Vulnerability and yoga…what they give


It never fails that when my to-do list is a mile long, that my body decides it wants to take a break from the action. So instead of prepping for the Man Unit’s 45th birthday tomorrow and the college boy’s arrival from school in a few days (he is bringing his girlfriend home to meet me…Zoinks!) I am nursing a rather uncomfortable head cold. Of course sickness is useful as I have learned because it serves often as a period of involuntary mindfulness though at the moment this period is feeling more like a strong case of acid reflux.

Maybe it’s a coincidence; then again maybe it’s not. This week has been laden with vulnerability minefields just as I started getting into reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. For those not familiar with Brene Brown, she is a researcher who works with oh so unsexy topics such as shame and vulnerability. A local pal turned me onto her work last year and I have been hooked ever since.

Though let me just say that reading about an issue and experiencing it and working through it are two totally different issues. All week, I have been grappling with the unpleasant reality that after overseeing four glorious years of growth at the agency that I head up, the tide has shifted. Hard times abound for small agencies in this region and no matter how dynamic I am, and marvelous my ideas, I and by extension my agency have hit the wall. Right now I am grappling with some very real and hard choices that may include a thousand less meals for kids already living with scarcity this summer. For shits and giggles, add in the fact that jobs may be on the chopping block. (My staff/board already knows this, so no, I am not sharing organizational secrets) Ultimately I will do the best that I can but it is hard when you know people are depending on you to ensure that they can continue doing things such as making their rent and car payments and you don’t have the answers.

Despite the baby steps of growth I have taken in recent years to accept what I can and can’t do, I struggle mightily when I fall short in my own eyes especially at the professional level and ultimately I know where it comes from. Yet in these moments being open and honest about reality is often what pulls me out of my self-inflicted inadequacy hole.

Last night though as I thought I was on the road to making peace about the professional situations I am facing, my vulnerability monster decided to come back out to play. I learned that a longtime supporter of my work decided to end our relationship. The details aren’t important but when someone who has taken the time over the years to help move you on the path toward fulfilling a lifetime dream ends the connection, it hurts. I was initially embarrassed to admit even to the Man Unit that I was hurt by this person’s actions but when I took the baby step of telling him, he immediately understood and didn’t belittle my feelings.

In a world where we seem less willing to admit our true feelings, I admit writing this feels strange yet I know holding onto it definitely isn’t good for me. Though in this moment, I am reminded of how I often tell my seven year old that she is entitled to her feelings, and it’s okay to be hurt and saddened.

Vulnerability doesn’t feel good, in many ways it reminds me of yoga class. I don’t love getting up and going to class in fact if left to my own devices, I would never go. What I do love is what yoga gives me. As hard as my mind fights being present, by the end of a class I am whole again. I am present and at peace with myself as I am and the world as it is. Vulnerability is much the same way, it hurts at first but when we give it a chance, it gives us so much back in return.

I have been practicing yoga now for over three years ago. I started off with yoga nidra as a way to relax and wean myself off the brown paper bag and Bach’s Rescue Remedy that I carried around to combat the ever present anxiety attacks. As I have shared before, coming from an Evangelical Christian background, I was pretty skeptical about yoga but learned quickly that maybe there was something to it. It actually took me some time to work into asanas (physical poses) since at that time I was dealing with a hernia and later hernia surgery recovery.

In the past year, I have gotten pretty serious about my personal practice. I prefer being in the studio but practice almost daily regardless of if I make it to the studio or not. Yoga is my drug of choice these days, it keeps me flexible and it probably keeps me sane. Yet yoga and the practice of learning to relax both my mind and spirit has taught me one thing…I don’t have to do a damn thing. I just have to be present in this moment. Let me repeat that, I don’t have to do a damn thing but just be and the truth is neither do you.

In the US which is where I live, we are fucking addicted to busy, consumed with what we must do, how we must be, frankly it is insanity! Day after day, I talk with people offline, online, wherever and we are all so stressed and consumed with our kids, partners, jobs, and whatever else to the point that if we were to be frank with ourselves, are we even enjoying this ride we call life? Sure, some of us get off on and even thrive on all this busy, but I suspect that many of us are doing it because we think we have to do it.

It’s taken the combination of yoga and the gift of getting older to realize more times than not that many times the pressures we face are pressures we put on ourselves. I thought about that this morning as I emptied my mind and let go of some residual tension that I had been hanging onto. I thought about it again this evening when I came home from work, grumpy and tired and pissed off about making dinner. No one said I had to make dinner; there is no law whatsoever that says BGIM must cook. Hell the man unit is a proficient cook and in that minute of intense frustration I decided I didn’t want to cook tonight, instead my partner made dinner. If he had been unavailable we would have figured it out. Worse case we would have eaten apples and Raisin Bran and it would have been fine.

Lately I find myself letting go of expectations in all areas of my life and telling others when I simply can’t and won’t do things and it’s liberating. I still have moments when I buy into other people’s scripts about what a wife, mother, worker, etc. is supposed to be and generally those are the moments I stop just being me and they pretty much all end in disaster. In many ways my new found willingness to just be has been liberating to those closest to me, I no longer get down on the floor and play with stuffies, Barbie or Lalaloopsy unless I want to. My daughter is now doing a lot more self-directed play which is a gift to all of us. My partner is feeling better that he can do more around the house, even my assistant is more confident and eager to take on more at work as I trust that if he shows up instead of me at a meeting, that it will all be fine.

I admit I wish I could scream it from the rooftops, but none of us have to do a damn thing but live and die. Those are the only things we are contractually obligated to on this journey called life. This journey is too short to waste on anything less than our personal best in whatever form that takes. So sit back and just be.

BGIM talks naughty and woo woo

I have made no secret of the fact that for me discovering yoga has literally changed my life. I spent more years than I care to remember, seeking the magic bullet that would literally make me a less anxious person. I am tightly wound, I have strong type A tendencies and that combination makes for a person who finds relaxation to be illusive. Yet I realized if I was willing to try therapy, take pills and homeopathic remedies and when all else fails…carry a brown paper bag and breathe into, than maybe yoga was worth a try.

That said in recent months as I have branched out in my yoga practice (I practice Ashtanga) and experimented with different classes focusing on certain areas of the body, I have learned that yoga has more benefits than just loosening my muscles and keeping me mellow. Seems a consistent practice can increase your libido…yep, a steady diet of yoga will keep you wanting to get it on like the Energizer Bunny and frankly just make you feel sexy, sexy, sexy.

A few months ago, I started playing with a class designed just to work the hip region, it relaxed me but a few weeks in, I realized it was really relaxing me. Turns out for those inclined to believe the woo, we have a second chakra that is physically located in the lower abdomen about an inch below the navel and its associated with the hips, sacrum, lower back, genitals, womb, bladder, and kidneys, this chakra is involved with sensuality, sexuality, emotions, intimacy, and desire. So guess what happens when you decide to loosen your hips, aside from just not feeling tense? Yep, all kinds of energy starts flowing, if you know me, you know I am not an overly woo woo type but trust me when I say a yoga class specifically opening your hips will make your sex life sparkle!

It’s Wednesday and hump day, so I just had to share that tidbit. So if the idea of all that om’ing and breathing doesn’t set right with you and downward dog sounds like torture, I bet for most of y’all the idea of exploring your inner sexy sounds good? Get thee to a yoga class.

Since I am already talking grown folks talk, can I just add my two cents on something that annoys the shit out of me? Grown folks, can you please stop using cutesy words when discussing your genitals. Seriously. Yesterday some washed up R & B singer Brian McKnight released what he called an adult mix tape; it was a disaster, considering he uses language like “magic lunchbox”. What the fuck is a magic lunch box? Now I can ignore him, he’s just a plain hot mess, but the truth is many of us are plain squeamish when it comes to naming our parts. Back when Oprah was on the air with her own show before she thought she was the 2nd coming of Christ and started her own aptly named OWN network and learned she is just a mere mortal. She had women Black, White and in between calling their vaginas, vajayjay’s…what the hell is a vajayjay? Sounds like some shit I don’t want any parts of, got a vajayjay and you might need a dose of antibiotics. No thanks, I will pass on that. Or as an open relationship “expert” is known to call it, a puss-puss. I am not a cat, again, no thanks. Puss puss sounds too damn close to pus and I damn sure don’t have any pus.

No, I have a vulva, clitoris and vagina along with other parts; seriously, they are just words but words that matter. Own what you have and have no shame in naming it.

Tales of a Brown Yogi

It’s been a little over three years since I discovered yoga and despite my initial resistance, I can’t say enough how much yoga has changed my life. Coming from an Evangelical Christian background, I admit I had always given yoga the side eye. I mean seriously, all that oming and what the hell were they really saying in Sanskrit? That said a desire to manage my anxiety in a way that truly felt good and worked gave me the desire to at least try it. My first classes were the non-physical ones, yoga nidra which eventually lead me to trying the physical classes. I can honestly say now that for the first year, I probably only put about 50% of myself into the classes, as I can admit now I was still scared…not even sure what I was scared of but I was scared. Yet over time even only giving half of myself to the process, I started to see noticeable changes in how I handled life, so much so that eventually I decided maybe there really was something to this yoga stuff.

I admit being a Black woman who takes yoga in a pretty homogenous place can be interesting at times. For the longest time I had this sense that people were probably wondering why are you here? Hell, even I wondered but continued to chug on and for that I am grateful. Of course as I surrendered myself to more than just the physical poses but to the mental piece, I realized no one really cared what color I was and if they did, just screw em!

However I admit there are times when I do think clearly yoga was not designed for those of us who tend to not be rail thin and lithe. Can I just admit that certain poses are ummm interesting for those of us who are blessed in the ass and hip departments. Don’t even get me started on so-called yoga clothing; I have yet to find a yoga outfit that won’t ride up when I am bent over. I keep joking someone needs to come up with yoga gear for well-endowed ladies, in the meantime layering with a long tank top and a t-shirt seems to keep me from giving a peep show in class.

Last week I had a breakthrough when I decided to take an evening class at the studio I go to, morning classes tend to have more casual practitioners, but as I joked with my teacher the evening classes have the vibe of “I am a serious yogi”. For a moment I was intimidated as I was the heftiest gal in the class and suddenly self-conscious, never mind that for the past year my teacher has been telling me I was capable of taking the advanced classes, it was still a mental block.

The thing with yoga which I love is that while yes, the focus for many is just on the poses and how good the physical piece feels, when you give yourself over to your breath, it takes on a dimension that is so much higher. Ultimately it’s that piece which keeps me coming back, so no matter how awkward I may initially feel, I know that’s my mind trying to take me to a place I have no business going and instead focus on my breath.

Yeah, yoga is sort of trendy and hip, but at the same time, it can be whatever you want it to be, and since I am not a hip or trendy gal, I take the gifts that have been passed down and use them to make my time on this rock a little less anxious.


I will not worry

A few weeks ago, I took my first yoga class. For years I have been fascinated by the idea of yoga, yet old habits die hard and as a recovering Evangelical Christian, I have been a bit fearful of yoga….looking back my fears were based on ignorance. Fear that my mind would be taken over by impure read um Christian ideology. Truth is my faith is strong and those were silly childish fears but I digress.

No, as someone who gets stressed to the point of anxiety attacks, I realized that with everything going on in my life, that I need an outlet for dealing with stress in a positive manner. A manner that does not result in a need for trips to the ER and a dose of Ativan to calm me down.

So I took that first class, I walked in skeptical but left feeling refreshed. The class I am taking is Ashtanga yoga which is a tad physical but still forces me to focus and not worry. However after the first few classes, I was still too wound up and decided to sign up for a Yoga Nidra class, which has no focus on the physical and is focused strictly on the mental practice of yoga.

Um….why haven’t I done this sooner? Seriously, it was an hour that was so needed. The class is a guided meditation and while it sounds hokey as hell, as of right now it works. As the hour progressed, I focused on my goal which is to not worry. I worry way too much, I wake up at 3 am to worry, go to sleep worrying. Truth is when I am engaged in intimate time with the Spousal Unit, I have a hard time turning my brain off. As you can see, I think way too much. Despite being strong in my faith, my human inclination is not to let go and let God but to pray and worry which really is a bad idea.

During my session as the layers were peeled off mentally, I entered a state where I found myself repeating that I would not worry but my mind started reminding me of my favorite bible passages that speak to not worrying. It was a truly cathartic and relaxing experience. In the midst of what some of my fellow Evangelicals would call an un-Godly experience, I felt God’s presence deeper than I have in a very long time.

Sometimes we all need to let go of the mental baggage we carry and open ourselves up to new experiences, as we might surprise ourselves with the new insight that we glean. As for me, this has been a peaceful week. I still have money woes and other trials going on in my life, but instead of worrying, I instead am choosing to trust that things will work out, that God is in charge and knows what I need.

So if you are a worry wart, I highly recommend taking yoga and specifically yoga nidra if its available to you.