Goodbye 2018. Hello 2019

Last night I went to bed at 10:30pm. Not a big deal, except it was New Year’s Eve and my almost 12-year-old was beside himself that his parents couldn’t even make it to midnight. But this morning I woke up at 6:30am, feeling great having not eaten or drunk too much, and getting a solid 8 hours of sleep. Goodbye 2018. Hello 2019. 

Photo by Natalia Dotto Photography

Photo by Natalia Dotto Photography

During dinner yesterday we went around the table and talked about what we want to leave behind in 2018. My 9-year-old agreed that it would be best for him to cease, or at the very least, reduce his general complaining. My eldest decided that his procrastination may have to be ditched in favor of a more organized system to attack his mounting school work. My husband said he will let go of the attachment he feels toward the startup company where he works, since it was recently acquired by a larger company and therefore will look and feel very different in the new year. 

When it was my turn, I said “expectations.” 

Expectations of others sprung to mind instantly. What I learned in 2018 is that when I expect people to behave in a certain fashion (read: the way I think is normal), and they don’t, I am disappointed. This past year I found myself disappointed a lot.

Upon moving to a new house in a new city, in a new state, I expected my friends would connect with me, even by sending me the occasional text to just say “hi.” Few did.  

In the moment I faulted them. But now I realize that for them nothing had changed. Their life looked the same - same house, same job and same environment. Mine had changed, but they weren’t inherently affected. I also realize people operate differently, and while I know this in theory, it can be an afront in practice, especially when it comes to fragile feelings. 

Embracing the fact that people operate differently frees me from hoping that others will be thoughtful in their words and actions. I can only control my own actions and reactions. It’s a great yogic practice: watching your own reaction in moments of stress or discomfort, and then working toward non-reaction.

In the same vein, I’ve also decided it’s healthiest for me to drop my expectations when it comes to my career. This does not mean that I have stopped setting goals. I am simply just taking a more pragmatic approach to my goals. The last few years swirled in over-commitment. I would teach 15 yoga classes a week, plan and lead a couple retreats a year, volunteer at the kids’ schools, chauffeur them to their activities, and run a household with my hands-on hubby (without a nanny or housekeeper, which is my own personal choice). 

Given this new life in Seattle, and now stepping into a new year, I’m eager to see what evolves in my career. I look forward to my two retreats in 2019, whether 20 people join me or just 2. I will continue to teach people who come to my classes with a full heart, rather than focusing on the trivial concern over a full class. Maybe most importantly, I’ll give myself space to reflect on what it is that I want to do, rather than just doing what is expected of me.

My transformation toward letting go of expectations has already taken root. Now my hope is it will blossom, and I can devote this new-found energy to more amazing things with my family, friends and students.

Goodbye 2018. Hello 2019.


Do you "like" me or do you really like me?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know what social media is. I'd go as far as to say that even the rock dwellers have heard of Facebook. No, this is not going to be a post about whether we should boycott Facebook and other social media outlets due to recent news. That's a topic for a heated family discussion over Thanksgiving dinner. 

Instead I want to touch on how we engage in social media. Before I launch into this topic, I know that there are people out there (my husband included) who have chosen to NOT be on any social media. I used to think these people were nuts. Now I am beginning to think they are the brightest of us all.

I opened my Facebook account in 2007 when my eldest son was just a baby. It was a way to connect with family and friends, and post photos of my son, whom I thought (as all young parents do) was the sweetest, cutest and smartest child in the universe. It was an added bonus to be able to search people from my past to see how they've aged. (Don't act as though you've never done it!)


My family and friends would often "like" or comment on my photos, which validated my feelings that my baby was the sweetest, cutest and smartest. At least, it made my heart swell to see the "likes" and I enjoyed clicking the little "like" button when I came upon photos, status updates and other tidbits from my friends.

Then Instagram came along. I was resistant to it at first because I didn't understand how it worked. I joined IG just for the cool filters and took photos of flowers in my garden. I had no idea what a hashtag was nor how to use it. Fast-forward a couple years and I became a yoga teacher. Not understanding the IG world, I happened to post a photo of me in an arm-balance...and lo and behold, several random people "liked" it. I was confused. Who were these people and why did they suddenly want to follow me?

As I grew my small business as a yoga teacher, I recognized the power of social media. It is actually a necessity in my industry. So I began posting more frequently.  I actively searched for posts by like-minded people. I even became one of those people who would "like" someone else's post without knowing them. And then I fell into the rabbit hole of wasting hours on IG, hoping my posts were entertaining, or informative, or whatever, to the masses. 

Of course, studies have now shown there is a correlation between our dopamine and oxytocin levels and social media use. Dopamine helps to control the brain's pleasure and reward centers. Oxytocin is often called the "cuddle" or "love" hormone and regulates social interaction and sexual reproduction. It plays a role in maternal-infant bonding especially in breastfeeding, and is also linked to generosity. Bottom line, the more our posts are viewed or liked, the more we feel good. And the more we crave these positive feelings, the more time we waste staring at a screen. 

This is how we get addicted to social media. I'm just as guilty as the next person when it comes to spending too much time scrolling on my phone. But, I'm getting better. I continue to enjoy the exchange of free information and entertainment that social media provides. I still post daily, often sharing how-to videos on poses and thoughts on yogic teachings, but instead of incessantly checking my phone, I dedicate time to do so. I even encourage my kids to call me out if they notice I'm on my phone too much.

Since digging myself out of the rabbit hole, I am no longer attached to "likes." In fact, some members of my own family don't even "like" my posts. I mean, maybe they appreciate them, but they just don't click the button. Or maybe, they flat-out don't like what I'm posting. Here's the thing: it doesn't matter. 

I want to remain authentic on social media. I'm not airbrushed or spray-tanned. While I have some professional yoga photos, they don't consume my page. I post failures as well as successes (check out my previous blog on IG fakery when it comes to perfect handstands and other yoga poses). My insta-stories are generally of my family, my meals and my personal yoga practice. My approach to social media is to use it as an avenue for content. If my followers enjoy my content, they'll stick around. If not, they'll unfollow me. I do not post content to GET followers - that's why you won't see a slick photo of me posing in a racy swimsuit. As the kids say, "that's not my jam." But being real IS..., "like" it or not.


#100daysofhandstands - The Epilogue

"Do or do not. There is no try." ~ Yoda

While Yoda is no yoga guru (despite the similar sounding name), his advice is sound. So, I chose to do something. I did handstands. For 100 days. That's a long time. Here's why I did it and what I learned along the way.

Failure is an option

The reason to do 100 days of handstands was not to land a perfect handstand, believe it or not. It actually came down to changing my limiting beliefs; I decided to move to a growth mindset over fixed mindset about handstands. In case you are unfamiliar with these terms, let me give you a brief, non-scientific overview. A fixed mindset is just as it sounds - when one believes his/her intelligence or talent is 'fixed' at a certain level. This can lead to feeling defeated and giving up when challenged. Growth mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that one can get stronger (academically, athletically, etc.) when faced with challenges. Putting in effort is a must, and failing before succeeding is an inevitability, and an important step in the learning process.

Quick backstory: before becoming a yoga teacher, I hated inversions. They frightened me. I thought it wasn't possible in my body. I made all sorts of excuses why I could not do inversions. Fast-forward to becoming a yoga teacher: I now regularly practice inversions, but have never mastered handstand. I used to tell others, "Oh, I don't think I need to do a handstand to feel complete in my yoga practice." This is true. Handstands do NOT mean you're a better yoga practitioner. BUT, deep down I knew I was hiding behind this excuse because I was afraid of trying...and failing. (Um, fixed mindset well in play.)

So, I decided to challenge myself to #100daysofhandstands. I promised to hold myself accountable by posting each day's attempt on my Instagram stories, hence the hashtag. I recorded myself or had my family members take photos. With a new (growth) mindset about handstands, I put in the work every day. 

I worked hard. I fell hard...sometimes really hard. My husband now knows that when he hears a crash in the house, it's most likely me falling out of a handstand. He waits a few seconds for me to yell, "I'm okay!" It's a routine occurrence in our home. I began to accept these stumbles as learning opportunities, and by recording my handstands, I started seeing where I could tighten up or improve the pose. As a hundred days went by, I started seeing progress, (not perfection, which is totally cool with me). 

Social media

While posting to Instagram daily kept me on track, there are some downsides to social media. Life isn't all rainbows and unicorns, or in the yoga world, life isn't all about perfect handstands. But when you scroll through an Instagram feed, it definitely seems that everyone's got their sh*t together, doesn't it?

With all the filters available, and the ability to edit videos and take screenshots at the ideal moment, we often only see perfection. We lose connection to reality where things are messy. I always did many handstand attempts, and shared the best one of the day on IG. But for the most part, I tried my best to post videos as they occurred (limited editing). One day my 10-year-old son asked me: "Why don't you just take a screenshot when both legs are up? Then you'd look like you've got it." This was a teachable moment (remember growth mindset) as I explained to him that a screenshot of perfection is really just fudging the truth. This was my challenge and I wanted to document it properly. If you have time, watch the video of my upside-down journey.


Be smart about injuries

I always tell my students to know the difference between pain and discomfort. Anything new in yoga may cause some discomfort, but there should not be outrageous pain that will send you to the emergency room. On Day 50, I started feeling pain in my right shoulder. It was around the time that I had begun to work on puppy press handstand, in which you put more weight onto one side of the body as you press up. I tried to ignore the pain, but it lingered. So, I eased off. I didn't stop my handstand challenge because I was invested (also, I'm stubborn), but I did lessen the amount of time that I focused on it. This meant that I had to be okay with some regression so my shoulder could improve. It was frustrating, but necessary.

Do the work

Generally, I enjoyed this challenge, but there were days when I had to drag myself to my mat. Let's be honest, we all have busy lives...and for me, dedicating time to practicing handstands each day wasn't easy. But I kept it up. I even managed to maintain my handstand commitment throughout our family vacation to Scotland and Ireland this summer. Note: castles provide a great backdrop for handstands.

My handstands were improving, but more importantly, this daily commitment helped me shift my perspective. By doing the work, I began to acknowledge and diminish the limiting beliefs I had about my body, my strength and even my age (as in, I'm too old to do this). 

So I began to push my inversion boundaries. It started with something as simple as getting away from the wall. If you are new to handstand, or scared of falling, then relying on the wall is comfortable. However, you can't win the race if you stay at the start line. Once you've gained a little confidence, get away from the wall. In my opinion, practicing outside on grass is wonderful since falling feels far less daunting. 

Creating habits

Author Seth Godin wrote on his blog: "It turns out that choices lead to habits. Habits become talents. Talents are labeled gifts. You're not born this way, you get this way."

We all have habits. Like making your bed in the  morning, or going to a specific yoga/exercise class. Habits are part of our everyday lives. Once you do something for a long enough period of time, it becomes a habit. Setting the goal to do a hundred days of handstands has created a new habit for me...that's why, I'm still doing a handstand a day. Yoda would be proud.