On Sameness + Perfection.

On Sameness + Perfection.

Body Love Motivation + Inspiration

WHEN I WAS 12, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. A sort of Brave New World for the tween set, it’s about a confined society in which everything is Just So all the time. It’s a society that’s been converted to “sameness” – a plan that has eradicated pain and strife. Everyone is identical. No one feels. No one judges. No one’s flawed. No experience, no emotion, no hunger for life. Just…predictability.

I think that most of my classmates empathized with the times the main character, Jonas, felt weird for being different (how much more tweeny can you get?). I, however, empathized with how angry Jonah felt when he started to see – really see – how phoney Sameness really was.

~

Perfection is a hoax. The allure of being perfect is the greatest con, the greatest scheme ever devised. Forget about the Photoshop, the glossy pages, the television even. Perfection is a stagnant ideal and a consummation of all we find unsatisfactory. It’s an artifice to fool ourselves into believing that there’s an excuse or that we’re failing. That is perfect, They are perfect is internalized and morphs into This is not perfect. I am not perfect.
Perfection is conditional love. It’s an invisible benchmark and a thick glass ceiling. It’s the expectation and the idealization of the absolutely monotonous. It’s a lonely, one-dimensional load of crap we think we need in order to feel special.

Perfection is a pile of you-know-what from both ends of the spectrum; doesn’t matter how you look at it. We live in a world where the sweetest apples are discarded for a touch of brown, where we inject plastic into the lines we’ve earned from reading novels late into the night, where we over-sterilize and under-appreciate.

And then there are the people who seem to be constantly extolled for their beauty, their wisdom, or their achievements. Their existence is idolized, their lives an exercise in perfection maintenance. And that…that is a huge burden to carry, too. It’s immense, unreasonable pressure to stay at a certain age, look, job and caliber indefinitely. Because what if – no, when – we don’t? What happens when we falter – or maybe just aren’t astonishingly mind-blowing every single second?


Will we still be loved?

 

The word “perfect” has haunted me my entire life. When I was in middle school, I would be called perfect as a taunt. I didn’t have braces. I liked to color-coordinate. I got good grades. My awkward stage was mild. Sounds great, huh? Yeah. Not really. I felt detached and alone. I felt I could not be myself; God forbid I spoke out of turn or mismatched a sock. Just like Jonas in The Giver, I saw how fabricated the idea of perfection was, but didn’t know how to convince people otherwise. There was an immense discomfort in knowing I was looked at as someone who had everything together, and that that was both desired AND detested. Trying to convince people I wasn’t always backfired, since perfection was so ingrained in my identity to others. It was weird for me to be perfect but wrong for me to be flawed.

But the most uncomfortable thing for me was that my biggest taunts were also my highest praise. I was told I was pretty, I was told I was smart, I was told I was sweet, and I was told I was talented. I wasn’t ever forced to be those things – no stage parents in my household – but it was obvious the value they had. Plus, the alternative was scary. When you grow up in a culture that puts people down for fun and thrives off of casual negativity to get through the day, how does anything but perfect seem like a viable option? There was currency in perfection…as well as immunity. I felt that.

Balance was virtually impossible.

 

How was it that the very thing I equated with love and worth from my family and mentors was the thing I equated with loneliness and weirdness when it came to my friends and peers?

 

Some would have rebelled. But no – I didn’t want to rebel. I just wanted to relate. So I downplayed my assets and kept them locked away. At the root of it, I feared loss. I wanted to guarantee love, but at the same time wanted to be the full range of myself – which included the dark and messy parts. Please let me be normal, I’d silently beg. Do not love me for my light, because it sometimes gets dark in here and I can’t bear the loss when you realize that.

What was the most interesting is when I started to focus on feeling special instead of focusing on the whether or not others THOUGHT I was special. I let my guard down in front of people. I took myself very seriously but took the world a whole lot less so. I cried over boys and told people who hurt me the way that I felt. I opened up about being melancholy for what seemed like no reason and realized there were way more people like me than there were not. My dark and messy wasn’t all so dark and messy after all. I was just, as Glennon Doyle says, “a feely person in a messy world.” I began to realize that only I could determine my value, and only I could know what was my rightest right. I stopped using the word “perfect” to describe people and things and started to call them “perfect-for-me.” I stopped feeding off “perfect” and living on purpose.

You are not a mess. You are a feely person in a messy world. - @glennondoyle Click To Tweet

I am wary of perfection. The ones who make it their life’s mission to be perfect, I’m onto them. There is something deeper there, there is something hiding and some voice inside that once told them that the only way to be is to be flawless. Because big voices and unique souls and feely people are risky to a messy world that likes to put things in cramped little boxes that are easy to define and file away. Nothing is intriguing when you fit into Sameness.

Whenever I see these people, I want to take them aside and hug them and tell them just to Be. Just BE. Be on purpose. Be a contradiction. Be extreme! Whatever you are and whoever you are, be extremely YOU. At the end of the day, what else is there left? The people who know how to live are absolutely flawless in their quirks and extremes. They’re certainly not afraid to mismatch their socks or disagree with the world.

The idea that perfection gets you a prize is a big fat lie, and the thing is that we ALL KNOW IT deep down. Because those beautiful on-purpose souls, who are extremely and unquestionably themselves, those are the people we’re all ultimately drawn to in the long run. Not the ones who homogenize their lives to be Just So. Because this is not sameness. This is life. In all its extremities and nuances.

What makes you special isn’t someone else’s declaration that you’re special. What makes you special are the exact things that end up making you feel as if you’re living with the entirety of yourself. Find those tiny details and idiosyncrasies that make you you, and use them to support and enhance the extreme You-ness of the way you Be. It isn’t about “perfection” or “flawed” or whatever’s the opposite. It’s about being unquestionably yourself.

Forget about the Sameness, forget about utopia. There is no better person to be, no better place to live, than Oh-So-On-Purpose.


 

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WANTcast 031: On Body Memories, Gut Feelings, and The Taboo Therapy You’re Not Supposed To Talk About w/ Somatic Healer Pamela Samuelson

WANTcast 031: On Body Memories, Gut Feelings, and The Taboo Therapy You’re Not Supposed To Talk About w/ Somatic Healer Pamela Samuelson

Body the WANTcast

The nervous system is like a dragon you can ride...if you get slow enough. Click To Tweet

One day back in early January, I saw a post from today’s guest that said something unnerving: that every single woman she’d worked on (she’s a bodyworker) since November had experienced some sort of trauma related to the election.

…Obviously I knew I needed to have her on the WANTcast.

 

This got me thinking about not only the political climate, but trauma in general. How we deal with it, how it lives in the body, and maybe the very most mind-boggling, how many times we don’t even know it’s there.

Trauma isn’t always a car accident or violence. Trauma can take on many forms.

So how does that impact us on a daily basis?

And do we even realize it?

In this season of the WANTcast, I am determined to be a little bit bolder and expose you to different stories, ideas, techniques, tricks, methods, and practices that are helping others move forward fearlessly in their lives and can maybe do the same for you – or at the very least, which is not something to take lightly, get you thinking outside the box.

Some of them might be sort of familiar. Some of them might blow your mind. Some might be toeing the line of what is “acceptable” to talk about and what isn’t.

Today’s episode with bodyworker Pamela Samuelson details ALL of the above. From how trauma lives in the body to what YOU can do to let go of negative energy to the taboo form of therapy that even I was a little nervous to talk about when Pam brought it up to me….we really go there.

WANT Pamela:

Listen on iTunes | Play in new window | Download | Support the pod by shopping on Amazon via this link

Show Notes:
Embodywork.LA website
Facebook
The Institute for Core Energetics
Dr. Vincent Medici
Hugh Milne and Visionary Craniosacral Work
Carol Downer and The Federation for Feminist Women’s Healthcare
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy

Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review on iTunes (the more reviews, the more Pamela’s message is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!


5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Exercise (No Matter How You Feel)

5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Exercise (No Matter How You Feel)

Body Tips + Tools

I’m no stranger to sweat therapy: I hit the gym on the regular. My running shoes are practically a second set of feet. I’ve never been one to turn down a chance to get down (dog) – heck, I’ve been teaching spin classes since people thought it meant you go to a class and turn around in circles for 45 minutes on end (for real. people used to ask me if that was what a spin class was).

I’m well aware of both the physical and mental benefits of getting my heart rate up on the regular, and consider fitness more of a lifestyle habit than a to-do to get to-done.

So why, then, do I wake up some mornings feeling like the last thing I want to do is get moving?

~

According to catchy headlines and fly-by-night trends, we’re supposed to sweat it out the same way no matter the season: with intensity, with drive, and with an all-or-nothing mentality that promises slimmer thighs!, better sex!, and brighter moods! 365 days a year. We force ourselves into routines for the sake of routines, not taking into account that we are living, breathing, changing beings who experience enough physical, emotional, and spiritual shifts in a mere day to fill up a week’s worth of SoulCycle classes by 12:01pm on a Monday afternoon.

Study after study shows us that exercise can boost our mood, help our bodies clear out toxins, and make even the most everyday of activities seem a whole lot easier (hello, five-story walk up apartment). But when you’re feeling fatigued, uninspired, or just plain down-in-the-slumps, scientific facts don’t help all that much. And the “accountability” factor of having a class to make or a trainer to see isn’t always a surefire recipe to get amped up.


The solution: You’ve got to make your workout work out for you.

 

I’ve definitely struggled with this since moving across the country. Not only was I not used to the seasonal shifts, but I had to completely restructure my schedule, top to bottom. This definitely included the way I moved. I loved exercising outside, which I didn’t have many opportunities to do in LA – one point, NYC! The gym was also a huge part of my community on the west coast, and I found that the NYC gyms where I felt that were NOT the ones that were the closest to my house. And then there was rain, there was snow, and there was that huge dramatic shift in early November when I didn’t even want to leave the house let alone break a sweat. Thankfully, ten months in, I’ve figured out my roadblocks and how to move through them in order to get moving.

You’ve got to make your workout WORK OUT for you. Click To Tweet

Feeling blah? I feel you – and there’s no need to let negative self-talk stand in your way. Here are five ways to set yourself up for success and motivate yourself to exercise, no matter how you feel:

 

1) Give yourself options. Ever notice that the more often you do something extreme, the more your body starts to want its next hit? It’s kind of like that with fitness. When it comes to working out on a down day, it’s important to feed your cravings, not your addictions. That could mean foregoing your usual five-mile run for a meditative walk in the park. That could mean modifying your burpees in your HIIT sesh so there’s no push-up involved. That could mean trading in plank for child’s pose. Knowing you have options within the workout you choose removes that all-or-nothing feeling and gives your body what it actually wants (feeds the craving) vs. what you think it SHOULD be wanting (feeding the addiction).

 

2) Have a Plan A…Plan B…Plan C….Plan D… I love to run outside. But I know myself, and there are certain situations in which even the most persuasive person I know (hi mom) wouldn’t be able to convince me to haul you-know-what out in the open air. If you’ve learned how to psych yourself to run in brutal heat, icky rain, or I-can’t-feel-my-face cold, more power to you. Me? That’s a big NOPE in my book.

In the past, I’d either force myself to brave the elements or skip out altogether. Not only was the former potentially dangerous and the latter a surefire way to make me a crankypants for the rest of the day, but neither of those options had to be the solutions! Now I know to always have a Plan A, B, C, even a Plan D for making my workout work for me. Running outside not an option? Use the treadmill. All the treads already taken at the gym? Hop on an elliptical. No cardio equipment available whatsoever – or it’s just too miserable to leave the house in the first place? Say hello to my fave, customizable self-confidence boosting workout. Having multiple options at the ready, I’ve found, ensures I can make a decision that’s right for me no matter the circumstance.

 

3) Wear what makes you feel good. Many fitness pros and motivational coaches will recommend that a surefire way to get amped to work out is wear a rockin’ piece of fitnesswear. And that’s solid advice. Heck, a whole activewear revolution is happening because of that exact school of thought!

The problem is, sometimes that’s not what actually makes us feel our best – especially if we’re feeling uncomfortable in our own skin. When I’m feeling down on myself and physically uncomfortable, I wear clothes that have a little more “give” to them. Sometimes, I throw on my fiancé’s old t-shirt and call it a day. Point is: if your fitnesswear best makes you feel rockin’, rock on! But if an old concert tee and stretchy pants from 2008 make you feel great, that’s great too. It’s much easier to get in a productive – and pleasant – workout when you’re less concerned with the way you look and more invested in the way you feel.

 

4) Make playlist presents for yourself. When I find music I love, I become borderline obsessed. So muchso, in fact, that I’ll listen to an entire album or playlist on repeat for weeks, then move onto another set of songs for another few weeks after that. And so on, and so on. That first time I listen is always the most exciting – so what I’ve learned to do is create a playlist for myself (or download an entire album on Spotify) and promise myself not to listen until my next workout. This works with playlists, genre “stations” on Spotify or Pandora (I’m all about the “90s Smash Hits” right now), even podcasts. Giving yourself something to look forward to within the workout setting is a great way to trick yourself into putting the work in and having a blast in the moment.


5) Give it a REST.
Okay, so this one might seem counter-intuitive…rest to motivate yourself to exercise? Isn’t this a recipe for a negative talk spiral? Actually, it’s the exact opposite. I’m not talking about resting when you’ve got adrenal fatigue or are overtraining – which, obviously, require rest. I’m talking about letting yourself off the hook. If you’re constantly pressuring yourself to “be motivated,” how will you ever get there? Just like with food, your decision to exercise (or not exercise) is not good or bad – it just IS. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary to just get up and do it even when you’d rather be binge watching Orange Is The New Black on your couch. But at the same time, it’s necessary to train yourself to cut yourself some slack. How can we ever develop a healthy relationship with our body if we’re constantly putting the pressure on it to look, act, and do things a certain way? In my experience, this is a breeding ground for guilt and exercise addiction. Give yourself the space to breathe – you might be surprised by what happens when you start to approach exercise as one of many opportunities to feel good, not one sole chance or obligation to do things the “right” way.

 

Looking for more WANT wisdom to help you get moving? Click here for help ramping up…or maybe even slowing down.


WANT YOURSELF:
Now, you: I’d love to hear how you motivate yourself to exercise when you’re just not feeling it. Is there a specific trick you’ve got up your sleeve? Is there a song or playlist you’ve go that gets you going no matter what? Leave a comment below – your sweat-positive strategy might be exactly what someone else needs to get them spinning in the right direction. Literally or figuratively ;)


Photo by Caddie Hastings

And I’m Feeling Good…Part Deux: How To Stretch A Good Body Day (or week.) For The Long Haul

And I’m Feeling Good…Part Deux: How To Stretch A Good Body Day (or week.) For The Long Haul

Body Tips + Tools

It’s been two weeks in my new home across the country, and I’ve felt a shift happen. An actual, physical shift.

In my body.

It feels good.

It sounds superficial and petty, but it’s not: the way I feel is directly linked to the way I carry myself in the world. I find myself waking up earlier, winding down later, walking quicker, smiling more, and marveling at just how wonderful life seems to be.

“Life is so much better right now,” my inner voice coos.

“So don’t sabotage it.”

 


…Well that got hostile really fast.

good body

That positive voice in my head isn’t an optimist – it’s an opportunist.

Sound familiar? That’s because a little over a year ago, I wrote the same exact words with a different spin in relation to my negative self-talk: when it starts to rear its headstrong head, I’ve got to fight tooth-and-usually-unmanicured nail to not let it take hold and stake its claim.

But today, we’re talking about the positive talk – part TWO of the equation. Seems crazy, right? Why on earth would I want to keep my positive talk in check? If i’m having a “good body day” – or, as we most often think of it, a day that’s NOT a “bad body day,” then shouldn’t I just ride that wave?

I almost feel guilty for loving it here in NYC as much as I do. I mean, don’t get me wrong – L.A. is my blood and lifeline. But being here reminds me how important it is to define myself for myself. L.A. has so much I associate with others – sitting there mold, their energy. Checking myself and my energy to fit to size. Living expectations I’ve set for myself based on the expectations I’ve seen around me. When in reality, I dream bigger, and live bigger, than L.A. really suits me at this point in my life. And I can feel that shift manifesting itself in my body.

this was in LA. i was feeling great about my bod, but it was also a really fun day. so which came first??
this was in LA. i was feeling great about my bod, but it was also a really fun day. so which came first??


My body feels so much better here in general. To be completely transparent, my clothes fit better, I’m way less inflamed, and get this: I’m actually proud of my legs! And because I’m highly sensitive to the shifts within myself, I’ve got this spring in my step that makes me oh-so-tempted to say, You’re BACK, baby.

But did I really go anywhere? I know – because, life – that it’s not like I’ve been gifted some magic solution. Yes, this body that feels amazing IS my body – but so is the body of yesterday. So is the body of Los Angeles. So is the body on her period, overtired, overworked, overtaxed. So is the body that will go up and down in weight, feel secure and insecure, poof up and slim down. My body is not a fixed object, nor will it ever be.

I’m not jumping to self-sabotage or encouraging anyone to gloss over the times we feel particularly fabulous in the skin we’re in. Far from it. But the second I give my highs the power to define me is the second I give my lows the power to do just the same. For us to develop truly long-lasting, loving relationships with our bodies, we must be willing to accept neither extreme as finite, and instead probe deeper for ways to carry our worth with us always (and subsequently remind ourselves in those moments we’re tempted to forget).

When we give our highs the power to define us, we give our lows the power to do just the same. Click To Tweet

So how do we keep that positive momentum of our “good body days” going, reveling in our fabulosity without overly linking our worth to them? And moreover, how do we use those feeling to help us out when we’re feeling LESS than stellar?

Here’s how to stretch a good body day for yourself so it lasts for the long haul:

1) Notice the tangible things that have contributed to this feeling. Have you been doing anything out of the ordinary – or maybe even been doing something consistently? Maybe some of these things you just started. Maybe you’ve been doing them for a while. But the first step is to know what they are.

For me, I’ve been walking almost everywhere for the last two weeks, which means I’ve been getting more fresh air and sunlight (p.s. I knew smog was a thing in L.A, obviously…but who knew the air would seem SO much clearer here? Metaphor much?).

I’ve also been on way more of a balanced schedule than usual. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum just in the last year: having very little time of my own and having basically the entire day to decide what I do and when I do it. In the last two weeks, I’ve been filling my schedule with the most important things first, professionally and personally, then allowing the time to figure things out in between. This city is still new to me, and I don’t want to jip myself of experiencing that newness.

 

stopping to smell the metaphorical and literal flowers...while still getting shit done
stopping to smell the metaphorical and literal flowers…while still getting shit done

2) Notice the emotional effect that all of those tangible things have had on you. How is that thing that’s making you feel good actually making you feel good? I don’t care if the scale says a number you like or your jeans fit better. Because there are many days we weigh X amount or our clothes fit better or we haven’t changed at all and we STILL feel like crap and pin it on our bodies. What is the emotional effect that whatever’s happening right now is having on you?

Back to my example: I’m walking around a lot, so maybe my legs are getting more toned…but hey, maybe I’m just noticing it for the first time (funny how we don’t always see ourselves when we’re right in front of our own eyes). What’s making me feel so good is the fact that I’m using my body – that I’m moving, period. I’m moving without my movement being tied to exercise or steps-per-day. I’m using my body as my vehicle instead of something I’m just toting around.

In regards to my schedule, I’m filling my days more intentionally. Maybe not every decision is within my preferred time frame per se, but every decision DOES serve a very distinct purpose. I’m realizing that in this city, there is no room for wishy-washiness. It will keep moving without you if you sit and stew. But hey, maybe this has been how life has been all around – I’m just letting it sink in for the very first time. I’m still not the spontaneous type, but when I’m forced to go out and make decisions because I’m beholden to simply the expectations I’ve set for myself, what do I do? That feeling of making shit happen – at least striving for it – makes me feel good from the inside out.

One more thing? I’ve had more present interpersonal time. Friend dates, work meetings, and definitely within my relationship. I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilling it is to be experiencing this all alongside Jeremy. We’re both pretty mindful and introspective, but this journey is really reminding both of us how much every day can be an adventure if you open your eyes in wonder to the world around you. Sure, we’ve had some tough moments since we’ve been here – picking up and moving your entire life into a new environment will definitely trigger any pair to test each other on the basic tenants of who they are – but we’re beginning to find our own perfect balance between enjoying both the familiar/routine and the exploration (instead of making routine our default when we’ve got time to spare or forcing exploration when we’d rather curl up with a movie). We’re both still busy. But our time together doesn’t feel like in-between moments – it feels like THE moment.

 

my date to the dream, girl world premiere. look at those dreamy faces!
waiting for the dream, girl world premiere to begin. look at those new yorky faces!

3) Ask yourself what you can replicate when you feel crappy. No, not everything will be able to happen at the snap of your fingers. Maybe it’s pouring outside. Maybe you’re slammed with meetings all day. Maybe you’re stuck in a 3-hour commute. But take a look at what’s helped you feel so wonderful: what can you replicate for yourself when you’re having a bad body day?

With this one, it’s important to dig deep and be brutally honest with yourself. The easy answer for me, in this case would be to “take a walk” and “make time for my relationships.”

But I know that forcing myself to take a walk around the block does NOT work for me. It feels manufactured, like a chore, and far from anything enjoyable. But walking to run errands instead of driving or taking the subway? That I can do. Because it’s not really about the walking. It’s about feeling useful. About feeling like I’m my own vehicle.

Sometimes, as an introvert, the mere act of making more plans than I already have on tap makes me feel depleted. My go-to solution? Talk about the deep stuff. Whether that means calling one of my girlfriends for a no-holds-barred phone sesh or jamming with Jeremy over a glass of wine and the tough questions that make us think, finding the nuance and newness in the small moments always helps me feel better about everything in life.

walking to the gym. no, really.
walking to the gym. no, really.

4) Celebrate the moment like it’s the last time you’ll feel this way. What if we shifted our focus around our bodies like we do around the special events that happen to us? What if this great body day, just like our meh or even “bad” body days, was just a part of our story?

I’m not saying to negate how you’re feeling and tell yourself that this is the only time this will happen. I’m saying that the gratitude and #blesseds we use when we recognize the high highs in our lives should be applied to our bodies, too.

When we are feeling awesome, we tend to either downplay it or associate it with our “true” selves. We are back. This is who we really are.

And when we are feeling like crap about our bodies, we place blame like it’s betrayed us. We’ve strayed from the norm.

But if our bodies are always in flux, then what IS the norm? We might prefer to feel bangin’, but that doesn’t mean that that’s our default state. We have no way of knowing our default because we are constantly in transition. Even if you’re feeling awesome about your body, it doesn’t mean you’re “back to normal.” Just like with money and feeling like a broke joke when your account is low, you can’t build up your abundance if you don’t know what makes you feel abundant in the first place.

The more we practice gratitude for highs and allow them the space to shine, the better we become at bringing them back when we feel they’re lost.

My body is not a fixed object, nor will it ever be. Click To Tweet

Getting into slumps, funks, and ruts is a part of being human. So are successes, flying high, and feeling badass. It’s how we choose to approach these moments, the high highs and low lows, that determines the lasting effect they’ll have on us. In our bodies and in our lives. They’re the same, really.

Each day, you’re handed opportunity to navigate it all. I hope you seize it.

 

happy with body. happy with life. happy with smoothie.
happy with body. happy with life. happy with smoothie.

 cover photo cred: patricia pena 


WANT Yourself:
In the comments, tell me ONE thing that made you feel good this month. Nothing is too big or too small – let’s appreciate it ALL.


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Updos And Down Dogs: On Meeting Yourself.

Updos And Down Dogs: On Meeting Yourself.

Body Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

“I can’t do that kind of yoga. It’s too slow.

She stared at me with an ice sheet over her eyes, a look that darted back and forth and when it hit me it seared right through and past me. If you do yoga every day, or every week, how is this kind of glare even possible? I thought. I always think this, because honestly, I see it a lot.
___

I lay on my mat today with my hair pulled up in a tight bun, a hairdo I hadn’t visited in years. I used to pull it up with my bobby pins and my baby hands, freakishly long locks still wet from my quick hop into the shower after my early morning workout before 8am ballet class.

Those tight buns and suffocating leotards killed me. They hugged everything.

We were forced to scrutinizingly stare in the mirror at not only ourselves but others, we were forced to do the same poses over and over and over and over until the combo was second nature.

I could not do most of them.

My legs were too muscular, my arches too low, and my knees ever so slightly bow-legged which is apparently something that could have been fixed when I was a baby but thankfully my parents opted to keep me just the way I uniquely was (I love you, mom and dad!). My lower back hyperextended naturally, which no one told me and no one thought to work with me on, so I was just ordered to tuck my pelvis more and more and more and my insides cried as everything just felt completely stiff and I looked at myself in the mirror next to the flat-chested straight-waisted kid bodies and my overdeveloped womanly self felt even less like a dancer.

And then I got skinnier. And my hair pulled back tighter. And I at least had that, I thought, at least I look the part.

And I felt so alone.

dancing

Everyone was extreme and extroverted and childlike in the way an undergrad should be, honestly, and I was so sad I did not fit in. I kept doing the battement tendus to the front, side, and back, over and over and over again.

I became so used to a heavy bias towards routine, no balance. I fell in and out of love with my body by the day, I would eat the same things over and over and do the same workouts over and over and wear the same clothes over and over, and when I fell out of order I would fall into such deep depressions I would close myself off from any sort of interaction with the world and I would just snap.

Updos And Down Dogs: On Meeting Yourself. Click To Tweet
___

I know exactly when the turning point happened: it’s after I started doing yoga with mirrors in front of me. These mirrors, they weren’t like the ballet mirrors, forced upon me and picking apart my every move. These mirrors stood there with a smile, completely optionally allowing me to face myself and only myself with no outside dialogue to distinguish right from wrong.

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s when I started doing yoga that was different each time. It’s when the cueing that was funny and personal if flubbed, sequencing that fit the mood and themes of the day, classes in which I was guided on how to work with my body to find my individuality, not against my body to conform to a molded chorus line of asana.

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s when my eyes were opened to the fact that everyone’s hip joint moves differently, so not everything is one-alignment-fits all. It’s when teachers were allowed to ramble and quote and use phrasing unique to what resonated with their classes, use sanskrit if they liked (or not), use music if they liked (or not), sing if they liked (or not).

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s after I was given guidance in kind words, in helping hands, in hundreds and thousands of poses and variations and modifications so I could be okay with both my strengths AND my weaknesses. Because how do we HONESTLY know that feeling of true triumph we can count on if we just homogeneously flow through it all; if we don’t know what it is to have those poses that are unfamiliar or change shape (literally and figuratively) day by day?

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s after I realized that a lot of the trendy classes being offered were actually an exclusive “in-crowd” who constantly tried to top one another with their impressive balances and their superhuman-like physical practice, a crowd that talked at and not to you, a crowd that left anyone below them in the dust.

It’s after I realized that absolutely NO yoga class is “too slow” if you are not afraid to sit with yourself.

No yoga class is 'too slow' if you are not afraid to sit with yourself. Click To Tweet

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s after I quit going to places that forced the same sequences over and over and over again, the places I did the same set of poses over and over and over and over again in class. They argued it was a way to build confidence by developing expertise. I will always argue it was a way of developing and breeding addiction in addictive personalities.

And so of course I understood the ice-sheet eyes. Of course those who are used to the same set of fast-paced frenetic sameness or competition based cliques “don’t like” other kinds of yoga. It’s addiction and fear talking. You genuinely cannot hold onto grudges or contempt when you have chosen to meet yourself.

Even the people who have hurt me, cheated me, taken advantage of me, situations that continue to cause me more stress than I feel I can sometimes deal with…I hold no lasting grudges, because I know that the only one who can keep me in that sameness is myself. I cannot control my circumstances but I sure as hell can control my level of awareness and my actions. Some people and occurrences drive me insane, sure, but I choose to see those instances as small dust speck under the blanket of a good heart or necessary hurdle or underlying loneliness and desperation.

yoga

I’ll shoot you straight: If you are resentful and do nothing to change either your exterior or interior, you have not met yourself. If you go back to the same coping mechanisms over and over again with the same results over and over again, you have not met yourself. If you keep opening the same doors over and over and OVER again, there’s a whole untouched hallway ahead of you – and you have not met yourself.

I sat cross-legged at the end of class, my elbows grazing the curves in my torso and my thumbs finding their way to my heart through the sweat and muscle and DD-heaviness of what my sports bra was trying with all its might to hold in place. I felt my arms at my sides, three times the size of my once wispy limbs; my legs muscular and probably even less ballet-friendly than almost a decade prior. I hadn’t felt so hot about myself all week, but I had reminded myself that being highly sensitive and proprioceptive is a good thing; I had not freaked out because I knew this too would pass.

I had trusted myself to not know everything that was coming.

I had trusted myself to learn, to listen, to be affected, I had trusted myself to cry and release when needed. I sat with my legs crossed in my skin-clinging workout clothes, ones that show every curve and every protrusion and every little dimple, I sat there with my hair tied tightly in that little tiny updo, and I trusted with all my might then let it go.
____

And I sit here now typing with my leggings still on and that bun still sitting atop my head, because I haven’t pulled it out, because it was never too tight in the first place. I sit here knowing my body will go through so many incarnations and I’m going to treat it like it’s royalty no matter what. I sit here thinking about the new quotes that were read, the jokes that were made, the funny analogies and the personalities in the room that were all of different levels and at times all did slightly different things.

I smile because I have not only a yoga practice on the mat but off the mat as well (life, yo) that strives to be authentic, layer-peeling, free of addiction and crutches and sameness, and I feel as if I am gliding down the hallway, door by door.

And I realize I am free, I am whole, I am love.

And I am not afraid.

dancing

I am free, I am whole, I am love. And I am not afraid. Click To Tweet

cover photo by the beautiful caddie hastings

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It Moves With You: The Right Way To Exercise This Season.

It Moves With You: The Right Way To Exercise This Season.

Body Tips + Tools

All year, I’ve been running. Literally and metaphorically. Running into solopreneurship, running into my last year of this decade, running into huge life changes, deaths in the family, standing my ground with people I love, and holding my own when it comes to my worth.

Running, running, running.

Not ever running away – running toward and running through – but nevertheless, running.

Last week, as I slipped on my shoes for yet another run that felt as if it might be lackluster, just like the runs I’ve been running for the last couple weeks, I realized – I do not want to run any more.

At least right now.

how-to-exercise

It’s pre-winter in L.A, which means that the weather’s pulling bi-polar stunts all over the place. One day it’s 90 and muggy, the next it’s in the 50s and windy. I’m throw for a loop: I don’t know what to wear, my skin doesn’t know what’s going on, and my routine gets thrown completely out of whack without me even realizing what’s happening. My exercise regimen – one of my favorite forms of self-care – suddenly feels useless.

Seasonal shifts can do a number on you when you live in a culture that doesn’t honor (or even talk about!) the ways our bodies and minds subtly shift throughout the year. According to the magazines and trends, we’re supposed to act, eat, and yes, exercise the same way January through December: with intensity, with drive, with an all-or-nothing mentality that promises slimmer thighs!, better sex!, and brighter moods! 365 days a year.

So when days like these seemingly lovely cool-and-crisp ones roll around and I can’t muster up that intensity and drive – I’ve gotta tell you, I feel like a real asshole.

The body never lies. -Martha Graham Click To Tweet

how-to-exercise

Everything about this time of year is about slowing down, being thankful, and cozying up with the ones we love. So why do we still think that high-impact, fast-paced, quick-fix workouts are the only way to go, when the rest of the season encourages slowing down and shifting gears?

I agree that a high-impact workout can be a great way to blow off steam. I understand that it can help de-puff after too many pie slices (been there, done that). But for someone like me, who is highly sensitive to the energetic shifts around her, adding stress to an already stressful time almost seems like fighting fire with fire.

I didn’t realize this until the other day, when slipping into my workout clothes I realized I had ZERO DESIRE to run. I usually love to run, and for the past year, it’s been my fitness form of choice. Running, and big group classes packed with familiar faces.

But lately, I’ve had zero desire for either. It’s crazily out of character. It’s unexpected. And it goes completely against my heath credo: I am a firm believer that there are way too many kinds of fitness formats for all kinds of personality types for a workout to ever feel “forced.” And yet I realized that I’ve been trying to force myself through my routine for the sake of routine – hopping onto the treadmill and feeling no different afterwards, or going into my usual much-loved, jam-packed yoga class and getting major performance anxiety from the lack of space. Doing it not because it brought me joy or made me feel good in the now, but because it brought me joy and made me feel good at some other point in time.

We’re all dealing with a lot – year-round. The way we exercise should compliment what we’re missing, what we’re craving, and what we want to create in our lives each season of the year.

I realized that all year, I’ve been running toward the person I want to be and the world I want to create. Running toward, fighting for. Ten-plus whole months of RUNNING.

It gave me solace, it gave me ideas, it gave me energy.

It gave me fight.

And after all that running, that soul-opening, spirit-gratifying running – my body doesn’t want to run right now.

It wants to ground down, plant roots, and reflect on the solid foundation that I’ve built and want to build from here on out.

My body is in its winter, and to my dismay, I realized I’ve been trying to fight that.

how-to-exercise

No matter your goals, you don’t need to prescribe to one certain type of exercise year-round in order to feel good in your body year-round. Even when it comes to cross-training and mixing your week up – sometimes the run-lift-yoga, or crossfit-pilates-spin, or whatever-you-usually-do combo isn’t the combo that’s going to be the best one in every moment.

For right now, for my body to be its best, I’m realizing I need to cross-train in a different way. I need to listen to how my body is changing with the seasons.

There is no one right way to exercise this season. Because the right way is the way that works for you, and for you alone.

The only 'right' way to exercise is the way that works for you and you alone. Click To Tweet

Need some help? Here are 3 fitness “tips” (I use the term loosely) to follow this month and beyond:

1.) Feed your cravings, not your addictions.

Ever notice how the more you do something extreme, the more your body wants the next hit? Stress is like that. And not just the kind of emotional stress we associate with bad stuff: the kind of physical stress that gets our heart rate up in the gym, feels thrilling, and/or works our body to its edge. It’s why going super-super fast on a spin bike is trendy, even though it’s not efficient or effective. It’s an easy hit for a stress junkie.

Similarly, if you’re feeling cabin fever, extremely “restorative’ or more steady-state exercises might not be the best for you right now. You might need a run, or a boxing class, or ViPR or something like that to get your blood pumping and shake things up if they’re feeling stagnant.

Net-net, you want to feed what your body is craving (in this case – actually wants), not what it’s addicted to (in this case – what it’s simply used to wanting).

2.) Enlist a friend…or not.

Maybe you’re not around family during this time of year, or you live in a new city. Working out solo can be hard, for an unexpected reason: it reinforces the feeling of being lonely-alone.

On the flipside, if you’ve got party after shindig after obligation after whatever on your schedule, you might need some alone time.

If you’re getting a little too much solo time this season, you might need to put yourself in a community-type scenario, whether that means calling up a friendly acquaintance for a gym date or popping into that team-vibey class.

On the other hand, if you’re stretched thin on the social front – don’t force yourself into a class if you don’t want to (even if it’s your normal routine), and don’t wait around for someone else to be ready for the gym (just because it’s how you always roll). This is how I’m feeling right now, and while I usually use the gym as a way to feel a sense of community, I’m currently feeling the urge to keep to myself, go solo, and use my workout time to do some introspection (my best epiphanies come when I move, after all).

Sure, this is sort of a no-brainer. But so many times, we get so caught up in the routine of things, we forget those “duh” nuggets of wisdom. It’s perfectly okay to do like Stevie Nicks and go your own way.

3.) All hail the rest day(s)…but also, don’t blindly follow them.

There was a time in my life that I thought rest days were a sign of weakness, low willpower, and lost athleticism. Boy was I wrong. Rest days are amazing! But something interesting happened along the way to discovering this: I found that when I planned my rest days, they ended up being the days I wanted to exercise the most, even if I’d technically taken a “rest day” the day before. Basically, I became so tied to the idea of certain days “needing” to be rest days and certain days “needing” to be workout days that it became really hard to listen to what my body actually wanted in the moment.

What I found works for me is to “nothing” rest days. I take them when I take them. Sometimes once a week, sometimes twice or three times. But always, always when I’m feeling the need to rejuvenate.

Of course, if you’re killing it in the gym every single day, working through injuries, etc, it’s very important to break the addiction and de-vilify the Rest Day. But as a former listmaking addict – a person addicted to planning her weeks down to the minutes she’d be brushing her teeth – I’ve found that planning out my rest days works against all the hard work I’ve done over the years to listen to my body and honor its needs. Granted, I did need to plan rest days along the way just to get used to them…but after that? I became able to enjoy rest days and “sweat” days equally.

how-to-exercise

So how am I exercising right now if I’m not doing my normal run-lift-yoga combo? I’m doing the exercises that make me feel grounded.

I’m going into the spin room at the gym during non-class hours, plugging in my headphones, and doing a class all for myself. It’s low impact, which means my bones aren’t absorbing force that would come from, say, striking my foot down on the ground in a sprint. Each pedalstroke grounds me and reminds me that this is my body, and it’s the only one I’ve got (in this lifetime, at least, I don’t know what comes next!). Sometimes I’ll hop into the class of a teacher I know and trust, because with so much newness this year, my body isn’t in a phase of exploration and chance. It feels good to use the music to guide me or have the teacher tell me what to do, because all year long I’ve been making decisions that sort of scare me. I’m trading my box jumps and caterpillar crawls for machine-based exercises and mat classes. I’m feeling a need to be nurtured and supported, held up while I do the work.

I’m sure in the new year, or even in the new month, all this will change. But that is the beauty of fitness, and what drew me to it in the first place: it moves with you.

how-to-exercise

WANT YOURSELF:
In the comments, tell me: do you also find that your body craves different forms of movement as the seasons change? How do you plan on taking care of yourself this winter? What’s one thing you can do today to honor what your body truly WANTs?

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