Q: I enjoy doing yoga but I get insecure about my body differences.
When I need help with modifications, I am embarrassed to ask. What can I do to let the instructor know that I need some assistance without disrupting the class?
Amy: I’m so glad to receive this question, and I really appreciate the phrase “body differences.”
There’s a lot to care for here, so I’m going to break up the answer into two parts. (look for Part Two to post soon!)
Part One: The Culture of Body Differences: Insecurity & Positivity
Because we live together in a society, we grow up learning what is and isn’t acceptable, as well as what is and isn’t desirable or worthy of attention, comfort, or praise from a variety of industries that make up our popular culture. From entertainment and leisure to fashion and trends, to scores of news outlets, we see, hear, and internalize sets of beliefs that shape our world view and self-image. In addition to these broader influences, our belief systems are also shaped by our specific family culture, which can include ethnic and religious traditions, shared knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as the outlook, attitudes, values, morals, goals, and customs shared by our own immediate and extended families. Because our cultural formation is both broad and specific, we grow into adulthood with a variety of filters unique to our own experience; and to add more complexity, these different lenses might even be in conflict with each other.
You are not alone. Our unique world view and self-image shape how we function in relation to ourselves and other people during public events and private moments. We tend to compare ourselves to an internal “ideal,” to other groups of people, and individuls to see where we fall on the spectrum of “socially acceptable.”
It’s helpful to remember that not only are we not alone in the experience of being different, but every single one of us has some kind of body difference, whether subtle or obvious, as well as invisible differences, such as auto-immune diseases, mental injury, complex learning styles, and so much more. So when we head into a body-based class like yoga, we’re all bringing with us thousands of years of ancestral DNA, our own cultural formation, and all of our “differences” both seen and unseen.
It is natural to experience insecurity around our differences. And it’s also natural to experience positive emotions around our differences. The next time you feel unsure about an instruction, posture, or practice in a yoga class, remember it’s not just you; most likely, other students are unsure about it, too. We’ll get into the details more in Part Two, but briefly, if the style of the class is not too terribly fast, and you can make eye contact with the teacher, trying asking for general suggestions. For instance, if you’d rather not ask specific questions about a particular topic, consider asking for more general modifications. Try something like, “Can you offer any other options if this isn’t working for us?” Remember this, if nothing else: Yoga, and yoga postures, are here in service to you; you are not in class to be of service to the postures.
If you’d like to take this discussion further, if you’ve ever thought, “yoga is not for me,” or if you’d like to explore the possibilities around shifting from insecurity to positivity, here are some great resources:
- Amber Karnes & Body Positive Yoga: Amber is the founder of BodyPositiveYoga.com and the creator of Body Positive Clubhouse, an online community for folks who want to make peace with their bodies and build unshakable confidence.
- Yoga for Amputees: Marsha T. Danzig
- Amputee Yoga Association
- Accessible Yoga: AccessibleYoga.org: A nonprofit organization that believes all people, regardless of ability or background, deserve equal access to the ancient teachings of yoga. By building a strong network and advocating for a diverse Yoga culture that is inclusive and welcoming, Accessible Yoga is sharing Yoga with all.
Part Two – The Yoga Classroom: Student-Teacher Relationship & Class Agreements (coming soon!)
Resident MBA Yogi, Amy Secrist, is available to answer questions, give insight and guidance, and help you feel great about your yoga practice. You can email your questions to Amy@mindbodyalign.com or message us on Facebook or Instagram #AskAYogi @MindBodyAlign
You can also join Amy for practice at the Butterfly House on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30 am. Learn more here.
Amy Secrist, Mindfulness and Yoga Educator (E-RYT 300+), brings 20 years of personal yoga practice and over 16 years of yoga teaching experience to Mind Body Align. She is a trained instructor of trauma-based mindful education. In addition to teaching the MBAwareness Program, she is co-creator of social emotional learning curriculum content. Amy earned her BA in English and Writing from The Ohio State University and her MA in English and Writing from The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, Vermont. Amy is married to Jeremy and has four school-aged children.
Have you ever considered your “quality of life” from a whole-self perspective or considered the elements which create a happy and purposeful life? Possibly you have been gauging your personal success or failure against markers established by family, friends, or social networks. How do we know if our goals and resolutions are coming from our hearts, leading us to fulfillment, growth, and purpose, or if they are coming from habits or beliefs that no longer serve us? What I intend to create with this conversation is the opportunity to explore our hearts for the truth. Let’s take time to take a journey to a new perspective.
What would you see if you could remove from your awareness the habits, beliefs and unrequited dreams that keep you stuck? I mean really, who would you be and what would you know about yourself? Perhaps there is a way to actively move forward in creating your best life by subtly shifting your focus.
Let’s begin: take an honest look at where you are now.
I have attached a Wheel of Wellbeing. Where are you right now? Mark on this wheel from 0 to 10, 0 being no satisfaction and 10 being great satisfaction, in each category. Please note, that there is no judgment that 0 is bad and 10 is good, it is simply an acknowledgment of what is happening in your life at this moment. It’s important to note that each season of our life requires sacrifice. My hope is that you will approach this exercise with self-compassion. And, please read Mary’s recent blog for an amazing perspective and understanding of the seasons and sacrifices of life.
Next: create attainable goals using things that bring us joy.
Start with colored pens, (4 sheets) paper or chalkboard and colored chalks (I use lots of colors to make it visually fun). Sit quietly in contemplation or listen to your favorite “feel good” music. Write everything you love about yourself. “I love my nose, toes, ability to relate to people, health, strong voice, etc.” Remember to focus on things you love about yourself; listing things related to your mind, body, and spirit.
On another sheet of paper or a different section of the chalkboard, note everything that you love about your life. “I love my spouse, children, time that I have to read, time and money that I have to travel, that people trust me, etc.” The key to being authentic in this list is that you feel love as you recall these people and life experiences.
On the third sheet of paper or area of the chalkboard, select one person you love – again, allow yourself to feel love as you recall this person – and list everything you love about them.
Now, you have three different lists: love of self, love of life, love of an individual. Put the elements of this list into categories that coincide with the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationships, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health. Feel free to add or change the title of a category as it suits you.
Just one thing more.
Finally, based on what already brings you love and satisfaction in each category, ask yourself this question. What is one thing I can do that will bring even more love to this area of my life? Just one thing.
Now, here is a crucial part. This “one thing,” the one action you can create to bring even more love, must come from the heart or gut-brain and not the brain in our head. Our thinking mind will look first to what it doesn’t want and where you “aren’t good enough,” and second, to provide an answer for “improvement.” Are you with me? For this exercise to be authentic, you will want to allow the answer to unfold; to arrive in your mind while being immersed in the sense of loving and being loved. You will know the best action when the contemplation of it brings you joy.
So, let’s review.
What is one thing you can do to enhance what you already love about the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationship, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health.
So much of who we are at this moment is a collection of habits and beliefs gathered throughout the years and decades of our life. Real growth doesn’t have to be difficult, and living your best life can be achieved by shifting your focus, and actively moving forward toward fulfillment.
Are you willing to take a journey to discover yourself anew? I look forward to hearing about your experience.
Annamarie Fernyak is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Align LLC based in Mansfield, Ohio. She is a certified life coach, mindfulness meditation teacher, and serial entrepreneur. The development of the MBAwareness Education Program was conceived while Annamarie was volunteering to teach mindfulness in a local middle school and found that the teachers and students were struggling to grow calm for their guest teacher, students seemed unable to pay focused attention, and the teachers were growing frustrated.
Annamarie’s focus was to create a program that would transform the lives of the students. She focused on hiring a licensed teacher to create and instruct the mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculums to elementary and secondary school students and teachers. Due to the challenges associated with global health concerns, Annamarie’s mindfulness education program is further now evolving into online mindfulness education focusing on teaching tools that reduce stress and support a life where people can feel more at ease. We also teach as a part of corporate wellness programs.
In 2017, Annamarie launched Align Mindfulness which is a FREE app downloadable from your app store that sends prompts a few times a day, bringing attention to what’s happening in your world. Intentionally simple, these reflections help you build a well-rounded “mindfulness” muscle by offering variety in where you place your awareness.
In March 2018, I was one of 15 people from Mansfield who went to the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The original intent of the trip, which was funded by a grant from the Richland County Foundation, was to come back with ideas on how to continue the revitalization of the central business district in Mansfield. What evolved from that trip was the Mansfield Rising Plan which the Foundation now uses to prioritize its investments in downtown.
Prior to our departure, Richland Source President Jay Allred, who has attended many SXSW conferences, described SXSW to our group as drinking from a firehose of information. He said we would feel like our hair was on fire.
That was an understatement.
The amount of information was unimaginable, the quality of the information was mind-blowing.
Mind Body Align Founder Annamarie Fernyak speaks about being mindful and present. Being among 30,000 people in a six-block radius does not lend itself to being mindful and present but you find yourself quickly becoming just that. You cannot possibly think about which session you will attend later or tomorrow or three days from now. You must focus on where you are and who is speaking to you in that moment. The hustle and bustle outside your conference room door or down on the street is not for you.
I would love to tell you I heard one speaker at SXSW who changed everything for me but that is not true. I heard many speakers whom I gleaned tidbits of information from to bring back to Mansfield.
One of my favorite speakers was Bozoma Saint John, Chief Brand Officer with Uber at the time. She spoke about rebranding while unapologetically wearing a sequin jumpsuit in the middle of the day.
Listening to her speak about the importance of branding and sometimes re-branding, I started to think about the things that come out of our mouths when someone tilts their head to the side and says, “Mansfield? Where’s that?” We all say the same thing. We say, “About an hour between Cleveland and Columbus. Have you seen Shawshank Redemption?” Bozoma made me think… What if we re-branded Mansfield? What if we mentioned Cleveland, Columbus, and Shawshank after telling people about how amazing Mansfield is to live, work, and gather?
Bozoma also spoke about the need for racial and gender diversity. I think we can do better with both. She said people like to say, “there’s a pipeline problem” with equity in diversity in the workforce. Bozoma says, “That’s bullshit.” She talked about the need for white men to look around in their office and say, “there’s a lot of white men here. Let’s change that.” Why does she, the one black woman, have to change it? She believes it’s a comfortability issue, not a pipeline issue. The question becomes, are we reflecting the population we’re trying to serve and are we willing to make the changes necessary to do so?
Back to her sequin jumpsuit. She said, “I’m a woman who wears sequins in the daytime. I’m not afraid of a lot. There’s a lot happening around women and diversity empowerment. I intend to step right in there with my sequins and bust it right open.”
Let’s all be more like Bozoma. Let’s invite more people of color to the table. Let’s open more doors for women. Let’s include those who haven’t been included before. Let’s reach back and lift up someone younger. Because let’s be honest, we can all think of a time when we didn’t feel included because of our gender, age, race, otherness. Let’s do what we can to be more like Bozoma, although I’ll do it in a plain black dress and pearls instead of sequins.
Born and raised in Mansfield, Allie has done everything her 18-year-old-self opposed. She married a Mansfield guy, settled down, bought a house in town and had babies who attend her alma mater.
After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University with a double major in Journalism and Women’s Studies and a minor in Sociology she headed east. Doing the only job she could with a BS and $12 in an expensive city, she was a live-in nanny for a little boy with autism and worked as a glorified gopher in Manhattan. Her first day of work in mid-town was to be September 12, 2001. Realizing quickly the differences between the two landscapes and benefits Ohio offered she moved home to West First Street with the same $12. On her first day as a substitute teacher at her alma mater, she met her husband, Sam. One year later, they were married.
After a couple of babies and job changes, she has hit the “sweet-spot” as the mom-bloggers call it. Her kids are old enough to be self-sufficient and young enough to still think she’s awesome. Working for the Richland County Foundation since 2012, Allie handles grants in our community, she gets to see the direct impact of donors’ investments and the great things nonprofit organizations do to enhance and enrich our area. She is grateful to be part of an organization that contributes in such a significant manner to the betterment of our community.
In the year-plus since our journey to Austin, I’ve been asked numerous times about the experience. The questions drive at both the experience itself, as well as the post-Austin endeavor to write the Mansfield Rising plan and the post plan experience related to implementation. Looking back, I easily point to three main takeaways I’ve had from this experience that have stayed with me and will continue to impact the work I do in downtown development.
Keep the big picture mindset in focus.
In my day to day work at DMI, we balance long term plans with short term needs on a regular basis. We are always thinking long term about goal projects, midterm about milestone marks and short term tasks to get there. However, the reality is that with a small staff and budget, short term is where we live day to day. Events, marketing, and new business projects have immediate needs that can’t wait. As a result, the short term problems demand more of my attention than is ideal.
In Austin, with those short term demands miles away, I was able to learn a great deal from big-picture thinkers who work and live globally all the time! SXSW is packed full of big-picture people who are working globally on intelligent solutions to complex problems. Networking with people with that global mindset was one of the most impactful opportunities. When we talk about complex issues like housing, equity, and diversity, Austin gave me a great opportunity to see the bigger picture and discuss projects and problems from a global point of view. Rahm Emanuel said, “if you can’t solve a problem, make it bigger.” This resonated with me. While problems can live in the short term, real opportunity exists in a bigger picture perspective. In the real world here in Mansfield, there is always trash that needs to be picked up, but balancing that with creating solutions for the bigger picture has changed my mindset and reminded me not to miss out on opportunities to find global solutions to local needs.
Creating and maintaining relationships drive progress.
The team that went to Austin had one thing in common, our love for our community and desire to make it better. We are a mixed bag of community members with scattered experiences, goals, and perspectives. Many of us had worked together over the years on a variety of projects, but we hadn’t worked together this close and on such a broad spectrum of projects. It seems like a side note to the actual plan and implementation, but a critical part of the work we did was to build trust and common experiences to cultivate a stronger sense of community within our team. Learning and exploring concepts and ideas together helps us understand the depth of the projects we’re working on, and writing and vetting them through the planning process allows us to listen to each other and understand the variety of perspectives that make the ideas stronger. As we move forward with the project, our collective buy-in helps us accomplish goals that might not have ordinarily had as much broad-based support. This relationship-building among community members is a critical part of our community revitalization story as we move forward. We don’t all agree; we won’t ever all agree, but what is most important is listening and building better projects because of the diversity of perspectives that we bring to the table.
It’s going to take as long as it takes; you might as well enjoy it.
The pace of community development can be excruciatingly slow. The project development process can often feel like a rush compared to the time-stands-still process of full implementation. I get it, we all want these ideas that seem the easiest and most logical to happen right away. I do too. When dealing with community and economic development, though, that just isn’t always the case. There are so many factors involved, not to mention personalities, that time can feel like it’s standing still, meanwhile, we are just wanting it to be completed! I feel that way all the time, especially with complex problems with little to no funding, but money doesn’t solve the problems, either.
When I was in Austin, I was able to meet people from all over the world who were looking at the same exact issues we are looking at in Mansfield. These aren’t Mansfield problems or Ohio problems or rust belt problems — these are community problems, and that’s ok. In fact, looking at our community from that global standpoint, our problems, while unique, weren’t as trying as they seem to be close up. In one of my favorite sessions, we learned about how a community used interpretive dance to sell an important funding issue to their city council. I could feel my blood pressure spike just thinking about it. Who has time to learn an interpretive dance?! I mean, it sounds insane, but it worked! In the rush to get things accomplished, drawing the quickest and shortest line between the two points seems the most efficient, but in reality, when dealing with people, it just doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes looking at an opportunity and finding your way through it with other humans while tossing in some joy and celebration can have the most impact.
I don’t know if these are the top three things I was supposed to learn during the SXSW process, but they are for sure the most impactful to me in my daily life and at Downtown Mansfield, Inc. SO… Who is up for some interpretive dance at City Council?!
Jennifer Kime currently serves as the CEO of Downtown Mansfield, Inc (DMI) and is a certified Main Street Manager with the National Main Street Center. Her work has centered on business development, planning, promotions, strategic investment, historic preservation and community involvement. Prior to DMI, Jennifer managed a flower shop in Chicago, Ill; a domestic violence shelter in Saratoga Springs and wrote national policy on Hate Crime. She earned her MBA from Ashland University and her BA from Antioch College in Social and Global Studies, focusing on the establishment of women-owned businesses and non-profits in Eastern Europe.
In addition to her work at DMI, she was a contributing author to “Why This Work Matters,” a featured contributor to “Resilient Downtowns” an author and editor for MidOhioLive, Mansfield News Journal and contributes to both statewide and national blogs for economic development and economic trends.
What is the courage to live a vital life? What do these words really mean? The phrase sounds good, so what do you really have to do to live a vital life? I googled the phrase, and the words, and began to write. I do not consider myself to be courageous but I do try to live a life that is, well, vital.
I am blessed in many ways; my health, my family, my job, and the people I know and love. I try my best to make people feel special and validated. Sometimes I miss the mark, but I keep trying. In general, I think I have a positive outlook on life. I want to make life the best it can be, not only for myself but also for the people who share the world with me.
In regard to the courage to live a vital life, I found a quote by Brene Brown who defined courage as follows: “The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. (Coronary). In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all in one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds.”
After researching courage, I looked up the word vital. It is defined by Dictionary.com as something that is absolutely essential or necessary to sustain life. If you connect these two definitions, we can conclude that speaking one’s mind by telling all that is in your heart (a.k.a. courage) is essential to living a vital life.
Telling all that is in your heart requires you to be yourself and express it in how you live. You must exercise courage in order to live up to your full potential and leave your mark on the world. Further, we have to have courage in order to take advantage of the opportunities that life offers.
Opportunities… how do you take advantage of them? I have found you must grab a hold of the reins of your life. Do not let someone else direct you. Go somewhere new, take a class, try to meet new people, and do new things. Do something different. Surround yourself with the best people you know.
In short, the courage to live a vital life is to explore, love, cry, and laugh with everything you have inside you.
Sally J. Gesouras is a commercial loan officer for Mechanics Bank in Mansfield, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Toledo and a Master’s degree in Executive Management from Ashland University. Sally and her husband, Nick, live in Lexington, Ohio.
Travel Light. These words are the signature to my correspondence whether it is a blog, email or a letter. People often ask if I offer tips for how to pack luggage lightly when preparing for a trip after seeing these two words. That can definitely be one interpretation, but not my intention.
While on the road traveling for work over a five-year period, I am grateful to say that I have explored my fair share of cities. There were periods that I was in the same place for a few months, sometimes only a week and more commonly a day. With this active travel schedule and long work days, I thought I would create a blog so I could share photos and stories with friends and family while on the road. I decided on BohemianBabeTravels.com as the name of the site. Bohemian because it seemed to be the perfect fit for my unconventional lifestyle and Babe as a reminder to always find something to be in awe of in the world around me.
When I set out on the road to organize events, I had two storage units and more household type items at a friend’s place where I would stay when coming home for a quick family visit and to swap out luggage before hitting the road again. I had enough stuff to comfortably furnish a three-bedroom house at this time. While living as a road warrior, I came to appreciate and be content with the two suitcases of belongings I had. It was an adjustment but taught me how to live in a more simplistic way.
While managing an event, I met a nine-year girl who began asking me a ton of questions like curious children often do. After talking for a few minutes and attempting to understand my current lifestyle, she asked, “You mean you don’t go home every night? Where is all of your stuff? What do you miss the most?” As basic as these questions might have sounded, it stopped me in my tracks and I paused before answering. This child was referring to a material object and I couldn’t think of one thing that I actually missed. Not one. At that moment I couldn’t actually even think of one thing I owned that was back at my home base. The list I missed that popped into my head was game night with my family, holding my puppies, going out with friends, celebrating birthdays, holidays, life events together, and seeing faces, hearing laughter and sharing simple moments with those I loved. I came to realize that although I had accumulated all of this “stuff’, none of it held meaning for me nor made me happy. Creating memories with my tribe is what I missed the most, not material belongings.
Through my travels, I met a lot of different folks. I am the person that others refer to as, “that girl has never met a stranger.” I will pretty much talk to anyone. It is my babe view on the world; my lust to learn, and knowing that everyone has a story to share. Some of the most prolific moments in my life came through “random” encounters with “strangers.” I learned more in these times than any formal classroom could have ever taught me. There is much to gain in practicing presence and simply listening. I am grateful for the chance to have connected with people from all walks of life and the things I learned along the way. The stories people shared, the advice they gave, the dreams they aspired to achieve, and the hardships life presented them with were all pivotal in shaping the person I am today and essential in preparing me for the road that lay ahead.
The buzz phrase today is “being present.” This can often be hard to achieve when we go through the motions of our routines. We get comfortable in doing what we know and less willing to adventure outside of that safety zone. Even if people are unhappy, they will at times choose to stay where they are just because it is familiar. This is fine, but it can lead to getting stuck. When we aren’t moving forward, we become stagnant and cease to grow. It is easy to say “break out of the routine, hit the road, and discover yourself.” Please know while this is a dream for most, it is also not always practical and not at all what I’m saying. I would like to invite others to recognize the world – with those babe like eyes and get your bohemian on – by choosing a different approach to your routine. Break out of that comfort zone and allow yourself to view the world through a new lens. Perhaps it is something as simple as going boho by taking an alternate route to work that day, or being a babe by walking outside during your lunch break to establish a connection, whether it is within a flower, a cloud in the sky or even someone passing. Recognize the essence and beauty of its being. Traveling light doesn’t require a trip anywhere except within yourself. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t serve you. When you choose to hold onto it, it is really holding onto you. Let go and grow. Just breathe and be. This is the discovery of something awe striking when you align with your own divine light.
Christina Grozik (Bohemian Babe) has spent the past five years on the road traveling. Her journeys allowed her to meet extraordinary people, immerse herself in unique cultures and partake in amazing experiences. More importantly, she discovered lessons that would change her life forever. She has combined her roles as a Kent State University professor and media specialist with her wellness background. She is a Certified Vibrational Sound Therapist, Integrated Health Coach, Yoga Teacher, Polarity Practitioner, Energy Worker, and Reiki Specialist. With these modalities, she aims to help others find presence and balance. While she is known as a teacher, she also considers herself to be a student of life and pays gratitude to each day that allows her to be a part of it. She is currently working on a documentary about the impact of sound and believes in practicing good vibes only. GoingOmFilm.com