I Am…

I Am…

Before you read any further, please pause for just a moment and allow your mind to complete that thought. Make a note of the word that rises to the surface.

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In a recent yoga class, the instructor asked for us to silently completely the sentence, “I am…”

The first word to come to my mind was,

 

I Am Capable

 

Quickly followed by the more critical thought, “Great, so I’m the Toyota Camry of people – dependable, responsible and dull.” And then I remembered that the Camry has been on the most-stolen lists for many years. So apparently there’s at least something desirable about them:)

As the class progressed, people were asked to share their words:

 

I Am Strong

I Am Present

I Am Beautiful

I Am a Child of God

I Am a Mother

I Am Powerful

I Am Sweaty

 

I wondered if those were the first words to come to their minds, or the ones they settled on when they realized that they would be asked to share. I know for me, there are days when my impulse would be to fill in the blank with –

 

tired

lonely

overwhelmed

sad

frustrated

 

I then thought of the power that whatever follows those two little words holds. Saying “I AM strong” is much more potent than uttering “I feel strong.” Stating “I AM sad” is so much more intense and influential than “I feel sad.”

I AM speaks to the soul of you. It says that whatever follows is so important, so vital to who you are, that it cannot be separated from you.

 

Be mindful with the words you choose to follow “I AM…”

 

Are these words kind or critical?

Do they describe a permanent part of your character or do they reflect something that is temporary?

Do they illustrate something that you believe about yourself or are they repeated the words that others have said about you?

Let the best of you, the heart of you, follow “I AM.”

Say it.

Share it.

Believe it.

I AM…

 

 

 

 

 

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Let That Sh*t Go

let that shit go

When I walked into my yoga studio this past Monday evening, I saw a woman with the most amazing shirt. Under a simple image of a figure in a pose, were the words:

Let that shit go.

I laughed. I smiled. And I reflected back on my day, the first day back at school after spring break. A day filled with tired, yet nervous kids, as we all prepared for the upcoming standardized testing season.

I felt my shoulders kissing my ears as they still were still struggling to carry the load of the day. I recognized that my mind hadn’t left the school and was still busy tweaking the lesson for the following day. I sensed a current of anxiety coursing through my body, fearful that I would somehow mess up the testing in some critical and unforgivable way. I realized that I was already anticipating what I needed to accomplish after the yoga practice instead of making preparations for my yoga class.

And then I made a decision and with my next exhale, I followed the advice of her shirt and I let that shit go.

As we go through our days, we collect worries and troubles like a young child collects pebbles on a walk through the park. We stuff our pockets, line our shoes and fill our hands with as much as we can carry. We become overloaded, burdened, with the weight we carry. We curse it, we complain about it. Yet we rarely follow a form of the advice we would give to the child overloaded with collected treasures on a walk –

Let that shit go.

Mistakes

When I was in kindergarten, I got in trouble for talking in class. My consequence for the misdeed was a missed recess. The talking was a simple mistake, a lapse in judgment rather than a lapse in character, yet I internalized the mistake. Instead of merely sitting along the wall with the other kids who made a mistake that day, I had to be consoled by my teacher because I was so hard on myself.

Mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes are opportunities. Making a mistake doesn’t make you any less of a person.

Let that shit go.

 

A Bad Day

Have you ever noticed that once you label a day as “bad,” there seems to be no shortage of ever-compiling evidence to justify that moniker? Every slight, no matter how small, is a sign the world is against you. Every stressor becomes a mountain, every trigger detonates an explosion.

Days aren’t good or bad. They’re simply a measurement of time. And what happens in one fraction of a day doesn’t have to impact the remaining parts.

Let that shit go.

 

Expecting Things to Be Different

I receive questions and pleas for help on a daily basis where the writer inquires how to go about changing their spouse’s or ex’s behaviors. They enumerate the lies and the irresponsibility. They express their frustrations about the lack of accountability and the absence of emotional intelligence. Sometimes, they lament the circumstances rather than the person, begging for a way to alter their current reality.

But reality is as it is. There are circumstances we cannot change and people beyond our influence. To believe otherwise is maddening and self-limiting.

Let that shit go.

 

Continue to read the rest.

 

Why Yoga Is the Answer to Your Post-Divorce Woes

I rarely give the advice that people should do a certain thing. After all, we are all different with unique needs and situations.

But today I’m making an exception.

Because this one thing is really that transformative.

If you give it a chance.

Before I explain all of the reasons why yoga will improve your life, I’m going to first dispel some of the myths I frequently hear:

Yoga is not something you have to be flexible to do. In a purely physical sense, yoga is something you do to become flexible. A good teacher can work with you no matter your body type or limitations.

Yoga is not only physical exercise. Yoga is as much in the mind as in the body. In fact, it’s about connecting mind and body. Yes, you get a tight booty but even more importantly, you’ll get a balanced mind.

Yoga is not about wearing the latest tight yoga pants (although you certainly can) or rocking the latest lululemon mat. It’s about connecting breath and movement and as long as your bits are covered, nobody really cares what you’re wearing.

Yoga is not about being trendy. That is IF you find the right studio. Take the time to find the space and the people that fit your needs. Yoga is about connecting with yourself on the mat and experiencing the energy of the group.

Yoga is not one size fits all. You can find everything from super-intense and fast-pasted hot classes to yin classes that often find people falling asleep.

Yoga is not always spiritual. But it can be. Again, look for what meets your needs. Most classes will have some sort of centering and intention-setting at the beginning and some sort of guided meditation/ reading at the end.

Yoga is not necessarily expensive. You can find it taught in churches, community centers and the YMCA. Many communities even offer free classes. And even though it’s not the same as a live class, there are even free videos on YouTube.

Yoga is not just for women. Or skinny people. Or young people. Or [fill in the blank] people.

Do you have a body? Do you have a mind?

Then yoga is for you:)

With me so far? Cool. Now, here’s why yoga is so incredibly powerful for those going through divorce:

Are you feeling sad?

The movement of yoga releases endorphins that help to improve your mood. I recommend a moderate to fast paced movement class (usually called vinyasa) here because it helps to get you out of your head and the pace challenges the body some. If you’re really struggling, try hot yoga, the sweat hides any tears 🙂

Are you feeling anxious or struggling with PTSD-like symptoms?

This was my primary issue and yoga was my biggest ally. I know it seems crazy, but some of the poses cause the mind to panic (especially if it’s a hot class). In life, we’re used to avoiding discomfort. Yoga teaches you to be with it, soften to it and let your breath calm the mind (literally taming the amygdala). Learn those lessons on the mat and you’re better able to handle triggers in the world beyond the studio. Also, it’s worth looking for a teacher who is trained in trauma yoga – they do some incredible work.

Are you angry?

I’m always amazed as the emotions that arise on the mat. And anger is a common one (and not just when the instructor has you doing too much core work!). Good teachers recognize this and even structure classes to elicit certain feelings. And then they carefully guide you to slow your breathing and find your intention again. And that’s a good skill to have.

Are you lonely?

Much of loneliness comes from being disconnected from yourself. And yoga has a way of bringing you home. Apart from that, when you practice in a group, there is an amazing sense of energy that comes from hearing the breath and sensing the movements around you. If you want to chat before or after class, no problem. And if you just want to be left alone, you’ll probably find that people will respect that as well. And if you’re looking for new friends, search out a studio that does day or longer trips (I may go to Costa Rica with my studio this fall!!!).

 

Are you struggling with comparison?

Is Facebook bringing you down with its endless supply of happy families? Is the news that your ex is getting married hitting you hard? Yoga is a great teacher about the danger of comparing ourselves to others. Just the other day, I nailed crow pose (3 times!!!) for the first time ever. I was stoked. The next day, I started to enter the pose, caught sight of the women next to me doing a harder version, and immediately fell. Yoga is a reminder to keep your mind on your mat and disregard what others think of you and what is going on around you. I love when the teacher says something like, “Don’t worry how xyz pose looks on your neighbor. Your body is unique and the poses will look different for you.” YES!!!

Are you engaging in negative self talk?

Try this little experiment – stand in a one-legged balance pose while you’re focused on your breathing. Now, start engaging in your preferred negative self-banter. Did you fall? That’s the usual response. Yoga teaches you to be loving and accepting of yourself exactly where you are. And when you falter, you often get a physical reminder.

Are you worried about finding your sexual self again?

I just read a study recently that practitioners of yoga have better sex lives. It makes sense. You become more comfortable with your body, more in tune with your physical senses and better able to pay attention to details. And you don’t need a partner to get started.

Are you feeling hopeless?

Yoga does a great job of teaching acceptance in the now and faith in the future. It breaks everything down to the tiniest steps and encourages you to always focus on this breath. And then this one. And before you know it, a full hour has passed. You made it. And you can keep making it!

Are you scared and struggling with fear?

One of the ways I learned to trust again was on the yoga mat. You learn that one leg really is enough to hold you and all that trembling is just noise that can safely ignored. You learn that you can lean back in a twist beyond your self-imposed limits. You learn to let go rather than grasp. And you know what? It’s okay. Strangely enough, the slower classes often trigger this panic (and teach you how to handle it) better than the faster ones. In life, we often keep ourselves busy so that we don’t have to feel. This time to slow down is a gift to yourself.

Are you experiencing a lack of control in your life?

Yoga is more about learning to use the muscles you have than building new ones. When you’re feeling shaky and unstable in a pose, all you need is a simple verbal instruction or well-placed hand to guide you and you activate all those little stabilizing muscles you didn’t know you had. You gain a sense of control (and some soreness the next day!).

Are you having a hard time letting go of expectations?

There is a reason that yoga is always called practice. Because it’s never perfected. Yoga teachers coach you not to worry about where you were last week or even the previous pose. Be where you are in the moment at that moment. You’ll learn that the best practices are those that you approach with an open mind.

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

I folded into a half-moon the other day with my hand to the floor (as I usually do). My balance was off for some reason. Instead of giving up, I reached for the block next me and slid it under my hand before resuming the pose. Yoga is full of modifications and props to use when you become overwhelmed. And learning to ask for and receive help is a valuable life skill at any time.

Are you struggling with confidence?

Yoga is accessible to anyone on their first day. Yet there’s always room to improve. And that feeling of accomplishment and confidence when you finally nail that crow pose? Priceless! (Just don’t look over at your neighbor.)

Are you looking for love again?

Okay, I can’t promise that yoga can do this for you. But it can’t hurt:)

Have you tried yoga? What benefits has it given you? 

Are you thinking about trying it? What questions or concerns do you have?

You know my thoughts – Let’s hear yours!

 

New Interview on Sivana

I have a new interview up at Sivana, a blog focused on yoga and conscious living. Check it out!

And here’s my personal view on yoga 🙂

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4 Budget-Friendly Finds That Help Tame Stress

I’m anxiously watching the weather, hoping my county will call off school for Wednesday. Not because I really care about a day off (especially because we just switch to an online platform for classes), but because we had almost the exact same not-too-threatening forecast two years ago. When I ended up being one of the lucky ones who made it home after “only” a three hour drive capped off with a three mile walk when the roads came to an icy standstill.

Luckily, I’ve stumbled across a few things that have helped me cope with stress this school year. They’re all accessible to small budgets, small spaces and small nibbles of time.

Aromatherapy – Smell Good, Feel Good

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A middle school classroom can develop a certain eau de funk, especially when the kids have PE before my class. And after 14 years of living with it, I decided buy this essential oil diffuser for only $25.99. I did quite a bit of research on the oils. I knew that I wanted lots of variety, which took the more exclusive oils out of my price range. I settled on this set, which has a mix of blends and pure oils.

And I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. In fact, I bought a second diffuser for our bedroom just a couple weeks after the original buy.  I also added a purchase of a Breathe blend from the same company when I felt the first sniffles of the new school year start to move in.

And, I know correlation does not indicate causation, but I have only been sick once this year (and that illness happened when I was out of town and away from the essential oils). I usually play host to at least 3 colds/sinus infections by this point. And even if that’s a happy coincidence, the oils really do help lower my stress (and I even see a difference in my students!).

Coloring Books – Color Me Calm

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Yes, this is a trend. But it’s a trend for a reason. I’ve always used coloring in my classroom to soothe the students when they’re especially stressed (like after a day of standardized testing or when a tragedy strikes close to home). And it works for adults too. When you color, there are no rights or wrongs. Nothing is critical. No decision merits too much thought. It takes you out of your thinky space and into a place of intuition and impulse.

You can find the books almost everywhere now – craft stores, book stores and online. They come in all kinds of designs and most come in at around $10. And trust me, with those intricate designs, that $10 will go a long way!

Do Yoga With Me – Tame the Tension

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I used to subscribe to YogaGlo, which provided amazing quality searchable yoga classes for $18 a month. And then my card expired and with it, my subscription. Instead of updating my card information, I decided to search other options.

And I’m glad I did. DoYogaWithMe is a similar interface as YogaGlo for the low, low price of free! It doesn’t have quite the quality or selection as the other, but it also feels fairly new and seems to be growing. You can choose a class based on style, difficulty and duration. And if you don’t like a class, you don’t have to stick it out or embarrass yourself by walking out early:)  I’d call that low-stress!

Houseplants – Outdoors In

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Kind of like the aromatherapy, I have no idea what took me so long to do this. I had to give up on indoor plants when I got my cat, almost 20 years ago. She’s been gone 10 months now, and I just realized that I could bring back the houseplants.

Finding pots that work for the indoors and are also budget-friendly (cheap) and time-friendly (easy to find) is no easy task. I settled on this line of self-watering (and no leaking!) pots from Fiskars. I found mine at Lowe’s and Home Depot for a lower price than Amazon.

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I’ve kept some this cool blue color and I’ve spray painted others white to serve as herb planters on this plant shelf Brock built for me out of a piece of exterior trim board. It’s too cold to buy the herbs right now, so I’m filling the shelf with blooms from our Camellia bush (yes, in stemless plastic wine glasses because I’m just suave like that!).

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In addition to the plants for the shelf, I scattered them around the house. No pictures yet, because I bought the silliest, smallest plants knowing that they will soon grow into their pots. I love coming in to a home filled with green and growth and life.

So what things do you love that help you relax? Please share!