Self-improvement

I bought some books for the first time in a very long time last week. I’ve been buying less ‘stuff’ recently so I was very excited about this. I took them out and looked at them one-by-one and realised that not only were they all basically self-improvement books of some sort but they all contained courses of at least 8 weeks.

This is a good thing, I decided. I need some structure, some base at the moment. The sadness has been there every single morning for weeks. Still doing my pranayama, my metta meditation, my yoga, my running, my painting but there’s always room for more, right?

So the books are: Moving Toward Balance by Rodney Yee, Meditation for the Love of it by Sally Kempton, Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. So we have yoga, meditation, mindfulness and creativity. I’ll be one hell of a person by the end of this binge!

Naturally enough I started with the Rodney Yee yoga book because I already do it everyday and it starts off fairly basic. I started that on Wednesday so I’ll post a review of that first week next Wednesday. Hopefully the other courses will follow. I’m quite excited by these new books!

In other news: I did Hanumanasana! For the very first time I was able to feel stable enough in the base to lift up my arms. No more stabilisers for me!

 

Advertisements

Why I want to teach yoga

For no apparent reason I’m going to give a short explanation of my pseudonym: bija is the sanskrit for seed or root. As in the seed from which things grow. As you can probably tell I’m very into my plant imagery and I tried to fit this word into a blog-friendly form. Alas it would not go so instead I decided to stick an ‘r’ in it and call myself it. Handily it’s almost my real name but not quite so I get to almost go by my name but keep some of the Google bots away.

Like a lot of people who practice yoga (and some who don’t) I want to teach yoga. I already have my eye on a course which will hopefully start in the next 9 months. This is a big deal to me, after my degree I swore off studying of any kind but I love yoga so much and so want to teach it that I’m making an exception.

I hope I’m up for the challenge, not only of the course but of the actual teaching part. My depression won’t make it any easier but hopefully all this work I’ve done helping myself cope will help.

I didn’t want to teach when I first started doing yoga, it never occurred to me. That was for photogenic people on beaches with many thousands of pounds to spend and willingness to travel. Not for me thanks, I’ll stick to my own mat and my own home.

But my first yoga teacher one day after class came over to me and (in front of everyone quite embarrassingly) told me I should think about teacher training. She said the way I did yoga was so meticulous and it would be good for me to train. I was surprised and flattered at first. However with later conversations I began to doubt her motives. She knew I was depressed and unemployed and I think she had labelled me as shy and in need of her help. I didn’t talk much in that class but it was predominantly 40something mothers and I was 24 and childless. How could I talk about how great it was to get away from the kids?! Anyway she said something which has forever stuck with me in a bad way. On asking her whether I had what it takes to be a good teacher she said “It’ll be the making of you, it’ll get you out of your little shell”

!! Little shell?! I was so insulted. What a condescending phrase! I was trying to make a point: you should only become a teacher if you have something to give. Teaching has to be more about giving than it is about creating a label for yourself. It has to be about learning from your students and giving them the knowledge that’s right for them, guiding them through their own experience. It’s not about the teacher at all, it’s about the student.

But still I thank my first yoga teacher because I decided then that I wanted to teach. Yoga has given me so much and I wanted to give that to others. Teaching yoga and painting is the only thing I can imagine myself doing for money.

I soon left my first yoga teacher and started going to a studio who runs a teacher training course. Recently I plucked up the courage to ask the studio owner (my second yoga teacher) about the course. She told me she’d been thinking about how I’d make a good teacher. She said that the last course produced teachers who were very keen on doing advanced poses but didn’t quite understand the serenity that comes with yoga. It’s about meeting students where they are. She said she thought I’d be good at teaching beginners that. Although, she quickly said, I would be good at the advanced stuff too.

Woah. I just assumed everyone thought I was shy! To have someone who teaches dozens of students pick me out and see a trait in me that I value in myself as important is incredible. I carry her words around with me like a talisman.

Is my Bum too Big to do yoga?

I discovered this week that I’m still not committed enough to this blog to do it when I’ve been busy. My weeks holiday is now over and it’s back to it. Got to be patient with these changes of habit and new responsibilities.

Recently I’ve been worrying about my body and my weight. I mentioned before that I had a blood test to find out if I have an underactive thyroid. The reason for this is since May last year I have gained a pound every month without eating any more than I did before. It started with a strange bloating, digestive type issue but that’s receded now but I’m still left with the creeping weight gain and I’m already over a stone heavier than I was when it started.

Strangely enough I have never really had any eating/weight issues before. I was a healthy child and wasn’t ever considered ‘overweight’. In my teens when other girls were worrying about how their bodies looked I was happy in mine because it was mine. I wasn’t completely comfortable with the way I looked but it was good enough. This wasn’t entirely commendable because I was plagued by terrible digestive problems, I had no idea what healthy food was like and I was pretty unfit. As a result of this blissful ignorance my weight crept up unnoticed until at the age of 21 (if you regard the BMI) my BMI was 29.

Around the same time I was becoming increasingly depressed and incredibly guilty and aware of my impact on the world. I vowed to lesson my impact and the first thing to go was any food that I did not gain any pleasure or nutrition from. Then I decreased my consumption of meat and replaced it with vegetables. Then I discovered whole grains.

After 9 months I had lost 2 and a half stone and for the first time in my adult life was a medically acceptable weight for my height. And it felt good to be approved of. I started doing yoga, running, wearing sleeveless tops and buying narrow jeans. I thought many things during this time. Weight loss is easy! Weight maintenance is easy! Exercising is fun! Yoga is fantastic! Over the next 2 years I tried to get used to my new body, other people’s perceptions of me whilst trying to keep that little voice out which said “If you were a bit thinner you’d be a bit happier…”

I was getting there too, I was almost used to my ‘new’ body when this whole weight gain thing started. Now I don’t know what to think. All of the weight is concentrated on my legs and my bum and I can’t help but look at other people in my yoga class and wonder if they’re looking at my humungous thighs. Am I too fat to do yoga? People who do yoga usually have thin legs, is it not acceptable to have big legs? All the while I know this is ridiculous because the extra fat I hasn’t actually stopped me doing anything… yet. That’s the thing… the yet. I don’t know when this weight gain will stop and I feel like my body is on loan. I can’t get too attached to it because who knows how it will have changed 6 months down the line. Will I still be able to run? To do bakasana? Will I be able to learn how to do headstand?

I go to the doctors on Friday, in the meantime I will practice metta on my poor, fatty bummed self.

Morning Pranayama

I’m disappointed in myself! I made a promise to myself that I would try to illustrate my posts but just now I realised that this was actually putting me off posting. That’s ridiculous! So I’m posting in black and white, no prettiness. Change comes with patience and dedication. I shouldn’t be ashamed of my simple posts.

I’ve been sick and tired of waking up sad, pretty much every weekday for a few weeks now. So on Tuesday I decided I’d start a morning routine of pranayama, nothing fancy, just sitting and doing a couple of exercises for 5 minutes. Well I’ve stuck to that and it’s pretty amazing stuff. Every day I’ve started off with 3 rounds of kapalabhati doing 50 breaths each round and then I’ve experimented with three different pranayama exercises for the remainder of the 5 minutes. Wednesday I did nadi shodhana, Thursday I did dirga pranayama and today I did sama vritta pranayama.

Wednesday’s had the greatest impact, I started off dull, sad and panicky, terrified of the day ahead. After my pranayama I was brighter, I was talking and moving at a reasonable speed, I didn’t feel scared of the day anymore. Wednesday turned out to be a shithole of a day but we do what we can hey? Thursday and today had less of an impact only because I wasn’t so sad on waking up. I

I’ve had two observations which I never could have known if I hadn’t done my pranayama. The first one is that despite my belief that my nostrils are fully breathable-through at all times and I have perfect, non messy sinuses I have discovered that my right nostril tends to be blocked in the morning and this makes for a very disgusting and moist first round of kapalabhati. It was light showers this morning. Also breathing, especially during the challenging breath lengthening and retaining practices is not always easy first thing in the morning! I wasn’t exactly gasping but it wasn’t the cushy, cosy pranayama I’m used to later in the day.

It’s fantastic this new routine. I don’t know whether it’s the effect of the pranayama itself or the way it creates a sort of gentle easing into the day. It definitely has a different effect than mindfulness meditation does, sometimes it’s a relief to just concentrate on the breath and let the sad feeling go rather than feel the sad feeling. Both have their place obviously but I think I prefer the pranayama mornings. I will continue!

Happy things for Tuesday

 

I feel like I’ve let my happiness slide somewhat. It’s strange how you can do this so easily: put off the long meditation one more day, put off writing that email to that friend just for now, put off writing a blog post or a journal entry until tomorrow, put off the long yoga session for today because I’m tired… etc etc. Somewhere along the way these things which I know are so crucial to my happiness and to my perception that I am recovering from the depression just become ‘to-dos’ that are not done because I’m ‘too sad today’.

When did these life-affirming things become duties?!

So I have made a pledge to myself: I will do these things and more! I am sick and tired of waking up sad and dreading the day so I will help myself cope. I will go to bed earlier and I will wake up and sit mindfully and do some pranayama before breakfast. Just a few minutes mind you, food is crucial to my happiness too and cannot be put off for long. I will write about this morning routine because I so want it and putting it on here seems to make it more real.

Now for 5 things that I am grateful exist in this world:

  • Yoga (specifically asana but the whole shebang really)
No other system of movement (or anything really) has made me feel so alive and present in my body. I need it and without it I am bereft. Whenever I feel like a boost I will just look through my asana books or watch videos of people doing yoga and I imagine what they’re feeling in their bodies. Yoga excites me and it nourishes me and I hope that this continues until I die.
  • Cats
My god I love cats. Before I loved anything I loved cats. I would obsess over cats, I would collect cat books, cat toys, cat posters, anything! I learned everything there is to know about cats when I was very little… and we didn’t even have a pet cat! We got one when I was 6, strange how it felt like a lifetime back then. I’m still obsessed now, I just need to see a cat out and about and it’ll bring a stupid kiddy grin to my face. I’ll be the person you see waving at strangers cats.
  • Breakfast
I didn’t eat breakfast from the ages of 15-20. How did I survive?! I had terrible IBS and eating anything that early, especially with the stress of school would cause me terrible pain. I managed to get my symptoms under control and got to eat breakfast. And what a meal it is! I love all the classic breakfast dishes: oaty porridge, eggy bread (french toast), muesli, granola and am doing my best to collect new ones off all those healthy living blogs. It’s fantastic! I always make sure I’ve got a good breakfast planned before I go to bed so I have a reason to get out of bed when I’m feeling sad.
  • The colour blue
But not just any colour blue but that deep deep ultramarine blue. I refuse to call it Royal Blue because I’m a republican (not an American republican, an anti-monarchist) This colour has been my favourite colour since I was 5 and I wanted to rebel against PINK. It is the deepest, most exciting, most intense colour I’ve ever seen. If I could marry it I would and I’d stare into it’s blue self all day every day.
  • This Video
Just because.
This was my first happiness list and it was a challenge! Hope it gets easier.

This post is an excuse to laugh at Armando Iannucci videos

Today I faced a ridiculous moral dilemma when I was walking past a high school. As happens quite often a football had been kicked over the top of the fence and the boys wanted it back. I was happening to walk past at this time and so they yelled at me to throw it back. Being half deaf and a bit woozy from a blood test this morning (I’m a squeamish person with a possible underactive thyroid) I wasn’t too thrilled to be yelled at by some kids as I’m walking home. Also I’m shit at throwing, catching, kicking, everything sporty. When I was at school I got used to being yelled at and I was also terrorised by boys playing football so I reckoned one less football could save a poor soul like me from such terrors. I ignored them and winced as they threw various strange insults at me (wank-whore anyone?) Still I’m plagued by thoughts: was this the right thing to do? It wasn’t nice and it wasn’t pleasant but if I had thrown the ball back, assuming I’d be able to throw it over the fence, would it make them grow into nice, pleasant, kind young men? How can I expect people to be kind if I’m not nice and kind all the time to everyone? Do you think those kids are wondering the same thing right now? Am I agonising over something completely inconsequential?

Anyway the upshot of this whole thing was it made me think of that sketch above which is always good.

Highly Sensitive People Unite!

Recently it seems like everywhere I read people are talking about the Highly Sensitive Person test. As an avid link-clicker and curious person of course I went and took it myself. It all seemed fairly obvious, I’m a sensitive person and this test would tell me “You’re a highly sensitive person” and I’d go YES I AM! I’m a HIGHLY SENSITIVE person! Then I’d get on with my life.

This wasn’t quite the end of it. I took the test… and I was flabbergasted! That test described me completely! Even things that I had not even connected together, like my unbelievably overwhelming hunger and my hatred of violence on tv, the way I’m easily moved by music and the way I’m easily startled, my ability to know how other people are feeling and my love for quiet rooms when it all gets too much. The tick boxes began to add up and up and in the end there was only one tick box I hadn’t ticked: I am not very sensitive to pain (this is quite an interesting one philosophically because I could be sensitive to pain but less reactive to it than others but this is a quibble). So in the Highly Sensitive Person test I got a 26… out of 27. I now crown myself Queen of the HSPs!

This test, although I was so dismissive of it as a cynical marketing ploy at first, has somehow seeped into my mind and my identity. I now think of myself as a HSP, I define others (temporarily I hope) by their HSPness or not-so-much HSPness. I have defined people as Highly Oblivious People (joking… sort of) And I’ve found that I like this new label, I knew that I was sensitive already but this new knowledge crystallises it. It makes it more definite. I’ve always thought that I feel more than other people, but I’ve always thought of it as a bad thing. Now I think that it’s not… it’s just a thing. Good sometimes, bad others. Good for when I’m listening to music I love, bad when I’m stuck in bad circumstances and getting my mind damaged. Of course there’s that downside, sensitive people are more susceptible to mind trauma. We feel more, good and bad.

Strange I should be writing about this now because for the past 10 days my world has been a little bit quieter and less overwhelming. My right ear has become completely overwhelmed with ear wax and I haven’t been able to hear out of it since. This lovely problem is genetic (thanks dad) and is a bit of a gift and a curse. I can’t appreciate music and I can’t follow easily in a yoga class but I’ve found that a certain amount of obliviousness is peaceful! If I can’t hear it, it’s not a problem. So things that would usually bother me; my dad swearing, my mum fussing, cars, loud tvs etc. are not at all a problem. Part of me will miss the peace when it’s over. Another indicator of my HSPness.

So I’m glad I took that test, I feel like it is now my job to nurture my sensitivity and protect it and value it. It makes life that little bit brighter and tastier. And noisier.

Proving teachers wrong and laughing at yourself

I’m out of the habit of posting I admit so this seems bizarre to be sitting down here and writing this. I’m keeping going with the blog, not letting the bastards grind me down. I’m going to make it mine, what that means I have yet to work out.

Sometimes we spend so much time wrapped up in our heads that we forget to laugh, I know I do. I’ve always been an appreciator of the funny things in life but the depression makes me temporarily forget. Little by little my sense of joy in the surreal is returning, I laugh more and I find it hard to stop. I play more, I’m silly. I’m myself 7 years ago again. It turns out I didn’t ever ‘grow up’, I just got depressed! Here’s to being silly forever!

On Monday I managed to get out for a run for the first time in two weeks. It was fantastic, the sun was shining and I knew the tide would be low enough for me to run on the beach. Now my journey to the beach involves either a) running past my old high school or b) running past some nesting herring gulls who will swoop at me in my running clothes (but not in my normal clothes, why is this?) I chose the high school but it is a hard decision. I was running past when my old PE teacher walked by on her way to torture those poor kids with Monday morning athletics or rounders or some other awful activity. I don’t like this teacher because I was an ‘unfit’ for most of my school sports career- bad knees, colds, IBS, period pain, whatever I milked it because I HATED being forced to do any kind of physical activity. I’m as surprised as anyone that I spend so much time out of breath and sweaty nowadays. Anyway she saw me and the look on her face was not at all dissimilar to what a person would look like had they seen a fish sprout legs and walk out of the sea. I saw her and I laughed out loud. That felt good! She hadn’t beat the joy I find in moving my body out of me.

My running track

In the evening I went to my first yoga class in two weeks too. For some reason I was a bit late and had to rush to the toilet in my bare feet before the class started. So I come back from the toilet and join the others lying on my back. We had an unusual start to the class, with shoulderstands and lying backbends at the beginning instead of the end. Not too sure how it would work with others who had tight hamstrings/hip flexors but I was feeling loose so I settled in quickly. At one point we were doing one legged bridges. I extended my left leg to the ceiling, admiring how long it looked, how flexible my hamstrings were, how responsive my body was. I have to say that I have some pretty damn elegant feet too. Feeling content I lifted the right foot up but the right foot looked a little weird, something was on my beautiful long toes. Toilet paper. I had a bit of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my right foot and it was waving high in the air for all to see. Oh god it was a priceless moment. I allowed myself a chuckle and had a great laughing fit with my boyfriend later on. It feels good to laugh finally!