Tag Archives: yoga

Triggers: Our Bodies Speak Volumes

Chin up! Photo credit: Ellie Tonev

Chin up! Photo credit: Ellie Tonev

When I hear the word triggers I automatically think of my migraine triggers: stress, the weather, excessive heat, excessive cold, tomatoes, eggs, pork, nitrates, msg, to name a few.

But I never truly considered triggers in that the way in which I hold my body has profound affects on my emotional and psychological health. That when I spend my day with my chin down, shoulders slumped – let’s call it the “I GIVE UP” posture – well, I feel like fucking giving up.

I never considered these triggers until my teacher Tracy really took us down that path Saturday afternoon in Bowspring class. When we meditated on our triggers.

Bowspring (for me at least) is all about holding a steady posture where you feel both solid and light, sturdy and at ease, confident and at home in your own body. We hold the Bowspring posture during a class so that we can find it with greater ease during life.

The triggers we notice are things such as:

  • Do I drop my chin and always look to the ground?
  • Do my shoulders curl forward?
  • Do I draw in my belly so as to feel smaller?

For most of my life, my answer to pretty much all of the above has been a resounding YES. Yoga and especially Bowspring Practice though have slowly helped me find my way out of these patterns and triggers. This path out has not only helped me feel stronger and eliminate pain, but also has given me a newfound sense of confidence – where I feel more at home in my body.

Growing up I was taller than a lot of the kids in school. I would wish every night to wake up skinnier and shorter. My tallness and gargantuan feet were a travesty at the time. While classmates were still shopping at Gap Kids, my mom started bringing me to Eddie Bauer and The Limited.

To say that I did not embrace my tallness and size would be an understatement. All I wanted was to feel small. I was desperate to fix:

  • my tummy so that it would quit sticking out (before I learned about the birds & the bees there was a period where I questioned “am I pregnant?”)
  • my feet to stop growing already (I’ve been a size 10 since about 5th grade – there, it’s out there, I have big feet!)
  • my thighs to not rub together when I wore dresses or shorts (they still rub together somewhat and when I run long distances, they chafe, ah well!)
  • my boobs to disappear (I wore baggy tops to conceal them until some of the other girls caught up)
  • and somehow I thought if I slouched enough, I would be shorter like the cute short girls.

I notice that even now, as I make my way into my early 30s, I still hold onto some of these beliefs that have manifested as triggers in my body.

Like the tummy trigger – oh the amount of time I have spent trying to suck that darn thing in! I spent years in high school and college perfecting a posture that would make my tummy appear concave or hollow. And I wonder why my back started spasming…

At the time the only part of my body I probably loved were my shoulders because there I noticed – bony protrusions! Ah-ha!

I’m not going to say that I have fully addressed all of my triggers. I’m not sure I ever will. But I notice them, oh do I ever notice them.

For instance when I was running the other day, I spotted my reflection in a window and immediately said to myself “EW, GROSS!” I said it out loud, right there on Knight Street. Why? Because I noticed my belly was sticking out.

So what did I do? I first tried with all my might to suck my belly in to make it go away. As I did this I started feeling totally uncomfortable in my body, realized “there’s a trigger for ya!”, and decided fuck it, who cares, I’m going to let my belly be free. Breathing feels better that way anyway and – cool fact – I have also noticed that when I let my belly be free and stop trying to suck it in when running, it is MUCH easier to lean into the run and to keep a faster, steady pace.

The greatest gift is that when I pay attention to my triggers, I feel a greater sense of “I’m at home” in my own body rather than wanting to fix or escape it. I give myself permission to be exactly as I am and to honor the very shape of me.

I encourage you to notice how you are sitting, standing, walking right now. How are you HOLDING your own body? Do you feel empowered in your own body or do you feel diminished and small? Perhaps simply try this cue: keep your chin up. And just see what happens when you make that your mantra throughout one day.

With Love,

Maggie

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

We Are in the midst of a body shaming epidemic. Let’s change that.

Our society is in the midst of an epidemic of body shaming and self-loathing. There is a scarcity of self-acceptance.  6097785133_02db3aeb1b

Many of us learn, from a young age, that we are not alright just as we are. That our bellies could be flatter, our teeth whiter, our houses bigger, or our hair straighter. We struggle to look in the mirror and simply accept what we see, let alone love what we see.

I spent my late teens and early twenties battling bulimia. My self-loathing reached a point that I was creating physical harm to my body. I will say that the one thing that pulled me out of a lot of darkness was a regular yoga practice that helped me shift my belief system. I went from believing that my thighs were too chunky to feeling grateful for all that they were capable of. It is a work in progress, that I still struggle with from time to time to this day, but I now have the tools and capabilities to shift my thinking from body shaming to self-acceptance.

Imagine what life would be like if you could look at yourself in the mirror and notice each and every part of you as something that is beautiful. Imagine if you could recognize your “flaws” as the greatest parts of yourself. Imagine if you talked to yourself the way you talk to those you love the most – with words of utmost encouragement, kindness, and love.

This is what I work with people on through the modalities of Health Coaching and Bowspring Yoga.

Let’s start to make our own rules so that we see the rolls, spare tires, cellulite, dimples as markers of beauty rather than shunning them. All the while being more efficient in the way we move our bodies and treating ourselves better as we are getting healthier.

I invite you to join me this spring to start to see yourself through a fresh pair of eyes and with a more loving heart. I am offering a special to you as well as anyone you refer to experience Health Coaching with me:

3 Health Coaching sessions for $200 (phone, valued at $375)

OR

6 Health Coaching sessions for $385 (phone, valued at $750)

All sessions are for one-hour duration.
Click here to read about what you can expect from Health Coaching.

If you’re considering health coaching but are on the fence, I offer a 30 minute complimentary sample session. Click here to schedule your session.

Please email me maggie@maggieconverse.com or comment below with ANY questions. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Maggie

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Crushing It, Softly

I did a yoga photoshoot yesterday. I was asked to be the subject in a local photographer’s shoot entitled “Crushing It: Portraits of Women Athletes.” My first reaction to even being asked was “Wait, what? You think I’m an athlete? You think I’m crushing it??” Hello gremlins!

In the days leading up to the shoot I was sure I would nail it. And not nail it in the sense that the photographer would get a great shot – I knew she was talented and would get the shot she wanted. I mean nail it in the sense that I would feel like a million bucks, comfortable in my own skin, as if I would all of a sudden magically transform into a total yoga babe.

But as the day of the shoot arrived, I started doubting myself, again. I still can’t hold a handstand in the middle of the room. Nor can I run very far or fast at the moment thanks to a knee/hip injury I am trying to heal. And I have to take at least one of the races I’m signed up for this year off my calendar due to said injury…

So … let’s get the straight … you still think I’m Crushing It? You still think I’m an athlete? Okay…

And then of course I had to analyze my body. No, wait, I had to deeply criticize my body.

I do not have the defined muscles like some of the other incredible subjects in the project. Even as I changed into my outfit for the shoot – a sports bra (suggested item) and yoga pants that I tried on that I picked out believing yeah I can totally rock this – I started to doubt. No, I went further than doubt – I started to really tear myself apart.

I started to see the softness around my belly button. My familiar pooch – it’s definitely still there, and probably always will be. Thought to myself why won’t it just disappear? To me the sports bra dug in and created even more softness around my chest, arms, and back. I thought to myself “is she really going to want this in her photograph?”

I could feel myself sinking and slipping deeper into that bottomless pit of self hatred.

As I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror at the studio where we were doing the shoot, I felt that familiar lump in my throat and the tears started to swell. Tears of shame about my body. That somehow the fact that I have a softness to me means that I am bad, that I am a failure, that I cannot possibly be an athlete who is crushing it. You can’t crush it with softness. Right?

But the tears were also a sadness that I could beat myself up in such a way. That I have been conditioned to criticize. To constantly look for my flaws even when at first glance I don’t even see them! I fast forward past “You look great!!!” to “What the fuck were you thinking Maggie picking a SPORTS BRA for this photoshoot??? You can’t pull this shit off.”

As I gathered my things and started to leave the bathroom, I gave myself one last glance in the mirror, I saw where my underwear cut into the softness around my hips leaving a dent, and said to myself “It doesn’t matter what you look like. That’s not what they see, that’s not what they care about.” And if I’m being totally truthful here, it’s not what I want to care about.

And then I started to do the yoga. I started to do the poses. I started to wash away the bullshit…. almost immediately. It felt like I was coming home in my body. I loved the softness of my belly that lengthened as I curled into a backbend. Conversely the strength in my back that supported me while being soft enough as if it were uttering “I love you.”

It was like all the mindfuckery had vanished. Just like that, it was gone.

The next day I put on my clothes to go or a run. There was that familiar puffiness around the top of my waist band. I took a moment to look at myself in the mirror, then felt, palpated the puffiness. I thought to myself, it is what it is. It’s me and it’s beautiful.

I know through this work that I need mantras. I need positive self-talk to pull me out of my own bullshit and shame. And the cherry on top is the yoga asana practice. Somehow it just seals the deal. It eases me into a perspective on my body and my self that allows me to really believe “hell yeah, I am crushing it.”

IMG_6704

Bowspring in action. Letting my belly be! Photo by Alley Maher. Another very talented local photographer.

Why can’t we see ourselves in the same light that others see us? Why oh why is it so terribly challenging? And why do we habitually resort to the self-criticism and judgement? It’s second nature to us.

Can you imagine if we talked to our friends and loved ones in the same manner we talk to ourselves?

I will say that through years of working on this I recognize the struggle may never fully go away. That I will have those moments where I define myself and my worthiness based on my appearance. Where I find myself slipping into ripping myself apart. But the work of practicing self-love comes and sweeps me up like a good friend picks you up from a bad breakup.

And I begin to turn off the negative self-talk and turn on …. believing. Believing that I am worthy, I am capable, that I am a hell of a lot more than enough. And believing that I am crushing it … softly.

If you’d like to see Irene Penny’s photo that was selected for the show (and all the other subjects she features), it will be on display Thursday May 21 6-8pm at Athleta – Westport, CT, 103 Main Street.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Letting My Belly Be

image1I have a confession. I have spent most of my life trying desperately to conceal or minimize my belly.

Even as a child, I had this little “pooch” that stuck out. I always took ballet and the leotards and tights dug their way into that pooch that wouldn’t budge. I wished on eyelashes that I would wake up with a perfectly flat, no, perfectly concave stomach. I would stare at myself in the mirror, sticking it out, sucking it in, pulling it in, flattening and spreading it with my hands as best I could – then I’d pinch all the belly I could muster. Oh, how I hated that thing.

As a teen I learned about sit-ups and crunches and ab-work and pilates and when I would put on my leotards I would hope in vain that the 25 sit-ups I had done the night before might have made a difference. More and more I started taking things into my own hands to rid myself of this abomination. I was taught, over and over again, that this belly just needs to go away. I so strongly felt that I needed to make it disappear, and then everything would be alright.

I went through periods in my twenties where I felt skinny and the belly was a little less of a problem. On those days I felt happier, more confident. But then I would wake up the next morning with it protruding over my pajama bottoms. What pants could I possibly wear that were both cute AND would hide my body? What could I wear that would make me appear different? What would make me appear better?

Now in my early thirties my relationship with my body has changed, mostly for the good. I have bad days and I have good days – the good days mostly outweigh the bad. But still I sometimes see my reflection in the mirror in an exercise class and all I notice is that darn belly trying to peek out of my lululemon pants that were supposed to be so slimming, they were supposed to make it disappear, at least for a brief moment. The deep-set belief of belly being bad as a child still rears its ugly head as an adult.

Five months ago I kind of fell into a new yoga studio with brand new teachers and a brand new practice. I fell into this studio during a period where a lot of change was happening in my life – everything felt like it was uprooted and of course this made me go back to old patterns of disliking my body. I almost didn’t go to my first class there because I thought to myself “No Maggie, you’re dealing with enough change right now, why add more fuel to the fire?”

Fast forward to class last week when our teacher Mitchel instructed for the umpteenth time for everyone to let our bellies be long, to let them hang out. When we are on all fours or in crouching cat (think downward dog with very bent knees) he often instructs us to imagine our bellies swaying side to side like a cat. And whenever he does this I can’t help but smile and think of my cat Milo who flaunts his belly like it’s his job. If he’s flaunting his belly, why shouldn’t I?

But the point is that for these five months I have been instructed to just let my belly be. To let it freaking hang out. To forget about the sucking in, the flattening, the diminishing, the shortening, the crunching. I can let my belly be itself – that little pucker toward the bottom of my torso that has held on to so much guilt, shame, and pain for most of my life. And the more I allow myself to let my belly be, the more confident I feel and the more solid I feel within the structure of my own body.

I am discovering a part of my body, my belly, for the very first time. With fresh eyes and a loving and wholly accepting heart. I know that my belly journey will have its ups and downs but what a great sense of relief to put my hand on my belly and say to myself, for the first time ever, “Hell yeah!”

 

Tagged , , , ,

Give the Gift of Coaching & Yoga

This holiday season, give the gift of coaching or yoga.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 10.45.49 AM

Three sessions of health coaching or private yoga for $300 (valued at $450).

Valid for purchase through December 24.


Read what are people saying:

I not only benefit from the flexibility, body strengthening and calming effect of Yoga, but Maggie is helping me with a variety of ailments that I have. Whether it be my back pain, migraines, balance or osteoarthritis issues, she always knows the correct poses to do, and how to adapt them to my needs.

Maggie is kind, sensitive to my pain, and is very conscientious. She corrects the tiniest movements in my body that make the difference between doing a pose correctly or incorrectly.

As long as my body can tolerate it, she also makes me work! I love that! After a session with Maggie, I feel calmer and my body feels better. I am lucky and grateful to be working with such a special woman and an excellent teacher.


Contact me directly at maggie.converse@gmail.com for your PDF gift certificate to a loved one – or to purchase a package for yourself!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

What is a Retreat?

The word Retreat derives from Anglo-French retreat, from the past participle of retreaire which means to withdraw.

A retreat is a very personal experience and the motivating factors for one person to sign up for a retreat will be very different from the next person’s.

For me the reason for signing up for the Radiant Retreat in 2008 was crystal clear: I was 25 and I felt totally STUCK. I was in a very fine job that paid well and paved the way for a career in the art world. But, to put it simply, something was missing – call it a “joie de vivre,” call it my mojo – I wasn’t feeling fully alive.

I received an email from Jennifer asking if I would join her on that retreat many years ago and it became very simple: in order for me to get “un-stuck” I needed to remove myself, or withdraw, not only internally but also from my external environment. I needed an extra boost and an opportunity to have the physical and mental space to determine how I was going to follow my true path.

The retreat helped me determine that it was absolutely acceptable for me to want to be a yoga teacher… and more! I will never forget one conversation Jennifer and I had during a visit in Philadelphia when I gave her a vague description of what I wanted my career to be – her response was “You should be an ease-maker.”

The retreat provided a foundation for me to slowly start to become that ease-maker. In work, in friendship, and in love.

It was that wonderful tipping point that allowed me to access truth and my very own authenticity.

There are many ways we can describe a retreat and the benefits it yields. But the most profound for me has been accessing authenticity.

A retreat allows us to peel back the layers and move the junk out of the way for us to realize what it is we want and then we slowly start to do the work to get there.

The heaping mounds of guacamole, superb yoga classes, and stellar company are just the cherry on top!

Join us March 21-28, 2015 in Tulum.

retreatgroup

Tagged , , ,

What if you fly?

This week I received some beautiful news from a client and friend that made me happy and proud: after figuratively and literally falling down and “failing” at Ironman Florida, something he devoted months of training to, he will be trying again next year – he is already signed up!

How much did I need to be reminded of this in my own life?

We cannot be afraid to fall or to “fail.” I even see it in something as simple as a handstand in the middle of the room in yoga. I am TERRIFIED of falling, but I’m starting to see that if I never fall I will never learn.

What a perfect metaphor for life this yoga can be.

whatifyoufly

Tagged , , ,

Radiant Moments on Retreat

“Ah-ha” Moments from the Radiant Retreat 2008…

When asked about my biggest “a-ha moment” on the Radiant Retreat, I wrote this story:

In 3rd grade, we were prompted to write on a 3×5 card “Who is your hero and why?”

I knew my answer immediately: my cousin Jennifer.

As an eight-year-old the answer to “why” was: because she is an amateur actor. In actuality Jen was a professional actor, I just thought she was too young to be a professional. But what I really meant was: I looked up to her – in the highest way possible.

Jennifer inspired me because she was out there on her own in the world doing what moved her and sparked her soul. It was abundantly clear to my little 3rd grade brain that Jennifer was following her heroic path. Maybe it was the way she talked to me, the smile that beamed from her face, or the way she laughed with my parents about what it’s like to be an actor – but you could just tell.

Twenty years later and I seized the opportunity to practice yoga with Jen and attend the Radiant Retreat. I was sure my yoga asana practice would totally blossom and morph into an outer worldly experience. I was ready to take on all the handstands, inversions, backbends, and arm balances. I was going to work my butt off to “master” them all. But what happened on the Radiant Retreat was so much more rocking than a blossoming asana practice.

Conquering fancy poses became less of a priority. Jen’s yoga classes served to put my body and mind at ease. I opened up in an entirely new way and for the first time, I wrote things true to my soul and SHARED them. The first time I read out loud to the group my voice quivered but I began to soak in all that I was expressing; my vulnerability and exceptional truth.

I read out loud and proud. I laughed and cried and shared the 3rd-grade hero story with the group. And at the center of it all, I shared that I was committing to a strong desire to get to know my extended family a little better. And wasn’t it superb that they, my aunt and cousins, could be there?

The retreat gave me one week to feel safe in a beautiful space, and the truth and writing poured right out. And hasn’t stopped since.

And here is Jennifer’s response:

In 2008, my cousin, Maggie Converse, came on the Radiant Retreat and impossible things started becoming possible.

One blue sky Tulum morning after sunrise and meditation, all 30 of us stood in a Gratitude circle on the beach (an optional opportunity to share inspiration or gratitude), and Maggie spoke,

“I’m grateful for Jennifer. During a meditation, she came to mind as one of my hero’s…”

I missed most of what she said, too busy thinking, Really? Am I your hero? You came all the way to Tulum, age 24, and took a leap of faith. That’s inspiring.

Being “the oldest sister” in my family, I’m used to being the shepherdess, babysitter, take-charge chic and caretaker and I’d never thought of myself as a hero.

Maggie continued, finding the right words,

“I wanted to be closer to people in my family and that’s part of why I came on the retreat. So, it’s great to get closer to Jennifer, Kate (my cousin) and Kitsie (my Aunt) and to know my family…better.”

Maggie was right: our extended family wasn’t close. Divorced, remarried or spread across the map. Over the years, we saw one another at weddings and funerals and a few Thanksgivings. It was no one’s fault. My grandmother had been the hub and once she past the spokes had no center.

“Thank you,” I said, swallowing and digging my feet deeper into the sand. Absorbing the waves and sun: Hero, retreat leader, and family.

It felt magnificent to hear Maggie articulate what I’d wanted, thought and written in my journal years before and yet never knew how to change.

We stood together under the sun and knowing that impossible things can happen before breakfast.

And someone added, “I’m super excited for breakfast and a bowl of granola. This place is paradise. It sure beats Philly in March!”

When the circle broke up, I hugged Maggie and said, “Thank you for being my hero. And saying what I’ve been feeling for years. I love you.”

Jennifer & Maggie at Sandy Neck, Summer 2014

Jennifer & Maggie at Sandy Neck, Summer 2014

Radiant Retreat, Tulum, Mexico, March 21-28, 2015  – Register Now

Tagged , , ,

Running for Moments of Stillness

3 mile run, 10 minutes of yoga, and 5 minute meditation. What a way to start a Monday! Have you ever tried meditation after your run?

My Monday started at 5AM with the sound of my alarm. Time to start the day with some early-bird yoga students immediately followed by a doctor’s appoint. Was I kidding myself when I planned my day? I sometimes operate in this “go, go, go!” mentality and forget to stop and pause for a minute …

Luckily I blocked out a 2 hour chunk of time to work from home and squeeze in a quick run, just to get the blood pumping. I left for my run as I normally do at the beginning of the week – the mantra is usually “just go easy” or “run as you feel.” It sets the tone for the lowest pressure possible which is helpful at the beginning of the week.

On this particular Monday my stride felt strong and purposeful (could have been those new running shoes I just purchased) and I even found a new route near my home – with minimal hills! (This is a challenge as we live on a very steep hill.)

When I returned home, instead of my usual routine of email check, Facebook check, second email check, stuff something in my face, drink some fluids, OK time to shower!, I sat on the floor and set my phone timer for 10 minutes. I did 10 minutes of yoga which always includes my favorite post-run stretches. And then something pretty cool happened. When I was done with the yoga I just felt like sitting.

I set my alarm again for 5 minutes and sat for a meditation. Sweat was still dripping down my face and I could feel the uncomfortable dampness of my shirt but it felt so sweet to be in stillness after this incredible exertion of energy and effort. Yin and yang. One extreme to the next. But in that meditation I observed: the energy from my run still pulsating through my body, how warm I felt, my stinky sweaty run clothes, and even while sitting in stillness how motivated and energized I felt.

When we can sneak in these little moments of stillness for ourselves and just be witness to all that is going on within us, we start to move forward in life with a little more clarity and steadiness. Maybe when we learn to fit in a short meditation after a run we start to appreciate all that we have accomplished up to that very moment, despite our grander goals. Maybe then we can fit in a short meditation before a work meeting or a challenging conversation with a loved-one.

I don’t normally do this after a run and I would like to make an effort to do it regularly. We are all pressed for time, ALL THE TIME, it seems. But even if you can take 1, 3, or 5 minutes after your run for this meditation I think you will begin to be a little kinder to yourself and appreciate all that your beautiful body is capable of. Even on those “bad run” days.

Interested in adding a little meditation into your running routine? Follow these simple steps or email me for a little extra guidance!

  1. Run … for any amount of time you have planned or just run for fun for as long as you feel!
  2. Yoga … set your timer for 5-10 minutes and go through some basic yoga stretches. Think hips, quads, hamstrings, and back. Or just do legs up the wall.
  3. Meditate … find a comfortable seat, legs up the wall, or lie down. Set your alarm, close your eyes, and focus on your breath and your body. Notice each and every little sensation. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting out there today!

Let me know how your run + yoga + meditation experience goes. What was easy? What was challenging? Post your comments and questions here!

XO Maggie

 

Tagged , , , ,

Announcing: the Radiant Retreat, March 21-28, 2015

Announcing the Radiant Retreat, March 21-28, 2015 to Tulum, Mexico, Founded by Jennifer Schelter, and assisted by yoga teacher and health coach, Maggie Converse.

RR2015The Radiant Retreat is an internationally recognized week-long retreat to the stunning natural paradise of the Mayan Riviera.

The retreat enhances self-care, connection, rejuvenation, fun, and creativity.

The daily schedule includes: mindfulness meditation, yoga (for all levels), creative writing – memoir, poetry or letter writing, one-on-one instruction, healthy meals, free time, and relaxation.

Jennifer and I look forward to sharing elements of the retreat and journey over the next 6 months, as we all begin to prepare all the elements for your adventure to the Radiant Retreat in Tulum.

Take a peek at your calendar for March 2015.

Just planting the seed, and reminding you that come March, you could be packing your bags for Tulum.

Share this adventure and enjoy the ride.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Click here for full details on the Radiant Retreat.

Tagged , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 144 other followers