Category Archives: yoga

Yoga Challenge – Final Day

Today’s pose was Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Bend.  I needed to use a strap because I couldn’t reach my right hand to my right foot as you can see in the photo (yikes, I’m far away!!) but will be working on this pose hoping to become more flexible in my shoulders so I can eventually let go of the strap.  I look angry in this photo but really it’s just my ‘Don’t face-plant!’ face – I promise :)

day8

 

Each of the poses I worked on these last 8 days aids in different things within the body.  This one for example, contains the following benefits:

It opens the hips and shoulders and stretches the hamstrings. This pose also increases blood flow circulation to the lungs & head.  It also helps with balance and focus.

Thanks for coming along with me during these last 8 days.  I hope if nothing else, at least you found the photos entertaining ;)  Since I am always practicing, I thought I might occasionally post poses that I’m currently working on.

Tomorrow is my art show and I am exhausted beyond belief.  Signing off so that I can finish packing up the car and head off to bed!   Have a great weekend, everyone.

xo

Balance your heart Day Four

Day four of the Balance Your Heart Challenge via Instagram is wide-angled seated forward bend.

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Begin by spreading the legs wide on the mat, keeping the legs as straight as possible and position the feet into what my yoga instructor calls ‘Barbie feet’ – love that, by the way.  lol

When you begin bending, imagine yourself leading with your heart.  You can rest your hands out in front and slowly inch forward, or place your hands on your feet, bending deeper with each breath.  Stop wherever you’re comfortable.

This is one pose that really allows you to see your progress.  Six months ago I felt stiff and awkward while working on this pose.  Now, it is much easier as long as I do a proper warm-up first.  Always, always warm up your muscles before attempting any deep stretch to prevent injury.  Believe me, I learned this the hard way.

We are due for yet MORE snow beginning tonight.  Six to eight inches predicted by morning. This will be on top of the already 2 feet we already have.  This will likely mean another ‘inside’ day tomorrow.  If that’s the case, I may just have to get creative and make a big batch of soup.  Does anyone have a recipe for making soup or stew using common, everyday ingredients? I’m afraid if I don’t have any instructions to adhere to who knows what I’ll come up with!

See you tomorrow :)

Day Two: Balance your heart challenge

Today is Day Two of the Balance Your Heart yoga challenge I’m participating in via Instagram.  Today’s heart opening pose Wide-legged Forward Fold.  This is one of my favorite stretches to do when I’ve been working on a painting for too long.  This would also be great for anyone who has to site at a desk or hunched over a computer all day.  It stretches the chest, back, shoulders and legs.  I usually hold this pose for 5 long breaths.  My shoulders have been incredibly tight lately (I tend to hold stress and tension there) so this is an extra beneficial pose for me. Maybe someday my shoulders will be so loose that my hands will touch the floor.  Maybe….

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Have a great rest of your weekend, and to you Super Bowl watchers, good luck to your team!  See you tomorrow :)

A woman’s place is in the Om

I officially finished my last yoga painting of the year several days ago; or, so I thought.  But then on Saturday something happened that is rare for me: I felt a strong urge to get out my acrylics, a large canvas and madly start painting.  Unusual, because I’ve been working exclusively in watercolors for months on end.

Early last year before I had my hysterectomy I was talking with Sue, my friend and yoga instructor.  I mentioned how much I would miss my practice and that I was concerned by how much time would pass before I’d be able to start doing even the simplest of stretches again.  She gave me a piece of advice: “Even if you can’t physically do yoga, it can be extremely beneficial to imagine yourself doing them in your mind.”  I didn’t realize exactly what she meant until after surgery when I could no longer lift to a sitting position without grimacing in pain. I started going through sun salutations in my head, and you know what?  It calmed me; I felt focused and more at peace with myself. Yoga after all, is just as much about mind as it is body, right?

Even though I’m back to my regular yoga routine I still envision myself working through poses; now though, it’s at night before I fall asleep.  It calms my mind by allowing me to focus on something slow and repetitive.  Lately, because I paint every day and always seem to have art on the brain, I picture myself doing these poses as though I’m within one of my paintings. Often, an added benefit to this is that new paintings sometimes emerge from this ritual – that is,  if I can still remember it the next morning!

This happened to me on Friday night.  Just as I was drifting off I kept envisioning myself surrounded by the brightest colors of teal, fuchsia and yellow swirling around in my head.  With it, the phrase: A woman’s place is in the Om.  Clever, right?  Apparently I thought so, because the following evening I was determined to replicate the image that came to me and worked nearly nonstop over the course of Saturday and Sunday while the snow and temperatures fell outside my studio window.

I did finish it and am quite proud, actually. I really pushed beyond my comfort zone with this one as I feel quite intimidated working on the human form.

 

In The Om

Ellen Brenneman Studio on Etsy

 

Very, very different from my usual style, but just as I try to force myself out of my comfort zone in life, so I must do elsewhere.  It’s easy to get comfortable and not want to challenge myself by switching mediums but I realize that if I don’t, just like with anything else – I’ll regress.  In this case I’m so happy that I used acrylics over watercolors because it would have been much more difficult to achieve the bold color I wanted.

This painting by the way, is dedicated to Every Woman who either practices yoga or has the desire to.  Why I have embraced it so, is because it truly is for every BODY.  It’s easy to get caught up in the physical aspect of yoga, believing that only contortionists and gymnastics enthusiasts can do it – but the truth is, it’s not about achieving the hard poses so we can impress others; it’s about the way it connects our body to our mind and spirit that makes it so uniquely special.  Since having strained my back several weeks ago (attempting a twist that I should have known was too difficult for me), I have committed this to mind: We’re meant to practice yoga, not perfect it.  That thought, along with my lesson to never share my mat with my ego, helps keep me humble and in check.

Have a great Monday.  xo

Practice, practice, practice

You’d think that looking at myself in the mirror several times a day, every day would mean that I have a sensible understanding of what I look like.  Not the obvious things like ‘my hair is brown, my eyes are brown…’ but a realistic understanding of the correct proportion of my body; but it’s clear that I have no clue and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Perhaps this is a bi-product of spending part of my adulthood carrying an excess of 100 pounds.  Even though I am by most standards considered a normal weight (well, except for the traditional BMI scale which still has me teetering on the edge of being listed as overweight) I still cringe when my tall, burly uncle lifts me off the floor for a big hug.  Instinctively I wriggle free saying, ‘Don’t lift me up!  You’ll give yourself a hernia for sure!’

The same thing happens when I’m in yoga class.  Sue, my amazing teacher, will ask me to prepare for a pose by planting my feet shoulder width apart; in my mind’s eye that equals to roughly 2 feet, right? No?  When I readjust and see the tiny space between my feet I think, well, that can’t be right.  But it is.  The truth is that most of the time I don’t feel like I have an accurate sense of how my body really looks.

Last week I learned how to begin preparing for a handstand.  When I watched Sue do this my jaw dropped and my eyes widened in amazement.  I shook my head but Sue had faith in me so I tried it; it helped tremendously that she was right there to spot me – and I did it…..kind of. I’ve been carefully practicing at home for the last few days and planned on sharing pictures of me setting up for this pose. I know one thing for certain: I will never master a handstand until I gain an accurate ‘feel’ for my body. What about all of the photos, you ask?  Well, I can show you three, which is exactly three more than I was going to post, considering I didn’t actually do what I set out to do.

Before attempting to practice a handstand it was important to know that my upper body was strong enough to support one.  I’ve been doing this for the last several months by doing such exercises as push-ups and holding plank pose for as long as possible:

 

Plank

 

 

In the next photo I’m measuring where my hand placement will be for my practice handstand (my hands will be placed roughly where the heels of my feet are).  See how well I can sit?  (ha-ha).  Of course, Brulee had to be in the photo as well :)

 

Me and Bru

Next, I place my hands where the heels of my feet were, and back my feet up to the wall (by the way, I do NOT suggest practicing by a set of stairs! I realized this and moved before attempting my handstand).

 

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The next step from here was to start walking my feet up the wall until my body reached 90 degrees (legs parallel with the floor) but I had this fear that I was going to go tumbling forward. I was certain that my body was aligned appropriately but Craig assured me that I wasn’t.  How could I feel like I was holding the correct posture when I was so far off?  I asked him to stand in front of me so that I could feel safe in knowing that I wouldn’t fall backwards, but even with him standing inches away I kept saying, ‘I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall!’ Realistically, I was nowhere near falling over. …want to see more?  Yeah, me too!  Maybe in a few more weeks I’ll actually be able to get to a 90 degree angle while someone ‘happens’ to have a camera nearby!  Till then, I’ll keep practicing – and painting!  Here is my latest finished yoga artwork:

SkyEarthTypeFB

I had such a hard time with this one; I don’t really know why, either – but choosing the right font took me two days!  I just couldn’t make up my mind about anything.  I’m glad that it’s done though, because now I can concentrate on something new.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Yoga and my Ego

Painting throughout the day, most every day, has its challenges. I do not get nearly as much exercise as I did when I worked outside of the house all day. Therefore, I have been trying to force myself to adhere to a stricter schedule which includes more treadmill time as well as practicing yoga a few times a day, every day. While practicing yoga daily is a wonderful thing, I ignorantly assumed that I could not injure myself from it.. After all, stretching provides more flexibility and lessens injury to various muscles, right? Ahem – well…as I type this I am sitting with an ice pack resting on the left side of my spine.

I believe I felt the injury happen over a month ago. I was sitting on my yoga mat practicing a twist and decided to take things a little further than I should have. I felt a pull, a slight rippling sensation from my hip crease to the top of my shoulder blade. It wasn’t an agonizing pain but I definitely noticed it. I continued to practice as usual but within the past couple of weeks it has definitely grown worse. Lately before climbing out of bed in the mornings I wake up feeling like I am lying on top of a broom handle – the muscle is obviously seizing up while I sleep.

I have a doctors appointment on Monday but until then I decided to seek the advice of my friend and very knowledgeable Yogi, Lynn. She immediately sent me a couple of articles that discusses certain yoga poses and their relation to injury of the lower back. You can read this article here.

It seems like everyone is always preaching about back pain and core strength: in order to maintain a healthy back you must have a strong and healthy core. Sounds simple enough, right? Being a person with chronic back pain I have always remained diligent in trying to strengthen my core as much as possible by doing exercises such as plank, plank push-ups (to help my upper body strength), and various sit ups/crunches. As I was reading the above article it began discussing that if one pays too much attention to their core muscles and not enough attention to certain back muscles an imbalance can occur. The remaining paragraph reads:

Over time, a muscle imbalance develops: The abdominals become stronger and tighter, while the back becomes relatively weaker and overstretched. Unfortunately, many current exercise routines emphasize several types of abdominal strengthening, and a series of sitting forward bends to stretch the legs. The end result of years of this type of exercise will be a rounded, slumped posture with a weak and vulnerable lower back.

Gah! I think this is exactly what happened to me. Now I am being forced to take time off from yoga except for a few restorative positions to take the pressure off my back. I hope that with proper nursing, by the time next week is over I will feel markedly better and can then began working on strengthening the parts of my back which are obviously in need of some dire attention.

Yoga is for everyone. However, there is a reason why instructors repeatedly use the word ‘modify’. I never should have pushed that twist beyond what I knew was safe. It is up to me to take responsibility for and to listen to my body. Never again will I allow my ego to get in the way when I’m on the mat. It is called a practice for a reason: its not something that is meant to be perfected. A very valuable lesson that I unfortunately learned the hard way.

 

On another note, having yoga on the mind has been great for allowing my creativity to flow. I currently have several paintings already completed in my head, just waiting for the proper time to be laid out on paper. Here is the latest one finished just days ago:

 

Via Etsy

 

I’ve been wanting to use this particular Rumi quote for a long time and finally, the right image came to my mind. A lesser known Rumi verse but equally beautiful, I think.

Have a great weekend. Don’t feed the ego.

 

Nothing to fear but fear itself

 

I have been in Indianapolis for the last couple of days.  One of my destinations was to Treehouse Yoga so I could meet with Dusty, the owner, who bought several pieces of my artwork.  Sometimes it is hard to let go of a painting, but I didn’t feel that way about any of the pieces I left in Dusty’s care. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to know that my work is existing in such a peaceful, loving, accepting environment.

I recently watched a television interview with Sting.  He was asked why so many years had passed between albums. He responded with an answer that I related with on a deeply personal level.  I cannot find the actual quote so I will paraphrase here; basically what he said was that the lyrics weren’t coming, and that with every song he completes he has a fear that it will be the last song he ever writes.

Treehouse Yoga Studio

Treehouse Yoga Studio, Indianapolis, Indiana

 

Hard to believe that someone as brilliant as Sting can feel that way.  I laugh to think that someone might misunderstand me to say that I compare my career to his.  Of course I do not, but as a fellow artist I can certainly relate.  Each time I finish a painting I have a pang in my soul; sometimes it is barely recognizable. Other times it haunts me, but it happens whenever I sign my name to a piece.  I have come to understand that what I am feeling is fear. I too, wonder if I will ever be that creative again.

Over the weekend I watched a science fiction movie that I’d been wanting to see for some time. It wasn’t in the theater terribly long but it starred Will Smith and was co-written by M. Night Shyamalan.  The title: After Earth.  In the movie (which incidentally, I very much enjoyed despite the reviews) Will Smith and his son are stranded on an uninhabitable Earth and are in desperate need of a beacon so they can signal for help.  Between them and the beacon is an alien being who, though blind, can hunt humans by sensing their fear.

There was a speech that Cypher (Smith) made to his son, Kitai, in an attempt to empower him so he could complete his mission to find the beacon. Cypher was reliving a past experience to Kitai of how he overcame his fears.  The following is not the entire speech but even so, it’s pretty profound:

Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity, Kitai. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine changed.

I mulled that speech over and over in my head. Of course it is in our nature to be afraid, but allowing fear to control the way we live our lives – allowing ourselves to be disrupted by fear – does not leave us with a very happy and fulfilling life.

It is no secret to those of you who read this blog regularly that I suffer from anxiety, and anxiety feeds on fear.  It doesn’t help that I inherited the ‘Worry’ gene from my mother, either.  I am constantly exercising my mind to push beyond what I ‘think’ I am capable of, even if the step I’m taking is so miniscule that only I can see it.  Progress is progress, right?

…which all leads back to my fears:  trying new things, making a fool of myself in public, the dreaded blank piece of watercolor paper or canvas; the inability to create.

What would happen if we all just let go of our inhibitions, not worry about the outcome and just enjoy the present moment?  Wouldn’t we lose the fear and instead gain a sense of excitement? Of possibility?  One step eventually does lead to another.

The same is true with the stroke of a paintbrush.

Yoga Art in Progress and Yoga Benefits from The Huffington Post

I’ve been making a genuine effort to practice yoga every day, even if it is for simple stretches.  I’m finding that it makes me a bit more focused, calms my mind and prepares me for the day ahead.  My back – again, giving me some trouble lately, tends to hurt a bit less if my hips aren’t tight.

Because I’ve been so focused on yoga and how it’s helping my mind and body, my artwork has been reflecting this as well.  I just started another watercolor/ink painting that will contain a quote about ‘growth’.  I don’t know what it will be yet, but as the painting comes together more and more I’m sure it will come to me.  Here’s a peek at very early stages.

 

Growth

 

Normally I stay completely away from figure drawing because, well – I suck, frankly.  But these simple outlines seem to give me less trouble.

On another yoga-related note, I saw this in the Huffington Post this morning:

 


yoga infographic

If you feel like your body would never settle down enough to do yoga, my advice if you find yoga intriguing is to go to your local library and rent a dvd that features beginner’s yoga.  Usually non-fiction dvds are free, by the way.  Go to a quiet part of your house and shut the door.  Give it 15 minutes and just focus on your breath, your movements and the words of the instructor.  Close your eyes when you are able and just enjoy the movements your body is able to do for you.

Have a great Tuesday.

Full Crow and another tree painting

I am really starting to ramp up my yoga practice. I’ve been having anxiety issues lately – much being the result of my worry for a family member who is having serious emotional troubles and whom I fear is in danger of causing serious harm to himself or others around him. News of his violent behavior has always caused me alarm as well as leaving me feeling helpless and sad for him. The caretaker inside of me wishes I could be the problem solver and fix things. I cannot solve this problem so my body does what it does which is worry.

Yoga is where I am turning to for a sense of calm during the storm. I have been focusing on poses that I cannot yet achieve. They are giving me something to work towards. One of such poses is crow. I was able to do it for no longer than a breath before toppling over; I never developed the needed strength to hold the pose for longer periods of time. Recently though, I’ve been working a lot on upper body strength and trying to gain more flexibility in my lower back. One evening Craig asked if I thought I could do full crow pose for him. I shrugged my shoulders and knelt down on the floor of the kitchen:

 

Not only did I hold it, but I kept holding it. Long enough for him to grab the camera and take a few snapshots. Then I fell over. lol So, progress!

 

 

I have a lot of paintings running through my head and none of them have to do with either of the seasons coming up. This is precisely the time I NEED to be working on the seasons if I have any chance of coming close to breaking even in my business for the year – and believe me, that thought is already a pretty lofty goal.

Once I start I will be fine, but right now all I want to paint are elephants, trees and yoga/inspirational pieces – none of which make one think, ‘HO-HO-HO, Merry Christmas!’ Case in point, here is my latest painting. Not very festive, but I heart it anyway:

This week I prepare for another art fair which is coming up on Saturday. The stubborn part of me is determined to work on one more painting this week as I gather inventory and create Autumn pieces to fill my tent – all while remembering to remain calm and Breathe in….Breathe out. After all, there’s no place like Om.

 

My Four-Leaf Clover: hard to find, lucky to have.

I stumbled across a hashtag on Instagram this past weekend which read: #onlinefriendsareREALfriends

I found it humorous because obviously a hashtag like that wouldn’t have been created unless someone felt the need to validate an online friendship to a ‘non-believer’.   Back in the mid-nineties I was a firm non-believer, myself.

Remember when AOL was the only provider in town and chat rooms were all the rage?  Back then one could request an online penpal simply by posting a message on a ‘board’ which I did.  Within a week I received a response from a young woman who lived only a few hours away from me and we began an instant exchange of emails several times a week.   After a couple of months we began talking on the phone (which as you know, not the easiest thing for me to do) and that led to an invitation to meet in person.

To make a long story short, our friendship ultimately turned into a unfortunate termination of communication, initiated by me.  ME – the one who hates confrontation.  Me:  the one who’s most likely to stay in a job she dislikes only because she’s more fearful of the unknown.  It was a total train-wreck because, well….while I was truthful about things happening in my life, she was not.  I held on though, giving  her the benefit of the doubt.  I even made a second trip out to see her but the entire experience was based on a foundation of lies which continued to unravel faster than I could keep up.

I am terrible at confrontations and avoid them like the plague, but I knew that continuing this relationship was out of the question.  I broke it to her as nicely as I could but like most break-ups, it did not go well.  In fact, the emails that followed which ultimately led to the deletion of my account were downright threatening.  That mess affected me so deeply I remained pretty quiet on the Internet for years, always the lurker but never really wanting to interact for fear that true friends simply couldn’t be found online.

Then I decided to start a blog.

September will mark my third year at Fat Girl Wearing Thin, and for the first time this year I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few women that I that I’ve been in contact with since my blog’s inception – all women are fellow bloggers and each of them whether they knew it at the time or not, gave me the gift of gladly being proven wrong:   Online friends ARE real friends.

First there was Roxie; then, Vickie.  Then, this past weekend I had a tremendous gift bestowed upon me: Lynn from Learning Curves who, along with her husband, happen to be a full-time travelers were driving right through my hometown on Thursday, and staying in the area until Monday.

Lynn first connected with me shortly after I published a post back in November 2010 about my mother nearly dying from a hit and run car accident.   Lynn reached out to me to let me know that she too, was experiencing heartbreak from a recent accident that involved her parents.  From that email blossomed a very special online friendship.  For nearly three years we’d never spoken on the phone, never texted one another, and only occasionally emailed – but there was always something there; something I couldn’t quite put my finger on; something wonderful  that kept us in touch, whether it was a supportive comment from me via her Instagram feed as I viewed photos of her daily yoga challenges, or her leaving an uplifting comment on my Facebook art page regarding a painting I was working on.  When I learned that she was coming into town I could barely contain myself.  In usual fashion I was a bundle of nerves, anxious and excited all at once.

We decided to meet on Friday morning at my local Panera restaurant.  I waited impatiently outside and posted to Instagram this photo:

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Underneath it read: Impatiently waiting to meet one of my dearest online friends whose travels have taken her to my neck of the woods!  Hurry, @lynnbonelli!! 

Not more than 30 seconds after posting this, I heard her voice. We immediately hugged like long-lost twins, separated at birth.  We’ve always known there were similarities in our lives and we are so alike in so many ways its uncanny, yet the differences between us leave me in awe of her so much of the time.  This is a woman who’s finished marathons, completed the Tough Mudder Challenge in Tahoe and has mastered yoga poses that I cannot imagine doing (by the way, Lynn was gracious enough to do a few of her daily challenge poses in my yard yesterday:

Scorpion Pose

 

What lifts me up is the fact that like me, Lynn also has a back problem.  Yet with diligent yoga practice,

she’s been able to not only diminish her chronic pain but she’s grown strong enough to master poses like the one above, called Scorpion.

 

 

 

Here Lynn is doing Camel Pose while my water fairy, the ever diligent one, watches the water below.

If you’d like to see the other few poses Lynn completed in my yard, you can view them here via her Instagram feed: @lynnbonelli

 

Between Friday and Sunday I was fortunate enough to visit with Lynn three times, and each time we saw each other we talked nearly non-stop.  Sunday we brought our guys along for a nice lunch:

This morning they left for their next RV adventure and I already miss her.

 

The other day I saw one of those articles that reminds we ‘old-folk’ of just how old we are.  This one, from the Huffington Post was titled 23 Things your Kids Will Never Understand.

…things like floppy discs and record stores, dial up Internet and having to get off the phone in order to even USE the Internet.

Yes, things have certainly come a long way.  Technology evolves, and fortunately for most of us, so does our way of thinking.  Thank goodness I didn’t allow one bad experience stop me from connecting with some of the kindest, supportive, kindhearted people I have ever known in my life.  Whether I’m 2 hours or 2000 miles away from my friends, it is the best feeling in the world to know that no matter what kind of day I’m having, there are people out there who truly care.  To me, that’s just magical.