Limitless (Un)Defined

I’m in the process of moving my blog to http://confessionsofayogaprincess.wordpress.com/

Until the process is complete, end of summer 2014, I’ll be posting duplicate entries in both blogs.

I am limitless. You are limitless. I spend a lot of time thinking about limitlessness and what it means to be limitless.

I often push my limits physically and am surprised by the results. This past Wednesday I challenged myself in a new way. I went to a spinning class before my usual double Bikram session. I’ve done spinning before at my local 24 Hour Fitness, but I’d never been to a place that specializes in spinning (Soul Cycle).

From the get go I knew this experience would be different. My yoga instructor speaks quite highly of the spinning instructor, MB, so I rightly figured the workout would be challenging, and I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.

I’m kind of all over the place with this blog entry, but here’s the deal: I sweated from pores I didn’t know I had in that class. The pores on my scalp and forehead cried tears of sweat into my eyes. Parts of my nether regions spoke to me in ways I’d never heard before. My mind and emotions raged out of control, bringing up depths of “stuff” I’d rather not have felt, but I didn’t stop moving my legs—not once did I stop.

I made every effort to keep up with the movements. I had trouble pulsing my torso as my legs spun round and round but I made the best effort I could. Imagine doing wall push-ups while furiously cycling and you’ll have an inkling of my experience. When it came time to bring out the weights I could have feigned exhaustion and not reached for them, but I didn’t. I grabbed my weights and kept up as best I could.

By the time the class ended my body dripped with sweat. I felt a certain numbing bliss. I also felt strange uncomfortable emotions brewing. On her bio MB says “exercise is therapy” and she’s right. Loren’s also said many times “yoga heals” and he’s right too. Our bodies, my body teaches me so much about the type of person I want to be, the type of person my soul longs to be.

But I’m not at the part about limitlessness yet. After the spin class I went and nourished my body with some juice before my double Bikram classes. When the day began I didn’t know how I’d make it through a spin class and two Bikram classes, but I’m also the woman who once did four Bikram classes in one day.

I surprised myself that night by the lessons the physical exertion taught me. As I neared the end of the first Bikram class I gave up on the final twisting pose and Loren asked me if the problem was in the body or the head, and I told him the truth (‘cause I can’t, and wouldn’t  lie to him)—my head, so he said get up and do the pose. And I did.

That moment, along with the second Bikram class that night taught me some valuable lessons about limitlessness, my limitlessness. When I decided to sit out that pose, my mind wanted to limit me. My mind said, “you’re too sweaty, too slippery, too tired for that pose. That pose doesn’t matter. Just rest.” My body had the ability to work, to attempt the pose.

I realized in that moment that my mind really works diligently at limiting my actions, in the sweat room and outside the sweat room. Sure, there are times when I need to sit out a pose, but I know when I do that I really need to check in with myself and see if it’s my mind or my body.

The same holds true outside the room. I spend too much time thinking, overthinking and that’s my mind limiting my joy. How can I be joyful if I’m not in the moment? I know me well enough to know that if I’m thinking I’m not in the moment.

I experienced so many profound realizations about myself on Wednesday. I can do anything if I push my mind out of the way. That includes the art of just being. I need to make a greater effort just to be.

I owe so much of my recent transformations to time I spend in the hot room, and so many of those transformations can’t be seen, for they aren’t physical. I used to have the hardest time just speaking my mind about the simplest of things and now when some situation doesn’t feel right to me my body and soul speak to me and give the courage to speak my mind. I hold my self back much less than I used to. I express my self more, even when it’s difficult. I’m learning I can do absolutely anything.

It may not always be easy, but these days it’s always better because I’m learning the art of being me, of being with me and of being okay with me, and that’s something I can’t put a price tag on.

I’m limitless. So are you. To believe otherwise is to let the madness of the ego-mind win. I’m not going to let my mind win anymore. Don’t let yours win either!

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Daringly Doing the Rabbit!

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“Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” ~Richard Bach

I’ve had a habit, over the past eleven months of my Bikram practice, of saying variations of the following: “I can’t do that pose.” “That pose isn’t for me.” “My body is too big to do THAT.” I’ve made these declarations to myself, to others, to my instructor………But, you wanna know a secret? Those limitations exist only in my mind. I create them. When I declare I can’t do a pose, I make that my truth.

Earlier in the week I made some statement about not liking rabbit pose. I don’t remember the exact wording, but I’m sure it had something to do with not being able to do the pose. Well, there’s some truth to that. In this present moment I can’t do the idealized version of the pose, but I can benefit from doing the pose to the best of my ability.

The question to then ask myself: how does the body benefit from rabbit? and how can I work the pose to achieve that benefit. Bikram describes Rabbit Pose as “the most radical forward-bending and spinal compression” posture in his sequence. How then do I adjust the pose to achieve that effect? I concentrate on rounding my back and on not putting too much pressure on my neck. When I started doing rabbit I’d put way too much pressure on my neck—not a good thing.

I’ve learned over time then to work at, really work at rounding my back. Each time I go into the pose I try a new little adjustment, knowing my body will tell me when it’s ready to go further. Sometimes that means I push where I’m not sure I’ll go. That allows me to discover new space. Most often I discover I can go further than I imagined. I’m learning to love and revel in the new spaces.

I’m also learning to listen to myself more and more. If I listened to everybody who ever told me someone of my size couldn’t do yoga, couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that—well then, I’d probably be dead from inactivity. Anyone of any size, any ability, any anything can do yoga. If you can breathe you can yoga.

Argue for your limitations and they’re yours. Accept your limitlessness and an unknown infinite world of possibilities awaits!!!! Which will you choose?

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Breathing: the One Bikram Asana I DISLIKE(D)

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Breathing: the One Bikram Yoga Pose I DISLIKE

I know. I know. Breath gives life. Breath gives existence. Yet, I resist it. From the beginning I’ve resisted it. I didn’t want to engage my core in the opening sequence, nor in the ending sequence. Too difficult, too hard—those serve as excuses, don’t they? The greater truth lies in the power of breath, the power it has to manifest untold soul realizations.

Last Friday, I casually mentioned that I hated the breathing sequence. Didn’t really see its purpose. Of course, I knew better. Breath gives more than oxygen to the lungs; breath gives oxygen to all the muscles, all the cells in the body. The better I breathe in the first breathing sequence, the better my body will do in the remaining poses, and the better my mind and spirit will do during the rest of the day. My mind knows this truth, but my body and spirit resist it. That is to say they resisted it until this past Friday.

After my very casual comment, my instructor told me that breathing happened to be the most important asanas of the class—I kinda knew that but had been resisting it. Then he dared me to do the breathing at the beginning and end of the class and do no other poses in between. Just spend 75-80 minutes observing my breath. I suspect he may not have thought I’d take him up on it, but I did!

As I normally do two classes back-to-back I decided that I would put my all into my poses so I could really have a deep meditative breath experience during the second class. I didn’t tell my instructor I’d be taking him on the dare, but I’m me, and I’ve got a lot of mental sh*t to let go of, so I’m sure it didn’t come as a surprise!

As the second class began I immediately made a decision to fully place myself within my breath, allowing oxygen to fully embrace my being. I kept my core activated during the entire opening breathing sequence. As soon as the the class started the half-moon sequence I stilled my body. For a few moments I just stood there breathing.

Then I laid down in savasana and tuned out all the happenings around me: the instructor’s voice, the movements and breath of others. The difficult part, of course, involved calming my own mind. So many thoughts raced through for about 15 minutes. I watched a mental thought movie of my life: I saw so many negative messages pass through. Messages people told me through the years: “I’m too needy, too emotional. It takes too much effort to be my friend.” I can’t really remember all the messages now, but they came flying at a startling rate. I didn’t become involved with them though; I waited for them to pass.

The insecurities, the negativity, every crazy thought filtered through my mind. I found myself wishing that I could express my self more in the moment. I saw every wrong “thing” go through my head. I struggled to stay still but I knew if I just waited the thoughts would stop. Finally, they did. The voices shut up.

As my mind stilled, my body became heavy, so heavy that I no longer felt a part of it. A deep peace flowed through my body. My conscious relaxation became an unconscious relaxation. I had no awareness of my surroundings, of my thoughts, of any external or internal force. For about 40 minutes (a rough estimate) I experienced a deeper peace than I’d felt in any other meditation (I do meditate regularly).

My physical body apparently decided it needed to move at some point and the numbness of my ar*e melded my mind, body and soul out of its deep peace, not entirely though, but enough to start a slow awakening.

When it came time for the final breathing I didn’t want to move, to leave the calm peace I’d experienced, for I knew I wanted to avoid a rough reality.

Sure enough, as the day progressed, the blissful emptiness I’d experienced filled with so many of the negative thoughts I’d seen filter through my mind at the beginning of my meditation during class. I so want this to be a journey of complete mental, emotional and physical healing. I’m such an emotional eater that I know I have to be willing to see deep inside my self.

I have a hard time expressing my self in the moment. My emotions become so clouded by my past that I struggle with the simplest of expressions. I struggle with telling people how I feel. It takes a literal miracle for me to express my self if my feelings have been affected because I know my past experiences cloud my present emotions. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the right to have my feelings because they’ve been forced down for so long—a survival mechanism for sure.

My struggle, my greatest battle is this: SEPARATING THE PAST FROM THE PRESENT TO MOLD A BETTER FUTURE.

After my yogic meditative experience I went on one of my favorite hikes. I knew I needed to give my self space to process all the sh*t that deep meditations can bring up. I wanted to give myself the space to feel, to experience, to wade through it all, so I could find my way out.

As I sat on a bench atop a hill I asked the universe for a sign, a very clear sign that would help me find clarity and beauty in the moment, and the universe delivered. I got my message in the most unexpected of ways, from the most unexpected of persons. The message didn’t solve my issues, but it made me smile and it told me very clearly that I had chosen the right path. That I would work my way through the muck to see the beauty.

Yoga really does heal. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy. But, in this moment, I know I’ll make it. I am determined to make it. Determined to let go of the past, to separate it from the present so I can create a better future.

Indeed that’s exactly what I’m doing: creating a better future.

I embrace the realizations that deep meditation brought forth. I embrace the work that lies ahead. I embrace the idea of spending a whole class lying in savasana again. Breath brings life. Breath brings hope. And now I have a whole new respect and perspective on breath.

Oh, and the next time you see someone spending the whole class in savasana know that they just might be having the most amazing transcendental transformational experience of their lives. Consider trying it some time! It’ll be the most amazing roller coaster ride of your life.

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Tricks Triangle Teaches Me

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I have fallen madly deeply utterly and completely in love with Triangle Pose in yoga, a pose most people don’t care for. Not me! I adore it! Why?

Every time I perform triangle I learn something new about my body. This past Wednesday the sky shifted completely for me during triangle. Why?

Alignment! Alignment!! Alignment!!! I work diligently at keeping my body properly aligned. As larger person I feel hyper-conscious about how I move because I know that I waddled more than moved before yoga became a regular part of my life. Now, you see why alignment and triangle and I have a deep passion for each other.

One of my struggles with triangle involves keeping my torso in life with my leg and hip. As the bulk of my body weight rests in my abdomen I have a tendency to lean forward in triangle—it’s a rough battle to not rest the side of my torso on my bent leg!

This past Wednesday, during triangle, I looked in the mirror and noticed my torso leaning forward. I already felt too hot, too tired, but this voice in my head screamed “just lift up your torso, so it’s in line with your leg and hip.” Somehow I found the energy to comply with that little voice of mine, and, in that moment, I really understood, I had yet another “aha” yoga moment!

The very second I lifted my torso into the proper alignment, the thigh of my bent leg came alive, so alive I could feel the heat in the room intensify, and in that moment every muscle and nerve ending in the thigh of my bent leg woke up in ways they hadn’t in a very very long time! I experienced how triangle helps build thigh strength!

I feel so grateful every time I have an aha moment in yoga, ever time I have a body revelation in the hot room, for each time I have one of these experience experiences, I receive a gift, one that confirms my acceptance of my physical body. The more I accept my body in its current form, the more it tells me how I can work to improve it. And where the body improves so does the mind and spirit.

(a note on the video: the first part shows me performing triangle with my torso out of alignment and the second part shows me with my torso in alignment to the best of my ability. As I watched the completed video I found myself not entirely pleased with it, and I almost redid, but decided I would keep it as is and use it as a foundation upon which to keep improving my practice. I also did triangle from a side view to demonstrate another angle of alignment.)

For a more comprehensive discussion of triangle, please click on the following link: http://www.bikramyogales.com/bikram-yoga/bikram-26-postures/9-triangle-pose/

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More than a Number: the Story of How I Lost ??? Amount of Pounds

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When people ask me how much I weigh (and some do ask), I prefer not to answer. When people ask me how much weight I’ve lost (and they ask this as well), I prefer not to answer. Why? Assigning a number to my progress on this path to healing and wellness on all levels (mental, physical and spiritual) places my efforts in a box. Suddenly, all my hard work (and it is hard work) becomes reduced to a number.

The intense work on my emotional healing becomes less significant. My inner growth, which can’t be measured by a number, ceases to matter to the masses. It’s true, mind you, that I’m doing this work for me, but I’d like people to see, through my journey, that when it comes to losing weight, the number on the scale, in so many ways, needs not to have the biggest impact.

When it boils down to it, when it boils down to weight loss, the problem is that all most people want to see is a number. The number overshadows the person, the effort, the time it takes. People see a number, they don’t see a person, and I’ve been invisible long enough. While it may seem an oxymoronic statement, I have indeed been invisible by virtue of my visibility. I’ve lived this for most of my life.

At my heaviest, all most people saw was the outer shell, the fat. They didn’t see me. They saw fat. They felt superior to me.

How do I know this? I’ve had so many verbally abusive encounters it would take volumes of books to detail all of them. As a teenager, I clearly remember walking around the mall and being taunted by children, teenagers, and adults. I can still hear their voices: “You need to do something. You need Richard Simmons.” On one occasion, they followed me around the mall, continuously taunting me. Children teased me all the time. Parents did nothing. Well, okay, sometimes the parents joined in.

Some people would try to help me with my weight, but their lack of sensitivity created more damage, such as when in high school, one of my gym teachers wanted me to walk/run laps during P.E. while the other kids had fun playing tennis and other sports.

Did that help me lose weight? NO! I felt completely ostracized. Being obese, morbidly obese, in high school felt bad enough, but to have an adult set me further apart from my peers made my life much more painful.

Becoming an adult, growing up, didn’t bring much relief from the chronic verbal abuse society felt it had every right to throw at me. People would tell me all the time “You need to do something.” Well, duh! Actually, they were the ones who needed to do something.

Every person who has ever said to an overweight/obese individual that they need help needs to ask themselves if they’re saying something because they legitimately love the person or if they’re saying it because they feel more virtuous because they’re not fat themselves. In the majority of the cases, people feel superior to or better than fat people.

Given the personal history I’ve just revealed, why then am I considering telling you how much weight I’ve lost?

People ask me all the time how much weight I’ve lost, and maybe it’s time I stop hiding behind the question, stop giving it power over me. “A life lived in fear is no life at all.” I have no room in my heart for fear anymore. And I have feared that when people hear the number, they will no longer see me, see my efforts, see that the number doesn’t represent the most important kind of progress.

I also believe that the story I tell you here might help you and others. I have that hope.
People may not realize how they can help, really help, someone struggling with weight loss/food addiction.

Let me tell you by sharing part of my journey. I had to want it first. No matter what others may have said, I had to want it. I had to want to eat healthier, to work out, to look at all the emotional triggers that made me want to overindulge to begin with—that’s where the real work begins. I needed to find that piece of me that desired real change and would work for it.

From the start of my journey three years ago, I knew it had to be an inside job—for this to last it had to come from the inside out. Sure, I wanted a quick fix. I dreamed of instant fixes like we see on television shows like The Biggest Loser.

But more than anything, more than that overnight pill, I wanted permanent, lasting change—I still do. I started walking outside and on the treadmill. I started keeping a regular hatha yoga practice. I started taking a closer look at my food. I worked at counting calories. That worked for me slowly. I introduced healthier foods into my days. I journaled about how I felt on days I ate unhealthy foods. I looked at people, places, situations that made me want to eat emotionally, and I slowly (well not so slowly) changed some of those situations.

It felt like hell sometimes; some days it still feels like hell. Some people supported me. Others didn’t. I’ve changed a lot.

I became my own person. Actually, I still am becoming that woman, maybe for the first time in my life.

I’m learning to sculpt the essence of who I am by incorporating more meditation into my life and learning to appreciate the sheer beauty of silence, my silence.

I lifted weights. I worked my buns at becoming more fit. Then, last April, during a rough spot in my life, I discovered Bikram Yoga and fell in love, really fell in love with sweat and discovered the real meaning of sweating away emotional toxins. I’m finding my inner strength, learning to rely on self, learning to see I’m beautiful just the way I am. And I’m learning to love my body in this moment. I’m making peace with my physical self.

That’s how I came to lose 168 pounds in three years. There I said it.

But that number in no way defines me, defines who I am, defines my soul. My journey will always be defined by more than a number. I’m more than a number. Whatever your number is, you have value just the way you are. What you weigh, how much you want to lose, how much you want to gain—those are numbers. They are not now, nor will they ever be, you.

I know that with continued intense internal and external work, that I’ll achieve my goals: a healthier spirit, mind, and, yes, body. I hope that by sharing this sensitive piece of my journey, you’ll see that you, too, can have the life you want, if you work for it.

Here’s one of my favorite transformational pics:

One of my favorite transformation pics.

One of my favorite transformation pics.

Here’s the link to a Bob Seger song that reflects my thoughts on numbers:

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They Call Me a Yoga Animal

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I’ve been called an animal, in a complimentary fashion, by more than one person when they see or hear how dedicated I am to my yoga practice. But if you know me, if you’ve read my blog you know I have a passion and a zest for life.

These days I have a strength and resilience in me that I never knew I had. This may not make a lot of sense and probably won’t be one of my more well-written blogs, but I have a lot going on in my head. I make too many assumptions, I’m always thinking, I struggle to just stay in the present moment. And goodness knows I have to work at relaxing, something so simple, yet something that takes so much effort.

More than all that I’m working at opening my heart, at just trusting, at just being, so, lately, when I’ve been in the hot room I’ve been making an extra effort in camel pose. I’ve been making this most intense backbend my best friend. Camel pose (also known as Ustrasana) opens up the the heart and throat chakras, areas normally closed off in most people. Notice how often your chin is lowered and you’ll see what I mean.

With the opening of the heart and throat, emotions flow more freely, and I’ve borne witness to this these past few weeks. I’ve seen myself feel more vulnerable, feel more emotional. It’s as though so many childlike emotions that I’d been suppressing have spiraled their way out of my spine. I don’t know how else to explain it.

It’s a part of processing my grief, that I know for sure. The more time that passes since my dad’s death 7 months ago, the more I find myself trying to recapture the small moments of my childhood.

But it’s more than that too. I also want to move forward without taking the negative parts of the past with me. And there’s a part of me that believes, that really believes that opening my heart more will release the painful and open my heart and soul to the awesome possibilities that lie ahead.

That’s why I’ve been holding (or attempting to) the camel pose through savasana. Yes, it brings up stuff, but the release of that “stuff” creates room for new joy, for new happiness, for seeing new love and kindness everywhere I go!

In the video you’ll see me do an almost two minute camel. I couldn’t do much longer because it’s a pose that requires the body to be warmed up in order to do the pose correctly. I did warm up before I made the video but it’s not the same as warming up in a hot room! Also, it’s a pretty boring video, but I wanted to share my camel with ya’ll!

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaYogaPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue

Random Musings on Food, Yoga, Weight Loss, Grief, and Other (Un)related Things

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about food, grief, my relationship with food, and all sorts of other life issues. Food has always been a comfort to me, even more so now. I’m not sure exactly what my intentions are with this entry other than to share random thoughts.

Weight loss is important to me.  It is. So is being healthy. But I’ve been on this road long enough to know that my journey just can’t be about weight loss. You see I want to be healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I have struggled with clean eating since my dad died and if I’m honest since a couple of months before he died. I haven’t been eating horribly by any means, but not clean either. But I want to, and I’m working on it.

Sometime last week I really decided to renew my efforts at looking at my current eating habits, and the results were inevitable. I watched my emotional self rise up. I could feel myself becoming needy. I felt a huge weight on my chest. I didn’t feel like going to yoga on Friday. I didn’t feel like going to yoga today (Monday). I didn’t feel like going to spinning on Sunday.

I could feel the oppressive sadness of my mood. I’ve made so many strides with food, but I need to make more, and I know that requires looking at how I assuage my pain with my eating.

I KNOW I have to do this because this is the only way I’ll succeed on this path. Have you seen the statistics on how many people are NOT successful at losing weight? How many people regain their weight after weight loss surgery? The stats are not good. And I know why they’re not good. If people don’t face their demons, the reasons why they gained weight in the first place, they’ll always go back to the behavior. I know that. I’ve lived that.

Continuing to work at losing weight, continuing to work at being healthy in every way means I have to look at some painful truths. It’s hard for me without my dad. I miss him more today than I imagined. My only other family really is my mom. It’s not that I don’t have other relatives, but I don’t see them. Yes, I’m blessed to have some awesome friends and a wonderful online community, but I still feel a certain loneliness that it’s just my mom and me.

I’ve felt so needy this weekend. But I didn’t really share that with anyone because I knew I needed to feel it. And as bad as I felt, and as much as I wanted to wallow in that state I still got up and went to yoga, went to spinning because I KNEW and I KNOW that to succeed I have to work through it. I can’t go around it, or I’ll never see the other side.

Food, as I’ve expressed before, represents a certain love, a certain escape. Yes, those are certain falsehoods, BUT it’s helped me through some rough times. It’s helping me now. But I’m ready to find a better way.

What does that look like? When I’m really successful at having a healthier relationship with the food I put in my body, it’s so simple. I keep a notebook and write down what I eat every day. No judgment.  Just observations. If I eat this for breakfast, then maybe I won’t eat that for lunch. I’m looking more now at eating whole foods and not processed foods. My body feels so much better when I’m eating natural foods.  Bathroom habits go much more easily, if you know what I mean.

And if I have an emotional reaction I write that down too because I have those ALL THE TIME.  I am an emotional eater. I am a reactor.  Not like I used to be though.

That’s why yoga will always be a part of my life. Even on days when I’d rather wallow in self-pity, throw a temper tantrum, cry huge tears, I’ll always go to yoga because it helps me find a way through the cr*p. And you wanna know a secret? My body is soooo much more toned for doing yoga as much as I do.  You should see how much I can hold in my core now!! It’s kinda cool! Being physically active helps me feel better.  That’s why I went to the spin class on Sunday. That’s why I went for a walk in the rain on Saturday. Any weight loss is a side effect. I LOVE feeling the clarity that comes with being physically active.

I made it through this weekend. In the words of the philosopher Barry Manilow “I made it through the rain / and found myself respected / By the others / who got rained on too”. I’ll make it through this. I am making it through this. One yogic breath at a time. You’ll make it through the rain too. All you have to do is ask. All you have to do is make the effort. There’s an awesome world out there just waiting.  And it’s only one thought away!!!  Choose that thought! I am!!!  Actually, I don’t know any other way to be…….

I meant to end the entry there. Then I started thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson and his thoughts on self-reliance. I’ve spent most of my life living for others, wanting and needing their approval. I’m learning to trust myself and that’s no easy feat, but it’s worth it. “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind” — the genius of Emerson speaks loud and clear.  Trust myself. Trust my heart. It’s the only way.

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue

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