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

A never-ending challenge …

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been this really overly anxious person.  I just put it down to being a “stress-head” or “overthinking things” and I have just learnt to live with it, like it was just one of my character traits.

But I have this weird (OK – wrong) habit.  This too has been with me since I was a kid, and probably cropped up around the time I was getting anxious about … everything.

I could lose hours playing with my hair

I pick at my hair. I play with it. I split the ends. I watch TV and I twirl it around my fingers. In school, I would sit at my desk doing my homework, and sometimes the answers would flow from me like magic, but in the times where I was stumped, I would sit there and pick at my hair. I could lose hours sitting there, picking and playing with it. Studying for maths exams was hell, not just because maths was my worst subject, but because I was so bloody anxious about not being good at it that to avoid facing the heartache of learning trigonometry I just … picked at my hair instead.

When I was bored, I picked at my hair.

When I was sad, I picked at my hair.

When I was angry, I picked at my hair. Angrily.

By the time I left school at aged 17, I could no longer tie my hair up in a ponytail.  The sides were sparse, little sprouty baby hairs or something were the only things left.

I was mortified. I don’t know why my friends never noticed it, and I especially don’t know why my boyfriend at the time didn’t notice it. But I was glad he wasn’t the “run my fingers through your hair” kind of person, so I was cool with that.  Similarly, I was cool that my friends at the time were not, “let’s give each other makeovers and braid each other’s hair” kind of folks, either.

Coping and failing, but succeeding, sometimes … 

For the longest time, I’m talking like all through uni and after graduation, I tried to stop my “bad habit”.  I went to a hypnotherapy woman, and while that worked for a little period of time, it was so expensive I stopped.  She did, however, give me some tools which I still try to implement today, like keeping your hands busy and visualising what I would look like with a full, healthy head of hair.

Sometimes, I would be OK.  I could go months without an urge to touch my hair at all, except to comb it.  I even resorted to cutting it really short, so that I had no choice but to NOT play with my hair, and that worked too.  When the hair grew out, I was able to tie it up and back, and there aren’t many people out there today who know the sheer joy of being able to do that, after years of feeling like a pariah because you just couldn’t do simple things like tie your hair up when you go to the gym.

During the really bad times I would lose myself for hours and I would arise from my clumped over position and I’d have picked at the sides of my scalp in a weird non-frenzy, because it wasn’t done in this frenetic way, it was done calmly like I was doing delicate cross-stitching.

To this day, I have never tied my hair up with the use of serious bobby pins. But at least I can tie it up.

It is what it is

A couple of months ago I saw this youtube clip about Becky, who has Trichotillomania. And I holy crapped myself because I read up about her and her condition and I was … floored.

Because there was someone like me out there who has had to deal with crap pretty much all her life, and she was so open with sharing her story to the world.

Something about Becky and her story clicked in me, and I decided that I wasn’t going to ignore this in myself anymore, and I was going to acknowledge that this was something I NEEDED HELP with, so I am seeking it now.  Re-phrase that, I have sought it. I have good days and bad days, lately I have been OK, not great.

Good and bad days

Some days I am great – I use the tools I’ve been given to combat my urges and keep me out of “danger zones” (i.e. I’ supposed to be mindful of where my hands are on the steering wheel while I’m at a traffic light, as I tend to zone out and pick and pick and pick …).

Some days I am horrible. When I am stressed about a deadline,  or if I am finding something hard to write (I’m also a freelance writer, which makes me much more introspective and prone to overthink everything), I have really bad days.  When I get down on myself, then it’s over.

But I accept now that this is something I need to work on daily, because it’s not a thing I can beat entirely, but it’s a trait I have to understand – or it will beat me entirely.

I think taking the stigma out of mental health is so so so important, because many times – ok, all the bloody time, I feel like I am fighting this alone.  And it’s yes, yes, it’s my battle to fight, but it would be nice to have support, you know?  In Australia, in NSW anyway, there are no Trichotillomania support groups.  There are online tools and they are U.S-based, but the support of everyday folk to even take the sting out of it would be so lovely.

HatDay_CMYK

Hat Day is an event run by Australian Rotary Health, and it happening this Friday 10 October 2014 to coincide with World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Week.

You can participate by wearing a hat (everyone loves hats!) and donating to research.

It’s important to support mental health awareness and research because everyone, at some point, is touched by it in some way. Hard facts:

  • 1 in 5 people will suffer a mental illness this year.
  • The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 mental illness will be the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death in first world countries.
  • Every Australian will know a family member, work colleague or friend who will experience some form of mental health condition.
  • Mental disorders are the leading cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity.
  • The annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated at $20 billion, includes the cost of lost productivity and labour force participation
  • Nearly 50% of all Australians experience at least one episode of mental ill health in our lives

If that doesn’t say a lot the state of mental health in Australia, well … read those again and get back to me. ONE IN FIVE.

How you can help

Visit www.hatday.com.au to register a Hat Day FUNdraiser event, and invite your friends, family and colleagues to join in and to donate generously on your fundraising page.

Follow Hat Day 
Facebook – www.facebook.com.au/hatdayevent
Twitter – @hatday
Hashtag for instagram, twitter and facebook – #hatday14.

If you or someone you know is in need of counselling, contact Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or Lifeline: 13 11 14