coming clean: three years later

Three years ago, I lost complete control of my life in one massive anxiety attack.

Two years ago on the last Friday of September, I reflected on how far I had come in that year. I was scared – very scared – that I was going to fall back into those old patterns.

Last year, it was easy to see all of those baby steps were getting me closer to being on the path to acceptance of who I really am.

small steps big step

(Photo source: the Yogi Times FB page)

It hasn’t been the smoothest sail in the past twelve months, and there have been re-routings that I could have NEVER seen coming. I didn’t always get my way and the Universe tested my patience. But I would remember the sankulpa – the meaningful intention – I set at the Rod Stryker Four Desire workshop last September, and I knew that what felt like missteps were actually part of the path. Those alternative ways of getting here today were vital in my accepting this perfectly imperfect soul that is me.

This year, it’s a different story.  Last night, when I realized I was coming upon this anniversary, I was shaken at first. But then a sense of confidence came over me.  I am not scared of the anxiety in a way I previous was. As I consider myself now in “maintenance mode”, the sense of panic that overcomes me occasionally gets easier to shake off — and with a hip shake a la Taylor Swift style, of course. I know what tools to use, what breathing patterns and yoga poses to do, and who to lean on when I’ve entered what I lovingly call “bat sh*t crazy land”.

For the longest time, I wanted to label what I was fighting against. I wanted something to be mad at, to yell at, to cry over. But holding on to all of that negative energy is EXHAUSTING. So I’m throwing the need to define it, to label it, to “own” it right out the window.

I took it off.

(Photo source: the Yogi Times FB page)

…mostly because that’s no longer me.  For the first time in a long time, I have vision of where I’m headed, where I’m going, who I’m meant to be. That comes from having a clear perception — and full belief that you are serving the world in a way that comes from the most authentic part of you:  your soul and its desires.

So on this final Friday of September — and every last Friday in the month of September — I will always be called to STOP. But I’m never going to stay in that moment long. Ain’t nobody got time for that. And neither do you.

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coming clean: The Month of No

You have through Labor Day to enter my #HeinensGrill giveaway – click over to this post to enter a tote bag filled of grilling supplies from Heinen’s.


In participating a Myers-Briggs assessment at work during the month of June (ESFJ FTW), traits*** of my personality were revealed to me:

  • ESFJs want decisions made early.
  • They like to keep traditions alive.
  • ESFJs dislike dealing with problems on a theoretical or philosophical basis.
  • They are conscious of appearances. (you would never know this based on how often I wear yoga pants to probably not socially acceptable scenarios. #sorrynotsorry)

The process solidified some things I already knew:

  • ESFJs lead very busy lives.
  • Their parties are well planned and often lavishly put together.
  • They value harmony and try to not offend or disappoint anyone.
  • ESFJs thrive on being needed but can feel overburdened and stressed from taking care of others.

As July came upon me and I turned 31, I felt bombarded by a need to take care while being true to myself. I was inspired to take some helpful yet opposite-for-ESFJs actions:

  • focusing on what I wanted to do and not what I “should” do
  • not try to fix everything all the time
  • learn to trust myself
  • appreciate my positive qualities
  • slow down my pace

It was apparent and I knew what I had to do. I declared AUGUST AS THE MONTH OF NO.

By mid July, I started telling friends, family, coworkers and random strangers that August was untouchable. If I didn’t have it scheduled by July 31st, I wasn’t doing it until September 1st. Some people didn’t catch on right away, and were thrown when I said “sorry”.  But others completely understood — even congratulated me for holding firm. Friends started taking on the same mantra as me and they started messaging me pins on Pinterest.

guard your time fiercely

So a month into this experiment what have I learned?

I adore having some alone time to myself. When I stumbled on this elephant journal “How to Love a Cancer” article, I practically shouted “YES!” when I read this portion: “Because she feels everything, a Cancer often craves alone time, either to be with her thoughts or to rejuvenate her soul from the constant taking in of all that surrounds her.”  It sounds counter-ESFJ, but it explains why I’ve been gravitating towards those long solo towpath bike rides this summer.

I feel EVERY.SINGLE.THING.  Each and every single sensation — physical and emotional — has been magnified. The happy times are happier, the depressive moments are somehow lower. Engaging strength in my arms during chatrunga has finally “clicked” — but as are my knees.  And since I took advantage of all that free time by filling it more physical activity, I burnt myself out and I’m now on a PT suggested RX of rest, ice, compression and elevation. (More on this soon. Yes, Universe: I got the message — slowing down mentally isn’t enough, it’s gotta be matched physically.)

Declining is liberating.  So what does all this “no” saying set you up for?  Saying “YEAH!” to the things you really want to do. Saying “Sure!” to the things you never had time for before because you were bogged down with BS.  And maybe – just maybe – saving yourself up for one very big YES exactly when you’re ready for it.

Will it be in September? As I rest my knee and my soul, I’ll just kick back, relax and see.

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***These points are taken from a book that I photocopied but forgot to write down the title of. When I have access to the book again, I’ll update this post for the proper credit.

on the mat: ParaYoga Master Training at Namaste Berkeley

Congrats to MaryBeth – you’ve won two tickets to Market at the Food Bank to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank!  Didn’t win? Tickets are available online for the May 4th event.


Let’s say you followed my Instagram mid-month. You would have noticed a lot of vegetarian meals, yoga mats and training manuals. Throw in the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge and it was clear that I wasn’t in Ohio. I snuck away to California to partake in my first ParaYoga master yoga teacher training session at Namaste Berkeley. Lucky for me, my yoga-teacher partner-in-crime, Kevin, joined me for the adventure.

Namaste Berkeley

ParaYoga’s founder, master teacher Rod Stryker, led this ParaYoga Master Training 5-Day Intensive - Tantra Shakti: The Power and Radiant Soul of Yoga. He is the same teacher who lead The Four Desires immersion I attended in Cincinnatti this past September.

Through the course of a span of Saturday through Wednesday, we were taken on a path of self-empowerment through this training that promised to “demystify the tantric approach to yoga and explore its key touchstones of practice and wisdom that open the doorway to thriving: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.” (description from the Tantra Shakti event website)

From 9 to 12 and 2 to 6 each day, my capacity to write as much as I could was stretched to its limits as I ended up with 30 pages of notes from the five days. The tactics on how to create asana sequences for hatha practices and vinyasa flows also included breath work and meditation.  We only “practiced” for up to 3 hours a day (one session in the morning, one in the evening); the rest of the time included lecture, small group discussions, further meditation and chanting (my favorite!).

parayoga notes

I’m not going to go into a dissertation of what tantra really is (we’ll have to save that for another time), but there’s something to this idea of expanding beyond one’s limits that stuck with me since leaving California last Thursday. Somewhere midway through day two, I started having some serious breakthroughs. They include…

parayoga notes

The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. We barely made it through half of day two when Rod dropped this bomb on us. I was feeling overwhelmed, primarily by the amount of information already shared with us. In a moment of wide-eyed “OMG I’m never going to get this”, I shared that building anxiety with him in-between sessions. He reminded me, and eventually the rest of the 60 trainees, that through a condensed amount of time, there was a lot of info to share — but by no means were we expected to implement it all immediately. He also reminded us to be unafraid to do the work, but to also be kind to ourselves in the process. Those were the exact words I needed to hear to move forward.

I have an addiction to busy-ness. This was my post-day-four walk-home-from-dinner revelation. As chatting with Kevin, I noted how clear I felt after our experience at training. Taking the time to slow down, remove distractions, make space and open up really had me feeling like the old Alicia. We came to some realizations that I had to also slow down my practice (meaning more moon practices and committing to meditation daily), and find ways to slow down my every day. Both will be challenges, but they need to happen in order for me to stay happy and healthy. Speaking of burnout…

Burnout t-shirts are still “in”. Thank goodness because I really plan to wear the heck out of this one… and the ParaYoga hoodie I’m eyeing up for my next wardrobe purchase…

parayoga tshirt

On a side note: apparently so is chevron – but that’s the topic of another upcoming blog post.

Sitting in half lotus for five straight days makes going back to the office a bit of a challenge. Sure, on day three when I decided to sit away from the wall, I questioned my life decision making skills as my body revolted from the lack of physical support to lean on. But Kevin and I quickly caught on just how much of Rod’s sequencing prepared and strengthened your spine to be able to sit for long periods of time. (Hello meditation!) But back at my desk the following Friday, I found myself contorting my jeans clad legs into positions not normally seen in office environments.  Just consider it a new definition for “chair yoga”…

Anxiety will always be a part of my life. The good news is that so will be my practice.  After those five amazing days at Namaste Berkeley, I said to Kevin “I’m sad to leave, but I feel so much more equipped to come home.” Once home, I felt inspired and ready to submit my application to enter the enrollment for the ParaYoga Master Training program.  One of the questions lead me to share my previous struggles with anxiety and how I’ve worked through them. With yoga being one of the most important tools in that process, I came to this realization. We can’t always control the craziness swirling around us, but we can control how we react to it. Again, I’m lucky to have a tool like my practice to help keep me on the level and moving forward.

With that application and one email, my path towards ParaYoga yoga teacher certification officially began. And with a reply email confirming my acceptance into the program, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” - H. L. Hunt

I’m honored. I’m inspired. I’m ready to change myself —  and more importantly, the world.

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