Self Care / Self Love: YOGETREE Workshop

Since my No Good Very Bad Day, I’ve made a commitment to focusing on myself. “Focusing on myself” encompasses a bunch of actions and ideals, including goals to understand my patterns, accept my flaws and shortcomings, admit and seek help and mentorship, and to push myself out of my comfort zone (within some limits). These goals came into fruition today when I participated in an amazing yoga and poetry workshop series entitled Yogetree.

The workshop is held by internationally certified yogini Helanah Warren, and internationally known educator and poet Just Greg Corbin at The Painted Bride on 232 Vine St. Accepting my friend’s invitation to come to this event was a small, but important step out of my comfort zone for several reasons. For one, while I have always enjoyed practicing yoga and attending yoga classes, its been months since I’ve last taken a yoga class, and my solo practice just consists of sun salutations in the morning. I also felt nervous to enter and participate in an event independently because the person who invited me was attending with their group of friends. On top of that, writing and trusting my inner voice is a huge challenge for me, so the idea of walking into a poetry workshop filled with other writers, poets and artists felt like an even more vulnerable situation for me. Mostly, I was afraid of the judgement of others and I had to resist the urge to burrow myself into my bed and ignore my alarm clock this morning.

Fortunately, when I arrived at the Painted Bride, I was greeted by Helanah’s warmth and encouragement. And when 30 spandex covered, notebook carrying people (most of which were women of color!) began to sit  and stretch around me, I felt most of my discomfort ease. The airy studio was filled with laughter as we went around the room introducing ourselves, and the vibes were relaxed and intentional. The class itself was unlike any other yoga workshop I’ve attended. We switched between yoga stretches and quick writing prompts smoothly until the two hours breezed by. The theme of the workshop was What Brings Us Joy. We started out by writing lists of things that bring us joy, things that diminish our joy, and ways that we can protect our joy. After each writing exercise, we followed with more yoga as well as group brainstorms and one-on-one talks. Unfortunately, this was the last workshop of the series until the Fall, so I’m especially grateful to have experienced it now. I’m sharing my responses below, and I recommend anyone wanting to explore a self-love journey to take the time to reflect on your own answers to these prompts.

What Brings Me Joy

Anything with my mom- watching tv, shopping, drinking, baking, cooking

Baking cakes

Cooking from scratch and my ideas

Watching tv while high (stand-up comedy and anything funny)

Cuddling between warm arms

My dad’s stories

Feeling connected to my family, particularly my oldest brother and my niece and nephew

Dara, Soleil, Michele, Sterling, Mike

Bubbles

Babies

Warm candlelight, my faux fur throw, and a glass of wine

My Into the Parks kids

When my Rec Center kids enjoy their projects and give me hugs

Publishing an article on my blog

Feeling both accomplished and acknowledged

Being alone (sometimes)

Being with friends

The stars/ the galaxy (the art, not science)

Beautiful, natural scenery

Feeling spent from physical activity (sex, hiking, biking)

Macaroni and cheese

Double chocolate cake

What Diminishes My Joy (Events, Things & Emotions)

Whenever I feel insecure or self-conscious

Feeling like I don’t do enough or do things well

When I take my stress out on someone else

Killings of black and brown bodies–feeling like I don’t have control over my own destiny

Imbalance within myself- doing too much or too little

Feeling depressed and unenthused by things that usually make me happy

My parents’ arguments

Thinking about my sexual assault

Thinking about the end of my relationship with SH

Remembering times when I did my friends wrong by taking out anger on them

How I Can Protect My Joy (group brainstorm)

Being mindful of what brings me joy always

Saying NO

Seeing, feeling the sunlight

Keeping honest people around me

Feeling gratitude

Being mindful of the emotional, physical, spiritual spaces I enter and their impacts on me

Being alone and feeling joy from that

Accountability support/partner – someone who knows when I’m taking on too much

Celebrating accomplishments

Holding onto joyous reminders (cards, letters, etc.)

Posting positive things people say about me around me (affirmations)

Checking in with myself: hunger, anger, lonliness, tiredness (HALT)

Acts of kindness

Breaks from social media

Forgiveness

Creative outlets

Spending money on experiences and other people

An Ode to Joy

Little matters when I’m with you. Tiny hands grasp at sticks, string, and glue and a cacophony of high, innocent voices create chaotic joy. Curiosity, frustration, excitement, disappointment. They’re all over your faces: there are no secrets. It is no longer about me when I’m with my kids. I’m cutting tissue paper, tying sticks, to create little nature crafts. What’s simple to me is wonderous to you. The world is as small as the ball of your fist and it consists of this very moment. I am grateful, for when you leave, what’s left is a flurry of paper shreds, spilled glue, and my lingering smile.

We closed the workshop with a short meditation and a final writing prompt: write an ode to one of the things that brings us joy or protects our joy (above). I chose to write about my Rec kids, since they’ve been the best at taking my mind off of myself and bringing my focus to the happiness of others. Following the end of the workshop, several of us hugged and exhanged contact information–the workshop brought forth a lot of raw emotions, and I felt like we had all shared a part of ourselves by contributing to the space. There aren’t many workshops or events that can accomplish that, and I’m very happy that I took a leap of faith and tried something new. I left the workshop feeling lighter, balanced, and comfortably sore. Since the workshop won’t be returning until next Fall, I’m going to search for another yoga community to engage with–actually following a yoga class is such a different experience than a solo practice and I missed it! And the writing portion of the workshop provided me with some much needed “soul water,” which is what one of the girls in the class called the experience.

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