When life throws one at you – Going back to Wellness principles.

You know the saying, “When life throws you lemons…” and your clever friends answer, “Screw the lemons and bail!” or “Add some vodka and let’s party!”  Well, I got some lemons this month, and it snowballed.  I had some pretty low days and couldn’t even call my friends to talk about it.  Let’s be real: relationship issues, family, body pains – and acupuncture school is no joke.  When I get home from a 9-hour day of dealing with patients, sitting on my butt listening to lectures for hours, I have to come home and take care of myself and do more work.  My wrists were jammed for the last month while I was doing massage and teaching yoga – I was advised to stop practicing and teaching.  I sunk – I need yoga to function.  It reminded me of years ago when I was unable to sit or walk because I had so much back pain, or a decade ago when I could barely walk after the arches in my feet collapsed.  I became pretty depressed at that point because my body couldn’t do what I needed it to do.

I couldn’t admit all of the things piled in my life were causing all of this.  Stress on stress on stress, regardless if you’re recognizing how much weight you’ve piled on, will catch up with you quickly.  So what do I do?  It used to take me a long time to get out of these funks, and it’s still not easy, but it happens a lot faster now and I bounce back much more quickly: I go back to my wellness principles.  I think about the most BASIC things I can do in my life to bring about better balance, and I focus on those things.

Now I’m not talking about going on a juice-fast, or leaving for a 10-day meditation retreat, signing myself for a 30-day yoga practice at a studio, not drinking ‘til New Years – I’m talking about EASY.  I’m talking like, go drink a glass of water.  Go to sleep an extra hour early.  Take a bath instead of going out to a bar for a drink.  Watching a movie and crying and making myself a well-balanced meal.  When things get bad, I do basic things, and I do them one at a time so that it’s doable.  ‘Cause you’re bound to fail if you set this thing up for yourself that is unreachable.

My wellness principles came about as a post-New Years practice that I wanted to engage in for 100 days.  Did I do all of them for the full time?  Nope!  And that’s okay.  I just kept going back to the basics each day and starting over.

Ask yourself some questions to get your own list:

  • What can I do to support myself daily? What are my wellness principles?Think about when you start to feel low – what do you do?  Go dancing, run, scream into a pillow, eat a pint of ice cream, listen to really loud music… Write them down.
  • Of those things, what SUPPORT you and bring you closer to your goals and make you feel good.  Like when I drink a little less caffeine, my hands don’t shake as much when I am in clinic touching and needling patients.  My brain doesn’t feel as scattered – I am more centered.

My basic wellness principles are these:

  • Chew my food. When I sit down to eat, I try to focus on what I’m eating, breathe, chew.  Not a lot of extra noise, t.v., radio.
  • Drink water and tea all day long. When I start to feel out of balance and tired, I drink less coffee and hydrate myself.  Wake up and have a glass, drink in between meals.  (I’m a huge tea nerd, I’ll post on that later.)21
  • Sleep by 10 or so. I try to wind down a bit earlier, turn off all devices and allow my body to be in darkness and rest.  This was a hard one – I was always a night owl, but I feel so
    much better when I get in bed before 10 now.
  • Eat whole foods. Nothing processed.  Grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, sea vegetables, meat, broth.  Things that nurture my body and have no extra junk.
  • Do the opposite of what I’m craving to do – if I’m exhausted, sometimes I’ll make myself go for a walk or exercise, because I know I’ll feel better afterwards.  Instead of eating that ice cream bar, I’ll make a bowl of miso soup.  It’s oddly satisfying!

And the last important bit: Why??  Why do this in the first place?  Because I feel more clarity throughout my day.  There is more room in my life for the good stuff.  When I see patients, they know that I am doing my best to live healthy and happy and that makes me feel good – that is my goal.  I feel like I’m on a path that serves something larger than myself.  Winning.

(Photo credit: Meghann Wiedl.  Me pouring some delicious Baozhong oolong from Taiwan)

On listening (part I).

I want to show you what yoga is to me and teach you something simple.

I remember my first yoga class back in like 2006 – my back was in bad shape after I jumped off a cliff (yea, that actually happened).  I was at my school gym doing a “Yoga for 50+” class, and the grandmas and grandpas in front of me were all touching their toes, back bending, jumping, smiling.  I leaned against the wall and bent my knees to get to the floor, wincing in pain.  I tightened up my shoulders, my stomach, my feet even cramped up.  I’d been dealing with some injuries for a couple of years at that point.  When the teacher asked us to breathe, I was gasping and trying not to let anyone see that I was panicking (oh, this still happens, don’t get me wrong!).

Baby steps.  Let me TELL you how many baby steps it took to touch those toes.  Years of them.  It was a process, but processes are good.  They keep you going and give you something to do.  If everything was a quick fix, life would be boring.  So, you like a quick fix?  Well, then what?

A while back I was sitting on a bus, my stop was coming up and I quickly grabbed all of my things and held on for dear life as we halted to a stop.  I looked over and another passenger looked me in the eyes and smiled at me.  I paused to smile back; it was long enough to relax my shoulders.  I looked out the window and closed my eyes for a moment and realized I felt my heart beating.  I breathed into my belly, paused to notice this beat, and felt it pulsing in my chest, in my diaphragm and out to my limbs.  My feet opened up to the floor of the bus; I smiled.  From 2006 to now, this is how I have learned to listen to my body.  What’s the difference?  The difference is that I CAN do this now.  I choose to do it.  I choose to pause and notice, and that control makes all the difference.  That’s my yoga.

Here’s your homework for the day, to keep that process going:

  1. Notice your breath. Stop somewhere today, whether it be at work in your desk, on the bus, or before you sleep and relax your shoulders.  Is your stomach tight?  Breathe into it.  Notice when you breathe, where it starts and stops.  Do you get stuck in your ribs, diaphragm (do you know where that is?!)?  Can you breathe all the way out to your hands and feet?

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Practice makes perfect?  No.  Practice is practice, and that’s wonderful.  That is enough.

Photo credit: Corinne Thrash