Practice Yoga, Gain Confidence in Your Mind and Body, and Eat Whatever You Want

Marilyn Monroe eating a sundae

Marilyn Monroe practiced yoga…and ate dessert!

Don’t you just hate those people who never seem to gain weight and never look out of shape yet claim to eat whatever they want? Well, I’m sad to say that I am one of those people.

Before you start hating me, please know that I haven’t always been one of those people, not by a long shot. It’s taken me over 40 years and a regular yoga practice to transform me into one of those people.

To be completely honest, I have never had a weight problem, but I did have an eating problem: I couldn’t eat everything and everything I wanted to eat, and it pissed me off!

Before practicing yoga, my appetite was huge! But because I feared gaining weight (intricately related to my lack of confidence) and knew myself well enough to know that gaining weight would not make me happy, I pushed away my cravings often. I refused cakes and muffins and pies and donuts. Even though I’d look at these types of foods with eyes and mouth drooling, I rarely, if ever indulged. And when I did indulge, I’d feel guilty afterwards and force myself to run on the treadmill the next day for an extra hour or deprive myself of food even more than usual to make up for “being a pig” for a day.

Most days, I just really felt deprived when it came to food, which made me irritable, which made my body and mind toxic in many ways, which resulted in a perpetual anxiety around food.

Food was not my friend; it seemed to control me. For years, I wished and wished to have a better relationship with food one day. But that day always seemed elusive probably because a better relationship with myself was what I needed to establish first before attempting to improve any other relationships I sought with food, people or otherwise.

I started practicing yoga in October 2011 just a few months shy of my 40th birthday. My relationships with my family, myself and with food didn’t change immediately, but within 6 months of my first practice, food was becoming less and less of an issue with me. My previous and persistent unsatisfied cravings were fewer and fewer, and I actually started looking forward to meals and snacks.

Why and how did this happen?

Well, I am not a nutritionist nor am I a biologist or a neuroscientist. But based on what I am learning about the benefits of yoga as I go through yoga teacher training (YTT) this fall, yoga really has become the “magic pill” that changed the way my body and mind processes and thinks about food and my entire being.

1. If you don’t love it, it won’t work.

First, it definitely doesn’t hurt that I absolutely love the immediate results I feel physically and emotionally following a 90-minute yoga session. This “high” keeps me going back 3 to 4 times each week. Between now and Thanksgiving, I’m doing a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge, so my motivation and determination is currently elevated.

Yet, even without an official challenge to maintain my interest, just the memory of how I felt the day before or two days before pushes me to pick up my mat and water bottle and head to the studio. It’s important to note that before my car accident in 2002 that left my right knee in bad shape, I was a distance runner. I ran cross-country in college and continued running throughout my 20s. After the accident when I was 30, I tried other forms of exercise like elliptical training and swimming and other low-impact aerobic workouts. Outside of swimming, nothing captured my attention or interest. But finding pool access year-round was a challenge for me and just not convenient.

Exercise needs to be convenient and accessible. Yoga is both.

2. I see food differently.

Like any regular exercise routine provides, yoga has naturally boosted my metabolism and regulated my bowels, digestive system and urinary system. Eating has become an activity I love, because what follows my meals today is a sense of satisfaction and an actual physical release. I feel no guilt around food and sometimes even over indulge. (Like last weekend when I went to a “foodie” wedding and ate four, yes four, pieces of pie!)

I get a sense that I need to eat so the cycle of my life can continue seamlessly from day to day. I ingest one meal and the previous meal’s waste is flushed. (Sounds a little too personal? I have no other way of explaining it. Too bad I can’t attach a camera to the food I ingest and record its journey. That would be interesting but even more personal. Hehe!)

Specifically, the following poses offer the most benefit to my digestion:

>>Garurasana (eagle pose) – increase fresh blood supply to the kidneys.
Our kidneys are responsible for filtering and flushing out toxins and unnecessary waste from food and water. Our kidneys also release three important hormones into our blood stream to keep us healthy: erythropoietin, renin and calcitriol. If not working properly, waste builds up in our blood supply causing damage and disease to our bodies. The most common diseases related to compromised kidney function are high blood pressure and diabetes. (source: NIH NIDDK)

>>Dandyayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana (standing separate leg stretching pose) – increases the functioning of the large and small intestine.
“The intestine is a winding muscular tube extending from the stomach to the anus. Its main purpose is to digest food. But the intestine is not only there for digestion: it also produces various substances that carry messages to other parts of the body, and plays an important role in fighting germs and regulating the body’s water balance. For some people, the intestine reflects how they are feeling: for instance, they might get a stomach ache, diarrhoea or constipation when they are stressed or upset about something.” (source: PubMed Health)

>>Pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose) – cures and prevents flatulence (which is the source of abdominal discomfort) by massaging the ascending, descending and transverse colons (aka the large intestine).

3. I still crave food but healthier stuff.

No longer do overly processed foods like fatty meats, breads and cakes get me excited. When I get hungry, I think about a big bowl of rice or sautéed veggies and salads. I occasionally indulge in desserts (like at that wedding) but without the guilt associated with eating sweets like before. I have more trust and confidence in my body’s ability to take what it needs and flush the rest out. So when I say I can eat whatever I want, I can because the “whatever I want” list has dramatically changed. I want fruits and vegetables (and have even been contemplating going vegan thanks to a couple bloggers–Ivonne and Susan–whom I respect and are teaching me a lot about how food is processed and manufactured in this country and across the globe).

4. My entire attitude and trust in myself and others has been transformed.

My attitude toward food and life in general truly parallel and often intersect. Where I once had increased anxieties over being perceived as skilled and able, I have confidence. I attribute this to increased patience with myself and with others. My expectations are more realistic. Today, I understand, through deep reflection on my life experiences, that sometimes expectations can be completely shattered and that not all humans have human/humane interests at heart. I accept that more freely now, and I attribute my ability to maintain this philosophy and outlook to yoga. Again, not something that happened over night. I’d say building this confidence, patience and awareness took a lifetime, but the past two years of a consistent yoga practice definitely nurtured and provided the boost and momentum necessary for my confidence to grow uninterrupted.

Again, I am no medical doctor or counselor. However, as a testament to my own growth and development–mentally, physically and spiritually–in such a relatively short period of time, I invite everyone who hasn’t already tried yoga to please try it. If you don’t like it after a week of consecutive practice, come back and complain to me. However, I am confident (see, I really AM confident) that you will come back and thank me. If you have tried yoga in the past but didn’t feel like it did much for you, try it again. Sometimes it’s our attitudes that get in our way. Sometimes all we need to do is read a few positive testimonials surrounding something in order to release our negative first impressions and try something again.

It took me too long to get beyond my yoga phobia and let go of my preconceived idea of what I thought yoga was and what it wasn’t.

Yoga is what you make of it. Take what you need from it and leave the rest behind.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself!

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

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Hey, Ladies! Save on eco-friendly yoga clothes from Cozy Orange!

Get 10% discount. Enter code: COZY!Would I like to make a little money from all this blog writing I’ve been doing over the past 2 years? Yes. But I have been very hesitant to join affiliate programs with businesses that don’t exactly fit me or the message of this blog.

Last month, I joined the Cozy Orange Glam Squad. Cozy Orange is an eco-friendly Yoga clothing manufacturer. As a Glam Squad member, the company sends me a couple of items every month or so to try out and review.

(I tested two items last month, but my review is not published…yet.)

As a bonus to getting to keep the clothes, I was also invited to be an affiliate member. Cozy Orange gives me some images to post on my blog (like the one to the left and in the right navigation) and a tracking URL that I hyperlink to those images.

Anytime someone on my blog selects the hyperlink and makes a purchase using code COZY, that person saves 10% on their purchase, and the 10% is passed along to me!

(I realize 10% isn’t exactly a lot, but it could add up to my ability to pay to get rid of all the ‘other’ ads that show up on this blog uninvited.)

I thought this was fair and reasonable, considering I loved both of the items I reviewed (review to come), believe in the mantra of Cozy Orange and can pass along the savings to those who follow my blog if you so choose to take advantage of the offer.

So I wanted to be upfront with you all. Yes, I will get a little kickback when and if you make a purchase with Cozy Orange through my blog. But I see it as a win-win for us all!

Thank you and namaste!
~Paula


An Ashtanga Yoga weekend workshop {shared by Gert McQueen}

Gert is a fellow WordPress blogger I met over a year ago through my other blog. She and I discovered, over time, that we have many, many common interests and experiences. I hope you enjoy her guest post below as much as I do!


I’ve been practicing Ashtanga now for just over 10 years. At first I thought I would never do it, for ‘it’ is a very strong intense athletic type of yoga. I had never been athletic in my life but then in my middle 50s I’m doing this type of yoga. But as you know, once you make that commitment and just ‘show up’ you find just what you can do!

Here’s our group picture! The only male, Jeff Rule is the owner of the studio. I am in the center, in green. In front of me, in blue is Mary Flinn, guest instructor. Next to her is Kathy Falge. Kathy and Jeff are my Ashtanga instructors. Also present are three instructors of mine that teach Vinyasa flow and Kripala.

Here’s our group picture!
The only male, Jeff Rule, is the owner of the studio. I am in the center, in green. In front of me, in blue is Mary Flinn, guest instructor. Next to her is Kathy Falge. Kathy and Jeff are my Ashtanga instructors. Also present are three instructors of mine that teach Vinyasa flow and Kripala.

I usually practice 2 nights a week; on Monday and Thursday evenings, 90 minutes each night. The only time I miss a class is when the weather is too nasty (too hot, cold, or stormy) or I’m ill. Once retired I did a ‘mysore’ practice (personal practice) early mornings at the studio when I lived in that neighborhood. But once I moved, 15 miles away, it was next to impossible to get there in the early mornings. The idea of dealing with dark and snow and traffic no longer appeals to one who is retired! In fact the only night driving I do any more are those 2 night yoga classes! Everything else gets done before 4pm or it doesn’t get done. I should mention that I bike a 7 mile round trip trail as often as possible; this season the tally is, at the moment 800 miles. In the winter I go to a gym, 3 to 5 times a week, to bike and work upper body/core machines. I also walk and do tai-chi.

Like lots of folks I am not very self-disciplined but have found that if I ‘pay’ the fee I’ll want my monies worth; therefore I make the class. Now of course I ‘know’ I can practice at home and I try but for the most part it doesn’t happen. There are always so many other things to do, at home. Is that a cop-out? Sure, but at least I’m honest! I’ve wanted to get into a home meditation practice and even with on-line sessions I keep getting side-swiped. So I try to remember to – just keep coming back to my breath and my practice! There are times when illness or injury will stop or limit my practice. Again, just come back to it and it will stay with you and you with it.

When it was announced that the studio was inviting a certified level 2 Ashtanga teacher to do a workshop, September 27th, 28th and 29th, I signed right up! I’ve attended 3 other workshops in the past by visiting yoga instructors, who taught Ashtanga, but never a level 2 instructor. My instructor met this woman in Mysore India earlier this year.

Workshops are interesting…different instructor, energy, views – all help to get you ‘out of your comfort zone’ even if it’s only a short time. But funny things happen…you ‘work’ harder because you want to make your instructors ‘look good’ (by having great students for the visiting instructor) and you want to ‘look good’ too! And then you, the student, the one who is practicing yoga, finds that you can do ‘more’! You find that hidden strength and calm to move beyond and achieve something that was just within your reach!

I had done my normal 90 minute class on Thursday. The workshop was a total of 9 hours over 3 days (2 on Friday, 5 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday) and then my normal 90 minutes class on Monday. That’s a total of 12 hours of yoga in 5 days. Many of us wondered, out loud, if we could do that afternoon session on Saturday! We did, plus by Sunday morning, we all were loving it!

Every one has some physical limitations; we just modify and adjust. I have some breathing/heart rate/coughing issues as well as the ‘usual’ female stress incontinence. If I get too hot I start to choke, cough and I sometimes must stand ‘still’ while I get my breathing/heart rate settled. A trip to the bathroom before major hip-openers and twists is a given and then again before headstand and savasana. All small prices to pay for the benefits of the practice! And then there are some postures that may not be ideal or wise for us to do. For me its shoulder stand sequences (constriction of chest area), jumping, crow postures, hand stands and very deep forward twists (wrists, breathing and belly fat). Even with restrictions it is always good to do modifications.

In our studio we sometimes leave the windows open a crack and/or put on the ceiling fans. Generally speaking our ‘classes’ are geared to those that ‘show up’, that means there can be many levels of understanding and learning of the postures that entail more instruction versus ‘just doing’ the practice. So, the workshop format allows the participant to do the complete and traditional style of Ashtanga; something we may not get always in our regular class time.

So, it didn’t take long, probably about 5 minutes, before our visiting instructor closed the windows and turned off the fans! Oh, we all knew we were in the ‘heat’ for sure! Could it have been that heat that opened my muscles up more enabling me to do more with my body and get more strength? I’m sure it was.

In addition to a more ‘intense’ practice experience our guest instructor gave us opportunities to be part of a fire ritual and offerings, healing mantras and circle and a guided meditation that was a very profound personal experience.

~Gert
 
Check out the studio at these sites…

Yoga May Have Taught Me Patience, but I Still Have Zero Tolerance for Abuse

buddhaI began practicing yoga 2 years ago in hopes of relieving myself of the pain associated with a knee injury. Who knew I would also be helping myself heal from a far more sinister pain that went much deeper than I ever imagined.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. I am a survivor of Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse.

Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse aren’t reserved for certain types of people. Anyone at any age of any gender from any demographic can find themselves a victim of abuse and control at the hands of someone they thought loved them and cared for them.

On my other blog, I write frequently about the abuse I endured in my late 30’s by a man I can only describe as a sociopath. However, I infrequently discuss the abuse I endured at 18, which although was physically more violent and horrific, didn’t compare to the psychological torment and emotional abuse the sociopath inflicted.

When we think of Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse, it’s important to get the full picture.

Domestic Violence isn’t always about fists flying, black eyes, broken ribs or objects being thrown.

More often than not, perpetrators of Domestic Violence are so evil, conscienceless and manipulative in their torment that being physical and “leaving a mark” would simply give them away too soon and cause their “fun” to end prematurely.

They enjoy wielding control and power. It’s their life’s blood. It’s gotta last.

Perpetrators of Domestic Violence slowly and insidiously chip away at their victims/targets rendering them defenseless in body, mind and spirit.

My abuser took on one of three roles at any given moment within the toxic relationship:

1.) Victim – “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I can’t help myself from doing X,Y and Z. I did it because I have been treated so poorly my entire life. Please have pity on me.”

2.) Savior – “The life you lived before me was filled with sin and misdeeds. I can help you improve and be a better person. Just follow me and do as I say. You’ll be rewarded.”

3.) Persecutor – “You can’t leave me! You’re nothing! You’re a whore. You’re worthless. You disgust me!”

Inside this hell on earth, I wasn’t allowed to be anything other than the sociopath’s toy. I lost my identity. I WAS the relationship. By the time I escaped the sociopath, I was a shell of my former self.

Today, I am nearly 3 years out of the abusive relationship, and I am proud to say that I am able to define myself in many ways:

I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a learner, a skilled writer and most of all, I am a yogini transformed who reserves my patience for those who reciprocate patience, love and understanding.

If you or someone you know is in or has been involved in Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Abuse, there is hope to escape and even greater hope for finding yourself and overcoming the trauma and abuse inflicted upon you.

Visit No More.org today to learn how you can help spread awareness in hopes of ending the abuse.

Namaste!
Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitterand check out her other blog.