Recently I have become aware of the meaning I give to my body and what it looks like. For as long as I can remember, I have not liked how my body looked. Nothing was ever good enough. I was either too big, too skinny, not enough muscle, too much muscle, too big of an ass, too small of an ass, etc. I constantly felt like my body was not good enough.
I found ways of feeling good about my body through running, weight lifting, and eventually yoga. I was able to see my body as strong, flexible, and capable of things I never knew were possible. This definitely made me feel more positive about my body and about myself. However, the feeling of my body not being enough was still there. I would beat my body up instead of treat it with compassion and love. Even if I was exhausted, sick or in pain, I would still work out and not listen to my body asking for a rest. Because if I didn’t, then I felt guilt, shame, and even fear. So although I had a more positive attitude about my body, the underlying issues were still there.
Yoga has brought more acceptance into my life in a huge way. It has allowed me to be more authentic and aware of myself. The negative thoughts about eating and body image were becoming more and more apparent. I learned to witness the thoughts and feelings without getting caught up into them (another awesome thing yoga and meditation brought into my life). So last night when I returned home from leading a yoga training, I was sitting on the couch looking at my body. I noticed the roundness of my belly, the curves of my hips and thighs and I was completely detached from it. I was admiring what the shapes looked like. I asked myself, “who said this is supposed to be different?” Why is a straight line more attractive than a curvy line? I started to realize it was all about not accepting and appreciating what was in the present moment. Why are our bodies supposed to be something other than what they are right now? Of course, there are images in our society as to what is viewed as beautiful and not beautiful but remember that is totally culture-dependent. I was so blown away by this “Ah Ha” moment that all those thoughts are just thoughts based on other people’s agreements and not my own. More importantly, I do not have to keep believing those thoughts and there is nothing I need to change about my body or the present moment.
As I sat and looked at my body, I think I was really seeing it for the first time through the eyes of love and not fear and it was mind-blowing. I had never seen this body before. In the past, I was not seeing what was presently before me and I had only seen my body through what others said it was supposed to look like. As I get more and more clarity, I can see that there really isn’t anything to fix and that everything is absolutely perfect in the present moment.
The other day I woke up and I liked myself. All of myself. What I looked like, who I was, what I did for a living. I was content. I was living in Joy. It was the oddest feeling ever. There was nothing to fix, nothing to cover up, or change. Now what? Really now what?
I realized that the reason so many people stay unhappy is because it is uncomfortable giving up the identity of being sick, depressed, the victim, what have you. Once you are no longer miserable, who are you, what do you focus on, what do you talk about? For as long as I can remember, I have always looked at the calorie content on everything I ate. I constantly thought about what I ate and what I was going to eat. I was obsessed with staying “thin” and what I believed was the perfect Christen. Well, lately I have been doing this thing called- Intuitive Eating and it has made a huge difference in my life. I eat what I want when I want and I listen to my body. It was super uncomfortable but I kept doing it because I am all about stepping out of the comfort zone. The other day I realized that I did not hate my body and it was weird because it was a new feeling. The craziest thing is that I am weighing about 10lbs. more than I typically allow myself to weigh and I have never been happier with myself. For me, I was ready to give up the identity of the calorie counter, the depriver, the thin one so that I could live in joy. It was not comfortable at first but it was worth it to feel the ease I experience now around myself and my body.
If you are feeling stuck, it is only because of you. That is the good news because only you can get yourself unstuck. Ask yourself…how is your unhappiness or current situation serving you? It might be how you get attention, or how you view yourself. What would life be like without this situation? Being happy, content, and in joy is a different feeling. If you are willing to step out of the comfort zone and stay in the discomfort of the newness, then you might find that there is a whole new world waiting for you.
In the “Course In Miracles,” there is a saying, “the clouds do not put out the sun.” It basically means that the sun is always there but sometimes we just can’t see it. Today I heard Deepak Chopra say that grace is always there but we don’t always see it. It is so true. For the longest time, I believed I lived in scarcity. However, when I started to do some work on abundance, I was able to see abundance all around me- the leaves on the trees, the lizards sunning themselves, the sand and seashells on the beach, etc. The list goes on and on. The more I focused on abundance, the more I kept seeing it all around me and more abundance started to flow into my life. It is amazing how what you focus on, you give energy to, and you bring more of that into your life. Overall, I have been tapping into the natural flow of life, not trying to hard, living from my gut/intuition instead of my head. It has been wonderful to experience presence, peace and a lot more joy.
I realized the other day that I am living my best life. I am creating my life and doing what I love to do everyday. I am traveling to some pretty awesome places, including Montana and the Galapagos islands. My relationship with my husband is more authentic and loving than I ever thought possible. And you know what? It felt weird to realize all of this. My first thought was, “I don’t deserve all of this.” As I became more mindful of my thoughts, I started to see how many negative beliefs I had about myself and abundance, and how much more comfortable I was with those thoughts. Negativity and negative thoughts are just a habit. It is stepping out of my comfort zone to feel deserving of abundance.
Joyful living is available to us all of the time; it is really our natural state of being. However, most of us do not believe this. It is a different experience for most of us to focus on what is working and how good life is. I realized that the only thing that blocks abundance in my life is me! So although the sun is always there, if I get in the way then, I am blocking the sun from entering my life. The sun can be anything from a new job opportunity, relationship, or a new way of being/ living.
Think about it…how often do you block the sun from entering your life? What are your beliefs about abundance and joyful living? Are those thoughts comfortable or uncomfortable? How do you get in your own way? Once we are aware, then we can make choices on how we want to more forward.
I am so excited about my upcoming Women’s Empowerment Retreat in Bozeman, Montana with Dr. Tanda Cook this September. I was thinking about the many reasons why I love leading transformational/personal development retreats. I am so grateful that I get to explore the world and share new experiences with like-minded people. I love the sense of connectedness and community I experience when I lead these programs. People show up so open and willing and the friendships that are formed are unlike anything I have ever experienced or witnessed. So the reason I facilitate these retreats is because I am committed to guiding people to step into their natural Greatness. I have seen it time and time again during programs like, PYT’s 30 Day Digital Yoga Challenge, 40 Days to Personal Revolution, our 200 Hr. Teacher Training Program as well as Yoga Shrink Retreats. Participants are able to let go of their self-limiting beliefs and step into their natural state of Perfection. The best part of it is that I never laugh more than I do when I lead one of these programs. Learning to laugh at ourselves and our crazy thoughts is so beneficial. Why take yourself, life, or anything for that matter so seriously?
If you are looking to spend some time exploring your Greatness with a group of powerful women on a ranch in Bozeman, Montana where you will eat fresh, local, organic food, engage in daily yoga and meditation as well as have time to connect with yourself, nature, and some amazing women, then sign up now and join us.
As a former retreat participant stated, “Christen’s retreats are the best! What’s better than a mix of learning about yourself and laughing uncontrollably” (Kate L.- has been to 2 retreats with Christen).
For more details on the Women’s Empowerment Retreat in Bozeman, Montana (9/12- 9/16/15), go to: www.poweryogatribe.com/retreats/
Last weekend I was leading a Certified Teacher’s Assistant training for Wild Abundant Life, LLC, in Rhode Island. It was amazing. I always find so much inspiration from leading trainings and programs. As I was teaching and explaining how to assist someone who is ready to drop back into wheel from standing up, I just did it! It was the wildest thing. I have been able to do it at the wall but never on my own, without a spot. I was stunned that I had such a breakthrough.
As I was thinking about it the next morning, I came to an “Ah Ha” about the drop-back. When I was doing it, I was demonstrating something to students. I was in a place of service. It wasn’t about me or my ego. Because it was about them, I was not thinking about myself, especially not, “I am going to fall” or “Who am I, to be trying this.” I was just in service, in the present moment, and thus, in my Higher Being where anything and everything is possible.
The other thing this “drop-back breakthrough” brought up was trusting myself. I have a very strong wheel. I can often stand up from wheel, lift my arms in wheel, and stay there for a long time. I also have the core strength and back flexibility to drop back from camel. So doing a drop-back to wheel was more of a mental breakthrough than a physical one. As I dropped back and put my hands down to catch myself, I realized that the reason I hadn’t been able to do it before was because I did not trust myself to catch myself. My drop-back was a breakthrough in trust that I could take care of myself and a realization of how powerful I really am.
I keep seeing and hearing the message, “You already have everything you need within you. Stop looking outside yourself, it is all within you right now.” I truly believe that. What an amazing experience to realize that I stand in my Greatness when I show up in service of others. I feel blessed to experience such breakthroughs on and off my mat. That is why this journey will never get old for me. Namaste.
When I first started practicing yoga consistently, I was practicing Baptiste Power Vinyasa. I remember my first all-day immersion with Baron Baptiste in Washington, D.C. He signed my Journey Into Power Book with “The Magic Never Ends.” I thought it was so awesome but I had no idea what that quote truly meant until recently.
The yogic path is an incredible one. I say all the time that we are a crazy bunch of yogis because we are basically on a journey where we will never arrive at a destination. A friend added, “and the more we are on the journey, the further the destination gets.” It is so true. The longer we practice yoga, the more we realize there is no destination or end point. Despite no end point, we never stop growing and evolving. I think, in part, the reason yoga is so magical is that the growth is continual and there is always somewhere new to explore.
I have been consistently practicing yoga for over 12 years yet I still feel as though I keep getting stronger physically. My awareness and connection to my physical body has deepened. I also continue to build muscle based on my practice. Since starting to practice more inversions, I have increased strength in my back muscles and my core. It is so incredible that even after 12 years I continue to build physical strength, flexibility, and power in my body. On the emotional and mental realms, I also continue to grow and evolve. Yoga has led me to start a daily meditation practice. The combination of daily yoga and meditation has allow me to live more mindfully and in the present moment. I continue to learn to be the witness observer of my thoughts so they impact me less. I am amazed at how less emotionally reactive I am due to this daily work.
Most importantly, I would say that yoga has led me to a life of connection and service. I have met some of the most amazing people through yoga. I have felt more community and connection in my life since making yoga a way of life. At times, I feel so much gratitude, joy, and love that I am moved to tears. Recently, showing up in service of others has been huge for me. Being a stand for others and inspiring others to live in their Greatness has become paramount to my life. I believe that all of this is part of the yogic journey.
I love the quote, “the Magic Never Ends” because it doesn’t. If you are committed to this path, the treasures you uncover about yourself are endless. Enjoy the journey and all magical things that come your way. Namaste.
Last weekend I led the first Yoga Shrink Retreat in Jupiter, Florida, where I currently live. It was a life-changing weekend. It is amazing because, as the facilitator, I grow and transform just as much as the participants do. If you are open and willing, you will grow and transform especially when you are surrounded by a supportive community. The concept of the retreat was “Create the Life You Want to Live.” So we let go of what didn’t serve us, envisioned what we wanted, and set forth into action to create our lives.
For me I had so many take-aways from the weekend. On a personal and business level, I realized that running personal development retreats is definitely my Zone of Genius and something I plan to do a lot more of. I show up as my biggest, best self when I am doing this work. I realized that I am my greatest when I can be 100% authentic, hiding absolutely nothing. Authenticity and vulnerability create connection and through connection we realize that we are really all the same. I have heard it said, “Connection is the cure.” We definitely experienced that this weekend.
Another take-away was that when I shine, I give everyone else permission to shine. The Course in Miracles says, “The sun never apologizes for how brightly it shines.” When we are great, we allow others to be great. I often say that we have no idea how inspiring we are. We see it time and time again when someone breaks through a world record, then everyone starts to break the record. We give each other permission to be our Greatest selves. We experienced this on and off the mat this past weekend. Everyone was inspired and inspiring.
Laughter is the best medicine. I find this to be so true. Even in the midst of deep transformative work we can have fun and be light. We can be silly and not take ourselves so seriously, even our crazy thoughts. Embracing joy and laughter feeds our soul. I never laughed so hard and so much as I did this past weekend.
The biggest take-away is that I, the Yoga Shrink, am in the process of planning a 3-day Women’s Retreat in Bozeman, Montana with Dr. Tanda Cook, a naturopathic doctor, at the beginning of September 2015. Stay Tuned for more details.
In psychotherapy, there is a technique called “Flooding” or “Exposure Therapy.” It is a therapy used to treat phobias specifically.The concept is that you expose the person to the feared object a lot and the person becomes immune to the fear because nothing bad happens to them. It is a huge step out of the comfort zone to engage in this technique because you are literally facing your fears.
I started thinking about all of this after reading an article about how one man made rejection a game. He had so much fear of rejection that he made himself get rejected everyday so that it had less of an impact on him. Here is the whole article:
A student of mine once gave me a mug that said, “Give Fear the Finger.” I thought it was great. But in thinking about fear and my relationship with fear, I think it is evolving from “give fear the finger” to “make friends with fear.” That is basically what this guy did. He made friends with his fear of rejection; he sought it out. So when he got rejected, he won. What flooding does is it allows you to be with the fear, notice it, but not let it dictate your actions. It can be an extremely freeing experience.
So what fears are you willing to make friends with? How can you expose yourself more to what you are afraid of? Perhaps it’s fear of success which means you must step even more into your Greatness. Whatever your fear is, be open to stepping out of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to your fears. Who knows what can happen when we stop avoiding fear and start making friends with it.
I was journaling the other day in closing out 2014 and embarking on 2015. A question I came across asked, “What do I want my life to really be about?” I sat and thought about it for a minute and I immediately wrote down what came to mind:
“Connecting people to their Greatness, to help end the suffering created by ourselves and our thoughts, and to create a legacy so this continues beyond my lifetime”
In thinking about it, that is basically what my life is about because I created it that way. So much of the past 5 years have been about getting to where I am now: moving to Florida, getting married, opening a yoga studio at the beach, and creating a vibrant yoga community in the Power Yoga Tribe. I believe so much in creating the life you want to live as opposed to letting life happen. The reason I am where I am now is because I moved into action and made it happen. I am now committing to living this on a much grander scale!
Dreams are great but dreams remain in the dream world when we stay in our heads. Action is the key in terms of making changes. One of the best ways to move yourself into action is to have an Action Plan. Envision what you want your life to be like in 3-5 years. Be specific in writing down how you see your life. Then write down what you want to accomplish and by when. To further move you into action on one or more of your goals, write down what you are going to do within the next 30 days towards this goal, then what you are going to do in the next week towards this goal, and then within the next 24 hours towards this goal. This is the accountability factor. You are now writing it down and committing to doing something towards this goal.
Setting an intention (i.e., what you want your life to really be about) is a great way to start everyday. Be clear about what it is you want to create and do something every day towards that goal. The only thing that is going to get in the way of you getting what you want is You and Fear. When fear and resistance show up, notice them and keep on moving into action. You will look back and be amazed at what you can create when you Just Take Action.
Just like everyone else, I want to be liked. I want people to like me and think I am a good person because I am. However, with the work I have done in yoga, I have dropped a lot of people-pleasing from my life. I often speak directly to people without trying to “sugar-coat” what I say. I also hold people accountable at work and in my personal life. I believe that, most recently, I have been standing in my power, living my truth, and being impeccable with my word. It can be challenging to do this on a daily basis but I am committed to my process of transformation because it has brought peace, joy, and connection into my life.
What I have noticed over the past few weeks is that people do not always respond favorably to my way of being. I have heard that people are gossiping about me and a lot of what I have heard are untruths. At first, I really struggled with this. I wanted to tell everyone what the Truth was because I want to be right and liked. What I realized is that all of this, all the gossiping, untruths etc…have absolutely nothing to do with me. It has all to do with the people doing the gossiping. They are unhappy with me. It is them who have a problem with my way of being. So why does this have to impact me? I know who I am.
The other day I realized that the reason these issues are presenting themselves to me right now is because this is my work. It is my work to accept that people may not approve of the way I live my life, may not like my way of being, and may actually have their own perception of me that is different than my own. So when I want to tell people the truth, I have to realize that their beliefs about me is their truth. So there is nothing to say, nothing to do, and definitely nothing to fix. So what…they don’t like me. I can not change who I am to please everyone.
The lesson has been profound. Not everyone is going to like me and some people may actually have strong negative opinions of me. I am okay with people having their own perceptions of me that are different from my own. I do not have to tell them my truth or change their opinions of me. I know who I am and I am proud of how I live my life. This experience has allowed me to embrace myself and others from a place of total acceptance. I totally accept who I am, who they are, and the fact that not everyone likes the same things.
Next time I hear that someone was saying something negative about me, I am going to say “So What,” mean it, and continue doing me!