Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

The Latest Fresh Start: Holidays, “I Should Be Better” Syndrome, and the Power of a Good Routine July 16, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm
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Last week I was feeling a little down: angry, overwhelmed, the works. In mid-June I had (re)started my daily yoga practice and it had been going great, even when I could only manage 5 or 10 minutes a day. I saw myself become more productive in other areas of my life, too: at work, on the blog, and I even finished a writing project that’d been hanging over me for months. And all of this while YB was having a rough phase of sleep! I was so impressed with myself. But last week things got away from me. The July 4 holiday weekend meant a break in our routine; we had some houseguests, one of whom stayed an extra few days longer than planned, which was wonderful but also outside of our usual routine; and we threw YB’s first birthday party, which was a lot of fun and a lot of work. At first I hung onto my yoga practice and even took time for a good long asana session on July 4, but soon I was only getting in some seated stretches on the floor during YB’s playtime – which isn’t necessarily bad, but isn’t what I want to do every day, either. And then Wednesday and Thursday last week, I missed my yoga practice entirely. After fitting it in every day for 20 days in a row! I felt so angry at myself, even though missing yoga gave me the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I also began feeling a bit overwhelmed at work, particularly in light of my upcoming job transition and all the things I need to accomplish before handing off my projects to other editors. When I feel overwhelmed by my projects, I sometimes cope by procrastinating and doing nothing at all, which is a terrible coping strategy and just makes everything worse. And Thursday night I fell down the emotional rabbit hole: I’ll never have a steady yoga practice again, I’m a bad mother, YB loves F more than she loves me, I can’t even water the garden right. You know how it goes. Another flare-up of “I Should Be Better” Syndrome. And thus did it happen that I neglected my blog all last week.

On Friday morning, I dragged myself to my mat, and after keeping my practice going over the weekend and catching up on some things at home, I’m feeling better now, but as I well know, “I Should Be Better” Syndrome is a chronic condition. It’ll be back at some point. So what have I learned this time around that can help me to deal with the problem next time? First, there’s the value of sticking to a routine, even on holidays and weekends, even when disruptions are occurring, even when I’m tired, because it makes a big difference in my mood. If I can stick to my routine and keep my practice going when things aren’t on a normal schedule, maybe it’ll give me the stamina to get through that non-normal more gracefully. And if I can stick to my routine in the long term, the practice might prepare me to deal better when life gets derailed on a larger scale.

And, as always, it doesn’t do any good to lay blame. There were certainly some events and issues in the past two weeks that I could have done a better job of handling, some behavior I could have improved and some yoga I could have done more of. But the past is in the past. Instead of laying blame on myself and looking backward, better to assess where I am right now and what I need to do to fix the situation and move forward. A friend of mine loves the saying “It is what it is,” but as F mentioned to me last week, “It was what it was” also holds true. No use worrying over what it is or what it was, since that can’t be changed; I may have some input into the future, but “it will be what it will be” is also an accurate thing to say. All I really can change is my attitude.

 

goals in mainstream fitness May 7, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:12 pm
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Earlier this week, Heather turned me on to this interesting post: It’s Time for a Makeover of Mainstream Fitness, by Ruthie Streiter. When Heather read it, it reminded her of the identity-based habits I was talking about earlier this year, and I agree completely.

First of all, I love that Streiter is advocating that people really think through their body’s particular needs and problems before embarking on an exercise program. So often, people take up a diet or fitness regimen just because it’s the latest fad, or it worked for a friend, but every body is different and has different needs. What is fantastic for one person’s body could be catastrophic for another, and result in no change at all for someone else. Planning out your exercise program in a thoughtful way can help you to save time and ensure that your actions will result in positive change – after all, who wants to spend hours on vigorous exercise if you don’t enjoy it (which is how most Americans feel about working out) and if it’s hurting you?

And Streiter’s article fits in well with the idea of identity-based habits. Remember, identity-based goals are the opposite of appearance-based goals (like “I want to lose ten pounds” or “I want a flatter tummy”). With an identity-based goal, you’re thinking, “I want to be a healthier person”, “I want to be a balanced person”, and, starting from there, you work on making healthier choices, day by day. Just starting out with that frame of mind could make the difference and keep you from throwing yourself into an exercise regime that’s not right for you. You’re not focusing all your energy on this one small aspect of yourself (your weight, your tummy), which could go wrong so easily; instead, you’re working on gradually changing your whole identity to that of a more healthful person, so you’ll naturally think in more holistic terms. And when you set an identity-based goal, the changes you make will last longer because you’re not only creating a new habit, you’re reinventing yourself, reimagining yourself, as a healthy sort of person, so your behavior will naturally come more and more in line with your goal.

A new month has just begun, and spring is springing up all over. It’s a great time to go play outside, enjoy the fresh air, and pick up the season’s first fresh produce at the farmers’ market. It’s a great time of year to think back on your New Year’s resolutions and recommit to working toward a balanced, healthy lifestyle in the way that’s best for you.

 

Beginning Again… Again March 19, 2013

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:15 pm
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Recently I wrote about how I was starting to get my yoga practice back by carving out some practice time early in the mornings. Well, soon after that post, the entire family – F, YogaBaby, and I – all came down with a stomach bug. It took us days to recover. Then a family member visited from out of town, the entire family caught a low-level cold, and finally the disaster that is daylight saving time hit us hard. Any parent can tell you that “springing ahead” wreaks havoc on a small child, and it wasn’t too kind to F and me either. And so my yoga got off track again. I know that life is what’s happening when your plans get derailed, and maybe someday I’ll look back fondly on the vomit, screaming, snot, and exhaustion of the past month, but let me tell you it was not exactly fun to live through.

One of the worst things about a month like this, to me, is that I always seem to lose my yoga time right when I need it the most. Last week, for example, when YB was still adjusting to the time change and refused to go to bed for the fourth night in a row, I set her thrashing, howling little body in the crib, went to another room, and yelled and punched the floor. (Yes, the floor.) I felt frustrated, angry, and helpless, and knowing that none of it was YB’s fault just made me angry at myself for not having more patience. These are the feelings I count on my yoga practice to help me control; having that quiet time to check in with my body and spirit and to center myself helps me so much to be a calmer person.

My challenge at times like this is to find that calm center on my own, without the framework of an asana practice. That night I couldn’t find it. But YB cried for less than ten minutes before rolling over and falling asleep on her own – I was upset for a lot longer than she was. No amount of singing and cuddling from me could help her to do that, that night: she had to find it herself. The bedtime routine has improved steadily since then, and last night I had my sweet snuggly baby bedtime back. I appreciated it even more after the rough nights.

After a relaxing weekend and the chance to catch up on some of our lost sleep, F and I have started setting the alarm clock early again. We’ll gradually work backwards until we’re getting up at 5:30 again, but we started with getting up just ten minutes early yesterday. I did five half sun salutes in my bathrobe, then sat quietly on my meditation cushion for a few minutes. It’s a start. What’s important isn’t how many times you fall out of the routine – it’s being able to start fresh and begin again, and again, and again.

 

How to be a calm parent March 14, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:10 pm
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A friend sent me this great article: How to be a calm parent. I love this long list of ways to keep yourself calm when your children are inspiring not-calm. I’m going to file this away for future reference when YogaBaby becomes YogaKid. What things do you to keep calm in tough parenting situations? (Or any situations!)

 

Joyful Things March 7, 2013

I’ve been writing a lot lately about making resolutions and overcoming bad feelings like guilt, shame, and fear. I even have another post or two in the queue along these lines. When you think about it one way, you might see these as positive posts, reaffirming our ability to take action and make change – but looked at another way, I’ve been kind of a downer lately. So, in honor of the impending springtime, here are some wonderful things, things to rejoice about and be grateful for.

  • I have a poem published in the current issue of UU World magazine. This is exciting for several reasons: it’s the first time I was solicited for poems. As a Unitarian Universalist, it made me happy to see my work in a magazine that so closely aligns with my values, and which reaches such a wide audience of readers who share those values. And it’s the first time I got fan mail from a reader who liked the poem!
  • I work in a job where my group’s VP and product director care about meeting new hires and getting to know their people. I had lunch with our VP a few weeks ago, and our product director scheduled a group lunch for next month. Overall I feel listened to and supported at my job. And I have the ability to work from home when I need to.
  • I just realized that this January marked ten years since I started practicing yoga. Ten years! I took my first yoga class during my last semester at UNC Greensboro. It was an ashtanga-based power yoga class at lunchtime, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I was really confused at first, but I loved it. I still love it ten years later. How cool that it’s become such a part of my life!
  • F and I celebrated a special anniversary last week: six years since our first kiss. It amazes me to think about how my life has changed as a result of that moment and all the wonderful things that came from it.
  • Speaking of wonderful things that come from kissing, YogaBaby is clapping her hands, waving, and trying to stand up at every opportunity. She’ll hold onto our hands and walk across the room now. When handed a photo and asked “Who’s that?”, she answered “Dada.” (And we were able to repeat this event three times.) She also says “mamamamama” now, but only under duress when she’s upset. Predictably, I come running when I hear it. Overall she’s pretty much a joy to be around.
  • F’s sister came to visit last week. It was wonderful to see her, and she stayed in with the baby one night so F and I could go out for a nice dinner.
  • When our entire family unit was down with a stomach bug a few weeks back, I had reason to be grateful (1) that I did not in fact die lying on the bathroom floor like I thought I would; (2) that F and YB didn’t get it as bad as I did and in fact YB had the mildest case; (3) that YB still felt sick enough that all she wanted to do was nap and cuddle, which was about all we could keep up with; (4) that I have the kind of husband who will go to the store for medicine at 1 am (with a bowl on the seat next to him just in case) and then will change the baby’s jammies and sheets when she throws up at 3 am and I literally cannot move; and (5) that my parents were willing to come over with ginger ale and jello the next morning to take care of us.
  • I’ll be covering the prenatal yoga class at East Eagle Yoga starting next month when Sarah, the current instructor, has her baby. I’m excited for an opportunity to teach again, and I love prenatal. More on this in April!
 

Goals versus Resolutions* March 5, 2013

Filed under: books,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:53 pm
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I recently reread Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and I came across this passage that I found interesting, particularly in light of my recent posts on identity-based habits and resolutions*:

I’d noticed idly that a lot of people use the term “goal” instead of “resolution,” and one day in December, it struck me that this difference was in fact significant. You hit a goal, you keep a resolution. “Run a marathon” makes a good goal. It’s specific, it’s easy to measure success, and once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. “Sing in the morning” and “Exercise better” are better cast as resolutions. You won’t wake up one day and find that you’ve achieved it. It’s something that you have to resolve to do every day, forever. Striving toward a goal provides the atmosphere of growth so important to happiness, but it can be easy to get discouraged if reaching the goal is more difficult than you expected. Also, what happens once you’ve reached your goal? Say you’ve run the marathon. What now – do you stop exercising? Do you set a new goal? With resolutions, the expectations are different. Each day I try to live up to my resolutions. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity. I never expect to be done with my resolutions, so I don’t get discouraged when they stay challenging. Which they do.

– Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project, page 288

I like how Rubin has differentiated here between goals and resolutions – I think you can push the idea further and explore related or nested goals and resolutions. For example, the goal to run a marathon could be one part of a larger resolution to exercise more or live a healthier lifestyle. As Rubin notes, thinking about her resolutions every day helps her to live up to them, but a goal in tandem can provide additional focus. If the resolution is to exercise three times a week, adding a goal to run a marathon can help to keep you focused and in the habit. And resolutions can help us to achieve larger goals. For example, a resolution to show up on time for work every day can contribute to a larger goal of earning a promotion. Even Rubin’s resolutions all push her forward towards a goal: feeling happier in her life.

I think Rubin’s conception of resolutions (both in this passage and throughout the book) also fits in well with those identity-based habits we’ve been talking about. As part of her happiness project, Rubin identifies areas of her character she doesn’t like and uses her resolutions to change them. Rubin wants to be “happier”: she wants to laugh more, have more fun, and be less snappish with her husband and children. Throughout the book, resolutions like “Laugh more” or “Sing in the morning” encourage her to change her self-concept to encompass more humor, more goofiness, in small ways on a day-to-day basis. And it works!

*[While I recognize that the annual time of resolution-making has passed now that January is over and in fact it’s March already, I think it’s in the spirit of this blog to keep exploring the question if I want to. (And I keep seeing things that make me want to.) As Rubin notes, you don’t have to wait to start a happiness project – you can do it anytime – and this blog is all about exploring things that lead to happiness. Don’t postpone joy! So I think resolutions are fair game for any time of year and I shall post accordingly!]

 

Getting back in the swing of things February 21, 2013

Filed under: checking in,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:45 pm
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For the past week, I have practiced yoga every day! On the weekend, I got a good half-hour practice in each day during YogaBaby’s naps, but on the weekdays, I’ve been getting up at 5:30 am so I can practice for 15-20 minutes before we start the day. This hasn’t been as horribly as I would have expected. First of all, my husband F has been getting up at 5:30 for a while now to write, so I’m already used to the alarm going off. Also, YB suddenly decided that she only needs one night-feeding instead of two, so getting up early has been much easier now that I’m getting a little more sleep. (I also theorize that, with having a baby, I’ve gotten used to sleeping less in general, so getting up early may be less of a hardship than it would have been for me pre-YB.)

I have to say, I’m feeling so much better than I was. I hadn’t practiced yoga at all between January 14 and February 13 (family illness, out-of-town guests, and then inertia as contributing factors), and it showed. My body felt rusty, sore, and old, and even worse, my emotions were noticeably more negative and less under my control. I hadn’t realized just how much I relied on that yoga time for not just my physical health but my emotional well-being too. Add to that the fact that it’s winter, and February is typically the worst month of the year for me, and you can imagine how I was feeling. It wasn’t good for my family either (YB looked so surprised the day I randomly burst into tears at the dinner table!).

After only a week, and with such short sessions, I’m not back to 100 percent yet. But I feel much better. My body feels pleasantly sore instead of creaky old lady sore, and I find myself yearning to go for a run or a bike ride. My problem areas are still my calves and hips, along with my back, which is suffering from annual hunched-over-freezing-cold achiness. The calves are improving, and I’m much more likely to start stretching them during the day while waiting for coffee or the elevator. Hips are more troublesome – I can’t manage cobbler pose at all – but at least now I know that my left hip is tighter than the right. My back, shoulders, and neck are all delighted to be practicing again too.

And emotionally I’m much happier, less snappish, less easily frustrated, and more patient and responsive to YB. I still have a lot of room for improvement – I had a bit of a breakdown on Sunday, and Tuesday night I got grumpy with F for no reason just because I was tired – but I feel like I’m starting from a calmer, more positive baseline. I really hope to keep it up!