Back In the Flow

Last year for my birthday, my best friend gave me the book Perfectly Imperfect by Byron Baptiste. It’s not one that I read straight through, but I’ll pick it up here and there when I need inspiration. The other night I read about being in ‘the flow’. We can be in the flow of life just like we can be in the flow of yoga. Things feel graceful and effortless when they are moving along the way we’d like. Body, mind, and energy is harmonious.

But we know the next day, in life or our practice, we can hit a wall or plateau. You have flow in your practice when you hit a wall and don’t react with self-hate or dive into a shame spiral. You trust that you are still moving forward (even if slowly) and things will pick up again. Simply being in the process as it is, is being in flow. Sometimes you hit a wall for long time, other times not. On or off the mat, you stay the course knowing it’s part of the flow. You have flow in your practice when you can accept breaks in tempo or achievement and use the slowdowns as learning opportunities.

I had that opportunity this week with my students. Towards the end of Tuesday’s class, I completely blanked and forgot a piece of the pose sequence on the second side. I honestly almost let it derail my teaching right then, which never happens. But my amazing students chimed in and cued for where we needed to go for the next few poses. They’re the best. I played it off, but I was embarrassed and immediately started that shame spiral of questioning if I was even a good teacher, what am I doing here, you know how that goes… My flow was slowing down.

But throughout the day I came back to what I read earlier this week. Being in the flow doesn’t mean doing everything “perfectly” all the time. It means learning from your challenges and obstacles and moving forward with grace and confidence. So I did just that. I intentionally created a class today that had some complex breath to movement cues and I practiced my instructions out loud. The class was physically challenging and I really had to pay attention to what I was saying as I guided my students through. But I didn’t make any mistakes in my instruction and I felt good about myself as a teacher again.

That’s what yoga is about, taking what we learn on the mat and applying it to everyday life. In this case I was able to practice self-love after hitting an obstacle. I learned from it and my students had a good class. I am back in my flow.

Pre-Show Testimony

As this training session comes to and end with our show tomorrow, our coach asked all the women to write a journal entry on how we feel. That’s one of the many things I love about her program. It’s not just, come to the gym, do these sets, track your sit-ups and go home. She has built a team, a tribe, a squad. The point of this program is about growth and self-discovery. The fact that we get in great physical shape as a result of our personal transformations is an added bonus.

She asked us to be real and raw in these journals, to leave no stone upturned and no emotion unexplored. Below is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed training for it the last month and a half.

Dear (Coach),

You asked us to write a recap of our personal experiences training with CCF. You asked us to write it now as we finish the last physical assessments, complete the final dexascan, and pose in the final progress photoshoot. You said it’s Peak Week, we’ve made it. Our journey is complete, we’ve already won. For many the women I’ve been training with that might be the case; those who had goals of weight loss, tightening up, and body acceptance. They have all worked very, very hard, look amazing, and should be so proud of themselves. I on the other hand, will not have ‘won’ or ‘completed my journey’ until after I step off stage.

For me personally, competing in this show wasn’t about a number on a scale or inches lost from my waist. I don’t care so much about how many sit-ups I can do in a minute. I’ve always had a very strong positive body image (Ask any of my best friends, in high school I was always the first one to suggest skinny-dipping.), and the fact that I worked out harder in these past 6 weeks than I ever have in my life reinforced that self-love. Hard work comes naturally to me. You tell me that this is the workout we are doing and this is what we are eating, I will do it. I know hard exercise and diet are expected and necessary to achieve the desired result. I accept this and I rise to the occasion. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not discounting the work that we did. Like I said, it was intense, and I am proud of myself for giving it my all and being witness to the changes my body has made. I’ve always wondered what my body was physically able to look like, and I’m starting to find out.

I wanted to do this training program, and ultimately the show, because I am not comfortable being the intentional center of attention (yet). And honestly up until writing down these thoughts now, I hadn’t thought out 100% why not.    If I tell any of my friends that statement, they’ll object in disbelief and recount stories of me amusing large groups of people, times where I would approach complete strangers, of times where I acted super “silly” in front of large crowds. They tell me this and I cringe a little inside. Most of the times they’re referring to I was drunk and therefore not as in control of my words and actions as if I had been sober. This doesn’t mean I’m afraid of crowds now. If I’m telling a story, doing “my thing” at Burning Man or anywhere, dancing at a club, whatever, and more people join in, great. I am super extroverted and feed off the energy of people and large groups. I’m also very inclusive and want people to join in the fun I’m having.

What is uncomfortable for me is standing up in front of a group of people and saying, “look at me”. When I got sober (and I didn’t realize how much of an impact that event played on this show until I started writing, these thoughts are coming to me as I type.) I completely rediscovered who I was. What would I say and do now that I didn’t have the liquid courage of however many mixed drinks? What would I talk about with people now that I am consciously aware of what I’m saying? At first it was terrifying discovering who I really was. The good news is it got easier, and easier, and easier. I started to learn who Morgan actually was, and I liked her a lot. She still liked to party and go dancing. She could still easily talk to strangers and she was still fun. But that insecurity of being center-stage is still alive. During my drinking days I would get up on stage anytime anywhere and think I was absolutely hysterical. Looking back now, I was making a fool of myself. My mom would tell me how I was an embarrassment. Now, tomorrow, I am going to get on stage, more than half naked, and be judged on how I’m presenting myself. If that’s not the final test of courage, I don’t know what is.

What’s different though this time is as I write this I am 1,221 days sober, I have the strength of my Higher Power behind me, and countless tools in my belt from the hundreds of AA meetings I’ve gone to over the last three-and-something years. I also have the support and encouragement from my fiancé, friends, family, you (Coach), and the other women I’ve been training with the last 6 weeks. Not to mention, my body shows the results of long hours working out and following a strict diet (minus a few sips of the Unicorn Frappuccino).

Three years ago, I did not feel this great. I didn’t realize how bored and discontent I was. I thought I had high self-esteem, but really I just had a high BAC. Now, I look amazing, I feel amazing, and Saturday after I step off stage I will finally prove to myself that I’m as confident as I believe I am. I will prove to myself that I can intentionally put myself out there, and it’s ok because I’m in a healthy frame of mind. I deserve to be the center of attention because I’ve worked hard for it. I will trust myself that I have earned this and I am not making a fool of myself. I am not embarrassing myself.  I’ve forgiven myself for the stupid things that I did while drunk, it’s time to put my best foot, or hip, forward and move on.

Love,

Morgan

FINDING YOUR YOGA MAT SOUL MATE- IT’S OUT THERE!

If you’re like me, you think of your yoga mat as your best friend. It encourages you through challenges, it’s there to celebrate and share your victories, and it’s that safe space you can come to at any time. It should feel like a little island you want to call home for every practice. Like your practice, your yoga mat should be one that you invest in, one that you keep coming back to, and one that supports you through every inhale and exhale.

The most important features in a good mat includes:

Durability and longevity — A yoga mat’s ability to withstand even the toughest of practices over time.

Comfort and support — Just enough cushioning for your joints can reduce squirming in kneeling postures and provide padding for impact, but not so much that it compromises support.

Stability — A firm, dense mat can help you feel stable throughout standing and balancing poses.

Portability — Consider how much travel you will be doing with your mat. A mat’s weight and size will dictate whether or not it is toteable. Since most people walk, bike, and travel to class, an easy-to-carry mat is an important feature.

Traction and stickiness — It’s important for a mat to provide traction both to keep you from slipping and in staying connected to the ground. The last thing you want is for your mat to function as a Slip N’ Slide.

Texture — Mats have different surfaces, but most yogis agree that it’s best to have a mat that feels most natural.

Environmental consideration — Buying an eco-friendly yoga mat is important to many practitioners. If this holds true to you, consider purchasing a mat made from all-natural materials.

Size — Your yoga mat should cover the length and width of your entire body. Not every yoga mat comes in various widths and sizes, so make sure to check measurements before purchasing.

Reviews.com recently compiled a study on mats that you can see here. Don’t be afraid to test a few mats on your own and ask around before making a purchase—because when a yoga mat feels just right for you, it can make all the difference in your practice, and thus your life. Happy practicing!