Okay...Hold the phone...What does 400 days mean?!!! Consecutively??? Are you crazy???!!! Well, that happened. Not the crazy part, the 400 consecutive days part. Yeaaaahhhh. Last year, I finished 365 consecutive days of yoga as of July 31st. Then I continued on that track through September and did four different types of yoga -- Bikram (my main style), Buti (not to be confused with Booty), Aerial and Vinyasa. Think of the physical fitness, the mental stability, the energy boost, the emotional wellness, the camaraderie (noted: for introverts like me, it's like being in a room full of friends, hanging out, and well, just being, while we all do our own thing = kinda perfect right?) Are you thinking of it? Aaaaahhhhhh. Yes. Zen. So peaceful! Yeeeeaaaaahhh, that happened.
Now, I won't be all sunshine and roses. Let's get real. Think of 20-30 people, many strangers, in a hot sweaty Bikram environment (For those who don't know Bikram yoga, which is what I did the majority of the year, it's a type of hatha yoga characterized by a set series of postures and breathing exercises, performed in a heated room (a.k.a. Hella HOT!) Where we do 26 moves for 90 minutes). Can you picture it??? Many hippies, several hipsters, some CEOs, a conglomerate of people who have been through shit and want to make their lives better which I have to say is pretty cool. Though I don't really feel like I fit into the first three categories, I do love being around random quirky people. Ok. Back to the getting real part. Think of a whole bunch of people smelling each others body odor, and praying there's no camel toe, boobs popping out, see-through clothes, too short shorts, clothing two sizes too small, men in banana hammock "beachwear" who keep looking your way eagerly seeking eye contact, extreme flatulence, heavy mouth breathers, or buckets of sweat that slowly trickle closer to your yoga mat. Eeewwwwwweeee & Yikes!!! Oooooo. Yeah, that happened! So with that seared into your brain (sorry but hahaha, not sorry!), one would have to ask, was it all really worth it? And I have to say yes. Yes, I will take it all for the benefits I mentioned in the first paragraph.
What brought me to a place where I would make the drastic decision to dedicate a year to yoga? Well, it didn't happen that way. I didn't expect I would last a full week attending daily, a full month, sixty days, ninety days, but then six months came, nine months came, and then it happened, a month away from the full year. I did go into this journey after losing my dream job though & I thought I needed a change. I was working for a global women's personal and professional development company based in Australia who lost their marketing funding and with it, there went my remote Director of Digital Communications position. I, along with the woman's administrator of 7 years was given two weeks notice and that was my, well, what to do now. To which I said, "F**k it! Let's do some yoga U make this thing happen!" Anytime there is a huge life change, I have come back to self-care and turned out okay and this decision, well, it was a blast and all the things in the second paragraph made the experience more than entertaining on the daily!
For those of you who don't know all the cool benefits of yoga in general here are some that may make you think, 'Hhhhmmmm, maybe I can overlook butt sweat too.'
Many of us, with our busy lives, can't seem to find the time for it all & I do really get it! Not many can carve out 90 minutes to sit in a hot room unless that means they are in a spa holding a cold Mai Tai or Mock Pina Colada if that's more your flavor...or green tea..water...or just nothing cause you are in a spa and possibly getting services done. From a mental health perspective, I have seen vast improvements by taking the time to do yoga, even if it's at home using a YouTube station and doin it on my porch...and by "it" I do mean yoga. As shared before, I have dealt with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event). The combination of yoga and therapy was and is a game changer! FYI: My favorite go-to spots for yoga in Lahaina are Bikram Yoga Lahaina and Body in Balance/The Pole Room. These two studios have their own charms. If you are wanting strictly Bikram with instructors who are dedicated to their craft and ready to give you pointers on proper stances, movement, etc., BYL is your jam. If you want some variety, some spice in your yoga life, BB/TPR cover a wide spectrum of yoga and pilates instruction, amongst other fun and exciting activities, such as burlesque, bungee aerobics, pole dancing, self-defense (taught by Muah), and stuff like ballet, hip-hop dance and so forth. Soooo, all of this to say, yoga has been a wonderful commitment, life change, and new way of living. I am thankful for all that has come of my 400 days of yoga and will share on it as my journey continues.
I'm guessing, if you haven't watched the indy film Entropy, with Stephen Dorff and Judith Godrèche, you are probably scratching your heads right now and have no clue what I'm talking about. Okay, here is the narrative. Dorff's life as a successful film producer goes off the deep end when he attempts to balance his life between being a producer and being a good partner to his steamy co-star Godrèche who plays Stella, a mysterious, kind, and charming model. What is entropy? The word, what is it? What does it mean? You must be asking. Entropy is lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder -- randomness leading to chaos basically. YES! And yes, I am telling you to embrace the chaos of your life! If you are like me and something is going awry you spend all of your energy focused on fixing it versus riding the wave. If it was a disagreement, I used to want to solve the problem with that person right away. I needed to be liked. Someone hating me or even not liking me was so stressful and in my mind that was not okay. We would have to talk...like, right now! When issued would accumulate in my life and pile on high, I would breakdown. Whether it was personal or professional issues or problems, I continually beat myself up with horrible negative self-talk. Do you do this too?
It was a combination of things but they all hit a few years ago; my work life, my personal life, my relationship, my physical and emotional state were all in dire straits. I was dealing with a work comp case going solo against an attorney who was dedicated to making my life a living hell. To top it all off, I was hit by a car while riding my bike. This was when it "hit" ME. I was laying on the ground, concrete and gravel imbedded in one leg and metal from my bike jabbing into both. There was a vague remembrance of a women saying she was sorry she wasn't looking and was on the phone and her husband, the driver, saying he just plain wasn't looking my way (the way he was driving) even though I had the right of way. I could NOT believe my life. How had so many bad things happened to me? Definitely, someone somewhere must be punishing me, be it some god or angel or spirit, or universal creature out there in the cosmos. This was really happening. Then I thought about my body...wait?! I can move. I can move! No broken bones. Mind you after heading into the doctors office and chiropractor, I did find out I had four, YES four ribs out of place. My bones were bruised and I was going to be out of commission again. This could not be happening! Low and behold 364 days before this very event (That does mean almost an exact year after I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and was told I was temporarily disabled), I was dealing with yet another injury. WHYYYY!
One thing that injuries do is make everything stop around you. It gives you time to reflect on what matters in life -- what is really important. I could have died that day. In fact, looking throughout my life, there were several times I could have kicked the bucket but I survived. Somehow, I survived and I told myself, there must be a reason I am still here, some purpose. 'I am going to make it through this, I will learn, I will grow, I will become the person I was always meant to be to help others through these awful moments'. That's what I would say. The moments they want to give up I am going to tell them, I made it through this and so can you. Noted: in order for me to actually say those things, I had to go through the experience and heal. So I did. I embraced the chaos, the entropy, all of the muck. From not having my dream job and having all my friends more financially successful, to not being the weight I wanted to be, to not physically being fit to do all that I loved to do, to dealing with a nasty attorney born to make my life hell, to my relationship with both myself and my partner being very rocking -- I embraced it all. I started looking at this as a lesson. In fact, I looked at all of my major injuries starting from my first year with my boyfriend up to that moment. What are the lessons I am meant to take from each one? Each chaotic event meant something.
With plantar fasciitis, so many things happened and lessons came with all of them.
With my car accident I realized much too.
Knock on wood, I haven't had any major injuries since then and I am doing all I can to keep it that way. Expect the unexpected. If a million chaotic things are happening, embrace them, for they are lessons to help you on your way to who you are meant to become.
When you were five, what did you love? Growing up in school we are always told to follow our dreams but how many people really understand what that takes? How many grownups actually believe that to be true? It is a beautiful thought and for many, it is a beautiful fiction to dream about while you go grab coffee for that person that has the dream job you always wanted. Going after your dreams can be tough, scary, heartbreaking and yet it can be an amazing adventure if you let it be.
Growing up, not everyone gets cheerleaders and family and friends supporting them but I have. There have been many different adventures and paths I have gone down. I went to art school, studied fashion design, was a martial arts instructor, published a book, owned multiple women's empowerment businesses, I ran a non-profit focused on education policy, studied clinical psychology in multiculturalism and feminine studies, got my MBA in global leadership, worked remotely, and now I want to teach self-defense online so I can reach and help as many people as possible to prevent them from dealing with what I had to -- these were and are all dreams I have and have had. I have been one of the lucky ones. There have been extreme challenges and roadblocks I have faced. In this technological age, we don't show people the reality. We show people the reality we want them to see, a staged photo, highlights of accomplishments and so on. I never wanted to share my struggles because for me I would think, 'Oh, that's just so personal.' I would also want to focus on the good in my life cause let's face it, who wants to really focus on the bad...despite the fact that we do constantly in society today.
I have dealt with PTSD from years of abuse from multiple partners and colleagues, attempt assaults and completed ones, verbal and emotional abuse, and stalkers. I have grappled with sleep insomnia, temporary disability, being broke for a very long time, and for years, I just kept pushing through it waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. What I didn't realize was there was a light switch, I just needed to switch it on. I mean to say, I had to change my mindset in order to change my reality. Each one of these challenges has been lessons and changed the course of my current state of being.
I have had three stalkers, the first set me in motion to find a dojo and learn martial arts. It was my experience in the fashion/retail industry and that dojo that gave me the realization that I wanted to support women and lift them up. I wanted them to learn self-defense in a safe environment, so they could set better boundaries than I did with colleagues, friends, and other instructors in my school. I've wanted women to feel empowered because there were so many times in my life where I just felt so disempowered. Thus, I co-created my first women's empowerment business. However, while in that business, I dealt with two abusive relationships, one at work and one at home, along with a stalker and an attempted sexual assault. To put it plainly, I was a hot mess and was about to explode. I had extreme PTSD with daily anxiety. It's as though I was in fight or flight mode 24/7 and the upswings were few and far between the lows. Between that and the unhealthy relationships, I lost sight of my dream work and worked on surviving. For so many years, that survival had been my reality. It didn't feel right with my first women's empowerment business. I loved the model and supporting middle school and high school girls on self-esteem, body image, and self-defense training but I wasn't walking the talk and I didn't have the right partner who matched my energy despite her admirable qualities. It took leaving that partnership and leaving the state I grew up in to find a new norm. I started graduate school and have been with a partner that has encouraged me to follow my heart. So the past few years have been about that. What would life look like if you could do anything or that one thing you really wanted to do? Last summer, I had my dream job with an amazing women's empowerment business which had personal and professional development courses, these courses were something I had access to taking and the tools learned are still used today. Unfortunately, the business lost their funding quite abruptly, leaving myself and the other staff out of work. What I learned from that job were some great things though. I learned how to put self-care first without compromise and I gained valuable skills for doing social media and online communications. Also, from the abrupt job loss, on a whim I bought a month of unlimited hot yoga and told myself I would attend every day. Which regardless of if I am in a studio or not, I have kept up yoga every day for the last year. It also brought me to doing something that one should not normally do. I took money out of my 401K and decided to really give my dreams a shot, investing in business groups, better websites, and most importantly ME. I started forming the life I have wanted for years. For so many years, I have dreamed of having a remote job. What catapulted that want was suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet and being hit by a car while riding my bike. The foot injury made even crawling to the toilet painful. Then having more remote work became a priority.
So, this last year, I put time and money towards my self-defense business and my social media business. While I would like to say I am rolling in the dow, these have not brought in the money that would allow for ultimate financial freedom. What it has brought me is the freedom of time; time to take care of my body, time to actually listen to my parents while having our phone conversations versus absentmindedly doing other things while talking (...you know I'm not the only one who has ever done that so don't act shocked!), and taking time to cultivate ideas -- to DREAM BIG. A few months ago, I met this amazing and vibrant woman who shared with me her work and asked if I would put together an online self-defense course. The idea of doing this work full-time feels like an amazing opportunity but I know the work is not done.
I have had way more jobs than many people have in a lifetime, I have dealt with fears, sadness, and pain, I have dealt with epic failures and I say this not for pity purposes but to say, I am happy that those experiences have lead to this time in my life. Jim Carrey had a graduation speech sharing about failure and his father's particularly, explaining why he pursued his comedic dreams. He said some things that really stuck with me:
To check out my new online course that will officially be launching later this month, click here: Warrior Womyn Training
I always hear about these challenges and let's face it, I've done several; 7-Day Detox/Cleanse "Challenge," 14-Day No Sugar "Challenge," 21-Day Affirmation "Challenge". And what I have found with these "Challenges" was that in the end, yes, I felt better but I also eventually slipped back into old habits. I get the feeling that some of you reading this are nodding your heads reflecting back at your many "Challenges" as well. In July of this year, I hit a big roadblock in my life and I decided, "Well shhhhh*********t, I need to get back to focusing on self-care." Anytime I have had a struggle and took time for self-care I have felt insurmountably better:
We talked about "Challenges", and I know several people are thinking "30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge." Hahaha...No. Surprisingly, my 30 days, let alone 60 days did not start out as a challenge at all. It was about economics plain and simple. If I went to hot yoga daily, then this unlimited package was only costing me $4.60 per day (that being if I only went once a day, which so far has been what's happened. Give me time though, I might do two). So, for me to justify spending $140 on a month-long package, I needed it to make sense of it in my head. $4.60 per day for a month is less than a one hour massage at most places or three visits to a chiropractor. However, more often than not, most people don't feel all warm and refreshed after a chiropractic visit (Although, I will share a story later of one such guy who rocked...but I digress). All of this to say, if I went every day, it would be worth it. So that is exactly what I did. I went and believe me the first few weeks were not a cake walk. In fact, the last 60 days has not been a piece of cake but I have been doing it and I will tell you, something amazing has happened.
Throughout these last 60 days, I transformed, both body and mind. No, I don't look like a super model but do I feel freakin fantastic and think I look pretty da*n amazing? YES! Of course, I did what many people do in the beginning, I went beyond my limits. Trying to prove something to myself that in the end proved that I could pull a leg and thigh muscle in one session. Note to all: Go slow and easy! This is not a tough man contest, and I was not racing to some unforeseen finish line. There are 26 postures in Bikram, and you do all of them twice...except the very last one. So go at your own pace and don't go beyond your limits.
When did I know this daily yoga practice became more than just a financial equation and more than proving something to myself or others? It was the day I showed up and class was cancelled. That moment is when I knew that I needed this. Studio or no studio, I needed this daily mantra to continue. And so, I went home and did all 26 moves holding each position for one minute at a time. I needed this because it was more than going through the motion of the positions. During this 90-minute physical meditation, I was problem solving my life.
Heading into each session, I found myself hit with these dilemmas:
What this process has all boiled down to for me is dedication, lots of faith, and an unshakeable belief in myself when there are question marks all around me. So here is my question for you, what is that one activity that makes you feel alive and connected? Whether it is catching a wave, going on a bike ride, a hike, kayaking, going for a swim, playing ball, or the multitude of other activities there are to do in the world which disconnects you from all of the noise but reconnects you to your body? Do that for yourself. No one else will.
"Creativity [...] is entirely and unapologetically based upon magical thinking. And when I refer to magic here, I mean it literally [...] I am referring to the supernatural, mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment — not entirely human in its origins."
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Serving My Happiness
For a long time now, I have shared my story with close friends, loved ones and yes, even therapists. When they hear my story a similar comment has come up, "You should write a blog!" The reality is that I have collaborated on blogs, I have written about other women and their lives, I have covered topics focused on advocacy and online communications but when asked to write about myself, I felt stunted. LinkedIn even shows I have high 85 people who have endorsed my blogging skills. The idea of a personal blog was...well...so personal and, as I am sure many people feel, it is exposing. However, there are parts of my life which appear very relevant for others, could possibly help them and so, I decided to buckle down and write this blog. I will say that if you read the beginning and stop, you may find me shallow, uncaring, heartless even, but if you read what I have to share in its entirety, a completely different picture may arise in your mind.
So, here is the reality, I am going to say what you aren't supposed to say. It goes against several theories and beliefs on how to serve the world best, but I am going to share it anyway. Forget your friends, loved ones and humanity, if you are not serving yourself to your highest power, you are doing a disservice to the world, and you will not be as effective at your craft if you do not explore WHO YOU ARE. Who you are is relative to many things and can be psycho-analyzed in many different ways.
For years, I have associated my mindset with that of an advocate. I wanted to serve my community in several different capacities. I have served through running a non-profit, owning women empowerment businesses, doing online communications for local and statewide political campaigns, and sitting on steering committees focused on advocating for youth of color and youth impacted by poverty. I hosted an Undoing Institutional Racism workshop for the city of Tacoma and aided with a national Race and Pedagogy conference. It was a few years ago that a thought began to percolate in my mind, 'What if I am not serving my community and those I love to the best of my ability? Am I staying in negative situations because I believe I am serving a greater good? Is that even healthy?!' The thought which I am sure many millennials before me have had, and most likely other generations before me will detest was, "What about MY happiness?! What about ME?!" Then an idea popped into my head.
Serving My Happiness is a thought that came to fruition at a very low point in my life. I was drained, tired, had given my all and lost, failed, and now it was time to pick myself up again. However, this time I wanted life to be different. I didn't want to fall down the same rabbit hole. I wanted to rise and serve my highest purpose. What I have found is that by honoring that feeling and following my gut instincts, I am now serving my happiness -- something few people do for themselves in a lifetime. I realized that the more I served my best interests, the more I was available to purposefully help others.
A Blog Focused on Happiness and Healing
Tasha Ina Church