Last year before COVID, I wrote a piece in my monthly newsletter about yoga and donuts. Now that a year has passed-I thought I would revisit my love of donuts and dealing with stress.
This time last year, I had just completed my first trimester after I told myself that a degree in Yoga Therapy was "WHAT I HAD TO DO!". I had the winter break off and life was normal again; if just for a brief month or so. Fast forward to now.
My, oh my, how things change!
December 2020 finished a year in which I am now over halfway complete with school, I switched jobs, I telework 100%, my plantar fasciitis kills me from sitting too much, and I eat less but still weigh the same. Sounds stressful right? Now, let's put this in perspective. Just one word is all ya need:
The vaccine is being distributed and my number #1 priority is manhandling my parents to the front of that line.
So when I weigh the importance of getting my parents vaccinated to my supposed stressful "issues", my issues are petty, frivolous and ooze entitlement. That ain't cute!!! It makes me a yucky person so I'm working on fixing that--
Disclaimer: Before anyone blasts me, I also know everyone deals with stress differently. All I'm saying is...don't be a douche.
Here's What I Did To Put Stress Into Perspective
This past summer to combat this insanity (meaning my own self-obsessiveness-not COVID, it's supposed to be self-obsessive...it's a virus, self-obsession is its M.O.), I created a list of important things to remember and I plan to revise/renew it on New Year's Day.
This list is different than a "gratitude" list because you can be grateful for everything you have and still be an ass-wipe...the richest man in the world is grateful he isn't that homeless person he loathes. So scrap that gratitude list for a moment-you can come back to it later.
We like to put the cart before the horse and gratitude lists are easy. The real first step when dealing with stress, for me at least, is not being a self-obsessive shitty person...period.
To put it more eloquently, if you practice what the Yoga Sutras call AHIMSA, it puts everything into perspective. Ahimsa stems from our ability to have compassion and respect for all life. Ahimsa is kindness and empathy.
So...back to my parents and vaccinations-if I didn't practice Ahimsa, would I care if they got COVID or got vaccinated. Now take my parents out of the equation-Would I care if anyone got COVID or got vaccinated? No-the only thing I would worry about, the only thing that would cause me "stress", would be that I can't lose any weight. Woe is me!
It's more than just being grateful-it's getting down there in the mud and muck with people because you "know" how it feels. EMPATHY!! For me, that is where REAL gratitude originates and where real stress reduction starts.
Here's A Snippet Of My List:
...And so my list goes.
(NOTE: If you read enough of my blogs, you may notice I'm list maker...gratitude lists, don't be a shit bird lists, grocery lists, bulleted lists, lists about making lists, etc. Forewarning-I also have an unhealthy obsession with calendars.).
Make Your Own STRESS LESS AND LOVE MORE LIST, then:
Did My List Work?
Did writing my list and taping it to the bathroom mirror help relieve my stress this past year? Did it make me more empathetic? Did it stop my complaints about my plantar fasciitis hurting? Sometimes
Do I still advise (just like a year ago) yoga, self-care, getting rest, going for walks, meditating, reading, etc. when dealing with stress in addition to making lists and checking them twice? Absolutely!
Does eating donuts still make everything better when I fail miserably, and get wrapped up in my trivial stress? ALWAYS!!!! After-all, I am the girl with the Rewards Card for Krispy Kreme
But I'm working on it...baby steps and a few donut holes at a time.
Compassion=Concern for Others' Suffering
Empathy=Feel What the Other Person is Experiencing
Assertive Communication=Speaking Your Truth
Through compassion, empathy, and assertive communication, you can cultivate loving-kindness.
What is loving-kindness? You may have heard of Metta Meditations. Metta is Sanskrit for "loving-kindness". Loving-Kindness is friendliness, amity, and good-will. It is an active interest in others.
Compassion for others infuses assertive communication with warmth and caring while empathy helps to understand an individual’s inner workings. These skills lead to interacting with loving-kindness regardless of your personal suffering and leads to wishing the other person wellness. This amazing combination (compassion, empathy and assertive communication) dissipates the feelings of ill-will that our brain can and does create.
Which leads me to my husband. He is a fixer. A fixer of fixers. The Chief Fixer. A man who thinks he can fix any thing, any one, and any situation. And this is why I married him...I don't mean because he can fix my car or the heat pump or just about anything mechanical. I mean he is helper. He has this ginormous heart and goes out of his way to FIX all the wrongs of the world. He spends hours helping a local school (because the dads don't volunteer-we don't have any kids). He spends weekends rehabbing old cemeteries (the families have forgotten them-we don't know anyone buried in them). He just is a nice guy who wants to take care of everyone.
He is the guy who will give you the shirt off his back-literally!!
So...sometimes people manipulate that kindness. They know if they fain distress, he will come to the rescue, take over and fix everything. Those people don't have to be accountable for their own behavior...because they are users. We all know the type!
I get frustrated with the hubs because he takes on stress and responsibilities that are not his to take on. The very trait I love him for, pisses me off.
...which leads us to arguments. We have all been there, right?
Here's what I try to do...it's hard and I don't always succeed but you might find these steps helpful for cultivating loving-kindness and communicating in a more healthy and helpful way:
1. Check in. For example:
3. Become aware of triggers for ill-will. Don't focus on potential harm to yourself or your family and don't exaggerate the events occurring.
These steps enable me to communicate more openly, be less reactive, and be more supportive of my husband and his really big heart.
How is this a yoga practice? Glad you asked!
In the Yoga Sutras, the first two limbs of the Eightfold Path are the yama-s and niyama-s. Each contains 5 principles (10 in total) to follow on your path to enlightenment. Three of these are:
What other yama-s and niyama-s can you think of?
Try These Practices to Cultivate Loving-Kindness and Effective Communication:
Rosenberg, S. (Director). (1967). Cool Hand Luke [Film]. Jalem Productions.
Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Let’s discuss a topic near and dear to many yogis’ hearts-Journaling. Being a yoga instructor, I continually hear how my students love to journal, I take yoga trainings and they make me journal, and I constantly read how journaling is great for the soul.
Let’s be frank, I’m not the journaling type but I definitely can see the benefits and I’m working on being more consistent with it. Normally since I have a long commute to and from work, I process my daily life in my head. However, I think journaling may be faster—you remove yourself from the situation at hand and become the witness.
Sometimes, I get bogged down in the day-to-day activities and lose sight of what is truly important to me. Like everyone, I can lose sight of my connection to my dharma, my true identity, etc. and journaling can help bring everything back into focus.
Personally, when I take the time to journal it makes me less reactive towards others. Not necessarily kinder-but less likely to rip someone’s (say…like my husband) head off. Journaling makes me reflect on what I appreciate about others and why they are in my life (good or bad). It also makes me realize how I judge others based on the expectations I set for myself. Everyone is doing the best that they can and I’m learning how to be content with whatever the outcomes are…which is really hard for a control freak like me.
I also think journaling helps me grasp how it is related to Ego and identifying with the Ego. I’m learning to get out of the way of myself and the load of malarkey that I carry as if it were the true me. This creates barriers and walls that I use to protect myself…which impacts my relationships with others.
I realize this by seeing it laid out bare in a journal entry. It is very eye opening.
Journaling helps me process the information I already have (I know this stuff! Those duh! moments) and apply it to access a deeper place. I am a head-y person and analyzing logical information (journal entries) to gain wisdom is something I think I will always be working on.
Ultimately, I take the wisdom gained and apply it to understand the nature of SELF—that is a leap of faith-not only in the process but in myself and my inherent nature; that connection with something greater than myself. Journaling makes me step back and look at how my lifestyle and behaviors impact my true nature.
I hope to continue this process called journaling to make better choices.
NOW LET'S START JOURNALING:
Start easy...Keep it simple!
Journal every day for next two weeks (since i bet, you're cooped up in the house anyway!)
• Write down ONE thing that disturbed your peace
• Write down WHY it disturbed your peace
• Write down HOW you reacted
After two weeks, go back and re-read your entries. Did anything change? Did your reactions change? Did the things that bother you change? There is no right or wrong answer-just notice if anything shifted.
Then keep going...don't stop...keep writing!
I sat down and thought about how I actually started practicing yoga. My standard answer has always been that I hurt my hip hiking and it progressively felt worse. I had heard yoga was good for joints so I tried it and I liked it. Pretty simple, right?
Well, it actually wasn’t quite like that...sit right back and you’ll hear a tell...a tell of a fateful trip!
The journey actually started when I was a little munchkin. I didn’t grow up in a commune but I might as well had. I was surrounded by a huge mishmash of fabulous hippies that all seemed (in my mind as a small kid) to descend upon my grandparents’ property on a regular basis. My “extended” family was made up of neighbors, family friends, family members, various farm animals and other pets. I grew up hating shoes (and at some points in my life clothes as well), riding horses, listening to my uncles play covers of the Eagles and CCR, living in Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke occasionally and wondering who that strange looking man was on the cover of my mom’s meditation book. The book was right beside the psychedelic candle shaped like a turtle (which I still has to this very day-he’s cute!) on the living room bookshelf.
Combine this eclectic upbringing with picking my uncle (from Florida) up at a 1970's airport and my growing fascination with the Hare Krishnas (they have to be nice people; they sell flowers and wear pretty robes!), I was bound to come full circle.
So time went on...now I’m in college. I was dabbling with vegetarianism and was walking around the National Mall in Washington, DC with a friend. And guess who approached me to buy a vegetarian cookbook???...Hare Krishnas, that’s who!!! Even though they did not have the cool clothes and hair of yore, they were totally awesome and super nice to talk to...just like I told my mom they would be when I was little! With cookbook in hand...I set off to learn more. So I took a bunch of Hindu and Buddhist religion classes while at college.
Then I got married and lost my way. So I got divorced and found my way again! (Ultimately, I did found my soul mate-actually I knew him for years. I just wore him down until he relented and married me.)
So that brings me back to trying yoga to help my hip. I realize now the the hip issue was fixed by my practicing one limb of yoga--asanas. I had already been practicing the other limbs of yoga by creating good karma, trying to eat and live in the least harmful way, “just breathing in deep; it will all pass in time” and singing the Guru Mantra along with George Harrison.
But I have a feeling that explaining all this with hands flying around, a goofy smile and far off look in my eye will not fly...
So let’s just say I started yoga because I hurt my hip.
Remember everybody has a different journey. The how and why you do yoga is unique to you. How did you start your journey? Comment below!
I wrote this in 2019 for a dear friend's yoga studio, Soaring Spirit Yoga, webpage. The studio was in Occoquan VA. COVID took its toll on this beloved studio space and Soaring Spirit Yoga now exists as a virtual environment. The little girl that inspired this original story is probably a teenager now. MY OH MY! How time flies!? Long ago, in a land far away and in a time before COVID, this little girl's wisdom is truer now than ever before. Even when you can't physically be with your friends and family, your community is still there (Zoom in; telephone in; FaceTime in; visit through social distancing measures if facilities like retirement homes allow it). Reach out! CONNECT
Little girl: “Someone’s feet stink!”
Me: “Really! Whose? Maybe mine since they are dirty from walking around the gym.”
Little girl: “Yep, it’s your feet.”
Me: “Ya think so?”
Little girl: “Yep, little feet don’t stink.”
Years ago, I had the weekly joy of teaching an after-school children’s yoga class at a local recreation center. I taught approximately 50 students ranging from 5 to 10-year olds (of course with assistance from their regular caregivers).
When I say “taught”, I really mean…I corralled; I shepherded.
I was a herder. Occasionally, in unison but, mostly, it was a free-form modern dance style of yoga.
They were unfiltered and honest to a fault. They were also natural yogis. You see…children don’t actually have bones until they are 12 years old (totally my observation and not scientifically proven…yet) and as any yogi should, they saw joy in everything we did in class.
No matter how bad my day was going, they made me smile a big, huge, toothy, goofy smile. A real smile. Not the adult-world fake smile…you know the kind I’m talking about. An honest smile.
They made yoga fun! They laughed. They were loud. They raised a raucous! However, their caregivers always wanted them to be quiet (they lost that battle quickly with 50 small children in an echoing gym). After all, it’s yoga…and yoga is quiet or at least the proverbial “they” say yoga is quiet.
Whoever mandated that yoga must be quiet to be beneficial? Maybe it was originally quiet because the ascetics didn’t have any friends to raise some hell with! Maybe they didn’t want to be quiet; maybe they were just lonely.
Children, on the other hand, are never lonely in a yoga class. They are never afraid to touch each other’s feet in a shared boat pose, wrap their arms around each other for a joint tree pose, or lay in a big flower pattern touching heads in Savasana.
There is something to be said for the loud communal nature of children. Where is that point along the way to maturity that we lose that sense of community? When do our brains and hearts shift making isolation the ideal?
According to, the great book of “knowledge”, Wikipedia:
“Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India with a view to attain a state of permanent peace. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali defines yoga as ‘the stilling of the changing states of the mind.’ Yoga has also been popularly defined as ‘union with the divine’ in other contexts and traditions. “
So, if children are loud and rambunctious can their minds be still and are they uniting with the divine? Absolutely!!!
Children do yoga with no preconceived ideas, no biases, and no judgment. They are free in their bodies and free with each other. Children don’t bring the emotional walls and barriers that isolate…that break down community…to the yoga mat.
They are just there in the moment-totally and completely free. That is peace of mind and spirit. That is union with the divine. That is yoga.
Like I said--natural yogis.
My little gurus taught me that permanent peace takes many forms and sometimes it looks more like Burning Man than it does a monastery. Note: Not advocating raging fires for children…but 5 to 10-year olds are definitely into those too.
So, the next time you are in a COVID-era virtual yoga class…be free; be present; smile; laugh. Make some virtual Savasana flowers with your new friends, cheer someone on with encouragement and take notice of your stinky feet.
…And a funny question at that.
I recently read that before you start an official blog, you need to introduce it. The WHY! So a few posts into this process, here's my take on why I started this blog...
What could I say that anyone else would care to read about; be entertained by; laugh at; shake their head in disbelief at; or bother to continue reading week after week? I am not remotely interesting. I'm a regular Washington, DC, area desk jockey...a Federal employee with a side gig teaching yoga.
Boring, square, dorky, and maybe even a little dull, right? Yes, I just described myself as dull...as little thought bubbles of my misspent youth gleefully dance in my head.
I mean, after all, my name is not Miley Cyrus. I'm not a media darling. I don’t have a spray tan (I’ve had them and they are sticky!), a bad 80's haircut (what's up with Miley's hair these days? I get that era is cool again but ppppplease not the hair!) and I definitely don’t know how to twerk (even though she hasn't done that recently, we all know her extraordinary ability at it.).
So since this is a yoga blog and speaking of twerking--like that seque--I substitute instructed for an early morning class once (at the height of the twerking craze). Now combine that with having a head cold...and you can see where this is leading. My abilities to think on my feet were limited and my words mighty jumbled. I actually told a student to correct the alignment of his knee by:
“Since you don’t want to twerk your knee and hurt yourself—I mean tweak”.
Ohhh Nooo-Did I really say that!!???
Thankfully, my one lone student in the class-a man-just smiled and laughed it off. I never received a termination letter from the gym for sexual harassment so I assumed all was well.
Now that we have covered spray tans, tweaked knees, and mind fog, let’s see if I can write an interesting blog about yoga and all the awesome individuals, ideas, and ponderings related to yoga…with a little smattering of my silly musings.
SOOO…step right up and feast your eyes on a most incredible and marvelous wonder that will astound and amaze you with its spectacular feats of peril and mischief!!
WELCOME TO THE BOUNDLESS BLUNDERINGS AND BLISSFUL BANTERINGS OF MY YOGA BLOG!!!
I AM Boundless Bliss Yoga. Just me. I'm a one-lady band. I'm a yoga therapist. I didn't start out to be a yoga therapist, I just wanted to learn more and SHAAAZZAMM...here I am.