Cattle Egret by cuatrok77
Last week, I wrote about tuning in to find your inner voice, your inner wisdom in order to shut out all the external noise, dig deep, and really discover what you want to do or how you want to live.
But this brought me to the next logical question and one I bump into all the time. Once you hear that inner voice, and it tells you something - how do you know you can trust it?
Here's the blunt reality - you don't. There is no flashing sign, no neon lights, nothing to say YES you are absolutely right. Crappy, right?
Except... that's an oversimplification.
In this journey to get to know yourself, to learn who you really are inside, there is also a process by which you learn to recognize when that inner voice is truth and when it is, instead, programming, conditioning, old baggage, old friends, lovers or family members echoing in your mind.
For me, this process (which is still ongoing by the way), is not an easy one. I have a lot of complicated relationship and family and emotional baggage that I am still really working my way through. So, inevitably, there are times when I "tune in" only to find that it is not my voice at all - but my Mother's or an ex or an ex best friend who is talking. The tricky part is learning to recognize that when it happens and dig just a little deeper to find your voice underneath even that, no matter how quiet.
And once you hear it, you make a conscious choice to trust it. This is where the leap of faith comes in.
But I'll be straight with you. It's not easy. Especially at first. Trust comes with time. It is far more natural for many of us to self-doubt, to feel insecure, to think that we couldn't possibly know what's best for us. And yet, we all do! We all have an innate wisdom within us. That is my belief, anyway, and even if it does sound a little woo-woo, it's proven to be true in my life.
Mull that over. Because, this week, I'll be playing with self-trust both in my own personal Yoga practice - and with my students.
See you on the mat!
So often, I find myself in a situation where I seem to be completely surrounded and inundated with everyone else’s thoughts, opinions and beliefs. Sometimes, the hardest thing in the world (it seems) to do is to figure out what I think, what I feel, or what I believe.
Whether it’s a decision about my step-sons, my job, my love life or even what I should wear, it just often seems so noisy in the world. There is messaging around you all the time that tells you what you should
wear, how you should
parent, how much money you should
make, how much sex you should
be having, how much stuff you should
own, what type of food you should
eat, how you should
spend your free time, and the list goes on and on and on. .
So, with all that noise, how do you figure out what’s true for you when it’s time to make a decision about what you
want to do?You tune in.
“Oh sure,” I can hear you all say, “just like that?”
Yes. Just like that.
Tuning in, for me, is a two step process. First, I have to shut out all the noise, and then I need to specifically check in with my Self, the center of me, where my own true innate wisdom lies. How I go about that may not be the same way you would go about it. But if you don’t know where to start, maybe try my method and see what you think of it.
- Stand or sit nice and tall.
- Close your eyes.
- Bring your awareness and full attention to the sensation of breathing for a few moments.
- Consciously deepen and slow down your breathing
- Find a single point within your body to focus on. (for me, I find my “center” is the pit of my belly, below my belly button and above my pubic bone or the center of my heart)
- With all of your awareness and focus on this central part of you, think about the decision you want to make and notice how this central, sensitive place within you responds.
- Do you feel your belly or heart or other focal point soften or harden, constrict or expand, grow warm or cool, tense or tighten?
Use this feedback to come to your own truth and then, most importantly, bravely follow it
That is tuning in.
So, tell me below in the comments - did you try this method? What were the results? Or, if you have another method of tuning in, tell me about it!
Photo Credit: Dragon Kite by duff_sf
Recently, I found myself in a position where I needed to make a choice that I knew was the right one for myself but would disappoint somebody else.
You would think these situations, when they arise, would be straightforward and simple. After all, if someone asks something of you that you don't really want to do, you simply say no and move on with your day. But I have to wonder if it actually works that way for anyone in real life? I find it hard to imagine that others may not struggle as much as I do sometimes simply to say "no thank you".
Speaking for myself, I really am a people-pleaser. Since I do have that sort of personality, it's much, much easier for me to say YES than it is for me to say no. But problems arise when I don't pay very careful attention to balancing this, and then end up giving way more of myself than is healthy, and getting way less than is appropriate in return. This leads to sticky situations and uncomfortable relationships that only increase imbalance in my life.
But how do you balance it?
The most important thing to do is be aware that your tendency is to say "yes" much quicker than you say "no". By being aware of this, you can implement strategies that make it easier to honour yourself. For example, when you are faced with a situation that you're not 100% sure of, give yourself some breathing room to really think about it. If after doing that, you feel like you'd rather not do whatever it is you are being asked to do, then give yourself permission to say "No thank you".
I know, easier said than done, right?
At it's root I think a lot of my people-pleaser tendencies, and my discomfort with saying no comes back to my own sense of self-worth - something I'm always working on. But I've learned that when I establish and hold healthy boundaries, not only do I feel better about myself but I find that what I choose to bring inside that boundary is more authentic and meaningful. When I say yes to everything, my "yes" loses it's value. But when I say yes carefully and thoughtfully and say no when it is appropriate, my relationships and all areas of my life are healthier and I am happier.
I bet you're wondering what any of this has to do with Yoga?
It's in Yoga that I've learned why balance is so important. I didn't learn this from standing on one leg in tree pose. I learned this by discovering that if I neglected or avoided an area of my body in my practice, that things would feel "off" and my whole practice would feel like a struggle and not be effective, let alone blissful! Imagine if you were to only practice backbending and never forward bending. Eventually you would find that the front of your body is stretched and open, but weakened, while the back of your body is very strong, but also very tight and restricted.
I also learned that there is balance of give and take in every single pose. No matter what I'm doing on my mat, it is necessary that I balance effort and ease. If I max out effort, my body gets uncomfortable and tightens more instead of opening, strengthening and expanding. If I allow too much ease, the pose is sloppy and I'm likely to miss out on any potential benefit. If, however, I adjust to the right amount of effort, energy, and containment in the pose, I have a stable support for the places in my body that can soften and be easeful in the pose.
One of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras states: Sthira sukham asanam
Sthira, in Sanskrit, translates to something like steady or stable, sukham translates to ease filled or comfortable, and asanam refers to the yoga posture
So from this we can take a translation that yoga postures (asanas) should be steady and stable but also comfortable and full of ease. Too much ease and you lose stability. Too much stability and ease suffers. The balance of these two is where all the wonderful benefits of the pose happen.
As the picture in this post shows, the kite needs a certain amount of resistance to really fly. Without the balance of these energies, it would never lift off the ground. Remember that even in (or maybe especially in) the "no"'s, there is expansion.
This week I challenge you to give yourself permission to balance what you give with what you receive, effort with ease, and containment with expansion - and see what happens.
So often, we go through this world hearing, seeing, and believing the messages other people or entities tell us about ourselves. Sometimes we get so lost in this fog of perception that we can’t see through it to what is real and true for ourselves.
I recently had the great privilege of working with a student who had never done Yoga before and wasn’t sure she could. But, she was willing to try anyway. Well, willing isn’t the right word exactly. She was actually EXCITED to try. That, alone, was pretty amazing if you ask me.
The entire practice we did together was beautiful and inspiring from the very first moment until the very last.
But, it wasn’t that she could do the Yoga that was inspiring and moving – I never had the slightest doubt that she could do it. Everyone can! The Yoga you do may look a little different from the Yoga I do which may look a little different than the Yoga my next door neighbor does – but it’s all Yoga and neither is better or worse or more or less real.
So it was not watching her flow easily into every pose that was so inspiring. What moved me almost to tears was how she gave herself over completely to the experience in a completely open-hearted way.
I’m not saying she wasn’t nervous or afraid or resistant or hesitant. She may have been some or all of those things. But if she was, she did not let any of those feelings get in the way of her having a complete experience.
That was what was so powerful about working with her.
So many times in my life, I have found myself hesitating or avoiding doing something that I know I would enjoy because I wasn’t sure I could. And each time I have pushed past that moment, I’ve been totally amazed by the results. But sometimes my fear or hesitancy or resistance interferes with my ability to reap the most possible benefit from these moments. When I try something the first time in a cautious, careful manner – I'm not quite fully committing to the entire experience. I'm robbing myself of some of the joy and wonder I might find in it.
Once again, in another way, I am taught that with the biggest risks, with the most vulnerability, with the greatest openness, we receive the greatest gifts, the biggest ah ha moments, the most sensational wows. These are the moments we can be truly amazed by ourselves.
That’s what’s available to you, if you can look past the fear and hesitancy, the self-judgment and doubt!
Here’s your challenge: Take some time this week, and find a way that you can do this… that you can open up more fully to a new experience. Give yourself the gift of being totally amazed by yourself. Don't forget to report back in the comments about what you did to totally wow yourself!
One of the things that the journey towards Body Acceptance has taught me is that "later" is not my life. My life is now. My life is is a series of precious moments not meant to be wasted.
I used to make myself all kind of "later" promises, only instead of "later", I used "when I am thinner", or "when I lose another ten pounds", or "when I am more confident", or "when I can wear a size 14 or lower"... and the list goes on and on and on, forever.
Are you sensing a theme here?
I think that the reason so many of us in bigger bodies or non-conformative bodies do this to ourselves is because everywhere we look the people doing the things we want to do seem to be thinner, more confident, happier, etc. And we tell ourselves we need to get to that place before we can do them too.
But I'm about to blow your mind here: that isn't the truth. It's just that media is really fucked up. Advertising and media is completely skewed to one particular body type and so that's what we SEE in television ads, magazines, billboards, and flyers. In real life, people of all shapes and sizes do awesome things EVERY day. So why can't we?
When I started realizing that I was putting off so many things I wanted to do or try because of my size, I also realized how much of life I'd been denying myself for so long. And why? Because I thought I would enjoy the activity more when I was thinner? Probably not. In my case, once I dug deep I discovered that it was because I thought I didn't deserve it until I was thinner. And that's really the kicker, isn't it? It often comes back to our sense of self-worth. That's when it hit me that my self-image needed some serious work. And it is work, don't get me wrong. It still is work, almost every single day. I haven't reached some sort of body-image enlightenment where confidence comes super easy. It's gotten easier. But some days, it's still really rough. And that's okay. It's all part of the process.
Every time I catch myself saying that I'll do something "later", I try to stop that line of thinking right in its tracks. Then I remind myself that if I had told myself that I would become a fat Yoga teacher "later", I probably never would have done it. And becoming a Yoga teacher is, easily, the best decision I have ever made. I had never dreamed I could be so happy and so passionate, doing a job I love right down to my tippy toes. And yet, here I am doing just that. Here's the cool part: Once you start living life for right now, you realize how awesome it is and it gets easier to get brave about doing things right now!
The bottom line is that you deserve happiness right now. You deserve joy and play and love and desire and wonder right now. You deserve to live your life fully in this moment. And this moment. And this one.
So I have a challenge for you: Today I want you to eliminate at least ONE "later" from your list and do it RIGHT AWAY. Whether it is the purchase of a new pair of jeans you've been putting off until you're a certain size, or signing up for a new activity, a new tattoo, a new hairdo, or saying hello to that person you've been crushing on. Promise yourself, today, that you'll pick ONE thing (or more) from your "later" list and do it right now. And don't forget to tell me in the comments what you're committing to do to live your life NOW!
And hey, you know, if Yoga is on your "later" list, babe - I got you. I'll see you on the mat!
My life has been busy and tumultuous lately in some really wonderful and amazing ways. But, as I've mentioned before, even good things can be terrifying!
What I really find is that the more that I step into new territory in my life, and as a teacher, the more wondrous everything becomes. Of course, with the wonder comes growth, and fear.
It's easy to talk about being brave or about being excited for new things that you know will challenge you. But as those things draw nearer, the instinct is still to pull back, to withdraw, to hide, to avoid, to procrastinate, and to do whatever it takes to get back in the comfort zone where you know exactly what will happen next. At least, that's the case for me. And I know that when I find myself in that situation, those are the precise moments when it is most critical for me to hold my ground, to step forward instead of retreat.
I read somewhere that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the actions one takes even though one is afraid. This is where the magic happens, if you ask me. I know I say that a lot - about the magic happening where things get tough, but it's so true!
So while I've been talking about the steps I'm taking to pursue my dream, my passion for Yoga - and while I've had lots of honest things to say about how excited I am for this new future I am crafting, I am also shaking in my boots.
It's been one thing to plan, to talk, to dream, to take action. Yet another as deadlines and new beginnings loom nearer and nearer. I said to my wife, recently, that it feels as though I've been talking and planning this big leap and so I've gotten used to that part. But now that I'm getting closer to it, I feel like the parachute is strapped on and I'm in the plane as we are gaining altitude and, well, there's a big difference between planning and being THIS close to jumping.
I've made a decision to move away from the familiar and toward the unfamiliar. The groundwork has been laid. Now, all that's left is to reach altitude, and jump.
Before I get there, I know that I will have made peace with my fear. No one is going to have to push me out. I'll be stepping into the unknown of my own will - and the second I do, I know that my Self will be forever changed.
At 10,000 and climbing...
Last week, I found that my personal energy was running very low. I was tired, feeling run-down, grumpy, and just generally a bit out of whack.
Despite not feeling well, though, I found that I kept trying to hold myself to my obligatory “should’s”.
I should… work harder on my upper body strengthening poses in my Yoga practice
I should… socialize at a higher energy level than I am.
I should… clean and organize the house
I should… stay on top of all my ongoing projects
And the more I held myself to the “should” things, the worse I felt physically and emotionally. I was drained and exhausted but I kept trying to fight my way through it.
And then I remembered that I COULD do something different.
I could… practice Yoga restoratively in a way that would replenish my depleted energy
I could… say no to social obligations and instead take some time to be by myself
I could… relax a little bit about the house and trust I could catch up more efficiently after a break
I could… work on my projects when I want to and have the energy but not when I don’t
I could… accept my energy level and flow with it instead of fighting against it.
And so I made a conscious decision to follow my could's instead of my should's. I chose self-care.
I practiced gently. I took the quiet time for myself that I needed and said no to extra social activities. I let go of some of my stringent expectations of what needed to happen at home. I worked on projects only as much as I felt I had the energy for and therefore the work I did do was quality work, and I trusted that my body knew what it needed and that the world wouldn’t come to a screeching halt if I gave it what it wanted.
In other words, I gave myself permission.
One of the biggest barriers to taking care of ourselves is fear: Fear that if we choose self-care, or self-nurturing that we will somehow end up letting other people – or ourselves – down. Often we think things will fall apart or that if we let go of control everything will be a huge mess.
But. When you stay mindful of yourself and what you need, what often happens is that you function BETTER overall than if you ignore your needs.
That is the magic of self-care. Had I continued to follow my shoulds, I would have followed them right into feeling extraordinarily depleted and possibly putting myself in a position to be unable to be really present for my students when it came time to teach. Instead, I took a step back, gave myself the gift of allowing some space and breathing room into my day for rest and reflection, and ended up feeling like I was able to be fully present and effective when it was time to teach.
Sometimes, giving yourself permission to take care of yourself, to NOT check off every item on your to-do list, is the most powerful thing you can do.
Try it! And let me know how it worked out for you in the comments.
"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." ~Joseph Campbell
You know… being yourself can feel like the hardest thing ever!
Not that I’m *cough* speaking from personal experience or anything. *cough*
For real, though. I know we’ve probably all been there, but I’ve really been noticing this as I’ve stepped more and more fully into the role of a Teacher.
And yet ome of the things I enjoy most about teaching Yoga are so enjoyable precisely because of who I am! After all, it is because I have such passion for the transformative power of Yoga when it comes to body image and self-acceptance and self-esteem that I love teaching it so much. It is because I have lived through so many years of pretty much hating my own body that I can talk about body-love from a truly authentic place. And it is my playful little kid trapped in a grown-up’s body personality that lets me have fun and bring innocence and simplicity to this practice that sometimes takes itself too seriously.
But I still deal with all the same fears that most of us face when we put ourselves out there in the world, particularly when we're putting ourselves out there exactly as ourselves.
What if some people don’t like me or my style of teaching?
What if they don’t take me seriously as a fat yoga teacher?
What if, even after joining a class of like-minded and like-bodied people, some people still don’t think Yoga is for them? Does that mean I've failed?
And then there’s the age-old advice that we’ve all heard a million times: “You can’t please everyone.”
Okay, so it’s true. I can’t please everyone. I mean, logically, I really do understand that. But what I teach really IS who I am. So it’s not always easy to remember that when people don’t dig it, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me OR what I teach. The truth is, that I am who I am and there will be those that enjoy and appreciate and get something out of what I have to offer and there will be those that don’t. However, for me, it takes conscious effort to stay courageous about remaining true to myself and my message when faced with naysayers.
And then something, like this quote, brings it into sharp, crystal-clear, focus. Not only is it essential to my teaching to be authentically me, but it is my absolute privilege as a human being on this planet to be myself.
When I think about it like that, suddenly it doesn’t feel so hard to stay true to my authentic self and my perspective and this path. In fact, it feels like the greatest gift ever.
So to those that will resonate with what I bring to the table as a Teacher, I commit to you that we will walk this path together and in the process, find the love and gratitude and joy in each moment of it - even when it challenges us.
Let's do it!
"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
So you might have noticed that Body Positivity Yoga is now The Fat Yogini. Let me tell you why...
Some days, it seems like just yesterday that I was practicing Yoga in my jammies in the early hours of the morning to a well-used VHS tape - in secret.
That was actually a very long time ago; around twelve or thirteen years ago, though I am fairly sure that I've lost count by now. What I do know is that I was absolutely terrified to tell anyone I was practicing Yoga. I was sure that whomever I told would explode in guffaws of laughter at the idea of a short fat girl like me in Downward Facing Dog or Tree Pose.
But still, eventually I grew braver and knew that I wanted to talk about my experiences. And so I considered blogging. It was then that I came up with the name "Fat Yogini". I started blogging privately and called it "Diary of a Fat Yogini", sure that I would share it with someone, someday. Eventually, I did - but only with my closest friends.
But I continued to fondly think of myself as the Fat Yogini. It was a playful moniker that made me feel like I was reclaiming something that I once thought of as negative as a beautiful thing not because of itself necessarily but because it was a part of me. To my delight, that sense of self-appreciation continued to grow. And now, sometimes, I hardly recognize myself! And yet I see myself more clearly now than I ever did before.
And that is what makes this path to Body Acceptance, to Body Positivity so amazing, and so transformational. But it isn't without fear. It isn't without faltering. And I have days that are hard, too.
I'll be honest. When I began my path to become a Yoga teacher, I thought I was as confident as I could possibly be. I loved myself and had come as far as I could on this body-loving journey. Little did I know how much more growing I would do. That I still need to do. Reality check.
So, the process of naming my business has really been a sort of Evolution. It began with an idea. A dream. I wanted to share my story and bring this journey of a beautiful practice and a surprisingly aligned path to body acceptance together into a cohesive whole that people could relate to. I had a crystal clear vision of my dream but no idea what to call it so that other people would see it too. So I tried on one name and then another and finally settled with Body Positivity Yoga.
But then a friend recently asked me why I'd never claimed the name, The Fat Yogini, for who I am as a Teacher. His question caught me off guard, but once I could look past my fear of change and, to some degree - vulnerability, it also really hit home. I had been The Fat Yogini for many years. I just wasn't sure I "should" call my business that.
In the process of teaching, I find that I always have so much more to learn. I learn from my students. I learn from other teachers. But one of the most impactful things I've learned so far, is that the best thing I can do as a Teacher is to be authentically me, even when that is a bit scary. The time for "shoulds" is over. Teaching Yoga is about authenticity and vulnerability and recognizing that life, Yoga, and body acceptance are each a process - a practice, maybe even an evolution.
While Body Positivity Yoga is the Yoga that I practice and that I teach, it is not the only thing that makes me who I am. I have a story. We all do. My story is about The Fat Yogini. And THAT is what I am so passionate about sharing with all of you.
And so I have come back to where it all began. Only this time, there is no fear - only a feeling of elation and empowerment.
Lisa, The Fat Yogini
Despite a few glitches in the way my morning went
, I have to say that the Platform For Plus Size event went very well!
The venue, downtown Vancouver's own Vancity Theatre, was really lovely. It was intimate and very well laid out. It gave the symposium participants the opportunity to actually connect with one another, which can be hard to do at a large scale event.
As for the speakers, my favourites were Christina Bianchini, Louise Green, and of course Jennifer Livingston. These women shared their own journeys from a place of personal experience and the message from them all was body-positive and inspiring. To quote Louise Green, "Live Life Now"
. And to quote Jennifer Livingston, "You are more than a number on a scale."
I have to say, after Jennifer's keynote, I am pretty sure there was not a dry eye in the house. She spoke about her journey to body-acceptance from a place that was both vulnerable and raw. I'm sure that everyone in the room could relate to her story. So many of us had people who told us that we'd "be so much prettier if you were thinner" . So many of us know what it's like to be bullied because of our size, weight, or appearance.
It is sad and frightening how relatable this story is. And it is why I am so fired up... so passionate about sharing this body-loving journey with other people.
While working my Body Positivity Yoga table, I had some really great conversations and connected with some great people, including other local business owners who are working toward shared body positive goals.
And I'm super excited
about all the new opportunities that this experience will bring.
And here's where I say that I hate to leave you all in suspense - but there are some very exciting announcements coming soon
. Make sure you're subscribed to my newsletter
and liking me on Facebook
so that you can be among the first to know!