My reason why

We did it, friends. OTY Fresno is here. Today we held our first day of classes, exactly one year after we expanded our Clovis location. Over the last couple months I have been asked repeatedly, “how is everything going?”…“Are you stressed?”…“Aren’t you spreading yourself too thin?”…“Are you biting off more than you can chew?”…you get the idea. The funny thing is, this has been the smoothest undertaking of all three studio openings.

 
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The initial opening of OTY was obviously terrifying, but expanding last year nearly did me in. I cried for 31 days in a row. IN A ROW, people! I survived though. When I think about why it was so much more stressful to expand, I realized that, by that point, I felt I had something to lose. OTY had an audience watching every move we made and I was terrified to make a wrong one. All signs pointed to the need to expand AND the opportunity was so readily available that it would have been foolish not to go for it.

From the outside though, I was worried that I looked greedy, arrogant and overzealous. All I kept thinking was, “what if this tanks?” I became consumed with that thought and every morning I’d wake up and nearly immediately burst into tears. I have told a handful of friends about this experience and they wonder why I didn’t reach out for help. In retrospect, I could have done a better job of that. Asking for and receiving help is in something I am continually working on.

It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.
— Chuck Palahniuk

What finally broke my crying streak was a “coming home” of sorts. After weeks of relentless self-induced suffering, I realized that I had become obsessed with the “what” and “how” of our business. Those are definitely important to know, but what I lost sight of was the “why.” Some of the most transformative moments of my life have been directly connected to my yoga practice. It scares me when I imagine what my life would look like today if I never started practicing.

So, when I say that yoga has completely changed my life, I mean it in wholeheartedly. Yoga has taught me how RICH every day of your life can be. Every moment has limitless potential. YOU have limitless potential. Yoga has shown me how to realize and manifest that potential by simply being with every moment, feeling, thought, and interaction that arises. Sharing this message is my WHY.

I do not have my practice perfected by any means and I am positive I never will, but the glimpses of it working in my life and other’s is the fuel that propels me forward. When I get bogged down with the logistics of scheduling, finding subs, marketing the studio, reviewing our monthly balance sheets, analyzing attendance and blah, blah, blah, that is precisely when I my ability to manage everything deteriorates. Whenever I have my “why” right in front of me though, it is more often than not, smooth sailing. I also know, for better or worse, I am human and I will inevitably lose sight of my “why” over and over. However, with commitment to the repetitive practice of redirecting and remembering, the frequency and duration of getting blown of course will decrease. 

No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.
— Seneca

Just as we build strength and flexibility with consistency and gradually increased intensity, courage and ambition are built in the same way. Without the trials of starting a business and expanding it within a year, I would not have been able to take on opening a completely new location. I believe most experiences, especially the ones you feel you cannot survive, are crucial lessons that shape you into the person you are meant to be. I had a friend recently post something along the lines of, “if life feels like it has gotten harder, that means you’ve leveled up.” If you are feeling that way, it’s GREAT NEWS! You’ve leveled up! What excites, and terrifies me, is thinking about what I’m currently being shaped to face in the coming years. Whatever it is, I know it will be just what I meant for, and whatever you’re facing is molding you for what YOU are meant to do as well.

The Importance of Knowing & Loving Yourself...and How To Do It

I firmly believe that we have the ability, with our minds, to create our own heaven or hell on Earth. Unfortunately, many of us succumb to creating the latter by consistently living in our thoughts, either past or future. When those thoughts are on repeat for days, months or years, and the pain becomes too much to bear, we turn to remedies outside of ourselves to numb or soothe the pain.

Nobody is exempt from this struggle either. Just last month, rapper Mac Miller passed away from a drug overdose. This news was devastating to his family, friends and fans, yet it is sadly a story that is too common. Prince, Michael Jackson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Petty, Whitney Houston, Brittney Murphey, Amy Winehouse, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger and many more have lost their lives because of a drug addiction that overtook them. Countless other celebrities have lost their lives to suicide, and while death is never easy to understand, it is even more challenging to make sense of when a person who seems to “have it all” feels so much suffering that only drugs and/or death can soothe them.

It requires an extremely low view of oneself or one’s circumstances to act in such a way. However, nearly everyone, at some point in their lives has experienced difficulty seeing their own value as a human being. We often attach our worth to our physical appearance, material possessions, accomplishments, status and so on. Yet, simply being a human being qualifies you as the most precious gift on this Earth.

How can we cultivate this belief within ourselves though? We can hear it over and over, but until we internalize and own it, the words will have little meaning. Cultivating this belief requires cultivating a relationship with oneself. Say whaaa? Yes! Of all the relationships that we have, the one most often neglected in the one with our self. This may even be the first time that you’ve considered that a “self-relationship” exists.

We spend more time with ourselves than with anyone else and with a new thought coming at us every 1.2 seconds, there is a lot of conversation going on. What is the content of that conversation? What is the story you are telling yourself? It is tempting to believe every thought that runs through your mind, but they don’t always have your best interest in mind and further, they are rarely accurate. If a friend voiced their self-deprecating thoughts around you, you would likely stop them and give them a more accurate perspective of themselves. What happens when your own internal thoughts don’t have an outside voice of reason to correct them? You begin to believe them, and what you believe drives your actions. This is why it is critical to become a student of yourself and eventually, your own best friend. Sounds a bit esoteric, I know, but it is key to creating lasting contentment and perspective in your life.

But, HOW? I’m glad you asked! The “how” is through meditation/mindfulness. Learning the practices of mindfulness and meditation has been the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Since experiencing the profound effects of mindfulness, I can’t help but think how the practice may have affected the life of Mac Miller and numerous others.

 
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While the practice of mediation is a very simple practice, it is far from easy. If you decide to embark on the self-discovery journey that meditation offers, the beginning will be especially challenging. In fact, for me, my anxiety got worse before it got better. Becoming aware of just how much damn thinking I do was startling and overwhelming.

Just like anything you learn, it will take dedication and time, and the fruits of your practice will speak for themselves. You will begin to notice when you chase a thought, fabricate an unnecessary story, try to interpret someone’s actions, or make a judgement about someone or something. And that is all you have to do. Notice. Let it go. Notice. Let it go. Notice again. Let it go again. I want to reiterate that this is much easier said than done, but I am confident it will be as life-changing for you as it was for me. You can start today too. I’ve written out a short intro to meditation practice for you to try as well as some additional resources to explore the practice even more.

 

Intro to Meditation Practice   Time: 5 minutes          Tools: Timer               

1.     Read all of the instructions first ;)
2.     Find a comfortable, yet tall, upright seated position. Back rests are encouraged.
3.     Turn your phone on airplane mode (VERY IMPORTANT)
4.     Set your timer for 5 minutes
5.     Take three deep belly breaths
6.     Find a soft gaze a few feet in front of you or close your eyes
7.     Let your breath become natural and notice where you sense it most (belly, chest, tip of nose, etc.)
8.     Watch that sensation of your breath for the remainder of your time
9.     You will 100% get distracted by a thought. As soon as you realize this has happened, bring your focus back to that breath sensation.
10.  Repeat this redirection of your attention as many times as necessary
11.  No judging or criticizing yourself. Just notice. Let it go. Repeat.
12.  When the timer goes off, go about your day.
13.  That’s it!


I’d love to hear your thoughts if you try it and answer any questions that come up. Just remember, the most important thing is simply starting.

 

 

Get Your Mind Right

Since opening Old Town Yoga, I’ve had numerous conversations with people aspiring to fulfill a dream they have had for a long time. They see the success of the studio and have all kinds of questions. How did you know? What did you do?  Was there a moment you were sure? How much is your rent? Did you create a business plan? The list goes on. I always answer these questions to the best of my ability, but after the 10th or so time of having this conversation, I realized that none of the answers will get anyone closer to achieving their goals.  

There is only one thing that will give a person a decent shot at realizing their dreams and fulfilling their potential; their willingness to fully and completely COMMIT. Forget about having a backup plan, or managing your risk, or maintaining approval of others, or looking like an idiot. Transforming a dream into reality requires ALL of your attention. If that attention is diluted, your outcome will be diluted and you will find yourself believing that you simply lack some secret skill or technique. The only skill required is UNRELENTING dedication; a laser-like focus of where you are going with no other options in your field of vision.

In The Dark Knight Rises Batman movie, there’s a scene where Christian Bale is trying to escape prison over and over again by climbing up the walls of the pit. With each attempt he ties a rope around his waist as a backup plan. After failing time and time again, one of the older inmates explains that only one person has ever escaped, and did NOT use a rope. In other words, he was more committed to achieving what his heart desired than living without ever seeing his dream realized. With that understanding, Batman attempted escape once again, this time without the rope, and made it.

 
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Now, I am not suggesting you risk your actual life to achieve your dreams. This is obviously an illustration, but it will FEEL like you are risking your actual life if you are doing it correctly. The level of uncertainty that you have to move through will be crushing at times. You will have an urge to put all your “ducks in a row” before you make any big decisions, but that is the opposite way that it works. Take the leap first, and the net will appear. Author Anais Nin said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” My hope is that your courage is so great that your life expands beyond your wildest dreams.

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.
— Marcus Aurelius

There are risks associated with EVERYTHING you do in life. The risks you regularly expose yourself to become your norm and don’t feel like risks anymore. They are still risks though. The risks that come with making a change or taking a leap of faith are uncharted and unknown, therefore scary AF. Be aware of this and that decision fatigue/decision avoidance is a REAL thing. Spending time agonizing over a decision, big or small, results in a deterioration of the quality of decisions you make. And, it doesn’t just affect that one decision, it affects your ability to make any decisions. We are only allotted so much energy each day, which means we must use it wisely and efficiently.

So, do yourself a favor. Sit down and think about what you want out of life. If you already know, you are a step ahead. Once you know what you want, ask yourself, “Do I want this change MORE than I want to stay the same?” If the answer is “no,” then that is FINE. Truly. It is. However, if the answer is “yes,” you need to associate tremendous pain to staying where you are, because the pain of change is going to be enormous and you will want to retreat to the familiar unless that “familiar” is even more painful. Connecting pleasure to where you are headed will also be crucial to propel you towards your goal.  

Next, fully commit to the path you choose with a deep, unwavering belief that you will be successful, no matter what. Tony Robbins has seen success on his desired goals not only with himself, but thousands of others. He has found that success is 80% psychology and only 20% skill. So, yes you better have skill, but more than that, GET YO’ MIND RIGHT. Nobody can do that for you and before anyone believes in you, you MUST believe in yourself. Do you? DO you? DO YOU? This cannot be faked. Your energy introduces you before you speak. Fix your energy, fix your mind, act, and watch your life expand!

 
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Growth: It Ain't For the Faint of Heart.

As human beings we are all on a path of growth and change. Learning, adapting and expanding everyday is something innate in most of us. As much as we all want growth, it is often a painful process and the instinctual response to pain is resistance. However, if you actively seek growth know this, it is going to be more painful than you can imagine. Growth will challenge you mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. When exercising for the first time after an extended period of inactivity, muscles practically revolt at the stress and exertion. The first few weeks of training can make or break a person and unfortunately for many it breaks them. If you manage to survive this period of intense discomfort and even pain, on the other side you will reach a point when you cannot imagine how you ever lived your life differently. It’s as though you’ve risen above the fog of monotony and resignation that was your former life. Before this breakthrough can happen though, you have to have a very uncomfortable, honest conversation with yourself, including asking yourself questions that your previously believed you had the answers to.

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“A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” – Tim Ferriss

The process of physical growth is same for mental, emotional and spiritual growth. I was raised a devout Pentecostal Christian and believed every last bit of doctrine inside out and upside down. It wasn’t until I began to encounter people and experiences that I had been told were “sinful” that I began to slowly question the validity of my belief system. This was a slow, painful, anxiety filled process. I met gay people who were in fact NOT the devil incarnate, but incredibly kind, loving, compassionate HUMANS. I met people from other churches and religious backgrounds who firmly believed that their doctrine was the only “right” way, just as I believed mine was. I began to listen to stories of people from varied backgrounds and walks of life and saw that we shared a common humanity, yet we’re so segregated by the rigid beliefs passed down generation after generation. 

It is not easy to question long held beliefs, but I do feel it is every person’s responsibility to do so. There was a time when completely absurd “truths” were clung to even when they had been clearly disproved. (e.g. the earth is flat, the universe revolves around the earth, a mother’s thoughts can impact her baby’s characteristics in utero, etc.) It was only less than a century ago that was a widely accepted belief that men were the superior gender and whites the superior race. (Those are battles still being waged, but it is generallyacknowledged that ALL humans deserve to be treated equally.) These previously misguided beliefs implore me to question, “which commonly held beliefs of today could be wrong?” This is the thought that sparked my exploration of yoga, a practice my immediately family is vehemently against even to this day. My current question I’ve been referring back to is, “if you have not explored and experienced something for yourself, can you make an accurate judgement about it?” It is safest and most comfortable to only expose yourself to people who believe exactly what you believe and live exactly as you do, but where is the growth in that?  When I look at orthodox religion all I see is a striving to create people behaving EXACTLY how they are told to. Zero diversity or deviation is acceptable. Even daring to question the belief system is frowned upon. However, just as we challenge our bodies for the better by exposing them to various activity, we also challenge our brains by varied exposure to diverse experiences and people and if growth is your goal, this action is mandatory.

I have been gravitating towards this viewpoint for the last couple of years and it’s not been a pretty process. I have experienced deeply painful rejection from people I love most, loads of self doubt, confusion and anxiety. I have had to reevaluate nearly every belief that I have clung to for 25+ years. Some of them have remained, but many have not. This experience has been incredibly isolating, but when I am tempted to throw in the towel on this process I think of this quote from Jordan Peterson.

“You have to decide at some point in your life if you’re more in love with what you know or what you don’t know.” - Jordan Peterson

I have decided I am in love with the latter. I realize everyday how little I know and what a humbling experience that is. I cannot imagine living my life any differently though. I am constantly noticing if there are people, topics or experiences that spark a feeling of resistance or avoidance and then purposely go towards them. Those uncomfortable conversations are what have contributed to my growth in the last two years and especially the last six months. If you are looking to challenge yourself in the same way, begin watching your own reactions. Notice what makes you nervous, dismissive, judgmental or anxious and purposely go towards those things. Your original opinions may remain, they may change. Commit to openly watching, receiving and learning, knowing that everything is true.  In the end, at the very least, you will have an expanded perspective on this world which only leads to greater compassion and that is something we can all benefit from. 

“I've become a student of things as they are and this has led me to the astonishing guidance that all things are true.” – Mark Nepo

Here are just a few things I have watched, read and listened to recently that I normally would have been inclined to avoid:

Gloria Allred’s documentary, Seeing Allred (Netflix)

Hannah Gadsby Nanette (Netflix)

Bill Nye: Science Guy (Netflix)

Tim Ferriss Podcast Episode #280

Andy Grammar "The Good Parts" Podcast Episode #1

Dan Reynolds Documentary "Believer"

What Happened by Hilary Rodham Clinton

Sex At Dawn by Calida Jethá and Christopher Ryan (this one will flip your world upside down) 

Listen, Believe, Act: A Guide To Being Limitless

Do you realize what you are capable of?  Can you wrap your mind around how limitless you are?  We so regularly create stories in our minds about why we “can’t”, or “shouldn’t” do what our hearts desire, and many of us have completely lost the ability to dream.  The stories we tell ourselves unequivocally shape our world.  Show me a person’s life and I’ll show you their thoughts.  It’s easy to blame where you are in life on your family, job, past offenses, injustice in the world, and so on, but here’s the hard truth; blaming is a cop out.  Life is difficult, even crushing at times, but you have tremendous power to decide what runs your life and what won’t. 

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There will absolutely be debilitating moments and experiences you will face, and crawling into your bed for a day or two, or even a month is OKAY.  Sitting with your emotions and fully feeling the intensity of your experiences is a vital part of moving through challenges. The key is that you move through.  The word “move” is a verb which implies action, but ACTION is the hardest part for most people. 

Everyone faces the same obstacle to action, albeit in different forms, every day; and that obstacle is YOURSELF.  You are in your own way. Perpetually. Incessantly. Like it is your full-time job.  An idea comes to mind and as sure as the sun rising in the morning, YOU show up, just in time to shut the idea down.  Over and over again this process is repeated, and in time, we become so disconnected from who we are and what we want that even when prompted, it’s difficult to say what we’d do if there was nothing held us back. (SPOILER ALERT: there is nothing holding you back.)  

"Transition isn't pretty, but stagnation is hideous." - Nikki Rowe

How would you shape the next year of your life if you could have things exactly how you dream?  There may be some fantasizing about eating ice cream in bed, sitting on a beach with our toes in the sand, binge watching Netflix, or reading for hours on end, but these are just the burned-out, over-exhausted rat race version of you talking.  Once you spend a week or so doing your chosen self-indulgent activity, you’ll realize you are meant to do more.  Humans were created to work, and for centuries our work was focused on simply surviving.  Today we live (contrary to popular belief) in a borderline Utopian society where nearly ANYTHING is possible and if it is not yet, it will be in the next 20 years. Who knows, maybe you will be the one to make it happen!  

So I ask you, in this limitless world, what do you want to do?  What thoughts and ideas are swirling around in your mind that you have smothered so intensely that they are barely a whisper now?  Instead of shoving it away, will you water, feed, and love it?  Like a small seed that’s carefully tended to, it will begin to sprout.  You won’t know the ultimate shape that it will take, but that’s not your responsibility.  Your responsibility is to nurture with wholehearted dedication and watch your seed of a thought transform into an idea, then a dream, then a plan, then a purpose, and finally a life of deep fulfillment.  Only then you’ll realize that you’ve shaped your life into exactly what you want it to be, and odds are, you will positively impacted countless others along the way.  

This sort of living has not always been possible and when you realize that, it feels wrong to squander the opportunities lying on a silver platter right in front of us.  So many people have fought and died to get us where we are today, and while the world is not perfect, the conditions for achieving your dreams are pretty damn close to perfect.  

"The future is limitless." - Peter Thiel

What are you doing with this golden ticket?  If the answer is “nothing,” start today.  If you have no idea where to begin, start by breaking up the monotony in your life.  Try something new, volunteer your time, start experiencing things you normally don’t, and pay attention to what sparks within you.  It will likely take time, but don’t settle for mediocrity.  You were made for so much more. Your life and others depend on it.  

What's All The Hype About?

It seems that everyone these days is getting into yoga and a large number of students are going so far as to complete a yoga teacher training.  If you have ever given yoga a solid chance, you likely can understand why the practice has exploded in popularity.  On the surface it seems that yoga is simply another form of exercise, but in reality, it is so much deeper than that.  Yoga is a practice of awareness, connection and presence; a practice of NOW.  “Living in the moment” might sound like a modern cliché, but it is a universal human challenge that has existed for thousands of years.  It is all too common that we find ourselves physically in one place and mentally somewhere far away.  You have probably experienced this yourself and whether you consciously realize this or not, we all are guilty of perpetually living “lost in thought.”  

“Yoga takes you into the present moment, the only place where life exists.” — Anonymous

There is an anecdote to our thinking addiction, and it is called Yoga.  Once you get a taste of true stillness and separation from the constant stream of thoughts running through your mind, you can’t help but want more.  This skill of detachment and surrender is exactly what yoga teaches.  It has been said that depression is living in the past, and anxiety is living in the future.  If you take an honest look at yourself, you will see which one you lean towards.  True peace lies in embracing and surrendering to the moment you are experiencing right NOW. 

As students begin to expand their physical practice, or asana, the depth of yoga as a whole becomes evident and the thirst for knowledge grows. Often, the next step to deepen a yoga practice is to take a yoga teacher training (YTT).  In reality, a YTT should be called a life training because of the deep dive students take into their own hearts. A YTT has less to do with the postures (although 100+ poses are examined and broken down), and more to do with learning and befriending yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the foundation for all other relationships and as we move through life, the state of our internal relationship is revealed by how we interact with and treat others.

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.”         — Jason Crandel

If you have had the desire to dive deeper into your yoga practice and into yourself, a YTT is the perfect place to do so. No advanced asana practice is necessary, no plans to teach are required.  Nothing is expected outside of you showing up for yourself with courage, compassion and generosity. To learn more about the teacher trainings Old Town Yoga is offering in the coming year, check out our Teacher Training page or comment below with your questions. We would be honored to witness you experience this transformative process. 

 Travis Eliot lecturing at OTY's first 200hr Yoga Teacher Training 

Travis Eliot lecturing at OTY's first 200hr Yoga Teacher Training 

What's Your Story?

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This morning I was on the bus. You may have heard of this bus, and likely even ridden it.  It’s the Struggle Bus. ba-dum-tshh! (I may still be on it based on this writing…)  I thought I dragged myself off of it to go practice acro yoga, but I continued to struggle.  After my practice I usually climb for a bit, but I forgot my climbing gear and wound up just watching everyone else climb. I immediately felt like a loser and the floodgates of negativity and self-deprecation flew open. “You’re irresponsible for not remembering your climbing gear…you aren’t disciplined because you haven’t climbed in a week…why are you even here?...you might as well give up…now you’re wasting time.” 

You get the idea.

 

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

 

It is incredible how unrelenting our thoughts can be. Our brain’s job is to think, analyze and protect us. It is constantly absorbing information and interpreting it, and for most of my life I was unaware that this continuous dialogue was even happening. My thoughts were unchecked and often unconsciously accepted as truth. Unfortunately, this is the case for many people and it can be damaging or empowering, depending on what those thoughts are. A study was published by the National Science Foundation in 2005 that found on average a person’s daily thoughts are 80% negative and 95% repetitive. WHAT THE?! It can feel like a losing battle.

But…. Now what?

 

“Don’t believe everything you think.” – Allan Lokos

 

This can be pretty depressing and anxiety-inducing at the same time. If we’re unaware of our thoughts, there’s no chance of them being changed.  Thankfully, awareness of these thoughts can be a game-changer! After I realized the barrage of terrible thoughts I was assaulting myself with, I paused and gave myself a moment to realize everything I was thinking, then consciously said, “those are lies.” I am responsible and disciplined. I should keep climbing, even if it is once a week, and I DO belong here. This flip gave me permission to release those detrimental thoughts and enjoy the rest of my time at the gym. 

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I know I am making this sound stupidly easy, but be warned; it is not. After years of negative thinking, I have essentially earned a black belt in the art of negative self-talk. I am a trained Jedi master, slowly trying to unlearn all the wrong ways to think about myself, relationships, and life in general. The process is slow and often painful, but the moments of freedom that come when I separate who I am from what I think, are priceless. Just like building muscle or learning a skilled trade, this practice of loving awareness takes time and dedication. 

 

“What we dwell on is who we become.” -Oprah Winfrey

 

In yoga, we practice mindfulness as we move and breathe intentionally. When we connect to our bodies on that level, we can watch what comes up, acknowledge it without judgement and from that vantage point of awareness find an level of power and peace we've never known. At Old Town Yoga, our classes are a safe, loving space to practice this skill of loving awareness with the guidance of a teacher and support of your fellow students. On your own, this can be practiced as you move through your day. Even consciously noticing ONE “automatic” thought will empower you to decide if it is one you want to keep and believe, or one that should be discarded. After all, you are only the story you tell about yourself, so make it the best one you can imagine.

 

Desiree Heckman

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Year One of My Yoga Journey

Guest Post by Michelle Gonzales

Hi Yogis!

I am so honored to be able to share a little about me and my yoga journey with you today. My name is Michelle Gonzales. I am recently engaged, I work as an Associate Marriage and Family therapist at a nonprofit, I love my dogs, food, my family, my friends, Harry Potter weekends and all things cozy (hot drinks, fireplaces, snow and fuzzy socks just to name a few).  I am also a recovering perfectionist, slightly bossy, anxious and self-critical at times.

This month is my 1 year yogaversary at OTY and I am so excited to reflect on how far I have come and see where else it takes me. I stumbled on OTY when my former professor (current friend) invited me to join in on a Sunday yoga session Desiree was hosting for one of her classes. I have always enjoyed yoga and wanted to take classes but never found a studio I wasn’t completely intimidated by. I always worried about being judged because I didn’t know the names of all the poses or how to do them perfectly. About 10 minutes into the class with Desiree, tears started to flow. All of the stress and anxiety that I had been holding in my body was able to find some release and Desiree’s words about taking chances and self-belief poked me in a sore spot, right where I needed to be poked.

After that first class I probably came 8 times in my 2 week trial. I loved having an hour just to focus on me and cry in savasana if I needed to. I am not going to lie, when it came time for the commitment I was hesitant to continue. I knew I needed to continue for my sanity but my self-doubt made me question if I really did “need” it. I am all about the bargain so the year commitment made the most sense but then my critical self-talk made its way to the forefront. “You won’t stick to it.” “You never stick to anything fitness related.” “You’re just going to waste money.” I managed to shove those thoughts down, with the help of my friends and fiancé, and decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did.

So much has happened and changed for me since my start at OTY a year ago. In class, being nonjudgmental of ourselves is something that is spoken about in every class and it always makes me cry. A year later and I still get teary eyed. Yoga has brought to light how much I judge and compare myself to others around me. How I have a difficult time being content in being a work in progress. It has shown me what true self-care is, not the fake version I had been telling myself was good enough. I found value in what my body can do instead of what it looks like. Don’t get me wrong, I still judge my body’s appearance and nit pick every tiny flaw I manifest in my mind.

I am still quite a work in progress in that area but yoga showed me there is more to a body then how it looks in a bathing suit. I have seen my body gain strength and flexibility. I have gained a deeper understanding of my body’s needs and messages. Now I not only realize when my body needs rest, but I listen to it, because I find so much more value in being attune with myself instead of “hustling,” “grinding,” and trying to meet unrealistic goals. So many of us get into yoga as a form of physical fitness, which was 100% true for me. What I have come to learn is yoga has shown me more about my mental fitness and my self-value than anything physical. It has exercised my openness, my willingness to be vulnerable and honest as well as my ability to be authentic with myself. It has made me more generous with myself and increased my flexibility in my self-imposed expectations.

Writing this and sharing with all of you is scary and something I never would have done a year ago. I look forward to the next year of this journey and what I will be reflecting on in year 2. As part of my personal self-care, I decided this year to forego making any New Years resolutions but instead to set intentions for myself; flexible achievements that focus on growth instead of rigid expectations. I want to begin developing an at-home yoga practice that feels good to me. I want to continue to build strength and flexibility in class.  I also want to work on replacing the self-critical thoughts with care and compassion. I am proud to say I am a work in progress. Messy and imperfect, but there is magic in the mess and I am grateful for every hard, messy, magical moment. That is where the lessons are.

 Thank you fellow yogis for being accepting of everyone who walks into class and thank you OTY teachers for creating a safe space to mess up, grow, learn and cry in savasana.

 

With Abundant Gratitude,

                           Michelle