How do you read a book? That probably seems like a silly question. You read the beginning, middle and then the end. Right? I have this bad habit of reading things out of order because I am impatient and cannot deal with the uncertainty of not knowing. I read the beginning, the end, and if the book is compelling enough, the middle.
How would you live your life even if you knew the ending? Knowing that in the end, we end up being recycled back into the earth one way or another – does it liberate you or does it scare you? Are you ready to write the middle?
So I’ve fallen off the wagon in the last few months. While traipsing around the world (some for leisure, but some for work) sounds like magical fun, it comes with a lot of side effects. My sleep was disrupted in so many ways, I ate lots of unhealthy things to survive long meetings, and I pretty much reduced my exercise down to nothing.
And it shows.
I don’t meant to say that I got fat (because I didn’t.) But I got cranky, I got moody, I got sullen. The protective barrier that I put around myself after many years of yoga was taken down due to bad lifestyle choices. Most of the mental deterrents were no longer there and I found myself consumed by anxiety.
I started this new year stressed, unhappy and tired. [Someone once told me how you start your new year is pretty much going to set the tone for the rest of the year. Thankfully, I’m Chinese and I still have lunar new years to give it another shot.]
But I know that I am lucky in other ways. I am not complaining about the opportunities that I had during those last 4 months – I did get to see and do a lot of amazing things. I am lucky because I know that I can get back to the way things were. Exercising comes naturally to me. (I know, I know, I’m weird.) I’ve spent my entire life doing some sort of physical movement (mostly dancing and hiking) so it’s never been off for me to do something every day. I know that I have to start somewhere.
The first day back to yoga and I definitely could not stretch as far as I used to. First day back in megaformer and I felt weak. First day back at rock climbing and I was back at 5.9s. But I know what I am fully capable of. In a few months time (or even sooner) I can get back to where I was before. I know I’m lucky because my body will remember.
For those that are starting off, you have to start somewhere. I know some people who started exercising from ground zero, and now (a few years later) it’s so ingrained in who they are that they are (healthily) addicted to some physical movement. It’s a discipline that you build into your body and becomes a habit. Somewhat like brushing your teeth. Sometimes you really want it (especially when your teeth feel grimy or fuzzy). Sometimes it’s just routine. Sometimes you take it for granted… until you spend 1 week in the desert with no running water and can’t brush your teeth.
[Photo credit: Me! This was our second time riding a camel through the Sahara Desert. The first time was in Egypt near the pyramids. This time it was an hour long ride. Things are always different the second time – you’re a little more comfortable and you know what to expect.]
Relationships are hard and require a lot of commitment and dedication. Some times you get frustrated as hell and want to quit. Other days things seem to click. So goes the natural fluctuations in life. Be mindful of your actions and reactions, since you have control of these.
A truly healthy relationship allows both parties to become better. Keep an open mind.
Tell them you love them every day.
Photo was taken in Egypt the week that Morsi’s government was overthrown. We were sitting in the Port of Aqaba in Jordan [Y’all should watch “Lawrence of Arabia” if you have not] waiting for our ferry. The ferry was delayed since the political situation in Egypt was tense and our departure was contingent on whether Morsi would step down or not. I won’t go into the political details about this since I’m not knowledgeable enough to talk about it.
While in Egypt, we were given the opportunity to ride camels. I originally said no since they smelled and it cost $10… and I was being cheap. But after seeing him mount a camel, I decided why not? I mean, how often can most people get the opportunity to ride a camel in front of the Great Pyramids? If it were not for his enthusiasm to do EVERYTHING (literally, everything), I wouldn’t have these photos. At the same time, he never would have thought to visit this place if I didn’t throw a dart at a map. (He had his eye on more popular tourist destinations in Europe.)
While we have drastically different travel styles, I think we decided that I was the limiting reagent when it comes to energy. It used to frustrate him that I would get tired all the time and it would frustrate me that he wanted to keep going out until the sun came out. He learned to accept my limits. [I tried to go out at night but after some time, I become a sleep-deprived monster. It’s not pretty.]
Compromises are hard. Rarely is it 50/50. More like 60/40 or 70/30. Once you agree to the terms, agree to them without regret.
Where I was as of last night. Videos taken by my friend AJ “Huggles” at Planet Granite in Sunnyvale.
I was taking class at Yoga Inside Out a few weeks ago and placed my mat next to another person. Didn’t think much of it since it’s we’re always surrounded by anonymous people in class.
However once class started, it became apparent that she had a similar physical practice to mine, save for one major thing: she could press into handstand. Something crossed my mind: I suck. How come I can’t do that? (Boo for negative thoughts.)
Quickly followed by: Wait. This means that I have hope! (Yay for turning it around.)
I had always used my plethora of excuses as to why I couldn’t do certain things, until I realized that they weren’t true. My excuse for not trying arm balances? Skinny arms. Completely blown away by watching another girl with even skinnier arms do it. Inversions? Same excuse.
In an effort to learn how to press up, I had asked my (male) friends who gave me useless tips. They meant well, but the tips were still about 5 levels above where I was. So I remained stuck since I couldn’t figure out steps 1-4.
After class, I tapped her on the shoulders and shamelessly asked her for help. With all of her tips, a light turned on in my head. One that reignited a desire to improve myself. To learn more. She wasn’t a glamorous rock star yogi, but she was so much more real to me because she was next to me without the glamorous lululemon/toesox/whatever photoshoot.
[A slightly creepy admission: I googled her later and found out that she was a yoga teacher in Marin, which explains why she was so good on step by step tips.]
I was able to modify a few of her tips to suit where I was in my practice (I had a bit more ways to go than she did, so I started with higher elevation.) In any case, I would highly recommend this page for information. The great thing about her videos is that she doesn’t just show her with her perfect press-ups, but all of the struggles and “failings” that brought her to where she is.
Two things to take out of this:
1. Never be afraid to ask for help. Even though I “teach” yoga, I still have a lot to learn. Knowing that I still have a long way to go makes it more fun. Each step forward sets off a fire of dopamine in my brain.
2. Everything takes time. It took time for me to find the right person to give me guidance on my next steps. You are where you need to be for now. It will take more time for me to figure out how to get to the next step and I am okay with that.
I’m not sure exactly when I realized I was overtraining – it does manifest itself differently for different people.
It could have been when my muscles continued to feel sore days on end no matter how much time I took off.
It could have been the weight gain (ok, ok, it wasn’t a ton of weight, but it was definitely the heaviest I have ever been) and the increase in body fat (mostly belly fat.)
It could have been the constant feeling of being unbearably cold at work (admittedly, it is super cold in general at work, but it felt arctic.)
In some ways, even though I knew that I was overtraining, I couldn’t stop pushing myself, lest I become weaker. In some ways, maybe I was addicted to the constant high intensity aspect of my regimen. I wasn’t listening to my body [the complete anti-thesis of what yogis preach.] I did try to cut back, but after a day or two of rest, I was antsy to get back to the yoga studio or the climbing gym.
During my last vacation, I was limited to 2 whole yoga classes over a course of 2 weeks and lots of walking and hiking. The minimal high-intensity and large quantity of low-impact exercise reset my system. Coming back from my trip, I noticed that I was no longer freezing at work. I had managed to shed the excess weight that had crept on the previous year. I came back to my physical practice stronger.
Now my exercise routine is a lot less intense than it used to be. I used to teach yoga, take power yoga and then go rock-climbing all in one day. I beat my body with intense forms of yoga 5-6 times, climbed 3+ times and did whatever I could to just keep moving. I’ve cut everything in half and just try to get some simple low impact exercise (walking around a lot more) and it works perfectly for me.
Of course, this will vary from person to person. I have a co-worker who can run marathons without training and be 100% okay. Good for him. I would probably die (possibly, literally.)
This was all a recent occurrence/discovery (~2 months ago) so we’ll see how this sticks. If you don’t see me around the yoga studio, I may just be taking a simple walk around the neighborhood or just playing around with some simple yoga at home. I do encourage daily movement, but it doesn’t always have to push you past your boundaries every day. [I am chuckling now because if you had asked me 3 years ago, I would vouched for daily butt-whooping.] Learn to take care of yourself. For some, it means more exercise. For others (like me), I need to learn to relax.
In December, somewhere off the shore of Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand, I was paddling my heart out due to the choppy waters while my husband lounged in the back taking photos. [He survived.] We had to keep paddling otherwise the current would push us further and further away from shore. At some point, I was fairly certain I was getting sun burn and heat exhaustion, but I kept going.
After what felt like an eternity of paddling and paddling, we rounded the final corner and reached the beach. Fresh fruit and shade awaited us. Powering through some rough waters was ultimately rewarding. Not trying would have resulted in us floating out to see and ending up on primetime news.
Unlike yesterday where the stars were aligned or something other utter pish posh, today was like a constant harry of items large (meetings, deadlines, trying to plan for my co-teaching class) and small (dropping off a DVR at UPS, running to the post office), and social events (rock climbing dates). There are a lot of obligations in life that you have to push yourself through because it’s just a part of life. I don’t mean this in a surrendering sort of way, but in a grit-your-teeth raging (in a good way) through the tough moments sort of way.
Of course, not everything in life comes with rewards. Sometimes you just have to work through it just for the sake of working through it. It’s up to you to decide how you want to see the difficult moments. Do you want to face them knowing you tried your best or face them frazzled and overwhelmed?
I used to try and resist the change that occurred around me. When close friends left and moved, I could not comprehend how life would go on (yes, I was pretty melodramatic.) When life changes happened (graduation, work changes, relationship changes, my mother’s death, etc.) I struggled with the transitions.
I have come to realize that everything in life is in constant flux. So long as the flux is trending upwards, you’ll be fine. I see life like the stock market. This is the Dow Jones for as long as Google Finance could track it:
Nothing but ups and downs. A lot of major setbacks, but a lot of major rises.
This month, three of my closest friends at yoga have moved out of the area for school, work or life changes. A part of me is a little sad that they’re gone since I am used to seeing them on an almost daily basis, but I know it’s not the end of the world.
This month I am getting married. I’ve dealt with other family changes [see my sister’s blog http://40daysofsobrietysf.com/] and it’s made our sistership better.
Speaking of change, my teaching schedule will change altogether. Still playing around with what works best. Will update schedule page when it’s settled.