Yoga Life

Lessons From NEDA Awareness Week 2018

Each year I participate in the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) Awareness Week. I have done something for it every year since I began recovery, roughly six years ago-I honestly can’t remember. Is that bad? Each year I have done more and more to raise awareness and try to make each year bigger, better, and more impactful. I am passionate about NEDA Awareness Week because to me it reminds me so much of the 12th Step, “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to other(s) {insert addiction} and practice these principles in all our affairs”.  I use this to educate others, draw awareness to this deadly disease, and also use this week to focus on full support for others who have been through this. Even providing them a platform to share their stories and perspectives. This year I took the last step and took twelve ginormous steps and went all out for this week.

 

 

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What did I do? One of the many things I did was host an Instagram challenge. I partnered with my recovery and yoga soul sister in Tulsa, Cassandra McCoy, to start a challenge. Then Cassandra and I got a sponsor (who turned out to be a new friend!), Jamie at Evolve Fitness OKC. We wanted a challenge that was accessible to everyone and be more than crazy yoga poses. Our challenge was, Spread ED Awareness. Each day we would provide either a statistic or blurb about eating disorders. Then we had a word that was inspired by the post with a corresponding challenge. Challenges were:

  1. A yoga pose that makes you feel confident
  2. What activity did you do that you “failed ” at? Did you try it again?
  3. How have you been resourceful in your workout(s)/Got creative with them
  4. What activity or life event has made you feel strong?
  5. What is something that you have done that made you feel uneasy and vulnerable?
  6. Who supported you during recovery? Maybe you supported someone, who were they?
  7. Last but not least, share your story!

 

 

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I’m not going to lie, I thought this would be “successful” (you’ll see why I use quotes around that). I thought people would be down to participate, especially since we had some cool prizes lined up and it was for a cause. However, I came to realize this wasn’t the case. People “liked” the idea but only a handful of people participated. I was hurt. I was sad. I was disappointed. Cassandra, Jamie, and myself had put so much time into these posts, deciding what to present, etc…and the turn out was low. Somedays I didn’t want to participate in my own challenge. I thought to myself, “if this was a handstand IG challenge or an inversion challenge more people would do this“.

 

Then I saw a post from someone I follow on IG (Justin Wolfer) talking about how it doesn’t matter the size of your following or audience, it’s what you do with it. Talk about a perspective change! I realized my ego was in the way and it was hidden by good intentions. I lost sight of the twelfth step. I told myself, ” It’s not about participants its about spreading awareness and educating”. I then began to focus on all the engagements my posts were getting, the people who were commenting on them, or reaching out to me. That right there is what #NEDAAwarenessWeek is all about.

 

 

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My donation class at Evolve Fitness

 

 

In addition to this challenge I wanted to host a clothing drive. Clothing drives are a great way to practice yoga because it is yoga. Donating clothes is a practice of:

  1. Brahmacharya (non-excess)
  2. Aparigraha (non-greed, non-possessiveness)
  3. Saucha (purity, cleanliness)
  4. Karma (action, generating)

 

I didn’t want just one clothing drive and for me to be the only one participating (which would have a limited reach). I wanted the whole community to get involved. So I decided to reach out to all the fellow yoga teachers and ask if anyone wanted to host a clothing drive for our local YWCA. Much to my surprise I got three other studios involved! Cycle 3Sixty wanted to host a clothing drive/free class AND they did a #WearYourPurple day-every tag/person who wore purple they matched one dollar and donated to NEDA. My pals at Hidden Dragon Yoga in Edmond wanted to have a box for a week. Evolve Fitness, the sponsor for the IG challenge, had a day of free classes for clothes. Then I had my class at Core Nutrition.  When the week had come to a close I counted over 50 bags of clothes!

 

 

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It touched my heart to see so many people come together and do something for other people. To clean out their closets and their hearts, to make space for love. To build community and unite for a cause–being close to Spring and the itch to spring clean doesn’t hurt either….Sometimes it is hard to see the goodness in people, especially in our social media and headline driven world.

 

In addition to having my faith restored in people, seeing the light, and changing my perspective about Instagram (for the one billionth time hah!) this was the biggest thing I learned: Something Small Can Have a Big Impact. I guess I always knew that but it wasn’t till this week and reflecting upon these lessons did I really see it/understand it.  Not only is this shown through the clothing drives–these clothes will go to our local chapter of the YWCA– but I saw it through my friend, recovery warrior,  only participant, and winner: Nikki. Nikki pledged to do this challenge about a month ago then her son died. She almost didn’t participate but decided to anyway. I told her I hoped she found some healing and used this as a way to deal with her grief. Nikki told me that it did help her. That right there is more than enough. That statement is why I did what did and made it all worth it. She got what she needed to go on and live life.

 

What did you do for NEDA Awareness Week? Share below!

 

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New Year, Not So New Me

Happy 2018! It’s that time of the year for New Year Resolutions, gym memberships, intention setting, manifesting, positive thinking, living life to the fullest,  and most importantly– #NewYearNewMe. Love it or hate it that is the mantra for January. Our feeds are filled with it, I admit I have used that hashtag myself. While I don’t mind the concept, deep down it isn’t what we think it is.

Whether you make resolutions or like me, set goals and intentions, they are filled with hope and the mindset of change. Our lists guide us every day in aiding us to make the best decisions that line up with our 2018 vision board. As the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months what begins to happen? Some of intentions/goals/resolutions may have subsided and gotten lost with that gym key fob or they may have fully transformed our lives. What changes do you notice? Maybe you are more peaceful. Maybe you have cultivated mindfulness. Maybe you go for a walk three times a week. Maybe you started a blog or vlog. Whatever it was…they are all external.

 

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But what about internally? Are you any different? If you were to sit with yourself and look deep down inside would you notice anything? Have you changed from a Type A bulldozer to a Type B cool cat? Have you overcome your introversion and became a mad extrovert? What about your values, morals, and things that make you tick? Did they change? I didn’t think so. That’s why #NewYearNewMe is a lie. It “changes” you outwardly but it doesn’t change who you really are.

I may be making intentions to go from a human doing to a human being, live life by The Four Agreements and 12 Steps, be impeccable with my word, take my ACSM Certified Ex. Physiologist exam by April, launch a Youtube channel and dance conditioning in the OKC Metro, blog every other week, become a better wife, and develop a healthy relationship food now that I finally know what is wrong with me; but I’m still Leslie. I will always be a Type A bulldozer who is highly competitive to a fault. I will always be a perfectionist but am choosing when to express it. I will always value kindness, respect, and treating everyone equally. I will always be awkward and quote movies in everyday conversation. And guess what…that’s ok.

 

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So you can’t really be a new you, just you who is making changes to live a life more fully. Are you embracing the #newyearnewme concept? What are you wanting your 2018 to look like? Share below!

Stepping into Karma

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”-Step 12, EDA Version

karma: Sanskrit for action

 

In many different spiritual paths we are called to help and be of service to others. Through serving others we are able to show people that kindness does exist in what can be seen as a cruel world. That there is something more to life than just the everyday drudgery of Facebook scrolling, Neflixing, coffee drinking, working that 9-5, and sleeping. For those of us who have chosen a recovered life it is imperative that we serve others who were once (still) like us by sharing our story and helping them out.

Step 12 is an action step calling for us to be stewards and it reminds me of another action: karma. We are all familiar with the concept of karma, but the concept of “what goes around comes around” isn’t what karma truly is. My favorite explanation of karma is by Jack Kornfield in his book, A Path With Heart, “karma means that nothing arises by itself. Every experience is conditioned by that which precedes it. Thus our life is a series of interrelated patterns” (273). Kornfield later states, “the intention or attitude that we bring to each situation of life determines the kind of karma we want to create. Day to day, moment to  moment, we can begin to see the creation of the patterns of karma based on the intentions in our heart” (279).

 

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This is precisely what those of us in recovery are to do with our daily lives while waving our recovery flags. Our hearts are to be so devoted to recovery that everything we do is to be intentional. Our intentions for sharing our stories isn’t to be boastful and “hey, look at me” it is to be honest, real, and selfless. We are intentionally making new patterns of behavior to correct patterns of the past.  It reminds me of a quote from my EDA Book, “As we begin to realize that our world has been changed for the better through the step work we have done, we simultaneously become aware that the gift of life in recovery comes with the responsibility to share it with others. Now that we have begun to experience healing in our lives we must extend a hand to those who still suffer”.

I hadn’t really thought much about my own personal recovery lately. I have been falling short on my steps–honestly I haven’t been living a 12 Step life. I lost my mission that I sat out to do when I first began this blog. I began imageoftheheart to share my experience with others who suffer or know people who are suffering, to help them make sense of this disordered world. And what have I been doing? Nothing. I haven’t been generating any  karma, just a pool of nothing.

 

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Over the past month people have reached out to me. I have answered questions on how to support loved ones with EDs. I’ve shared posts with those who are new to recovery. I even helped someone seek recovery. Between the Facebook messages and emails something began to stir within me. Something that I haven’t felt in a long time. Purpose. Direction. A moving current of karma. This karma current swelled within my heart and helped me get back on track. To start the steps over, to be intentional in my recovery and not just throw it to the side like stale piece of bread.

If what Kornfield says is true, “The heart is our garden, and along with each action there is an intention that is planted like a seed. The result of the patterns of our karma is the fruit of these seeds.(277)”. I want to sow beautiful fruit-ripe, juicy, organic recovery fruit. I am tired of have OK, slightly spotty recovery fruit. Since this is a new month I am taking accountability for my actions and starting over. Tilling up my soil and ready to sow new fruit that is sweet with karma.

How is the karma in your life? Are you generating positive action while sowing sweet fruit or are you just skirting by and sowing OK fruit? Are living with intention and removing yourself out of your actions towards others? If you aren’t happy with the answers or the taste of your fruit then take some time to re-focus. Make an intention to be intentional. Lend a helping hand to someone in need, share your story, hold space for others. Generate karma.

 

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Words

As I am making a commitment to writing more I sit here wordless. Or maybe just distracted. I know I have things to say, because I always do, but for some reason I cannot access them.  Error 404.  While I may not have the right words, I know others do. You can “quote” me on that.

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Quotes are some of the best and simplest ways to find the right words when you can’t find any. They are also fun to memorize and use when you are in need of some encouragement or a little beauty. For years I have kept notebooks filled with quotes and song lyrics that resonate with me. They were inspirational, amusing, or acted as a guide through troubling times. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite quotes. I hope you find some inspiration and beauty in these words as much as I do.

 

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On Eating Disorder Recovery

  • “To be beautiful is to be yourself. you don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”-Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”-Sophia Bush
  • “Don’t be afraid to  move out of your comfort zone. Some of your best life experiences and opportunities will transpire only after you dare to lose.”-???
  • “It’s not your fault that you developed an eating disorder, or depression, or an addiction, or whatever else is trying to steal your life away. But it is your responsibility to save yourself. And you can.”-Josie Tuttle
  • “You can’ t change until you accept where you are and who you are. You find out who you are by being honest with yourself and others…Life is never static and neither are we.”-EDA Workbook, Step 1
  • ” Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves,  who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking  so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of u; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people to permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marianne Williamson

 

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On Life

  • “If you add a little to a little, and then do it again, so that little shall be much”.-Hesoid
  • “Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If you make an agreement with yourself to  be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional posion that exists within you.” The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “All of humanity is searching for truth, justice, and beauty. We are on an eternal search for the truth because we only believe in the lies we have stored in our mind. We are searching for justice because in the belief system we have, there is no justice. We search for beauty because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a person is, we don’t believe that person has beauty. We keep searching and searching, when everything is already within us.”-Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”-Confucius
  • “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.”-Nina Simone
  • “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line  between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is so on the road.” -Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”-Hans Christian Anderson
  • “It doesn’t not matter how slowly you go; as long as you don’t stop.”-Confucius
  • “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”-Douglas Adams

 

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On Yoga

  • “If I’m losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God reaches down to steady me. It works every time, and no just in yoga.”-T. Guillemets
  • “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for a worldly gain.”-K. Pattabhi Jois
  • “Do not stop trying just because perfection eludes you.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “Go from a human being doing yoga to a human being yoga.”-Baron Baptiste
  • “Yoga does not change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.”- Yogi Bhajan
  • “Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.”-Sting
  • “Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength you start to believe in your own potential.”-Tiffany Cruikshank
  • “Anyone can breathe. Therefore anyone can practice yoga.”-TKV Desikachar

 

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What are some of your favorites quotes? Share below!

Back to the Mat of Things

The beauty of life and yoga is the fluidity of it. Life is always moving, forward, circular, constantly, never stagnant. Yoga is the same way. Yoga follows you wherever the current takes you. It helps you maintain the flow and keeps you from drowning in the waters of life. What else is great about yoga is that there are many limbs and facets to yoga that one can always practice it. If you follow me, take my classes, or know a little about my opinion on yoga; you know I always talk about the non asana limbs of yoga. While asana is great and much needed it shouldn’t be the only thing we focus on. Until recently, I never really understood how much asana is needed, especially in my life.

This past month has been a whirlwind. Talk about the never stagnant waters of life. May was the month of dance, dance, dance, new blog adventure (check out auminthearts.com), writing, yoga, and more dance. All this combined made for one tornadoesque month. There was so much going on that I didn’t get to practice much yoga…asana. I was trying to act mindfully, eat well, breathe, BUT, my asana practice was lacking. Which showed me how much that one limb of yoga influences the other seven limbs.

Without practicing asana it was hard for me to be still. Without practicing asana I couldn’t work out that excess and anxious energy to focus on my many tasks at hand. Without the asana I didn’t fully catch my breath or know where it was. Without asana my eating disorder thoughts began to arise because I wasn’t “working out”, “moving my body” enough to eat (even though I was dancing up a storm). Then there was myyoga-1146277_1920 physical body…it hurt. My hips were always stiff which interfered with my dancing. My knee pain was worse. The un-rounding of the shoulders I’ve been working on and opening the thoracic spine work started to go away.  My back was achy and not mobile, which again impairs dance performance. Everything sucked!

I didn’t want life to suck. I didn’t want my body suck. My dancing sure as hell couldn’t suck and neither could my new blog! So I made sure I put asana back in forefront of my day to day happenings. I woke up earlier. I did small sessions of yoga throughout the day. On the weekends I did restorative yoga. If I had five extra minutes I was in a yoga pose, be it a down dog or splaying on my new yoga wheel. And guess what? This ebbing and flowing river that was May began to be calm, or maybe I was just steadier. All because of my asana practice!

How does your asana practice influence your life? What do you notice if you don’t practice enough of the physical yoga? Can you practice too much physical yoga? Now onto June! Keep swimming in the yoga waters…

 

 

When the Yoga Works

I have been practicing yoga for sometime but have really prescribed to it over the past few years and more so lately because I am a yoga teacher! So I really have to live up to the yoga hype right? Actually, I don’t have to live up to the “yoga teacher” hype but it does help me to be more aware of yoga practices, how to live more yogiclly, and to practice what I preach (which is so much easier said than done!). My biggest challenge in the realm of yoga and recovery life is that of being meditative.

Meditation is not what most people think, thinking of nothing. Meditation is developing a mindful attention to one thing at a time and giving all your energy and focus on that one thing. My meditation practice isn’t sitting there in lotus with my malas smelling lavender essential oil and chanting Ohm. In fact, my meditation is practice is anytime I can just be still and focus on one thing, usually it is a chore/task/yoga pose. My meditation practice has stepped up since yoga teacher training, before then it was non-existent. In my teacher training we were required to establish a meditation practice and journal it. I went from zero minutes all the way to seven minutes in the course of eight months. I went from manic monkey mind to just monkey mind. I went from unmindful and hustle bustle to a more mindful hustle and bustle. Sometimes I never really notice how far I have come until someone points it out or I am in a situation where normally I’d be a walking ball of stress and anxiety and I am surprisingly clam. Like a magically fountain spring in the holler calm. Nothing showed me this more than my recent trip to the allergist.

I went to the allergist to get my food allergy panel retested because it’s been a while and it needed a check up. If you haven’t experienced an allergy than you a lucky duck. Allergy panels suck. You  lay on your belly and they prick your skin. If that isn’t bad enough they begin to fill the little pricks with possible allergens. Right as those allergens hit the pricks your skin goes on fire if an allergen is present. Then you have to lay there for fifteen to twenty minutes. No music, no TV, no human interaction. Just you and the burning, itching, kerosene soaked fueled fire, that is on your back. You can’t scratch it. You can’t move. All you can do is lay there and breathe. Breathe. All I did was breathe. I practiced my breath counting exercise (my favorite pranayama, count inhales and make the exhales the same length). 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I began to feel the groundedness of laying on my belly. I began to close the eyes and imagine my breath filling up my body, just like I tell my students. I kept counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and  out 1,2,3,4,5,6. When my mind would wonder or think of something else I would acknowledge it and go back to counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I didn’t feel my back burn. I didn’t feel the itching. I lost track of time. I almost feel asleep (but that could’ve been because it was 8 am). Before I knew it the alarm went off and it was over. They counted my results and we discussed my test. After I left the allergist office I realized that yoga works. I was in a situation where I normally am unhappy, irritated, and dread. But I didn’t really notice much of anything. I barely felt any itching. I just accepted the moment.

Yoga works when you want it to. All you have to do is surrender to it and just do it! Just do yoga. Breathe in. Breathe out. 1,2,3,4,5,6.