WHY I "QUIT" WORKING OUT + MY JOURNEY INTO EMBRACING MY FEMININITY

 photo by Alexis Ahrling : www.alexisahrling.com  shoot with SANkalpa : www.SHOPSANKALPA.com 

photo by Alexis Ahrling : www.alexisahrling.com

shoot with SANkalpa : www.SHOPSANKALPA.com 

Being raised + conditioned as an athlete, intense exercise was all I ever knew. My schedule growing up consisted of waking up before school and running through ball handling drills with my dad, followed my basketball practice after school and a personal training session after that. Summers were no exception, and in fact, usually consisted of even more activity + training. 

When I decided to shift paths and pursue an alternative education, rather than pursuing college basketball, I found myself continuing to seek out the highest intensity workout classes I could find. Anything that would push my limits, as that was what I was accustom to. Moving to Boulder, CO, the healthiest/most physically fit city in the country, only inspired me more. I would run to my spin class, take class, run home, and typically end the day with some form of hot/power yoga (which at the time I did not consider a workout). On top of that, I biked nearly everywhere and would often create reasons to run an errand, just to get a little extra activity in. To be honest, my body felt good during this period of extreme exercise. To me, this was all part of my healthy lifestyle. And living in a place where people I knew were training even harder for various events, marathons, triathlons, etc., I didn't really think my regime was all that crazy. In fact sometimes I felt like I wasn't doing enough.  

Fast forward a year and a half after moving to Boulder and I began to experience extreme adrenal issues, anxiety, insomnia and major hormonal imbalances. These circumstances required me to ease off of the activity if I wanted to be able to heal from them. I had pushed my body to its max and was increasingly experiencing the repercussions. 

As I began to ease up on the high intensity workouts, I watched as my issues with body image, overthinking what I was eating and workout addiction bubbled to the surface once again. Issues that I thought I had done the work to clear, were now in my face. This was a stab at my ego, as I had created an entire brand around "heal your relationship with food," all about empowering women to rise above these things. I had to get really real with myself and admit that even though I had come so far, I was still attaching self worth to the appearance and the capabilities of my body. And not only that, I was still living a life or rigidity. 

I look back on this time of my life and thank the universe for giving me the extreme health issues that I had, which forced me to take a serious look at myself. I realized my attachment to body was still very alive. I also realized that the state of my mind was making me sick. This realization led me to learn Vedic Meditation, which has become my everyday, twice a day practice, for just over a year. 

Through my meditation practice, I was able to see clearly how even though I had cut back on intensity, and even though my movement was more centered around yoga and barre workouts, they were still defining me. The issue was not the working out, rather, my relationship to it. Just like I had to take a serious look at my relationship with food, upon enrolling in nutrition school, I was now seeing my seriously broken relationship to movement. A relationship that could make or break my entire day. 

As I began to look at this, I would go through weeks of not caring and letting go of the need to "workout." And then falling back into old patterns of attachment, and needing to get a workout in. 

I realized that part of my attachment was a fear of what could happen to my body if I completely let go. What if my friends wanted to go on a hike and I couldn't keep up? Would my stomach stay flat? Would my digestion stay regular? These are all things I was fearful of. It took a long time of resisting to finally say enough is enough! I wanted to feel strong, confident + powerful without it being attached to anything. I wanted to stabilize this feeling without a need to workout. I decided that instead of relying on my workout to make me feel confident + powerful, that I would set the intention to soften, to fully embrace my femininity (which is the ultimate super power) and to nourish the goddess inside of me. In doing so, I chose to abandon the workouts. 

I am a believer that in order to stop doing something that you've always done, it is helpful to replace it with something else. So, if you're trying to give up coffee for instance, its helpful to replace it with matcha or warm cacao. In my case, I decided that I was going to wear a dress, curl my hair and get ready every single morning -- something I never really made time to do, as working out was always my first priority. I was going to take more baths and rub oils all over my body. I picked out a nice perfume to wear everyday. And I added more self care rituals into my daily life. Rather than exercise being my confidence booster, I let my natural beauty shine. It was beyond empowering.

I started to fall in love with every inch of my body, regardless of whether I felt "bigger" or less toned on a particular day. For once, I let my body do her thing and stopped resisting + forcing her to be something. I watched my arms and stomach soften and thought it was beautiful. I watched as my body began to balance in different areas. My boobs and hips got bigger, while my legs became less bulky, and I thought wow, everything I resisted for so long feels so natural. For the record, I didn't gain any weight, instead, I softened. 

I often think back to when I was in middle school and my body began to shift. Nobody really talked about puberty in a positive light, and for so many women I know, this was the moment when body image became an issue. If only someone had talked about curves in a way that made them something to embrace and own. I know for me, I did everything in my power to maintain a flat chest and an athletic, hard figure. 

Circling back to movement, I want to articulate that I believe exercise is an essential part of healthy living. And I encourage all of my clients to find forms of movement that they love and can participate in on a daily basis. That said, sometimes, in order to find balance, you have to experience the opposite end of the spectrum. Like any addict, it wouldn't be recommended that he or she continues to engage in their addition, but only 3 days out of the week. For me, exercise was the same deal. In order to end my addiction, I had to experience life without it. 

I know I'm not the only one who has struggled with exercise addiction. In fact, I think it tends to be the majority of us in the wellness space. There is so much pressure to workout, maintain a fit physic and make sure everyone knows about it. I used to post about my workouts all of the time...and though that can be inspiring, I made the conscious decision to stop doing that, about a year ago, because I found that I could be contributing to that pressure. I want every woman to have the permission to fully embrace her feminine. To stop feeling like she has to do so much to attain beauty + worth. To stop looking at other women and feeling inadequate. Your natural state is beautiful + powerful. I needed to feel what it was like to embrace my feminine in order to understand it. I needed to see that all of my fears around letting go were made up. I didn't get "fat," I maintained healthy digestion, I could still keep up with any form of movement as it was presented... 

I watched my posture change. I noticed the way I began to walk with more grace + power. I started to feel my heart expand as I felt the capacity to hold more compassion for others. I let myself be more vulnerable. I watched men become more attracted to me than ever, as I fully embraced my inner goddess. All of this, simply due to setting an intention to soften. 

I had the gift of spending the majority of November in India and watched as all of my intentions stabilized. I attended a yoga festival in Rishikesh, which was my first introduction into movement/asana in over 6 months. For the first time ever, I was moving because I could, not because I "had to." I wasn't attached to a specific outcome. I wasn't moving to de-stress or disconnect, I was moving to connect to everything. I was moving to awaken my mind and exceed beyond my limitations. This provided a whole new experience. In those classes I was able to redefine movement and my relationship to it.  

In life, we're constantly pulling back layers and getting to a new level of realness with ourselves. If we choose to, we're always refining, redefining + evolving into the truth of who we really are. The soft, feminine, powerful goddess was always inside of me...she is me, she just needed permission + space to shine through.

Now that I've embraced this natural soft, feminine, yin side of my being, I can move through life with less agenda + rigidity and more curiosity + flow. Since returning from India, I am consciously reintroducing movement back into my life, without an expectation of it making me look or feel a specific way. Once again, it was never the movement that was the issue, it was my relationship to it. And isn't this true for all things in life? It's not the food that is the enemy, it is our relationship to it. 

If any of this resonated with you, I invite you to take a look at the goddess that lives inside of you. If you're anything like me, she was being ignored + suppressed, just waiting for permission to unleash herself. The current state of the feminist movement says that we have to be like men to earn our power back. What if instead of resisting our nature, we harnessed our superpower that is our feminine. As my teacher says, "we are here to have a strong spine and a soft heart." 

XO