Commited: Drama Queen Yoga

I’ve been called dramatic…drama queen

It irritates me to no end because often the implication is that dramatic equals disingenuous. In my world, dramatic simply means I feel things with a level of intensity that most people do not feel. It is completely real and completely authentic. Just big. In this sense of the word, I have to admit it, I am dramatic (insert dramatic sigh).

When I was a little girl, challenges would take me to the floor. Hysteria was a semi regular experience and it was always loud and yes…dramatic. Each time I’d experience one of these melt downs, my mother would stay up all night worrying while I eventually worked myself into a deep sleep. Come morning, my exhausted mother would assess my magically refreshed and rebooted little self and want to throttle me (I imagine.)

Although I feel things at a high volume, I also move through them at a high velocity. You could say I’m a bit like Colorado weather. Changes quickly and rarely stays stormy for long. It’s both a blessing and a curse for my internal world and for those who love me. I work to help my loved ones be patient and trusting in my emotions and I am compassionate towards the intensity of my heartaches because they are directly mirrored and offset by the enthralling amount of love I feel in this world.

Thank god for yoga. It could have been running, climbing mountains, scuba diving or wood carving, but it wasn’t, it was yoga. Yoga and more specifically my yoga mat, gave me a place to fall down, crumple, cry, struggle, rejoice…sometimes in the course of one little yoga class.  I’ve healed myself and hurt myself within the four corners of my practice.  It’s a container and I needed it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still dramatic. I’m a marathon cryer and I have a feisty temper BUT I’m a little bit more balanced through this practice of breath and movement, presence and compassion.  Yoga is a lot of things to a lot of people.  Right now, my yoga is an act of opening up little tucked away drawers of intensity in my life.  It’s a willingness to look at what makes me feel stunningly beautiful and connected to the universe  one moment only to feel small and ugly and broken the next.  My yoga right now is about commitment.  You can’t really do commitment wrong.  Committing to something promises only to take you somewhere or clarify something.  The more I commit to this practice of yoga, the less dramatic (although still dramatic) I feel.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no person could have dreamed would have come his way… nothing happens until you decide.”
-William Hutchinson Murray

To commit to yoga is not to know or have all the answers.  To commit to yoga is not to eradicate the drama of my personality. To commit is simply to lean into the container of something strong and steady.  The steadfastness of the corners of my yoga mat, help this drama queen, breathe a little easier.  Commit to something.  Do yoga.  Feel things.  Love people. Do more yoga.

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Dear 16-year-old me.

Facebook exploded my freshman year of college. My roommate sat down me down (one might call me technologically impaired) and created an account for me. A decade later, I shamelessly enjoy and utilize Facebook for everything from staying connected with people from all over the world, remembering birthdays that I suck at remembering to promoting myself as a yoga teacher and actress.

One of my favorite Facebook phenomena’s is throw back thursday (#tbt). It’s an opportunity for users to cull through old photos, snap new digital versions on iPhones and post for the land of Facebook to see. It is a way to celebrate and laugh at our younger selves. I genuinely delight in the baby pictures of my adult friends and it tickles me to slowly divulge the sweetness and awkwardness of childhood (head to toe denim outfits, dance competitions…). There is an unspoken willingness to be imperfect, vulnerable and human. The puberty years of pimples, thick fringe bangs or terrible perms are suddenly the most adored pictures.

Last Thursday I posted this  photo of my 16-year-old self on stage in a high school production of HAIR! (Yes, I grew up in Boulder…obviously).  At first I was struck by the incredible sincerity and innocence of this photo.  Amused even by the sweetness and irony of privileged Boulder kids singing about the social issues of their parents.

2014-07-24 21.57.25

When I looked again, I was hit with a painful realization.  I know for a fact that in this picture, at this age, I thought I was fat.  I ate nothing but apples and luna bars, stayed up too late, got up too early and wasted precious energy trying to be skinnier, prettier more of something I thought I needed to be.

I look at my little 16-year-old body NOW and think…what were you thinking!??? You are tiny. Maybe even too tiny! How could you possibly have felt fat!??? I want to grab my 16-year-old self and shake some sense into her.  I want to rescue her and reprimand her all at once.  I am angry at that little 16-year-old brain and also sad for all of her discomfort.

So what? One of my stories is not being skinny enough.  Maybe yours in not being seen.  I know people who feel too smart or not smart enough.  As I approach my 30th birthday,  it’s uncomfortable to find remnants of my 16-year-old self making important decisions regarding my adult sense of self.  I still struggle with the shape and size of my body.  I still look around and feel like I’m missing something.  How is it I’ve come so far only to realize that the 16-year-old is still with me, insecure and unable to see herself clearly?

When I stumble into hard questions, for which there is no clear answer, I often turn to my yoga mat.  I may not know exactly how to rewire the old patterning of my brain but I can move my body with a new intention.  For a week I dedicated every practice  to my 16-year-old self.  I encouraged my students to do the same.  I let every breath and move be an expression of seeing little Ellen in all of her confusion.  I used familiar shapes and transitions to wrap my adult self around my 16-year-old self and let her know it got better.  I’m doing my best to look back and embrace the incomplete thoughts of a growing mind with love.  The softer and sweeter I get with my 16-year-old self, the adult me, sees more clearly.

To our younger selves, our old stories and our worn out patterns.  We see you, we embrace you and we move on.

 

Why didn’t I just fall?

Grumpy-Cat-Falling

I just started rock climbing.  I don’t take it too seriously.  When I’m tired, I climb easy routes. When I feel strong, I play a comfortable edge (rating 5.8, 5.9).  I’m in no rush to crush harder routes or even get outside (although I hope to) and I’m not afraid to say “take!” I’m done. I’m climbing with good company and I’m climbing because it makes me stronger, it grounds my turbo charged energy and it quiets my mind as much as meditation.

To get started, I took introductory classes and learned proper technique for tying ropes and belaying my partner.  I learned the safety commands and double check everything.  I climb with people who I trust to be present and keep me safe on the wall.  So why didn’t I just fall?

Friday morning (3rd climb of the week), I met up with my partner at 7am.  I had rolled out of bed, maybe had some water, skipped breakfast, neglected to warm up and hit the wall. There’s a lot wrong with this scenario and yes, I should have known better (yoga teacher guilt). Dehydrated, cold muscles and undernourished is always a recipe for disaster but that’s really besides the point.

There is route called Food Fight (5.9) that had thwarted me twice and I’d completed once.  I wanted to try it again.  I had just made it through the most difficult section.  I set my foot up, high, knee close to chest, for what should have been a long but manageable reach.  As I pressed my foot into the purple hold and started to straighten my leg, I received a tearing, burning, horrible sensation from my working quad.  Why didn’t I just fall?  From the moment my brain processed that pain, I should have let go.  I should have trusted the rope, trusted my partner, trusted myself and let go.  I’m not usually a fan of “should have” clauses, but I should I have.

Instead, I pushed through, elongated the pain by several seconds and continued to climb to the top.  Days later, I’m reminded of that moment every time I get out of my car or attempt a flight of stairs. I’m in pain.  Why didn’t I just fall?  I didn’t fall because almost nothing in our genetic make-up, evolutionary patterning or life experience teaches us that sometimes it’s better to fall than hold on.  I didn’t think about not falling, I didn’t think about falling, I just held on and made it work.

Words that came up for me about falling:

  1. Failure: I didn’t make it.
  2. Fear: I won’t make it.
  3. Shame: I’m not worthy of making it.

Words that came up for me about falling when I tried again:

  1. Surrender: I open to what is.
  2. Discernment: When holding on hurts more than falling, fall.
  3. Resilience: Release, recover, try again.

So here’s the thing.  I also believe in hard work, holding on, commitment and challenge.  I believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  I believe we sometimes need pain to wake us up and help us grow.  I’ve fought for goals, relationships, lovers and desires ending up bruised but happy.  I’m not saying, we should always choose to let go and fall.

But sometimes, that is exactly what we should do.  The fall is terrifying because we have no guarantee.  The fall is the metaphor for the unknown.  The fall is the opening to our potential.  The fall is fucking scary (am I allowed to curse in a blog?).  Sometimes it’s easier to fight for what we know.  Cling to what we have.  Reach for what we think we need.  Even if it’s hurting us.  Even if it no longer matches up with who we are or what we want.  Sometimes we take on familiar pain because it’s just that, familiar.

So maybe….fall.  Fall more often.  Trust in the rope and the partner below you.  Reach too far, miss and fall. Choose to let go when it’s right and fall.  Fall into the potential and let go of the guarantee. Especially if the guarantee is familiar pain.  Because my friends, familiar, is over rated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever it takes.

 

As I like to say, Oh you don't wear makeupI may not have everything figured out, but at least everything I’m working with is on the table.  I know my hang ups.   I can see them, name them, pick them up and look at them.  Everything except this: I hate my skin.  I can’t seem to unpack that one at all. What do you do when you’ve tried everything you know?  If you’re my kind of crazy, you declare it, publicly on Facebook.

If you want to do something hard- do it on Facebook for everyone to see.  I made an event. Make Up Free May.  I invited everyone.  I took make-up free selfies, posted pictures about self love, articles about make-up addiction.  I talked to women I know from all over the world about their relationship to make-up.  People started texting me, sending me messages, wanting to share their stories and their pictures.  It was shocking and beautiful.

(Make Up Free May Facebook event here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/630173940399059/?ref_dashboard_filter=past)

Let’s get something very clear, right away.  I am not inherently anti make-up.  Yes I understand beauty can be empowering and celebrated. I’m not judging you for wearing make-up.  This is totally, unapologetically, all about me.  Going make-up free for a month was one of the single greatest things I have ever done for my sense of self. Why? I started wearing make up around the age of 13. I painstakingly combined several cheap concealers in an effort to….make myself look perfect. I graduated to expensive, mall brand concealers and eventually I toted around a small bag of bare minerals concealer, eye bright, bronzer and blush. I’ve never worn make-up as an expression of my personality, fashionista tastes or even to feel particularly glamorous. I’ve always worn make up to look like I wasn’t wearing make up, so that I looked naturally more perfect.  There’s more…

Somewhere around the age I started wearing make-up, I also entered a battle with compulsive skin picking (dermatillomania). This compulsive behavior continues to be one of the most mystifying and uncomfortable parts of being me.   April 2014, plastered inches from my mirror, again, like I am every day, picking at what would be naturally happy skin because, who knows why,  I wondered: what would happen if I stopped wearing make-up.  I’d no longer be able to hide the residual red. My compulsive behavior would be right there, visible, for me and everyone to see. Intriguing.

Week 1 I felt like an alien.  I was sure everyone was looking at my naked face, horrified by the real me.  I felt unnaturally shy, I didn’t want to be seen, so I didn’t look at anyone.  I had the ongoing feeling like I was letting people down. What was I doing? But all of a sudden, I got it.  I had an audition and I gave myself permission to wear make up JUST for the audition.  I literally  applied my make-up when I arrived at the audition and  had face wash and a towel in my purse for the minute it was done. As I brushed on make-up for the first time in a week, I felt like I was revealing myself.  Wait what?  Imagine you ran a race in the mud, ending up covered head to toe in brown. Imagine the feeling you’d have washing off the streaks of mud, uncovering your skin. That’s what I felt putting ON make-up.  The made-up me felt more real than the naked me.  Shit.

From that day forward, I was on cloud nine.  Everyday I felt a thrill leaving the house clean faced.  I added up the hours of my life I was getting back by eliminating most of my morning routine.  I suddenly loved sweating and moving more while I was teaching because there was nothing but sunscreen to run off my face. My compulsive behavior was practically non-existent. Each day of the month got more beautiful and I felt more beautiful.  I had done it.  I has not only shifted my relationship to myself, I had also conquered a decade plus long habit and I felt amazing.  But….

I wish I could tell you it just kept getting better.  Instead it got more real.

It’s now July and the feeling beautiful thing is a bit hard again.  How quickly I fell in love with my naked face, only to feel like it wasn’t good enough.  The compulsive skin picking is back.  I have yet to uncover the secret to loving my face so much that I couldn’t possibly subject it to my old habits.  But one thing is not back.  I’m still not wearing make-up. I’m not covering up the evidence of the work still needed.  I am asking myself to stand, naked, seen and witnessed as I continue to explore this corner of my being. I figure if I stand naked, in the rawness of how I look and more importantly, how I feel about how I look, I have a chance of falling in love again with the real me. Here’s the thing about love, sometimes it comes easy and sometimes it’s a choice.

Make-up free May is about self-love, breaking addiction, healing old patters, building social awareness and truth.  Sometimes you have to be held accountable by the ones you love and a few hundred of your closest Facebook friends.  Whatever it takes.

The WHY.

Hurddlers II

Why this non blogging yogini is about to start blogging.

A yoga student approached me with a list of requested blogs. Problem…I don’t blog. Each request came from the theme of one of my weekly yoga classes.

To name a few requests (his words):

  • Kissing wolves
  • Awkward is the new sexy
  • Breathe in an invitation to something bigger
  • Reframe
  • Naming love too early
  • Love your crazy
  • Everyone is already routing for you
  • Shame feels like a bow and arrow
  • You can’t evolve beyond your DNA and life experiences without looking at them with compassion

So why now?  Because I want to remember what I’m working so hard to learn and striving to teach.  

Ready set…..yoga lover, teacher, actress, manager, Colorado babe brings a candid, honest and messy love of life to the table….GO.