lynchburg va

My Imaginary Studio: You MUST Belong To Yourself

How well do you trust yourself? Like, really know that in a whirlwind of adversity you will stay true to yourself? If we are to use Dr. Brené Brown's Anatomy of Trust to frame that question a little more thoroughly that means:

  1. You set appropriate boundaries for yourself. 
  2. You are reliable in the face of conflicting priorities.
  3. You are accountable to yourself.
  4. You keep confidence when other people share with you.
  5. You "choose courage over comfort, what's right over what's fun, fast or easy, and you practice your value," to borrow directly from Dr. Brown. In other words, you have integrity.
  6. You ask for what you need without judging yourself.
  7. You are generous with yourself.

Last night, as I lay in bed next to my adorable, co-sleeping, almost 2-year-old son. I realized I'm at a pivotable moment in my life. In my 20's I endeavored, for the first time, to belong fully to myself. At this moment, it is essential for me to re-establish that priority, so that I may create a safe place for my son to learn true belonging, as well. What I learned when I was younger is that it can be done, even if you didn't grow up in a way that made you feel safe or truly seen. But I know how hard it was and how many times I went astray. I want to give Vorian the gift of belonging from the beginning.

I can remember the exact moment and the precise decision I made that took me away from myself most recently. In all other things, I feel as though I've been able to trust myself. Yet I aligned myself in relationship with a person that I couldn't fully trust. I remember the moment of him standing in the doorway and me laying on the bed when I realized that trust didn't exist between us. I chose to stay anyway. 

Except I can't stay anymore. I have a son. He needs to learn to belong to himself and he needs an example of how to accomplish that feat. He needs an example of a human who has planted the roots of her values, stood firmly and said "I shall not be moved." He needs to watch as I belong to myself and the world assails me as it will surely to do. He needs to see that the world is savage to anyone who has the courage to belong first and foremost to his or herself instead of trying to fit in. He needs to see me, drawing energy from the ground up, through my core, opening through a soft heart to call for the people who would stand beside me in belonging. 

As so many mothers before, I'm faced with the inevitability that "fear will lead us astray and arrogance is even more dangerous," another astute observation from Dr. Brown. So in this season of turning away and turning in, I find I must be brave. It takes courage to turn yourself out into "the wilderness."

There are three categories of people: those too young to belong to anyone but their caretakers, people who don't trust themselves and don't belong to themselves, and people who do. For me the choice to be a part of the latter category is a way of life. It is life. It was the difference between my destruction and survival. I think, if we are being honest with one another, that choice is the same zero sum outcome for all of us.

The path forward into true belonging is as clear as the work you put in to understand yourself and your core values. That work will almost never be easy once you choose to embark upon your path. Money and power will challenge your integrity. People will tell you lies about yourself. You WILL make mistakes. To be alive is to grow. The only way to grow is to be rooted. The only firm ground upon which to sow the seeds of true belonging and a life-time of growth is to trust yourself. Know yourself, have the courage to lean in, trust.


I shall not be moved.

In Virginia tobacco fields, 
leaning into the curve
of Steinway
pianos, along Arkansas roads, 
in the red hills of Georgia, 
into the palms of her chained hands, she
cried against calamity, 
You have tried to destroy me
and though I perish daily,

I shall not be moved.


No angel stretched protecting wings
above the heads of her children, 
fluttering and urging the winds of reason
into the confusions of their lives. 
The sprouted like young weeds, 
but she could not shield their growth
from the grinding blades of ignorance, nor
shape them into symbolic topiaries. 
She sent them away, 
underground, overland, in coaches and

When you learn, teach. 
When you get, give. 
As for me,

I shall not be moved.

- Our Grandmothers, Maya Angelou


Five Tips for Getting Over Your Emotional Bender

Five Tips for Getting Over Your Emotional Bender

Well, shit. Yesterday sucked. BUT I'm getting over it today. Like I said in my second Diary Post - I'm not a trainwreck. Contrary to having depression and anxiety, I actually do know how and have been successful at pulling myself up by my boot straps. Here are some context for my longer-term success and 5 tips to get help you stop spiraling downward.

Variety within a yoga practice and some Ayurveda basics

I've mentioned before that my yoga practice does not look the same every day. Once a week I take a rest day and the rest of the time I listen to what my body tells me I need. Friday I did a really vigorous flow with a lot of back bending and power moves. It was great. My abs were sore, my side body and back felt really flexible and I felt mentally clear and strong. The next morning I decided to go to the back-to-basics Bikram workshop at Hot Yoga Downtown. Flexibility with my practice style has kept me moving along - flowing up and over plateaus and always grateful and happy to practice yoga.

The kind of fluidity, however, is very much against my nature. Any way you cut it, any personality assessment you do of me, I am in theory and in practice, a person that tends toward structure and discipline. For the sake of simplicity, let's keep to Eastern concepts in discussing my decisions and personality-type. Ayurveda is an Eastern approach to broad-stroke personality type characterization. At its basis it asks the person to observe him or herself physically - the personality characterization follows from the body-type. There are three body-based personality-types known as "the doshas." 

Even very modern personality theories have been debunked when the scope moves from personal analysis to analyzing others. So, while I can find some basic common sense suggestions in dosha theory as well as The Myers-Briggs, they are only facets of my self-understanding. That being said, its helpful to have the observation of millions of similar humans to guide my understanding and in that way dosha theory is helpful. People have seen correlations as they have been outlined by the doshas for many thousands of years - that's just enough of a pattern to cause me to stop and examine how I am the same and how I am different. Therein the characterization becomes a powerful tool. 

I am a pitta's pitta according to dosha type. Where I have done best to use that understanding to great effect has been in my diet and in my yoga practice. My diet is a topic oft discussed, as I have been able to put on muscle and drop weight on a whim since I was about 23 years old. That kind of ease in shifting my appearance leaves a lot of people wondering what my secrets are so I will write about that in another post.

As far as my yoga practice goes, recognizing my tendency toward order, I can imagine it would be very easy to do the same yoga routine over and over day in and day out at the same time every day. I also recognized that I would become so regimented that if something occurred to throw off that routine I would be super angry or depressed. I have not found the perfect balance (I suspect I would still do best to practice at a consistent time daily) but I have found fluidity in the style of yoga I practice and that has been a strong start to a lifelong practice (a year and a half daily practice to-date). Switching styles from yin to Bikram to power vinyasa has kept my practice feeling fresh and new and has allowed me a variety of poses and mental approaches to leverage continual change out of my body. It is also recommended for pitta personalities to do as much. I made that decision independently but I rediscovered that recommendation this morning as I was checking dosha theory.

The reason I wanted to spend a little time on dosha theory is to discuss how my body reacts to different yoga styles. In particular I wanted to highlight my experience with hot yoga which came in two different phases of my life. When I moved back to Virginia from Austin, Tx I did Bikram Yoga for one whole month, everyday. When I went to my teacher training in Austin, Tx I did hot yoga every day for one week. I found the same thing happened both times and I think it is worth sharing. I started out strong, enjoying the heat but after every class it was a fight to get enough to drink and eat to compensate for the amount of energy that I burn. I run hot, I sweat a lot. That, too is very pitta, apparently so retrospectively it all makes sense. My metabolism is always on afterburners so when I put myself into a hot environment I burn out fast and entirely. After several days of hot yoga, I was unable to maintain my usual intensity in work and other physical endeavors. In that moment it was not a good thing but it can be good. I am intense in all activities and find it hard to take days off from work and mentally strenuous activities so Bikram/hot yoga is the perfect yoga for the morning or evening before a day-off wherein I want to do nothing but watch Netflix, listen to audiobooks, cuddle with the dogs, and eat food. For someone else hot yoga might be the perfect daily practice and instead of sapping them of energy it might energize him or her. That person is not me. 

When I do yin yoga, I get super contemplative and very in-tune with the micro-changes that happen in my body. I have the opportunity to notice mental patterns that are tied into physical barriers. I also feel like I make super huge gains in flexibility from staying longer in the poses. The only problem is I miss the movement and the strength of vinyasa after a day of yin. In the same way that Bikram can be used to great effect, so too, can yin. It keeps me wanting more yoga. Is yin the perfect style for someone else to use primarily? Yes, surely. For me, yin is a supplement.

At the end of the day you are more than a personality assessment and your needs will vary throughout your life. Listen to your body and honor what it is telling you. Seek out different styles of yoga - we have all of the aforementioned and more right here in Lynchburg, Va. The more you know about the variety of yoga and your own body the more educated decisions you can make. Have fun, practice daily.


140805 Rest Day Theory and Yogi Time Lapse

Today's grain of wisdom to roll around is the notion of a recovery day. One might think - "A recovery day from yoga?! I thought yoga was active recovery." One might not be considering all of the variables.  When a person dedicates his or herself to a "daily" practice that means daily for a LIFETIME. That is a HUGE mental burden in and of itself - physical practice aside. In order for the spirit to feel fresh and ready to receive the benefits of a daily yoga practice (or any discipline for that matter) a rest day is essential. Does that mean you lay on the couch and undo the work you have done. Not necessarily - but the occasional "treat yoself day" is sometimes just what you need - that's a completely different subject though. 

A rest day means something different to everyone but I do encourage you to examine you practice, whatever it may be, and scale back your efforts to 25% or less of what you might normally take on.  For example, yesterday I did a 15 minute meditation.  I'll spare you the time lapse its really boring.  Before bed I was feeling tight in my low back and hips so I did pigeon, cow-face pose, and seated spinal twist - maybe 10 additional minutes of yoga on top of my meditation. Just enough to keep me limber but enough extra time for a nap.  I was really tired and I need more rest than even yoga could afford me. Today's power practice just reinforced what a good idea that was. I nailed poses that are normally just beyond my ability because I'm "too tired" or my shoulders are on so forth. Today there were no excuses - just powerful, fun, refreshing vinyasa.  It felt so good.

Just as yin yoga is a mental challenge, creating a healthy lifelong relationship with you practice can also be deceptively difficult.  Give yourself a break, enjoy one day off a week and see your practice and your gratitude for your practice take on a whole new depth.