A Gentle Reminder to be Grateful

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I want you to be completely honest with yourself for a moment.

Do you spend more time appreciating your life or complaining about it?

I'd say a lot of us, even if we don't like to admit it, are complainers. We focus on what we think needs to change for us to finally accept ourselves. We set our sights on what we think we need to do to one day be happy. But as the saying goes, happiness is an inside job. It doesn't come from out there, we have to create it for ourselves. 

It's American Thanksgiving and all across the States, families are gathering to carve turkey, smother their food in gravy (yum) and spend quality time together. I love this holiday because it isn't focused on material things, it's all about giving thanks for what you already have. So whether you're celebrating today or you've already fully recovered from Turkey overload in Canada a few weeks ago, I want you to embrace today as another reminder to appreciate what you have because I believe we can never be reminded enough. Research shows that gratitude is strongly and consistently connected to greater happiness, so let's use today as an opportunity to train our brains to see the good in ourselves, our lives and the world. Even the most mundane tasks can seem brighter when we look at them with appreciation. 

I can complain that finding classes in London is taking longer than I expected or I can be grateful for this opportunity and freedom to work on my writing and explore a new city. 

You can complain about taking the garbage out or be grateful that you have access to fresh food that eventually turns into the garbage that you get to take out.

You can complain about going to work or you can be grateful that you get to go to a job that gives you the means to put a roof over your head.

You can complain about having to drive a long way to visit family or you can be grateful that you have such a deeply rooted support system and connection to them.

I think you get my point, yes? 

Gratitude shifts your perspective. It stops you from seeing life as something you 'have' to do and reminds you that it's something you 'get' to do. It fills you with the realization that being here is a privilege and even when your days get tough, you can always be grateful for the smallest little things. It's a way of appreciating yourself for who you are already, without needing to do better or be more. A way of seeing the world with the understanding that life is precious and you're lucky to be here. 

Today, whether it's just a minute of thinking after you read this or you actually put pen to paper, I want you to reflect on all that you have to be grateful for.

Who are you lucky to have in your life and why do you appreciate them?
What are you grateful for in your surroundings?
What do you take for granted that some don't even have access to? 

A lot of us rarely take the time to reflect on what we have and if we do, we keep it to ourselves, locked away in a private gratitude journal or circling around in our minds. I want you to join me in taking things one step further by taking the time to appreciate and then adding acknowledgement onto that. Instead of just thinking of the people you're lucky to have in your life, I want you to pick up the phone and tell them exactly what they mean to you. Instead of hoarding those feelings of love, I want you to spread them out in to the world for others to feel too. The world needs more of that. So stop waiting for the right moment to say what you need to say.

Tell those special people you appreciate them while you still can.

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Anticipatory Anxiety - We All Have It

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"I've lived through some terrible things in my life,
some of which actually happened"
- Mark Twain

I remember so clearly the first time I read this quote. I was living at home, a few months into the start of actually getting help with my anxiety. I had just started doing yoga. I was soaking up all the mental health information that I could and was specifically drawn to the stories of people who had been through something similar. It was comforting to hear that I wasn't the only one with a mind that ran wild. 

My mom bought me Howie Mandel's book, Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me. It explores his ongoing struggle with OCD and ADHD and how these mental health issues have shaped his life. So there I was, in my room, reading this book that was quoting some other guy and feeling overwhelmed with relief that someone has finally put into words how my brain worked. My brain was always stuck in the future coming up with worst case scenarios. Basically, Mark and I were kindred spirits. 

Anticipatory Anxiety. It occurs when you're worrying about and living through the stress of a bad situation that isn't actually happening. You're way ahead of yourself and since you're probably not psychic, a lot of the things you end up worrying about never even happen. You put yourself through needless suffering by imagining what might be. On the extreme end of the spectrum, it's living in a state of panic now because you fear some life-altering event in the future like losing your job, getting sick or experiencing the loss of a loved one.

Maybe some of you can relate to that. Many of you probably can't and are thinking it's time to stop reading. Stay with me. I'm willing to bet that anticipatory anxiety affects every single one of you to a certain degree. 

Sunday Night and Monday Morning.

Sunday night is technically still the weekend. We're supposed to actually enjoy it but so often we can't because our brains are running through everything that needs to get done and what's going to happen in the week to come. That right there is anticipatory anxiety. You're experiencing the stress of your work week when in reality, you're at home in a perfectly good place to relax and unwind.

Then all of a sudden, usually way faster than you want it to, Monday morning rolls around. Your alarm goes off. You wake up stressed. Your mind is racing with all the things you have to do and you have this underlying feeling that you simply aren't moving fast enough. It doesn't matter how much time you give yourself to get ready, you feel you need to rush to get at the week, the piled up emails and your list for the day. 

Sounds stressful doesn't it? That's about 12 hours of needless anxiety that we put ourselves through.

The good thing about this unwanted anticipation is that if we're aware of when we're lost in it, we can stop our brain from spiralling out of control with it. Here's a few questions I ask myself when I feel stuck in the future, whether I'm worrying about one of those life-altering events or just the simple everyday stress of what's next in work and life. 

WHERE AM I RIGHT NOW?
Check in with where you actually are. Feel your feet pressing into the floor, your body sitting or resting on whatever surface you're on. The power of anticipatory anxiety is greater when we don't realize that it's happening. Sometimes the simple act of reminding yourself that you aren't there yet is enough to calm you down.

WHERE IS MY MIND RIGHT NOW?
Check in with what your mind has raced forward to. Is it an event or meeting in the work week ahead that is actually going to happen or is it some conversation in the future that you're predicting is going to happen? If you know how far ahead you've gone and whether the worry is even a possibility, it will be easier to bridge the gap between where you are physically and where you've wandered mentally. 

WHAT AM I WORRYING ABOUT? 
Check in with who or what you're worrying about. Is it your performance at an important presentation or your bosses reaction to it? Is it something that is within your control or completely outside of it? This helps you determine if your worry is rational - something you actually have power over - or irrational - something you wouldn't be able to control no matter how hard you tried

CAN I TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION?
If you've realized it's a rational worry that has something to do with you the next step is determining if there is an action you can take to stop the spiral of anticipatory anxiety. Would it help you relax if you spent a few minutes practicing that presentation or sending that email? If the answer is yes, then take the time and do that. 

These simple questions tend to help me lessen anxiety and take my power back. They're an opportunity to reflect on what's causing it and then decide what to do next. Maybe you act. Maybe you remind yourself that life is too short to worry about things that you have no control over. Use your tools and these questions to come back to the moment and give yourself the gift of simply being where you are. 

To wrap up here, let's go for the worst case scenario. Let's say the thing you're worrying about actually does end up happing in the future. Ask yourself:

Do you really want to live through it twice?

Once in your mind and then again in your life?

Didn't think so.

Blue Sky is a Bonus

When I told people I was moving to London, I got used to hearing that most of my days would be wet and grey and that I better get my umbrella ready. I was warned of how tough the winters can be over here and that I better hop on a flight every now and then to soak up some sun. It's only November and I have to say I've lucked out with the weather so far but yes, I can confirm, it's pretty grey, pretty often.

As you can imagine, when I finally made the move, my weather expectations were low. I expect it to be dark and rainy every single day. Because of this, I no longer take something as simple as sunshine for granted. When I wake up to bright blue sky, it feels like such a gift. 

I was walking home from spinning this morning feeling the sunshine on my face and appreciating more than I ever have how vibrantly blue the sky was above me.

In that moment I realized how much happier I would be if I could somehow remember to look at everything this way. 

What if we could make every moment, every breath and every encounter feel as special as yesterday's blue sky? We would all be so much happier. So let's stop viewing our lives as a bunch of little moments we just need to get through. Let's choose to see these moments as gifts we're lucky to get to experience, because that's what they are.

Yes, daily life can feel stressful, mundane and down right tough at times.

But guess what?

You woke up this morning. You're breathing right now.
That's a gift. A bonus. Like the blue sky.
Start seeing it that way. Go have a good day. 

So you think you aren't ready to teach yoga?

I felt the same way.

It was the Fall of 2010 and I was going to yoga every single day. Power Yoga Canada Clarkson was like a second home to me. I was in love with the practice, inspired by the community and was finally starting to understand those people that claimed yoga had changed their life. I was constantly eyeing posters and hearing buzz around the next round of Kinndli’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program that would be starting that January.

Over the course of those months leading up to January, I thought to myself more times than I can count, I really want to teach. Then very quickly and very loudly, the BUT would come in.

I can’t hold a handstand yet, if I’m going to teach I need to be able to do that. 
I need to tone up more if I’m going to be at the front of the room.
I’m not confident enough to talk for 60 – 90 minutes to a room of strangers.
Nobody would even want to take my class. I’ll never get hired anywhere. 
I don’t know if I can handle the big investment of my money and time right now.
I haven’t been practicing yoga long enough to take this next step. 
There’s already so many great teachers out there, there’s no room for me.

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The list was long and the doubt was loud but at some point I hesitantly mentioned to Pauline that it was on my mind. Those of you that know her will also know that once you tell her you want to do something you pretty much have to do it because she’ll be right there behind you – pushing if she has to.

I’m so grateful that she gave me that push and now, whether we know each other or not, I’m here to do the same for you.

If you’ve been thinking teacher training is something you want to do, then you’re absolutely ready to do it.

After almost 7 years of teaching full time, opening a studio and making yoga my ‘real’ job, here are the four things I wish I had known then.

1. It doesn’t matter what your practice looks like.

There are amazing teachers in the world that can float into handstand. There are also amazing teachers out there that can’t even hold it for a second. In my opinion, there is no correlation between a teachers ability to do advanced poses and their ability to teach an unbelievable yoga class.  There will always be another pose to work on.Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until your practice is ‘good enough’.

A powerful teacher loves yoga. Their practice changed their life and they want to share that gift with others. They have a sincere desire to dive deeper and learn. They’re passionate about helping people. If you have all that and you can hold a handstand, high five! If you can’t, high five! You love yoga and that’s what matters. You have SO much to offer.

2. It’s a lot of money and time but totally worth it.

My plan was to do my Teacher Training while I had the time and then get a corporate job. I thought I’d learn how to teach a yoga class, figure out how the body worked and understand the basics of explaining yoga poses to other people. I’d teach 1 or 2 classes per week on the side of whatever job I had but lucky for me, life didn’t go as planned!

But let’s say it had. If I was a corporate girl who never taught a single class after my training, it would still be the best investment I’ve ever made in myself and my growth. It’s so much more than a yoga training. Yes you will learn (a lot) about yoga but more importantly, you’ll learn (probably more than you want to) about yourself. You can’t put a price on the growth that this program inspires in every aspect of your life. I would go back and spend that money again in a heartbeat.

3. You’ll never feel 100% ready.

If you’ve convinced yourself that you have some sort of physical, mental or emotional barrier that you need to overcome before you’re ready to stand at the front of the room, I have some news for you. Sitting around and hiding from people is not going to get you over that barrier.

We all have something standing in our way. Maybe you think you need to lose a few pounds. Maybe you think you’ll teach when you somehow get over your anxiety around public speaking. Maybe you think you need to get over your fear of judgement and what others think of you. Whatever it is, there’s something you want to work through before you teach. These are the very things you get to tackle with a group of amazing and like-minded people all going through their 200-hour training with you. Sitting at home thinking about how you’ll one day feel comfortable talking in front of a group is not going to get you there. You’ve got to do it, even if it’s scary.

4. The world needs you, yes YOU!

If you remember one thing, let this be it. Yes, there are many, many great teachers in the world already but guess what? None of them are you. You have something so unique and so special to share with your future students and believe me, they’re out there just waiting to hear what you have to say.

We all have our own stories and life experiences to share. We’ve all found yoga for different reasons and the benefits of this practice are profoundly personal. We experience them in our own way. One of the things I love most about yoga is that no two teachers are the same. We're all sharing this ancient tradition but adding our own unique flare to it. So stop telling yourself that there are enough teachers out there. There's more than just room for you, there is a need for you.

You’ll doubt yourself. You'll probably have a long list of 'buts' like mine. You’ll question if you’re ready. You might even have a little crisis before your training starts or you teach that first class thinking: ‘I can’t do this’.

I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN and YOU SHOULD.

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Playlist of the Month: November

If you know me, you know that I LOVE music and that it's a big part of the vibe and energy at the boathouse. Living in London has me really missing making playlists and teaching jam classes so I've decided to share a monthly playlist of my current favourites to flow to. If you find any gems of your own, please send them my way! 

Dr. Toast - Priceless
NONONO - Pumpin Blood (Franne Remix)
Kygo, Justin Jesso - Stargazing
Sons of Maria - You & I - Radio Mix
ARIZONA - Oceans Away
Miguel, Kacey Musgraves - waves - Remix
CHRISTON - Castles in the Sand
Macklemore - Good Old Days (feat. Kesha)
Foy Vance - She Burns
Amber Mark, Mia Mark - Monsoon
Portugal, The Man - Feel It Still
Clean Bandit - Symphony (feat. Zara Larsson) - Charming Horses Remix
Kygo, JHart - Permanent
Chef'Special - In Your Arms
Joe Purdy - I Love the Rain the Most
John Legend - Surefire - Piano Version
Lord Huron - The Night We Met
The Tragically Hip - Long Time Running
Henry Green - Electric Feel

For those of you on Spotify, you can follow me for easy access to the 'November Vinyasa Playlist'. Search 'Jenn Dwyer', scroll down to 'Profiles' and you'll find me! Happy listening, practicing and dancing! 

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Be present

Looking back on the first few yoga classes I took it's safe to say I spent most of my time confused. Not about the physical practice. I had the poses figured out (or at least I thought I did). It was the mental side of the practice that at first, didn't seem to make sense. 

The teacher would tell me to 'be in the moment' and I would think to myself: Well, yah, obviously. I'm here. I'm in the room. Where do you think I am, teacher? 

I would hear the words 'land in your body' and I'd think: Land in my body? What does that even mean. I live in my body. How can I land in it?

Eventually I realized that all that inner dialogue was exactly what the teacher was encouraging me to stop. I was NOT present. One moment I was overanalyzing what the teacher said, the next I was fretting about the work I had to get done, then before I knew it, I was reliving some anxiety-ridden moment from the year before.

I wasn't landing in the moment because I was constantly having a conversation in my head. 

This definitely wasn't a new habit I'd picked up just for my yoga practice. Until that point, I'd lived most of my life from my head without even knowing it - overthinking, overanalyzing and worrying about every little thing. It took finding yoga and practicing it a lot to even wrap my worried little mind around the idea of presence. That was almost 10 years ago, and to this day, every time I hit my mat, I struggle between landing in the moment and wandering off in my head.

That's what this practice is for me, an opportunity to bring my body and my mind into the same place, at the same time.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation with someone only to realize that you have no idea what they just said? It's okay, we all do it

Have you ever been sitting at work getting nothing done because your mind is fixated on that fight you got in with your boyfriend/girlfriend/friend/parents last night?

Have you ever pulled into the driveway after a long day and realized that you don't even remember the drive home?

All these scenarios have on thing in common: you weren't present. You were in your head, thinking about something that wasn't actually happening in that moment. 

Presence. It's one of the driving forces behind why I practice and why I teach. The more time we spend in the moment, the better off we'll all be. Take some time this week to notice (whether you're on a yoga mat or not) if your mind is actually where your body is.

You might realize - like I did - that you spend pretty much your whole life in your head. If that's the case, don't get discouraged. It's a powerful place to be. With the awareness that you're not present, you've got an opportunity that you didn't even know was available to you before:

You can come back to the moment.
Just like that. Again and Again.


If you can't get to yoga and want an on-the-go tool to help you land in the moment, subscribe to my monthly newsletter below and you will receive a free guided meditation avec moi! Xo

Newsflash: You're Wrong - a lot!

"Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt, doubt about our beliefs, doubt about our own feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we're wrong all the time. Because we are."
- Mark Manson. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK

I'm sure you've seen the bright orange book cover with the bold statement of dropping an F bomb in the title (he's obviously not as concerned about his Mom reading as I am). If you haven't, I highly recommend you go find Mark Manson's book and read it. It's filled with amazing, no BS wisdom that everyone can relate to. His idea of opening our eyes to where we're wrong really hit home for me.

Last week I wrote about my inner perfectionist and it's powerful ability to keep me stuck. I also refer to that nasty little voice as the 'voice of doubt' because it relentlessly questions everything I am and everything I do. The one that subtly whispers 'you can't' or at times screams out 'you suck'. Some of us may hear it louder than others but we all have it. It's human nature.

Imagine how boring the world would be if we all listened to it.

You know those people that are out there doing all those amazing things that you admire them for. The ones doing the things you dream of.

They have a voice too. 
Here's the secret: they just don't listen to it

They've somehow managed to rise above the voice of doubt. Does that mean they never hear it again? Of course not. Like I said before, doubt is relentless. Quieting the voice and finding courage is a lifelong, constant practice.

Last January, I wrote A Blessing in (a Nasty) Disguise. It was the most read thing I have ever shared with the world and I received countless messages from people saying that reading it helped them in some way. 

And I almost didn't post it.

By the time I left the coffee shop that day, I'd convinced myself that it didn't really have a point and shouldn't be shared. That maybe it was 'oversharing'. That the past is the past and I should just leave it there.

I guess hidden somewhere behind the doubt, I knew that people needed it so that night I had my boyfriend read it. He assured me that it was good, it did have a point, and it should be shared. He quieted the doubt (momentarily). So I posted it but even as I hit publish that doubt was on high volume. I was shocked at the response and know that it helped people which is what I hope to do with this blog.

In this case, I was able to conquer doubt by seeking an outside opinion. But in reality, we don't always have family and friends to reassure us and if we called them everytime we doubt ourselves, they're going to get really sick of us - fast.

So how do we fine tune the muscle of recognizing where we are wrong?

We start questioning ourselves. We pay attention to what we're thinking and we stop taking everything we hear as absolute truth, especially when it's about ourselves. 

When we notice a thought we ask ourselves:
is it true?

Many times, I'm sure you'll find it isn't.  

We might not be able to kick the voice out of our heads for good but we can become better at turning the volume down.  

One is the loneliest number...

I'm sure it's happened to you before, maybe more often than you'd like to admit. You walk in the door from a long day, sink into the couch and take out your phone. You open Instagram and decide you'll just see what's happening and then get on with the rest of your night. Your thumb starts scrolling and scrolling and it keeps scrolling. What you're looking at isn't even all that exciting but your eyes are glued and your mind is numb and you just keep going. You look at the clock. You've spent double, triple, maybe even more of the time you said you were going to be on social media and can't help but wonder:

Does this even feel good? 

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There's no denying that smartphones have made our lives easier. We can work on the go, stay in touch with friends and family and have information at our fingertips. This is not a technology bashing post. I'm writing it on a blog, on the Internet and many of you are probably reading from your smartphones. I'm all for technology. It's just that I've started to realize how lonely getting sucked into the social media vortex can be. We're updated on your friends and family but are we actually connected in a real human way? I'd say no. The fancy social apps that are supposed to connect us to the world are actually doing the opposite, leaving us lonely and unfulfilled.

According to Social Media Today, "the average person will spend nearly two hours on social media everyday, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime". They also point out that in 5 years and 4 months you could climb Mount Everest 32 times. 

32 times!

Doesn't that make you feel like mindless scrolling through photos is a massive waste of precious time? So how do we break the cycle? The answer is simple:

Spend less time on your phone.

You can still enjoy all that technology has to offer, find inspiration and connect with your friends but just limit how many times a day you do these things. For most of us, myself included, when we get a second of free time, we check our phones. It's a tough habit to break so I've set some boundaries to feel more present and peaceful while still enjoying this crazy social world we live in. If you feel at all connected to what I've been saying, keep reading. If you're thrilled with your phone obsession, all the power to you! You have my permission to stop reading and go check Instagram again. 

1. SCHEDULE DIGITAL FREE TIME

This one doesn't need much explaining. Put your phone away and you'll realize how often reach for it. Stand in the coffee line empty handed (what!). Go out with friends and leave your phone in your purse (how!). Watch a movie with your phone in the other room (woah!). Wake up in the morning and spend your first 10 minutes just doing things that don't involve screens (they do exist!). If your job is crazy and checking your email first thing is a necessity, then maybe your boundary is taking 3 deep breaths before you glance at your phone. Do what works for you.

2. BE AWARE OF TIME

When you decide to sink into the couch and do a little 'creep' make a mental note of what time it is. How long do you actually want to be on your phone? Then commit to sticking with it. The moment the clock hits that time, you move on to something else. 

3. CARVE OUT TIME FOR WHAT FEEDS YOUR SOUL

What is that something else? Remember, you could climb Mount Everest 32 times with the hours you spend on social media in your lifetime. What do you want to be able to say you did instead? Read a book. Meditate. Take a bath. Call a friend. Actually go see a friend (and leave your phone in your purse). These are my things but full disclosure, I'm a 29 year old Grandma so you might want to come up with your own. When you think you have no time for these things, remember, Mount Everest 32 times. That's a lot of time if you're using it wisely. 

4. NO PHONE IN THE BEDROOM

I know what you're thinking. But Jenn, it's my alarm clock! I had the same reaction a few months ago when I listened to this talk by Simon Sinek on Millennials and our social media addiction. His answer: buy an alarm clock. Your phone shouldn't be the last thing you look at when you go to bed or the first thing you check when you wake up. It certainly shouldn't be what you turn to when you're awake in the middle of the night. This one is a game changer - try it. 

At the very least ask yourself, is social media feeding your soul or depleting it?
Time to spend more time living and less time scrolling. 

Perfection Paralysis

It's actually a thing. You know, the voice in your head that says if you can't do it right you may as well not do it all. Well actually, maybe you don't know. Maybe you're one of those courageous people who dive in and make mistakes as you go. I have never been one of those people and I'm sure that some of you reading this can relate.

When it comes to this blog and my writing in general, I've been paralyzed by perfection for years.

I'm a serious - we're talking as intense as it gets - perfectionist. I've been that way for as long as I can remember in every aspect of my life. My relationships, my body, my dancing, my grades were all never able to measure up to the unrealistic expectations set by the voice in my head. It's actually a really hard way to live. Can you see why I needed yoga so badly? 

At the same time, I'm completely aware of the fact that every single thing I'm proud of required me to realize that the voice in my head was always going to say I wasn't ready, wasn't good enough and needed more time. 

I enrolled in my first 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training despite hearing but you can't even hold a handstand. I auditioned for teaching jobs despite hearing you'll never get it, she has more experience. I opened a studio despite hearing - very loudly I might add - you have no business experience and no one is going to come!

I often wonder where I would be today if I had let the perfectionist win. My life has taught me again and again the importance of telling that voice to be quiet. Sometimes you just have to do it, even if it's not perfect.

I've been able to do this in my yoga career and have seen the pay off. I've been so busy over the last few years with teaching and running my studio (which I'm so very grateful for) that I haven't had to face the fact that perfection is paralyzing me in the writing world.

But here I am. In a new city, country actually, with no job (yet), a boyfriend that works (a lot) and all the time in the world to myself to finally dive into building up the online community that I've dreamed of for years. I finally have the time to shift from being a wannabe writer to an actual one. 

Let me first say, I love what I do

Teaching. Owning a studio. Helping people. Feeling like my work is making a difference in the world. I feel so lucky. But if I'm being completely honest, I've always felt that something is missing. I'm a creative and for me to feel completely fulfilled in work and life, I need to expand my teaching beyond the yoga mat and into the written word. 

But my perfectionist has always told me I'm not quite ready. It's convinced me of a million reasons why I shouldn't dive in and start creating. The website needs a facelift. That maybe I shouldn't be blogging under my name. That I need a more legit logo. That I've been out of practice and out of the game for too long. That there's already so much out there. That no one needs to hear what I have to say.

Well my friends, today's the day I tell the perfectionist to shut up.

I'm saying so long to perfection paralysis and I want you to join me. Where in your life have you been holding back from what you really want because you're waiting for the perfect moment, perfect person or perfect time? Maybe it's time to say shut up or better yet 'F' off (my mom's reading I just can't do it). If this is resonating with you, I hope you find comfort in the fact that I'm right here with you. Maybe we should start a club

I'll be updating regularly this year and I hope that you stick around to hear what I have to say. This is a space to expand my teaching beyond the walls of a yoga room and to stretch my reach across the pond. I'll be posting regularly in hopes that my writing gets you thinking, brings more fulfillment to your days and inspires you to bring yoga off the mat (even if you've never been on a mat). 

I'm done waiting for someday.
My posts might not be perfect but they'll be here.

A Blessing in (a Nasty) Disguise

This post was inspired by the magic of the Bell Let's Talk campaign. For every text message sent (make sure you turn off iMessage) and long distance call made (by Bell customers) 5 cents is donated to fund mental health initiatives across Canada. Bell isn't your provider? Fear not. The same donation will be made for every tweet, Instagram and Facebook status using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. Get the conversation going, reduce stigma and show those who are suffering that they are loved and supported. 


I sat there with my forehead pressed against the window, eyes glazed over with a blur of road lines whizzing past me. My expression was blank. My heart hurt and I had a pain inside my soul that I couldn't explain to anyone because I didn't even understand it myself. I wondered how I'd gotten to this point and felt overwhelmed by the thought that this was the new 'normal' for me. 

More lines whizzed past me as the car moved forward.
I felt a hand on my shoulder.

"I know it's hard for you to see this right now, But one day you'll look back on this moment as a blessing in disguise" 

I glanced over at my Mom.

It was late November of my third year of University. I'd been silently struggling with anxiety and depression for as long as I could remember but had mastered the art of disguising it. The Type-A, perfectionist in me that triggered my poor mental health was also what allowed me to keep it hidden for so long. In the past few months, my lows had gotten more and more intense and my attempts to conceal my pain less and less successful. People noticed. I spent most of that semester battling anxiety attacks, missing class, avoiding friends, and wasting the majority of my days away in bed with the lights off and the door closed. After a few dramatic outbursts - that were most definitely loud cries for help - it was obvious that something had to change. 

I turned back to the window and fixed my eyes on the road lines moving below me. A late night call from my sisters to my Mom had landed me here. She'd driven up to London, packed up my clothes and got me in the car - headed for home and a much needed visit to my doctor. I pretended to be frustrated by the whole ordeal, but deep down, I was grateful that some special people around me (you know who you are, I love you) had the courage and compassion to take the steps for me that at the time I couldn't take for myself.

Fast forward almost nine years and surprise, surprise: 

Mom. Was. Right.

I'm now able to look back at that very low point in my life exactly as my Mom said I would: 

a blessing in disguise
(a very nasty disguise)

The mental illness I struggled with is what ended up propelling me forward. It forced me to recognize that the way I was dealing with things wasn't working, that hiding my problems was only making them worse and that lying in bed, under the covers, waiting for something to change was not the path to healing. The fact that things got so bad was what landed me in the doctor's office that day and got me the medication that was necessary to get me functioning again. That doctor led me to connect with an amazing therapist. She (with the help of my Mom) forced me to start doing yoga regularly. Yoga introduced me to a whole community of people who were open about the struggles they'd been through and made me (finally) feel that I wasn't alone. My love of that community and practice is what led me to complete my Teacher Training, open a studio in Muskoka, and what now allows me to spend my days sharing what I've learned with others. 

As you can see - in hindsight - definitely a blessing.

I am where I am today because of how low I was in that car. And I still don't have it all figured out. The issues I struggled with then are always going to be a part of me, but I now have the tools to cope with and manage anxiety and depression when it creeps back into my life. 

So, what if you're not there yet? What if hindsight is a long way away? What if you're relating more to the girl in the car than the girl writing this post? What if you're reading this from your bed, with the lights off, unable to snap out of it and with a pain inside your soul that you can't explain?

Then I hope you find some comfort in the fact that (I think) I know how you feel.
I often wish I could go back and tell that girl in the car a few important things. While I haven't figured out how to turn back time (yet) I know that there might be someone out there, in that very same state that I was in, who could benefit from hearing what I've learned in these last nine years. 

PEOPLE WANT TO HELP YOU

You know all of those people that you think don't want you around? The ones you're shutting out because they just won't get it? The ones you're avoiding because you don't want to bring them down with you?

They probably really want to help you.

The tricky thing is, they can only do that if you let them. It's scary, it's hard and it's awkward to speak up but things won't change unless you do. Your family, your friends, your doctor, your therapist - they want you to feel better, maybe even more than you do. Open yourself up to the help and support around you. 

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

I feel that I need to preface this with the fact that I know the most frustrating thing someone can say when you're dealing with depression is to 'snap out of it and do something'. I know how important it is to honour your body and let yourself rest when you need to. I know that feeling better takes time and you can't rush the process.

I also know that healing isn't going to be magically bestowed upon you while you hide under your duvet. 

When you're depressed, the easiest thing to do is nothing. So you do nothing and you stay depressed. The only way to change how you feel is to do something. But doing something as simple as getting out of bed can feel really, really hard

It's a tricky cycle.

So start with one small step. Wash your face. Get dressed. Eat a piece of toast.
Then another. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend.
Then another. Tell someone your struggling. See your Doctor. 
Then another. Go to yoga (yes - I'm biased but I swear it helps). 

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER

Life is always changing and believe it or not, so are you. Take comfort in the saying 'this too shall pass'. I know it can feel like things will never get better, but with the right support, they do. If you're willing to reach out, admit you aren't okay and put in the work, your life (and the way you feel about it) can change. 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

This is the number one thing I wish I could go back and tell myself. One of the most debilitating and painful parts of my journey was how isolated I felt. I can't tell you how many times I wondered what's wrong with me?

I know the answer now. NOTHING. I'm human. It's not weird to struggle. In fact, everyone does

You know that perfect girl at school or that friend that always seems so happy or your boss that has it all together? Even they are dealing with something. We're all just really good at covering it up. If mental illness happens to be your something, know that everyone else has their something too. 


If everyone has their something, then the best thing we can do for each other is be kind and compassionate. The Bell Let's Talk campaign is a wonderful step in that direction. Let's embrace this opportunity to spread the message that there is nothing wrong with struggling. That there is power in stepping up and admitting that you aren't okay.

Let's use today as a chance to make it clear that we love each other when our days are bright and we will still be there for each other when life gets dark. 

 

New Year, New You!

How many times this week have you been bombarded with the 'New Year, New You' campaigns? It seems that everywhere I turn there's a screen to watch, image to see, or article to read focused on what I'm going to do in 2017 to make myself better.  

The pressure to come up with bold resolutions and big goals is high. January 1st hits and the world sheds it's pizza-eating, wine-guzzling, couch potato skins. We're supposed to instantly transform into radiant, gluten-free, sugar-free, sober beings who meditate daily and workout two hours a day. 

Now I don't mean to sound like a Nay-Sayer. I'm all for personal development and growth. I believe the New Year is a wonderful opportunity to wipe the slate clean and begin again. I'm a huge believer in the benefits of moving your body daily, fuelling it with healthy foods and taking care of yourself. The start of the year is a great time to reflect and replace the things in our life that make us feel bad with what makes us feel good. The key difference here is this:

How it makes us feel
versus
 how it makes us look

I can't tell you the number of times I've heard a friend complain about her body. 

"I'm so fat"
"My legs are too big"
"My hair is too thin" 

The saddest part is that I've never looked at them and thought the same. They look at themselves and see what's wrong. I look at them and see all that's good. We're wired that way. Thinking that if we criticize and nit-pick ourselves enough we'll reach some sort of perfect end. The battle with ourselves will one day be over - but it never is. We fix one thing and our inner perfectionist moves on to the next thing we need to change. 

As you - and I - think about what we want in 2017, I think we should keep one word in mind:

WHY?

Why do you want the things you do? 
Is it because of how you'll feel when they're a part of your life?
Or is it all about the end result of how these things will make you look?

If it's the latter, remember this: 

No one is going to stand up at your funeral one day and say:
"I'll always remember her for her bangin' bod"
"She had the nicest ass"
"and the flattest stomach"

They'll talk about who you were, what you did for others, how you made people feel, what they admired most about you, the way you laughed, the way you listened, the things you loved to do, the people you loved to be with.

Because those are the things that actually matter.

And we all seem to forget that in our quest for perfection.

Maybe 2017 isn't the year for a new diet - it's the year for a shift in perspective.
Instead of focusing on the LOOK side of our wants - the 6 pack, the thigh gap, the tiny waist, the tight ass - let's focus on how we want to FEEL.

If gluten-free, sugar-free diets make you feel alive and happy, go for it! 
If spending hours in the gym is your jam, all the power to you.
If it isn't, find some way of moving that you love and actually look forward to. 

If the things that make you feel good lead to looking good, awesome. But don't make the physical your end game. When all is said and done people are going to remember you for who you were, not what you looked like, so lets build our intentions from there.

Let's spend less time trying to change ourselves and more time learning to appreciate ourselves.
Let's stop wasting our energy on perfection and instead, focus on feeling good.

What can you do today, this week, this year, to make you a happier, healthier, more fulfilled version of who you already are?

I promise the answer isn't finally having a 'thigh gap'.