Category Archives: Emotional Health

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.

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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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guest post: Five Simple Ways to Improve Your Mood

A NOTE FROM PIP: It’s exciting to turn over the blog to some wonderful ladies over the course of the next week or so. Today’s I’m honored to share this post from Katie at Call Me Trouble - a lady who I really got to know at the 2013 FitBloggin’ and one that I need to spend a lot more time with in real life! Her love of life shines in everything she does. Take it away, Katie…

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First and foremost – a huge thank you to Alicia for inviting me to guest post on Poise in Parma. When I think about Alicia and her nook of the internet, I always think about how inspiring she is. She inspires a love for Cleveland in me, reminders of self worth and appreciation, and most of all, I love how true she is to herself, her values, and her goals. I hope I can do PIP some of the same justice today.

As a young lady working in a staunch, corporate corporate environment. It’s easy to feel bad for yourself. It’s easy to wonder how you’re not one of the people you follow on Instagram making a living off of doing cool yoga poses in even cooler leggings. It’s easy to feel discouraged when you sit at a table of colleagues and struggle to be heard. It’s easy to think, “why not me?” when you see those around you receiving promotions.

You might also think it’s hard to be the bigger person. Hard to assert yourself. Hard to stay positive.

It may not be easy at first but with a little bit of practice, being more mindful and finding joy in the little things in life is just as easy as being a Debbie-Downer. It might even be more fun too.

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There’s no one right step-by-step guide to being a happier person, but I am figuring out a few of go-to tricks.

1. Spread words of love. If you’re in a bad mood – if and when you’re ready to be out of one – send a love/thank you/thinking of you note. I dare you to hold onto your contempt while you’re expressing appreciation for someone special. It may help put into perspective what has upset you. “It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world.” -American Beauty

Simple cards, e-mails, even texts can make someone’s day and the fulfillment you receive in return is priceless.

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2. Listen to something you love. It might be a song (like, “So Much Better” from the Legally Blonde the Musical?), or a YouTube video (David Goes to the Dentist, anyone?), or a really good podcast (like when the guys from Freakonomics justify my stance on cheap wine – it really is just as good.) Creating a sensory environment of something you love will be calming and it doesn’t require money or calories.

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3. Wear something beautiful. When you find yourself sick with a case of the winter doldrums – be your own canvas. Apply a bright shade of lipstick. Adorn the statement necklace. Step into your favorite heels (once you’re out of the elements.) I truly think there might be something to the ‘ole “fake it until you make it” and I know I feel better when I dress better. Refusing to brush my hair, change out of sweats, or put on deodorant only seems to compound negative thoughts.

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4. Create a “warm-fuzzy” collection and let go of the negative. It’s probably as lame as it sounds, but only if you don’t like celebrating how amazing you are. Whenever you receive a compliment, a well-earned thank you, anything that gives you a “warm-fuzzy” feeling on the inside, save it somewhere. This could be a folder on your computer, in you Google Drive, or a shoebox under the bed – save them. Something in the water has taught us to hold onto our mistakes, failures, and missteps. We ruminate about what we wish we would have said or done for hours, days, weeks, and even years. I can recall a table whose salad I forgot to bring out before the meal when I was a waitress almost 10 years ago like it was yesterday, but I can’t even picture the faces of my favorite regulars who treated me like gold. I want to change this. I want to savor the good, and let go of the bad. I want to remember moments I’ve excelled at being a good friend, an ideal associate, or a daughter-to-be-proud-of. Saving these reminders and revisiting them will help reinforce the good. To celebrate all you do for the world, you have to acknowledge it first.

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5. Take care of yourself. Listen to your heart, mind, and body. This may sound incredibly oversimplified but when you feel yourself becoming frustrated, slowly rolling a snowball of unhappiness, take a moment. No, don’t count to 10. Okay, count to 10 if you want it, it doesn’t hurt. Whether you count or not; ask yourself what you want? What will make you happy at that moment? What will calm you? The answers are there but you have to ask the question first. One of my most frustrating experiences in a day can be getting dressed. (I also acknowledge this is a blessing.) Picking out an outfit can be daunting for an assortment of reasons, I might be in a rush, trying to impress someone, configuring an outfit that works for work and for happy hour, feeling fat, dealing with trying something on that would be perfect but does not fit at the moment. It goes on and on. Getting dresses has been the least of my worries lately. Instead of asking myself what should I wear? What image am I trying to present? What am I expected to wear? I ask: What do I want to wear? I almost immediately know the answer and I’m saved from countless outfits that I probably know I won’t like before I even try them on. Trusting yourself is a great gift. I trust I have shopped wisely to put clothes in wardrobe for work, play, and everything inbetween. If you’re unhappy, you have the answer within you, ask for it – nicely, please.

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the first thirteen days of a new year

Some honesty? My 2014 hasn’t started of as motivated as my normal new years do. 

With the usual turn of the calendar year, I’m bounding. I’m inspired. I’m unstoppable. As a good friend and I recently joked, I probably could be one of those annoying people that would be formally previously quoted as saying “I am so ON right now.”

Yet with the turn of the 2014 calendar, I was sluggish. I was unfocused. I was stuck. But at least I was VERY hyper aware of how unmotivated I was.

So I’ve been trying to find inspiration where I can:

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On a work trip to Atlanta last week, I practically walked into the lamp post this sign hung from. And if I would have kept my gaze straight ahead on the airport concourse walkway, I would have missed this:

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Ah. “Airport appreciation” (as my mom put it) always lifts my spirits – even on a flight delay. #screwyoupolarvortex   Even taking a trick from a fellow yoga teacher that travels a lot for work, I utilized that hour-and-a-half flight from Atlanta to Akron and snuck in some meditation to ground myself – even while thousands of feet in the air.

But then this Sunday, someone I respected looked me in the eye and said “you have a voice, and I want to help you to develop that.”

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More honesty? I tend to agree with this person. That’s why people like me have blogs, right?

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve wanted badly to write – and in fact, have internally made a goal of writing more in the new year. But the motivation has disappeared – as have the themes, the topics, the words, the message. So what was holding me back?

Turns out it was some resentment from 2013 that I had to let go of.  As I held back this resentment, I came to realize that that was just as dangerous as always trying to hold on to control of everything. And in letting go of that past situation, moving forward has become easier and more doors have opened that I thought were previously shut.

Since that conversation on Sunday, I stumbled upon this quote:

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” ― John Mayer

(Yes, it’s from JM. Of course I’m obsessed.)

I’m not looking as the past thirteen days as being wasted by any means. They weren’t the prettiest, but life isn’t always that put together. Sometimes is a mess of random occurrences, miscommunications and cumbersome mishaps.  Sometimes it means wearing yoga pants to work – dressed up with a sweater dress and boots, of course. It’s what it is – and what it was – and it’s time to learn from those thirteen days.

It’s in those times of discomfort when we discover the most about ourselves – and we realize (and come to accept that) it’s okay to be perfectly imperfect. Just like every flight delay. Just like every time your mind steals you away in meditation. Just like every single one of us working our way through this crazy thing called life.

So I’m hitting the reset button (with JM’s tunes playing in the background): here’s to writing more. Meditating more. Believing in myself more. So that I can serve the others around me even more.

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