Losing Goal Mojo Already? 

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It’s the middle of January and you might still be on the motivation high of new intentions and goals. But, if you’ve already felt that little twinge of resistance and low motivation creep up, or know it’s coming, you’ll want to read the rest of this blog.

And, you’ll want to know losing motivation is normal, but that doesn’t mean your doomed to drop your goal.

Over the past decade plus of being in the health and wellness industry I’ve worked with thousands of people and heard all about their health aspirations, frustrations and challenges.

I’ve seen people rush to change their life 180 degrees to only crash and burn a short while later.

I’ve seen how nearly everyone struggles with consistency of practice.

I’ve heard people tell me they want to get healthier, stronger, clearer, meditate more, do more yoga, eat better, sleep better, just feel better…but they just don’t know where to begin.

I’ve heard a lot of people tell me about their self esteem issues and how trying to make positive change in their life ends up making them feel not good enough and even worse about themselves.

The truth is, I myself have struggled with all of these issues.

I’ve also seen and experienced breakthroughs. 

I’ve seen people totally transform their health and happiness, make leaps and bounds of progress along the path of living a happier more liberated and energised life and find lasting, lifestyle change through the yoga path.

I know I’ve also found this, and when I look back over 5, 10, 15 years I really see how much the practice and wisdom of yoga has changed my life.

I know one thing, the healthier I am the happier I am — and I know that we all feel this way.

So, why when this is so obvious, do we struggle starting and sticking to the habits that make us feel healthy and happy?

There are a lot of answers to this question, and lots of debate, so maybe the better question is: What works? What makes us stick to the goals and habits we want? What are the people having breakthroughs doing?

While studying for my yoga health coaching certification we learned a lot about the latest research on habit science, a field dedicated to answering just these questions, and I gained some really valuable insights into why some parts of the yoga path work so well. Two of which I want to share with you to stay on track with your intentions for the year.

Identity Based Goals v Results Based Goals 

The habit science research shows that when we start with identity based goals we’re much much more likely to stick to them. Where as if we set just results based goals we’re highly likely to drop them after a while.

Here’s what James Clear, a habit science blogger says about it and why the two have very different impacts on us:

“What we do now is a mirror image of the type of person we believe we are (either consciously or subconsciously). Our current behaviours are simply a reflection of our current identity. So, the first step in building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new positive identity.”

Sankalpa is a traditional part of yoga practice that helps us create identity based goals by making positive affirmation like, “I am vibrant, clear and grounded.” The practice is to repeat this daily.

The more you chew on this identity, the more you not only believe it, but also act based on it. You start to live up to that identity effortlessly simply because it feels right, and this guides you toward achieving your heartfelt desires and goals.

SET A SANKALPA:

1. Know that you already are who you need to be to fulfil your life’s purpose.

You are good enough! Yoga philosophy recognises that we each have a shinning light of divine power and wisdom within us, called our purusa, and most of our yoga practices simply work to get rid of anything covering that light. Yoga is the process of purification and getting rid of the gunk (mental, physical, emotional or lifestyle) that dims the light (one reason we detox).

Unlike typical resolutions that are based around a need to change ourselves, a sankalpa reinforces the best of who we already are – our true nature.

2. Ask, “how do I want to feel?” Listen to your heart-felt desires.

“We have the procedures of achievement upside down. We go after the stuff we want to have and accomplish outside of ourselves, and we hope and pray that we’ll feel great when we get there. It’s backwards. And it’s burning us out. 

What if, first, we got clear on how we actually want to feel in our life, and then we set our intentions?” Danielle Laporte, Desire Map

Let your vision of yourself and the world be big, and think about who and how you want to be in that vision. How does it makes you feel? Begin to list qualities of that vision and observe how your heart space feels as you list them. Some will deeply resonate with you, write them down.

3. Create a positive “I am” statement using a few of the words that most resonate from above. 

Looking at the qualities from above as well as some of the intentions you’ve already set, can you find an underlying desire that unifies them all?  Now make that an ‘I am’ statement in the present tense. For example, “I am happy, healthy and peaceful.” Don’t worry too much about the wording, this statement will likely change over time, but find a simple clear statement to start with that feels good when you say it.

I am…

This statement will anchor you in your true light and guide you through specific goal setting as well as moment to moment decisions — and keep you feeling how you want to feel!

PRACTICE: Repeat this statement before and/or after yoga/mediation. Paste it on sticky notes around your house. Repeat it to yourself when you feel down/anxious/overwhelmed etc.

Tips From the Habit Experts & Common Mistakes to Avoid 

  • Set a schedule for your goals rather than a deadline. “There is one common mistake we make when it comes to setting goals. The problem is this: we set a deadline, but not a schedule.The problem with this strategy is that if we don’t achieve the arbitrary timeline that we set in the beginning, then we feel like a failure…even if we are better off than we were at the start. The end result, sadly, is that we often give up if we don’t reach our goal by the initial deadline.” -James Clear
  • Make it so easy you can’t say no. Often we make our goals so big that when we set out to act on them they feel so daunting we give up. If we start with small steps that we can’t say no to then we actually act on our intentions and move in the direction we desire. Over time we’ll reach that big goal without getting overwhelmed. Small, continuous change = success & sustainability!

Yoga has taught me that all things are a practice, and it’s through coming back again and again to the practice that we find real change in our body, mind, health, relationships and life.

Adjust your goals to make sure they come from your heart, your core values, and then make a step by step plan that is so easy you can’t say no.

I use these principles in all of my programs, from the New Years Yoga Detox, 30 Day Evolution and 10 Week Transformation, and the results are powerful!

“You’re audacious life goals are fabulous. We’re proud of you for having them. Bit it’s possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that’s really frightening you — the shift in daily habits that would mean a reinvention of how you see yourself.” Seth Godin

NEW YEARS DETOX STARTS JAN 30

 

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Hindsight’s a Bitch

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How many times have you looked back on a situation and thought, “Wow, if only I’d seen it from this angle in that moment.” Who hasn’t?! Distance and time always bring clarity,  but it’s so frustrating that we don’t always see so clearly in the moment. I guess that’s why they say, “Hindsight’s a bitch.”

Everyone experiences this because in the moment it’s often hard to have a clear understanding of the bigger picture. This lack of clarity in the Yoga Sutras is called Avidya, or “the veil of misperception.”

This is one of the most important concepts in the Yoga Sutras and sheds light on why all people find themselves suffering.

Ultimately, the purpose of Yoga is to lift the veil of Avidya, and the trusty old Yoga Sutras provides us with four tips for how to see more clearly in the moment (see below). Let’s look a little closer at the concept of Avidya. Here’s what TKV Desikachar says about it.

Now what is this avidya that is so deeply rooted in us? Avidya can be understood as the accumulated result of our may unconscious actions, the actions and ways of perceiving that we have been mechanically carrying out for years. As a result of these unconscious responses, the mind becomes more and more dependent on habits until we accept the actions of yesterday as the norms of today. Such habituation in our action and perception is called samskara. These [unconscious] habits cover the mind with avidya, as if obscuring the clarity of consciousness with a filmy layer.

We seldom have an immediate and direct sense that our perception is wrong or clouded.

Avidya seldom is perceived as avidya itself. Indeed, one of the characteristics of avidya is that it remains hidden from us. Easier to identify are the characteristics of avidya’s branches. If we know that these are alive in us, then we can recognise the presence of avidya.”

Recognising the Four Branches of Avidya as Warning Signs

This gives a tool to see our blind spots. When we realise that one of the four branches of Avidya (ego, aversion, attachment and fear) is showing up in our lives it’s a warning sign that we’re not seeing the big picture.

Ideally, we then catch ourselves and ask ourselves, “What am I not seeing/understanding?” We’ve explored this concept this week in my yoga lifestyle programs and I personally have done a bunch of journaling about this week. It’s fascinating, sometimes scary, but always helpful what can be revealed.

Below I’ve explained the four branches of avidya with a bit more detail and provided thought provoking journal questions for you to dive deeper into what might be clouding your current vision and understanding. Enjoy!

The Four Branches of Avidya, Misperception

1. Ego – Asmita Ego pushes us into identifying with things that change, with something other than our inner light (purusha), and expresses itself in statements
like, “I’m the worst/best/right one.”

Journal questions: Recently, what impermanent aspects of myself or life have I been strongly identifying with? How has this been influencing my decisions, interactions and beliefs? When I take a step back, and identify with my observer mind and inner light , what is the deeper truth or bigger picture?

2. Attachment – Raga Attachment shows up often as demands, cravings, resistance to change and a feeling of needing something we don’t need or know is bad.

Journal questions: Recently, what necessary changes have I been resisting? Or, what have I been craving and/or demanding and is this necessary? How has this been influencing my decisions, interactions and beliefs? When I take a step back, and identify with my observer mind and inner light , what is the deeper truth or bigger picture?

3. Aversion – Dvesa Aversion expresses itself as rejection of people, thoughts, experiences and especially things that are unfamiliar. Not wanting to see what something is mirroring back to us about ourselves.

Journal questions: Recently, what ideas, thoughts, people or new experiences have I been strongly rejecting? Why? What is that idea/thought/person/experience showing me about myself? How has this been influencing my decisions, interactions and beliefs? When I take a step back, and identify with my observer mind and inner light , what is the deeper truth or bigger picture?

4. Fear – Abhinivesa Fear appears in many aspects of our life and is perhaps the most insidious of the branches. It manifests as uncertainty, doubt, hesitation, anger, depression and in many other ways effecting our decision, interactions and lifestyle.

Journal questions:  What have I been afraid of, worried about, anxious about lately? How has this been influencing my decisions, interactions and beliefs? When I take a step back, and identify with my observer mind and inner light , what is the deeper truth or bigger picture?

How do you remind yourself to see the bigger picture? 

A New Definition of Purity 

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The idea of living a life of purity used to bring to mind virgin angles sheltered from the world, untouched by the sometimes harsh experiences of life, or celibate sages living in far off ashrams or monasteries. In other words, not the reality most of us live in, and as such I didn’t really understand how to strive for it as the Yoga Sutras suggests we should.

But I’ve discovered a whole new meaning to purity in recent years as I’ve explored more deeply the meaning of Sauca.

Sauca, means purity or cleanliness, and is the first of the niyamas, or attitudes of a yogi as outlined by the Yoga Sutras.

The more I use yoga practice to read my life in terms of energy rather than stories or ideas, the more logical all of these practices become.

Energy, or Prana, is the stuff of life, and really all of our yoga practices aim to improve the flow of life-force into us and through us. As Darren John Main says, “Prana is the difference between a block of wood and a living tree. It is the difference between a corpse and a living body.”

I’ve learned through practicing yoga and studying Ayurveda that the most important question isn’t, “Is this good or bad?” but rather, “How is this effecting my prana?”

In this way we can make decision based on what’s best for us as individuals, not based on a list of should’s, and the more we do this the more we learn to trust and take care of ourselves.

So, from that perspective I’ve redefined purity and cleanliness, Sauca: anything that improves my intake and flow of life-force energy is pure; anything that depletes, blocks or stagnates my life-force energy is impure.

In my yoga lifestyle programs this week we’ve explored how Sauce based on this definition plays out in our lives. And how we can make Sauca a practice rather than simply an esoteric ideal.

We often hear people taking about practicing purity in how we eat and cleanliness of the body, but below you’ll find some of the less commonly looked at areas of our life that we’ve been practicing Sauca.

Practicing Purity of Place

If we’re surrounded by clutter and mess then the energy around us will be blocked and have a big impact on how we feel, think and act.

Today, simple take some time to clean up the space around you.

Even if you only have 10 minutes just clear out some small drawer or your wallet. If you have more time and energy go to town and get cleaning! Notice how your energy feels afterwards.

Practicing Purity of Speech 

When our communication is unclear it means that the interactions surrounding that communication is not flowing optimally. Remember, think about everything in terms of energy and how it flows or stagnates.

We all know it feels so much better when we’re understood or when we’re understanding someone else clearly, and that when this isn’t happening there seem to be problems.

Today, simply remind yourself to speak from your highest self and deepest truth.

If you’re finding it hard to speak your truth take a moment to ask yourself, what is the limiting belief that stops me from communicating clearly? And, what is the deeper truth?

Practicing Purity of Thought

Our beliefs and thoughts are truly what create our lives.

Purity and cleanliness in thought means flowing and liberation of energy. The biggest way to stop the flow of energy is to have negative thoughts about yourself.

Unfortunately, this negative self talk also seems to be a universal trait of man kind. A lot of our modern culture actually perpetuates this negative self talk, particularly the advertising industry that plays on our feelings of inadequacy to sell us something we don’t need.

Today, let yourself hear the self limiting thought that is arising, acknowledge that there is a deeper truth beyond that self limiting though that will liberate your energy. Write that deeper truth down! Repeat it to yourself as much as you can!

How do you practice purity?

The Mysteries of Second Winds and Sluggish Mornings

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Ever wonder why you get a second wind late at night? Why you can wake up early but then feel heavy the rest of the morning? Or why you just can’t seem to stay focused in the afternoon? 

Amazingly, the traditional medicine system of India, Ayurveda, has an explanation for all of this and it’s been the topic of the free talks I’ve given over the last few months.

As mentioned in previous posts the Ayurvedic system understands that EVERYTHING is composed of the five elements — ether, air, fire, water and earth — and paying attention to the elements that dominant in and around you is a crucial part of living a healthy life.

Why? Because health is synonymous to balance and when we have an imbalance of elements in our life we have health problems.

The beauty of this system is that once we get our head around the qualities of the elements and how they show up in our food, body, personality, environment, and all things, we can easily design a life of balance and health.

It’s really simple. Just remember that like increases like and opposites balance. 

If there is too much of one element in your life, just bring in the opposite to find balance.

Ask yourself right now, what is out of balance in my life? Intuitively you might have a sense that this imbalance relates to an element — for example, too much movement (air), or stimulation (fire), a sense of emptiness (ether), lack of structure (water) or stagnation (earth).

The next step is to simply ask: What is the opposite element or quality and how can I bring that into my life to find balance?

Life is no more than an accumulation of days and moments. As such, to change our lives we’ve got to change our day to day patterns. 

One of the most practical and powerful lessons of Ayurveda is understanding how the elements show up throughout the day and then creating daily routines based on this understanding that bring balance into your life.

It’s called Dinacharya in Sanskrit, and means daily rhythms or routines.

When our daily routines align to the daily rhythms of nature we thrive — in mind, body and spirit. When we’re out of synch with these rhythms health issues start to manifest.

Sadly, our modern culture is very out of synch with the natural daily rhythm, and as a result we have an epidemic of lifestyle diseases and issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia, irritable bowl syndrome, cancers, depression, anxiety and many many more.

So what are Nature’s daily rhythms and how do we align to them? 

The day is broken down into three periods each with dominant elements (see clock graphic). This cycle happens twice in a day and is influence by sunrise, sunset and when the sun is highest in the sky or other side of the earth. Worry less about exact times and feel more into the influence of the sun on the planet.

When we know what elements dominate in each time of the day, we can be wise about how we choose to spend that time, always remembering that like increases like and opposites balance.

Element and energy dominance at each time of day:

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2:00 – 6:00 – air & ether (Vata dosha) — the subtle wind energy

Before the sun rises, air and ether dominates, meaning there is a lot of lightness, movement, and connection to spirit and subtle energy. This is a perfect time to meditate, and also why some people wake up in the early hours of the morning full of thoughts.

In the afternoon these elements cycle around again creating lightness. This can sometimes cause scattered thinking in the afternoon, but if you ground yourself (opposite quality to air is earth), then it can be a fantastic time for creative thinking and projects.

6:00 – 10:00 – water and earth (Kapha dosha) — the nourishing water energy

Once the sun rises, the heavier, denser elements of water and earth dominate. This is why dew forms on the grass and why we can start to feel sluggish again even if we woke up with energy before the sun came up. This is the best time to do physical activity, bring movement (air/lightness) in for balance, and use your dense physical body. Careful not to eat too heavy of a breakfast our you’ll just bring more of that earth and water into you and get out of balance.

In the evenings water and earth elements make their appearance again, our body physiologically reacts to the darkening of the sky and we start to feel heaviness and density. Go with it, we want this in the evening so that we can wind down and get a good night sleep. Again, careful not to eat a heavy dinner or you’ll exacerbate these qualities.

10:00 – 2:00 – fire and water (Pitta dosha) — the transforming fire energy

When the sun is highest in the sky we feel the transformative heat and movement of fire and water in our bodies.  We feel stimulated mentally and physically. All primates, not just humans, produce the most bile (digestive fire) in the middle of the day. To capitalise on this fire we want to eat our biggest meal at lunch, and also be mindful not to overheat ourselves with too much sun or stimulating food and drink.

The infamous second wind kicks in usually around 10pm when the fire element makes it’s second appearance in the day. Ideally, we want to be in bed at this time so that rather than stimulating our mind this fire quality can go to stimulating tissue reparation and digestion of the day’s experiences and substances while we sleep. If we skip this and stay up too late our body really starts to suffer.

Want to start living in alignment? 

It’s well and good to think about these concepts, but making them part of your day to day life is when the real magic starts. From this blog you can already start to apply this information by paying attention to how you work with the energy of the day or exacerbate it.

If you really want to dive into this juicy material and start to see it transform your life into greater health and vitality I’ve created a 30 Day Yoga Evolution program that guides you through designing ideal daily rhythms.

This program also uses the latest habit science research to help you create new habits that you’ll actually stick to and a healthy life style that is sustainable.

The next 30 Day’s starts this Sunday, September 28th at Qi Yoga in Freshwater and part of the program includes a one month unlimited class pass. I’ve also created an online version of the program for people who can’t make it to the Sunday sessions, find out more here.

Tell us, what’s your favourite time of the day and why?

Being an Antisocial Health Nut Sucks

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I’m a social person. People have even been know to replace the word person with “butterfly.” Which I’ve always taken as a compliment. But, on this health journey of committing to the things I know make my body feel the best, the social butterfly in me has had to pull her wings in a bit. And I haven’t liked it. 

The truth is, as much as green juice in the morning and going to bed at 9:30 makes me happy, so does laughing and dancing and getting wild with my friends. In fact, if being healthy meant I had to cut the joy of friendship out of my life, I’d opt for unhealthy.

The good news is I’ve figured out that I can be healthy and still get my social butterfly on! It’s been a process of trial and error, guilt and lonely nights, introspection and coercion, but I’ve realised just this week I’m finally at a really good place with it.

I’ve had a number of conversations this week about how the social aspects of old habits are often the biggest hurdle for people when trying to shift into healthier living.

We want to cut the coffee habit and suddenly feel like we can’t meet up with our friend for a “coffee” catch up, or enjoy the morning ritual of chatting to the barista and other regulars.

We want to enjoy a Friday evening with a cold drink, have a good laugh with our friends AND go to bed by 10pm but know the rest of the crew will stay out until 2am, so we opt out and feel lonely.

We want to cut the sugar and suddenly birthday parties, mother’s day, baby showers, hens nights and every little corner cafe become our own personal hell.

The social norm is not that healthy, and being social creatures, it makes living a healthy life that much harder and frustrating.

I want to tell you something, YOU’RE NOT ALONE!

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve worked to develop healthier habits is that it’s amazingly easy to lead by example. EVERYONE actually wants them and when you stick to yours it’s like you’re giving them permission to admit they don’t like the social norm either.

We all want to feel good and not suffers from hangovers, sugar binges and over-caffeinated stress, but our desire and need for community is often what’s really driving the cultural rituals around alcohol, sugar and coffee (not to mention a powerful, advertising savvy “food” industry).

As my lifestyle has changed, so has my community. I’ve attracted healthier people into my life, influenced many people in my life to get healthier and tapped into socialising in a way that also make by body, mind and spirit thrive.

I’m not claiming to have figured it all out, but here are a few things that have helped me transition into being a social butterfly with a healthy lifestyle:

Don’t be afraid to tell people you don’t want to drink and that you want to go home early. Often they actually want that themselves, and then you can have a super fun early night and wake up the next morning feeling great.

Go to the coffee shop!! They do serve chai, tea and juices you know. It get’s easier each time to not order the cappuccino, and realise how much of the habit is about connecting with community, which is a beautiful thing. I used to feel like I couldn’t justify buying a tea because it didn’t “do” anything for me like a coffee did, but now I see that it’s more the social ritual that’s actually doing something for me.

Hang out in the day more, share in cool activities and be the one to organise it. I’ve always been bored with sitting around drinking and had much more fun doing activities like surfing, hiking, checking out a performance or going to an event. I realised I need to be the one to reach out and organise these things to get my social butterfly on, and then I didn’t really care if I sat home on a Friday night because I’d had my friend and fun fix.

Bring the food you want to eat to the party. This one is easy, we’re insuring there’s an option we can enjoy and that means enjoying the party more.

Surround yourself with like minded people. Taking on something alone is a hard path, but as soon as someone is in it with you life gets a whole lot easier (and more fun). I cherish my yoga community, and I can tell you they are some of the most fun, wild and playful people I’ve ever met. Yogis love to buzz on a natural high, chant and dance for hours, hang upside-down on each others feet, go on big long trippie shamanic journey’s together just through meditation and support each other with laughter and love. My life would not be as rich or healthy without this tribe, and the more I commit to my health, the bigger this tribe around me becomes (but it has taken some time). If you’re at the beginning of committing to your health, trust and know it’s inevitable that you’ll build a tribe that share your values.

Realise there’s a time and a place to stay out late, have a drink or eat a cake, and when you do enjoy it 110%. Everything in moderation, including moderation. It’s the things we do on a regular basis that have the biggest impact on our health and life. Keep the cultural sugar, coffee and alcohol rituals for special occasions (and every weekend is NOT a special occasion!), and then enjoy them to the fullest without guilt!

Share with us some of your tips for staying healthy AND getting your social butterfly on!

How I went from fast food junky to yoga lifestyle freak

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I’ve been hard on myself this week about not eating the way that makes me feel best, which is clean, fresh, non-processed food and in moderation. But I also know that beating myself up about eating is just as unhealthy as any unhealthy food. So, to get out of this headspace I did one of the exercises I do with my students in the Yoga Detoxes and 30 Day Yoga Evolution. This exercise gets us to look at where we’ve been, what’s shifted and appreciate that growth happens on a trajectory, not over night.

And wow, there have been some massive shifts in how I live my life! In the past year alone I’ve refined my lifestyle so much. But I looked further back and watched the unfolding of my journey with health until I came to an image of myself as a teenager, over weight, eating fast food alone in my car, feeling depressed and knowing deep in my bones that the American dream was more like a nightmare.

Take a snap shot back in my life. I am 17, a sophomore in high school, have just been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that is totally screwing with my hormones. I don’t yet realize this is part of why I feel lethargic, anxious, depressed and have suddenly gone from being a lithe ballerina to gaining 20 lbs in less than a year. Emotionally overwhelmed by it all and crushed to see my body out growing my leotards, I quit dancing. Something I’ve been doing since I was five. Something that always made me feel free and light and express whatever I was feeling without having to say it.

So here I am, suddenly not moving my body as I was used to, not expressing my emotions through movement, all the while trying to cope with the typical teenage shit.

At the same time a big shift in public school funding swept the nation. As government spending on public education plummeted and the schools become more desperate, big cooperations like CocaCola and Pepsi saw an opportunity: sponsor entire schools.

My school ended up with a Pepsi sponsorship, which meant they received money in exchange for plastering every notice board, sports complex and school banner with Pepsi logos. It also meant that our school cafeteria was now operated by Pepsi and their affiliates (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut etc.) and school lunch turned into fast food.

We could eat off campus, which most of us did frequently, but where did we go? To any one of the ten fast food joints within three blocks of our high school of course. God bless America.

Not only where Pepsi logo’s strew through our school, but we were lucky enough to have soda dispensers in EVERY corridor. The coins left over from lunch were enough to get an afternoon caffein and sugar kick to pull us out of the greasy fast food lunch stupor. Which of course wore off by the time we got home and were meant to do our homework, so we cracked another can of high fructose corn syrup and buzzed the night away, finishing assignments or watching MTV until 2am and then having a hellish time getting up the next morning.

This was the typical American teenage pattern, and sadly, still is. In the US adolescent obesity has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years and reports of teenage anxiety and depression have doubled. Australian statistics aren’t far behind.

I was slotting in quite well with these statistics, and nobody seemed to say, “Hey, this isn’t normal! You don’t have to wake up every morning anxious or depressed. All that high fructose corn syrup is making you gain weight and have mood swings. Go back to moving your body and eating simple foods that your mom made!”

I consumed enough Good Times Burgers in those few years to last me a lifetime (if not more). We all did, and the sad truth is that many of my peers still do. This is how our schools and culture taught us to nourish ourselves, and many of us have grown from being overly caffeinated poorly nourished teens to overly caffeinated poorly nourished adults. But now, as adults the repercussions are starting to show.

My autoimmune disorder only exacerbated the problem, and in many ways I’m grateful because it made me realize something was indeed wrong and investigate early on in my life what that was. I wanted to know why my body was attacking itself. Was it something I was doing, or thinking or feeling? Was it something I was eating or experiencing? Was it my society? Was it in the water or in the air?

I wanted to understand what was going on, and as I asked these questions I began to see the answer was ‘yes’ to all of them. 

In my first year of Uni I learned more about environmental degradation. My ears perked hearing about the levels of hormones and antibiotics fed to dairy cows and studies linking these  livestock practices to endocrine disorders. I stopped eating meat and fast food, started dancing again and low and behold began feeling a little better. I was still eating too much processed food, drinking too much and way too stressed out trying to over achieve with studies, work and writing for the school paper.

I knew the issue was more than just food and environmental contamination. I couldn’t clearly articulate it then but after my first year of Uni I knew I was simply learning how to perpetuate the cycle of the “rat race.” So I quit and went off to New Mexico to get a diploma in Massage Therapy.

At 19 years old the world of yoga, energy healing and body-mind psychology blew me open into a whole new exploration of what leads to health and disease, and how all aspects of our lives influence our state of health and wellbeing. I learned so much about body, mind, spirit health at that time and it propelled me into a lifelong exploration of this topic.

It’s been 13 years since and I’ve made hug changes in how I live, eat, move and think, but it didn’t happen over night. It’s been a process of small and continuous shifting that’s got me back to feeling like I did before my body attacked itself. Yoga has taught me how to look within, and sit with the injured, ugly or dead side of myself and culture, breath through the discomfort of looking at it and listen to the inner guidance on how to heal. And damn, it’s not always easy, but each time I come out the other end I know it’s worth it.

I can tell you that learning is one thing but actually applying it to life is another. I’ve been through so many highs and lows with personal health, two steps forward and one step back, but when I look at the big picture every year I get healthier and happier. And this is why I love the yoga lifestyle. This is how life should be and I thank my lucky stars for having people in my life who finally did say, “Hey, don’t believe what they say about getting older. You don’t have to wake up feeling like shit and get fat. You can feel happy and at peace. You can improve your health every year, life only get’s better if you simply do the work on yourself.”

 

 

Self-harming Yogis

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When I hear the words “self harming” I think of teenage girls cutting themselves or monks and religious fanatics practicing castigation. I picture extreme cases of physical self mutilation or deprivation. But recently in my reflections about the first moral precept of yoga, ahimsa, or non-violence, I’ve begun to see a different picture of self harming that may be even more frightening than the extreme cases. 

Ahimsa is often translated as “non-violence,” but in the yoga tradition implies so much more than simply abstaining from violence. It means to approach all things with an attitude of non-harming, compassion, kindness and love.

In the 30 Day Yoga Evolution this week we’ve been reflecting on how to practice non-violence in our lives, and one thing quickly becomes very clear about this practice; when we don’t have an attitude of non-harm, compassion and kindness towards ourselves it’s nearly impossible to have this attitude toward others.

When I think about when I’ve been my worst to the people around me (over demanding of my partner or over critical of my mother), I also see those are the times in my life when I’ve been most critical and hard on myself.

It’s not just negative self talk that is an act of self-harming, but it’s also how we take care of ourselves. When I jam one more thing into my day and ignore my signs of fatigue or eat something I know will deplete my body or have one drink too many, I’m harming my body. And overly tired, hung over or malnourished people don’t tend to be poster children for non-violence, compassion and love!

At the end of the day, practicing non-violence has to start with ourselves. 

The opposite of self-harm is self-care and self-love. Sadly, so many of us see self-care practices as luxuries and even feel guilty for doing stuff like getting a massage or taking time out for ourselves.

But if we stop and look at the big picture we can see that these acts of self care ripple out to our loved one, community and society. All we have to do to see this is think about the costs to our lives of not taking care of ourselves.

Firstly, there is a cost to how we feel, our energy levels and creativity. When we’re over taxed and tired we don’t function optimally, and as a result our work suffers, our relationships suffer and our health suffers.

Not only does this effect our individual lives and the lives of our loved ones, but if we stop to think about how much the nation spends on healthcare to treat lifestyle diseases we see that self care (or lack there of) has a massive impact on our society.

WebMD estimates that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

So how can we take care of ourselves better? 

Firstly, remind yourself of the greater costs of neglecting this healthcare practice, and stop feeling guilty about relaxing and pampering yourself.

Second, make it a priority and actually schedule some acts of self care into your calendar. Literally write it down like you would an appointment with your doctor.

Third, listen to what your body is telling you it needs. We so often over-ride the indicators of fatigue by having another coffee, or we respond to them in a way that isn’t really self care. Like having a glass of wine at the end of the day to release physical and mental tension rather than doing some stretches or taking a bath. Ultimately, the wine will just dehydrate our tissues more, disturb our sleep and keep us in a cycle of self-harming.

More Ideas for Self-care

  • Long walks to clear the mind, move the body and have some “you time.”
  • Take a bath, add some epsom salts to nourish your muscles and read a great novel to nourish your soul.
  • Foot massage is a great thing to do at the end of the day before you hop in bed.
  • Yoga stretches get you out of your head (and stress) and into your body and relaxation.
  • Legs up the wall is especially good for people on their feet all day and also boosts the immune system.
  • Pack a healthy lunch to avoid the pitfall of eating low quality food simply because that’s whats around.
  • Meditate for even 5 minutes in your day to re-boot your energy levels and give the old gray matter a break.
  • Listen to a Yoga Nidra as a way to improve sleep, clarity of mind or simply take a break. It’s been shown that 15 minutes of mediation or yoga nidra is equivalent to one hour of sleep.
  • Massage both professionally or giving yourself a massage improves circulation, muscle tension, mood and refines our ability to listen to what our body needs.

One of my favorite daily self care practices is self oil massage after my morning shower. Not only does it make my skin really nice, but according to Ayurveda oil holds the quality of love, so I feel like it’s an act of appreciation for my body. This has helped me so much with my issues of self criticism and body image. What is one of your favorite self-care practices?