I realize I spend a lot of time writing about emotion on a nutrition and fitness blog, but for good reason. Often times our progress toward good nutrition and fitness is blunted by our own fears, doubts, and negativity. We fear we won’t succeed at exercising or eating well, we box ourselves in with our own self-doubt before we even begin the journey toward health and wellness. The first step is releasing that fear, doubt, and negativity and adopting a more positive, non-judgemental attitude toward ourselves. It is then that we truly succeed…
10 weeks ago, I entered my first yoga class alongside 9 or 10 other women from my church participating in this 12 week session. I belong to a wonderful church that offers many different ministries and programs in Dumphries, Virginia. One of those wonderful programs is a series of Christian Yoga classes taught by a parishioner who is a wonderful yoga instructor. Donna has worked very hard to incorporate our Christian faith into the practice of yoga. We pray with our bodies with the Prayer of St. Francis and the Our Father, as well as meditating on scripture from the Bible and our own relationship with God. I have spoken often about the physical benefits of yoga, but I have not gone into the emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits of yoga. I haven’t written about it yet because until this week, I hadn’t fully experienced it.
During the last 10 weeks I have felt more calm and closer to myself and God, but until Tuesday evening I had not felt a real change in my heart. Many times I have written about the negative thoughts and energy that we harbor, keeping us from reaching our full potential, not only as athletes, but as human beings. I speak so much about it because this is a subject I know well. My biggest challenge in all aspects of life is my negativity toward myself and others. I have learned to be more positive toward others, but learning to be more positive toward myself has been a hard journey.
In yoga, we practice non-judgement, meaning we accept ourselves and those around us as we are, without judgement or negativity. Every week in class we have our own personal intention that we keep in your mind and heart throughout our practice, and every week I have meditated upon non-judgement. The non-judgement of myself and others. For 10 weeks I have prayed for non-judgement, focussed my breath on non-judgement and meditated upon non-judgement. I have focussed on this every time I’ve done yoga at home or at the gym, not just in yoga class. Each week I feel a little more positive, but I had not yet broken that cycle of judgement and negative thoughts that I keep locked away in my heart to use against myself.
But this week was different. First of all I forgot my mat, but instead of feeling frazzled or annoyed with my forgetful tendencies, I just did my yoga on the floor without any frustration. That should have been my first clue that it would be different. For the past few weeks the hour and a half of yoga has gotten progressively more difficult and challenging. I have really enjoyed the new knowledge and was looking forward to another night of physical challenges, but Donna had something else in mind for us. Instead of progressing further, we spent the evening focusing on our hearts and our journey through yoga so far. She asked us to think back to when we first began our yoga journey, for some it had been years ago, but for me it has just been 10 short weeks. I thought back to my competitive nature during that first class when I thought that, like working out, it must have to hurt in order to help! I spent more time looking around to see if I was doing the posture right than I did looking within, feeling the benefits of the breath and opening that was occurring inside me. After a few classes, I became less competitive and just focussed on improving my practice, not being the best. This also changed my mindset for Crossfit, I began focusing more on my own performance than competing with others.
Yoga has transferred over to many aspects of my life during the last 10 weeks. Every week I look forward to this hour and half that I was forced to focus on my own needs and thoughts. Instead of only getting this once a week, I started incorporating time to myself into my day with some reading and journaling each morning. Midway through the session, I learned that I could heal my shoulder, something that had been bothering me for a year, and I began focusing even more on healing myself physically and mentally. My shoulder was not my only obstacle, but I had been using that as an excuse to wallow in my own self pity and not push myself. With the pain in my shoulder gone, I was forced to confront my weaknesses. The negativity would have to be the first to go.
I prayed about it, read about it, wrote about it, but it was still looming. I thought it would just be a long process, but this week Donna said something that really struck me. She said “We all have negative thoughts that we harbor for some reason, and letting them go is usually a choice. Let go any negative feelings that are no longer serving you.” I then realized it is a choice, and at that moment I chose that I would no longer harbor those feelings. I accepted that those feelings may try to creep their way back into my heart, I vowed I would not be critical of myself for thinking negatively, but I would not let those negative thoughts stay.
We then went into a moving meditation, which really helped me focus on getting rid of those negative thoughts. I focussed my breath, my mind, and with it came my heart. I felt my eyes well up with tears as I released the negativity and breathed in positive, nourishing thoughts. I cried tears of joy, I was so happy to know that I could and would conquer my negativity. I felt empowered to know I could help myself. I hope you will also chose to release your own negative thoughts and feelings that are no longer serving you. Maybe it is fear, doubt, worry, hatred, whatever it is, feel empowered to know that you can change it. You are stronger than you think you are.