Over the past 15 months, I have dealt with such a wide variety of emotions, all due to some pretty big life changes.
While the start of 2017 was phenomenal, it quickly turned into a downward spiral around the time I no longer had a full-time job and could not find a replacement for the next 11 months. Interview after interview, no matter how well I thought it went, I never received an offer. For jobs I did take part-time, it wasn’t sustainable (too long of a drive, pay too low, etc). I allowed this to affect me, falling into a victim mindset of not being good enough, or there was something wrong with me. Along the way, a series of unfortunate hair color jobs happened, and my hair began falling out in clumps, and nothing I did could make it stop (that is for another blog post). On top of that, I felt like an outsider anywhere I went to practice yoga, and I couldn’t find a good community of people to be around.
I don’t say all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me – I say this to show you how easily one can fall into a depressed state when you allow outside circumstances to control your life, and all you want to do is sit around and cry because you feel powerless.
Basically how I felt every day in 2017
You would think – after all of the self-help seminars and books I’ve read, this would be impossible to happen. Except – I’m human. And while I a let 2017 get to me, I made a decision at the end of the year – no more.
I am writing this because 1) I am afraid of what people will think of me if they knew I was depressed (so I am making myself write this because that fear is dumb), and 2) I hope that what has helped pull me out of a dark hole can maybe help someone else dealing with some darkness in their life.
So here I am, 4 months after I made the declaration that I was no longer going to be a victim, feeling like a completely different person, crying tears of joy some days because I am just so damn happy.
So how did this happen?
Gratitude. Commitment. Friendship.
It began with a decision to change my mind. And while I had tried to change my thoughts many times last year, nothing ever stuck, and I kept ending back in a downward spiral. Insert:
Friendship + Gratitude + Commitment. I texted my 2 best friends in a group text and said, “Let’s start each day with a text to each other about what we are grateful for, and what our goal for the day is. That way, we can start each day off on the right foot and keep each other accountable.” Over time, we all started doing the Tony Robbins 15 minute gratitude priming practice, which forced us to focus on and really feel gratitude. It also had us visualize what we want in the future, which allowed us to look forward to something in the future + change our beliefs about what we think is possible. (There are days we struggle, so a small text or snap to each other saying what we are struggling about brings advice and positivity from each other). Sometimes I switch up and do 20 minutes of Transcendental meditation, but I always, always, end with gratitude and visualization.
At first, I felt really dumb. I didn’t want my boyfriend to see me doing the Tony Robbins priming exercise, because you have to pump your arms up and down and breathe really loudly. Eventually, he started to join me, and it made the meditation that much more powerful!
How I feel I look Like When Priming
It was really difficult to do at first, and I didn’t really start seeing a change in my mindset the first 3-5 times I did it. Then, I started to allow myself to feel things, like love and gratitude for people and situations. And the visualization at the end was the best part, because I could dream about anything I wanted (like a new job!) and really feel like I already had it!
On top of this, I committed to finding a job, even if it meant working as a personal trainer at a gym full time getting paid pennies. I needed something different than what I was currently doing to force me to learn and grow, and I had to set my ego aside and just. do it.
Once I stopped trying to control everything, everything started to fall into place. I met new people that led to new experiences that will forever have an impact on my life/spirituality/consciousness, I started a business with a new friend, my boyfriend and I’s business started taking off, I started taking on new clients for private yoga/personal training sessions, and I had 3 job offers. To say the least, I was dumbfounded.
Did all of these wonderful things happen just from starting a daily gratitude practice?
I say yes. I spent all of last year resisting uncertainty, trying to hold onto things that I no longer had any place for in my life. I needed to grow, but I wasn’t allowing it to happen. I tried to force my life to be and look a certain way, and when it didn’t happen, I was absolutely miserable. It wasn’t until I gave into uncertainty, agreed to say yes to things I felt uncomfortable doing, and became open to a host of experiences that I initially rejected, that life started to turn around.
Practicing gratitude has taught me that consistently focusing your attention on thoughts that serve you and bring you AND others up, there is no way that you can be down. And when I say practice gratitude – I mean really feeling it. If you have a hard time doing it, just start with one thing. There were days when I repeated the same gratitude thought(s) because I couldn’t think of anything or create that internal feeling of gratitude. Now, I have a gratitude journal that I write in every night, thanking the universe for everything I have right now.
So there it is – nothing too fancy, nothing too hard – just a small shift in mindset to commit to practicing gratitude with my friends everyday.
With everything I’ve struggled with and been through, I hope what has helped me can somehow help others. And for anyone out there who has been through this and made it out alive – what are your tips for getting to a happier place? Leave a comment below, you never know how much 5 minutes of your time could positively impact another person’s life 🙂
It’s the pose many people associate with yoga – a calm, wise-looking yogi, meditating with crossed ankles. It seems painful and impossible to get into – and while it can be if flexibility is missing in certain areas of your body – it doesn’t have to be. With consistent stretching of the correct muscles, Lotus is within reach more than you might think!
So let’s break the pose down a little bit:
What muscles need to be stretched?
Tensor Fascia Latae:
This muscle connects to your IT band and the top/front of your pelvis. It helps internally rotate the femur at the hip – when tight, it limits external rotation.
Internally rotates the femur bone in the hip socket – when tight, it limits external rotation.
Since these muscles cross the hip joint + connect to your femur bone, the flexibility of these muscles are necessary for lotus. Tightness can prevent your knees from reaching the floor and creating deeper external rotation in the hip.
The hamstrings don’t contribute to the rotation of the hip, but they do affect the tilt of the pelvis. If your hamstrings are tight, you are more likely to have a posterior tilt (pelvis tucked under), as your hamstrings attach to the bottom of your pelvis. This affects posture while in lotus (or any sitting position) – having a slight anterior tilt releases tension in the lower back and improves posture.
While stretching the above muscles will help create more space in externally rotating your hip, the hip must be doing the rotation (it is a ball and socket joint!). More rotation in the hip (versus treating your hip socket, pelvis, and surrounding muscles as 1 unit) = less tension/stress on your knee joint.
So what poses can be done to prepare for Lotus?
Low squat (Malasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles. Use a block to sit on if you are unable to sit your hips low comfortably.
Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles
*Do not put a lot of pressure on knees to get them closer to the ground. Instead, perform a PNF stretch, which will bypass your stretch reflex & help release the adductors. Push hands & knees against each other, at 20% effort for 8 seconds. Relax for one breath, then gently press your knees down a little further than before. **Only perform PNF stretching 1-2 times every few days on a single muscle group.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Stretches the outer hips/glutes. Add a twist to stretch adductors & external rotators. Place a block under your glute for modification.
Reclined Figure 4
Modification for pigeon pose – stretches the outer hips/glutes & inner thigh muscles.
Stretches hamstrings, lower back. Place a block between legs & rest head on block as a modification.
Seated Cat’s cradle stretch
Stretches tensor fascia latae & glute medius – make sure to pull knee into chest before externally rotating your leg (creates more space in your hip joint) to cradle it + also flex your foot. Gently rock leg from side to side.
Stretches the hamstrings and the muscles attached to the IT band – Tensor Fascia Latae & Glutes. Use a block under the bottom hand for an extra lift.
Hero’s Pose (Virasana)
Opens up the hip joint (internal rotation), stretches quads & hip flexors. Place a block between legs as a modification. For a more intense stretch, lean back on elbows or lay on back. **I was able to do this around 6-8 months post-knee surgery, so patience is key with this pose 🙂
Once you’ve done a few of the above stretches, you can now try to enter lotus. **If you don’t feel comfortable attempting lotus just yet, do the stretches above 2-4 times a week (or more if you are looking to increase your flexibility faster!), holding for 30-60 seconds.
Begin in a seated position, both legs straight in front of you. Hug your right (or left) knee to your chest, and allow the knee to fall out to the side, relaxing the muscles around your hip in order for the external rotation to happen. If your knee is not close to the ground, stay here, and repeat the above step with the other leg, staying in butterfly pose.
***Also, if you feel any tension in your knee, that is a signal to STOP. When the external rotation of your hip stops (a ball and socket joint), the rotation is then transferred to your knee (a hinge joint, NOT a joint that can move freely like the hip!). This puts pressure on your cartilage and meniscus, which can cause serious injury to your knee(s).
If you feel no pressure on your knees, begin to move your (flexed) foot up and across your thigh so that it rests on the inner crease of your hip. If you feel pressure at your knee at any point during the movement of your foot, do not continue with the stretch.
If you are able to get into half lotus, repeat with the other leg. Sometimes, we are more open on one side of our bodies, so switching the order of the left/right leg on top might help you get into this pose easier on the other side.
And that’s it! By understanding the muscles involved with getting into lotus pose, you now have an awareness of what to work towards. Give yourself a few weeks or 1-2 months of consistent stretching, and you’ll begin to notice an opening of your outer hips & inner thighs, making lotus a little more accessible.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
How I figured out my food intolerances
For my entire 20’s, I’ve struggled with food allergies, digestive issues, sinus issues, and brain fog. After trying different supplements, getting allergy tests at an ENT office, and trying different diets (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc), nothing was helping.
After a little more research, I stumbled upon a business that had just opened in Columbus, Ohio – Rock N Shock Fitness. Rock N Shock is an all-female community focused on getting you in the best shape of your life. The owner, Danielle Miranda, spent years developing a system that encompasses the entire body, internally and externally, to get you to your healthiest self. This is done with initial testing to find out what is really going on with your body – food & non-food intolerance tests, nutritional deficiencies, metal toxicity, V02, and RMR testing. There are other tests that can be done, like DNA testing, and oxygen therapy + infrared saunas for detoxification. After getting your results, you can choose to work with someone on your diet + begin a workout plan based on your fitness level.
**The intolerance testing (without metal toxicity) was $250, and the V02/RMR test (membership pricing included) was another $125.
To get started, I made an initial appointment with Rock N Shock to discuss my fitness/nutrition goals, and what I was looking to get out of working with them. After speaking with the owner, she gave me a tour of the facilities and explained my options based on what we talked about.
I chose the below services:
V02 testing – to measure my physical fitness level
RMR – to find my resting metabolic rate (how many calories am I burning just sitting here?)
Intolerance testing – what foods am I eating that are causing issues?
Nutritional deficiencies – what does my body need more of?
**I fully intended to begin the workout program after receiving my results, but ended up moving to Florida.
I booked a second appointment to get all of the testing done, and it took less than an hour – a few strands of hair were taken for the intolerance testing & nutritional deficiencies, and the RMR & V02 test took about 30 minutes. I also couldn’t eat 2 hours before the test, and minimal to no exercise is recommended the day before so your body is fully rested & ready for the test. (I went on a 16 mile hike the day before, so don’t be like me!)
To begin, I had to breathe into a tube hooked to a computer for 10-15 minutes for my RMR test.
You can only blow through the tube, so you have to wear a clip on your nose – see above :p
You can watch the screen while you are blowing to make sure that everything is being recorded properly – I am not sure exactly how it all works, but after blowing for 10-15 minutes, I was relieved to be done!
After the RMR test, I was hooked up to a mask, attached to a hose – think Bane from Batman. The hose was hooked up to a computer, and I had to run with the mask on. It looks a little scary, but you can breathe just fine.
The person running the test started the treadmill low, with a little incline. Over time, she did timed intervals for increasing my pace & the incline, then back down again. At any time, when you feel like you cannot go any farther, you can tell them to stop the treadmill. Depending on how in-shape you are, it can be anywhere from 4 minutes to 20 minutes before you throw in the towel. I lasted about 11-12 minutes, which was the point where I felt like my muscles had no juice left in them (I could still breathe ok!). Below was about the halfway point for me – I was up to 6 or 7 on the treadmill, and things were really starting to get tough!
Normally when you throw in the towel, it’s not because you can’t breathe – it’s because your muscles are being deprived of oxygen, and the V02 test basically measures how well your body uses oxygen. The RNS site describes what exactly the test measures:
…how effectively your body consumes and uses oxygen, your breathing patterns, recovery of heart and lungs, calorie expenditure at various heart rates, your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. We will be able to identify the exact heartbeat your body turns anaerobic and exact heart rate zones for you to train and compete at in order to stop you from “hitting the wall “and then allow you to maximise every minute of every session and race.
After the test was complete, I had to wait a bit for my hair analysis to come back. After about a month, I went back in to take a look at my final results:
It was honestly a bit of a shock to learn that I had food intolerances to things I ate almost everyday – olives/olive oil, strawberries, sweet potatoes, carrots… basically, all things I thought were healthy, but were really things my body was rejecting! On top of that, I had amino acid and Vitamin B12 deficiencies. After talking over my results, I decided to cut out the foods on the list, as well as begin supplementing with a few vitamins. So, for the past 8 months, I’ve noticed an increase in energy, less brain fog, and less reactions to food after eating (I used to get mini panic attacks after eating sweet potatoes & anything with olive oil in it!).
As for the V02 & RMR test results, they basically just confirmed that I have a high metabolism, and I workout….a lot. If I had stayed in Ohio & started a workout plan with RNS, it would have been to increase strength & speed & make my training more efficient.
Depending on your results & your end goal, everyone will be different! There are no bad results – because once you know where you are physically & nutritionally, you can only improve from there!
If you are in the Columbus, OH area, check out RNS (for women only, sorry guys!)… If not, google intolerance testing/v02 test/RMR test & your city/state… there are places all over the US that can do this type of testing for you. If you are looking to lose weight, get in better shape, get on a food plan, figure out why you are tired, improve your physical performance, or get more energy, I recommend investing in some sort of testing.
Overall, I highly recommend getting some sort of nutritional & physical fitness testing done – it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health! We can do what we think is the best for our bodies, but there might always be something that we are missing.
I hope this helps – if anyone has done anything similar, comment below on your experience & if/how it has helped!
**Please note I did not receive anything in return for this blog post – I am writing this from my own personal experience, and I paid for every service received. I am writing this post in hopes that it helps anyone else interested in finding answers for their health, or for improving their physical fitness!