Excerpts from “The Gifts of Imperfection”

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I just recently finished reading this book, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Have you read it? What was most impactful for you in your life? How can you relate letting go of perfectionism/perceptions to your own body image and health? I loved Lauren Fowler‘s linkage of the book lessons to body image and health. Here are my favorite excerpts from Brene’s book:

  • “How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves. Knowledge is important, but only if we’re being kind and gentle with ourselves as we work to discover who we are. Wholeheartedness is as much about embracing our tenderness and vulnerability as it is about developing knowledge and claiming power….It was clear from the data that we cannot give our children what we don’t have. Where we are on our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books. “
  • “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness, will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
  • “It’s hard to practice compassion when we are struggling with our authenticity or when our own worthiness is off balance.”
  • “Courage, compassion, and connection are the gifts of imperfection.”
  • “Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
  • “Incongruent living is exhausting.”
  • “When we struggle to believe in our worthiness, we hustle for it.”
  • “Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us making us feel small.  Develop shame resiliency. Shame is the fear of being unlovable. It’s the total opposite of owning our story and feeling worthy. The less we talk about shame, it festers and grows. Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can change and do better.”
  • “Authenticity is a collection of choices. We can choose authenticity.”
  • “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are.”
  •  “Perfectionism is not the same thing has striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”
  • “Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.”
  • “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal.”
  • “Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities. Hope is learned. Children most often learn hope from their parents.”
  • “When we numb the dark, we numb the light.”

I feel like I’ve struggled to put into words my passionate belief system about health and body image, but it’s clearer now.  I encourage people to love themselves, but also encourage people to push hard, endure, challenge, put one foot in front of the other, push push push, etc.  Those could seem contradictory to some people, but inside myself, I guess I’ve always believed they were analogous but couldn’t put into words why.  If you THINK you accept yourself how you are, but you continue to poison yourself or be sedentary, you’re not accepting and loving yourself; you’re intentionally destroying yourself or numbing emotions.  If you REALLY accept yourself how you are and love yourself, the desire for healthy change and living comes innately; you want to change just for you to feel strong and energetic.  So getting at the root of the issue- learning to love yourself or not- that’s what makes fitness/health happen or not happen.  We all know how to be healthy, what to eat, how to workout, how to get on a healthy routine, etc. But we don’t all do it because we put other things in the way- we purposely make other things fill our schedules b/c being busy is a way of numbing just like emotional eating or addiction- or we think we aren’t worth it and we’re never capable of it, so we don’t even try and just shame talk ourselves- or we try and fail b/c we were doing it for someone else instead of ourselves.

Empowerment is a huge theme in my life these last few years.  Once you start some fitness undertakings and experience a little success (no matter how hard it was or how slow it was), you get a boost of empowerment, you get proud of yourself, you feel strong, you feel like you could dream up anything and achieve it, you feel in charge of your life.  Once you start seeing yourself as lovable, worthy, and innately good, you get a boost of empowerment, you start to see what toxicity in your life is unacceptable, intolerable and must go, you start to see what control has been putting you down and what you’re better than, you start to see what life you deserve and you start to create the life and feel the joy your soul needs, you start to be authentic, and living authentically gives you yet another boost of empowerment.  Once you start taking honest and active control of your financial goals, educate yourself on everything there is to know about money, and experience progress (however overwhelmed you feel as you start, however slowly you go) at paying down debt or building up savings, you get another boost of empowerment, and you see you’re not a victim of anything, that you can make hard choices and enjoy huge peace, that doors are opened and you see no door ever in your future could be impassable for you.  Empowerment snowballs.  Be brave  Take control of one area of your life. And watch it spread to every area of your life. Be authentically, amazingly, uniquely YOU. Life is so gorgeous and so short- enjoy every precious moment of it.

Slow Down, Breathe, Let Be

The universe sometimes has a way of making us slow down, throwing a wrench in our rhythm, challenging our why’s. But it’s incredible that we’ll always make it through.

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few months since my car accident and slower-than-I’d-like recovery. I was hit head on by another driver who was distracted and cross the center line right into me without warning or her braking. Initially, gratitude and rest were all I felt and wanted. I was so grateful that I walked away from the impact, grateful I had been wearing my seat belt, grateful my physical strength had braced my body from worse whiplash, grateful for a team at work and team at the yoga studio that were understanding, grateful for friends who were so supportive, grateful I was alive. With the effects of the concussion and physical trauma, I just wanted to sleep- long naps every day, to bed early, letting my body do what it needed to do to heal. The skilled professional hands of the chiropractor, physical therapists, acupuncturist, and massage therapist that worked (and still work) on me  brought a gratitude for their passion for what they do with their healing touches. They have helped (and still help) my body relax, cleanse, and calm.

Stagnation crept in. I have always been an on-the-go type of girl. I like to move. Just the weekend before the accident I had taught yoga, taken a cross fit class, led an event for my fitness nonprofit, and did a 5k with friends. It felt so foreign to me to be laid up with discomfort and the inability to move around much, let alone the inability those first few weeks to think straight. Even to this day, my body craves the physical and emotional release that comes from pounding the pavement for 10 miles, covered in sweat, spent. Now a warning: this isn’t a triumphant blog post where I learned to savor the relaxation- I’m still very much working through the antsiness and mental struggle with this.

Through some hard conversations with a close friend a month ago, I was able to articulate for the first time some of the frustration and start to pick at the root of the issue. For those of us who have been very healthy, very energized, very strong in our past, we’re used to hard workouts and the pride that comes from pushing hard (within our bounds).   So if I love running, why not just go for a walk around the block? It’s a bratty, “what good will that do” mentality. Sometimes we’re not able to get in a typical workout like we used to, maybe because of injury, or because that day’s workout window of time we had anticipated got slashed to mere minutes b/c of something out of our control popping up, or maybe we’re just emotionally having a really rough go with something in life and we’re not “in the mood” to do anything, or maybe we’re having a health concern, are pregnant, or just had a baby. Why don’t we just tone it down and go for a walk around the block? Get in something, anything, for physical movement? Why can’t we be ok with a 5 minute workout instead of the longer time frame we had wanted? Why don’t we make it to a seated and chill restorative yoga class instead of the amped up challenging strength class we had wanted?

Last night I took a barre class, my first time in a fitness class in 2 months. It was hard. I was only able to do about half of the things the instructor asked us to do. But surprisingly my ego was ok with that. Old Sarah ego might have been frustrated with herself, but this new post-accident Sarah was proud to feel a little burn again, to light up abs and glutes, to sweat a little. I’m no zen goddess, but I have to celebrate the little things: I was pretty chill with myself and I was proud of what I did. Class was actually pretty awesome.

Later on last night, I taught a restorative yoga class and my message to the students was about letting things just be. When we come into a yoga stretch like a seated forward fold (I like baddha konasana w/ bottoms of feet together, knees out wide, drape body forward, let head hang loose), we initially think we’re pretty relaxed, but then if we just hang out there, slow steady breathing, consciously melting the places that throughout the day we subconsciously clench, turn of the resistance of the tiniest muscles, we sink and deepen into the pose. When you think you’re as deep as you can stretch, just turn off the struggle, soften, and that’s where even more depth comes.

A running tip in ChiRunning by Danny Dryer is to not fight your way down hills. Sometimes we try to lean back when going down a hill, and just end up putting exponential pressure downward on our poor knees and ankles. Just let it be. Fly down the hill (when it’s safely runnable). “Relax your mind and surrender to the speed…relax everything from the waist down…lean downhill….relax your low back” (page178-179). Resisting, clenching, and fighting too much means hurt. It’s kind of a universal principle for everything in life!

So what does that mean for me off my mat? I’m going to let things be instead of wasting energy or frustration on wishing they were a certain way. I’m going to be ok with walking and slow jogging, instead of long-distance running. I’m going to be ok and even excited going to fitness classes where I do perhaps half of what the instructor cues. Anything is better than nothing. The universe is teaching me humility.

Let go of the need to do it how you always used to do it, whether intensity, time, or distance. Let go of the rigidity of routine. Embrace change. Challenge the ever-elusive idea of normal. Things not going how you wanted them to go is the only possible normal. Roll with the punches. Be ok with different plans. Embrace the fact that you’re alive, that you have the physical ability to move a little. Be grateful for every minute of every day. Turn off the struggle, turn off the friction. Ease up, let things be, go with the flow, let go of frustration, and then there’s energy for the good things in life.

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Fitness Exponentiated: The Psychology of Why Yoga Makes You Feel Soooo Good!

Here are the thoughts for this week’s yoga classes 🙂

Prana Fitness

We are thrilled to welcome the first ever guest blog post for Prana Fitness!  This was written by a sweet friend of mine in the Denver yoga community, Michelle Lee Weldon.  Incredible being.  ❤

Fitness Exponentiated: The Psychology of Why Yoga Makes You Feel Soooo Good!

We as a society are no stranger to the benefits of physical exercise these days.  We even understand that physical exercise has a direct link to mood elevation.  Running, for example releases endorphins, which in turn increases our energy and elevates our mood.  I often get asked, “Why is YOGA better than other exercise?”  Rather than think of it as “better,” I like to think of it as a more complete experience in terms of Mind/Body integration.  Yoga incorporates the following key elements:

  •  Unconditional Presence: Our full sensory experience is focused on the moment at hand, not fanaticizing about something in the future or…

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