Three Months Ago Today………………

Three months ago today on April 29th, I walked into my very first Bikram Yoga class, not sure what I was looking for, but knowing I needed to find something.  I’ve been thinking so much about what I want to say in this blog, for I’ve learned so much about myself during the last 90 days. I’ve become so much braver, so much stronger, so much more vulnerable than I ever imagined.  I’ve taken more chances than I ever dreamed I could, and with each risk I’ve taken I’ve discovered more of the hidden treasures within my heart. With each drop of sweat that has poured out of me, and believe me there have been millions, if not billions of droplets, plaques of negativity have been removed from me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain.

But all this is philosophical.  I’d like to share with you some concrete changes:

1)      Most days I don’t really care what you think of me (and this actually is a huge growth spurt for me).  I like to wear bright clothes.  I love to wear bling.  The brighter, the shinier, the better!  My bling makes my inside shine brighter than ever.  So, celebrate it with me ‘cause I’m out to set my world on fire!

2)      When my 200+ pound father needs help getting out of bed or off the toilet I can help him without causing myself any harm.  I can be there for him when he is at his most vulnerable, and my Bikram practice gives me the mental and physical strength to do that.

3)      I used to tell people if I can do it you can do it, but that’s not really true. It takes a great deal of stamina and grit and inner strength to maintain a regular practice. I’ve been through a lot in my life and a 105 degree room, well, it’s got nothing on me!

4)      I am an emotionally reactive person (no surprise given my recent life experiences) but the more I practice the shorter it takes me to recover from a reaction, and this is so important at this point in my life as I really need to be there for my parents, for my dad.

THE MOST IMPORTANT EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE OF ALL:

5)      I’m FAR MORE ACCEPTING of my body as it is now.  I celebrate it for what it can do for me NOW.  I LOVE all the ways it can help me move. I’m much less ashamed of it than I used to be.  I still have my moments, but then when I’m in that hot room and I’m doing fixed form and camel, all I can think is “how cool is this?!!!”

Now, I want you all to know that I’m not just paying lip service to being able to accept my body as it is now.  I’m working at celebrating it, so to that end I have taken a picture of myself wearing my bathing suit (the one I bought for Maui), my sparkly high heels, my tiara, and some awesomely sublime red roses, aptly titled freedom.  In this picture I am truly a Yoga Princess! You see, I can tell you all I want that I am more accepting of my body, but those are just words, and I am, now more than ever, a woman of action, and if I can celebrate my body in new ways after just 90 days of practicing Bikram, who knows where I’ll be in the next 90 days!

As an aside, I see many people doing the 30 and 60 day challenges in the Bikram classes, and I’m quite sure that these have great benefit, but I’m in this for the long haul, for the rest of my life.  That’s my commitment to myself…………….And you wanna know a secret?  I actually think I look pretty good in that bathing suit picture!!!!

Yoga Princess:

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A Celebratory Collage of My Journey

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Things People Say

One of my friends posted a link to an NPR article, “Hating on Fat People Just Makes Them Fatter”. The article discusses the findings of a Florida survey that suggest “that discriminating against fat people only makes them fatter.” And I’m here to tell you that’s true.

I’ve been overweight all my life, well since I was eight anyways. People always loved to tell me that I needed to lose weight, and most of the time they weren’t nice about it.  Even the ones who should have been informed were often ill-advised.  I remember going to a doctor when I was twelve and he wanted to put me on a 600 calorie a day diet.  Really?  A twelve-old girl on a 600 calorie a day diet?  He was an idiot.  Even I knew that back then.  My mother didn’t, but that’s another story.

But that’s not the main construct of the article.  The study reports that people feel entitled to judge, to comment upon a person’s weight because they feel the person will then feel motivated to lose weight.  Actually I think people like to comment about other’s weight issues because it makes them feel better about themselves.

Everyone has an issue, but when one is overweight, obese, morbidly obese the issue becomes one that everyone can see, and since everyone eats they feel they know how to fix the one who has the problem with food, so the comments begin.

When I was a teenager adults would love to tell me that I needed to lose weight because it would get harder when I got older.  Actually, that’s not the important part of this story, of my story.

Let me tell you about how the supposed “experts” discriminated against me with their choice of dialogue.  How their semantics served to shame me rather than lift me up, and how in putting me down they actually did help to make me fatter, the opposite reaction of what they hoped for.

When I was in high school my gym teacher wanted me to walk/run several days a week during gym class to help me become more proficient at losing weight, but it had just the opposite effect.  It isolated me even more from my peers who spent gym class doing fun activities like tennis.  So I learned to hide during my “walk/runs” so I wouldn’t have to feel like such an outsider.

When I first started going to yoga classes at a yoga studio the owner, an MFCC, told me I should always go to new classes early so I could talk to the instructor and make sure they knew my situation.  Seriously?  That made me feel worse, but I kept going because I loved yoga, and I learned over the years to avoid the instructors who only knew how to teach to a certain body type.

Actually, I had the really good fortune to encounter two really good instructors early on in my practice, Ana Forrest and Rod Stryker.  From the moment they encountered me, they didn’t treat me any differently than anyone else.  Actually, maybe they did.  When they saw what this body could do, the pushed me even harder. Oh, and in case you think my current yoga obsession is something new—it’s not. I’d go their SIX hour workshops when I was nowhere near the shape I’m in now.  And they wouldn’t let me get away with anything, so, while those rooms weren’t 105 degrees, I still worked……

But I digress.  This is about how people have talked to me as a fat adult.  As an aside, can I just tell you I really don’t like the word fat?

When I joined 24 fitness for the first time, the membership counselor said to me “you really need to do something”.  Umm really you D******k. I think that’s why I’m here.  I didn’t say anything to him at the time because my self-esteem wasn’t that great, but if someone said that to me now they wouldn’t get off so easily.  The ONLY reason I didn’t walk out then and there is because I had a drive to succeed.

Then there was my therapist.  She did far more damage than she ever did good.  Her specialty was eating disorders, so imagine my surprise when she moved to an office where the people she rented space from didn’t want heavy people sitting on the furniture.  That was the last time I saw her.  She did other non-beneficial things throughout our 6 years together but that was the “topper” so to speak.  She wrote me several years ago to say she had some measure of regret about how our tenure ended, and I wrote her back and said, “if you had any measure of real regret you’d have offered me a sincere apology instead of sending me a sorrowful note that was really just a half-hearted disguise to get my business back.  Do not contact me again.” Of course she replied and said that she was confused and would always be there if I needed someone to talk to—ha!

Around this time I decided to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions, so I could get the hang of the machines at the gym.  I wanted to maximize the time I spent there and not just goof around.  Before I decided which trainer to hire I watched all of them at the gym and chose the one that really paid close attention to their clients.  He seemed to know his stuff but during one of our sessions, when I didn’t run as fast as he wanted me to, he called me a “douche bag” in an attempt to motivate me.

I think you’re getting the point by now.  Negative reinforcement doesn’t help people lose weight.  It didn’t help me lose weight. It just made me want to eat more because I felt even worse about myself, especially when so called “professionals” beat me up mentally with their words.

You want to know what worked for me?  Hearing words of support and caring and belief from someone else at a time when I didn’t have it in me to believe in my own self-worth.  I can tell you the exact day that happened and the exact words.  On September 8th of 2010 someone said to me “I don’t’ want to see you suffer anymore.”  That came from someone who just wanted me to be happy, someone who didn’t expect or want anything from me other than for me to live my best.

That’s what made a difference.  And that’s what continues to make a difference in my life today.  Words spoken with love.  Words spoken by people who love me just the way I am. Words spoken by people who want me to be happy.  Those words I hear. And I am so lucky to be surrounded now by people who will speak these loving truths to me (I have worked to make this happen).  I’m even luckier that I am more likely than not becoming willing to speak these words to myself.

The moral: love others. Just love them. If they’re overweight, they know it.  Trust me.  They do.  IF they want your help, they’ll ask.  Until then, just offer love. And kindness.  That will make more of a difference than you’ll ever know.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/07/26/205766456/hating-on-fat-people-just-makes-them-fatter

How I Do It in Twenty-Six Positions: a not so objective analysis of my Bikram Yoga postures

I’m not sure how to start this post other than to say I want to look at, really look at how I DO my Bikram Yoga postures.  I’m fond of telling people how much I’ve changed, altered, grown in the three months that I’ve been doing Bikram, and I yearn to keep going, to keep growing, and the one way to do that is to work at deepening my postures.

Each Bikram class consists of 26 postures, but, given that every body differs, how one person does a posture will vary from the next.  The end goal may be the same, but, as with the rest of life, how each arrives at the destination varies.

So, how then do I work at deepening my postures, which will allow me to intensify the personal evolution and growth I’m experiencing at lightning speed? I decided to take pictures of myself doing the 26 postures and including with them my own thoughts on where I’m at in the pose and where I want to go.

I’m feel strangely brave and courageous, so I’m going to share all the pictures with you, and that’s probably the most vulnerable I’ve felt in a long time. To see my body in some of these poses made me feel physically ill because, in my head, I don’t see my fat, but to see it in pictures sends me into shock.

If you want to see what the ideal body looks like doing the Bikram Yoga series, you can check out this link:

http://bikramyogabethesda.com/what-is-bikram/26-postures/

To see what THIS BODY looks like doing the Bikram Yoga series, keep reading this post:

Posture # 1: Standing Deep Breathing (when I’m in this pose, I often don’t feel connected with my breath.  I’m breathing, but I’m not always sure I’m keeping the right count, and I know my upper back may tend to curve when it maybe shouldn’t, and my abdomen, well I ALWAYS need to keep pulling it in tighter):

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Posture #2: Half-Moon Pose (The elbows always need to be closer together, the hips maybe curved a little more, and I always feel like I cave into the fatigue in my biceps too early.  More often than not, part of the way through the first set, and most of the time through the second set, I’ll rest my arms against my chest.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just pushed through the pain?  What would happen if I just ignored it?  I feel like I’m capable of pushing through it but I don’t.)

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Posture # 3: Awkward Pose (With this one I feel like I’m always compensating for the size of my stomach and ignoring the placement of my shoulders, my arms, etc.  I also have a hard time really figuring out the balancing on my toes.  I feel unstable in the middle of my toes, and then, sometimes I think that my legs aren’t the appropriate distance apart.):

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Alternate view of Posture #3:

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Posture #4: Eagle (Curses.  My body is NOT made for Eagle.  Having said that, I do work at deepening the squat part of the pose, and I have also made a concerted effort to work at stretching my shoulder. It really is one of the postures where I feel my stomach gets in the way, but that’s probably an attitude that prevents me from going further, so I need to work at flushing those thoughts down the proverbial toilet.):

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Alternate view of Posture #4

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Posture #5 Standing Forehead to Knee (My stomach definitely gets in the way of this one. For awhile I used a strap to hold up my foot, but I wasn’t feeling it too much.  Then Loren suggested I try holding up my bent leg and working on balancing.  The image in the picture is actually difficult to hold, so, I’m guessing, this is a good spot to be in; although I do imagine that I could work at holding my foot just a bit higher.):

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Alternate view of posture #5:

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Posture #6: Standing Bow Pulling Pose (I cannot currently reach my ankle on my own.  Loren helps me grab my ankle–usually during the second set.  I also have trouble staying properly aligned as my hips want to shift. I admit to feeling scared when I try to stay balanced.  Often I think the problem is that I forget to breathe.  When I’m feeling stronger in the posture I will attempt to lift my bent leg higher so as to stretch the thigh muscles.):

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Posture #7: Balancing Stick Pose (so much to say here. I think if I wasn’t so sweaty I could go deeper, but then I wouldn’t be working as hard. Particularly with this pose, my mind gets in the way.  If I didn’t conceive of my stomach as an obstacle, and if I remembered to breathe I’d like to think I could go deeper; also, I tend to think about the placement of my feet a great deal.  My feet tend to torque sideways to compensate for the size of my stomach, so I always try to be conscious of alignment.  I often wonder if it’s better to adjust the alignment a bit so I can go deeper into a posture.):

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Posture # 8 Standing Separate Leg Stretch Pose (Here I feel like I need to have an awareness of how deep I go. I can go pretty deep, but I’ll do it at the expense of proper alignment. Sometimes in the yoga room I don’t go as deep because my feet will start to slip, but I think part of the problem is that I concentrate too much on slipping and not enough on strengthening my thigh muscles.  Where my thoughts go, there my practice goes, so if I concentrate on slipping, I’ll slip, but if I concentrate on holding the pose more in my thighs, what might happen then?  Might be worth a try?):

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Posture # 9 Triangle (My knee needs to bend more; my thigh probably isn’t properly aligned and I always feel like my arms aren’t quite right.  Sometimes I wonder what it means that there is supposed to be more room under my armpit? This is another pose I don’t go as deep as I could on a sweaty floor.  Again, I wonder what would happen if my mind concentrated on my leg and thigh muscles and not on my slippery feet?):

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Posture # 10 Standing Separate Leg head to Knee Pose (I have to confess here.  I think this is one where I feel my stomach gets in the way–actually, I think I need to reframe how I think of my body.  It served a purpose, and I’m working on changing it, so maybe it’s my mind that really gets in the way.  In this pose I often feel like I need to pay greater attention to the form of my torso.  Am I bending it to accommodate my stomach at the expense of proper form? Are my hands reaching the ground at the expense of my form?):

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Posture # 11: Tree (I’m working at being able to hold up my leg.  I’ve gotten better at keeping my shoulders aligned as I hold my leg.  On a good day I can hold one of my hands in prayer.  When I’m not so slippery and sweaty it’s easier to hold my leg, but here again what am I concentrating on when I’m doing the pose? I feel like there’s more that I can do with this pose, but I’m not sure what. Also, I never feel like my standing foot is aligned properly in this pose):

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Posture #12: Toe Stand Pose (There’s really not much hope for me with this one. Think of it as squatting while holding tree and standing on your toes.  Basically I just work on tree.):

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Posture #13 Dead Body Pose (Think this one’s easy, eh?  Think again!  I often don’t lengthen my neck to fully relax and sometimes the same is true of my arms and legs!)

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Posture #14 Wind Removing Pose (In the picture I don’t have a strap, but in class I do. Using a strap allows my shoulders and elbow to maintain proper alignment. With this pose, I’m really learning the importance of keeping my abdomen tightened as this allows me to pull in my abdomen more):

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Posture #15 Sit Up (Those feet–they are NOT properly aligned. I THINK the big toe and the little toe need to be aligned to maximize the stretch.  Not until recently did I actually do the sit-up part in class.  I always made the assumption that it would take ME too long, and one day I tried it, and I could actually do it.  Now, am I doing it properly?  That I don’t know.):

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Posture # 16 Cobra (Here I just get confused about lengthening forward with my head.  I understand it in principle, but get confused when making it happen.  How do I lengthen and maximize going up?  Also, am I supposed to concentrate on lengthening my legs too?):

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Posture # 17 Locust (To maximize lifting my legs I actually have to slide my torso forward a bit at the beginning of the pose to maximize the lift in my legs. My arms. I’m never sure how to have proper arm placement and maximum lift.  If my arms are flatter to the ground then my legs don’t go as high.  Yet, when I concentrate more on flattening my arms I can feel the effect on the back of my upper arms–home of the famous “wings” many people have):

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Posture #18: Full Locust Pose (Arms, legs, shoulders–I do this pose, but am not sure I maximize its potential.  Sitting here thinking about it I’m visualizing my shoulders and wondering if they’re back far enough.  Actually, this pose kind of confuses me.  Where should the bulk of my attention go?):

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Posture # 19: Fixed Form Pose (I LOVE this pose because it’s one I NEVER thought I could do!!!!  To work at going deeper I concentrate on holding in my core and moving my torso toward the ground a centimeter at time. This also helps stretch out my thigh muscles, or, at least that’s what it feels like. Most days I feel like I can go a little deeper in this pose but I’m not sure how.):

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Posture #20: Bow Pose (Here’s one where I can’t reach my ankles, but Loren will help me grab one ankle, so I can work toward holding both someday. In turn I attempt to maximize the stretch by lifting my thigh up.  I don’t want to just hold each leg.  I strive to lift myself higher and higher.):

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Posture #21 Half Tortoise Pose (I haven’t been able to find a way to go down smoothly in this posture, but once I’m down I’m learning to stretch out my arms and move my bum back to maximize the stretch.  I wish there was a way for a smoother entry and exit but I’m not sure there is.  I’m also not sure I’m doing everything I can with my torso and arms):

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Posture # 22: Camel (With camel I think I’m ready to deepen my posture by concentrating on hand placement and how I hold my chest.  I think I can place my hands lower but I don’t want to do it at the expense of my chest.):

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Posture # 23: Rabbit (Where do I begin with this one? I know it’s important to feel a rounded stretch in the back, but that’s what I find difficult.  Then there’s the the feet, the thighs: I don’t feel like they’re close enough.  I know when I have them closer it’s easier to have the crown of my head on the floor.)

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Posture # 24 Head to Knee Pose with Stretching Pose (well with this pose, one of my hands can now reach my foot, but often my foot isn’t properly aligned to maximize the stretch in the foot, so I always have to keep that in the forefront of my mind, especially since I can be a bit lazy toward the end of my practice let the finer aspects of a pose go to “pot” so to speak. Also, I’m wondering if there’s more I can do to emphasize stretching the arm that can’t quite reach the foot yet?):

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Posture #25: Spine Twisting Pose (Here I think if I can concentrate on holding up my spine more I can have my one foot touch the floor. I’ve been able to do it before. I just have to concentrate on lengthening the spine instead of just allowing it to collapse back.  This will lead me to emphasize the twist and not simply hold a lazy pose.):

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Posture #26: Blowing in Firm Pose (I’ll be honest here; sometimes I allow myself to get tired here and I pretend to breathe but I’m not, yet I know by doing that I’m only cheating myself.  Somehow I find this pose to require the greatest effort in some ways.  It seems like that shouldn’t be the case, but, for me, it is.  The simple truth with this one though is that I simply need to do it. That’s all.  I can do it. I just have to do it. If I can spend 90 minutes in a very hot and humid room I can do a one minute breathing exercise.):

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Body Perception (Part Two)

I have made a decision. And this one takes even more courage and bravery. Today I drove down to Downtown Disney to buy some tops for my Bikram yoga classes. I like to wear stylish tops that remind me of my “happy” place! As I meandered around World of Disney I came across this one top that looked perfect for hot humid yoga! It’s a beautiful lightweight material with Minnie and it says “Please, I’m fabulous!”

BUT, it comes to just at/below my waistline, which means it doesn’t cover my stomach. I’ve always held a preference for longer tops–it’s almost as though if my stomach was covered it didn’t exist. As an aside, I don’t wear pants because I feel they show how big my stomach is and that makes me feel uncomfortable and fat.

I’ve come to think lately though that I need to accept myself and my body for exactly as it is now. I wouldn’t wear this top with bike shorts out in public (that would look just a wee bit trashy for me!) but for the inside of a very hot yoga room it’s a perfect fit. Besides it’s time for me to accept, really accept myself and my body exactly as it is in THIS MOMENT!!  After all, that’s all we have.

So, with my heart pumping just a wee bit fast from nerves, I’ll walk into that 8:15p.m. Bikram Yoga class this Wednesday in my white bike shorts and my “fabulous” top, taking another step toward self-love and self-acceptance, and I’ll look at myself in the mirrored wall and see only love, pure love.

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Life: it’s about letting go and chocolate………..

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

~Joseph Campbell

I’m not sure where this particular blog post will lead, but maybe that doesn’t really matter.

Life really is all about letting go.  And chocolate.  Everything really ends up being about chocolate.

I’ve been thinking about my relationship with food lately (well I’ve thought about it most of my life actually), and I’ve been hearing a lot about cleanses, and this has intrigued me, not necessarily for the health value; rather, going on a cleanse means letting go–letting go of my own conceptual thoughts on how and when and what types of foods I should/could/would benefit from eating and drinking.

On Monday, on a whim–the best things in life happen on whims, I went into Cafe Gratitude and asked them how long it would take to prepare a one day cleanse.  They said about ten minutes, so I said “okay. I’ll go for it.”

I didn’t know exactly what I was in for, but I had to do it. I had to change how I thought about food. I had to give up control.  I had to admit that maybe I didn’t know what was best, or at the very least I had to explore new avenues, new options.

The cleanse consisted of 5 drinks and one salad.  The first two drinks tasted rather putrid. But I soon learn that taste really didn’t matter, for I could feel change manifesting inside of me. As the day progressed I felt, for the most part, a certain happiness, a heightened level of energy.  Part of that could be attributed to the high that comes with trying something new and healthy, but there was so much more to this feeling that I can’t even begin to explain, not even now.

I started to have the feeling that if I could do this for one day and thrive that maybe there was way more out there than I ever imagined.

So where does the chocolate come in?  Sometime around 8p.m. I found myself in a near panic because I couldn’t find my rosters for school the next day. So I started going through stuff in a near panic, and that’s when I found it:  this past April I bought my dear dear friend Niki a See’s chocolate bar for her birthday.  She LOVES See’s and they don’t/didn’t have one in Ohio, and I wanted her to have a treat, but soon after I brought it home I couldn’t find it. I’d looked forever for it, eventually figuring I’d lost it.

But, just after 8p.m. on the day of my one day cleanse, I found it.  And I couldn’t stop laughing (in a good way).  On the very day I was taking a new step into rethinking my thoughts about how and what I eat, I find a chocolate bar.

The Nancy of old would have decided that she would wait until midnight and then eat the chocolate bar at the end of her one-day experiment, but this new Nancy has take the chocolate bar and put in an envelope, and as I sit her writing this the chocolate is on its way to Ohio.

I feel compelled to share this story with you because, while it was only one day, winds of change are continuing to shift for me at a lightning pace.  I don’t know how to think about food anymore.  I just know that after Monday, everything tastes differently, even life…………………Image

Full Disclosure: the Truth about My Starbucks Addiction

I’ve always known.  Every time I’ve walked into a Starbucks and had my favorite drink, I’ve known exactly how many calories (within a certain range) that I’ve consumed.  An iced venti non-fat upside down caramel macchiato has approximately 240-270 calories.  Of course, that assumes that the barista follows the strict Starbucks formula.  Most days, when I’ve watched them, they tend to be liberal with the caramel.  And why wouldn’t they be?  Sugar makes people happy.

Or does it?

For years I’ve gone to Starbucks, yet I don’t really care for coffee.  I certainly can’t stand espresso.  But I do have a sweet tooth, and there’s something far more socially acceptable about drinking a Starbucks rather than hooking myself up to an IV and having vanilla buttercream frosting directed straight into my bloodstream.  Let’s face it, if you’re going to eat icing it might as well be buttercream.  What’s up with the fake whipped stuff anyways?  It’s not real!  Icing is all about the sugar and the fat and creaminess.

I’m digressing though.  Back to Starbucks.  The bitter taste of their espresso combined with the sweetness of the syrup and caramel completely gratifies my palate.  Of course it also feeds my sugar addiction.

Then there’s the cool factor.  It’s hip to go to Starbucks. I’ve been to London, France, Mexico and assorted other places and I’ve been to a Starbucks in just about every place. Did you know there’s a Starbucks in the Louvre? And that in London you can get your Starbucks drinks served in a real mug?

Thanksgiving 2010 I traveled to Cabo San Lucas on a cruise for the first time, and on Thanksgiving day I found my way to a Starbucks.  Yup.  I could have been snorkeling, walking on the beach, doing any number of other fun activities, but I was in Starbucks drinking some form of my favorite beverage.

So why am I writing this blog post?  I haven’t been to Starbucks in 10 days.  I’ve been taking a long hard look at why I do what I do and where I want to go. Sugar masks pain.  It’s an addiction.  I know it.  I live it.  It’s painful.  But it’s also a part of the pain of the past.  As I break the cycle I can move forward, into a brighter more beautiful world.

You see when I consume refined sugars I’m not my best when I do my job. I’m not my best in my relationships with others and, more importantly with myself.  I’m not best when I’m doing my Bikram Yoga.  And I want to be my best when I do my Yoga because it’s so much more than about the postures.  It’s about accepting my inner and outer beauty in this moment.

And I’d rather be totally completely and fully alive in the divinity of this moment than be trapped in the dullness of an addiction.

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