Being the Change I Wanted to See (Um- With a Really Big Push)

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When you are a know-it-all you have all the answers. It’s annoying, not so much because we think they have all of the answers, but because a lot the time we are right. But when we are wrong, we are really wrong.

 

I mean really wrong.

 

Four years ago I left the comfort of a career and company that I knew inside and out to do something unknown. My boss at the time said that he thought it was brave and making right move. The economy was just started to head south, but no matter what he said, he knew I’d end up okay. “Some people Oneika, are always afraid. But you never are. It’s was makes you good, and a pain in the ass.” So I left. I was off to dig in and flourish in a career that centered around operations and leadership. I felt like the world was mine.

 

Things weren’t what I expected. At first I thought it was because I left the comfort of a company that I knew so well. But the reality was that I was making some great moves professionally. Without a history I was free to really do things the way I wanted, and it worked. But there was a downside. I started to lose the taste for what once pushed me forward.

 

Office politics was no longer a game that gave me any satisfaction. My teams were great- I’ve been fortunate to work with people who taught me something every single day. Being involved with someone’s development is immensely rewarding.  I loved my salary but I was working so much I didn’t feel like I could spend it. It wasn’t a rush to open a inbox and see 350 emails or have a 6am conference call. I began to realize that I was jamming myself into an old vision of what I thought I should be.  I felt like I was working from ‘can’t see to can’t see’. I was late to every family function (if I showed up at all). I was more unhappy with my life than I shared. It spilled over into my love life. Looking back I was attracted to people who were a distraction from my life because I wasn’t satisfied. Not a good plan.

 

 

The problem was that I was good at what I did, so I was successfully making my personal life unsuccessful. I did complain and wonder if there was something else that I could do. I began to question if I was able to do something else. And if I all I did was work would I ever have a meaningful personal life. I wanted out. Be careful what you wish for they say. Sometimes decisions get made for you. Being a control freak I wanted to make change on my terms.

 

Yeah right, real change comes H.A.M.

 

No job, no relationship. I had the clean slate I needed but did it have to hit so hard? I think like a phoenix I’m rising and building something out of nothing but make no mistake at first I was in the fetal position.

 

But then came yoga. It’s more than a way to stay healthy, but it’s now what I want to do. I believe in the transformative nature so much that I want it to be the way that I give back. I started Yoga Teacher Training last week. Needless to say I’m beyond thrilled. I’m reading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The first line loosely translates to ‘And now Yoga’, meaning that when you start reading the student is reading in the present moment to learn yoga.

 

Wow.

 

My life looks different.  It’s not what I wanted 5 years ago, but today I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m nervous about launching this business and figuring out this next phase of my life. But for the first time both sides of me are connected. Methinks it bodes well for what’s ahead. I’m grateful for the last chapter of my life, I learned so much that I can bring to whatever is next. And as I get ready for my next class I’m smiling in the now.

 

Namaste y’all

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Ways That Yoga Made Me Love Me

Oneika

I have a confession.

I like trashy TV. And by trashy I mean those shows where the metaphors are heavy-handed and plot points trite. What’s worse is that I avoid them when they air and wait for seasons pile up. That way I can gobble episode after episode on those nights I can’t sleep. Battling insomnia is no bueno. Yoga has helped some, but sometimes the Sandman is elusive and I’m awake all night. Though a book nerd since birth, on sleepless nights I like TV. It’s cuts the guilt because it’s medicinal, ya know?

I mention this because occasionally, I glean a token of wisdom from one of my guilty pleasures (don’t judge me you know there’s a Grey’s Anatomy or reality train wreck in your TV closet). While it’s a known fact that I am highly suggestible, I’m also not the dullest pencil in the drawer. There’s merit to some of these TV lessons. You remember after school specials…

So, on one episode of Grey’s (yeah, that’s what the cool kids do, shorten the title) a character realizes she’s really, really gay after sleeping with her girlfriend. She exclaims that the revelation is like wearing glasses for the first time (Heavy-handed metaphor ahead…) Said character goes on to explain about how the world is fuzzy and you don’t think any thing of it, until she got glasses (dramatic pause).

WHAMMO! Her whole world changd. This resonated with me, as I do wear glasses and remember that moment of clarity clearly.

Bathroom-mirror-sign

The next morning in the shower I thought about yoga and how it brought my life into focus.

Years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to admit this to anyone but yoga has allowed me to accept what’s not perfect (or at least my perception of what perfect looked like). I think that when we talk about perfection we’re really talking about judgement. We judge what we do or what others do against standards real and imaginary. My practice has allowed me to bend more physically and emotionally. I now see what I’m really seeing, if that’s not to trippy to think about.

My yoga glasses did three things:

1. Regular practice provides clarity so I can see what’s really important and what may be ‘old noise’. Yoga helps me ‘hear’ an old record playing some negative pattern and has given me the ability to stop it.

2. Yoga helps me deal with what is, not what was or what is going to be.

3. Yoga woke up the self-acceptance I had as a kid. I ‘re-learned’ how to play and have fun my body without judgement or reprisal. One of my favorite yoga posts comes from author Joshilyn Jackson, ‘An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I saw at Hot Yoga in New York City’. Her candor was so refreshing. Her acceptance of herself was like speaking up.

I think that teaching yoga is my way of speaking up. It’s my way of saying that no matter how young or old you are, it’s never too late to love what you see.

Sometimes when I’m on my mat I dedicate my practice:

For the awkward girl who feels ugly.

For the recently divorced woman who is unsure of how to start over.

For the retired woman who pursues her childhood dream.

For every woman who has the courage to say I’m okay and for the ones who don’t, it’s okay I love you.

This is yoga. And I love what it has given me. I hope I’m able to give as much back.

Namaste y’all.

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Yoga Blues – When Your Practice is Just ‘Meh’

rainy

It’s been grey, damp and cold the past few days. Makes me wanna spend time alone. The weather is even depressed, bitter cold is too much effort so instead we get a blasé shrug of dampness that’s not freezing and not warm. Tuesday just wasn’t productive, I spun my wheels all day and then found myself rushing to class (how does that happen?). With teacher training happening right after, I wasn’t really feelin’ it.

Not the right attitude but no one said that this yoga life was going to be peachy every day.

hero-pose-

To add insult to injury we started class in virasana (seated hero’s pose). Bitchy laughter started to rise from deep inside, but I stopped it from coming out.  I hate this pose. I know, it seems silly to say that I hate a pose, but I do. Virasana brings up all sorts of crap whenever I do it. My IT bands are tight but not so tight that I can’t do the pose, it simply makes me uncomfortable.

Very uncomfortable.

In addition, there was a flourescent light on which is usually turned off during practice. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Thankfully, K picked up on my pyschic vibes that I was having a mild freak out and turned off the lights.

Why was I being such a baby? Why was my monkey mind getting the best of me? The flip side of deepening a yoga practice is that you see everything more clearly, the good and the bad. I need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And guess what? Sometimes, it’s just a bad day. Like they say, sometimes the only way over is through.

Through I went, grudgingly. My practice was meh. Everything felt creaky and cranky. We had a fantastic lecturer but I had to force myself to stay in the moment.

But I didn’t run from it, I just grabbed myself by the ears and pulled myself back to now. In the past I would have found a way to distract myself from the blech of it all. I reflected on this as I took a shower. With my PJs on and a cup of tea in my hand, I had to admit that all in all, because I stayed in the now- it was a damn good day.

Oneika – 1   Bad day – 0

This is yoga. And I absolutely friggin’ love it- even when I’m grumpy.

Namaste.

Adventures in Teacher Training – Practice Class (It’s Never as Good as the First Time)

yoga studio

I smile a lot these days. Even when I’m feeling anxious a grin manages to envelop me.

Why, you wonder?

I taught my first 30 minute yoga class. Yoga teacher training has been an amazing experience whether I’m reading the Yoga Sutras or breaking down a pose. I’m learning things about myself. At 40, this seems like quite a feat. We’re always growing and changing blah, blah and I believe that as much as the next person.

Seriously, I believe the platitudes I spout and not in some ironic way. Yet, since I started teacher training I feel like I’ve started to become who I’m supposed to be. I hope this revelation never gets old.

So back to my class- here’s how it went down:

False start. I relied too much on my music. With my phone accidentally on shuffle I skipped a section. I inadvertently attached poses to songs rather than having the songs keep pace for class. I guess that’s the danger of music. No worries, because I started again. What I needed to remember was that it may have been the first time that I was teaching a yoga class it wasn’t my first yoga class or my first time teaching a group of people.

It was better than I could have imagined! I relaxed and started to be me. When the class started to move through the flow I stopped thinking. Moving from pose to pose felt good. I got some technical corrections and some solid feedback.

I also had a chance to practice with my teacher one-on-one. It was spur of the moment. Having structure and the ability to go with the flow are equally important. As I learn and add postures to my yoga ‘repertoire’, I’ll be able to color outside of the lines a bit more. I think that’s more of a function of how I learn more than yoga itself. And oddly enough, taking my teacher through a practice one-on-one wasn’t nearly as intense as I thought.

My biggest takeaway from both experiences is that if you are passionate and study your students will feel that. When you relax and let go the flow comes.

I almost wish that I could go back in time to appreciate what I was doing a bit more, but c’est la vie. There will be plenty of other firsts.

yoga
yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Practice Class or Leaning into Fear

yoga-class

I’m teaching a 30 minute class in a few days to my teacher and fellow trainees. Can you hear my heart beating a million miles per minute? It’s not fear but more of a fear and excitement cocktail (Shaken). The only way to do it is to do it. I don’t have a fear of public speaking (people who know me are snorting in agreement). And I love yogaAnd I know that this is what I want to do. There’s a strange place that I inhabit right before that leap into the right thing. I hesitate, both enjoying the moment and slightly intimidated by the knowledge that you can’t unring the bell.

I’ve been practicing in my head for days now and while the dog doesn’t make a great student, I’m pretty sure Dakota is ready to do sun salutations if it means I’ll be quiet. 30 minutes goes by more quickly than you would think when you are teaching. A warm-up, a few vinyasas, belly-downs, then savasana and boom- it’s over.  I’m over thinking the process. Obsessively, I’m combing through my music library trying to find songs that match with my personality, the poses and the studio. Weird I know, but as a former bookseller I used to dance with glee when booksellers set up tables with great subjects and covers with colors that complimented each other, so it’s clear I have a few issues.

I like to teach. I always have. Communicating a thought and exchanging ideas is my favorite way to pass the time. Guiding students through a yoga practice is just that so I should chill. I think I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself, but if I fall on my face I’ll be faced with deciding if teaching yoga is a bad idea. Intelligently, I know this isn’t a likely outcome. One of my teachers talks a lot about ‘leaning into fear’.

It’s like I’m at the top of the roller coaster and that click, click sound slows down just before you drop. In fact, even as I write this I’m nodding because this comparison is exactly what I’m feeling as I prep for my practice class, I’m excited and terrified. Most of all- I’m ready, because I know I’m for an amazing ride.

wooden-rollercoaster

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Namaste y’all!

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Pain Shouldn’t Be Your Friend

chat

Years ago my right shoulder used to pop out of its socket. It wasn’t pretty and hurt like hell. Like Hell.

Like Hell.

Because I didn’t rehab it properly, dislocation happened more frequently and recovery wasn’t ever complete. Even worse, I got used to both the pain and the instability of a shaky shoulder. But I kept working out, kept pushing myself.  I didn’t want to change my routine or stop my busy life to deal with it.

Not cool. (Oh boy, it also says tons about my mindset at the time. Who in her right mind walks around knowing that at any moment she can be writhing on the floor, and not in a good way?)

On most days my right shoulder would throb. I subconsciously adjusted movements to avoid actions that would result in dislocation. It also had this way of popping out in inopportune moments, the most embarrassing of which took place at the gym as I walked to the shower (just wearing one of those ridiculously small sandpaper towels).

My foot slipped. The slip didn’t cause a fall, but my shoulder popping out and dropped my now naked butt (the handkerchief, I mean towel, fell off as I fell down) to the tile in what can only be described as the most horrible pain I’ve encountered. I could entertain you with the complimentary comments from the big EMS dudes, (which actually made me laugh, resulting in more shooting pain). I won’t, because being carried out wrapped in a sheet, in the middle of December to an ambulance is really, really hilarious and humiliating. Let’s not even talk about having to describe the the ER doc how I managed to show up without clothes- because to try and put anything on would have meant me screaming and injuring myself further. My dad came to pick me up- he had to bring clothes. Ugh.

I got surgery a week later.

Did my rehab like a good girl.

Years of trauma though, had reprogrammed my body and I avoided major shoulder activity during workouts. Another bad idea. Babying myself wasn’t smart. Sharp pain and constant injury shouldn’t be your friend in any workout but especially yoga. But you must challenge the muscle (with supervision if necessary) in order to gain strength.

Reflecting, I see that it was my ego working overtime.

If you’re not careful, Ego will have you living a life in pain.

Thankfully, yoga found me.

Both breath work and my asana practice have opened up my back and shoulders. Being kind to myself has allowed for emotional and physical healing. Weight bearing poses have improved strength. I’ve finally learned the difference between pushing limits and pain.

And still with all of these tools I still managed to push a little too hard when learning the full expression of Chaturanga Dadanasana. I blame excitement and not ego. Chaturanga is a fun thing to do once you get the hang of it. While I may have been strong enough to support myself, I hadn’t consistently been engaging the muscles around my rotator cuff. A few days ago I woke up with a scary familiar throb in my left shoulder.

Uh-oh.

The good news is that I am not the woman I was 15 years ago. I immediately tended to it. I’m looking for a great shoulder doc to check it out. During practice, the plan is to focus on precise alignment. And le sigh, modifications until I’m feeling up to snuff.

I’ve learned to honor where I am at any given moment. Yoga isn’t just the asanas, it’s what happens when I’m home relaxing or surrounded by chaos. By being in the present and acting accordingly, I make the best decisions. As a yoga teacher I owe my students that. We are all worth such reverence.

You can’t guide others through practice if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

This is yoga. And I love it. My shoulders do too.

Namaste y’all!

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Backbends

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backbend

Any movement/action that takes you out of your comfort zone has the ability to bring hidden emotions to the surface. It’s this way with yoga, particularly with poses that expose the chest and heart chakra. Fear, joy, happiness and anxiety can surge out of nowhere. It’s something that yoga teachers are trained to spot. Yoga teachers aren’t therapists, but it’s important to know how poses can affect you and your students.

There was lots of discussion about root causes of poses not being done properly and how a correction can be life changing and even overwhelming. No sooner did we have this talk that I had a correction done on my backbend. I’d been clenching my butt and lower back to keep myself supported. My feet were also rolling in and my chest wasn’t as open as it should be. All of this time I thought because I was up in wheel I was all set (One of the reasons that yoga teaching training is life changing- pose deconstruction).

backbendillustration

Fear is the mean girl of all emotions. She’s such a bitch. A frenemy. I’ve been trying to dump her for years. And just when I think I’ve settled into my relationship with Courage, there she is wagging her bitchy tongue. I’ve been saying for months that I need to start doing videos. Peers have said that it’s a great way to connect with people and that because of my life experience I might have something valuable to say. But I’ve been afraid to do it. Afraid that I’ll look silly, afraid I’ll look bad, afraid of ‘enter irrational fear here’. Hiding from this was pretty easy. I could focus on my blogs, throw myself into yoga teacher training and float along, that is until my backbend workshop. After the adjustment in my wheel pose, an icky feeling sat on my chest. Not pain. But fear.

I knew instantly that it was related to the video project. What I also know about myself is that it’s easy to be fearless when I know I’ll be successful. My feet are cold, frozen even when it comes to this next step. Maybe it’s because I’m really putting myself out there. It’s easy to write posts and speak to people in person, because that’s what I do. Holding that fear inside can really f*ck with your practice. And the craziest part is that you don’t even know it. Forgive my frankness, but I gotta call it like I see it.

Well, the pose feels better but now I have that video issue looming overhead. At least it’s not stuck in my hips, butt, back or heart anymore. Now to do something about it. I promised myself that I would do a video a few days ago and I haven’t. Fortunately, humiliation is still quite the motivator for me. It’s out there, I’ve told you. Can’t very well shy away from the challenge. Leaning into the fear. My pulse is quickening at the very idea. I know, I know- more reason than ever to sit in front of that camera and go for it.

This is yoga. And sometimes it’s icky. And it’s sometimes scary. But I love it.

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training- One Half-Inch Can Change Everything (Props Workshop)

oneikasyogalife, black women yoga, yoga, yoga props
photo credit livingitupall.com

Props workshop. Whoop!

I’d been looking forward to it for a few weeks. We were going to learn about how to use props with students. Lots of people are afraid to use yoga blocks or blankets to help with a pose. Assistance means weakness, and to so many yoga means being strong. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Props can be used for the inflexible, but they can also help any yogi feel a different sensation or hold a pose for a sustained period. The workshop was also taught by one of my favorite teachers so I was extra stoked (yeah, I’m tryin’ to bring ‘stoked’ back).

I was one of those people. Props were for punks. I’ve since learned the err of my ways. Doing chatarunga on blocks is no freaking joke. It’s only a few inches more but it makes all of the difference in the world when you are trying to push up. (Chatarunga and I also have a spotted past, but that’s a story for another day.) Let’s get back to the few inches.

My real transformations are measured in inches and not feet. Change is easy when it’s huge or thrust upon you. Marriage, job change, break-up and moving are big deal things that force us to deal with monumental shifts. But it’s the little changes, the incremental steps that take real commitment. Taking yourself to the gym each day, or promising to show up and be better person at work. Drinking 8 glasses of water every day. Or being better partner/parent by being more patient.  It’s easy to fall off the wagon with the little things. But in the end, the tiny changes provide our most eye opening experiences.

Throughout my life I realize that big deal moments were really a series of little ones. Some changes happened by accident, others took work. I wanted to be happy end the end of each day. Each morning I began to take stock of where I was and what I needed to do to be happy in the moment. This led to a larger life change with yoga.  And then teacher training and a new career.

You get my drift, pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down etc…

Yoga raja kapotasana pigeon pose

Back to the workshop: 

While in pigeon pose I told D that I wasn’t feeling a stretch in front of my hips. Reluctantly, I asked for an adjustment, because it’s a pose that feels good, relaxing even.  D came behind me and reposititioned my hips one half-inch.

Oh. My. God.

‘This is why people struggle in this pose.’ I grumbled to myself.

Pigeon pose now sucks. The upside, it won’t forever. The challenge? Making sure I put my hips in that position every time I’m there. I know I will. If all of the little changes have brought me to a place where I’m happier than I’ve ever been before yoga, I can’t imagine that joy I’ll find now that yoga is in my life.

This is yoga. One half-inch at a time and I love it.

Namaste y’all.

Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimottanasana

lotusyogaillustration

( originally published on a&o discover inspiration)

Yoga keeps me flexible.

Come with me to Friday. I want to be the ghost of yoga past. I entered class with expectations. This is always (yes always) a bad idea. I thought that because I was in one place, my class that day would prove out my current situation.

Life is nothing like an equation.

Standing separate leg stretching pose is one that I had nailed in my first bikram class. My head easily touched the mat. But over the next few weeks, it became harder. It seemed that as I progressed in one area I regressed in another.

Until I remained flexible.

I started breathing. Not in the way that keeps us from dropping dead. I extended my length of an exhale. I started taking deep cleansing breaths before even getting out of bed in the morning. In class teachers tell you to inhale at certain points and exhale at others so you can deepen more into a pose. God damn if this doesn’t work.

Friday. Again.

My head touched my mat. I also moved through the entire series with a grace that I can assure you doesn’t come easily. On top of it- my hot vinyasa class Saturday morning was truly exhilarating! I was on my mat, but I’m starting to get what a moving meditation means. Aw sookie, sookie now.

Each day that I practice I find that there is an opening that gets bigger. Sometimes it’s in my hamstrings. Sometimes it’s in my heart. Starting a new career and realizing what truly can make me happy have been a tumultuous but enlightening journey indeed. Yoga has been a way for me to let go of some of those worries and embrace new ones. While trying to live in the moment there’s a time when you do nothing but live in the past.

Suddenly your mind catches up with your spirit. Or your spirit catches up with your mind. Or your mind catches up with your spirit.

You get it.

And apparently so do I. Today anyway. And really today is all that matters.

Namaste y’all.