Integrated Wellness: Your Life is Your Masterpiece

Dear Reader: This blog post relates to lessons that are currently taking place as part of a course I’m teaching at Utah State University called Integrated Wellness. You are welcome to follow along and share any remarks or ask questions. I’d love to hear from you!

The idea for today’s class came from the brilliant, beautiful, Glennon Doyle Melton. She wrote a piece titled Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece for Huffington Post and you gotta read it; go HERE for a hefty dose of inspiration.

Basically, she reminds us that your life is your masterpiece, and your body is the instrument that you use to create it. Your body is already perfect for what it is meant to do, which is to sculpt and craft and create the life of your dreams.

So how does that all fit in with Yoga?

Well, yoga helps you keep your instrument clean, fine tuned, and ready for creation. It helps to get rid of any built up tension, stress, worry, fear, and all the other junk that doesn’t serve you, so that you can use it the way it was meant to be used—as a tool for incredible creativity, deep connection, endless joy, and infinite love.

Furthermore, yoga keeps the body functioning in top form so that you can do the things you love to do for the rest of your life….dancing when you’re 83, or rock climbing when you’re 97!

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that you need to change your body in order to be happy or fulfilled, but in reality, your body is already perfectly designed to bring you endless happiness as it helps you carry out your purpose in this life.

So rather than place your focus on how you wish your body were different, start focusing on how perfect it already is for the life you’re meant to manifest.

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Photo: Charlotte McKnight

Integrated Wellness: Why Practice Yoga?

Dear Reader: This blog post relates to lessons that are currently taking place as part of a course I’m teaching at Utah State University called Integrated Wellness. You are welcome to follow along and share any remarks or ask questions. I’d love to hear from you!

There are many different reasons for starting a yoga practice, and every single one is the perfect reason—because it got you started! Sometimes the reason for beginning something changes. As the practice or activity transforms, so does your reason for doing it.

This week the focus of class was on recognizing the way the physical, mental, emotional and energetic parts of ourselves relate and influence each other. Each one has an effect on the others—sometimes in obvious ways, and sometimes in not so obvious ways. Some thoughts, emotions and experiences carry positive energy, which will help to open and heal the body, while others carry a negative energy, which can cause contraction and limitation in the body. For example; the experience of a stressful day filled with stressful thoughts and emotions will manifest in the physical body through sore muscles, fatigue, sickness, heaviness, or maybe just an uncomfortable feeling. On the other hand, a positive thought, emotion or experience will create high energy, vibrancy, joy, or a feeling of lightness and radiance.

Through a practice of awareness, you learn how to determine which thoughts, emotions and experiences have a positive effect, and which ones don’t. Then you can be selective about what is healthy for you—and if it isn’t, choose to avoid it or let it go.

One of the benefits of a yoga practice is to bring awareness to what serves you what doesn’t serve you, and to help release any negative manifestation that’s being held by the physical body. When you stretch and breathe space into the body, you’re not only moving and stretching the muscles—you’re also releasing the buildup of tension, stress, worry, fear, or whatever else you’ve been carrying around. When you build strength through proper alignment, you’re not only getting physically stronger; you’re building up a channel that helps efficiently move oxygen, blood flow, nutrients and energy through your body. Once you begin to release some of the unnecessary heaviness that you’ve been carrying around, you create more space for love, compassion, creativity, connection, and greater energy.

No matter what your reason is for practicing yoga, ultimately it embodies all the parts of yourself in a way that heals, opens, strengthens, creates space, facilitates awareness, and offers you a glimpse of your own Divine Truth.

Oh, and it’ll stretch out your hamstrings, too!

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Before and After

Before I had Max, I had time. Enough for my boys, enough for my sweetheart, and enough left over for me to think, reflect, meditate, write, practice yoga, run, wander, read, and ah…sleep… my time was mine.

Before I had Max, I had freedom. I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. I had the freedom to choose the perfect time and place to pour over the art of articulating just the right combination of words and sentences. I had the freedom to write in the right setting, within the right state of mind, at the right time of day.

I had the freedom to craft and refine a yoga sequence that would suit my mood and specific needs. I had the freedom to walk away from the practice if I wanted, because I would have the time to do it later.

Before I had Max, I had energy. My mind was sharp, clear, concise, and poised for conversation. I had the energy to juggle everything at once, and never worried that I had forgotten something important.

Before I had Max, I had solitude. Meditation was sacred, private and yielded to quiet inner peace. I was alone, All One, whenever I needed it.

Before I had Max, life was easy, predictable, and secure. I was rarely challenged.

Before I had Max, something was missing. I searched and longed for something that I couldn’t understand.

After I had Max, I faced fear. I grieved the loss of my old life, my old habits, and my old me.

After I had Max, I found something new.

I found strength.

I found clarity.

I found direction.

I found Grace.

I found humility.

I found commitment.

I found discipline.

I found surrender.

I found a new way to meditate, a new way to practice, a new way to run, a new way to wander, a new way to read,  a new way to write, and a new way to love.

I found a new me.

And I like her.

Thank you, Max, my beautiful baby boy.

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Photo: www.anetaivanova.com

A Perfect Body is a State of Mind

I recently came across a photograph of myself in a bathing suit when I was around 17 or 18 years old. My body language perfectly illustrated the degree of my insecurity as I tried to fold into myself, as if trying to disappear. The scowl directed at the person behind the lens demonstrated my irritation and embarrassment.

As I look at the photograph now, nearly 20 years later, I see something that I didn’t see then. I see a beautiful girl and a beautiful body—not a perfect body defined by media standards—but healthy and perfect enough. Why didn’t I see the beauty then? As I reflect on this, I wonder if, in another 20 years, I’ll look back on some photograph taken of me during this moment, at this stage of my life and think, “Why didn’t I see the beauty then?”

What would it take to accept the fact that you are beautiful right now? To embrace your imperfections and see that they are the attributes that make you uniquely perfect? And why is it so hard to do?

I think part of it is that we’ve been taught not to love our bodies—that it would be arrogant or egotistical to feel love toward ourselves. Yet, wouldn’t we want our sisters, friends, mothers and daughters to feel like its okay to love and accept their bodies? There is only one way to truly teach another person to love themselves, and that is through your own example. In order to teach another person about true self-love, you must live and breathe and embody self-love for yourself. If you truly love yourself and accept your body, then nothing more must be done. The energy of that love will extend beyond you to everyone and everything around you, and it will be felt deeply, in a way that no words or actions could ever express. If you can’t love yourself for you, love yourself for someone you care about.

I know that self-love and acceptance is much easier said than done, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process of reconfiguring your thoughts and perceptions—a process that starts out foreign and uncomfortable, but over time becomes easier, and eventually, a natural part of what you believe in.

Here are three simple suggestions for getting started on learning to love and accept your body:

1. A perfect body is a state of mind. All change is facilitated from the inside out, meaning that you are what you believe in. If you always believe that you still have to… (fill in the blank), before accepting yourself, then you will always feel that way—no matter how many times you succeed in filling in that blank. Start by believing that you are already perfect enough. That simple shift of perception will create an energetic ripple that extends from the inside out to transform everything—including your physical appearance.

2. Tell yourself you’re beautiful. (I know—it’s cheesy, and initially it will feel like you’re merely spouting words without meaning), but make a new habit so that every time you look in the mirror, smile and tell yourself you’re beautiful. You can start out being silly or sarcastic and its okay if you don’t believe it at first, but over time, something will shift and you’ll begin to see that you really are beautiful. If you can’t remember to do it, stick a post-it note to your mirror as a reminder.

3. Think about one thing that you enjoy experiencing through your body—the feeling of soaking in the tub, the pleasure of hugging someone you love, or the exhilaration of pushing your body through exercise—it could be anything. Be grateful that your body offers that experience. The more you practice gratitude for what your body offers you, the more you’ll find to be grateful for.

Forming a new way of seeing and believing takes time and patience, but loving and accepting yourself for you and those you love is well worth the effort.

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photo: Margaret Durow

Soft Belly

I currently have a two-week old baby, which means that—depending on how you look at it—I’m either in a state of complete bliss, or a lack-of-sleep induced fog. (I think it might be a bit of both). My baby likes to be held. Whether he’s sleeping or awake, he seems to know whether or not I’m physically holding him–which means, I’m currently writing with him strapped to my chest as I methodically sway from side to side. This could lead to some misspelled words and incoherent sentences. My apologies in advance.

Since the focus of my blog right now is primarily on the idea that optimal health and fitness happens from the inside out, my post today is about the fear that I battled throughout my pregnancy of facing my postpartum body.  This is my third child, and I’m 37. In my mind, that feels old enough to expect that my body will likely not bounce back right away; and a third pregnancy…well, that’s a lot for one body to go through! Throughout my pregnancy, I managed to conquer most of the fearful or negative thoughts with conscious awareness and positive intentions for myself and my baby, and now that I’m facing the reality of my postpartum body, I’m discovering something unexpected…I  kind of like it.

I have a round belly, big boobs for nursing and a bit of curve to my normally slim frame. If I were to sum up my body in one word, I would describe it as soft; which makes a nice cushion for my baby to sink into and snuggle up against. I didn’t expect to feel this way.  By working to dispel the negativity surrounding my postpartum body, the most I had hoped for was acceptance of my body, and here I am in awe with love and appreciation for all that it has gone through—the amazing development of pregnancy, the delivery of my beautiful baby, and the miraculous recovery from childbirth.

No matter what your body has gone through, I hope you’ll look at it with love and appreciation. It carries so much, releases so much, and heals itself again and again. It’s like witnessing a miracle every day.

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What’s Your Internal Motivator?

Early in my pregnancy my weight was increasing at a rate that felt like too much, too soon. I realized that if I continued to put on the pounds as quickly as I was, by the time I carried to term, I would end up gaining much more weight than what was recommended by my doctor. I knew I needed to become more conscious about my habits, and for some reason, my initial motivation rose up out of negativity for my lack of discipline and carelessness. Combine that with being sick and tired most of the time, and I had nothing to propel me toward healthier habits except negative internal motivators and the intention to simply eat less and watch the numbers on the scale go up, up, up.

For about one month I (tried to) deprive myself. An internal dialogue of negative thoughts and regrets about how weak I was being was followed up with how guilty I felt about being weak in the first place.

Needless to say, that month didn’t go so well. I ate more because I felt bad, and I felt bad because I ate more. It was not a healthy cycle to be in.

I realized that my approach wasn’t working, so I decided to focus on what I really wanted—and that was to have a healthy baby and a healthy pregnancy no matter what the number on the scale was.

My internal motivators shifted from negative to positive. I was still sick and tired most of the time, but when I felt like snacking on salty or sugary foods to ease nausea, I tried drinking tea, practicing yoga or walking instead. My motivation was no longer focused on my weight; I was focused on having a healthy baby and pregnancy instead. And I stopped looking at the numbers on the scale.

The weight began to even out, and eventually fell into a healthy pattern of gain. By the end of my pregnancy, I was right where wanted I to be—feeling strong, relaxed, comfortable, and well within a healthy weight gain for my body type.

Through this process, I realized that the negative internal motivators were really pulling me down and keeping me there—creating a cycle that didn’t give me the confidence or the positive motivation that I needed to see the real reason behind why it was important to me to stay within a healthy weight range. When all of my focus was on the numbers on a scale, it triggered personal attacks such as feeling guilty and weak—which of course, didn’t give me the strength to make any positive changes. But once I got clear about my intention and motivation, it aligned with my internal strength and resolve to do something that would benefit myself and my baby.

I’m amazed at the power of internal motivation. Both negative and positive motivators have a tremendous effect on the physical outcome.

I’ve put together a fun and easy little worksheet that will help you to determine your internal motivation as it relates to your body, exercise and food. It’s a free, downloadable pdf that I can send to you once you’ve signed your e-mail up for occasional updates and information from my blog. You can sign up for that right HERE.

I hope you’ll take a close look at what motivates you and your relationship to well-being. I truly believe that a positive outcome starts with positive internal motivation, and that begins inside of you–a place where your strength and power are unsurpassed.

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Inside Out: An Introduction

I feel as though I have to dust the cobwebs off of my poor, neglected blog. I’ve been taking a break from things—my own little hibernation of sorts. This winter I have been drawn inward—preparing myself for a new baby (any day now!), nursing new thoughts, and creatively conjuring fresh ideas. For me, winter brings a natural tendency toward introspection, and the springtime begs for me to spill it out.  I know that we’re still a few weeks away from spring, but I can’t wait to introduce some exciting new ideas that I hope will resonate with you—they have certainly resonated with me.

Over the past ten years, I have dedicated a huge amount of time and energy toward teaching, practicing and understanding how to obtain optimal health, fitness and well-being.  I am passionate about using my own experiences to help others, and the new ideas I intend to express through this blog are no different. Everything that I share through my writing comes from my own experiences, most of which I am still trying to figure out for myself, even as I share them with you.

One of the ideas I’m currently processing is the fascinating relationship between thoughts, emotions, habits and inner dialogue, and how they directly affect the physical body. I believe that every thought has a physical manifestation. If the thought is negative, it has a negative effect on the physical body; if the thought is positive, then the effect on the body is positive. Sometimes the affect is obvious and immediate, while other times is may not reveal itself for days, weeks, months or years.

For example, have you noticed how stress can make you sick, or leave your muscles feeling sore and achy? Or what about the natural ‘glow’ you get from being in love or sharing a happy occasion? What about less obvious scenarios? How do you think your body responds over time to constant streams of negative internal dialogue? How do you imagine your body would respond to constant love and positive feedback? Furthermore, how much of your inner dialogue has become habitual so that you’re not even aware of what type of information you’re sending yourself on a regular basis? How do you think that might affect your physical body?

This is just a small sampling of some of the questions and topics I intend to write about over the next few weeks as I direct the focus of my blog toward exploring healthy transformation from the inside out: a heart-centered approach to health, fitness and well-being.

Next Post: Are you using negative or positive motivators?

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Integrated Wellness Has Ended; Next Up: Prenatal Yoga, Of Course!

The semester has just ended, and I can’t even begin to express how amazing it was to teach the Integrated Wellness class at USU.  I made a million mistakes, and getting in front of the students to teach made me nervous every. single. time. Yet, as much as it was challenging, it was also incredibly rewarding. I was forced to get more comfortable with speaking, I learned about creative ways to present information, and the students were so inspiring as they shared their own thoughts and views on the material. They taught me more than they could ever know. I’m already planning out ways I can improve for next time!

Now my focus has turned to the baby growing in my belly and how I can honor my body during this process of growth. Part of that process means taking a (much-needed) break from teaching regularly scheduled public classes. Yet, I can’t possibly step away from teaching entirely, so I’ve started to record and share free prenatal yoga and fitness classes on You Tube!

When I found out I was pregnant, I envisioned having a beautiful and strong connection with both my body and my baby during this magical time. Yet, once the sickness settled in at around six weeks, all I wanted to do was disconnect from my body and the discomfort I was experiencing. Then I felt guilty that I wasn’t enjoying the pregnancy like I thought I would. The one thing that has helped me connect to my body is my yoga practice. It teaches me that I can remain present through discomfort, stay focused on my breath, and surrender to the sensation, whatever it may be.

I hope that if you’re expecting a baby, you’ll treat yourself to a prenatal yoga practice. It has truly been one of the most treasured parts of my pregnancy. And if you’re not expecting a baby, please share the link with someone who is!

For FREE prenatal classes on You Tube, visit: Emily Parkinson Perry Yoga and Fitness

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Integrated Wellness: The Desire Map

Dear Reader: This blog post relates to lessons that are currently taking place as part of a course I’m teaching at Utah State University called Integrated Wellness. You are welcome to follow along and share any remarks or ask questions. I’d love to hear from you!

This past week, and for the next couple of weeks, my students will be working on a beautiful concept designed by Danielle LaPorte called The Desire Map. Danielle has put together a program that is designed to help you tune into what you really want based on your core desired feelings.  Through writing exercises and introspection designed to simplify and clarify your deepest desires, you’ll begin to realize that your preferred feelings are truly a road map toward achieving your goals and offering service to others.

 Feelings are magnetic. Each feeling is a beacon that attracts a reality. Love attracts love. Generosity creates a generous response. Anger creates more things that could make you angrier—if you let them. What we focus on expands. So choosing to focus on life-affirming feelings is the surest way to create the experience that you want. –Danielle LaPorte

The Desire Map shifts the way you set goals. Instead of focusing on external attainment and concrete objectives, you’ll place your focus on pursuing the feelings that you hope accomplishing those goals will bring up for you. Essentially, it offers a radical shift in the way you view goal-setting and achievement.

In terms of energy, every thought, action, and emotion sends out an energetic vibration, which then attracts more of the same. Of the three, emotion carries the highest energetic vibration, and therefore has a much stronger pull to attract more of the same. So, pursuing your goals through thought and action will take longer than sending out the feeling or emotion behind what you hope to achieve. You can work toward your goal by making choices that reflect the feeling you’re going for. For example, if your external goal is to obtain wealth, you’ll want to make choices that invoke the feeling of being wealthy. If that means saving money, then that’s the choice you’ll make; or if that means imagining your dream house and how you feel when you own it, then that becomes part of your process as well.

When you get clear about how you want to feel, choices become easier. It becomes less about what other people think or the endless questioning that comes from the mind, and more about what rises up from your heart.

While I’m not at liberty to share the details of this beautiful program, I highly recommend that you check it out. There is an extensive online program that you can access here, or keep an eye out for the published book coming out January 2014. I hope you’ll check it out!

Please note: We’ll be working on this topic for the next 2-3 weeks, so I won’t be posting again until the end of November. Have a great month!!

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Integrated Wellness: Creativity

Dear Reader: This blog post relates to lessons that are currently taking place as part of a course I’m teaching at Utah State University called Integrated Wellness. You are welcome to follow along and share any remarks or ask questions. I’d love to hear from you!

Every single one of us is a creative being, and our lives are our greatest work of art.

In this lesson, I use some of the tools and discussion pulled from an incredible book titled, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book offers a tremendous amount of precious wisdom that I highly recommend to anyone. The book was given to me, and then sat on my shelf for at least two years before I finally picked it up. I resisted it because I didn’t consider myself an artist, so saw little value in exploring it. I soon realized that this book is for everyone. It offers the beautiful reminder that we are all artists, and that creativity is something that everyone possesses—it’s just a matter of learning how to tune into and then express yourself through your own innate creativity.

For me, living a creative life means being able to see things in a new light. It means finding solutions, moving through obstacles and learning how to see the beauty in everything—even the ‘ugly parts’. I believe that a life lived with greater creativity has the power to break us free from habitual patterns and old ideas, which then leads us toward living a richer, fuller and more abundant life. It means tuning into your desires and having the courage to follow through. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do anything drastic or out of the ordinary. It can be as simple as fine-tuning your observations, choosing to see things creatively, and experiencing daily life with heightened sensitivity.

There are so many beautiful lessons in this book—I can barely scratch the surface, but what I wanted to introduce to my students this week are two magnificent tools for tuning into your own creativity.

  1. The Morning Pages: The morning pages consist of three pages, written longhand in strictly stream-of-consciousness writing. (I have found that it is roughly the equivalent of 750-1000 words typed). She stresses that that “there is no wrong way to do morning pages…these daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art.” For me, the morning pages are a way to release the surface thoughts of my mind so that I can begin to tune into some of the deeper thoughts and layers of my psyche. This practice of writing has been one of the most powerful tools in learning to clear out and release the thoughts and ideas that don’t serve me. Stream of consciousness writing means that you simply write whatever comes to mind. It can be completely senseless and incoherent. You don’t have to share it with anyone, or even keep it around. (I find it therapeutic to destroy some of the pages as a deliberate release). The important thing here is to be consistent. Do it every single day. Morning is best, but if you can’t find the time, do it any other time during the day. Try to stick with it for at least 12 weeks.
  2. The Artist’s Date: The Artist’s date is a block of time, perhaps two hours, set aside once a week to nurture your creative consciousness. It is essentially an excursion or a date that you take yourself on. Nobody else is invited. It is meant to be solely for you. You could go see a movie, walk an art gallery, stroll in the park, or drive through the mountains. The key is that you do it with an intention to be present with yourself. I find that it teaches you what you like and dislike and also how to be alone and enjoy your own company—which you’ll find is a gift in and of itself.

You can think of the Morning Pages and The Artist’s Date as a two-step process based on both releasing and receiving. The morning pages help you to release, and the artist’s date offers you the opportunity to receive.

Learning through discussion and reading are powerful tools, but I believe that real power and transformation lies in cultivating a practice—something that requires dedication, discipline, courage  (and sometimes even discomfort) to maintain. For the remainder of the semester, I’ll continue to introduce tools and practices that students (and readers) can explore and experiment with. Certainly, most of us don’t have the time to practice all of them, but at least the introduction will be there.

More on this topic:

http://emilyparkinsonperry.com/2013/03/22/create/

http://emilyparkinsonperry.com/2013/02/08/the-absence-of-creativity/

http://emilyparkinsonperry.com/2012/11/16/a-look-back-and-then-forward/

Next week:  We’ll learn about tools that help us tune into our greatest desires!

Ariellah