I want to share the second part of my JEMCA with you, five ways that have improved my overall happiness immensely. I hope that you will find them helpful as well.
This is my second step of self-care, and the E to my JEMCA, exercise. Find out about the “J” here.
Every time I say ‘exercise’, I also have a little giggle and quietly add, ‘Oh, I thought you said extra fries.’ I have been a person who avoided any kind of exercise for longer than I have been someone who is tagged in funny memes by their friends from the gym. It took me a little while to find out that being tagged in gym memes and going out for breakfast with gym buddies makes up for all the sweat and cursing while being at the gym. I got there eventually.
Convincing myself that I, too, can be a morning person and get up for the gym before the sunrise, was not an easy task, but it was something I wanted to prove to myself that I can do. It gave me many opportunities: to learn about pushing my boundaries, to begin the day feeling accomplished, to feel those beautiful endorphins after a workout, and to make new friends.
Telling you about exercise, it’s benefits, and how to motivate yourself to get up before the sunrise feels a bit like explaining how to fly a helicopter. I feel equally as qualified. But there is something else I want to share with you.
Going to the gym, working hard, and sweating my heart out made me feel great. Euphoric even (thank you, endorphins). Not just when my body released those endorphins, but also because I felt lean and strong, and energetic. It made me happy, until I reached a point in my life late last year, when life needed me to learn some big lessons, and make some important changes.
My husband working away started to get to me. I realised that my work and chosen career was not fulfilling for me. On top of that, I had lost sight of a way to chase that one dream I had all my life. I felt lonely and like I was failing. I felt exhausted being at work. I felt exhausted being at home. I was beating myself up for not being able to ‘get it right’. The last thing I wanted to do was to go to the gym and hurt some more. Being lean and strong, eating delicious breakfast afterwards, even seeing my dearest friends, none of the rewards could lure me there. I was out of balance.
It is easy now to look back on that time and think, if I had managed to keep going to the gym, I would have learned some of my lessons a little quicker, and I’m sure that is true. But unfortunately, I didn’t manage to keep pushing. No judgement, folks.
After leaving the job that was killing my buzz, and moving, to live with my husband again, I immediately felt that motivation to move my body, and to be lean and strong again. I was getting back into my groove and I even had the time to tackle something else on my to-do list: to start a Yoga practice. I did, and it completely threw me off that beautiful, pumped up bandwagon again, but not without teaching me the most important lesson I have picked up since I learnt to always be kind.
Yoga has brought me home.
Luckily, it didn’t take me long to find Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. I started with a 31 Day Yoga Challenge. Plus, whenever I felt like the practice wasn’t strenuous enough, I would add some Power Yoga to build more strength (more on that later). I lasted 15 days, until I went away for a weekend.
It then took me two months to pick up where I left off but that is now 66 days ago today. I know (not because I’m in love with Satan, but) because the second time around, I made a real commitment. Not the kind of commitment I had to go to the gym at least four days a week, unless, of course, I didn’t feel like it that morning. For the first time that I can remember, I made a real commitment. No slip ups, no days off, for the last 66 days I practised Yoga every damn day. And I have no intention of changing it anytime soon.
At the same time, I nearly completely dropped any gym workouts, HIIT workouts and even any running. Which was not my intention but I focused all my energy on Yoga, because,.. well, it felt like the right thing to do. With every day that went on, I enjoyed my practice more and more. I had no excuses to miss just one single day, and as time went on, I even learnt to enjoy the slow practices. The only thing that was irritating at first, but luckily still didn’t keep me from practising, was, that for quite some time, I continuously felt sad after the practice. It did not matter that I had a great day otherwise, directly after practice, I felt devastated.
“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”
Yoga has helped me uncover some pain that I buried deep within. With every day that I practise, I am healing a little more. Sometimes, when we uncover some old wounds, we feel worse at first. I’m glad I have experienced this before, so that I knew to stick with my practice, and continue my healing process.
Slowly, I am implementing the sweaty sessions back into my life. Because I love the euphoric feeling, the big high, and even the sweat (and cursing). I love working out with my husband. I love being strong and lean, and moving my body fast. Just as much as I now love sitting in stillness. Slow Yoga practices are still harder for me than strenuous flows, but Yoga and I, we are making amazing progress.
The gym has brought me confidence, friends, and the knowledge that I can beat the sunrise.
Yoga has brought me love for myself: the days when I look into the mirror and hate my body for it’s shape have become rare, rather than the normality. I still want to be lean and strong. More importantly, the times when I think that I am less worthy of anything (especially love) because of my soft belly, are no longer normality either.
Yoga has brought me focus. Focus on my breath. Which helps with running. And everything else.
For brief moments during my practice this past week, when I was in the moment, focusing on my breath, tapping into that inner smile, (Thank you, Adriene) I felt home. I was catapulted across the globe, into my childhood home, into the times when I was safe, and secure, and loved. During my precious time on the mat, I’ve found that place I have been looking for, for most of my life, in my heart.
I hope that you take away just one thing from this: move your body, in a way that feels good.
How has exercise influenced your life and overall happiness? Let me know in the comments below. Or, read more about JEMCA.