So the title of this blog is “30 days of yoga…1 day at a time.” What you may not have noticed, is the subtitle, “Addicted to self improvement.”

Some of you may read this blog because you love yoga, more of you probably read this blog because you love (or at least tolerate) me. My goal in writing what I do is three fold:

1. Help people become inspired to challenge themselves in their own lives,

2. Help people feel like they are not alone in their struggles, whatever those struggles may be, and,

3. encourage people to find healthy and productive ways of working through the aforementioned struggles.

Since these things are not yoga-specific topics, this blog is about to seriously evolve.

I have recently begun to deal with a struggle of my own in my life, and that is Type 1 Diabetes. For those of you who are unfamiliar, type one diabetes is a genetically based, incurable, auto-immune disease. In brief, when a person has diabetes, the body is unable to produce insulin, and the cells of the body are unable to use food for energy, resulting in starvation. In order to counteract that, people with Type 1 Diabetes take insulin injections.

I hate these videos, but if you want a little illustration, here you go:

So in dealing with the fact that I have Type 1 Diabetes, I have begun to get involved in some of the Juveneille Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) events, and one of them is Beat the Bridge, an 8K race to raise money for JDRF.

So here it is, my new goal for self improvement: I’m going to run the 8K Beat the Bridge race to beat Diabetes.

Don’t worry, yogi’s, I will still blog about yoga too, but I am comfortable doing yoga. Yoga is part of my life, it is part of who I am, and this blog is supposed to be about stretching my boundaries, and expanding my capabilities, and that is what I’m going to start doing. Right now.

-C

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Yeah.  I said it.  This blog has been about…. the physical and mental challenge of yoga so far.  I have avoided talking about personal things.  I have avoided discussion of the emotional impact of yoga.  Now it’s time to get personal, because that is a big part of how this class tonight went for me.

I knew it was going to be a tough class from the start.  We began with the breathing exercises and 6 breaths in I was gasping for air already.  Partly I think it’s that I’m a little bit under the weather (with a cold no less and only allowed to nose breathe? ugh…), but partly it’s that yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body.  Yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body, but in order for that to happen, they have to flow through your body, which means you have to experience them and that can often be painful.  Bikram always says that the poses that are the most challenging, the ones that hurt the most are the ones that you need the most.  I have always kind of thought of this as being purely physical, but tonight it got very emotional.

Maybe I have been holding on to a lot more than I thought I was.  I actually made it through the standing series, but right after tree pose, lying in my savasana (dead body pose), it was all I could do to not burst out crying.  I am not a person who cries a lot, or who cries easily.  I am a person who distracts herself, moves forward, dislocates herself from her problems, but I found myself lying in my yoga class with tears in my eyes and I didn’t know why.  Then I started thinking.  I started accepting that this pain that I was feeling (and it was a deep, emotional pain) was just like the physical pain I was in during certain postures.  I thought to myself that in order to get stronger, I was going to have to be present and feel this pain… and do you know what?  I started realizing (really really realizing) that it was ok to be sad… because I have done a lot the past few months.  I am coming off of a broken engagement, moving away from everything I know and love, missing all of my best friends in the world, jobless (and other things but let’s not wallow too much)… and aside from all that, even if none of that was there, it would still be ok to cry.

So this class, tonight, for me, was about realizing the appropriateness of being sad sometimes, and crying sometimes.  I thought a lot about the importance of being present, and allowing one’s self to feel whatever is there.  My very first yoga instructor ever once told us to stop  categorizing our feelings.  She said there are feelings.  There are no bad or good feelings, just feelings.  She said if you are feeling pain, allow yourself to experience those sensations without categorizing them, and you will be suprised how much you can handle.  I’m allowing myself to be present now, and I think that will do a lot for my psyche.  I didn’t just expel physical toxins tonight, I expelled emotional toxins as well.

So why get personal now?  Why expose my innermost feelings to the world wide web?  I guess I hope that other yoga practitioners, and anyone else who is reading this, might realize that it’s ok to expel some toxins of their own.  Maybe I am looking to see whether or not I am alone in feeling this way.  Maybe I am running out of people who will listen and I am throwing my thoughts out into the ether in hopes that someone will catch them and say “I get it.”  Either way, it feels like the right thing to do tonight.

Sincerely,

-C

Hi Yogis!

So today is day 15 which means after my 4:15 class today I will be half done with my yoga challenge. I feel that today it would be a appropriate to make some reflections on my progress over the last two weeks, but I’m not really sure it is that interesting. I could make a million teeny tiny observations about little bits of progress I’ve made – ultimately they will add up to big progress – but I think the best change I have seen has been in my mental health.

Never have I felt so level headed, happy, and content. I was taking anti-depressants before I started this challenge, and something I noticed (even just doing yoga sporadically), is that after class I always felt super happy (endorphins, blood circulation? I don’t know…), and one of the things I was hoping is that through this challenge I would get more of that feeling. I slowly weaned myself off of the medication, and now I’m taking none. I know it’s only been a week off of them, but so far I feel better than I ever felt with them. I feel so much less manic; just super stable and happy. I’m not having awful mood swings, I’m not wanting to stay in bed all day. I’m really truly happy.

I think some of this is chemical. My body is producing endorphins, fresh blood high in oxygen and nutrients is flushing to my brain and reactivating my neurons, etc etc., but some of it comes from other things. You can get an incredible sense of self esteem, for example, knowing that you’re body is capable of doing things you didn’t know were possible. It gives you such an appreciation for your entire system. It puts much more of an emphasis on what your body can do than what it looks like, and while making your body look better too! I can’t wear my belt anymore because I have lost weight. That isn’t the point of this challenge at all for me, and I didn’t really want to even go into it, but I do think it is all a part of my body functioning more effectively, and my health improving overall.

In addition to this, yoga encourages me to make healthy choices in my diet, bedtime, everything I do contributes to the type of class I have. Ultimately, yoga trickles down to effect everything in my life in a positive way.

I can honestly say that I feel better than I ever have. I feel kind of like I did the first time I got glasses. Like before I started this challenge I was just ok. I was well enough to function, and I didn’t really realize I was missing anything. When I first put on my glasses I was amazed at what I had been missing. Street lamps, people, trees, my body, my dog… it all looked different. I was living in this crisp, clear world and it was incredible! Similarly, I didn’t know how my body was supposed to feel. I was functioning… but I was only just functioning. Now I feel so much more alert, so clear and comfortable with myself and my surroundings. I’m way happier in my relationships and I’m much more confident in myself.

Who here is familiar with Albert Banduras concept of self efficacy? It is different than just self esteem because it isn’t about measuring yourself up against others, or deciding if you are good enough, it is about believing in yourself and knowing that you have the ability to do whatever it is that you want to do. Bandura’s therapy that he provided was designed to improve a person’s self efficacy beliefs, and this combated anxiety, depression, and other cognitive disorders. Yoga for me has done that. It has improved my self efficacy, it has improved every area of my life.

I owe Kristine a pretty big thank you for dragging me to Bikrams six and a half months ago.

-Claire

P.S. Just a quick note before I forget to tell you this! So I was sitting in class on Friday, and I noticed that on the palms of my hands, my wrists, and my fingers, I could see all of my veins. Not in a gross sticking out way, just that I could see them under the skin full of richly oxygenated blue-black blood. This is so awesome because the thing I have been most worried about with diabetes is my circulation, and I’ve noticed so much that my hands and feet aren’t as cold all the time. It is so amazing!

P.P.S: On Joe’s birthday I chipped in with his brother and mom and sister in law to get him Guitar Hero World Tour. He got so excited that he ran over to kiss me, and in his drunkenness, he bent my back over the side of our couch and it cracked in like 5 places and it was soooo painful. I was pretty sure I was going to be paralyzed and I started crying, but of course I ended up being fine. The funny part of all this is that after that incident, my lower back pain has decreased by about 80%. It’s still there but wow do I feel better!

xoxo

Remember to always look on the bright side of life…

Hi everyone,

So far, doing this challenge has taught me a lot of different things about myself, but most importantly it’s taught me that I have a lot of self determination, self control, will power, and personal strength. I’ve actually always thought I was kind of lazy. I really like to sleep in, I like junk food a lot, I’m a little messy (Joe would tell you “little” is an understatement). For the amount of food I eat I’m pretty sure I should be obese – but strong_woman1I’m not. It was almost to the point where I really didn’t think I could stop eating that candy bar or I really didn’t think it was possible to make myself wake up… so what’s one class missed? Of all the things Bikram’s yoga has taught me, the most important is that there are no excuses ever.

I now have faith in my own strength, faith in the fact that I can decide to do something and follow through no matter what. I’ve only made it nine days but already I feel like I have grown so much as an individual. So I was lying in bed last night making up new challenges I can make for myself. the 3 hour study challenge – where I will study for 3 hours every day no excuses; the pick up your clothes challenge – where I will always put away what I have on no excuses; or the no refined sugars challenge? The think about a challenge is it makes you continue when you would otherwise give up, it makes you do something even if you feel like you don’t have time, it doesn’t leave room for excuses or explanation because in the end you either did it or you didn’t. The simple yes or no answer will make you realize you can actually go places you didn’t think you could.

Yesterday I was in a huge rush, I had so much to do I didn’t think I could make it to yoga and get everything done. While it was a rush, and it got a little stressful late in the afternoon, I was able to do everything and I still fit in my yoga class. I wrote yesterday that it was a bad class for me, but looking back on it I’m proud of myself because so far that has been the most challenging day to attend class – and I mean to just get my ass into class – and I still did it. That means I haven’t failed yet.

Now today I feel a change in the air. I have a busy schedule ahead of me, but it’s one I made myself. Before these nine days began I never would schedule myself a busy day because I thought I didn’t like them. I think it was a lack of confidence that I could actually get everything done. Well now I know I will get more done because I’m not afraid to schedule it. I know I can do it.

I’ll write about how day nine goes tonight. We are all going at 7:45!

-Claire