Thursday, July 29, 2010

branching out

i know i share a lot about yoga and anxiety, but i'd like to open up the forum a little and chat about yoga in general every now and then.  and i'd also like to touch on how yoga is impacting me lately... and hearing how yoga's impacting you as well!

on a very happy, positive note i am being included in an interview series on people with holistic careers.  i'll be working on that interview and will keep you posted on the details of when it goes up.  i'll also be sharing a guest blog on... you guessed it! anxiety and yoga. it'll be on an amazing blog - which of course i'll link to when it goes up.  its a blog that i adore and am excited to introduce you guys to it!

also, remember how i said i get anxious in the AMs? well, its still kind of happening.  so rather than run in the other direction and bail on all early AM obligations and classes, i'm giving myself more of a challenge.  there's a 7am ashtanga yoga class on sundays at one of my gyms and i'm planning on attending.  an ass kicking, sweat-inducing yoga class first thing in the morning? if that doesn't chase the nerves away, i don't know what will! 

anyway, i hope your thursday is treating you well.  i'm off to do the yoga thang again - 2 classes - then home to feast on indian food  with the hubby and catch the latest Futurama. love, love, love that show. oh, and there may or may not be a glass of vino awaiting me as well.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the persuit of perfection can be harmful to your health

i'm not super obsessive about being perfect.  i'm meticulous, yes, but perfect... definitely not.  i used to try a lot.  i used to be very specific about how i wanted things and how i wanted to look and i needed to always have the right answers and solutions to problems.  however, i would be hot in the persuit of perfection for about 10 minutes and then my attention span (which rivals that of a fruit fly) would switch to something new.  so i guess i never became to perfectionistic due to my apparent lack of attention.

i know lots of people that suffer with the "P" word.  and i do mean suffer.  i see how they beat themselves up over a spelling mistake or wrong answer or "messing up a yoga pose."  i see the sadness and frustration when they overwhelm themselves with decisions trying to find the absolute perfect one.  and then once the decision is made, agonizing over whether it was the right choice.  its something i see a lot because it's something that causes a lot of anxiety.  and i see lots of anxiety.

if you're dealing with the dreaded P word and always trying to chase it down, take a minute to remember that it doesn't exist. 

and since its always easier said than done because you can't change your thinking patterns at the snap of your fingers, try some other things too:

* ask yourself why you're seeking perfection. is it to impress a boss, your mother or significant other?  are you afraid of others judging you?  are you feeling insecure about something and trying to overcompensate by trying to be the best at it?

finding the sources of our thoughts or feelings helps us to not only understand them, but begin to change them.

* work out what the absolute worst case scenario would be if you didn't do 'it' perfectly. chances are its not as bad as you think.

employers don't expect you to know everything and you most likely won't get fired for making a mistake. or if you accidently burn the turkey, your whole thanksgiving won't be ruined and people won't starve and if you forget a birthday your friend probably won't disown or berate you - they're a friend!

* realize that the more you obsess over being perfect, the more anxious you'll become. mistakes are human nature and they are important for us to learn from. and most times, perfection goes above and beyond. if we don't reach "perfection" it doesn't mean we got it wrong or messed up. 

when i used to write pitches for a PR company i wracked my brain trying to come up with the PERFECT combination of witty, clever, smart and interesting.  more often than not, my boss had lots of tweaks on it that i revised.  did it mean he hated my pitch or it was completely wrong? no. he usually used most of my writing, maybe just switched a paragraph around or added one more interesting factoid.  just because it wasn't "perfect" didn't mean that my good wasn't good enough.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

finding our edge

an important thing that i focus on in yoga class is that sweet space between my comfort zone and my edge.  it's easy to kind of relax into a pose when you feel comfortable in it and sometimes we even tend to favor the poses we're good at.  when we're guided into another chaturanga or the teacher mentions headstand we tend to panic and wonder if its a good time to escape to the bathroom until the class moves onto the next sequence or asana. 

i've so been guilty of this!

so i remind myself as often as my students to find the space between comfort and edge.  you may find that you love down dog, but maybe you always come into the pose on your toes and with knees bent.  you may settle into it comfortably and stay put until you move into the next pose.  but what if you pushed through your heels and lengthened through the back of your knees to activate your hammies? 

i used to take my down down with really low hips because i have tightness in my legs.  a teacher of mine came behind me and stepped down on my heels. he then grabbed my waist and pulled my hips to the sky. my legs were shaking and my face flushed because i had never experienced down dog this way. i never actually tried to push deeper.  whoa!  i literally collapsed into a childs pose after, but it was the most amazing experience.  i just got introduced to the space between comfort and edge.

when practicing we become very in tune with our bodies.  this is what gives us the power to safely push past our comfort zone and reach to our edge. we can sink deeper into forward bends, softly into hip openers and find new ways to experience our fave asanas. 

think about this the next time you step onto your mat. make it your mission to find that space. get to know it. visit it often. and take your practice and awareness to the next level. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

my right to rituals

it's no secret that i'm obsessed with reality shows.  but my love for them moves beyond survivor and the amazing race.  i can watch shows like Obsessed and Intervention for hours on end if allowed to do so.  i guess partly because i can relate on some level and also because i support the fact that people are speaking out about addiction and panic disorder and OCD.  its important for people to see what it's really like because a lot of times we feel misunderstood or scared to talk about it. 

something that is very prominent with people that have OCD or anxiety is rituals.  rituals offer a sense of comfort to a person.  we feel a doom or gloom outcome is upon us and rituals, in our minds, help ward off that fear.  when my anxiety got really bad, i became obsessive about accidentally setting my house on fire.  i would check the stove, microwave, outlets, hair dryers - anything - for what felt like hours.  i couldn't leave the house without knowing that i had sufficiently checked each plug and appliance at least 50 times.  sometimes i would even write down that i checked everything or i would snap a pic of my stove with my cell so i could refer back to it if i became concerned that i hadn't checked the stove well enough.  my husband even made me checklists to try and help.  nothing worked.  it was because the rituals of obsesssive checking helped alleviate the anxiety of "setting my house on fire" or what it really was... the fear of messing something up or leaving something unchecked and unattended or forgotten.

so i got to thinking... what if we became just as passionate about healthy rituals?  with my stomach being a big issue for me -it's always the first thing affected by stress- i am obsessive about eating things that work well for me.  here's some more i've recently brought into my life:
* meditating to calm my busy, hectic mind
* journaling to help keep my ideas organized and not stuck occupying my head all night
* working out daily in some way, shape or form in order to get out excess energy that could potentially build into anxiety
* green tea sipping to help keep healthy antioxidants in my body
* nightly power walks with my husband and pup - we catch up this way rather than while being half absorbed in a TV show or worse yet, working through the night
* time to tune out- i go in my bedroom, turn on my music and just chill with no phone, email, facebook or twitter

so not all rituals need to be negative or unhealthy.  let's bring some into our lives that help make  us feel better and be better everyday.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

a shift in perception can change your world

have you ever noticed how powerful it is to change your perception of a situation?

i've seen a powerful theme emerge in friends and clients - and that's a tendency to look on the dark side of life.  and i've done it too.  it's so easy to get caught up in the negative.  have you ever tracked your negative thoughts?  it's something i always  suggest to people dealing with anxiety, immense stress or just feeling overwhelmed.  we can have hundreds of negative thoughts a day!  it can be as simple as waking up in the morning and your first thought is ugh, i so don't want to go to work today or something more extreme like hearing really bad news or getting down over a missed job opportunity. 

i used to obsessively focus on anxious symptoms.  if my stomach hurt, or my head was pounding, or my breath was quick i would immediately panic and 'just know' that any minute i was going to have a panic attack.

it ruled my life.  i literally waited for the symptoms to occur.  and when they didn't, i tortured myself waiting for them to surface... predicting that they would pop up at any moment. 

something i just started doing in my classes (and feel that i'm really going to continue) is that after our practice, when everyone is peaceful in savasana, i ask them to take a moment to focus on how their practice has made them feel.  whether your yoga leaves you energized, tranquil, chill or just clear headed, taking a moment to focus on how good you feel can feel totally foreign to some of us!  every chance i get i take a mental inventory of how good i'm feeling - whether sore from a kick ass workout or relaxed after yoga or energized after teaching a heart pumping class - i wanna remember those feelings.  i want to go to the good feelings more often so when something negative or unfortunate does pop up, i don't find myself dwelling on it.

try it out next time after you get your yoga on or right as you settle in for the night.  think about 3 really good things you felt throughout the day or did.  create awareness around the positive in your life.  begin to focus on the good... and watch the negativity start to fade away. our attention to it will no longer fuel it. 

3 things i appreciated today:

1) i taught a killer fun yoga class that left everyone drenched (including myself!)
2) rocked it through a spin class right after and pushed myself to the limit - i felt amazingly strong after
3) feeling totally relaxed and energized for a night out on the town with some friends

Thursday, July 1, 2010

to fear or not to fear?

i've been a little (eek!) MIA from the blogosphere due to life getting in the way...

but before heading out to teach a yoga class tonight i wanted to pop in and touch on the topic of fear
we all feel it. we all experience it. but it impacts us all differently.

i believe that my fear (and my refusal to face it head on) definitely increased my anxiety to unmanageable levels. it took losing a big chunk of my life to actually look my feelings dead in the eye and figure out what was up.

i admire people that find a thrill in facing their fears. i know some people that feel incredibly fulfilled by allowing their fears to test them. once we conquer what scares us, it's almost an invincible feeling.

so how do you deal with fears? do they cause you a lot of anxiety or do you thrive on facing the challenges they present? has a fear ever held you back from anything? has facing a fear ever left you empowered?