Overcome fear: front row in yoga class

When I go to yoga class I tend to arrive pretty early for several reasons. I like to just lay on the mat and relax, let my thoughts wonder. It helps my body to get adjusted to the heat in a hot yoga class and, lastly, it gives me the opportunity to find a spot in the last row, away from the mirrors and the other yogi’s eyes. I know, as much as yoga boosted my self-esteem I still have a long path to walk to just love myself completely.

On Tuesday I had class at 7 pm. Since I live just 5 minutes away from the studio I decided to leave as always a half an hour or 25 minutes before the class. It was my first time and I forgot that traffic can be really mean at that hour. I got stuck in the traffic for fifteen minutes and once I’ve arrived at the studio the last row was full. I don’t know which kind of face I did but inside I felt like I was trapped. The second row was full too. The only spots available were in the first row. PANIC.

Since I had no choice, still panicking, I rolled my mat in front of the mirrors. I grabbed my block and a strap and then I sat down. I didn’t even look at myself in the mirror, I laid down and started to try to stop the anxiety moment and focusing on my upcoming practice.

The class started and surprisingly, I started to create a good connection with the mirror, with the image reflected. It wasn’t perfect but the mirror, the one that I thought was my enemy, helped me correcting those poses that I was doing wrong. I aligned my hips better, I tried to make my pose look like the teacher’s one. The time was passing by and I gained so much confidence that in mountain pose, instead of looking at a distant point, I was looking at myself, in my eyes. I felt so fierce. I was so focused. The mirror that I was so afraid of started to become my friend throughout the practice. At the end, while I was sipping my water, I was actually smiling at my reflection.

What did I learn from Tuesday practice? I learned that what I fear the most may be good for me at the point that next practice I’ll just put myself in the front row, no matter if there are spots available in the last row. Because I overcame a fear and now I don’t want to put myself in the back row anymore. I want to stay in the front and focus just to be better in my practice, focusing just on my gaze I kept tree pose twice, a thing that never happened before. I’ve learned that overcome fears can be a turning point in your life, not just in the yoga practice.

NAMASTE.

Advertisements

What I’ve learned in 30 days of hot yoga

I know, it may seem that with all these travels I’ve been shirker about yoga. It’s absolutely not true. I fell in love with yoga even more after every class that I took in a local studio, Dragonfly Hot Yoga.

I’ve bought a 40 $ intro offer that allowed me to take unlimited classes at the four locations for one month. I’ve started May, 15th and I just finished my last class with the intro offer. On Monday, I’m about to start my membership at the yoga studio. It’s quite expensive, 99$ per month. When you are an au pair is not easy stuff, but I’ve decided that yoga is something I don’t want to give up because I’m an au poor. 

Since I’ve started hot yoga, three times a week, I’ve seen progress in my body. It doesn’t mean that I’ve lost thousands of pounds, it means that I fell in love with my body in a way I’ve never fallen before. I feel stronger, I feel prouder, I fell like I’m totally ok with who I am. Growing up I’ve always struggled with my body weight, even in periods in which my body was ok. I’ve never suffered bulimia or anorexia, but in my mind, my body was never enough, not even when I had people telling me it was, that there was nothing wrong. It is something in your mind. If it doesn’t click you are not free of your own judgment. It’s been almost 5 months that I’ve started practicing yoga and I’ve never felt so in love with my body. No matter the pounds, no matter the chubby tummy, no matter the huge thighs, nothing matter because it clicked, in my brain: my body is perfect as it is. Finally, after almost 25 years, I’m ok with my body and I have to thank yoga.

I realized it while I was practicing at the studio. I was in the downward facing dog, I looked at the mirror to my left and I liked what I saw. I was surprised. The line wasn’t perfect, I still have to work on it, but I liked it, the shape of my body. I looked at the mirror surprised it was me. Since that class, I tried to free myself from my own judgment because that was the one that stopped me so many times to go to a yoga class. I was so afraid to not be good enough that I didn’t sign up at any yoga studio for months before the beginning class that I took. I was so scared to see other people judging me. But now, when I’m in class I only see myself.

I practice at a hot yoga studio. I found out that I love to sweat. It may sound disgusting but I love to sweat out from every single pore of my body. I love to end the class tired but happy. Because that is the thing that really surprised me: I was happy even after at one point in the class I wanted to die.

I was happy. I’m happy every time I finish a class. I’m happy and that’s the main reason that I want to keep practicing, no matter the price. I found an amazing studio, with a really welcoming staff and a really friendly environment. I feel at home even since it’s only one month that I’m practicing there.

So, my yoga practice is going really good. I have a membership at a yoga studio. I’m practicing three times a week, even more, if I can figure it out with the work schedule. I still can’t do a lot of poses but I’m working on it. I feel so proud and happy for myself, it’s a feeling that I’ve never felt before and I’m starting to really like it.

NAMASTE.

What people don’t tell you about living abroad

I love to travel, always did. I decided to move abroad as an au pair for two years without thinking about it too much. I’m in my second year living in the States, an ocean apart from Italy, my country. In two years I’ve been abroad I lost two relatives, two people that have been part of my life since I was born.

Last year, on March 13, 2016, I’ve lost my aunt Luisa. She was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. She lost her battle against this terrible enemy three months after I left home. I will always remember the last time that I saw her, on my farewell party with all the family. We took a terrible picture together because she was saying it would have been the last one. I didn’t pay attention that much but unfortunately, she was right.

On May 11, 2017, I lost my beloved Grandpa. I’m still crying while writing this post because my heart is broken in tons of pieces. My Grandpa was the happiest and messiest person that I’ve ever met. He drank a lot, he played a lot of instruments and he was always doing something, every single time I was going to his house. Last November, thanks to my host family, I went back home for one week and as soon as he saw me he smiled and said: “you’ve lost weight … almost.” I took as a compliment and I ate a piece of cake that he made because he was a great and weird chef. I heard his voice a month ago, my parents told me he was happy to hear my voice.

This is what people don’t talk about when you move abroad. They talk about being away from your family but they clearly don’t say what really sucks: when someone dies, for the last time, you are not going to be there for them but most of all you are not going to be there for the rest of your family. You can’t hug your mom, your dad or your brother. You are going to cry by yourself in a room that now is yours, speaking on the phone with your mom in tears. You are going to sigh loudly. You are going to hear a lot of “I’m sorry”, and you know that they really are, but they didn’t know how amazing the person you lost was, they don’t know how the world is less bright because of that. If you are lucky you are going to have friends, a kind of weird family, a boyfriend, someone that loves you and hugs you but you know, no matter what, that that one person you would love a hug from is gone forever.

I don’t want anyone to tell me: “it was your choice, you knew the consequences.” Yeah, I knew and I still know the consequences of living abroad but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deeply hurt losing someone. No matter what, when you leave you don’t think about this. You don’t think about receiving a call in which your parents tell you the words you are so afraid to hear. You don’t think about this. Everyone talks about the fun part, others talk about the hard parts but few talks about what really sucks about living abroad: what happens when you lose someone you love and you can’t go back.

IMG_1829.jpg

Ps: I wrote this post two nights ago, after I discovered my granpa was gone forever. It may not make sense but I want to post it and I’m doing it.

NAMASTE.

What I’ve learned in 3 months of yoga

Three months ago I did my first yoga class. Three months ago I was a different person from the one I’m today. Probably, in three months from now, I’ll be a totally different person as well. I realized that a couple of days ago. I was showing my boyfriend some poses and suddenly I realized how I’ve changed in those three months of practicing:

I CAN BE FLEXIBLE TOO.

 

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

Pinterest

 

I know, it may sound silly but I’ve always thought my flexibility was forever gone. I’ve never been able to bend that much. It’s been years since my fingers touched my toes keeping my legs straight but last week I did it. I was struggling, a lot, but I did it and I was so happy that I’ve achieved that little step. It means that one of the reasons why I’ve started yoga is working. It means that I’m not going to be a piece of wood for the rest of my life. It means that my body is working, is stretching, is becoming more fit.

NOBODY CARES HOW GOOD I DO A POSE, EXCEPT ME.

 

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

Pinterest

 

At the beginning of my yoga classes, I was always looking all around, while doing a pose, trying to see if it was just me that was struggling to hold the pose. One day, I decided to do yoga at home. I rolled my mat, grabbed my strap and block, and started doing some poses that we learned in class. I realized that holding the pose wasn’t that difficult anymore. I was focused just on myself and standing just on one foot doing the tree pose was still a challenge, but less frustrating because I was focused on my body, on every single muscle contracted to reach the stability. The next day, I had a yoga class and while we did the tree pose I realized I wasn’t looking at my classmates.  I was just looking at one point on the ground and I kept my gaze there. I held the pose, not for all the time, but for most of it. I didn’t feel frustrated. I felt good because I stopped from comparing myself to others.

I’M MORE EAGER TO DO PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

 

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

Pinterest

 

They say that you need 21 days to built a habit. 90 days after the beginning of my yoga practice I can say that it’s pretty true. I’ve never been an athletic or active person. Even at the time in which I was practicing swim or volleyball I never felt the need or necessity to do physical activity. Now, I feel that need. I want to do it because I like what I’m seeing, I like my body changing, I like that my body is stronger now. When I don’t have class I just roll my mat in my basement and I do some practice, just because I want it. It is something strange for me, weird in a good way.

I can’t wait to see what I’m going to learn in the next three months.

NAMASTE.

 

 

 

Legs up the wall

img_0125-1

Since I was a kid I have this habit to lay on my back and put the legs on the wall. It relaxes me, it stops my legs from hurting after a workout or a long walk.  I can read, I can work on my computer putting a pillow under my head, I can watch a movie. I thought it was something that was mine, my characteristic, my peculiarity. Pinterest made me find out that I’m not that unique, under this weird point of view.  Scrolling down the home I found this picture with the description of all the benefits that this pose has.

I was a little bit disappointed at the beginning, then I saw the bright side: since I was a kid I was practicing yoga in my weird way. So I did research about the argument and I found out pretty interesting things.

First of all, the right Sanskrit name is “Viparita Karani“. Viparita means inverted, karani means making. So, it could be translated as “making inversion” because it inverts everything we usually do when we are seated or we are standing. I’ll probably keep calling it “legs up the wall”, it’s more figurative and it is easier to remember.

It’s one of the most restorative poses in the yoga world and has a lot of benefits:

  • it can help alleviate headaches
  • it’s an energy booster
  • relieve lower back pain
  • it can help against jet-lag
  • it relieves stress
  • it relieves tired leg muscles

It is a pose that can be held from 5 to 20 minutes. At the beginning, it may feel weird in your legs, like a weird tickle. Just bend your knees and give your legs a little movement. This simple pose, that doesn’t need any kind of warm up and it can be done everywhere, it can really help your body to relieve pain. It boosts your brain too. In this pose you don’t have to focus on any kind of muscles, you just have to relax, free your mind and let your blood slowly go back to your brain. I had my best ideas stuck in that position, even if at the time I had no idea it was connected to yoga. I just did it because it made me feel good. Adding a breath technique helps even more.

This simple pose, that doesn’t need any kind of warm up and it can be done everywhere, it can really help your body to relieve pain. It boosts your brain too. In this pose you don’t have to focus on any kind of muscles, you just have to relax, free your mind and let your blood slowly go back to your brain. I had my best ideas stuck in that position, even if at the time I had no idea it was connected to yoga. I just did it because it made me feel good. Adding a breath technique helps even more.

So, basically, for my entire life, without even knowing it, I was giving my body all those benefits. I don’t even know how I started. Most likely in the summer when I needed the fresh wall to relieve the pain of the warm summer air. In my Italian house, we don’t have air conditioning, we just open the windows and let the air do its job. Sometimes it doesn’t work, when the summer is really hot the air doesn’t do its job and you have three other possibilities: go in the basement, open the fridge and hide in there or put you close to the wall. It is something that I’ve always done since my bed is close to the wall. So, that’s probably how I started to practice Viparita Karani without even knowing it.

NAMASTE.

 

 

Savasana: to be.

16831463_10212581330032010_630277639_n

“To deeply relax the body, we must first rest the mind” 

Since the first days of yoga practice, you start to learn different words in Sanskrit. Most of the time those words are really hard to remember. Like Svadhyaya (I still have problems writing it). But there’s one yoga pose name which I learned pretty easily: Savasana.

Savasana comes from the union of two Sanskrit words: Shava, meaning “corpse”, and Asana, meaning “posture” or “seat”. That’s why it is commonly called “corpse pose”. Actually, it looks like it. You lay down on your back, the arms spread at about 45 degree and eyes closed. It is usually done at the end of the yoga practice. It helps the body to reset itself after the body had been stretched, contracted, twisted and inverted. This means that every single muscle of your body can be relaxed, shed their normal habits and let go.

According to scientists, Savasana has amazing benefits on the brain too. During the practice we are bombarded with a lot of new information: new yoga poses, weird Sanskrit names, a lot of words that helps you set your strength and balance. It’s a lot to process in an hour. That’s why Savasana helps the brain too. It’s a way to pause it between the practice and the day that awaits you ahead.

Let’s say it clearly. Savasana may seem an easiest and useless pose. I thought the same. I changed my mind once the teacher explained us the real intentions of Savasana: letting go. For those minutes in which you hold the pose you are supposed to let go the practice that you just had, let go the life that awaits you outside the yoga mat, let go everything. For those minutes you just have to rest, clear your mind, let go. I tried. I seriously tried to clear my mind. Even after an exhausting practice, my mind keeps wander and wonder. I think about what I have to do next, my schedule for the day. If the Savasana takes longer the mind wanders even more: my family, my friends, my future. Everything suddenly pops out and I start to talk to myself. I impose myself to stop wandering but it’s difficult to let go.

We live in a society that always makes us think about the future. When you are young you have to know already what you want to do when you grow up. Once you’ve reached one goal you have always to aim to another. We hardly set our thoughts on the present. It’s always a constant worrying about what’s next without focusing on the present, without really understanding what’s going on in our life, without enjoying the moment.

That’s what I want for my Savasana practice. Being able to really let go. To focus just on myself even for a brief moment in my day. Not focusing on my future, but focusing on me. How do I feel, how am I practicing, how am I enjoying the moment. This is going to be hard, I know it, probably more than keeping the balance on a tree pose but I’m going to try it hard. I’m going to try to just be. 

NAMASTE.

Svadhyaya: understand ourselves

Sometimes try to understand ourselves it’s even more complicated than try to understand others. At least, it is what always happened to me. I’m great in giving advice, in understanding someone’s else situation but when it comes to me, to understand who am I. Well, that’s totally another story. That’s what our first assignment in my yoga class was about: understand ourselves, in Sanskrit SVHADYAYA.

As my beloved Wikipedia says:

“Svādhyāya (Devanagari: स्वाध्याय) is a Sanskrit term which literally means “one’s own reading” and “self-study”.

My yoga teacher described it as:

“Self-reflection is a form of self-study, and in yogic terms is called “svadhyaya.” Svadhyaya, in it’s beginning forms, is a way in which we can learn to see ourselves more deeply. Svadhyaya can be a way of changing the way we think about ourselves by pointing our attention towards more purposeful, and meaningful ways of engaging with life. Svadhyaya is metacognitive (being aware of and understanding your own thinking) by nature, and is also considered to be a spiritual endeavor and in the context of connecting with ourselves and others. We can learn a lot about ourselves by considering how others perceive us”. 

Svadhyaya. It’s such a difficult word that means so much. So I sat cross-legged on my huge king size bed, my laptop in front of me, a cup of matcha latte on my nightstand and I started my journey. What came out was actually something that I’m proud of. I’ve never thought of myself in the ways I did in that paper. I seriously tried to understand those parts of my personality that I’ve never overthought. I helped myself with some quotes on Pinterest that I had saved in one of my boards. I know, it may sound stupid, but what I saved in that board helped me so much. The teacher required two handwritten pages. At the end, I had 3 pages fully written.

Who am I? It’s not an easy question. I’ve been living with myself for 24 years and still, I have problems trying to understand parts of me. I know I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m someone’s au pair, I’m someone’s friend and probably someone’s enemy. But above that, who am I is still a question that makes me nervous. I know that I’m not the same person I was when I decided to move to the States one year ago. A lot of people, when I told them I was moving for two years in the States described me as BRAVE. I’ve never considered myself as a brave person until I realized that what I was going to do wasn’t something that anyone could do. Leave your family, your friends, your hometown and all you know for the unknown. I didn’t consider myself brave not because I have a low self-esteem of myself but because what I was doing was something that I knew I wanted to do since I was in high school. It was a dream. Just now I understand that following your dreams make you brave in others people eyes.

I found a word, a couple of months ago, that I think describes myself at the best: AMBIVERT. An ambivert is a person who has a balance of extrovert and introvert features in their personalities. I’ve always struggled growing up trying to understand if I was more introvert or extrovert. Somebody described me as an introvert, other as extrovert so I was always wondering which one of those two adjectives described me the best. When I found the word “ambivert” I found my adjective. I’m the kind of person who loves to go on adventures, to take a flight and discover other cultures, hang out with friends and create memories. On the other hand, sometimes I just want to lay in bed and watch Netflix by myself. I’ve never been afraid of loneliness. Sometimes I need a pause from people and I need to enjoy my presence, I like it.

I’m also a very CONFUSED person when it comes to my future. I moved to the States with the purpose to fulfill a dream and find my road. I studied Foreign Languages in Italy, Spanish and English. I chose that faculty because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. About my future, I tried to create a plan but I’m NOT CONSTANT. Before I left Italy my two childhood best friends and I promised each other to meet ourselves in 15 years somewhere in the world to celebrate our friendship and see if we accomplished our goals. At the time I was totally into screenwriting so my goal was to work in that industry. Now, one year later, I don’t think that’s what I want to do. I change my mind so easily that people lost track of what I want to do. My mom always asks me if I made up my mind. I always change the subject because I don’t know. One thing that I promised myself at the start of 2017 was to stop worrying about the future. Stop overthinking about where I will be in one year and live the moment. I have to enjoy this year, then I’ll see. I’m basically a MESS sometimes but it’s ok. I’ve always felt comfortable in my own messy world that, to me, is not messy at all.

I’m also a THINKER and sometimes an OVERTHINKER. Since I was a kid I have always been the kid with the head in the clouds. I started to write stories on my mom’s computer when I was young. It was my moment to unleash all my thoughts. I always felt like writing helped me not to lose my mind. I’m a KEEPER, not in the sense that I love to collect things. No, I’m a keeper in the sense that I don’t share my problems with everyone. I keep them for myself. Keeping all inside my mind without sharing can be dangerous, that’s why I started writing. Release my problems on paper always helped me to figure out the problem without bothering people. Ok, sometimes it is not the best technique ever.

I’m a POSITIVE person that loves to see the bright side of life. I learned to fall but I’ve always stood up again. Being positive helped me against my fears.

Since I’m in the States I always introduce myself with: “hi, I’m Elena and I’m ITALIAN”. It helps me remember where I’m from. I truly believe that where we are from makes us, us. It shapes us in a  way that few things can.

I’m a TRAVELER. If I could I would travel forever and be TRILINGUAL helped me so much. It wasn’t something that I planned but I ended up speaking two more languages besides Italian. It opened my mind, it keeps my mind always trained and it makes me feel like a superhuman in my little.

That’s me. A bunch of adjectives under the name ELENA.

When I finished I looked at what I wrote. How did I end up thinking that I didn’t know myself to write three pages full of adjectives about my personality? I was seriously surprised and every time I read it I feel like, mostly at the beginning, I made clear who I really am. The power of Svadhayaya is amazing and surprising. If you are reading this post and you’ve never done a Svadhyaya I deeply recommend you to do it. Look inside yourself. You are the only one who truly knows you.

NAMASTE.

img_0113