365 days of headstand

A previously little known fact I’m now sharing with the internet: I’m a yoga teacher who is scared of doing a headstand.

Oh, I don’t mind cuing students into sirsasana. I can look at a body moving toward inversion and give pointers on how to get those feet over the head and find steadiness. But when it comes to flipping myself upside down, I freeze like the proverbial deer.

When I was going through yoga teacher training in 2014, this headstand-phobia bothered me. I didn’t think I could possibly be a good yoga teacher if I was scared of a posture, especially one so central to the health of the crown chakra, one I enviously watched others assume with serenity and grace. I confided my angst to one teacher friend, and ion her class she would give me assists. Sometimes her gentle presence behind me worked. Sometimes I didn’t even try, instead opting for child’s pose.

Then in 2015, the torn rotator cuff put me on the sidelines, one I’m just coming off now.

Recently, I’ve been craving inversions. But that old fear got in the way, so much so that I didn’t even want to try. The other night, in a yoga class series I’m taking as part of my goal to get to 100 classes in 2018—experiencing other teachers’s classes helps me grow as a practitioner and instructor—we did partner handstands. And I realized how easy it was to hang out on my hands with the comfort of a spotter.

I came home, positioned myself a few feet from a wall, and got up into headstand. I gave the wall a little tap as I found balance. Then I rejoiced. And quickly fell down. Went up again. The second time was harder. Probably I was thinking too much.

Today is the fourth day in a row that I’ve gone upside down. I’m still keeping the training wheels nearby, but trying to distance myself from that wall a little more each day.

It’s hard to remember in our Type A, over achieving culture that no posture is mastered in a day. Yoga is about patience, time, breath, devotion, body awareness. If I commit to trying a headstand every day for 365 days, I can only imagine the progress I will make. A year from now, I just might be that person chilling out on the top of my head. After all, once upon a time, I never thought I’d write an entire novel, and now I’ve written three. In confronting those things that scare us, we often find they aren’t as insurmountable as they seem.

Namaste.

 

 

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my five-day fling with FitBit

Disclaimer: I know millions of Americans, a few whom I dearly love, enthusiastically rely on FitBit to count steps and monitor activity in the spirit of accountability. While [spoiler alert] this method didn’t work for me personally, my intent is not to disparage anyone’s efforts, merely to share my own experience.

As the clock ticked in the new year, I decided to change how I quantify fitness goals. Two years out from a devastating ankle break that still leaves me stiff in the mornings, with shooting pain up the inner leg on cold days or if I happen to step funny, the time feels right to get back into the routine I had before black ice pulled me down. My best friend had just bought a new FitBit and talked me into doing the same.

The piece arrived on January 4th, a day I spent in bed with a killer cold. The 127 steps I took consisted primarily of dragging my body from bed to kitchen to bathroom to bed. But I didn’t fret over failure, filled with confidence I’d move my body more the next day.

And I did.

For the next five days, I wore that FitBit religiously as I set about meeting my real 2018 goals that have nothing to do with steps: 100 yoga, fifty barre, and 40 spin classes. (Note: 2014 Chelsea would have been able to hit the spin goal in a month but 40 classes is 37 more than 2017 Chelsea accomplished.)

At first it was fun to watch the steps add up. Given I work from home, I appreciated the hourly reminder to get up and move. But I got frustrated when steps didn’t sync with the corresponding app I constantly monitored on my phone. One night, I marched in my kitchen at 10pm; earlier in the evening, I’d done a barre-bike double. Seriously, I took an hour-long barre class and a 45-minute indoor cycling class but still felt compelled to walk in place before bed to make an arbitrary step goal.

The kicker came when after an intensive hot yoga class, sweat dripping in my eyes, I checked the FitBit app and realized I didn’t get credit for an activity hour. But driving home in the car, swinging my FitBit wearing arm up and down as I sat in bumper to bumper traffic, I managed to cheat meet that hour’s goal.

Swipe left.

Here’s the thing: FitBit increased my screen time. FitBit messed with my head. For example, I learned that I burn more calories teaching a barre class than taking one. So should I take more classes or teach more classes? But then again, I’m not a calorie counter either and I never will be. And steps? How is marching in my kitchen or swinging my arm better than barre or hot yoga? Who decided 10,000 steps was the gold standard? (This article was particularly illuminating.) FitBit made me competitive in an unhelpful (bordering  on unhealthy) way.

If it works for you, bravo. But I packed mine up and returned to sender. With the Amazon credit back on my birthday gift card, I bought books, which rarely make me feel bad about myself.

 

hello, 2017

Two days ago, I stood waist-deep in the Hawaiian surf and braced against the push-pull of the ocean. I dug my toes in the sand and tightened through the core as stronger swells moved by and through me; I relaxed slightly when I detected the undertow had let up. Yet I remained vigilant against the natural force more powerful than me; 2016’s many surprises trained me well.

I contemplated my goals for the new year. Some I could count. Lose weight. Write more. Double the yoga hours I teach. Go on x number of dates. Save money. Volunteer. But many I couldn’t. Put the phone down. Listen better. Be more patient, thoughtful, present. Experiment. I grew agitated with this exercise. Should I set 17 goals? Or one for each month of the year? One quantifiable and one unquantifiable a quarter? A combination of work, family, creativity, travel?

A new swell of bigger waves moved in and I tried something. I didn’t grip so hard. Sure, the tide pulled me a little this way and pushed a little that way. That is life. I don’t want to constantly brace for the next big one. And I don’t want to make a super specific list of goals. Instead I’m recommitting to living an authentic life. When I focus on manifesting what makes me happy and healthy, I naturally achieve the named and unnamed goals embedded in body, mind and spirit.

If I can do that I will truly experience a happy new year.

the drafting table

Sleep begets sleep. That’s what I’ve found when it comes to the boys. I can’t explain it but when they were babies, the better the nap, the easier bedtime was. And now, if I put them to bed early, they sleep later. It even works for me.

I’ve learned the same is true when it comes to writing. Writing begets writing. Words beget words. Plot begets plot. I don’t quite understand this is anymore than I understand it when it comes to sleep, but the phenomenon is rather consistent with my personality. When I find something I like to do (sleep, cook, exercise, drink wine) and it turns out I’m good at it then I want to do it every day. And when I don’t do it, I don’t feel like myself.

Until yesterday, I had written every day since January 1st. You already know I crushed my January goal and I’m close to killing February too. But about 24 hours into a headache last night, I cut myself some slack and gave my brain the night off.

That didn’t come without an internal struggle. What if skipping a day killed my momentum? What if it takes me another six weeks to streak again? What if I return to my story and find it sucks? But in the end, a rest was what I needed. And while I haven’t had a chance to sit down at the computer today, my characters and their lives are never far from my thoughts. And I’m not freaking out at all. Really.

After all, I’ve got 63,000 words and counting.

the drafting table

Okay, now that I’ve found my higher purpose, blah, blah, blah, it’s time to achieve it.

I have become one of those people who measures document length by word count, not pages. It finally makes sense to my brain. I think back to all the college papers where I used a large font size and wide margins in order to meet a certain page-based length requirement. Word counts can’t be manipulated. Well, I guess you could add bunch of superfluous words but that’s not my point.

So while apparently the answer to “how long should a novel be?” is “as long as it needs to be” the research I have done yielded the answer: 80,000-100,000 words for my genre.

It’s hard to measure art in quantitative terms, but I need benchmarks to move me beyond “write another chapter.”

After my intention setting classes, I decided to set a word count goal for my novel. I started New Year’s Day with approximately 40,000 words. The January goal is to get to 53,000. The February goal is to reach 66,000 and by the end of March, 80,000. From there I’ll assess whether the story is complete and then undertake the review and editing process. The point is to get the words out of my head and on paper.

As of tonight, I’ve written 56,500 words. I crushed the January goal. By the time I get to February, I might have to recalibrate the goals. There’s a higher purpose but there’s also a process. I might be making it up along the way but at least I’m on the road.

the best of intentions

I’ve called them resolutions. I’ve called them goals. I’ve constructed “goal boards” where I pasted images pulled from magazines of how I want my life to look and feel.

Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t, though I don’t like to use the word fail here. As I wrote in my review of the 13 in ’13, goals can evolve and be replaced by other laudable intentions.

Intentions. A yoga class on intention setting in the new year caught my eye, so now I’m taking it at two different studios. I mean, the reinforcement can’t hurt right? So in advance of all that bendy self reflection, I came up with a few intentions for 2014.

Just say no to jobs that make your face grow numb from stress and relationships that aren’t fulfilling. Drink less bottled water. Play more board games with the kids. Finish writing my novel. Experiment more. Complain less. Be better.

Happy New Year!