I don’t know if the recent tension in my upper back is from inadequate stretching after my TKD classes, from lifting heavy things as I declutter my basement, or from not paying enough attention to my posture but I do know that I am not enjoying it.
I have done some extra stretching. I have spent a fair bit of time lying on a lacrosse ball. I have draped myself over my foam roller.
Nothing has really helped so far.
Then, this morning, I received a newsletter from Yoga with Joelle announcing her latest video – Yoga for Rhomboid and Upper Back and I realized two things:
1) I’ve stretched but I haven’t done any yoga specifically for my upper back.
2) I had forgotten that those muscles were called the rhomboids.
(Rhomboid is a very fun word, go on and say it a few times in a row.)
My storytelling self knows that knowing something’s true name gives you power over it.
I’m going to do this video a few days in a row and see if name magic holds true for muscles. 😉
Over the past few years, in an attempt to counter the natural ‘but what if…’ tendencies of my ADHD brain I have been reminding myself to ‘do the easy thing’ whenever I can.
This isn’t the same as ‘taking the easy way out.’
Instead, it’s about 1) figuring out the easiest/most straightforward way to get something done 2) making sure that approach will cover the key details/meet the needs of the people involved 3) only adding more complexity if needed.
So, instead of letting my brain branch out into every possibility, I try to find what feels easiest and check if that will work before letting things get more complicated.
During her Move program in January, Adriene (of Yoga with Adriene) emphasized how important it can be to think about how you move.
She invited us to consider the actual movements we made when relocating our hands to move between poses, the way we moved our legs into downward dog, the process of how we unrolled our spines to stand up.
This wasn’t about making us self-conscious, it was about grounding us in our bodies, about considering the movement habits that serve us and those that hinder us. It was about figuring out where we find ease and what parts of our bodies need more attention. It was about figuring out how to work with or work around the unique abilities of our individual bodies.
Even though this process made for a tricky line to walk between being mindful and overthinking, it really set me up well for practicing for my recent TKD belt test.
In the course of learning and practicing my patterns and other movements, I had to think about how I was moving. After all, it’s not just that my foot has to end up in a specific spot but I have to move it in a certain way to maximize my power, to increase my balance, to ensure that I can reach the target that I need to reach.
Even though my TKD skills are a work in progress (and always will be), concentrating a bit more on the specifics of my movements did help me a lot. Recognizing that in one of my patterns, I always place my foot down at the wrong angle gave me the opportunity to correct it and execute my pattern more accurately.
(Sidenote: I actually learned DURING MY TEST that I was getting another movement wrong and the correction from my instruction made a huge, immediate difference in the effectiveness of that technique. Another victory for the ‘how’ of movement.)
My latest stop for this train of thought is a video I did on Sunday. I felt like doing some yoga but I also wanted to do something a bit different so I had my metaphorical cake and ate it too by doing this video from Liv in Leggings.
I really enjoyed it. She’s an engaging instructor and I found her ‘how’ explanations very clear even when I couldn’t quite execute the movements yet.
Considering the question of how – her explanations and my personal experience – helped me to be curious about even the most challenging movements.
That curiosity meant that I was intrigued rather than frustrated by the difference between the strength of my right arm and the strength in my left arm during a wheelish/bridge-ish pose where we had to support ourselves first on one arm and then on the other.
(I mean, I know that my right arm is stronger than my left and I know that I can be more precise with my right. But the difference was especially apparent on that one movement – and I could feel that I was moving differently as I was getting into the pose and I couldn’t hold myself steady in the same way while I was in it. I could support myself on my right arm for quite some time but my left arm started shaking almost right away.)
And it let me pay attention to my movements when doing twists so I could tell exactly which ones made the tight spot on the left side of my back protest. And I could see how small adjustments could bring some ease.
And, of course, overall focusing on the ‘how’ helped me to be more mindful and present while I was trying this new approach. That just seems like a good thing doesn’t it?
How much time do you spend thinking about the how of your movements?
Do you find it helpful? Does it make you more mindful?
PS- While all that shaking was going on I was really grateful for the various online yoga videos I’ve done from Adriene and Joelle Because they always refer to those kinds of shaking movements in a positive light. In their framework, it’s not about weakness in the shaking body part. It’s about energy flowing and about knowing that you’re alive and about putting the effort in. I think that’s a really encouraging way to look at it.
The weather here in Newfoundland and Labrador is tricky at any point and doubly tricky on the May 24th weekend.*
I have spent May 24th weekends wearing shorts, I have been rained out of planned adventures, I have shoveled snow from in front of a tent. And, on several occasions, I have worn shorts, a raincoat, and then mittens all on the same day.
So when Saturday rolled around and the weather was beautiful, I knew that my usual Saturday stuff inside could wait.
I had to get outside ASAP just in case things took a turn.
Normally, this would be cause for a scrambly brain of indecision – Should I do yard work? Bring inside work outside? Make plans for my garden? Take Khalee for an extra walk? What is the BEST use of this time?
This time, though, I bypassed all of those questions and just asked myself “What would be the most fun to do right now?”
And that’s how I found myself in the sunshine, doing yoga on my patio, laughing at the way my shadow makes me look like a fur ball or some sort of tendrilly sea creature.
PS – For the record, Khalee and I took a long walk later in the day… and neither of us had to put on our mittens.
*Apparently, the May long weekend in Canada is not called ‘May 24th’ everywhere but that’s what we’ve always called it – no matter which date it falls on. If your brain hates that, imagine that I have said ‘Victoria Day’ instead.
I have often come away from a yoga practice feeling calm. I have occasionally come away from a yoga practice feeling frustrated. But last week was the first time I can recall coming away from my practice feeling sad.
I was doing a lovely hip-focused yoga practice one evening and I felt a little shift in the muscles in my hip/lower back. It was a new sensation and I felt like I had ‘unlocked’ something important.
But then a wave of sadness hit me.
It wasn’t overwhelming and, strangely, it wasn’t even particularly upsetting. It was kind of like the feeling you get when you remember something that made you sad a long time ago. You aren’t sad now, per se, but you are sad for your past self and looking at them with empathy.
I paused the video and breathed through the feeling, letting it wash over me and trying not to do my usual ‘search for the origin of this feeling and possibly make it worse’ routine. The feeling subsided and I went on with the practice.
Then another wave hit me. The same kind of ‘sadness about a distant event’ feeling.
I’ve had this sort of thing happen before when I wasn’t on the mat, of course. I’ve suddenly remembered something sad or frustrating or upsetting and then temporarily re-lived the feeling but usually something has prompted me to remember it.
This time, the feeling wasn’t related to any specific past event, and there was no memory or baggage attached to it, it was just there.
It didn’t make me cry, not even those sort of leaky tears that don’t involve sobbing. It was just a quiet sort of internal, ambient, soft sadness.
It kept happening as I moved through the video and it hung around like a chill after I was finished.
If I hadn’t heard about this happening to people during yoga (and massage), I probably would have spent a lot of time poking around in my memories to figure out what I was sad about and I definitely would have spent a lot more time feeling down.
Instead, I was able to identify what was going on, finish my yoga practice, get myself a cup of tea and do comforting and reassuring things for the rest of the evening before heading to bed a little early.
And it hasn’t happened again since even though all of my practices last week were hip-focused.
Have you had an emotion pop up for you out of nowhere when doing yoga or another movement practice?
Was it just a vague emotion like mine or was it connected to something specific?
To be clear, I’m definitely not asking you to revisit trauma or to bare your soul and I certainly don’t need details (unless it would help you to share them for some reason) I’m just interested to know how this experience has played out for other people.
And, of course, I hope that if or when you find yourself awash in emotion on the mat, you can find the comfort you need in that moment.
I know that it wasn’t everyone’s cup of metaphorical tea but I thoroughly enjoyed Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day practice this past month.
The series was called Move and it was exactly what I needed to start off my year.
The sessions were short – the longest was about half an hour – and they felt very do-able for me this time, even though I couldn’t necessarily do all of the movements in any given session.
I did all 30 sessions in the 30 days but I didn’t do one every day. I had a good run but I had a migraine on Saturday night and had to skip that day’s session. So I did Saturday’s session on Sunday and then did two practices on Monday. I didn’t feel any pressure to ‘catch up’ or anything, I just tied up a lot of loose ends on Monday and I thought finishing off the 30 days of yoga would help me put a bow on the month.
Meanwhile, it was a bit frustrating to realize, while doing Saturday’s session on Sunday, that it was so gentle that I could have done it the night before after the worst of my migraine had passed. It might have even helped. But don’t think that I am being hard on myself about it, resting also made sense!
I’ve been doing some thinking about why it felt pretty easy* to stick with a daily practice this time and here’s what I came up with:
The sessions were short so, not only could I literally fit them into my evening, I could IMAGINE being able to fit them in. This might be an ADHD thing but around 20 minutes seemed so feasible but 30 minutes might have felt like FAR TOO MUCH TIME.
I started a new level of meds at the end of November and my ability to judge my capacity has really improved so I am not as worn out in the evenings.
Since my kids are older, the shape of my evenings is different so it is easier to fit yoga in.
Something has clicked for me and her language around movement really resonated with me this time. I was able to tune into nuances in my movements that I haven’t noticed before and that was really encouraging for me.
I have gotten a lot more comfortable with choosing to modify a movement. I used to worry that I was somehow cheating or wimping out but now I just do what makes sense in the moment.
I decided to practice on my own terms. I used to try to be all focused and attuned and ‘good’ and not check the time or not interrupt myself. This time I committed to just being my often-distracted self and, shockingly, that made it easier to get on the mat.
I spent all month writing about building habits and I was putting my own advice into practice on the regular.
I have done short term yoga practices lots of times and I can have long stretches (ha!) of doing a few poses every day but this time a daily 15-20 minute practices feels like something I can actually maintain for the long term.
But, since I know me, I know that I need to choose those sessions in advance.
I was tempted to just start this series over again but I think I’ll mix things up a bit first.
*I really only had one day that I struggled to make myself do the practice. It took me a full ninety minutes of sitting on my mat, reading, drawing, and texting my friend before I could make myself do the session but I did it. It was half-assed but it was done.
I’m pretty late to the Yoga with Adriene party. After years of hearing about her from lots of different friends, I finally checked out her YouTube channel, replete with hundreds if not more practices of various lengths and various themes and focuses. January 2019 was the first time I did one of her 30-day “yoga journeys,” where she posts new content every day for thirty days. I loved it and am a convert. What a great way to start the year. I have found that the commitment really keeps me grounded in January. Adriene’s attitude is always welcoming and makes me feel good even on not great days. And both times I’ve done it I have found the final session, towards which the month builds, to be an emotionally powerful experience.
Yesterday (January 2) was Day One of the 2022 version: MOVE. It isn’t too late to jump in. If you’d like to do so, you can sign up here. The videos all stream on YouTube, so they are really easy to access.
And if you’d like to see the schedule, here you go!
I started today and I loved the “HERE” practice for Day One. If you decide to join this year, I wish you all the best with it.
No matter what you were doing/celebrating/enduring/avoiding/ this month, it is almost over and so is this year.
Obviously, things don’t magically change with the end of a specific period of time but that ending can help us to shift our thinking a little bit. It gives us something for our brain to use as a pivot point.
So even though there are a lot of things we don’t have control over, we can choose to think about many things in different ways and we can choose to be kind to ourselves about the challenges we have faced (and the ones we are facing)
Making space to rest can help with that.
When we have restful moments, we can reflect, we can get ourselves out of the automatic momentum of doing and see how we might want to approach things differently.
And, of course, rest is just good in itself.
You don’t have to earn your rest.
You don’t have to have worked hard to ‘deserve’ it.
It is not selfish to rest.
Rest is part of the cycle of living and I hope you can make some space for it today and every day.
Perhaps your current life commitments don’t allow for a lot of rest, but I hope you can find or make small spaces for it here and there.
And, please, don’t fall into the trap that my pre-ADHD-meds-self used to fall into. Don’t think that you have to finish everything first so you can take a long rest because short ones won’t be ‘worth it.’ Wearing yourself out makes things worse, short rests are helpful, and pushing through tiredness over and over is disheartening.
Here’s your gold star for your efforts to make space and to find rest today, whatever that space and rest might entail – ⭐️
Wishing you ease and self-kindness today and every day.
Here’s Adriene with a short yoga break.:
And here’s a short guided meditation. It says it is for intense anxiety but I wasn’t experiencing intense anxiety when I did it. I don’t know if it works for that but it was a lovely practice for someone seeking a little extra ease.
I tried to make this into a sensible, all-encompassing post with a unified message.
It didn’t work.
So, here are three fitness/wellness/self-care things that are on my mind right now:
1) Being in the in-between
I am feeling no need to try to be productive or to try and accomplish anything this week but I don’t want to fall into the mindless blah of the in-between.
Writing my daily ‘Making Space’ posts and taking walks with Khalee are just enough to keep my days from being too aimless while still being pretty chill.
2) 12 Days of Yoga
This has proven to be more challenging than I thought it would be. I have done yoga everyday but sometimes I am doing the practice from memory rather than going along with the video.
It’s not that I don’t have time and I am physically able to do it. I just have had some unexpected things crop up and I’m surprised at how tricky it has been to work around them and get the video on at a time when I can do it.
That being said, though, I am finding a real difference in how my hips feel when I do the circular sort of movement that Adriene demonstrates to get into extended child’s pose.
3) Making Space -> Go Team
Since December 1, I have been doing a daily ‘Making Space’ post to remind us to make space for ourselves in our own lives.
On January 1, I’m going to switch over to ‘Go Team’ daily posts. Those posts will be about encouraging you to be kind to yourself as you adopt new habits and routines in the new year.
Obviously, you can start a new habit or routine at any point in the year. But, since lots of people enjoy using January 1 as a starting point, I’m going to gather up a big bag of encouragement and travel along with you, handing it out like snacks on a road trip.
And, as always, I’ll be awarding gold stars for your efforts.
Sooooo, what have you been up to since last Tuesday?
We’re officially into that weird point of December where no one seems sure what day it is or what’s open or what they are supposed to be doing. And the range of Covid restrictions in various places is amplifying the confusion this year.
All of that adds up to even more reason to try and make some space for yourself – in whichever way works best for you today.
(That’s often the tricky part of making space for ourselves, I find. It’s hard to know what we are going to need from day to day and how much space we’ll require to give ourselves what we need.)
So, I’m just going to remind you that making space for yourself is a valid and important thing to do. You deserve gentle care. You deserve to have room in your own life. You deserve to feel good.
And if feeling good is out of reach right now, then I hope you can find a way to feel as good as possible in your current situation, even if the only space you can create is 10 extra seconds in the bathroom to squeeze your shoulders up by your ears and then let them slowly sink downward again.
Since we are in the in-between and everyone may need different things, I’ve picked out two choices for each video. Relaxing yoga/energizing cardio and meditation for hope/meditation for energy.
I hope you can find what you need today, in these videos or elsewhere.
I wish you ease.
Here’s your star for your efforts. ⭐️
Your hard work counts.
If you need to relax today, this yoga stretch video could be a good place to start.
If relaxing stretches aren’t your thing today, this fun dance video might be just the movement you need to create some space for yourself.
If you are feeling a bit overdone emotionally today, this guided meditation could help you untie some mental knots.
If you are feeling a bit blah and need some mental energy, this next meditation might be the answer.
I was slightly reluctant to post this (quite lovely) meditation because it is labelled for ‘productivity’ and I hate that word. Not everything has to be ‘productive’ and our cultural push for ‘productivity’ is one big reason we need to consciously make space for ourselves instead of being able to let it happen more organically.
However, that being said, it is an enjoyable meditation and is NOT pushing productivity. I feel like that word is in the title to help the video be picked up in searches rather than being part of the channel’s philosophy per se.
So, to be clear, I am definitely not criticizing the channel for putting the word productivity in the title and I am not suggesting that YOU need to be productive. I found this meditation energizing and I hope you do, too.
I hope you find space today, with these videos or in your own way.
Remember: No one else gets to decide what space you need or how you make that space. 💚 you are the boss of you. 😉