But now, I tell myself that I can do hard things, in yoga and in life. And I can give myself grace and acceptance when I fall. And I can try again. Yoga has taught me to “drop my story” and just be. Be in the moment. Be grateful for the moment. Breathe it in. Be who you are. Feel an emotion without actually becoming it and living there and letting it wreak havoc. Let it go. So much easier.
“I AM _______.”
Two of the most powerful words, for what you put after them shapes your reality.
There were always many words I’d use to fill in that blank after, “I AM.”
Admittedly, many of those words that were used were often negative and demeaning and down right mean, especially during a trial or challenge I was facing. Words I’d never say to a best friend or family member, but to myself, well, that was a different story.
I have at times in life, been terribly demanding of myself and brutal, like a drill Sargent screaming in the face of a young cadet. Just muscle through it and never give up, no matter what, no matter the cost.
Then people will love you and see your worth. Right?
Well, not so much for me. But, that was my daily self-talk.
3 Day Workshop
with Kerry Armstrong
FRIDAY, APRIL 26th – Sunday, April 28th
On the inside, I was broken and insecure most of the time. I had already been in counseling for years, read books on self-care and self-love. So, why was this self acceptance thing so hard for me?
I’d ask myself over and over, what is the matter with me? The more I looked at it, the more I realized I had NO idea whatsoever what the phrase, “I am enough” even meant. I am enough what?
Enough crazy? Yes, for sure.
Enough anxious? Definitely enough of that.
Enough emotional and controlling? Absolutely.
What am I supposed to be enough of anyway?
This was my pre-yoga life and thinking. Little did I know the massive transformation that was about to happen in my life the day I walked into the Mind Body Flow Yoga studio. Not only was I going to learn what being “enough” meant, but I was unknowingly about to embark on my life’s most beautiful journey.
So, this is my story. And writing this was difficult for me. But, sometimes in life, I’ve learned, you feel the fear and do it anyway, because when you take the leap, the net appears.
I’d like to start by introducing myself. My name is, Renee, and I am a recovering perfectionist, over-thinker, people-pleaser and “Chicken Little, the sky is falling” mentality thinker, as I catastrophized and over reacted to (almost) everything and every challenging situation in my life.
You see, my life since I was a small child, had been full of traumatic events.
Yes, there were some good, but a lot of challenging times and I had no idea the amount of emotional baggage I would carry into my adult life and relationships and the havoc it would cause if I didn’t open up and heal the massive wounds I had.
I was born in New York and lived with my parents until the age of 2, when my parents got divorced and my mom and I moved to Texas to start a new life.
Life was very hard. My mom, was a single mother (which I now as an adult myself, finally understand how hard that is). We didn’t have a lot of money, moved a lot, and sometimes didn’t even have a car. My mom did her best to provide for me. I would go to New York for the summers to visit my dad and grandparents and they did their best to shower me with love and everything a child needs.
When I was 6 or 7 years old, I was sexually molested. I never told anyone what happened and kept this a secret until I was almost 30 years old. Fearing all this time that it was all my fault and I somehow allowed it to happen, I was completely afraid and ashamed to tell anyone what happened. Because, in my skewed thinking, it was my fault and I was not worthy of love.
During my teenage years, I struggled tremendously to escape all the shame I was feeling.
So, let’s fast forward to the summer of 2017. My friend Jen, from work, had been talking about yoga and this awesome studio she went to and although I really knew nothing about yoga, I was extremely interested in it. There was something different about people who embodied yoga and I wanted to experience that.
At the time, I was in a restless place in my life, where I was desperately searching for internal peace, but didn’t really know how to find it. I was more of a gym person at the time, into extremely hard, intense workouts, because I had developed that attitude about life in general – it’s hard, because I had allowed all of my baggage from the past, to make me view life as a struggle and difficult.
I was angry and defensive. I had for so many years given so freely to others and loved so much. So why was I sad and angry?
Life felt so chaotic at times and I just needed a break.
I know now, through my sacred yoga practice, not only was I not accepting of myself, I wasn’t loving myself either because I would never allow myself any grace.
I was always carrying so much guilt.
My mind never stopped.
That is, until that special day I walked into Mind Body Flow Yoga. I won’t ever forget that day.
From the minute I met Marina and how she was so gracious and accepting, I knew I was going to love this practice. After I completed the first class, dripping with sweat and having no idea what any of the poses were, I knew this was something I needed in my life.
I walked through the doors of the studio thinking I was going to get more physical strength. I have absolutely gotten stronger physically. But, my practice is so much more than that. And learning that it’s more than physical strength, did not come overnight, like I thought it should and wanted it to. I would get frustrated easily because I couldn’t do certain poses and I would be so hard on myself and not allow any softness or consideration for the fact that I was new to all of it and my practice would develop in time.
One day, I found a quote titled, “The power of Yet.” I started saying, I can’t do that…yet. It changed my whole perspective and allows me to see that everyday I can choose to grow and learn and achieve the things I want to.
The beautiful thing about yoga is that the principles you learn on the mat can also be used in life.
Yoga has taught me softness and acceptance of myself as I am. I was a perfectionist, and there was no room for anything other than that. Yoga is a practice for a reason. Practice. Not perfect. If I’m learning something new, I give myself grace and accept where I’m at. I still sometimes react and get mad at myself, but now, before going where I normally would, I pause and I breathe and I quiet my mind before responding. There is ease and peace in that place.
As I left the studio after my first class, I asked Marina what kind of mat should I buy? I often think back to her reply. She said, “Well, Renee, if you think yoga is something you’d really like to invest in, I suggest you get a good mat.” Little did I know the importance of my mat. I picked a great mat, not because of its monetary value, but because of how important it is in my life and what it represents.
My life is different now that I have my yoga practice. Despite the fact that I had been in counseling previously, I still was having trouble quieting my mind. It was always overthinking, over analyzing. So, my first few weeks of classes were hard for me because I had trouble staying present and letting things go.
The simple act of just laying on my mat and just being without thinking, planning, worrying or trying to fix something in my head was extremely hard.
There were times I’d realize I was so busy thinking and in my head, that I had no idea what the teacher had even said.
Just like my life. Too much noise and outside influences.
My practice has taught me how to quiet all that chatter in head, stay present in the moment and pause when I need to.
My old patterns of thinking in challenging times would be to react, most of the time like Chicken Little. Reacting to something when I didn’t even know the end of the story. And I created the story in my head, how it was going to happen.
I can now liken challenges in life to holding a plank pose or chair pose. Are they hard? Absolutely! But now, I tell myself that I can do hard things, in yoga and in life. And I can give myself grace and acceptance when I fall.
And I can try again.
Yoga has taught me to “drop my story” and just be.
Be in the moment.
Be grateful for the moment.
Breathe it in.
Be who you are.
Feel an emotion without actually becoming it and living there and letting it wreak havoc.
Let it go. So much easier.
So, what exactly does being enough mean to me now? Much different than when I started this journey almost 2 years ago.
It means I don’t have to be more or do more to be who I’m meant to be.
It doesn’t mean I am a “final product,” complete and finished, all done growing and learning.
Nor does it mean I’m perfect.
It means I don’t have to be self sufficient and that sometimes I need help. I can see how small I am in this vast universe and I don’t have to be more than that.
You know when you are enough – it’s easier to admit your weaknesses. You realize those weaknesses and imperfections don’t define who you are as a person.
I can know everything I am right now, is already enough.
This has been some real soul work. And I’m so thankful for it. It feels good to just be real.
This practice has shown me that it’s ok to be authentic to who I am. That I am human and not perfect, that my flaws and imperfections are not only ok, but they make me who I am.
I have learned that when things get hard, I can pause and breathe and ground myself.
It has been a process I can embrace.
My “I AM” statements now are filled with words like,
I am strong
I am human
I am worthy
I am enough.
Thank you, Renee, for sharing your story.
What stood out the most for you in Renee’s journey? Please share it below to let Renee know you appreciated her story.
What is this Pose About?
*If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
This is a backward bending pose. The resulting shape is a deep opening through the chest, hips, and hip flexors. Watch Renee enter into this asana from Mountain Pose (Tadasana). She will exit the pose and land back in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as well.
Tips for Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you decide to try this pose, or if you have already started to experiment and play around with it.
- Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width distance apart. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
- Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down. Inhale and lift your heart by pressing the shoulder blades against your back ribs.
- Lean back against the firmness of the tail bone and shoulder blades. Keep your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis. There is an option here to drop straight back into this pose, touching the hands to the feet simultaneously while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. Most beginners will stay in the first part of the pose with the hands at the back of the pelvis. If you’re not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, you can try turning your toes under and elevate your heels.
- Turn your arms outwardly so the elbow creases face forward, without squeezing the shoulder blades together. You can keep your neck in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or drop your head back. But, be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat.
- Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. To exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up, not by jutting the chin toward the ceiling and leading with your brain. Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.
- Opens up the hips
- Stretches the hip flexors
- Stretches and strengthens the shoulders and back
- Expands the abdominal region, improving digestion and elimination.
- Improves posture
- Opens the chest, improving respiration
- Relieves lower back pain
Avoid this posture if you have:
- high or low blood pressure,
- migraine headaches,
- insomnia, or
- serious low back or neck injury.
Enlist the help of an experienced instructor with Camel Pose if this is your first time trying it.
Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience?