Learning to Trust Myself More Than Ever Before

I was introduced to Qoya at a burlesque workshop I attended to heal my relationship with my sexuality and sensuality, and because I am an avid lover of anything that allows me to taunt and tease in life. I was shocked when I realized, during my first Qoya dance, how much I mistrusted my own body and even more shocked to feel how beautiful and calming it felt to move my body slowly and gently. WAYYYY slower and gentler than my NYC lifestyle ever allows me to move.  

When I found out Rochelle (the founder of Qoya) was hosting a workshop called "Trust Yourself More than Ever Before," I knew the Universe was pointing me in a pivotal direction of my physical and emotional healing.  

We opened the workshop by picking a card and lighting a candle to connect all our collective intentions for being there. I smiled when I got the "art of receiving." The card was perfect because the workshop had been a gift to me. On a deeper level, I've always been a giver, to the point of creating my own physical injuries by taking care of others better than I take care of myself (don't we all!).

I've had an undiagnosed injury to my sacrum (prime second chakra territory) for over 5 years, and despite looking like the perfect picture of health as a yoga instructor, I have been in constant pain, often feeling completely out of alignment and uncomfortable in my own skin.  

As we danced our slow warm-up circles, I felt body parts crack and shift in ways that scared me and tensed every cell, so I took Rochelle's advice and did less. Despite my unrealistic desire to want to bust out some "So You Think You Can Dance" amazingness with my body, I created smaller and slower movements, and took my ego out of it until I felt less afraid and could relax.  

We partnered up for a Shadow Dance, and were told to dance the feeling of not trusting ourselves while our partner watched and held space for us. Jesus. There are no end to the emotions that go along with that for me.  

I closed my eyes, because it's super awkward to feel like you can't dance and know someone is watching you dance out a vulnerable topic. I started slowly swaying and immediately covered my eyes with my hands, because my first emotion was shame. As I continued dancing, I wrapped my arms around myself as a form of protection. I kept moving, and my dancing became more aggressive as anger rose. I hated
the fact that I didn't trust myself, because deep down, I actually know I'm pretty amazing.

My movements became bigger as I danced out the shame, protection, and anger. Towards the end, Rochelle called out to "dance as though you trust yourself like never before." I immediately opened my arms wide and began jumping and twirling in circles. I felt my skirt twirl with me and my hair fly around my head in a moment of rarely experienced freedom that started in my mind and was able to be expressed in my body.

As the song ended, I opened my eyes and felt a sense of balance in my hips and an absence of pain... and dare I say it, a sense of ease in my body.

After doing a vigorous choreographed dance to "Proud Mary", an amazingly empowering song but also the longest song in history, my body had officially moved more than it had in years. We were given a long strand of red yarn to create individual labyrinths, and took our time moving into the center in whatever way felt natural. I really struggled not to look at everyone else and see what they were doing, but focus on myself. Once in the center, we put our heads down to listen to what our bodies needed us to know. The only thing my body wanted me to do? Breathe.  

I took breath after breath, as relaxed as I could. I felt some of the tension and tightness in my back begin to soften. I often claim I don't like rules and restrictions, but I struggled to not worry if I was taking too long and found myself lifting my head to peek.  

We finished with one final free dance. I tried to close my eyes and be with myself so that I could feel what I needed, but my eyes kept flying open and drifting towards one woman who was standing completely still amongst a see of flowing, gyrating and twirling bodies. I asked myself why I was so drawn towards her, and soon heard the answer: I was jealous.  

I was jealous that she had the balls to stand still because that’s what I was craving. In my mind, we were “supposed to be” dancing, but my body was tired and all it wanted to do was lay down.

I began to slow my movements a little bit. And then a little bit more. And then a little more still until I was only gently, slightly swaying.  

After spending years feeling like most movements cause me pain, I had unconsciously learned that movement was something I needed to brace myself for and push though. As I stood there swaying, I was reminded of Rochelle’s instructions during one of our first dances that blew my mind: let your movement be as restorative as rest.  

My body isn’t fighting me.  
My body is trying to support and help me.  
Slow down.  
Get quiet.
All is well. 


Chin Up Buttercup

Whether it's because of the rain, you're about to start your period, didn't sleep enough or whatever plethora of reasons you can come up with, sometimes we're just not feeling up to snuff (whatever snuff actually is). 

On those days nothing sounds more lovely than being able to stay in bed, or pour a large glass of wine (and I mean one of those glasses that holds an entire bottle) or call a friend and just complain. But sometimes none of those are options. 

Sometimes all you have is yourself and you have a choice, you can spend your day cranky and feisty or you can make the conscious and harder decision to be cheerful. And never discount that choosing to be light is much harder than choosing to be heavy.

Here are some ways I've come up with to help get myself out of a funk, or even just support myself when I'm there. 

1. Wash your hair: I don't know why but taking a shower doesn't have the same effect. A good hair day can change everything whether you're a guy or a girl. 

2. Eat the rainbow: Color just makes me happy. And generally if I'm eating color that also means it's healthy so I'm feeding both my eyes with beauty and my body with nourishment. A little self care goes a long way when we're feeling low.

3. Take a nap: Deep down we are all still toddlers at heart. And even though I refused to take naps in preschool, a 20-minute cat nap can change my world. 

4. Set a timer and write it out: Give yourself 5, 10, 2o minutes or whatever you have and write out every bitch, gripe and complaint you can think of. Get it out of your head and onto paper to give yourself some mental whitespace. If your head is filled with negative thoughts it's hard to have room for anything positive to come in and help you feel better.

 5. Listen to a happy song: I don't just mean I kind of happy song. I mean one that makes you smile or laugh, one you can't help but tap your feet or wiggle your hips too, especially if it's guilty pleasure song that you know you shouldn't like but do (we've all got them). Maybe even allow yourself to let go and find some self-expression by singing or dancing.

6. Cry: Growing up is hard. Sometimes you just need to let it out. And then move on with your day.

7. Make a gratitude list: Your brain can't appreciate and worry at the same time. And if you really start to think about all those things most of us have that we take for granted: a home we can relax in, food for every meal, even knowing just one person loves and cares- then we can find a reason to smile. And in this instance, even if you're still not feeling happy, faking it will actually help you make it. 

8. DO something, anything: Wash the dishes (which I find oddly cathartic), clean up one tiny corner around you, go to the store- anything that gets you up and physically moving so that you're focusing more on your body than your head. It will also get blood, energy and lymph circulating in your body which can be an automatic pick me up.

9.Forgive yourself: generally when we're in a funk we're mentally berating ourselves even if we don't realize it. We're thinking we should be happy or should be doing something productive or should have our shit together.... the list becomes endless. But guess what? We all have bad days. Give yourself some love. You wouldn't kick a friend when she's down and you should always be your own best friend.

Do you have any ways you like to love and pick yourself up when you're feeling down? I'd love to hear them!


The Yoga of Living Alone

Most of the time living alone can be pretty amazing. I can eat whenever and whatever I want, there's no one to disturb my sleep at night and any mess that's made is my own. But every once in a while something happens that makes me wonder, why, in my singleness, I chose not to have roommates. 

I am a self-confessed hypochondriac. I've had enough medical issues in my life and a strong enough connection to my body to know when something is wrong. However, I automatically have a tendency to assume the worst, like a five alarm fire that inevitably ends up with me in the emergency room. (Why do all questionable emergencies have to happen around 10pm when all the urgent care centers are closing?)

In just one of these types of scenarios on a recent Friday night, I realized that I was having a potential mild allergic reaction to almonds. "No problem", I thought. I did the rational adult thing and took an antihistamine, telling myself everything would be fine. Meanwhile in my head I was panicking about the potential of having a new nut allergy and remembering a time what my grandmother had an anaphylactic allergic reaction (that is not an image you soon forget). 

Even so I tried to remain calm and distract myself by doing the dishes and coloring, which are my own forms of therapeutic meditation. 

Awhile later, right around the 10pm witching hour, I wasn't feeling much better and was even questioning if things were starting to get a little bit worse: metallic taste in my mouth, swollen glands, thick-feeling tongue. 

Soon enough my body was uncontrollably shaking, my digestive system was overactive and it was all I could do to close my eyes and try to take one deep breath after the other.   

I started googling emergency rooms secretly wishing my dog would turn into a human and give me his opinion on my predicament. I had brief moments of being able to calm myself and in those brief spaces berated myself for letting my anxiety get the best of me. 

Finally, I knew what I had to do. Despite my shame of knowing I might sound completely crazy, I put a request in through my insurance company's free service to have a doctor call me. (God bless them for this).  He called within minutes and I semi-calmly relayed the facts to him. When he didn't immediately tell me to run to the ER, I felt my shaking body begin to relax and my throat soften. I peppered him with 1001 questions to ensure I knew what to look for if things got worse and truly believe I wasn't going to die overnight, figuring if I had him on the phone I might as well embrace my "crazy". 

We hung up and I took a deep breath. For tonight, my yoga was allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. Practicing ahimsa and being gentle with myself was knowing I just needed someone to talk me off the ledge. And that's ok.