Sweat and Yoga

Truth Byte #63

“Flexible is the new strong.”

 

I started up my yoga classes again. It has been a few months since I rolled out my mat, because I was starting to feel like an hour of yoga every week was a bit indulgent. After all, I could be spending that time folding the pile of laundry that chronically sits in my guest bedroom, or vacuuming out the backseat of the car (damn kids and their food crumbs) or catching up on emails (over 4000 in my Inbox that need to be filed or deleted) or de-cluttering my garage. So I skipped yoga for months, thinking I would spend the time doing all these other annoying tasks, which, by the way, I never did. I simply took a longer shower and chatted on the phone with my sister instead.

 

But I digress. Back to yoga. Read More

Confessing My Love in 2017

Truth Byte #47

 

“It’s time to say I love you.”

 

I have been looking at myself in the mirror ever since I was a child.  When I was little, I would admire my sparkly dress or new shoes or the way my hair caught a beam of sunlight and changed from flat black to shimmery, coppery brown.  I would look at my eyes, one open, the other open, both open, both closed but squinting, peeking at myself through the slits.  I would turn this way and that way, and most importantly (because it was the most fun!), I would stand in front of my parent’s full-length mirrored closet and twirl and twirl and watch the fabric of my skirts and dresses float magically and elegantly in to the air.

 

In my mind, I was a real, live princess/beauty queen/superstar, and I loved what I saw shining back at me.

 

When I turned fourteen, and the girls around me started shaving and waxing and plucking and tweezing and adding and subtracting to make their bodies look different, I started looking at myself in a whole new way in the mirror.  As a Canadian girl of Indian heritage, my wavy brown-black hair didn’t fall straight or sit in a ponytail the way the “other” girls’ hair did.  I had frizz and strays everywhere. And there was hair in so many other places that I had never noticed before, like my legs, my arms, my cheeks, my eyebrows, my underarms, my upper lip…even my chin!  My teens were a full-time battle against the hair erupting on every surface. As quickly as I removed it, more would grow.  And this is what I used the mirror for now: to check for hair and pimples, and notice how I didn’t measure up to the slight, svelte, petite, hairless beauties around me.

 

Most of the time when I was around other girls, I felt like a clumsy, hairy, oily giant.

 

I knew I was smart, but that never showed up in the mirror, no matter how had I looked, or how trendy my glasses were.

 

And my twenties were an extension of that. I looked at myself in pieces: okay, nice enough eyes, exotic maybe? Chin, nothing special, remember to tweeze. Legs? Could be more toned. Arms? To skinny. Stomach? Too squishy. And I broke myself up into little parts that I would coax into shape through toning and training and waxing and threading and eating or not eating or push-ups and spandex undergarments all promising me the body that curved in all the right places.

 

I never saw myself as whole, and the parts I did notice were all just slightly not quite acceptable.

 

Fast forward a decade, and up until this summer, I was fighting the same battle. I would look in the mirror and shudder at the imperfections.  All while I was coaching others on self-love, positivity and loving kindness.

 

 I felt like a fraud.

 

This summer I confided my body image stories to a friend who didn’t see me as parts.  She never said, “Your hair looks good today,” or “Your legs look good in that,” or “I can see you finally shaped those nasty eyebrows,” or “Wow! You have gained/lost ten pounds!”  These are some of the many things other women in my life have said to me over the years, mostly out of love and sometimes out of spite or competition, but even the positive comments just made me feel more self-conscious and unattractive.

 

The problem was not really what they were saying, but what I was hearing.  I was hearing: “What matters to me is how you look, so that’s what we are going to talk about.”

 

What was missing was my own capacity to see myself as a worthwhile whole person.

 

When I told this friend “my issues”, she looked at me with raised eyebrows and a huge grin and said, “But Saira, you already have curves in all the right places!” And we laughed.

 

And laughed.

 

And each time I have felt unattractive or ill-fitted since then, I remember that moment. 

 

Because what touched me in that moment was not her comment (she could have said anything, really), but rather her love and acceptance of me pouring through.  She didn’t stop, scrutinize, and give me workout or diet advice.  She basically said to me:

 

“No matter what you think about you, I love you just the way you are.  And I trust you to get there too, in your own time.”

 

Today, she invited me to her wedding.  And not for a second did I consider my outfit or how I would look in it.  All I could think about was how I could support her in making this the day of her dreams, and what I can do over the next few months to lighten her to-do list.  And we had a sweet moment this afternoon where I knew and she knew how indispensable we have become to each other.  I have met a woman who refuses to compete with me, and is learning, like me, to say “I love you” to herself in big and small ways. A sister who sees me as whole and loveable, no matter what my dress size or state of my un-waxed legs.

 

And it’s not that I have never met anyone like this before.  I have.  I was just too insecure and self-conscious to see these women as my equals.

 

I kept comparing. 

 

I kept feeling like the fat/geeky/un-stylish/non-athletic/un-cultured/poor (fill in any other comparison) friend.  I was too afraid of leaping in to utter vulnerability and finding out that my worst fears were true: my love for them was one-sided.

 

So what I learned today, I bring in to this new year, and I invite you, my lady-readers (men, please pass this on!), to consider it for yourselves as you set your own goals and intentions for 2017. When we can truly say “I love you” to that woman in the mirror, with all her curves and lumps and hair and flavour, we can truly and authentically start saying “I love you” to other women in our lives. So girls, let’s do this together.  We can truly open our arms to the sisterhood that many of us have been craving since we were girls playing dress up with our mother’s things, spinning in front of those mirrors years ago.

 

Want to join in person me for more stories and join our newly-forming brother-and-sisterhood? January 19 is the Kick-Off Party for our Get Happy Club in Surrey B.C.!  Email me at connect@talktosaira.com for information and details.

Retiring Thirty Years Early

Truth Byte #45

 

 “Pushing yourself makes things harder.”

 

This month, my parents visited.  They live in a different city, so having them in town is a huge treat.  Whenever they arrive, there is laughter and joking and a whole lot of crazy-indulgent gifts for the kids.  Nani and Grampa come for a week or two, and I get to relax.   All those big plans of what I would do when I had unlimited babysitting hours get pushed aside as I catch up on my fair quota of sleep, meals prepared by someone else, and long, late night conversations.  They remind me that it’s okay to just be, without a screen, or a book, or a task to complete.

 

And without any guilt.

 

I remember when I was a kid, and my mom and stepdad were just as busy as I am now.  They flitted and fluttered around at their jobs and our activities and their full social and religious calendars.  I remember my mom dropping onto the couch exhausted after dinner every night, and falling asleep before our family sitcom had reached the first commercial.  I remember my stepdad filling our weekends and school-breaks with adventures to the mountains, and watched him as he brought his files along to squeeze in a little bit of work where he could.

 

Every year, my grandma would visit us.  We called her Nanimaa.  She would mostly just sit on her favourite spot on the couch, and hum sweetly under her breath while she clinked her prayer beads.  And every single weekday at four o’clock, my non-English-speaking grandma would ask us to turn on the TV for her so she could watch The Young and the Restless.  Nanimaa moved slowly, and smiled deeply.  Her hand-skin was wrinkled like a soft, paper-thin elephant and she told the most intricate yet humorous stories about her childhood.

 

Nanimaa showed me, as my parents are showing my kids now, that life doesn’t have to be so busy and serious all the time, and that home could be a place to just be.  She did not push herself, and she did not force herself or us in any way, at any time.

 

My parents, now grandparents, are living that life now.  Even though my step-dad still runs his accounting practice, his approach to work is so much more relaxed.  He doesn’t take on the high-demand clients anymore.  He has learned to take regular holidays, and doesn’t bring work to the dinner table or on vacation.  My mom has relaxed too.  She has gone back to school in a completely different field for the pure love of learning, and is acing her classes alongside people younger than her children.

 

I always looked forward to old(er) age, because I thought that was when I would finally get to retire. Or at least relax.  But in the last few months, I have had an epiphany.  I don’t have to wait another thirty or forty years to stop pushing myself!

 

I could just stop pushing now. 

 

At first, that created panic in me.  I thought if I stopped pushing, my business would fall apart, my house would be in chaos, and my family would be eating microwave popcorn for dinner every night.

 

What I have found to be true is actually the exact opposite. 

 

When I stopped pushing, I stared allowing.  Opportunities that I would never have noticed started to drop into my lap.  Things that seemed hard either fell away or suddenly became manageable because I was brave enough to ask for help without thinking it meant I had failed in some way. I was happier and more connected, and so my friendships deepened and grew.  People I would have walked by before, now became fascinating co-collaborators and mentors.  And like my grandma, there was one daily thing I became totally serious about and dedicated to.  For her it was her soap opera (and through it, learning English), and for me, it’s dancing (and through it, releasing those endorphins I need to maintain positive mental health).

 

I have learned, in a very short time, the power of relaxing.  I have learned the importance of my home as a sanctuary.  I have learned that pushing creates illness and tension and rifts between people.

 

And I wanted to tell you that so you could test it out for yourself.

 

This week, I challenge you to stop pushing.  I challenge you to allow Life’s river to pull you along to the next restful moment instead of always pushing against the current.  If something is hard, maybe it can wait till later, until you have the energy and enthusiasm to do it, or until help arrives.  You may be really surprised how it really can all work itself out when you stop trying to control it all.

 

Watch our YouTube Show, Today is Your Day to start crafting the life you have always wanted, free from the heaviness of pushing too hard, and let me know if you live in the Vancouver are want to join our Get Happy Club!

 

Shut Up and Dance

Truth Byte #37

 It’s okay to have a bad day.

 

I am sitting in the lobby of my 3-year-old daughter’s ballet class.  I am new to this whole classical-dance world, and I think I am just excited as she is (okay, maybe a little more!) for the little pink tights and tiny leotard.

 

It’s our first day, and we started a month after everyone else. 

 

The class is 45 minutes, which is long enough to awkwardly check social media from my handheld device on the semi-uncomfortable IKEA couches, but too short to go anywhere useful and come back in time.  Lucky for you, my brand new MacBook was in the car, and it’s just long enough to capture some weekly thoughts for my blog.

 

And here’s what I noticed about myself, sitting here in this lobby.

 

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have even tried to sign my kids up for something if I was a month late.  I would’ve let it go until next year, watching wistfully as all the other ballerina-moms posted recital pics on Instagram.

 

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have whipped out my computer and done some work here. Instead, I would’ve headed to my car, acting like I had some important errand, and then hidden there to have a nap or feel annoyed that my precious time was just slipping away while I waited around for my kids to have cultural experiences.

 

Three years ago I would have felt overwhelmed by the requirements of the dress-code of the studio rather than amused and humbled at the uniformity of these tiny little people taking a dance form so seriously at such a young age.

 

A lot has happened since my daughter was born three years ago.  I have changed, and so has my perspective.

 

Today, I allow myself to be late sometimes.  Today, I don’t beat myself up if I am unorganized, or the last parent to “be in the know” about something.  Today, I don’t make excuses about having too much or too little free time.  Today, I notice how I feel in any given moment and squeeze in a creative oasis where I can.  Today, I don’t think of being a parent as a burdensome infringement on my freedom (as I did when I had only one little guy to worry about) but rather a lovely, chaotic package of hugs and tears and laughs and misunderstandings and overall bumbling through.

 

A lot changed for me when I gave myself permission to have a bad day every once in a while. 

 

The seeds of this permission started years ago with a hip-hop dance teacher.  She was my closest and dearest friend in the real world, and in the dance studio, she shined like no other place.  She encouraged us to use the intense, raw, street-roots dance form to express our emotion, express our desires, express the parts of us that we couldn’t actually communicate anywhere else in our lives.

 

In the studio, I got to express the sides of me that were passionate, overlooked, angry, ignored, misunderstood and just plain done with the god-damn status quo. In my university classrooms, I was a different person: someone who was poised and articulate and always kept my cool.  In the studio, I could let go. I could have a bad day.  I could just dance the hell out of the song, and when the time was up, the sweat and the racing heartbeat and the dance we had just all created together was the only proof I needed that I was letting go, that I was transforming.

 

It was through dance that I learned to harness the energy of a bad day.

 

As a fully cooked adult, I have fewer outlets to identify, express, and move the energy of my bad day.

 

Or at least I thought I did. 

 

I thought I needed the dark lighting and interested eyes of a nightclub or the polished floors and banging drums of a studio to really feel that catharsis.  I have learned in the last six months that all you need to dance is music.  Who knew? Just music.

 

So now, while I know it’s okay to have a bad day, I also know it’s not okay to have a bad year.  It’s exhausting.  When I feel like my bad day is turning into a bad week, I remember to dance.  Whether it’s Zumba at the gym with the 60-something group that shows up on a Wednesday morning, or the hardwood of my own kitchen, I turn on music and dance.

 

I know there is a bunch of science that proves the positive impact on music and movement on mood.  My job is not to convince you of all that using the science.  You can Google that yourself. What I can do, is give you an open window into my own life, and very generally, into the lives of the hundreds of people I have worked with, and remind you of how transformative music and dance can be.

 

So next time you find yourself in a funk, for more than a day (because, like I said, it’s okay to have a bad day every so often!) I would challenge you to put on a song you love, and just dance.  And if you can’t dance, no worries, just move awkwardly from side to side.  But get moving and listen to what makes your heart soar.

 

Dance: good for the body, better for the soul.

 

Stay tuned for my uber-affordable online course where we will talk about all kinds of easy, evidence-based  tools that will change your life from bearable to incredible.  More at www.talktosaira.com

Feeling fat again

Truth Byte #29

“Your current situation is the result of a series of small choices.”

I stepped on the scale the other day, and I had gained three pounds.  I thought back over the past few weeks and realized there have been a lot more restaurant lunches, ice-cream truck treats with the kids, and late-night dinners.  I remembered the afternoon snacks of chips and slurpee that the heat seemed to justify and the lazy laying around on the beach.

My weight gain is a result of a series of small choices.

This time it was three pounds.  But I remember the day I woke up about twelve years ago and found myself 85 lbs. overweight.  Now, I know that didn’t just happen overnight, but it sure felt like it.  For years I had been making small, seemingly harmless choices of “extra creamy” Ceaser salad or dessert with every dinner or sugar-filled soda on a regular basis or two eggs for breakfast instead of one, and suddenly, before I knew it, my body was extremely overweight.

By medical definitions and acknowledging the plus size stores I had to shop in, I was actually considered obese.

And I really was shocked.

I didn’t know how it happened.  But at some point, I had to get honest about what I saw in the mirror.  Hitting size 20 was my wake-up call, and my family and friends supported me in admitting my issue and getting the help I needed to get back on the road to health.

I stopped pretending I truly believed that “big is beautiful”, and started looking for role-models who weren’t pretending that 85 lbs of extra fat in and around my vital organs was going to help me be happier or live longer.

Since then, I have been on and off diets, tried all kinds of exercise regimes, and even bordered on anorexia.  The fight to keep the weight off has been an ongoing battle.  And I call it a battle on purpose.  I let my guard down for a week or two, and suddenly I am up three pounds.

So I have to be vigilant. 

Where others can enjoy a yummy treat or two, I have to think a thousand times about if it’s worth it.  While others throw on shorts and a tank top to hang out at the beach, all I see is my cellulite bumps.  While other kids and their parents laugh and run and play, I have to pace myself because I am still building my stamina.

It is a battle, and one that I fight every day.

Why am I telling you this?  It’s definitely not so you can feel sorry for me.  I would hate that.  It’s because I want to be honest about choices.

It’s not easy to make good choices on a regular basis and for the rest of your life. 

Whether those choices are about diet and exercise, the quality of your relationships, or the kind of work you want to be earning a living at, making choices that are good for you on a regular basis is hard.  I want you to know that I get that.

I live that.

On the other hand, it has also made me hyper-accountable.  If I have gained three pounds, it’s no one else’s fault.  It was my choice to miss my workout or eat that brownie or take the car instead of walking.

It was my choice.

Today, I challenge you get honest with yourself about the choices you are making.  I know it can feel sometimes that life is happening to you, rather than for you.  I know it can feel like you are stuck at some yucky point in your life and it’s other people’s fault that you are there.  I could have easily blamed a health condition, a pregnancy, a busy schedule or a hundred other things for my fatness.  And for years I did.

And then one day I had to just say “enough”.

What is it that you are tired of putting up with in your life? Is it time to make different choices about your health, your career, or your relationships? How regular are you with your spiritual practices? Are you making the small, deliberate choices you know you will need to make to have the life that you want? Or are you waiting around for something to change without actually eating vegetables and going for a walk?

Today could be the day that you choose to make one small and meaningful choice to have the life you dream of having.  Make another choice tomorrow and another the next day.  And soon those choices will add up.  Instead of 3 extra pounds, you may have lots of extra and unexpected happiness.

It’s your life, and no one else can live it for you.

Join us for a transformational workshop where you can make important choices in a supportive environment. Summer sale price is $99, so book this week to get you and your friends the best deal! http://talktosaira.com/our-events for tickets or check out my Facebook page.

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Truth Byte #15: The purpose of life was never work.

We are all working way too hard.  Well, most of of are.  We wake up earlier than we want to, go to bed later than we should, and drink coffee all day to keep us going.  And for what? Work.

I am tired of hearing people complain about work.

Work was never supposed to be this hard.

Do you remember those lazy summer days of your childhood? Do you remember what it felt like to just play, without any regard for time or activity?  One thing would meld into the next, at some point there would be a snack, and everybody would fall into bed feeling happy-tired.  When is the last time you had a day like that?

Read More

Tell me about your green!

I love green spaces. Despite the spiders, mosquitoes, and aphids that stick in my hair, I love green spaces. When I get a chance to be outside in the fresh air with the sun on my face and trees around me, life feels full. When I was a teenager and there was chaos at home, I would ride my bike to this little wooded area by our local 7-11, sit on the dirt, and cry to the trees. Read More