Everything, Musings, The Blog

Lost in a Book

“Lost in a book.”

There is something so enchanting about this phrase, so whimsical. Lost in a book. As a lifetime romancer of YA fantasy, I picture myself caught up in a mythical adventure, a flurry of horses and dragons and magicians. Forests, mountains, cold, untouched streams.

But what if you were lost in a different book? Lost, or rather, trapped, in a story of disappointment, inadequacy, feelings of shame. Given the choice, this is not the tale in which I would lose myself.

…Except I have.  And I wonder if I am not the only one. We all (I think) have shit from our childhood. Perhaps things we were born imprinted with from the stories of our ancestors, or perhaps tales that we believed about ourselves when we were young and innocent. Maybe we had inarguably wretched childhoods — experiences of obvious neglect, abuse, disappointment. Perhaps, like me, we were loved — hard — and had opportunities and joyful moments. Regardless, if we look closely enough…there is shit. Someone, somewhere didn’t love us hard enough. Somewhere, somehow we learned that praise = love and that to be loved we  must perform (and succeed). That to fail is to be dismissed, discarded. We learned fear. Shame.

As capable, independent adults, you might think that we would discard these old scripts. We have proven ourselves strong, resilient. …And perhaps that is your story — as in, perhaps you have changed your story.

I have not. I am “lost in the book” that was written as a child. Trapped, eternally reading (or writing) the same pages over and over and over again: Inadequate. Not belonging.  Unloved. Bad. Shameful. I am the same child who somehow, amidst all of the love and support believed herself to be unworthy. Today, decades later I recreate that story day after day through behaviours that leave me self-disgusted, sad – defeated.

How then to find ourselves? To escape the pages of this cheap horror novel? In studying recently for my upcoming yoga teacher training I have been reading through the Yoga Sutras — and they speak a lot about non-attachment. Non-attachment: choosing not to suffer. So simple in sound — but is it truly? How simple is to to stop a pattern we have ingrained over years, that is a part of our every day? In order to not suffer, logically, we must break the chain and resist the behaviours that perpetuate our pain. What are they? Do we binge on food? Do we present an aggressive attitude toward those around us, constantly standing in the way of the childhood “us” who so badly craved acceptance and belonging?

Stop the behaviour. Stop the suffering. Escape the story.

…But of course  it isn’t so simple. If it were we might have stopped long ago. We have tried to stop, to harness willpower to combat our destructive habits.

And so today (it is February 21st) I am suggesting something new. New to me. I am suggesting it and I am committing to it, for myself. What if today, we went back to the beginning? What if today, we remembered the child us — Haven at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…12. Haven at 0 who was born a clean slate. Haven who was new and whole. Was she “bad?” …How do I feel about her?

I am talking about our “inner child.” Yes, yes, we’ve all heard it — it’s almost a “buzz phrase” in the increasing popular theme of self-love. Our inner child, that youthful version of ourselves who bought into a story that is not true. The kid who somehow got stuck in a poorly written book.

It turns out that I love that girl. She was curious. She was fiercely independent and she insisted on dressing herself. She loved bright clothes and her brother’s oversized hand-me-downs. She hated socks that fell down and scrupulously rolled hers down into funny little inner-tubes around her ankles. It is that same girl who today only wears ankle socks.

That girl could swing for hours on the little plastic swings in our big maple tree, imagining she was on a flying horse, escaping from an evil raven — a character from a storybook we read once from the library. This girl hated change and threw anxious fits when her Mom and sister would move the furniture around in the living room. My heart goes out to that girl.

That girl was enough. That girl was young, loving, afraid, bold, shy, smart, clever, silly, loud, quiet. That girl was enough and she deserves to star in a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. She deserves to write the rest of her own story.

I am going to find that girl. Beyond that…I do not know exactly what it is I will need to do. But that girl is lost. Lost in a book. And she deserves to be found.

 

 

February 21st, 2018.

 

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Everything, Musings, The Blog

Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Yeah…no.

Today I overheard a child rattle this off in the grocery store and it struck a chord. I am curious — is it just an empty little limerick we parrot mindlessly? Or do we believe it? Or, maybe, do we say it as a mantra, willing it to be true?

In my experience, words hurt. I have been fortunate to have never broken any bones, although I have experienced a serious sprain, stress fractures, and other physical injuries. These experiences were challenging in how they impacted the way I conduct my daily life — for example, I developed the stress fractures when I was running 7 days a week…and obviously, they forced me to stop running for a time, to heal. Mentally giving up that daily habit (and admittedly, addiction) was hard — a lot harder than the actual pain.

But I rarely dwell or even think about that time. It was a short, acute “blip” in  my life. The injury healed, the pain receded and I was able to continue running. Although it was only 2 years ago last month, when I started writing this post just now, I had completely forgotten about it. I wrote “I have been fortunate to have never broken any bones” and fully intended to add a period, and move on with my point. Well, my point is this — these injuries do cause physical pain..for a defined period of time (I won’t be getting into chronic injuries and pain today because that is a whole different can of worms, with chronic effects on our psyche and mental state). They happen, and then they pass and we can move on.

I have never forgotten the time that I was 19, getting ready to attend a wedding. I was wearing a dress I loved, and feeling beautiful — and made an off-hand comment about how maybe one day I’d wear my Nana’s wedding dress for my wedding, as my Mom had. The person to whom I’d spoken replied that it was likely too small for me.

I was blindsided. I didn’t see myself as large — and I’d never felt large in comparison to my Mom’s body type (albeit, a couple inches taller…actually, woah. Maybe that is what was meant. My Nana is even shorter than my Mom. Maybe I have completely misunderstood all these years. But regardless–). Those words hurt. I have not forgotten them. I internalized them. I felt large and awkward, and imperfect. I felt…like I was doing something wrong, to be bigger than supposedly my Nana had been, to be clearly so off-the mark from what was “ideal.” I felt like was wrong.

“Words leave scars.”

Let me just say that I don’t blame anyone for this casual comment — we are all a product of our generation and of society, and we say things unthinkingly. I think too that we also believe some things unthinkingly (such as the notion that a 24-inch waist is “how a woman should be).” I once sat at a table with someone very dear to me — it was an antique with edges that came down very, very low such that I could not comfortably cross my legs under it. This person matter-of-factly told me that it was because of my big thighs, which were so much larger than his (he could cross). Just as with that wedding exchange, there was (and I know this for certain in my heart) no intent to harm. However, even those who love us, and with no malicious agenda, have the power to cause pain with a simple statement. I filed that moment away as a part of my identity, added it to my slowly growing fodder of self-dislike, and never forgot it.

I take issue with the “Sticks and stones” rhyme, not only because it is inherently untrue but because there is a connotation that words should not hurt us. That if they do, we are “too sensitive” (something I have been hearing my entire life), too weak. If words hurt us, we are doing something wrong and are to blame. In all honesty, since my first real exposure to sarcastic (and often vicious) humour in the 7th grade, developing an immunity to the power of words has been a necessary mechanism of survival — something I have managed, generally, to create the appearance of. Inside however, words have always pierced me. In society, it is a failing to react to something that is said to us…and so, if we are shamed by a comment, we then experience further shame for not being “strong” enough to be unaffected. I know firsthand the destructive effects that this cycle can have over the years.

I think it is time to put that tired, old adage to bed — and with that, to reclaim our sensitivity. “Sensitive” is not a dirty word. To feel emotions of any kind is not weakness. In fact, it is my believe that to allow ourselves to experience hurt and sadness is an act of courage. These sensations are not easy and the safer course often appears to be the one in which we build walls to shut them out, or to run away. It takes guts and practice to let discomfort in, to accept that as humans we are meant to feel. As humans, we are highly affected by the information and the world around us.

Hi. My name is Haven and I am vulnerable. I am sensitive.
My name is Haven, and I am human. 

I’d like to propose that we all perform a mini self-experiment. First ask — what words have stuck with you throughout your life? Perhaps it was a comment about your body/appearance, as with my two examples. Perhaps, when you were about to get on a stage to claim an award for the highest overall average in your grade for the second year in a row, your Physics teacher told you that you were clearly in the wrong spot…and you felt shame, and embarrassment. Perhaps, although you joke about it now, you have never quite let go of how it made you feel, and every time since that you did not perform to your highest academic standards (hello 1st year University)!, those words taunted you: “he was right about you.”

Recognize these experiences. Start to unravel the impact that they have had in your life. Understand that we are all right there with you. Accept: words leave scars. 

My second experiment is to be more thoughtful with our language. Very few of the life-altering and hurtful comments I have held onto in my life were anything more than an offhand remark. “You have little gremlin hands” (yes I spent years ashamed of my hands. Hands)! “He’s so cool…Wait, you’re his sister? You don’t seem anything like him…” (My brother was kind of a big deal in high school. At the time, 6 years younger, I was apparently not). Practice pausing, even just a moment longer than usual, to make sure that you do want to say what you are about to say. We have all felt the effects of words — so let us begin to be mindful in not perpetuating their damage in others. Let’s practice making the choice not to set the foundation for our peers and loved ones to construct destructive stories about themselves.

Sticks and stones can break my bones…but words? Words have done so, so much worse than that.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rootz Nutrition Review

While my approach to food and to nourishing my body leaves little room for synthetic shakes and supplements, since starting crossfit I have found a real need for an easily digestible and not overly filling form of protein. After a major illness and dangerous weight loss in 2015, I had managed to recover some weight over the past year — but had yet to reach optimal health. After adding crossfit into the mix, eating an excess of calories in order to put on weight quickly took on a whoooole new meaning. If you think you eat a lot of food? THINK AGAIN. Picture: stuffed. Ill. Bloated…and with a crazy-ass grocery bill.

And that’s when I came across Rootz Nutrition. Not only is the ingredients list clean, short and simple, but the company is small and transparent — I love supporting smaller companies who are just trying to make a living out of a passion to help others. What is more,  Rootz places a super cool emphasis on micronutrients. Sure, focussing on macronutrients around a work-out (particularly carbs and protein in that post-workout window) is important, but oftentimes when we replace real, whole food with a supplement we miss out on key vitamins and minerals. Enter Rootz. In addition to egg white and hemp protein (yes it is vegetarian friendly, as well as paleo) their Paleo Protein Blend includes highly nutrient-dense sea veggies (spirulina)!, dark leafy greens, broccoli, bee pollen, maca and the classically antioxidant-rich blueberries. Weird as it all might sound, the overall flavour is marketed as “Chocolate Banana Nut” and hoooo boy…does it taste delicious.

Anyway, I have teamed up with Rootz to offer you a 10% discount on any of their current products! If you’re interested, take a peek via the following link (rootznutrition.com) and use the code havenamy at checkout.

If you don’t have any need for a protein powder however, no worries! While adding in that protein shake (pro-tip — it tastes amazing mixed with coconut water and you’ll get some mineral-rich simple sugars to replenish muscle glycogen) has done wonders for my recovery and my ability to put on muscle in the past couple of months, we all have different goals, needs and bodies. In all honesty, while I adore this company and their protein blend, and intend to continue to use it in the future, I’ve currently had to take a break to explore other clean protein options after testing positive for a severe egg white intolerance test. C’est la vie! For those of you who have the same misfortune, hopefully I’ll have some great recommendations of you soon.

Rootz Nutrition

 

Everything, The Blog, Yoga

How I Started My Yoga Practice (And Why You Should Too)

…Yoga taught me to be tender toward myself and to connect with, and cherish my body. Ashtanga taught me the rewards of persistence and consistency and to believe that with these tools, anything is possible.”

At the start of 2016 I was perusing Instagram (where I had previously only followed close friends and vice versa) and I stumbled across a series of yogis performing seemingly effortless handstands, the splits and better yet — handstands and the splits, all rolled into one. That, my brain said. I want that.

That very day I began to practice yoga — just in my bedroom, alone, a few minutes a night. Basic stretches, short flows streamed from the Yoga by Candace website or the Yoga with Adriene Youtube channel. I quickly learned that yoga was not the boring, lazy “fad” I had perceived it to be during my time at University…yoga was hard. I had not the strength to lift and jump back into chaturanga nor the balance to perform a simple headstand…and let’s not even talk about handstands! I also did not have the patience or the courage to lie still in savasana, with nothing but my breath to shield me from my roaming thoughts.

…I persevered. I followed a “yoga for strength” video series by Candace, every day for a month and I saw my crow pose (bakasana) evolve and strengthen. The changes and the improvements felt huge…and before I even realized it, I was hooked.

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After that first month I decided it was time to start attending classes in order to receive the benefits of real live teachers. Usually notorious for indecision (born of a fear of making “the wrong choice”) I promptly bought a membership to a local hot and room-temperature “fusion-style” studio that offered vinyasa, power, yin, hatha, restorative and even a led hot Ashtanga class. I also participated in my first Instagram #yogachallenge…

In a nutshell, that is how my love affair with yoga first began. And oh, but how it has evolved.

At my studio I gained an appreciation for slow. Soft. A respect for the patience and the strength that is required for Yin yoga, for remaining in a posture for one, two, for five minutes. For allowing the emotions and sensations that arise to rise, for seeing them without making a story of them and then simply letting them pass. I learned about the meaning of “yoga,” the yoke between our mind and our physical body. How to nourish one, we must nourish the other. And for the first time, I gave consideration to the idea that perhaps my body was not my enemy to be conquered…but a friend, seeking love.

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In practicing yoga I also began to work through my pervasive fear of failure and my drive to be “the best.” Each class would be filled with yogi’s of all levels, abilities, ages. Everyone modified based on their own needs. On occasion, I began to practice stepping back into chaturanga, challenging myself to sit with the uncomfortable feeling of “doing less”, even as the person next to me jumped back. “I can do that too!” I’d want to yell. But I forced myself to step back. My purpose was to challenge myself — to practice doing less than my best, to practice coping with being “less skilled” in my mind than the others around me. To learn to compare less. To learn to give myself grace.

…Meanwhile of course, on Instagram: #yogaeverydamnday. Although seeing these advanced, lithe yogis contort themselves into complicated postures may have initally skewed my perception of what it means to “be a yogi” (tip — you don’t have to be able to perform any particular posture), these accounts motivated me and expanded my repertoire of what was possible. At the studio, every class had to be catered to accommodate the fresh-to-yoga yogi, which eliminated a large variety of postures that required practice and persistence to perform. By following these challenges, in which I would post a photo of “that day’s” posture (or my best attempt at it) my knowledge of the asanas grew exponentially and I was encouraged to practice more, and different and more difficult poses…and by maintaining my “at-home practice” I was able to dedicate the necessary time to improving a given posture or to reaching a certain goal. And so my muscles grew and strengthened, my balance stabilized and I felt my enticing front splits come slowly, slowly within reach.

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At this point (although I’ve rambled long enough, I’m sure) I’d like to introduce you to my dearest love: Ashtanga yoga. As I said, there was one teacher (my beloved, feisty, Star Wars-loving friend, Frederique) who was an Ashtangi and who taught a couple of led Primary or half-Primary Ashtanga classes a week. Something about the primary series, the postures (Aside: Ashtanga is a set series of postures that grows as you advance as a practitioner — it is also typically taught Mysore style (more on that here)) felt so incredibly right to me, that I soon never missed an Ashtanga class. I loved the memorization of the postures that came, how I could lose myself in my Teacher’s count and in my breath (5 inhales, 5 exhales) and quite nearly shut-off my ever-whirring brain. I loved the natural transition from the standing postures into the seated sequence, how a series of hip-openers gave way to cleansing twists, then to backbends and inversions. I loved the energy that built in the room as we sang the opening and closing chants. I loved (and still love) the repetition of the same postures every practice, how I was forced to remain humble as my body taught me how different it would choose to be and feel every day — for example, some days a previously “simple” pose would feel impossible. Yet even with the fickleness of the human body, I loved how clearly progress could be marked. When you practice the same postures day in and day out the changes that come are unmistakable.

…I’ve since transitioned to the traditional Mysore style of teaching, travelled to Ubud, Bali, the sometimes proclaimed “yoga capital of the world,” and moved cities where I now practice 6 mornings a week at an Ashtanga yoga shala. I have worked hard, backed off during injury, and achieved things I never thought possible. I can grab my heels unassisted in kapotasa. I can drop back into wheel pose from standing, and stand back up in a single breath. I can do the splits (front…don’t get me started on transverse)! Yoga taught me to be tender toward myself and to connect with, and cherish my body. Ashtanga taught me the rewards of persistence and consistency and to believe that with these tools, anything is possible.

I cannot sell yoga hard enough. Yoga is for everyone, whether it is yin or restorative, vinyasa, Bikram or Ashtanga. Hot power yoga to a Beyoncé soundtrack. Classical Iyengar (although I must here admit that I have never experienced this style, or Kundalini). Find a studio with teachers and a philosophy that vibe with you. Find a teacher that vibes with you. Unroll your mat at home with Candace or Adriene for free and just…get started. Roll out that spine and flex your wrists. Focus on breathing, on how it feels to fill your lungs and then slowly release the balloon of air. Maybe you are a hard-charging high-intensity athlete — well don’t kid yourself that yoga cannot be intense. I have seen professional athletes absolutely kicked after an Ashtanga practice. But more importantly, open your mind to the meditation in movement, in breath that is yoga. Give yourself that chance to tune into your body and your mind, to move in ways that feel good. Whatever it is you need or are missing–I believe that you can find it in a yoga practice. Just find the practice that is right for you.

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Namaste!