I’m laying on a yoga mat in a warm room with ten other people doing the same. My body is sweaty and tired from the past hour of intense yoga, and I’ve climbed a mountain. I’m finally at the bottom, about to walk off back into daily life. But there’s one last step before I re-assimilate myself into the outside world- savasana, or final relaxation. The instructor directs us to relax our bodies, our facial muscles and limbs which fall easily to the sides. Usually I struggle with rest, but the great contrast of intensity to complete stagnation convinces me I’m worth it. I’m worth these moments, laying here, breathing, and doing absolutely nothing that my body does not need. I’m lulled into a deeply meditative state by the instructor’s words, and hear the strumming of a guitar coming from the speakers, followed by an enchantingly soft voice. I don’t care what she’s saying; I can feel it. My bones blend into my muscles and my mind bows to its only purpose: keeping me alive. The song only lasts a few minutes, but it feels like hours. We’re instructed to make our way back up to the mat, even though I’m not ready. We bid the instructor goodbye with the traditional “namaste,” and that’s it for the practice. But this wasn’t the end of the road for yoga and me. I practiced enough with this older student instructor who I admired, and one day inquired about where and how to become an instructor myself. I got in contact with her boss, and arranged to meet with her soon to discuss. Within a couple weeks, it was decided that I would become a yoga instructor and mentor under the instructor who had shown me the wonderful song “Eyes on Fire.” the mentorship process was transformative, and I and another student took the journey together, after a semester and a Yogafit Level One training ready to teach our own classes. It’s been two years since I first heard this song, but it still takes me back to a time where I regularly laid on a yoga mat as a participant, and not an instructor. I have grown a lot as an instructor these years, but I still have a lot more education to acquire and I’ll be getting my 200 level certification in 2019. If it weren’t for that first yoga instructor, her sweaty but rewarding teaching style, and unique mix of a playlist, I might never have taken a leap to learn the new skill of yoga. “Eyes on Fire” reminds me of a time I knew much less, and reminds me to stay humble, realizing how much farther I can go with my practice. It also reminds me the benefits of continuing to attend other instructors’ classes, to learn from them, better develop my own style, and to give myself the time for my own practice, breathing and meditation the same as we all do, students and teachers alike.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to drink alcohol. It was a good year from the summer after high school to the summer before my sophomore year in college. But I slowly started to realize I do not need nor do I want to consume alcohol or drugs in any way. There wasn’t a singular bad experience that brought me to this; just the realization that I am more me, and a better me without the façade of drugs and alcohol. Here’s why:
- I only really did it to conform in social settings. Party without alcohol? I’m not begging someone to go get it. Party with alcohol? I’m drinking what everyone else is. To me, this didn’t make sense. I equally am not motivated to consume alcohol in either of these situations yet in one I feel coerced into doing so simply to fit the social setting. The solution? Don’t put myself in that setting.
- Drinking “to get the edge off” is not a good thing. For me, drinking was a way to rid myself of the nervousness of being in settings with many people I didn’t know and probably wouldn’t hang out with under other circumstances. When you’re half-drunk you can have fun with anyone, even if they’re kind of a terrible person. This seemed appealing at first but I’ve realized I would rather have three real friendships than a billion fake friendships with people that I really have nothing in common with other than we drink together. That’s not enough to build a positive relationship, nor a meaningful social interaction. Translation? Not worth my time.
- Again, not worth my time. I only probably have a good 82 years left on this planet and I don’t want to waste a single more second with a hangover. Even moderate drinking isn’t worth it. You know what’s five times as fun and takes absolutely no loss of motor skills? Road tripping. Traveling. Things you probably shouldn’t do half- drunk. Although I’m young, I have far better things to be doing than wasting my time getting drunk. Do you see the world we’re living in? My time is valuable and can help others. Which brings me to…
- I know I’m young, and I’m “allowed to have fun” and I do have fun. I’m young but I’m not immature. The mistakes I make are honest mistakes. I don’t see the point in intentionally getting myself drunk and getting sick, and calling that my valuable youth experience. My valuable youth experiences include navigating the middle of California by myself and trying to learn as many languages as possible. I still make human errors along the way, and I am learning about life. But with intention, not in a beer bottle.
- I know I’m in college. I know a good majority of the kids in college consume alcohol and use drugs. Truthfully I don’t care. I am at a university to learn something that is hopefully useful for my future. I am here to become a better human and change agent. I’m not here for the parties. That’s literally $1,000s for parties. No thanks.
- I understand myself more deeply now. I know my desires and goals more and more each day and I am centered on these. I am so purpose- oriented that I don’t have the time nor the energy to pretend I am not. Yes, I have plenty of fun but I will not waste away my nights doing something so purposeless. I do not need to conform to others; I need to keep my eyes on my purpose.
- I have determined by now that I am an introvert. Expanding my social circle is not necessarily my goal right now. I have enough friends. Going to parties to blend in with the drunken crowd is at the bottom of my priority list.
- Alcohol isn’t healthy. Many studies show increased cancer risk even with moderate alcohol consumption. There’s added dyes, chemicals, and sugar in most drinks, and I already avoid these as it is. Plus, over time, alcohol damages your liver and other internal organs. It isn’t worth the risk.
- Drugs control you. I even avoid caffeine. Even a small amount can help you develop an addiction. Drugs alter your mind and perception. I am the only one who is in control of my mind and I want it to stay that way. As a yogi, I honor this and practice this. Allowing a substance to control me is dishonorable to my mind.
- By keeping my body free of foreign substances, I allow myself to further purify my soul. You probably didn’t think this would get so philosophical, did you? The truth is- my mind, body, and soul are near and dear to me. They are my temple. My home. I guard that shit with my LIFE. I try to live the most minimalistic and natural life I possibly can and honor what I need at any given time. If I have too many distractions, I will lose sight of this and will not be as satisfied with my life overall. I am the sole gatekeeper of this precious life.
As a young college student it can be awkward being one of a few that choose to not consume alcohol, but I avoid putting myself in uncomfortable settings as much as I can. I know my true friends will honor my decision. I am not condemning the consumption of alcohol for everyone; in moderation it can be okay. I can only speak for myself and what I know is that, I have many goals in this life and I am determined to do as much as I can to alleviate the societal ills in this world. Without added distractions, I am more focused, physically and mentally stronger, and have more time and energy to do this. I know now how to listen to what I need much better- and refraining from drugs and alcohol is just one of the ways I can honor that. I just encourage everyone to truly uncover their short-term and long-term intentions, and figure out what is their best path to achieving these. And honoring that fiercely.
And to the people at the party-yes, really, I’m fine with water.
Forever D.D. (designated driver)
For as long as I can remember I have had kept track of my food and activity levels obsessively. I have structured my days around a strict schedule of eating and working out. Even if I was really active in a day, I would still have to complete an actual fitness routine at days’ end to feel okay. I have guilted myself over eating foods laden with sugar and salt, although I eat almost an entirely whole foods vegan diet. I have trapped myself in a mentality of perfection. Perfection morally speaking, healthfully speaking, and aesthetically speaking.
I am beginning to finally break these habits and throw my toxic thoughts off their course. In the past month, I have worked out less than I have in a very long time. That’s not saying I haven’t been active- as a new yoga teacher, I practice almost every day, and add cardio days in between. But I have ceased the constant obsession with physical activity and its visible “gains” on my body. I have also veered off the raw vegan path. It has been strange to me. As I have rejected regime, I have been confused. I have tried to make myself feel bad, but I can’t. I am too awakened these days to cry over cookies with almond milk.
That being said, I still struggle with orthorexia every day. It has taken so much mental strength and awareness to not pressure myself into keeping this routine. Instead of following a predetermined fitness routine, I have been listening to what my body needs each day and following that. As a full time college student that works two jobs and has numerous extracurricular, I need to do this. It’s not just more sensible and time- conscious. It’s for my mental health- something I have always struggled to care for and to maintain, and something I strive to better each day.
Although I am already beginning to see room for improvements, I cannot say I regret the way I have been living this past month- not obsessing over food and fitness. I am healing with time. I am learning to only adopt routines that feed my mind, body, and soul. I am learning to reject societal ideals of what is beautiful, and not hate myself for not having the abs of Instagram celebrities.
I am learning to respect myself for all of the goodness I am bringing into the world, and realize so long as I am healthy I do not need to run myself into the ground. I am learning to treat myself as I would want others to be treated- dismissing self-criticism and comparison. I have found happiness right under my nose, so it seems silly to continue to desperately strive for an ideal that just isn’t me. Deepening my journey with yoga has been a huge part of this newfound self-worth. I bow to what my body can do, and the ways in which I am capable of transforming lives simply with a change in mental attitude. The mind is everything. So I am thinking of myself as a work of art. Not meant to be dissected, but meant to be celebrated, and to provoke thought and ideas in others.
I am proud to say I have broken regime. I haven’t tracked my food or fitness so closely in over a month, and I feel great about it. Maybe I will come back to these habits at some point, but right now I know I must provide the most care to my mental health, allowing myself to not just have a strong and effective body but a strong and successful mind as well. As I discover more and more what I value in life, I veer off farther and farther from previously held ideas of perfection. I am rejecting consumerism, materialism, and excessive technology, stress, and chaos. I am clinging to kindness, truth, nature, words, self- love, and gratitude. I am grateful for what I am. I am learning to accept it.
Imagine the most relaxed you could be
Imagine every little worry
Melting off your back
As you roll out your mat
And you forget where you’re at
The only sound becomes your breath
The only smell perhaps your sweat
Each time may vary in intensity
But you’re always in tune with reality
As you center your thoughts
And you become lost
In the transcendence of your own movements
Palms and soles sink deeper
Mind becomes clearer
Each breath fills you
With more life than the last
Each moment could last forever
This time you come to savor
Gratitude is the only flavor
And there’s nothing more you want
Than to fulfill this hour of solitude
Each shape you form-
Imperfect like you
But you appreciate that your body can move
In such magnificent ways
This is how you want to spend your days
So you realize when you’re done
You have only just begun
Your journey inward
All you see is yourself
Oh, your heart pours over with wealth.
I want to give a shoutout to my best friend, Saley, who is also a blogger on WordPress. She’s my blogging buddy, and we both love pretty much all the same things. She’s really gotten her blog rolling lately, with bits of wisdom and relatable tips.
I encourage everyone to share the love online! Bring friends in on the adventure, and do your part to promote a positive community. There’s infinite inspiration to be gained and shared.
Check Saley out!