"Find what feels good" and other wisdom
At the end of 'Home' - a 30 day at home yoga journey I've been on - I present to you:
Ten sayings of Adriene Mishler that I've internalised
This is a post about how regular yoga practice healed my relationship with my body. It's also a major fangirl moment for Adriene Mishler (as in Yoga with Adriene on youtube). Just thought I'd own that right from the start!
My yoga journey began several years ago, and badly. Long story short: I went to some classes at a gym where it was more of a workout than a flow and there was no mindful element and I went after work before dinner. Hangry yoga is not fun. The experience of being a physically inflexible person in a room full of people who seemingly had rubber bones and muscles made of soft elastic brought up a lot of insecurity and self criticism.
That is not me in the above picture. I cannot do this pose. I've now been practicing yoga very regularly for about 4 years; I still can't touch my toes. My body has got stronger and more flexible in many ways but the most significant change is in how I respond to the fact I can't touch my toes. I accept this now. I am kind to myself. I recognise this - and other limitations of my body - are not statements about who I am as a person ("unfit", "weak", "not good enough", "something wrong with my body"). For someone who felt traumatised by PE in school, it's a long journey to eagerly pulling on a pair of leggins and enjoying moving my body.
There is a lot that has gone into becoming more embodied - my mindfulness practice being a big component - but I own a huge thank you to the kind, gentle and encouraging words of Adriene Mishler aka Yoga with Adriene. We have spent many mornings together on the mat and I have heard her say the following things so many times I have taken them, gladly, to heart. They are a part of my emotional vocabulary now, both on and off the mat.
1. Find what feels good - it's so obvious and simple it could easily be dismissed. But I'd never really been encouraged to do this before, especially around exercise. I suppose I'd been taught to find what looks like what others are doing, or find what looks good. To FWFG is to connect to your body and honour what it needs.
2. Take what you need, leave what you don't - this applies to her guidance and instructions but also to: feedback you are given, advice you are given, stuff you see on social media, natural resources and all you can eat buffets. Just because Adriene say's "plank pose" doesn't mean you have to do it. Just because it's given to you doesn't mean you have to take it.
3, Inhale to rise, exhale to soften and let something go - available to us all day every day.
4. The way you move matters - focus on process not end result. Adriene often reminds us not to 'jerk ourselves around' but to move mindfully from one position to the next. How we move - both on and off the mat - affects how we feel and how we present ourselves to the world. This one reminds me not to rush or fixate on the destination, whether that's warrior two or a goal in my life I'm working towards.
5. Take up space - usually this phase accompanies my favourite asana, star pose! It's literal but also a powerful reminder to not shrink ourselves or hide away. We are all worthy of the space we take up. I think of this when I feel insecure about 'putting myself out there' and trying new things.
6. Sensation over shape - how it feels is so much more important than how it looks. I needed Adriene to tell me this while teaching me yoga many times before I learned to tell it to myself every time my body didn't look/move like her body. It's been an invaluable lesson and a reminder, off matt, that what looks good doesn't always feel good so don't believe everything you see (especially on social media).
7. Honour where you're at today - the reason I've stuck with yoga with Adriene for so long is because she encourages us to make adjustments when we need them, gives us options and tells us to celebrate where we are. Hearing this over and over has allowed me to let go of 'not good enough' thoughts and enjoy my body as it is.
8. Meet your appropriate edge - this is such a helpful way to work with comfort zones. Growth, in terms of gaining strength/flexibility or any challenge we might be faced with in life, shouldn't be painful. That is when we are forcing something. But it may be uncomfortable and difficult at times. Meeting my appropriate edge has meant holding plank for two more seconds that I wanted to, stretching just a tiny bit further and not swearing too much during hip dips. Off the mat it's about knowing my limits and taking small steps into new territory.
9. Return to the breath - sometimes she sings this in the style of 'return of the mac' and it's things like this that make us love her. But the very important message here is that the breath is the foundation of yoga - focusing on our breath helps us to stay in the moment and get out of our heads. The 'return' part is important - we will get distracted. It's the return, or the 'journey home' to the breath and our embodied presence in the moment that is so important. That's the yoga.
10. Don't decide where it ends - another beautiful reminder to focus on process and stay present rather than robotically going through the motions to 'get it done'. This prompt reminds me to tune into what my body needs in this moment and listen to intuition over instruction. It's also a message about the constant evolution of our yoga practice and our growth as human beings. Not deciding where it ends is allowing the unknown, which can be scary, but it is also allowing all beautiful possibilities to naturally unfold before us.
For anyone reading this who hasn't heard of Yoga with Adriene (I mean, I doubt you've read this far if that's the case tbh!!) then check her out.
Adriene, thank you for walking me home to myself. There's not many people I internalise but your words have found their way into my head and heart. Give Benji a cuddle from me and Gizmo (my Benji). Namaste. X