I often hear comments from people that indicate that because I am a yoga teacher, I must always be calm, centered, and “Zen.” Well I have a little secret to tell you. That really isn’t true. I have lots of hard days and bad moods, just like everyone else. But I’ve always been pretty open about my own challenges in the hopes that sharing the stories of how I overcome my obstacles might give you a little encouragement or inspiration for dealing with your challenges as well. And so I want to share with you a pivotal moment that led me to make a big shift.
I lived in Brazil for 8 years. The first few years were extremely difficult for a variety of reasons. A big international move, learning another language, navigating one of the biggest cities in the world, living on a shoestring budget in the beginning and having to start my career all over again left me a little… frazzled, to say the least. I ran around town teaching 5 to 7 yoga classes a day being shuttled by taxis in the most chaotic traffic I have ever seen. And there is something about that I want to confess to you.
I fought with the taxi drivers. Like on a very consistent basis. Often to the point of yelling and tears. Not exactly what you’d expect to hear from a yoga teacher, is it? Well it’s true. My yoga path has not always been peace, love and lotus flowers. I have had many highs and lows along the way.
Now normally I am a very kind and thoughtful person. I like to encourage others and look for the good in others. But living in Sao Paulo sometimes brought out this side of myself that I didn’t even know existed! For awhile I tried to blame Brazil. I blamed the pollution, the Portuguese, the rain, the traffic, the humidity. I looked for any and every excuse I could find to justify my totally irrational and heated arguments with the taxi drivers of Sao Paulo. I am a woman who has spent literally thousands of hours on a yoga mat and meditation cushion. I have studied all the great saints and can recite not only yoga verses, but scripture from several major world religions. I have sat under the very Bodhi tree in India where the Buddha himself attained enlightenment. But even so, I still had ugly fights with the taxi drivers. Time and time again.
During that time I was waking up at the crack of dawn, pounding at least one big mug of strong coffee on an empty stomach, rushing out the door to teach the first of several classes for the day, and eating (if anything) a sugary cereal bar in the car while texting and responding to emails. This was always when the fights happened with the taxi drivers. Usually in the morning when I was jacked up on caffeine and sugar, not well rested, and anxious about the insanely busy schedule I used to keep.
One particularly stressful day I had a nasty battle with my driver over which route to take. He didn’t go the way I had requested, we hit insane traffic, and I was super late to teach my yoga class. I was livid and lost my temper. So did he. He yelled at me and said so many hurtful things that I started sobbing and had trouble even teaching my class once I arrived. But something I’ve learned is that when people’s words hurt us that much, they are worth investigating because there just might be an ounce of truth in what they are saying.
That night I had a long hard look at myself and the way I had been acting. I knew I was way out of balance and needed to make some changes.
Here are a few of the changes I made:
1) I reduced (and I sometimes eliminate) caffeine. If you say that caffeine doesn’t affect you then you are either A) predominately kapha dosha (more on that another time) and more power to you! or B) in deep denial. Caffeine stimulates our adrenals by basically making the body think it is under attack. What does the body do? Releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol dries you out and accelerates physical signs of aging, taxes your kidneys, and gets stored in the body as belly fat. It also makes you edgy, increases your anxiety, and causes inflammation in the body due to its highly acidic nature. I still drink coffee sometimes. But much, much less. And never on an empty stomach.
2) I gave up all processed, packaged cereals and energy bars (except for an occasional Kind bar or Lara bar usually when traveling and stuck on a plane). The majority of cereals and energy bars are loaded with sugar, chemicals I cannot pronounce, and hard-to-digest combinations of nuts, grains and fruit. I replaced my morning bar with green smoothies. I am a huge advocate of green smoothies. They provide a blast of nutrition, alkalize your blood, and have enough fiber to help bowel function and keep you full until lunch. One of my go-to green smoothies is:
1-2 cups coconut (or plain) water
2-3 large handfuls of organic spinach
1 large handful of organic romaine lettuce
3-4 celery sticks
1 green apple
1 banana (optional)
juice from 1/2 lemon or lime
3) I started doing a gratitude practice first thing in the morning. Instead of waking up to my alarm and then checking emails, texts, and my schedule for the day, I began to wake up and immediately say “thank you.” At first it was very difficult. I had to remind myself and sometimes I would forget and dive straight into checking messages and my to-do list. But with time I began to consciously cultivate gratitude first thing in the morning as soon as my alarm rings. I mentally list every single thing I can think of to appreciate. Sometimes the list is long, sometimes it is short but very meaningful. I offer thanks for the obvious things – my amazing husband and adorable dogs, my home, health, family, friends, students… But sometimes after this go-to list I get really specific and give thanks for the less obvious blessings and experiences of my everyday life. This gratitude practice is perhaps the thing that transformed my relationship with life the most. I now wake up with ease and expansion instead of overwhelm and stress.
You see, I have spent many (many) hours on a yoga mat and I want you to know something important I’ve learned. It is not enough. To truly create a more easeful relationship with life, to rid ourselves of the fatigue and exhaustion that often create our irritability, anxiety, and overwhelm, we need to recognize the impact our diet and lifestyle have on our well being. The yoga poses certainly help, but there is so much more! Only when we embrace the diet and lifestyle, self care and mindfulness practices that the yoga lifestyle offers us will we begin to experience the true inner calm, vitality and joy that we are hoping to find on our mats.
If you are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, if you desire more energy, joy, and purpose in your life, then let’s schedule a time to talk. I have a very special online program designed to help you create vibrant health, more energy, greater joy, and deeper purpose in 10 weeks. This program incorporates all aspects of living a holistic, healthy, inspired life: sacred movement, mindfulness practices, self-care rituals, healthier diet, and a positive life philosophy that will radically change the way you look, feel, and live!
We start in just 2 weeks so click here to learn more and schedule a free consultation with me. We will go over your goals and see if this is the right program for you.
Remember that you are the creator of your own health and happiness. It is possible to truly THRIVE instead of simply survive. I want to share with you all the tools that helped me make necessary changes in my life to feel less anxious, more peaceful, healthy and happy the majority of the time. And more importantly, to stop arguing with taxi drivers.
To your radiant health!