or anything, but I think I’m finally understanding what all the yoga fuss is about.  And I didn’t need to buy fancy yoga clothes to figure it out.

Peace OUT!

XXX

It’s all work ….

My favourite thing on Facebook that has nothing to do with my actual friends or my Facebook friends is Humans of New York. If I had a dollar for every time I thought, “why didn’t I think of doing something like that?”, I’d never have to think it coz that’s what I would be doing all day every day, going out into the world and meeting all kinds of people and finding their unique stories.

And Humans of New York have done it again. The picture and caption/explanation of the image(s) came up on my Facebook newsfeed and, wow:

Following your dreams is nothing but work

 

I love that. “… Following your dreams, successfully, is nothing but work”.

I really needed this right now.

Having a hard time seeing the forest from the trees, vocation-wise, because I thought I had worked past the “following your dreams” bit and was, you know, finally bloody following them.  But lately everything just seems HARD. Hard to work on what you love. Hard to be with who you love. Hard to do things outside of work to be a well-rounded person, someone you love.

This TED talk by Nigel Marsh is bookmarked on my laptop and I watch it every now and then to remind me that the idea of work/life balance is a bit of a weird one. It implies that you can have this neatly divided focus and time for work and for your life.  My favourite part of this talk is, ” … Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, I think, it can transform society. Because if enough people do it, we can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.”

I love this. CHANGING THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS.

Work will always be work. It will not be about spending time in the sun with the husband in a five star resort by the pool, even if you are a five star resort reviewer who gets to take their husband on flights with them everywhere.  Coz you’re still going to have to file that story, speak to the management, get it through to your editor, ensure it gets read, ensure it doesn’t read like a dog wrote it.  It’s still work.

So Brandon Stanton from Humans of New York is definitely right.  There’s always work involved in following your dreams.  So now I know that this means that all that work better on something you believe in and is worth the effort, otherwise you are definitely not following your dream.

There is no inspirational meme on the interwebs right now that can succinctly mirror this idea, even if its an image of a sunrise or a young girl doing the “heart” sign with her hands or if you put a hipster filter over it.  I’m not even really sure if those do anything to inspire me anymore, because the urge to punch the screen sometimes becomes too strong.

Breathe and Stop … and Breathe and Stop …

It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve gotten a new job (starting this week), still working at my old job and finishing everything off as well as the work I do outside of my 9-5er (which I guess will be the norm now that Australians have to work till they’re 70, and I’ve found it hard to find down time, me time or any time outside of deadlines and writing.

The nature of my career and profession means I sit in front of my computer all day, every day, typing and working on the occasional image (although I am in no way a graphic designer, illustrator or any kind of visual artist).  I hunch over my laptop or keyboard (if I’m at my work station at work), fingers poised like wriggly claws, shoulders curved in stressful anxiety, face contorted in concentration. The tiny study/bedroom from which I work at home has a full length mirror next to the desk, and I see my reflection and posture as I type. I look this like this:

Gargoyle

photo credit: niznoz via photopin cc

I mean, OK, I don’t look like knarled old geezer when I’m working, but that’s how I feel. All hunched over and curmudgeonly.

And I act like that too. Like god forbid the person who tries to talk to me while I’m in the middle of working.  My poor fiancee. I can’t believe he has to deal with this side of me.

But I told myself enough is enough, and I couldn’t continue being like this all the time. Sure, the nature of my work requires me to spend hours at my desk, and this is true for everyone. But I needn’t be chained to my desk, and, if anything, I needed to find some inspiration away from my desk, and do something that was not only good as a break and breather, but also good for my health and wellbeing in general.

ENTER AROMATHERAPY

I know, what the … whaaaaaat!?!?! But hear me out. I chose to take part in an aromatherapy workshop because I believed it would help me in the following ways:

  1. It would help me get creative
  2. It would let me use my hands rather than just being hunched over my computer. Again
  3. Aromatherapy has been known for ages to assist with health and wellbeing
  4. It would mean I was making things that I could share and use with my family and friends
  5. It would smell …. GREEEEEAAAAAAT 🙂

So I was really excited to sign up for Sze Wing Yip‘s DIY Natural Beauty and Spa Products Workshop, which was held on Saturday, 3rd May at the Life and Balance Centre in Glebe. I’d already known what Sze Wing can do, so I trusted I would be getting a pretty good, well-rounded beginner course in the area of aromatherapy. I was really looking forward to it after I signed up, not least because it would give me the chance to step away from my laptop and do something different for a change.

WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY?

Google the meaning, and the interwebs will come back with a search result that will tell you that aromatherapy is, “… the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils for healing and cosmetic purposes”. Hmmm, science-y!  But that afternoon in a beautiful room in Glebe, aromatherapy was 8 people seated around a table filled with little vials of essential oils, pens to write with, a workbook each for us to take home, bowls and mixing apparatus to make our goodies with and a willingness to learn as much as we could in that afternoon.

Our goodies on the table

Our goodies on the table

Sze Wing explained to us the beginnings of aromatherapy, the benefits of aromatherapy and the different kinds of essential oils to use. She also showed us the kinds of household products to use, which are really easy to source – straight from your local supermarket, like oil and salt which you can easily find from your local Coles.  This was another one of the reasons that attracted me to this course. The ingredients and products you can use, aside from the obvious essential oils which are of course necessary for making aromatherapy products, aren’t going to be hard to find, which means I would be more than likely to keep using these again long after the course had ended. I also really liked the fact that different aromas would assist with different ailments, which I thought was pretty cool. It’s nice to know that things derived from nature held such healing powers.  I always feel much better knowing I’m going for a natural remedy rather popping a pill.

MAKING THE PRODUCTS

Thank goodness Sze Wing walked us through the making of our products, because had it been me in my home with a booklet, I would have made a mess of things! But thanks to Sze Wing’s direction and her workbook, which also included recipes so we could recreate our products at the conclusion of the course, we were able to make our own products with relative ease. In fact, I don’t think anyone had any real with the making of our products, so this was actually lots of fun.  The mixing, the experimenting, the sharing our results with the other people in our class and then of course trying out our products all added to the hands-on element of the course, which was exactly what I was going for.

Essential oils used in the workshop

Essential oils used in the workshop

Ingredients for our body scrub ... and it was so easy to make!

Ingredients for our body scrub … and it was so easy to make!

 

THE PRODUCTS WE MADE

So we made and we created, using our hands, which was great coz it involved NOT ONE LAPTOP OR KEYBOARD. I think a lot of people out there who work an office job and sit at their desks for hours on end can appreciate how lovely this is, to create something and use other senses. For me, the real fun in the aromatherapy workshop was the chance to stand or sit, depending on what I was making, to use utensils and tools that are normally associated with fun stuff like cooking, and, of course, the chance to make products that smell AMAZING. I am a big fan of citrus products, so I used a lot of that in one of the products I made.

I was also really glad, at the end of the day, that I got to create something that inevitably would help with my health and wellbeing.  Not only was the act of taking time out to do the workshop beneficial to my overall wellbeing, but the products I made using aromatherapy techniques was also beneficial too.  It was a win-win, and as I grow my knowledge about all things in the big ole sphere of wellbeing, I felt incredibly grateful to have been a part of that workshop.

I walked away from that workshop with the following self-made products:

  • Massage oil
  • Body butter
  • Body scrub
  • Bath oil

And I was so proud of myself!  I’ve already used the massage oil and body butter, and will the body scrub soon (this is my favourite product and for some reason I am using my “save the best for last” mentality with this one), and giving the bath oil as a present, because they are all contained in cute little containers with adorable little tags which Sze Wing supplied for us on the day.

Will I be doing more workshops like this in the future? You bet. The more I educate myself about health and wellbeing, the more open I am to trying different things in this area. I know treatments, techniques and theories change all the time, but this area of work is fascinating to me and it’s great to discover new ways of being a healthier, more balanced person.  Something we’re all striving for in this day and age. 🙂

Sze Wing Yip from Intuitive Coaching during her workshop.

Sze Wing Yip from Intuitive Coaching during her workshop.

Living all the days of your life

Maybe it’s because I’m a hundred thousand years old, maybe it’s because I’m sick of wasting time, maybe it’s because I keep looking for more and searching for more, but I’ve started actively looking for ways to improve my overall life. I’m more conscious of the time I spend procrastinating (which is a LOT, thanks Buzzfeed), because I don’t want to be wasting my time doing useless things. At the same time though, I don’t want to busy myself with simply being busy for the sake of it, and I’m more aware of quality downtime too.  I’ve also taken a good hard look at the exercise I do (or don’t do) and the food that I eat (I use the term “food” loosely), and I’m acutely aware of the fact that while I don’t feel the effects of my complete lack of pride in my fitness and health, I will soon, if I keep this up.

So when I wrote about SzeWing Yip’s services as a life coach at Intuitive CoachingI was interested in more than just promoting her business properly. I was looking for some kind of divine intervention.

AN OBJECTIVE PROFESSIONAL

I’d always been open to seeking the advice of an objective professional regarding how I should get my ass into gear and do stuff, but I always thought somewhere in the back of my mind that their services were only really reserved for people who had gone through a major life change or were seriously lost and floundering. Was I floundering? Are my wheels spinning? I suppose so, but what I got out of my time with SzeWing was … totally worth the time.

SzeWing operates her business from the Life & Balance Centre in Glebe, a cute little hub of like-minded practitioners who use the space to offer health and wellbeing services. SweWing herself is very bubbly and outgoing, has a lot to say, and has a lot of ideas about things she wants to do and what she wants to develop.  It’s very clear she’s passionate about her work as a life coach.  I’ve read somewhere (in a lot of articles of late, actually) that when a person is passionate about something it will show in their work, and this is SzeWing to a tee. She’s a dancer and a teacher and it’s obvious she’s a people person.

COACHING INTUITIVELY

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to meet SzeWing for the first time. She was dressed smartly (not like a banker) but casually (not like a uni student). Perhaps because I already pre-associated this to her, I was already assuming her to be the picture of someone who has her shit together. She looks it. She looks healthy (also in no small part to her dancing). I guess this is what you want in a person who’s made their career into helping others. Coz if they don’t look like they can help themselves …

A majority of Intuitive Coaching’s client base are in their 30s-50s, mainly women. Most of them are well-educated, upwardly mobile, professional.  Most of them are looking for “something more”. Ironically, SzeWing says a lot of her close female friends are in this age bracket to. Instantly, I’m impressed by this – to me, it shows that SzeWing is “of the people”: she can relate to anyone of any age.

During our session, we discussed my career (actually, she asked me about my career.  Actually, she asked me, “Tell me about you”, and then I launched into my career).  Without giving all the ins and outs of what I told her, I was basically just dumping all my niggling thoughts and doubts that had been swirling around in my brain into the session.  I really thought that SzeWing would turn around and say, “yes, you should follow your passion”, but she didn’t.  She told me that what I do now will help in the bigger picture of how my career will unfold. She used a mix of straight out pragmatic coaching techniques and even some Angel cards to communicate this to me.  I found this comforting, somehow.

PERCEPTION

One of the most poignant pieces of advice SzeWing gave was about perception. Because most of the session was about my career, she said my perception of my role needed to change, so I could be objective and look at the skills  I was gaining in the role, rather than thinking of my role as an all-encompassing career. I liked that. It made me see that there was a time for everything, and it helped me organise, albeit in my head, what I needed to focus on right now and when to know that I’d had my fill.

She also said during my angel reading that I need to give myself time to step away and think, perhaps take a holiday, or meditate, or do something. I am thinking she is talking about re-grouping or taking some time each day.  Not sure I can take the break I would really love to have right now (seriously wondering if I can convince my fiancee to sell all our stuff, pack it all in and chill on a beach in Bahia, Brazil for 6 months!), but since this session I’ve been acutely aware of how much time I take daily to clear my mind, get some exercise in and shake it off. As a result, I’ve taken steps to try to be more active. I’ve looked at jogging as a form of exercise and I’ve become better at even just stepping away from my desk at work. SzeWing was spot on though – meditation and clearing your mind is fast becoming an important part of my daily routine.

YOUR LIFE’S DIRECTION

The most striking piece of advice SzeWing gave, and which has pretty much remained embedded in my mind since my session, was about the difference between direction and goals, and how thinking of your life as a whole in terms of the direction you want to go in, rather than thinking of the goals you have to hit, you’ll be much better placed mentally and spiritually to be happy about the path your life is on. Going by goals may stop you from going further, and can limit you from other opportunities and experiences around you. Goals should be thought of as milestones, each milestone in line with your life’s direction. Your direction is a wider path than goals, so you can think of taking steps to keep you on your direction, rather than focussing on the steps as if they weren’t part of a bigger plan.  If someone had told me that after uni …

I felt really uplifted after my mini-session with SzeWing, particularly when she said everything I was doing career-wise was all joined together and it would all fall into place.  I felt more hopeful about my situation.

JUST KEEP GOING

Maybe because I’m more attuned to it right now but I’ve been picking up a lot of these helpful notes of late. I read something online regarding the phrase, “Just keep going”, when you’re feeling helpless or fading. Perhaps that person also got that from “Finding Nemo” (just keep swimming). But I think it ties in with SzeWing’s point above about direction. Just keep going in the direction of your life’s path. Just keep going …

Maybe it’s also because I’m in the middle of reading The Happiness Project that I am totally open to everything SzeWing has told me.  I find this complements my own exploration of personal wellbeing and happiness.

I’m still on that path, still striving daily to live a full life, but I’m glad that I can finally recognise that this is a much better way to live than only focussing on one area of life.  There are a lot of things I need to do and want to do, but now just remind myself about my life’s direction, and whether the choices that I’m making are in line with my direction. Which may or may not lead to the fridge door.

 

The pot calling the kettle fat

Fat like a wombat

My previous post was balls-out about empowerment and not caving to society’s pressures to be a certain ideal.

Today, I realise I am not taking care of myself, and while I don’t want to look like a Hollywood doll churned out by the Plastic Surgery Machine, I also don’t want to look like I can’t be fucked doing anything about my health and wellbeing.

See that?  Even that phrase, “I don’t want to look like”.  Now I’ve outed myself, because the kicker is that the reason I want to get my health back on track is not solely because I want to live well and feel well and appreciate my health and my life and the world, it’s because I’m starting to look gross.

Urrrgh.

So I’m just as superficial as everyone else. Bleccccccccccccccch.  I sent a msg to the boy about how I look like a wombat.  A round ball of no discernable shape. Cute as they are, they are just … round. I don’t want to be a wombat.

I’ve also tried, tried and tried and tried again, to get up early to get my writing done and about 90% of the time so far I have failed, failed failed.

I keep telling myself, “If you want to stop starting from scratch, then stop giving up“.

So I’ve failed. Well, fuck it. I’m gonna keep failing untill I don’t fail anymore. Which I WILL DO. I will get there. I have to be less of a “it’s all over” type of person.

And so … this leads me to lunch. Healthy salad it is, then …

The Body Beautiful is real.

As in, it’s a real body. Designed to, you know, DO STUFF. Like move one foot in front of the other and propel you forward. Like get your brain to tell your arms to lift up into the air, and wave around like you just don’t care. All that kind of stuff.

SONY DSC

 

Lately I’ve been pressing my nose a little too close to the mirror to scrutinise the wrinkles around my eyes and the size of my pores on my nose and little blemishes on my face. When I’m done with that, I take off my shirt and stand in my undies, turn sideways and bemoan my little pot belly and my nothing boobies and my everything that is wrong with me. 

But what the hell is wrong with me?? 

Bloody nothing, except for the fact that I do not look like anyone from Who Weekly, or these women in the pics above (who I’m sure are lovely people). I shouldn’t care, because for the most part I am healthy and well fed, and anything that is unhealthy about me is my own fault because I over-indulge in lazing about and eating lots of stuff that does my body no good (there’s a tub of Cookie Cream Commotion in the freezer whispering, “Graaaab a spoooon … do it nooooooow”). 

So nothing’s wrong with me, body wise. I can run and jump and walk and see and hear and smell and taste and all the rest of it. 

So it was with great pleasure that I found a post by young mum N’Tima Preusse called Babies Ruin Bodies, and what she says is that her body is NOT ruined by the birth of her baby, but enhanced because of it. Because her body is now a mother’s body, one made to give nourishment and care and support and shelter to her baby. 

I’m not a mother, and I’m not even really thinking about motherhood in the immediate future, but I am so happy that there is someone out there who hasn’t lost the plot and gone the way of thinking that the only beauty out there is artificial or Hollywood-inspired and that if you don’t fall into that category you are not beautiful. It’s made me hopeful that the future isn’t doomed to superficiality, and beauty isn’t always based on a Kardashian’s paparazzi shot. 

I’m hoping it won’t get to the point where aesthetic plastic surgery becomes the norm and everyone gets it, and then in generations gone by we won’t even know what “real” looks like anymore, or we will know it so well we won’t want it. 

So really chuffed I found N’Tima’s blog and post. The world is safe. I’m not bikini model beautiful, but I’m cool with that. My body is in reasonable working order and it’s up to me to ensure it continues to run on all cylinders.