How to Practice Joy, Because Being Depressed Sucks

I have literally made it my business to help people access their joy.

Fifteen years ago I suffered from such intense depression that I could barely get out of bed. The moment I recognized that I was awake, I’d actually start crying and would pull the covers over my head to avoid the sunlight. I had gotten to a point where my daily routine felt boring and meaningless, and the state of affairs in the world made me feel helpless and scared.

Being in college at the time, I sought help from the mental health department, where a psychologist concluded that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Syndrome triggered by the events of 9/11. With the help of therapy, I was able to work through unresolved issues from my childhood which were negatively affecting me as a young adult.

I came to recognize that this world could feel big and scary at times, but the only things I had control over were my actions.

So I made a conscious decision to practice joy because frankly, being depressed sucks. I began to make some changes and developed a breadth of tools and techniques to help myself feel better. I quit smoking cigarettes, spent less time with toxic friends, started practicing yoga, adopted a dog, began painting and got a job at a coffee shop where I could make new friends.

In just a few months, all of these changes helped me make a 180 degree turn in my life. I felt like I had climbed out of a well of depression that had gotten so deep that I couldn’t even see the light. Eventually, I was enjoying life so much that the light was shining from within.

It didn’t necessarily mean that the world around me had changed, but rather, I had changed the way I looked at the world. The more I practiced the attitude of gratitude, the easier it was for me to rebound from negative experiences and feelings.

Instead of thinking about all the things that made me feel sad, I started to think of all the things that brought me joy. Then I tried to practice them daily. Now, after years of studying Psychology and getting a Masters in Communication, for years my business facilitated others finding joy through creative self-expression including, but not limited to, yoga, drum, dance and song.

What are things that bring you joy? They can be big or small, silly or serious, complicated or simple. As long as it helps you smile, add it to your list. Then if you’re ever feeling low, you can choose something to cheer yourself up. If your heart is shining, the path out of the darkness becomes clear.

In the comments below, share the ways you practice joy. I’m excited to see your smile starters.

Here are a few ways I practice joy:

  1. Feeling sunshine on my face
  2. Picking flowers
  3. Eating blueberries
  4. Riding my bike
  5. Walking barefoot in the sand
  6. Smelling the ocean
  7. Playing with a dog
  8. Laughing with a baby
  9. Dancing to loud music
  10. Gathering with women

As my teacher, Kia Miller, says at the end of her yoga classes:

“May your inner light shine so brightly that you can see your path ahead clearly. May all obstacles be removed so you can uplift and elevate everyone you come into contact with.”         

Namaste ~ the light within me bows to the light within you

To join some joyful classes & events visit gigiyogini.com/studio

Note: Another version of this post was originally shared on the joydepot.com

How Yoga Shaped My Body Image

Everyone has a body image. It’s the ever-evolving perception of your physical appearance.

Whether you’re a man, woman, thin or thick, young or old, we all have a perception of what we look like based on our own self-observation or the input from our friends, family or media.

Regardless of who you are or where you come from, we all create a story about how we think we look based on our height, shape and weight as well as skin tone, body hair, gender identification and age. Body image is not just how you perceive your body but also how you feel about yourself and your body. Positive or negative.

As a yoga teacher, I’m always saddened by the amount of people who automatically think that yoga isn’t for them because they don’t fit the mold of what a yogi looks like. A lot of men tell me they are not flexible enough. Many women have said they’re not thin enough.

But the truth is, yoga is for everybody and every body.

Unfortunately, modern media has been showing a very narrow (and superficial) portion of the yoga culture. As a result, it’s perpetuating people’s negative body images and making yoga seem intimidating and unavailable. However, yoga can benefit individuals of all different ages, shapes, sizes and abilities because yoga is not just a physical practice.

When people have a negative body image, they don’t perceive themselves as they really are. They feel unattractive, self-conscious, anxious and/or ashamed about how they look. Many times, people with negative body image have low self-esteem and can feel uncomfortable in their skin.

There are many reasons why I think yoga can help improve someone’s body image. When we take time to be with ourselves and breathe, we start to appreciate the skin that we’re in. A commitment to the physical practice of yoga can also help you build strength, confidence and courage which helps you feel better about your body. Committing to the meditation practice can help us quiet the negative patterns of the mind and allows for more mental clarity and non-attachment.

Gigi Yogini Body Love

My Personal Body Positive Journey

At first when I started yoga, I didn’t realize that I had a negative body image. But when I went to class, I was nervous and often hid in the back corner of the studio. I perceived myself as the “biggest” girl in the room and occasionally refused to try certain poses that I expected would be impossible (for me) because of my body.However, every time I left a yoga class, I felt amazing. Not only did my practice help ease my anxiety but I started to  see that my commitment was yielding results. Not only was I able to explore more challenging poses but my body started getting stronger and I felt more confident every day.

I felt so transformed by this practice that I wanted to share it with others. However, when I was considering yoga teacher training, someone told me that I didn’t look like a yoga teacher and suggested that I lose weight before pursuing it as a career.Although my body image had been improving, this comment hit me where I was already insecure. I thought to myself: Maybe it’s true. I’ll never succeed in this industry as a woman with curves.

It took me 5 years to face my fear and follow my heart to take my first teacher training. I eventually learned that my unique perspective was an asset, not an obstacle. My courage allowed me to move past my insecurities and helped me access the incredible benefits of deepening my yoga practice. Now, I am committed to making yoga feel welcoming and accessible to people of all types.

To join a Body Positive yoga class, visit my events page by clicking here.

#iamaffirmative Instagram Challenge

Let’s start December with some positivity. Every day, for 10 days, I challenge you to share a positive affirmation using the hashtag #iamaffirmative. Be sure to mention all the hosts so we see you participating! At the end, my co-hosts and I will send gifts to our participants. Join us!

12/1 – I am grateful.
12/2 – I am enough.
12/3 – I am awesome.
12/4 – I am healthy. I am wealthy. I am love.
12/5 – I am free.
12/6 – I breathe in love.
12/7 – I am strong.
12/8 – I radiate love.
12/9 – I am unique. I am beautiful.
12/10 – I am authentic.

For your chance to win 1 of the 10 prizes, post or repost a photo, share the affirmation of the day, and be sure to use the hashtag #iamaffirmative. Remember to follow and mention the hosts @affirmats, @gigiyogini, @scripttheory, @sequellife_bp, @fitfitactive

December Schedule – Yoga at The Viceroy Hotel

Complimentary Yoga Every Sat & Sun @ 10am

The Viceroy Hotel Santa Monica
1819 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: (310) 260-7500

These free classes are open to everyone.

Class is usually held on the poolside Bristol Patio. Occasionally, class is held at a different location on the premises due to weather or special events. Please ask or call the front desk for assistance.

Valet or Street Parking is available. Limited yoga mats are available so please bring your own. You might also want to bring sunglasses, bathing suit, and sunblock to enjoy the pool after class.

Complimentary coffee and tea is available in the lobby before class.

DECEMBER SCHEDULE:

12/3 – Tonya

12/4 – Katie

12/10 – Tonya

12/11 – Katie

12/17 – Angie

12/18 – Angie

12/24 – Gigi

12/25 – Sara

12/31 – Gigi

1/1 – Sara

Yoga for Every Body – Building Confidence On and Off the Mat

I’m thrilled to announce that after years in the making, I’m hosting the first ever Yoga for Every Body workshop at YogaWorks on October 22nd. This will be the first of a series of monthly workshops and I couldn’t be more excited.

In this 3 hour workshop, we’ll enjoy discussion, modified yoga practice, breath work, relaxation, and a photo shoot.

What included:

  • Body Image discussion and debunking media’s definition of the “Yoga Body”
  • Exploration of props, including blankets, blocks, straps, and more
  • Practice simple breathwork, relaxing movement, and mindfulness
  • An optional photoshoot to participate in a Body Positive social media challenge

What you’ll walk away with:

  • Better understanding of how you can make yoga work best for you
  • Community of Body Positive tribe members living in the LA area
  • Collection of photos of you practicing your favorite yoga postures
  • Deeper sense of mind-body relaxation and restoration

TO REGISTER >CLICK HERE<

The Fourth Trimester

I love thinking about the body’s transformation in 4 stages through pregnancy rather than 3. It’s too often that women believe their bodies are supposed to “bounce right back” to pre-pregnancy measurements and abilities. However, that is extremely rare.

Personally, I smile when I look at myself 3 months pregnant vs. 3 months post-delivery. To me, my body looks pretty much the same. I just know it’s different because in the first photo, 2 souls are growing inside of me. In the last, the 2 souls have passed through me.

Pregnant Gigi Yogini 4 Trimesters

4 Yummy Prenatal Poses

You don’t have to be preggers to enjoy these stretches but I highly recommend them if you have a growing belly like me.

1. Gentle Neck Rolls
2. Seated Side Stretch
3. Malasana Squat with Heel Support
4. Malasana Squat with Heart Opening

Happy Holidays – Special Deal!

I love teaching private yoga, working one-on-one with individuals, and offering undivided attention through the healing practice of yoga. With a few of my clients out of town for the holidays, I’m creating space for newbies!

Normally, I only offer private yoga with a 3 session minimum ($100 per session) but ’tis the season so I’m offering single yoga sessions for only $75.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.17.18 PM

These sessions can be used for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, whether redeemed at my yoga studio in West Los Angeles or via Skype.

Get more information by clicking here or reserve your session by clicking here today.

Email me for more information at Gigi@GigiYogini.com

I am perfectly imperfect

I’ve never been a fan of the idea of perfection.

It seems like an unfair expectation in a world where everything and nothing is perfect, all at the same time.

There are no perfectly straight lines in nature. Not even the planet earth is a perfect sphere. Why do we strive for perfection if we are all naturally imperfect?

Last night I finally looked up the definition of perfect and it said: “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics.”

…and I thought, according to who? Who is desiring all the required elements, qualities or characteristics? What is the standard? Who defines what is desirable?

But then I saw this extended definition of perfect: “to make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.

…and I had to laugh. The definition of perfection is inherently imperfect. According to this definition, something is still perfect if it’s as close to being completely free from defects as possible. 

So here’s my question, if it’s IMPOSSIBLE to be PERFECT, does that mean we’re still PERFECT since we’re as close to being PERFECT as we can POSSIBLY BE?

I feel like I’m Dr. Seuss with that question, but seriously.

I know I’m not “perfect” or completely free from “faults or defects” by many standards. I know this because my mind wanders and worries at times. My facial features are asymmetrical and sometimes I have clogged pores. My body has bruises, veins and dimples. But what if symmetry, small pores, and porcelain skin are not my desired qualities. What if this is the best I can possibly be?

Am I perfect?

To this my answer is: YES! I AM PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.

Or in other words…I AM PERFECT.

Do You Ever Feel Like A Fraud?

I just realized that sometimes I feel like a fraud.

I had the honor of taking Dr. Melody Moore’s workshop at the Off the Mat: Game Changer’s intensive at Yoga Journal LIVE in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ve been familiar with Dr. Moore’s work with the Embody Love Movement and felt compelled to take her workshop entitled: How Yoga Brings Healing to Those Who Struggle with Negative Body Image and Disordered Eating.

We gathered in a circle and after learning more about her journey into the world of yogic healing, we played a getting-to-know-you game.

Standing in a circle, every time Dr. Moore made a statement we agreed with, we were supposed to take a big step into the center of the circle. Even if we wanted to justify the statement or explain our reason for agreeing, we were supposed to stay silent and just step in and out of the circle accordingly.

I told myself to just move from my gut. So when she made a statement, I wouldn’t think twice. I’d either step in or I’d stay put.

At one point, Dr. Moore said:

“As someone who promotes Body Positivity, sometimes I feel like a fraud.”

Before I knew it, I was standing in the center of the circle.

When I stepped back out, I wondered why I felt like a fraud but didn’t give myself enough time to worry about it because she was already onto the next statement. As I stepped into and out of the circle, it was not only a great way to get to know the people in the circle around me, but most of all, I felt like I was really getting to know myself.

After the workshop I had time to reflect, WHY DO I FEEL LIKE A FRAUD?

Immediately, I thought about a moment, just the day before, when I got out of the shower and was changing in front of a full length mirror. I was looking at my bare legs and started to criticize them. They were pale, covered in bruises, scars, veins (even some purple ones that bulged behind my knees), and my thighs looked soft and giggled easily.

THAT’S why I felt like a fraud.

I felt like a fraud because my instinct was to criticize my physical form.

HOWEVER, I am NOT a fraud.

I am not a fraud because even though I had a moment of criticism, I was able to flip it.

After my initial instinct to criticize my legs, I thought to myself:

“Well, these are my legs and they have treated me well. They are strong and they are powerful and I am so grateful for everything they have done for me.”

Then I realized:

Just because sometimes I feel like a fraud, doesn’t mean that I am a fraud.

Just because sometimes I have moments of insecurity, doesn’t mean that I am insecure.

I am a modern human and I have unmistakably human moments. The fact that I can briefly express a negative habit, but then catch myself and turn it into an affirmative opportunity for gratitude, is the best exercise of body positivity that I can think of.

I don’t think body positivity means always loving every part of your body at all times. I think it’s more dynamic than that. Cultivating a positive body image requires a constant learning process. Just as the body is always changing, so will our relationship with it.

So as I give myself a little slack, I ask you to be a little less harsh on yourself too. When you have moments of insecurity or self-criticism, take a deep breath and see if you can turn it around.

Remember, body positivity is a process and takes practice. Luckily there are people like Dr. Moore and others who are here to help.