Unexpected Life Experiences --> Unexpected Life Lessons
Sometimes unexpected life experiences get you to do unexpected things. For me, this led to a month-long commitment to yoga...and to a whole slew of equally unexpected life lessons. Deciding to document the process really helped me to evaluate and mull over what I had learned in a much deeper way than I could have hoped for.
Below are 12 reflections on my classes (and life), which I had sent out to my subscribers in a much more easily digested format of daily emails. That being said, if you're up for some long-form content, it's about a 30-minute read. I hope you find reading it as useful as I found writing it, and I would love to hear from you if you've had a similar experience, or just have any feedback at all.
It’s May and so far this year has been for me, physically, one challenge after another.
I had a stomach issue that came up which required hard core antibiotics and a CT scan, and which prodded a gastroenterologist into scheduling me for a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, and a biopsy of the inside of my stomach. Thank the Lord my husband has more sense than me when I get emotional and he was able to remind me that 1) this was the first time I’ve dealt with such a thing, 2) that the antibiotics worked, and 3) that going through all of those procedures was completely unnecessary. The same issue came up again, but I decided to follow my gut instincts and just juiced for two days. The pain went away completely within the first day. The only correlate I could see was that I had eaten a salami-type meat before both issues occurred, so I’m going to rule those out of my diet, and hope the issue never comes back.
Another issue: I’ve had the flu twice this year.I was knocked out for a month. When I got it the first time I had just started this weight training program that I really wanted to see through for its full twelve weeks, so when I started to feel better from the first flu, I jumped back into the gym hard. Big mistake. I fell flat to either the same or a brand-new flu for another two weeks.
I’ve had two head colds aside from those flus.
I hurt my back in a HIIT class I took with some friends. Like, threw it out old-person style (no offense, older people haha).
My wrist was killing me but thankfully I quickly discovered it was my massive iPhone’s fault. (I had the 7+ for some unnecessary reason and the sheer weight of it was putting too much pressure on my tendons as I used my pinky finger to hold up the bottom of it.)
To be honest, I sort of just feel like I’m falling apart and I only just turned 30! While I’m certainly not looking for sympathy, I realized it was time to do something different. Thankfully, with 30 also comes at least a little wisdom and, reflecting back on these varying ailments, I realize I’m starting to learn to be in tune with my body – something that has never been my strong suit. I realized I didn’t need antibiotics when my stomach issue made a second appearance (solution: juice). I figured out that my iPhone was wrecking the tendons in my wrist (solution: smaller phone). I learned from jumping back into the gym too early and too hard when recovering from the flu and, finally, I have realized that maybe squats aren’t my greatest resource. All in all, I am pretty certain my body just needs some love from me, and tapping into this new-found connection to my bodily needs, I figured the best way to do this was to take a little dive into some body/mind/soul-food: yoga.
I’ve practiced yoga on and off - never in a consistent location or with a consistent teacher - for about a decade, so I’m definitely not naïve to its benefits. However, I’ve never given it any dedication. So, long story short, I signed up for a month of unlimited yoga at this new place near my apartment, and am going to make it my goal to get there 4-5 times a week. I went 4 times last week and started this Monday morning off with a class as well. I thought I should try to chronicle this process as it will 1) help hold me accountable and 2) provide some view of progress for me to go off of.
My very first insight: It’s amazing how it all begins to come together the more you give yourself to your practice. As you get familiar with each asana and its accompanying terminology (in our class: Sanskrit) and aren’t having to look around the room at what everyone else is doing, you can start to really focus on both your form and your breath. So far, it has been both a beautiful and eye-opening process. I’m tapping into spaces that I didn’t know were in my mind, muscles that I didn’t know were in my body, and confidence that I’ve never before experienced.
What follows is my synthesis of all of these changes and experiences. Every class produced some level of growth in me, but many made such an impact, that the words poured out of me onto my paper like a waterfall. Regardless of what these words me to you (I hope you find something to relate to in them, but at the very least enjoy them), they have helped to produce a profound change in me and I am so grateful I have them to reference and to remember this tremendous blessing I have experienced.
April 24th, 2018
I accept that this is a process.
I’ve never been good at processes. I don’t know if that amounts to a lack of patience or an overabundance of perfectionism. Either way, throughout my life, if I wasn’t pretty decent at something right away, I never gave it a chance. This has worked out ok - technically - for me because I tend to be fairly good at most things that I pick up and try. However, it’s never allowed me to build up my “practice muscle.” This idea has been stated so many different ways, over and over again, but I keep trying to look for a way to say it where it makes sense outside of my head.
It’s been a week that I’ve been going to yoga consistently now. Different instructors sometimes, yes, but always the same place, where everyone had been taught the same method. And each time, something has gotten a little better. The “process” is working. I understand how to align my hips better which makes this muscle feel engaged or that muscle stretched; I understand how to tuck my tailbone and draw my ribs to my hip bone, protecting my back. They say those things out loud in class a lot, but now I know what they feel like; I’ve experience the physicality of it.
But it’s been more than that. Yoga is called a practice for reason - and as with anything that requires practice, not every session is going to be a winner. This realization - actually beginning to grasp the concept of improvement through process - has allowed me to grow in every single class I’ve taken. Because if I don’t get anything out of it physically, I still get so much out of it mentally. What did I learn this time? Acceptance. I accept that this class – although not my favorite - was the right class for someone else in here today. I accept that not every class will be a game changer for me. And I accept that if I keep showing up, I will keep improving. However, it will not be until I continually show up for a long enough period of time that I will begin to see any change.
I accept where I am in this yoga process. I accept my past inabilities to recognize this fundamental idea of progress. I accept where I am at exactly in this moment - body, mind, and spirit. And I accept and know that I am capable of so much more, which I am so excited to grow into. I accept my pace. I accept my teachers for who they are. I accept my fellow yogis for who they are, good days and bad.
I accept that this is a process.
Day 2. No Gold Stars.
I learned so much today.
I learned about a L-handstand, which allowed me to focus on engaging my core in a way I never have been able to before. I learned new ways to engage my gluteus medius - a muscle that for whatever reason is one of my weakest. A huge part of being able to do this came from the other day when I learned to embrace the idea of “engaging with the first sensation.” In other words, as soon as you begin to feel something, stop and observe it, let the feeling wash over you, really figure outwhat that feeling is before diving deeper into it. You have to work from where you are, not from where anyone else is or even from where you want to be. You don’t have to impress everyone. You don’t have to be the best in class.
I always have this “fantasy” in workout classes (perhaps part of the reason they stress me out so much) that the instructor will come straight up to me after class and tell me how impressed they were. “Have you been doing yoga a long time?” Nah, not really, I’d casually reply. “Wow, well you’re really good,” they’d say. (I’m even rolling my eyes at myself here, rereading this. But it’s true.) As author Gretchen Rubin often references, “I wanted my gold star.” If I had to put a lot of work into something and spend a lot of time not being great at it, I didn’t want to do it. It’s a thought process that has kept me from attempting a lot of things throughout my life. I’m changing though; I’m growing through this process. Now, instead, I’ve embraced the idea of being the one who wants to practice and of working from where I am. I want to be so normalin class that I know I have the farthest of anyone to grow. How exciting to have that growth to look forward to! How exciting to anticipate all of the things I’m going to learn. And how utterly refreshing is this feeling of acceptance of where I am right now. This peace, this change in perspective, is addictive.
Have you ever struggled with perfectionism in this way? How have you changed your perspective?
Day 3: Slow Down, Stop Comparing, Experience Joy
So I’ve had a couple of realizations thus far:
1) I now understand the idea of the “setback as a blessing” because of this experience
2) This process is a much more fun process when I let myself just be, instead of trying to be the best in the room. Let me further explain.
As I stated in a prior email, this yoga kick started because of my back injury. I began to realize that maybe squats just aren’t for me. It’s been a real lesson in “we all are meant for different things.” And it certainly doesn’t mean that one practice or method is better than another; it only means that different practices are meant for different bodies. And let me further that by saying different practices might be better or worse for the same body at different times in that body’s life. The important thing is listening to your body which is, trust me, not something so simple to do. However, this injury that has convinced me to try yoga for a month has turned out to be an interesting blessing. See, before I was just obsessed with going as far as I could into each move, trying to be the best. But this injury has taught me how much I have been actually physically doing wrong in my efforts to look like a cool Instagram yogi.
Example: High lunge. If you’re not into yoga, this is where you are basically in a runner’s lunge, but have your upper body lifted straight up with your arms extended stick-straight above your head. The cool yogis make this look awesome because they go super deep into the lunge with their back leg extended straight as can be behind them and their front leg bent deep into a 90 degree angle. In my attempts to do this I was massively sacrificing the support of my lower back, allowing it to crunch in on itself. With my back injury, that was incredibly painful and it has forced me not only to not go so deep into the lunge, but to find a better version of the asana (position) in which my back is better supported. It’s an incredible feeling I’ve discovered. Slowing down and observing has ironically sped up my process of becoming a better yogi. And accepting myself where I’m at, allowing myself the space to grow, has given me so much more joy throughout. I really feel the lesson in comparisons here; it truly is toxic. I used to struggle with this idea so much because I thought, “If I’m not comparing myself to others, how will I know how good or bad of a job I’m doing at life?!” But in truth, you can only compare yourself to where you were a day ago or an hour or even a second ago. That is the only way to measure growth. And I know that just by walking my butt into this yoga studio every day, I have already improved upon who I was when I started…and what a joyful feeling that is.
Day 4: Your Higher Self
I am just so in love with this place. Each class delivers a message to my soul. The same message from a few days ago was reiterated to me in a way that I really needed to hear today. Our instructor zoned in on the concept of our “lower, small selves” and our “higher selves.” I know this might sound a little whacky to some of you, but hear me out. She pointed out how when we are operating on our “lower level”, we are focused on competition and on looking cool...on being the best one in class and pushing into the fullest form of the asana. But why? What is our reason for being there in the first place? It certainly should not be to impress anyone. So, it really helped me dig into what brought me in to the studio originally, which was my health - both my physical and mental wellness. Focusing on the reality of why I was doing this at all helped me to get the most out of each asana and has truly helped me tap into muscles I didn’t know I had, find flexion in ways that were never available to me before, and tap into parts of my soul that had not yet been discovered. Furthermore, my “back injury” has continued to be interesting in that it won’t letme crush my lower back when we go into any sort of backbend or even when we are in our warrior poses, lunges, or chair poses. I’ve been able to access a whole new level of each of these asanas, finding fresh and exciting parts of them, because I’m 1) not obsessing about getting a gold star from my instructor and 2) because I’m unable to do so even if I wanted to because of my lower back limitations. It’s been fascinating.
The other unexpected benefit of all of this is that I’m truly (slowly), unintentionally even, developing a better sense of my body and becoming much more in touch with it. I can recognize when I’m pushing something too far. I’m able to feel muscle engagement and control that engagement in ways I’ve never before been able to. So what’s the lesson here? It’s another version of, “Hey! When you stop trying to impress everyone, you might actually learn something for yourself!” And there’s that advertising concept: you have to be exposed to a concept at least seven times before you’ll be willing to embrace it. I’m getting there…
Do you find that you are operating as your “lower self” sometimes? If and when you become aware of it, how do you change your focus in order to operate as your higher self, someone that is working for a bigger purpose?
Day 5: Serenity Prayer.
You know that stretch - the one that you had to do in gym a million times growing up - where you sat on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you in a “V” shape? Yeah, that one. I HATE that stretch. Generally, this specific move doesn’t come up too much in yoga (at least in my experience), but I had a bit of an unconventional instructor the other day. It was the most unyoga-yoga class I’d ever taken - on top of it there was only two of us in the class.
Thankfully, through this practice of mine, I’ve learned to - and have been encouraged to - do what is right for my body as opposed to what I’m being told to do in class. For example, if your back is acting up (like mine has been!) and Wheel is just not in the cards for you...don’t do it. There’s no judgement or being told you’re wrong. You are encouraged to listen to your body, end of story.
So, since this instructor whipped out my least favorite pose in the world, I didn’t do it. I went into Child’s Pose and poured my focus into every tiny muscle in my body, paying attention to what I was grabbing onto and what I was able to let go of, guiding my breath to where it was needed most. However, after class, I took advantage of the emptiness of it all to ask “What’s the deal?” regarding why my body can’t even begin to attempt that “V” stretch. I can’t even manage to sit straight up let alone bend at the waist with a flat back. I told the instructor that, since I was five years old, I’ve wanted to punch a hole in the wall every time this move has been asked of me.
What was her answer? It boiled down to what she had stated when we were asked to move into a squat earlier in that same class: “In the full expression of the move, your feet will be flat on the floor...but really that comes down to genetics far more than it does to stretching.”
In that moment, in the stillness of my squat, watching my breath through my “mind’s eye” course through my body, I thought of the serenity prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Yoga lessons. I’m loving these lessons. Just as I need to be willing to push through asanas that are challenging for me, stretching my muscles or pushing my muscles into spaces I’ve never accessed before, I also need to be able to accept the musculature I was born with. What a reflection of life, in general! Sometimes, things just are the way they are. Where we need to pay attention - and this is where my yoga and meditation practice has become so beautiful to me - is knowing when it’s time to push and when it’s time to accept. Prayer, meditation, listening, practicing...these are the tools we need to be able to tell the difference.
And let me say yet again, when you are not focused on gold stars or on being the most impressive student in class, you have a lot more presence of mind to know what your body is saying to you, one way or another. When you are not focused on being the best in class, you are able to focus on becoming the best version of yourself.
Day 6: Adaptability.
Yoga keeps making me come back to acceptance, but I’m realizing there are many layers to acceptance. There is acceptance of something that will never change, and then there is the acceptance of where you are now, in this moment, even if things may change/improve eventually. There is the acceptance of not having it all figured out at the moment and the acceptance of the fact that, while you can always grow, you actually will never have it all figured out. The only thing that never changes is change, itself, right? So even if you figure something out in this moment, that new knowledge might not work out for you in a moment down the road. This is why I think what Eckhart Tolle says about there being no past and no future is so interesting and important; what was a truth for you in the past might not work for you now, and what is a truth for you right now, might not work for you in the future. Which is why all you should spend real energy on is the present.
What does this mean? It means that we need to foster a character of adaptability, which is something that requires you to live fully in each moment, acting only with what you have available to you in that moment. (One of the more practical examples I can think of with this is how unhealthy it is to bring up past grievances when in an argument with your significant other.) Sure, the past holds practical reference points to guide your present decisions, but each decision still must be based fully in your present (in “the now”). Let’s look at an oversimplified example of this through the lens of a yoga practice.
Everything you learn while you grow as a yogi is built off of prior knowledge. You don’t just jump into a perfect vinyasa flow, you go through so many iterations and asanas in order to gain an understanding of your body and come into contact with the appropriate muscles necessary to move through the flow. However, say one day comes along where you have an injured wrist or knee or back. You have to adapt your flow. You can’t get frustrated and live in your past experience of being able to move through the flow seamlessly, but you can pull from the knowledge you’ve built up in order to bring forth a solution for the present moment. Maybe this means tightening your abdominals to keep your lower back from crunching; maybe it means not going into Upward Dog at all. The point is you have to be fully present to understand what it is you’re dealing with and to open your mind to the opportunity of formulating a new part of your practice.
You also can’t live in the future. Sometimes injuries never fully heal. Sometimes they do. But you will never know whether they will until you live through every moment of every day and every class and doctor’s appointment and ice pack...and every thought you have about the future (“Will I ever be healed?”) will be a waste of your energy that could have instead been spent in the present moment, learning new things about how to adapt to your current needs. Acceptance of this moment. It’s so important. And it may lead you to unexpected and wonderful discoveries.
Day 7: Grounding.
I kept feeling overcome by this idea of “grounding” yesterday in class. In yoga, there is a lot of emphasis on which points of your body come into contact with the earth throughout your practice, but it feels to me like there is something more there than simply finding physical balance. For example, the idea of a person being “grounded” comes up a lot in life and is often, if inadvertently, a reference to how a person was raised, or what their family/friends are like.
A quick Google search reveals that Merriam-Webster’s definition of grounded is “mentally and emotionally stable; admirably sensible, realistic, and unpretentious; remains grounded despite all the praise and attention”. I think this definition is really interesting considering the ongoing theme of “wanting a gold star” that keeps coming up for me. Another way to express the same concept: being down to earth....not needing all the praise and attention.
There isn’t a clear history of the term “down to earth”, but it’s pretty easy and, I would assume, normal to come to the conclusion that it might mean “based in reality.” Earth...reality...they're pretty synonymous. And what are we when we are based in reality? We are accepting of the moment and all of its circumstances.
Being grounded/down-to-earth/based in reality allows me to accept my body’s capabilities for what they are in that moment...as well as to accept what’s going on in my mind. Grounding your appropriate points during yoga – all four corners of the feet weighted to the floor, for example - while also lengthening yourself -stretching your limbs up to the sky - represents this idea of believing in and reaching for your dreams and in something bigger than all of us, while remaining grounded, working here on earth, based in reality. It all seems quite unrelated from a distance, but up close, feels very full-circle.
Day 8: The Descent
“There’s always a lesson in the descent.”
As our class fell quickly and not-at-all-gracefully from our headstands, this is the nugget of wisdom our teacher bestowed upon us. There’s always a lesson in the descent. Woah. I feel like I’ve been in a mental descent lately. My identity as a model – at least the way I’ve always operated within the fashion industry - has been dissipating before my eyes, like looking into a mirror and being able to see right through myself. I’m thinning out, metaphorically, like the people who die at the end of The Avengers, whisked away to God-knows-where. I’ve been modeling since I was thirteen and, despite being involved in a lot of different projects over the years, everything I did came back my foundation of modeling.
Models 4 Water.
Guest designer and model for ethical fashion company Deux Mains.
Fundraiser co-chair for English in Mind...with two other models that I met modeling.
People wanting me to show up to events…because I’m a model.
Everything was about using my platform as a model. But what happens when my career begins to shift? What happens when that platform starts to change - when I'm no longer talking about Guess campaigns, but about school, mental health and wellness as a whole? Who do I become? There are many, many lessons in the descent of my identity from a platform that I've known my whole life – the first being that something must come down for another opportunity to be able to rise up inside of you. You can only dedicate your attention to so many things. And although this process is really challenging and often brings out tears and fears, I know that what I’m learning will allow me to build up and ascend from this feels-very-low place in a new and exciting way.
Modeling is not who I am, after all. It is not my essence. It has shaped much of my experience here on this earth and will always have a place in the creation of me, but it does not dictate my future. As I walk down the mountain of my 16-year career, I will find my nourishment in the valley, prepping me with what I need to climb the next beautiful mountain in the distance. The cloudy days are more challenging, yes. But I know that the bright blue sky and vista are there behind those clouds every day, and the days when I am able to glimpse them remind me to keep going through the descent, taking what flowers of wisdom I can along the way and basking in the excitement I hold for a new future ahead.
It’s important for us to recognize that success takes many forms and that it is possible for us to move into a new “form” of the being that we’ve known for so long, providing the opportunity for growth in a completely novel arena. It’s like how some people come down out of a headstand and right into crow; they are completely different forms, both challenging and beautiful, and both built upon the same human foundation - and it is very possible to flow from one to the next. After all, you can only improve your headstand so much. It eventually becomes time to try something new. You flow right into a new asana. Same concept, but a very new challenge which may be quite hard at first. As every asana strings together to become a full practice, so, too, do each of our identities string together to form the full picture of of a life well lived.
The lesson in my descent? It's ok - it's good, actually - to change.
Day 9: Accept Success.
Setting an intention.
This is another thing you’ll hear a lot in yoga, but I admit that I never really understood it. I was so focused on not physically screwing up, that the thought of trying to send my attention to my internal thought processes as I practiced seemed pretty close to impossible. But sticking with this yoga method - Kula – for a month now has allowed me to learn the way they do things and has freed my mind up so much to focus on not only strengthening, adjusting, and improving my asanas as I move through them, but it has even opened up space for me to explore setting intentions - and this has been extremely powerful.
I remember the first intention that came to me when I started realizing I could hold space for one: acceptance. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about acceptance, especially of myself lately, so it really felt perfect. (It felt even more perfect when that idea of acceptance then grew into the serenity prayer I wrote about a few days ago.) These intentions are really beautiful. As we flow through our practice, sometimes we settle into one pose or another for a few moments, and it is in these moments that my intention floats back to me and I remember, accept it. Accept yourself. Accept your limitations. Accept your strengths. Accept success.
That last one hit me like a brick.
I’m so scared of success. I’m terrified of not being able to handle it. The thought of being successful raises this bar in my head that tells me I will be required to get better and better with each stage of life. So much pressure! I can actually feel my heart rate speeding up just typing about it. But then I remember my intention:
Accept success. Open yourself up to it. Allow yourself to dive into it, letting it take you where it may. Give it your all. Learn from it. Allow it to change you, teach you, challenge you. Find joy in the challenge of success. Share your fears with others and help one another through it. Accept all of the beauty and hardship together as one. It’s a package deal.
And my heart rate begins to slow. I feel peace. I see a future I love and am proud of. I physically breathe a sigh of relief.
An interesting intention that came to me today was, “I see what others see in me.” I don’t know if this is a relatable problem, but I know for a fact that I am my own greatest stumbling block. I see myself in such a negative light even though I have people saying positive things about me to my face all the time. When you have this negative view of yourself, there’s no way you can actually open yourself up to success…because you don’t believe you deserve it. So, my new intention is to see what others see in me. To look at myself through their lens.
After all, I’m pretty sure if I was looking at myself from the outside - the way I view others around me - I would say the same things about myself that I say about them, “Jeeze she really looks like she has it all together.” But instead, my negative internal dialogue mixed with all the crazy comparisons I’m tossing around make my inner experience terrible.
So I have decided to make an effort to see myself, to view myself, how others view me. Because based on the faith that people express they have in me, that will lead to nothing but me feeling positive, which will allow me to act on those positive feelings and be able to be more productive and just lead an overall better life.
Are you afraid of success and of your own power? I’m remembering that quote that is attributed to former president Nelson Mandela but actually came from author Marianne Williamson. Let me know what you think of it...let me know if it leaves a mark on you. (You can just hit reply to this email!)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Day 10: Patience
Patience was the theme ringing through my head today.
This one instructor makes a lot of use of yoga straps, especially the smaller, purple ones (which I was not familiar with prior to beginning this month of practice). Today we used them for several different asanas, but then also put them to use in an awkward sort of downward dog split against the wall. It was complicated and uncomfortable at first, but was kind of awesome once you started to feel it all fall into place. Once we finished working on that little move, she offered that we could continue practicing the same downward dog split move, or go into another inversion of some sort (headstand, handstand, shoulder stand, etc…). (Remember how I said they are so good at letting you do whatever is good for you? This is another example of that.)
Prior to beginning this month-long practice of mine, I was obsessed with doing handstands. Considering the fact that I’ve been doing headstands no problemo since I was about 5 years old, I figured handstands should be easy-peasy for me. Well, I discovered quickly that my theory was not true. I’ve never been able to quite nail them. So, when deciding what I wanted to move into from that odd position in class today, I decided to think first about what I was getting out of each of these moves in class.
While we all want to eventually look like cool yogis who can do fancy handstands, I realized that these broken down, uncomfortable, strange-seeming moves we were doing in class (e.g. downward dog split against a wall) are actually what I need in order to get in touch with the muscles and get me familiar with the movements that are necessary to partake in a properly done handstand. I took a look around me (I know, comparison, something you’re really not supposed to do) and noticed there were a lot of other people that seemed to be trying to force handstands, throwing themselves up against the wall, falling haphazardly, not getting anywhere near that desired handstand.
Now, let me please say first that I’m offering this observation up with no judgement. I simply aim to use it as a benchmark for myself, since that exact same idea (rushing into a move that would make me feel super accomplished) was what I had been doing for such a long time rather than celebrating little victories. Reminding myself to be patient is making space for me to learn so much about myself and build up the mental and physical techniques necessary to first, begin to understand what yoga is all about and second, build up an understanding of my body that will give me so much more in return as I become stronger and more confident in the physical manifestation of this truly spiritual practice.
Yoga continues to surprise me with its representation of how life works. Aren't we all a little impatient? We don't want to put the work into the small steps that we don't receive recognition for right away. We don't want to wait for the right time...for when we are most equipped to possibly handle the success of our hard work. But yoga is humbling in that way...it doesn't let you skip the steps. There is a lot to learn in that.
Day 11: Alignment (and news!)
I usually hate this word as alignment a bit of a sore subject for me. See, I’m super knock-kneed, I have lordosis of the spine (meaning my lumbar spine has an excessive arch in it), even my pinky and ring fingers are missing some sort of muscle in them, preventing me from being able to ever fully straighten them. I was informed by a physical therapist that one of my legs is significantly longer than the other. Etc., etc. None of these are excessively troublesome, but they are annoying to me. I’m perpetually out of alignment. I’ve almost bolted out of so many workout classes when the instructor would try to force me to put my feet together. “They don’t GO together, because my knock knees get in the way!”, I would have to argue. Or I’ve had people tell me to stop hyperextending my knees. “They are not hyperextended! They bend inward! That’s how I’m built!” These things are all manageable, yes, but alignment, as a general topic frustrates me. It pops up in yoga quite often, and today it took on a different perspective for me:
Make sure your practice is in alignment with your life.
When that came to me, I was like boom (!!). That is what I’m doing right now and that is why this feels so good. I’m aligning my practice with my current needs and my current lifestyle. Should those needs and lifestyle change, I can and will adapt my practice too. This is the beauty of so many different types of fitness being available to us. Some people (like me right now!) need kindness, and support, and restoration. Some people (like me in a past stage of my life) need someone to kick their butts. This idea of alignment goes so much deeper though (like everything else I’ve been learning on this journey).
I would venture to say that a lot of our stress in life comes from pouring ourselves into work (or a hobby or other activity) that doesn’t align with our values. Cognitive dissonance is the term that comes to mind: when your beliefs don’t match up with your behaviors. What can you do in this situation? You can change your beliefs or you can change your behavior. Which path you choose depends on who you are, what you value, and where you are on your own life journey.
My modeling career has been changing so much over the last year because of going back to school and prioritizing a lot of different things over my career. I’m sure some of this has also had to do with fluctuations in what clients are looking for. Some of it might even have to do with the fact that my agency has exploded in size over the past year (which I am very proud of them for!). But I’m fairly certain a lot of it has to do with my actions (being a full-time model) no longer lining up with my belief systems. Again, let me reiterate, this doesn't mean that modeling is a bad choice...but it does mean that I have changed.
So much of modeling full-time used to totally vibe with my belief systems, and life was great. Then I began to change; things began to shift inside me. I began to have a desire to learn. I ached to be more of a part of the creative process rather than just a vehicle for someone else’s vision. I started to want more control over my own career. I knew nothing of strategy or seeking clients or how the business/financial side of it all worked and I wanted to understand more. So, what could I do?
Yes, I could start to learn about those things and yes, if I wasn’t happy with them, I could attempt to change them. But at this juncture in my life, I am not about to try to fight an entire industry. However, I can see myself playing a role in helping those within the industry learn to cope with and navigate the intense and confusing situations that often arise. I can see myself being a support system for girls and women who might not have anywhere else to turn. I feel a determination building up in myself to play this role and to help those within the industry make it work for them in the best way possible.
My belief system has evolved, it's time for my behavior to catch up. So that’s why today I’m launching a program to do just that. I have sixteen years of experience as a model in this field. Not only that, I bring a high level of empathy to the table as well as experience with therapists and life coaches (both of which have improved my life in immeasurable ways). I am not a licensed therapist, but I am currently going to school to become one. So, if you are reading this and are a model, if you are wanting to become a model, even if you are not a model but maybe have challenges similar to modeling and want to see if I can help you, please reach out. Book an appointment with me. If you're not in New York, we can schedule a call or Skype session. I know I’m being called to do this. I feel it in the deepest parts of my soul and every person I meet tells me (sometimes unprovoked!) that this is what I need to be doing.
So, here I am. Let’s schedule an appointment and talk. I am here to give you (or someone you know) space to consider your options (and find resources should you need someone with more experience than me), to vent your frustrations, to ask questions, to seek advice…. I am here to give you space for absolutely anything.
Day 12: The Last Day (& what got me here)
I’m pretty sad my month-long yoga journey is coming to an end. Today is my last class of this little yoga sprint, but I’ve decided I’m going to continue with the yoga, going three to four days a week and then working in some ab work and maybe some light lifting. I don’t want to get back into the gym gym until my lower back situation is resolved, which it is not yet. Anyways, in class yesterday, which came after a dayin jury duty, I learned a couple of things.
First of all, up until yesterday, my yoga experience had been almost complete and total bliss. Every class left me feeling refreshed and renewed and even during class I felt myself growing and strengthening and learning. It’s been a powerful experience. Yesterday...was not one of those days. It seemed to be one of those days – you know, one of the not so good ones - for me and everyone else in the room. Including the instructor. She kept mixing up instructions and confusing left vs. right. We were all falling all over the place, definitely not on our best game. The instructor even pointed out, “Wow, there’s a lot of heavy breathing in here today guys!” And all of a sudden I thought,
“There is so much truth in showing up for yourself even on your bad days and being patient with yourself when you’re not able to do your best. But there is also so much to be said about showing up for others on their not-so-good days and having patience with them through that.”
Was class perfect? No. But we were all there. And we were all doing it; we were giving it all we had, and we all got something out of being there with each other. And there’s this beautiful feeling in that - feeling like we all actually were showing up for each other, pushing each other through this tough class on a particularly tough day. We were all lifting each other up on what seemed like kind of a crappy day for everyone.
At the end of class, when we were settling into rest, the instructor said something that struck me pretty hard. She asked us to take a few moments to “Acknowledge all the things that had to go right today in order for you to be in this room.” Woah. When you do take that moment, you realize how many things worked together to bring you to this place of peace and restoration: shivasana.
-Your health and ability to get around
-The transportation system 1) existing at all and 2) functioning properly
-For me, jury duty randomly letting us go early, allowing me to sign up for class
-No pressing emergencies that I had to take care of
-The ability to pay for class at all
-Class being located close to my apartment.
On top of all of that, I thought of all of the things that didn’t go wrong.
- I didn’t step strangely on a curb and sprain my ankle
- I didn’t get stuck underground on the subway somewhere
- I didn’t get hit by a cab (not a crazy thought - it's happened to me before!)
- I didn’t get put on a case in jury duty
- I don’t have someone dependent on me that I had to get to
So much went right and so much didn’t go wrong to get me into the room that brings me so much peace. We have a tendency to focus on events that we feel did not pan out in our favor, but wow many times do we consider the things that didn’t go wrong? It’s a humbling thought.
It's hard not to look at where I am in life right now through the same lens. Every single step I've taken has brought me right to this place, and noticing that gives me comfort in the fact that right from this moment, all I can do is put the next best step forward with the knowledge that I have available to me in this exact moment. I don't have to know everything before taking that next step forward. Just like I learned in yoga, I'm going to relish the fact that I have so much to learn! I have so much room to grow! I'm sure there will be days when I want to know it all; there will be days when I'm scared. But as long as I hold onto the lessons I've learned and have a little faith in the path that is meant for me, I know I'll be ok.