As I learn to hold myself accountable for my holistic well-being, I think it might be a good idea to share parts of my wellness journey. This semester has been challenging, as I face more difficult decisions than I have in my entire 22 years and because of that, my health (mental, physical, and everything in between) has fallen to the wayside. Remembering my “life variable” has gotten easier as I actively try to pay attention to it, but sometimes I still forget that I’m a human being with very real needs. The best way I know how to make those forgetful spells fewer and farther between is the same way I remember when that urban lit essay is due — write it down in a planner.
So, three weeks ago, I signed up for some yoga classes.
I am not a gym-going type person, because I get self-conscious during workouts and worry about being judged or looking silly or not being at the same skill level as someone else… so trust me, signing up for intro-level hot yoga and committing to a five class pass was a big deal. Granted, I figured of any workout environment yoga would be best because it’s based on principles of non-judgment and self-fulfillment, but still — I had a gang of perfectly-tanned, perfectly-flat-stomached yoga goddesses taunting me in my mind. My mom and I committed together, because one of the easiest ways to hold yourself accountable (besides writing, in pen, in your planner) is to have someone else to hold you accountable, too. Plus, we could be non-tan-perfect-ab yoga goddesses together.
Before beginning the yoga part of my wellness journey, I had never focused so much on my breathing. In fact, I had never noticed how often I hold my breath, cheat my breath, or clench my breath because of tension or frustration or anxiety. To be in an environment that requires you to breathe consistently and loudly (seriously, sometimes the instructor won’t let you out of a “heat-building” (read: challenging as hell) pose until they can hear every single person inhale and exhale) is something that’s already done wonders for my stress levels. I learned really quickly that yoga (just like anything) is far from one size fits all, and those yoga goddesses in my brain don’t exist — and even if they did, I was too focused on honoring my breath to be paying attention to anything other than my own experience anyway.
You don’t notice how much good breathing affects your movement and strengthens you — or how much bad breathing can limit you and close you off. Breathing is an action we do almost thoughtlessly through out the day, but it is an action that literally sustains our life. We begin with each inhale and gather up our strength and frustrations, then push them out with each exhale to release whatever is holding us back and have the chance to begin again. Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried to focus more on those inhales and exhales even when I’m not in downward dog or twisted into a pretzel, my thighs burning with effort and growing resilience.
Inhale, exhale. Begin, release, begin again.
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