Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Biggest Lesson Learned in 2015

The twelve months tucked neatly inside of 2015 changed me -- on every level. 

This past year taught me how to transition from a girl into a woman and how do it in my own way, on my own terms. I learned how to create boundaries with my time and energy. I learned how to say NO more often and YES only when my heart truly meant it. I learned how to be home and be happy with what's right in front of me. I learned how to identify that exact moment when a relationship has run its course; and how to let go with love and grace and non-attachment. I learned that being stung in the foot by a stingray was the best thing that could ever happen for my health. And above all, I learned how to b r e a t h e again. 




Let me backtrack a bit to 2014, the year that taught me 14 life-changing lessons. That year, I was an adventurous little seeker and followed my heart wherever it told me to go. Or so I thought I was following my heart. Looking back, I realize that I was actually following my youth and clinging to adventure and seeking answers anywhere I could possibly find them. 2014 was the year of the seeker. On every dusty Mexican dirt road, down every European cobblestone street, in the eyes of strangers, in every airport terminal, and deep in the hidden crevices of my suitcase that I never actually unpacked, I was seeking. I was thirsty for knowledge and hungry for answers to life's biggest questions -- why are we here? what is my particular purpose on this planet? what is my contribution supposed to be? By the end of 2014, I had exhausted the search and felt like I had finally found some of the truths I was so desperately looking for. I was ready to settle down into my home, my life, and for once, into myself. If 2014 was the desperate, excited, wide-eyed inhale . . . 2015 became the exhale I so naturally needed.  

One of the first things that shifted for me at the beginning of the New Year was my relationship with TRAVEL. In the past (I can now honestly admit) that my travels generally came from a place of escaping. I found one thing I wasn't happy with at home and I booked a ticket. I became a little bored with our sleepy California beach town life and all of a sudden, I was craving the fast pace of New York City or London or Paris. Blame it on moving to a different country every 3 years growing up, but still, by the end of 2014, something inside me knew that this wasn't healthy. I didn't feel cool or adventurous or wanderlusty anymore. It felt desperate and from the wrong place. So in doing a lot of reflecting, journaling, and stumbling upon these realizations about myself, I arrived at a deeply personal conclusion. I was already committed (and excited!) to lead 3 yoga retreats in Mexico in the first 5 months of 2015, so at that point, re-shaping my relationship with my wanderlust was non-negotiable. Knowing that travel would always be a part of my life, I decided to come at it from a more grounded place. A more grateful and sincere place. Instead of trying to "hoard" experiences or check lots of things off a bucket list, I decided to remove the greed and only travel when it felt 100% genuine, authentic, and necessary to me. 

Low and behold, on my first trip of 2015, when I wasn't seeking or searching anything in particular, some of the best wisdom of my life thus far was plopped right in my lap. I swear it's always when you're not looking that it comes to you! In January, I was back in Sayulita teaching yoga and my girlfriend Jenny and I went into town to grab lunch in between classes. We were just sitting there, minding our own business when this beautiful older woman walked right up to me and asked what I was doing down there. I explained that I was there to facilitate yoga and healing retreats for groups of American women. She then looked me straight in the eyes and asked, "Are you breathing?" This single question, asked by a complete stranger, launched a thousand questions in my heart made me re-evaluate absolutely everything. 

While I had dedicated the last 5 years of my life to healing others, my own personal practice had become a shadow of itself. I noticed that when I held onto stress and the personal pain that came up from my students in class, I would clench up and hold my breath. Long, luxurious inhales and exaggerated Ujjayi exhales were a thing of the past. My breath had become shallow, faint, surface-level. And one of the things I say in almost every yoga class I teach is -- let your breath be an indication of how you want to be living. Wouldn't you rather be living from a profound, expansive, bold, vibrant place? And here I was, NOT practicing what I preach. This conversation in Mexico back in January of 2015 became the catalyst into making 2015 "My Year of Self-Love"

Upon returning from that trip, I had a new-found dedication to my personal yoga and pranayama (breath) practice and began to treat my self-care like a full-time job. I spent the next 11 months researching, experimenting, and exploring all options, with a wide open mind. My "adventures into self-care" included the following: 

  • committing to receiving a massage once a month
  • acupuncture, cupping and colon hydrotherapy when needed
  • sound healing sessions
  • starting to practice Kundalini yoga 
  • trying out BUTI yoga (a tribal dance inspired yoga flow that brings out your inner goddess -- so fun!)
  • eating healthier, more plant-based meals
  • green smoothie every morning (with at least one superfood: maca, moringa, chia, spirulina) 
  • teaching myself how to heal my gut

The last one on the list is probably the most important and root cause of it all. Throughout the year, I started to realize that a lot of my recurring health issues (like fatigue and being easily overwhelmed/stressed) traced back to my digestive health, so my mission became healing myself from the inside out. As a frequent traveler, I was exposed to stomach bugs and parasites quite often so carrying around powerful antibiotics was no big deal to me. That, coupled with being stung by a stingray and put on 2 rounds of CIPRO completed wiped out any good bacteria in my gut and sent my digestive issues through the roof. Sluggishness and fatigue were at an all-time high and nothing seemed it sit well with me for weeks. This started to affect my emotions and finally I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Meeting with a Chinese medicine doctor connected the rest of the dots for me and I was finally ready to heal this once and for all. 

The more I would open up to friends and yoga students about this, the more I realized what a HUGE problem digestion/gut health problems were for women of all ages, yet NOBODY wants to really talk about it. So, here goes.... :) From my research, it comes down to this: a combination of our overly-processed, highly-inflammatory Western diet, overuse of antibiotics, and lack of movement and deep breath practice. My personal solution to my gut problems became this magic formula: a few rounds of colon hydrotherapy sessions (yes, COLONICS!) to get everything moving again; high quality probiotics (my favorite are Garden of Life Primal Defense); more easily digestible, alkalizing foods in my diet; and my favorite -- a yoga practice focused on twists, folds, and inversions mixed with deeeeeeep pranayama breath practices like Kapalbhati. Think: anything that stimulates and creates fire in the belly. 

For me, this breakthrough connection between my internal health and the rest of my life was like unveiling a secret code about myself and unraveling my truth. Once I began to heal myself, I was able to show up for my friends, my family, my husband, and my yoga students from a much more grounded place. I was able to feel empowered and strong once again. As my mental fog lifted, so did my fears, doubts and insecurities I had been holding onto since my teenage years. I was able to make decisions from a clearer place and put down necessary boundaries on my time and energy from a much more loving (and less fearful) place. When we take really good care of ourselves and we start to function at our highest potential, we no longer feel the need to cling to external indicators of happiness. We can locate and tap into an internal happiness that is unshakable, regardless of what is swirling outside of us. But none of this would have been possible if I was afraid to go deep inside myself and look for answers. If I was afraid of the darkness or old stories or negative energy I would find once I was in there. 

My biggest lesson learned was this: Have the courage to confront your shadows, for it is there that you will find your deepest truths and begin to reveal your brightest light. Thank you 2015, I'm grateful to infinity for you!






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