I first began yoga to alleviate physical tightness and tension that came from my day job as a dental hygienist. I didn’t know much about yoga at the time but I thought that the physical benefits that others shared about their yoga practice might serve me too: flexibility, stretching, strength, balance, etc.
I couldn’t quite pinpoint my experience after the first couple of classes I took, but I instantly knew I something changed in my body and mind. So I continued to go.
I won’t ever forget the feeling after one of the first few classes I took, right when when I knew I was hooked—I felt like I woke up from the best nap I’ve ever taken and only five minutes had passed! I felt relaxed and rejuvenated. I felt calm and peaceful. I felt clarity and a sense of ease. It was a feeling I never experienced before.
My practice continued to grow when I realized that the benefits of a regular yoga practice go much deeper than the physical body and deeply affect our mental and emotional states as well: my mood, sense of ‘balance’ and even anxiety and stress levels began to decrease. And bonus, I started to sleep better! ???
Being the “yes, yes, yes” girl is tiring, challenging and often times most hurtful to yourself.Caitlin Parsons
The Evolution from Yes Girl: Finding Bliss
Once yoga became a regular practice for me, I started evolving more than I knew possible. For the first time in my life, I started to slow down, listen and tune into my body and mind.
It wasn’t easy at first—actually it was really fucking hard! And boring. Until the light bulb went off and I started to understand my physical boundaries and limitations more and more, each time I stepped onto my mat. My mat became my safe-haven: a place where I could be exactly who I am and I’d be the only one who knew. This gave me the ultimate permission to just be me, what a relief.
The big moment was discovering that I could create this space of bliss off my yoga mat. That’s when I began to drop the judgement like layers of an onion. I began to own who I am, which evolved into loving who I am. That included accepting (and loving) my quirks too: my mistakes, my limitations, and my “dark side.” I was on my way to creating an inner peace and ease that I never knew possible.
The Evolution from Yes Girl: Finding My Dark Side
As you may have experienced for yourself, once you begin to grow outside your comfort zone, you are shown the light as well as the “dark” or “bad” areas about yourself that people often try to mask or hide.
Our “dark parts” are the pieces of us that make us real, raw and HUMAN! For me, what kept showing up was the constant need to please others above myself: this did not follow suit with my desire to honor myself.
Most women are people pleasers, including myself. What I began to notice as I continued to grow in this beautiful way, was that I had spent most of my life up until this point trying to make others happy, trying not to let others down. I ended up saying “yes” to things that I didn’t even want to do or have time for, just because I didn’t want to hurt anyone.
What? That sounds crazy—and to some extent it is! Not to mention, being the “yes, yes, yes” girl is tiring, challenging and often times most hurtful to yourself.
The Evolution from Yes Girl: Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries may be one of the most challenging things I’ve had to do but one of the most important. I found I would stress myself out when I couldn’t do everything I committed to, which as you can imagine created a downhill spiral. I began to cancel plans last-minute as a way to manage my schedule—and then would get mad at myself for doning it.
I began to pay closer attention to the times I said “yes” even though deep down I didn’t want to. My body felt tighter, my muscles began to clench, my stomach felt uneasy. My breath felt short and uneven as I noticed my chest closing off.
This was my body’s stress response, or a sympathetic nervous system response. A clue I should have caught onto long ago.
A quick science lesson: when our body is in the stress response mode—in “fight or flight” as if we are running from a lion or a murderer—our immune system nearly shuts down, our circulatory system shuts down, digestive, etc. All our body is supposed to do at that time is deal with immediate stress. Imagine living in this state constantly? (Maybe you know exactly what that’s like.)
When our body is primarily in parasympathetic nervous system response, opposite of fight or flight, also known as “rest and digest,” that’s where the magic happens: our digestive system is functioning, immune system, circulatory system, etc. are all functioning as they should and our body is being restored and rejuvenated.
When we’re relaxed in this way, our body breathes light and longer, our chest is more open and expansive, we have a smile on our face and our hearts.
I yearn for this now and so I’m creating it, as we are the designers of our own dreams. I’ve slowly started to make changes to my life bit by bit. I’ve created a schedule for myself that includes a day off every week and times where I unplug from technology and times where I’m committed to a workout, running or my yoga practice.
This alone has been a game-changer. Normally I’d just book into my “me” time, or agree to teach, on my off days. Now, after giving myself that time, I find myself having more freedom and clarity.
In addition to my schedule, I check in with myself or give myself a little bit of time to think things over, when asked to take on more at work or elsewhere. If there are feelings of doubt or apprehension that show up in my mind or my body, I know it’s not in my best interest to say yes.
It’s the small changes that we can each make to our day-to-day lives that allow for the greatest change and ultimately create more balance throughout our entire lives. Join me in shining your light—by saying no, setting boundaries and being true to what you want and need.
Your Turn: Say Goodbye to Your Inner Yes Girl
Make time each morning before you jump out of bed or at night before you go to bed to check in with yourself. Take a moment to pause and breathe. Is there anything that comes up? Take a couple of minutes to write it down in a journal.
Take some time to notice your self-talk. Are there any areas where you could be more kind to yourself? Each time you notice a judgemental thought, stop and give yourself a compliment. For example, when I notice myself judging my body, I immediately remind myself of something I’m grateful for: I’m so lucky to have a body that moves how I want it to move.
Set Healthy Boundaries for a Healthier You
Where can you create healthy boundaries in relationships, work, or life in general? Try setting aside some time each week to do the things that you love so you feel happy and inspired—and remember to say “no” to the things that will make you feel stressed and anxious.
To get started, use this simple but powerful breathing exercise to tap into better mind-body balance and reduce anxiety.