Monday Musings: Seatbelts, everyone!

 “This exhibition [Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters or #GDTatMia] presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life.” -  Guillermo del Toro

You might be asking yourself… what the heck does that quote have to do with yoga OR YogaQuest, and why am I quoting Guillermo del Toro?! Fasten your seatbelts, we’re going on a field trip!

One of the many Funko Pop! figures you'll find at YogaQuest

One of the many Funko Pop! figures you'll find at YogaQuest

You find yourself in Uptown Minneapolis on a Tuesday night. You have just arrived at the YogaQuest studio, it’s quest night, and you are on time! The door is slightly ajar, and you hear chatter and laughter coming from inside the studio. You slip your shoes off, leaving them with several other pairs of shoes and sandals. You gently push the door open, and step inside the studio. You notice a lovely wood floor, and warm lighting. There are several people settled throughout the room on their mats, and as you turn toward the front of the room, you are warmly greeted by tonight’s teacher. You notice to your left, a shelf with a collection of lego mini figures, action figures, and gosh, too many Funko Pop! figures to count. You recognize most of them, but one in particular catches your eye. You didn’t even know they made a Funko Pop! of that character, but you are so excited to know it is a thing that exists in the world! You don’t know anyone here, but seeing that character represented, gives you a sense of belonging… someone here must love them too!
You head to the tall shelves to your right, grabbing a mat and bolster to borrow. Making your way to an open spot in the back of the room, you notice the far right corner is FULL full of signed photos from conventions. Some are promotional professional photo of and signed by an individual, but many are group photos of YogaQuest community members with some super awesome nerdy famous people... you can just feel the joy radiating out of those images in particular. Your eyes continue along the back wall, there are posters of bad-ass comic heroes, cartoon characters, and nerdy pop culture. Also, a giant stuffed shark wearing a crown?! You unroll your mat, sit on your bolster, and take a deep breath in, while you wait for the class to begin. Looking to your left, you notice your neighbor has a funko pop figure on the floor in front of their mat?! They notice you noticing it, introduce themselves, and explain that they find it helpful for balance (giving them a focal point that doesn’t move), while also helping them feel like a badass. You consider what you might bring next time, because that sounds like an awesome idea.

The teacher draws your attention to the front of the room, and the quest begins! 
(Try one of our online quests, all filmed at the Uptown Minneapolis YogaQuest studio: http://www.yogaquest.org/online-quests)

Costumes from Crimson Peak on display at Mia

Costumes from Crimson Peak on display at Mia

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, & novelist, and Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is an exhibition currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, here in Minneapolis Minnesota, through May 28th. Del Toro has collected a wide array of fine art, collectibles, and representation of people and stories which inspire him, keeping this collection in a Los Angeles home he calls "Bleak House”. 

After a stroll through the exhibition, we noticed some similarities between “Bleak House” and the YogaQuest studio. Both spaces are filled with representations of things that inspire us: 
In the #GDTatMia exhibition, actual props from some of his films are on view, along with life size representations of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as a replica of his ‘rain room’, where it always sounds like it is raining. At the YQdio, you will find action figures, framed prints, signed portraits, and often a custom soundscape or playlist (I’m looking at you, Vanessa!). 

Both spaces inspire curiosity, and when we engage our curiosity, we can more deeply explore what inspires us.

This Thursday, April 20th, YogaQuest will be appearing at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, taking museum goers through the Guillermo del Toro film Crimson Peak, pose by pose... we hope to see you there!

 
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Rose is a recklessly optimistic Hufflepuff, generally amused by pretty much everything, and a helper at heart. She is navigating a career in information technology, while exploring her creative side through writing. She lives in the south metro, with her husband, dog, and two cats.

Monday Musings: A Guide to Joyful Movement, Part 1

One of the Health-At-Every-Size principles is “life-enhancing movement,” which is described as, “physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.” Seems like a reasonable approach, yet, if you’ve ever spent any time in mainstream culture (ahem, all of us have!), you’re guaranteed to have some preconceived ideas of what counts as exercise.

Mainstream messages like, “no pain, no gain,” depictions of fit people as almost exclusively thin and white, and hundreds of workout plans promising you everything from health to beauty to happiness set millions of people up with false-expectations and an unrealistic approach to fitness. Most of these plans disregard the science behind moving and even more only address physical health.

These messages are so pervasive in our world, it’s hard to even recognize where our own definition of joyful movement stops and society’s expectations begin. The first part of discovering what joyful movement means to you is untangling some of our preconceived notions of exercise. Being aware of the messages that don’t have your best interests at heart is key to being able to identify what truly brings you joy, not just what society tells you should bring you joy.

Let’s explore some common misconceptions… 

  1. I have to workout for xx minutes/x times per week for it to count: The biggest health gains from physical activity come from doing something instead of nothing. Increases beyond 90-minutes/week results in incremental health improvements in general, however, for any individual those benefits might be outweighed by lower quality of life in other areas. Health is a balance of physical, mental and emotional health.
  2. If some is good, more must be better! In the same vein of misconception #1, constantly pushing yourself to take on more days or longer workouts isn’t necessary to get the health benefits of physical activity and may actually sacrifice other areas of health, like your relationships or work life.
  3. Exercise only happens in certain places or only includes certain activities: Your body reaps the benefits of getting your blood pumping, no matter where or how it gets there!
  4. If you aren’t pushing yourself to the max, it doesn’t count: This misrepresentation of fitness as sweating profusely, huffing and puffing, and ready to collapse is actually a bit dangerous. The best benefits from exercise happen at 50-70% of your max heart rate; this means you should be able to speak in whole sentences, though you may not easily carry out a full conversation.
  5. Exercising will make you look a certain way: The big selling point of most fitness programs! Whether they promise a six-pack in ten weeks, losing inches or bulking up muscles, your genetics actually dictate your looks for the most part.
  6. Exercise is only for people who look a certain way: Unfortunately, all those images of a very specific type of person (thin, white, affluent) lead to a lot of people believing they don’t belong in gyms or other ‘traditional’ exercise venues. I can’t change all those exclusive messages (I wish I could), but perhaps this will allow you to see these messages for what they are: a marketing strategy to sell people on an unattainable illusion.
  7. Exercise will make you a better person: There is a sense that people who work out are inherently better people than those that don’t. They are supposedly hard-working, persistent, care about their health… the list could go on and on. Let’s take a moment to reflect on whether this is really true. Are people who work out regularly actually better than people who don’t? Everyone has demands on their time and they must prioritize, yet if someone choosing time with family over time at the gym, does that really reflect poorly on their moral character? Or someone who is prioritizing mental health at the moment? Additionally, some people have means to outsource daily activities of living (cooking, cleaning), freeing up time to workout, but most of us don’t have those options.
  8. Certain activities are better or healthier than others: For example, people tend to think of running as the epitome of healthy exercise, but this strenuous activity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Runners experience a lot of wear and tear on their joints, shin splints and stress fractures. My point is not to convince people who love running to stop running, but to show why people shouldn’t push themselves to do an activity that isn’t enjoyable just because it has a certain reputation.
  9. I need to eat a certain way to get the most out of exercising: For people who aren’t fitness professionals, there is no way of eating or drinking that will change what you get from working out. Formulas for when to eat protein vs. carbs, or how to replenish electrolytes only pertain to folks who do this for a living, for hours every day, or in extreme heat (I don’t recommend this for 99% of people!)
  10. Eating (insert food item here) negates my whole workout! Even though the health and wellness industry loves to associate diet and exercise, the benefits of physical activity are 100% independent from your diet.
     

BONUS! I’ve created a worksheet through Body Brave Consulting to guide you through creating joyful movement. Click here to get access to the worksheet.

Tune in next month for part 2!
 

 
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Ani is a fat activist and Health at Every Size promoter. She is currently pursuing a degree in Dietetics and is working towards the creation of a non-profit to support healthy relationships with food. She is also a geek, yogi, knitter, and lives with her partner and two dogs in Minneapolis.

Monday Musings: Emotional Labor vs. Well-Being

I read a book and some articles to save you time. But the ideas brought up were extremely thought provoking and I heartily recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown to learn about combating shame, if you’re so inclined, and the following articles to familiarize yourself with the concept of emotional labor.

  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
  • “Emotional labour: A significant interpersonal stressor” by Steven Kiely
  • “How companies force ‘emotional labor’ on low-wage workers” by Ned Resnikoff

What is emotional labor? All people, at some point or another, manage their feelings while “on the clock” to create a work-acceptable facial and bodily display - this is emotional labor. Some jobs require more emotional labor than others, for example: receptionists, therapists, educators, etc., because they must remain neutral or even falsely cheerful with customers/patients/coworkers/students at all times. Often it seems that this crucial and difficult task is not taken into account when classifying job difficulty, both in government and in private sector job classifications. 

"Emotional labor is 'management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display … sold for a wage'” - Arlie Russell Hochschild

How does this unmentioned job duty affect people? Routinely suppressing or faking feelings causes an internal conflict that can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Being on the front lines often means an employee is subjected to the brunt of other people's displeasure, whether it's because they are delivering bad news ("the doctor is running late") or because they are not seen as someone worth treating well (customer talking on cell phone when ordering coffee), the result is the same. Employees start to feel less than. Less than themselves. Less than worthy. Less than human. At some point the toll of emotional labor carries into employees' personal lives; they can no longer connect with other people or themselves.

How can managers, supervisors, job classifiers and co-workers acknowledge and help employees to deal with the stress caused by routinely suppressing one's feelings or faking feelings? Should employees be allowed more time for health and well being, with more time away from the front lines? Is time away enough?

"We are psychologically, emotional cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it gives purpose and meaning to our lives." - Brené Brown

Imagine if companies provided all employees with paid time, a few hours a week, for proactive health and well being! People often think physical exercise but other wellness activities like meditation or therapy are crucial for whole health, especially if there is a combination of time for oneself and for connecting with others. Employers would retain and recruit happier, healthier and more productive employees if they incorporated these benefits to offset unpaid emotional labor. Additionally, an institutional wellness initiative is more impactful than an individual trying to find time in their personal life. Health education/information is beneficial, but individuals can only do so much with information. When institutions, supervisors, peers, etc. provide time and support, employees can actually use all the wellness information that is widely available. 

You might not have the power to make institutional changes but you likely have coworkers; how can you support them? 

Perhaps you need support or have been successful at asking for support: how did you ask for help? 

Is being vulnerable the opposite of emotional labor?

Share your ideas here, on our blog, or on our YogaQuest Facebook Page.

 

Other Quotes of Interest:

"SA [surface acting] has been linked to negative psychological and physical health outcomes including burnout in the form of increased emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, reduced personal accomplishment, job dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, psychosomatic  complaints, and intentions to resign."  - Steven Kiely

"When we teach or model to our children that vulnerability is dangerous and should be pushed away, we lead them directly into danger and disconnection." Brené Brown

"Due to the failure by traditional job evaluation systems to adequately measure and compensate for emotional labour in monetary  terms...organizations should consider using formal and informal rewards  and recognition as a symbol of appreciation for the emotional effort exerted by employees." - Steven Kiely

"I am suggesting that we stop dehumanizing people and start looking them in the eye when we speak to them." - Brené Brown

 

Jennyann - Poet, Yoga Teacher, Expert Waffle Maker, Designer

Currently reading:
The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K. Le Guin
Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1 by Joseph Fink

Monday Musings: Finding Joy

I, like many of us, wake up and check Facebook and see more headlines and horrific news stories. I feel like the world is burning down around my ears all the time. On top of it, and I’m going to be honest here, money’s really tight, I haven’t had time to do the dishes in a week, I’m impressed that I have clean clothing to wear to work, there’s something sticky on my living room floor, and I’ve also started school full time (because I didn’t have enough to do).

It’s a lot.

And I’m not alone. Collectively, we are feeling more and more stressed out – the ends that barely made it are not quite making it anymore, and everything feels tense and scary. And, despite the constant communication, we feel alone in all this. How can I have people over to my house when the kitchen is not just messy, but at high grossness level of mess? How can I take time to visit with friends when I haven’t had any time with my partner? Not only am I freaked out about money ALL THE TIME, but I’m also so afraid that everyone’s going to judge me because we ran out of money again this month, that I just don’t talk about it to anyone.

Secret is: we are all going through this.

How do we stop it?

Two things:

  1. Talk about it. Start with close friends. Open up about how much it sucks to be in debt (and most of us are!). Talk about how you can’t catch up on the laundry. Discuss how you’re afraid people are going to judge you about whatever you’re afraid people are going to judge you about. If you speak up and voice what isn’t being said, you’ll give space for others to do the same. You don’t have to have answers or solutions, but making that connection and that space has stress relieving effects. For me, knowing I’m not alone is so huge – when I can call my best friend and say, “OMG. I just had a bill go into collections and it really sucks, and I’m feeling afraid of it, and there is literally nothing I can do about it” Is incredibly freeing. Names have power. Let’s name these things out loud.
     
  2. Find joy. Trust me, I know it’s trite. But, hear me out. Take a couple moments each day (I do this first thing in the morning), and think about the day before. Think about what made you happy, or gave you a momentary smile. It can be big things, but it doesn’t have to be. Something that gives me joy is writing with a certain pen I have. I just love it and I get excited when I get to write with it. I really love having my daily coffee. Finding joys – small and big – can be a huge stress reliever. It helps to get out of the muck of the day for just a moment.

What are the small joys that you find in your day? Share with us in the comments! 

 

Kat is a yoga teacher (RYT200), student, partner, mother, and all- around badass woman. She is honored to share her Monday Musings with her YogaQuest Community. 

Monday Musings with Jennyann

If someone asked me why I write (or paint, or crochet poorly, or garden) I would likely tell them spilling my emotions onto the page helps me get out of my head. But when people ask me why I practice yoga it's the opposite; it's to bring my head back to my body. Although I don't say it that way, mostly because I never thought about it in that way until I read The Making of a Poem by Stephen Spender. 

Spender states, "there is always a slight tendency of the body to sabotage the attention of the mind by providing some distraction. If this need for distraction can be directed into one channel," - for example yoga! - "then other distractions outside oneself are put out of competition. The concentrated effort of writing poetry is a spiritual activity which makes one completely forget, for the time being, that one has a body. It is this disturbance of the balance of the body and mind, and for this reason, one needs a kind of anchor of sensation with the physical world." 

This really resonated with me. It suddenly made sense why I couldn't help myself when creating my own yoga classes (shout out to YQ Yoga Teacher Training for being so awesome) that I would create a series I lovingly call "Yoga for Depressed Writers" (really I should have called it Yoga for Me). I need writing to forget my body and I need yoga to bring me back and anchor my mind with my physical self.

Yoga and writing are not only opposites for me, they also have a lot in common. Both are creative outlets and they make me feel good. Wellness, amirite! But seriously, wellness! One of my writing and wellness challenges is shaking the negative emotions I get lost in. The thoughts generally aren't related to what I'm trying to do. I'm just stuck. One thing that has helped me is actively weeding out the thoughts I don't need in my head - before yoga practice, a writing sesh, whatever.

There are many versions of weeding writing on the interwebs (I found this one in a book! A book made of paper!) and one version might work better for you than another. Here's the one I use and have used with other yogis. Try it out and tell me what you think. 

Weeding Writing (adapted from Cultivating Your Creative Life by Alena Hennessy)
Write out a list of thoughts to weed out or things you think about yourself that you no longer want to carry with you. This is instinctual; don't censure yourself and don't worry about complete sentences.  (write for 1 min)

After your list is complete, review it for a little while. It's important to recognize and accept that these thoughts were things you may have carried for years. Take note of any patterns. Now you can transform these thoughts into nothingness. They were stuck inside of you. But since they were never yours to begin with, you can let go of them.

Turn these thoughts into a drawing. You can do anything, really, just as long as it expresses the fact that you don't own these ideas anymore. (draw for 1-2 min)
 

 

Jennyann - Poet, Yoga Teacher, Expert Waffle Maker, Designer

Currently reading: 
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde; 
Unmentionable by Therese Oneill; 
Designing Our Way To a Better World by Thomas Fisher; 
Frankenstein  (1818 version) by Mary Shelley;
Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Mindfulness For the Full Minded

Like many folks, I struggle with an all or nothing attitude. If I decide to do something, I often go full force ahead, and it’s either an epic win or a dramatic fail. Combine this with my anxiety, and it often means that I choose to not do things, rather than risk the failure.

I teach knitting to folks, and in my classes I focus on creating an environment that is safe for failure. Learning new tasks lends its self to lots of failure, as people are rarely masters at a task the first time they try it. As children, we expect to need to LEARN a task. I find that children expect to not be good at something when we start, and as we practice we get better and better. Kids do things for the joy of doing them, rather than the experience of instant mastery. Think about a five year old finger painting – that kid is not thinking that the blobs of paint are ACTUALLY what a tree and flowers look like, but they sure enjoyed smushing their hands in the paint and that’s what it FEELS it looks like. The kid is not expecting their piece to come out looking like a Van Gogh. The process of creating that painting brought them joy, and as such, the end result brings them joy too.  

With my knitters, when I give them permission to fail, to know ahead of time their project is not going to be perfect by any means, and to enjoy the experience of learning to knit (and this takes a lot of reminders that it’s ok to suck at something), they are so happy with what they have created at the end – no matter how full of holes and mistakes it is – because they were able to experience the joy of learning without the fear of failure. 

Somewhere in between being five with finger-paints and adults with jobs, we forget the joy of learning, and instead focus just on the end result. Which means we stop trying new things, because we know the end result is not going to be perfect. Even though I teach other people to allow themselves to not do everything perfectly, I don’t give myself the same permission.

I’ve realized the act of taking the time to enjoy a process is mindfulness. It’s about learning that stitch in that moment, not worrying about what your end result is going to be. I also don’t need to jump into mindfulness full force – I can choose times to be mindful (…. As I type this, I realize it’s being mindful about being mindful….). As this is a yoga blog, it would make sense to work on mindfulness in my yoga practice. Wish me luck on this venture.

 

Mindfulness For the Full-Minded is an ongoing exploration by Kat Gordon. She invites you to follow her journey toward mindfulness here. 

Monday Musings: ECCC Wrap-Up!

Wow, what a weekend at Emerald City Comicon! Convention weekends are always busy and exhausting but so worth it. We were so pleased to be able to offer Quests all four days of the con and had amazing crowds each day. It never ceases to astound me how many people are excited about doing geeky yoga! We also saw some old friends and met lots of new folks; many braving to do yoga in their cosplay! Thank you to everyone who took time out of their convention day to go on a narrated yogic adventure with us! Below, we have a selection of photos from each day of Quests. If you attended any of the days, keep an eye out for yourself.

Thank you for your hospitality, Seattle, but there's no place like home. Also, our legs will not miss your hills. Nerdmaste.