My current wellness protocol is focused on detox. It’s interesting because I think that some of the time many facets of our life seem to conspire to tell us something of great importance. For me right now, many aspects of my life need less toxicity.

As human beings we are bombarded with toxins – in the air we breathe, on the food we eat, in the creams we slather on our skin, and in the chemicals we may be exposed to in our workplaces or with our hobbies. I’ve been doing all I can to limit these environmental exposures. I eat organic food as much as possible, in order to cut down on the glyphosate and other chemicals used in modern farming practices. I’ve switched to natural beauty and skin products. The workplace and hobby exposure is the one I just can’t seem to fix at the moment.

I grew up around cars, and race cars, and go karts, and mini bikes….
We worked on them, drove them and raced them. We spent hours using or being exposed to chemicals like brake cleaner, fuel, oils and solvents. I now work in that very same industry and while I don’t have near the exposure I used to, I think so sensitive to it now that what little I do breathe in bothers me greatly. So the only thing to do now is work on ways to get that out of my system as quickly as possible. Thank god for the world’s greatest Naturopathic Doctor who is helping me with all of this.

But beyond the obvious environmental toxins, I’ve come to notice that there are other things plaguing my system at the moment, and the parallels are somewhat alarming. There are emotional toxins in life – people we label as toxic to our wellbeing, environments that cause us distress and anxiety, and even negative self talk that poisons our mind. I’m suffering with all of that right now, and the only real solution? The only real chance of getting better by eliminating the toxins in my life?

Push all the shit out.
All of it.

I read a quote from Lewis Howes last week and it spoke so much truth to me that I took a screenshot of it and saved it. He said,

“Eliminate everything in your life that doesn’t support your health, happiness and personal growth.”

Simple, right?
But easy? Hell no.

I’m having a hard time getting healthy now because my body just has way too much toxicity in it, the inflammation will not come down. The normal course of medication hasn’t been working. And if I’m really honest with myself and I take that quote from Lewis Howes as gospel, there are a lot of things that I would change in my life. So, what’s holding me back?

Limited beliefs.
Pressure I’ve put on myself.
Corners I’ve painted myself into financially.

Perhaps 2018 will finally be the year that I live beyond these beliefs and fears of change. Perhaps I live by that motto of Howes, which sounds remarkably similar to the slogan I came up with for my own brand. Perhaps I learn to finally, once and for all, truly put my own health and happiness first.

Do it scared

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a ton of books lately all about being yourself and overcoming the fear of moving forward in life. One of the things that kept coming up was that there will never be a perfect time to make your move, change your life or try something new. And beyond that, the fear never goes away, you just have to be courageous enough to do it scared.

I always understood what this meant in a cerebral way. It makes sense. There are things that will be scary to try and in order to branch out and do something new, you will likely be scared. But I suppose I always equated that with big huge life changes, not the small incremental steps toward a goal. I’ve just done a couple of those small steps and felt the fear.

I’ve begun my journey to learn to be a b3 instructor, a type of barre workout that is based in Toronto and all over the States. Going to the audition where I had to memorize choreography and perform it in the studio was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. And no matter how much I practiced, I would always be scared, because it’s new, outside my comfort zone and here’s the most important part – it mattered to me, greatly.

If something matters to you, and it lights you up, you are going to care a great deal about how it goes, and you will pour your heart and soul into it. That’s what I did with the barre audition. And then yesterday we had to have memorized a half hour’s worth of choreography, in order to teach it to the lead instructor at the studio. I was petrified! I had learned it as best I could, but it sure wasn’t perfect. and the reason I was so scared was because I am becoming an instructor to change my trajectory. I want to have more impact in this world. I want to do more good. I want to spread health and happiness to my fellow busy professional women, and help them to spend an hour focused on themselves. This MATTERS to me.

I think it you aren’t a little scared, you maybe aren’t pursuing your dreams as fiercely as you ought to be. And this is coming from someone who used to be uber-conservative. I did everything “right”. I never got in trouble, never stepped out of line, got my engineering degree and two Masters in order to work in the field that I grew up in – motorsport, and I got the job I had manifested. I did everything to plan.

To plan means on autopilot. And then everything fell apart – my family imploded, I began to question everything, and I realized I hadn’t looked up to see where I was headed in ten years. I ended up in a great job at the perfect company for working in motorsport, but I’d forgotten one key ingredient – what I actually wanted to feel and contribute to this world.

I haven’t felt scared in my day job for years because I got comfortable there. I’m great at what I do as an engineer, but I have an itch to be more than just an engineer. I want to be in fitness. I want to be a light in other people’s lives. I want to inspire health and wellness. I want to be active daily and lead by example. It means a ton to me and that is why I’m scared. Because I don’t want to mess it up.

So, if ever you feel that fear creeping up when you are pursuing something that is important to you, run towards it. And do it scared.

An epiphany in a barre class

Today I mostly worked out – did some yoga in the morning, a barre class in TO at noon, and followed that with learning the cueing mantra for the type of classes I’ll soon be leading. Something interesting happens when you are focused very mindfully on your body and your breath. You can actually listen to your heart, because your thoughts are quiet. You can call it heart, intuition, soul or self.

While holding a plank in class today I finally understood what I had been striving to do, but only really getting it 80%. I finally got it. Knew what I had to do, and what so many people before me have already understood and put into practice, in a way that keeps them living their optimal life.

Those of you that know me, or have read things in detail that I’ve posted, know that I struggle with a somewhat invisible disease. It’s one that comes and goes, and while I seem to function well, it’s eating me inside. Lately I’ve been having a rough bought with a flare and can’t understand why my normal medications aren’t helping me get better. I knew I was missing something, and that my stress levels were too high but I just couldn’t understand what I needed to do in order to get better.

I always have the intention of putting my health before all other priorities, but somewhere I failed on that in the execution. I actually have been putting my job before my health for years now. I literally believed that my occupation defined me, and that I needed to be the best employee to satisfy that internal perfectionist before I could tackle anything else in my life.

I thought that by adding in a fitness element to my professional life I could swing the pendulum a little more towards being focused on my health, but that too is a job – something you do for other people. Don’t get me wrong, I freaking love it and can’t wait to get started, but it alone does not encapsulate what health as the number one priority is.

It finally clicked today that health as my number one priority has little to nothing to do with what I do as a job, and everything to do with who I am as a person. You can have any job you’d like, but when you are tired, you rest; when you are sick, you take leave; when you need a break, you take it; when it is time for dinner, you’re done for the day – no matter what today’s workplace emergency might be.

You could be a fitness instructor, an engineer, a teacher or a lawyer. No matter what you do as a profession, you must first choose yourself if you want to live a healthy and happy life.

It’s not about what you do.
It’s about tuning in to to who you are and being kind enough to yourself to listen and respond accordingly.

We can all find stress in our current situations, because we are wired to operate that way. Society and your own past conditioning will always apply pressure no matter the job you are in. What needs to come first is an understanding of who you are and what you need to be happy. And then having the confidence and self respect to unwaveringly give that to yourself, no matter what.

If it means no overtime, don’t do it.
If it means sleeping 8 hours a day, cut out activities taking you away from that.
If it means finding another job so you don’t stress so much, do it.
If it means changing your eating habits, then quit whining and get to work.
If it means doing more of the things you love, then stop doing shit you hate.

Life is too short.
Put yourself first.
Otherwise, what’s the god damn point?

And so it begins….

I wrote briefly about stepping outside my comfort zone this weekend on social media. I took a chance on something I really love, and went for it with all of my heart. I put in the time, effort, practice and personality, and in the end I got up the courage to do a live audition on Sunday to be a barre3 instructor in Toronto.

You may have noticed on my fitness posts that lately I’ve been adding in a lot more barre routine work, and I just can’t get enough of this format of exercise. It’s challenging, athletic, fun and yet beautiful, graceful and musical. It combines everything I enjoy about my yoga practice with the sweat I crave to bust my stress during the work week.

I’d been toying with the idea of teaching live classes for a while now, and really just didn’t have the guts to go after it, but this past month I’ve channelled Gary Vee and reached out to a few instructors in the Toronto area to ask how one goes about getting into being a barre instructor. And lo-and-behold, Gary Vee is a genius, or maybe this was just meant to be, but the lead instructor at barre3 in Toronto replied saying she was holding a recruitment session in the following week and would love to invite me.

So I went to Toronto for the info session, took a class where they observed us as kind of an initial sneaky audition, and was offered the chance to do a real live audition to a piece of choreography the following weekend. I was so excited to be offered this chance, out of a group of dancers, of all things! Me!

I went to the big audition last Sunday, so nervous, so out of my element, but I knew the routine down-pat, I really did. Entering into the studio, putting on the headset, getting in front of the instructor and trying it in a different setting totally threw me. But I regained my composure and made it through the routine. It certainly wasn’t as good as I had it here in my own basement while practicing, but I did my very best, and whatever the outcome, I was just so freaking proud of myself for getting up there and trying.

I’m an engineer by trade. I sit behind a desk all day. I speak with data and numbers. I create presentations and spreadsheets, and I communicate technical information. Let’s just say being energetic, perky and animated aren’t my typical form. So, when I say I was outside my comfort zone, I was WAY outside my comfort zone.

But my desire for something dynamic, positive and more fulfilling was greater than my fear of leaving the safety net of the last 10 years of my life, professionally. I have this huge nagging gravitational pull toward fitness; to be moving – physically moving – during the week. Not just in the mornings before going to work and then sitting on my butt all day after that. I want to be moving, teaching, helping others, and bringing that perky, positive and creative force to the fore.

I don’t know if you can guess what the outcome of this audition process was, but I got through to the intensive training that starts now! I will going through eight weeks of rigorous training to learn how to teach a barre3 class, with what has to be the most professional, quality-oriented, employee-focused studio that I’ve experienced. I am so incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to start training, to start teaching, and to start this new chapter in my life.

When did we start believing what other people told us about ourselves?

For me, it happened at about 11 or 12 years old and in a couple different instances. Two of which I’ll share with you and explain how this had a formative impact on my own personality, in order to protect myself, and ensure I was loved and accepted.

This has been brewing in my own mind for a few months now and I couldn’t quite figure out why I kept remembering these two scenarios, and why they were linked. I’m sharing this story from my own childhood to explain that we need to question everything. Especially those formative childhood memories, which for one reason or another persist in our consciousness to remind us to re-evaluate always, and to never believe what others tell us.

The first story is from way-back, and I must admit that I still feel shame telling this story, because I was so humiliated and shocked out of my own innocence. I would have been maybe 11 or 12 years old and we used to go down to Lake Wilcox in the summers and swim. It was your typical family activity, only I was often bored on these outings because my younger brothers would play their own boy-like games and I’d be left to my own devices. I found myself playing with scaring the birds away in the outer regions of the swimming area, when my mother screamed at me to get out of the water and announced that we were leaving immediately. I spent the drive home hearing all about how girls of my age do NOT do such things, and how embarrassing to have her daughter scaring away birds in the lake. What kind of well-behaved young lady acts in such a juvenile and silly manner?

I think from that moment on I was shamed out of having any fun. I was terrified that I’d be scolded and humiliated after even attempting something that might be construed as silly or juvenile.

I was always a good kid, but mostly because I was scared to not be a good kid. I wanted my parent’s love and acceptance, and I believed them when they said that a girl my age was not to play like that. I did little outside my comfort zone, which then became purely academic and within myself – reading, daydreaming, studying…

The second story was in middle school when we were all auditioning for a school play, and I was so excited. I literally thought I’d be the best dang actor that there was, and I would get this part in the play and love every minute of it. I arrived to the audition, so excited and genuinely nervous to put myself out there. I was terrible (I guarantee it), but in my mind I had told myself I was going to get a part.

Instead I was told very kindly by my teacher that someone like me was much better suited to a role behind-the-scenes. My strengths would make me an excellent director, or organizational leader behind the curtain. All this is totally true, but I was completely crushed. From them on I stayed well out of the lime light – I thought I was terrible in front of crowds and that I would be an awful public speaker, performer or verbal communicator.

I believed this in myself until very recently when I discovered that I’m a freaking rockstar at teaching, speaking to people, and generally being an effective communicator. It took me 20 years to un-learn and un-believe things that I took to be gospel.

I still find it very difficult to do anything that could be deemed for-fun or completely unproductive in some way. I still am fighting the battle in my own mind that it’s ok to be silly sometimes, to goof off a little, and enjoy the moment.

It’s not the people in these stories that are in any way at fault. Everyone is human and flawed, and I have great empathy for that. But it’s clear to me that what we all need to do is to stop believing others, and start believing in ourselves.
Question everything people tell you.
And learn to get very in touch with your own intuition, your own gut instincts, and you own desired feelings.

For it is only you that can change your thoughts and beliefs.
And your health and happiness depends on it.

My foray into the world of natural health and beauty products

I’ve been reading a lot lately on ways to detox my own beauty routine, and to be more careful with the products that I consume. I know I’m already sensitive to most things – I have allergies, chemicals and toxins bother me more than most, and I have an autoimmune disease that makes me very cautious about what I eat. On top of that, as a kid I always had sensitive skin and I hated all kinds of perfumes because they gave me headaches.

Now, I’m an engineer, and I’m more than capable of looking up the lists of ingredients in my skincare products, and cross referencing agains known toxins, but to be honest, I just don’t have the time or patience for that. So, how could I shortcut that process and begin to make better choices?

By finding people who have already curated those things, of course! Now, I don’t live downtown and it’s a pain in the butt to get there most days, but my recent affinity for barre classes took me downtown last week (more on that obsession in a future blog post). Right down the street from the barre studio was a Calii Love smoothie joint and this amazing natural health and beauty store called The Detox Market.

I’d heard about this store through an awesome Toronto Wellness blog that I follow on Instagram called @Welltodocanada. They did an event at the store on natural beauty products, and why we should care. I couldn’t make it to the event but I knew I wanted to visit the store, and reading up on it, I found out that they had already selected products based on how natural they were.

I had two goals when I went there:
1. Find a natural deodorant that didn’t make my skin angry
2. Find natural mascara and eyeliner to keep toxins away from my eyes

I think a lot of us know that traditional deodorant has aluminum in it which just isn’t good for us at all and can disrupt our endocrine system. I tried a few natural deodorants that I ordered online but all of them made my skin very very red and angry. Turns out – I can’t do baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). So, enter The Detox Market and a couple wonderful options that I found without baking soda. Hooray! Both work awesome, though the Soap Walla smells better in my opinion. There were even more options in the store – I was impressed.

Additionally, I found a natural mascara and eye liner from a company I’ve used before called 100% Pure, and the coolest thing is they are coloured by black tea – if you know me, you know I’m a tea addict; consider me sold!
It’ll take some getting used to with the liquid eye liner that needs to dry, and the mascara that needs to go on before the eye liner, otherwise my lashes get all stuck together – lessons I’m glad I learned on the weekend. It still looks good though, and I’m sure I can try a couple other brands, maybe each time I’m downtown at the barre3 studio. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely healthier.

The point of all this is to say there are lots of little ways that we can clean up our act – whether it’s making better purchases to detox our lives, choosing to cook healthy meals rather than eat processed food, or buying that reusable pretty water bottle in order to reduce waste.

Being kind to our bodies and our planet is important.
All it takes are a few small changes and decisions.
You only get one place to live.
Take care of it.

My Zen Ten Challenge

I’m sitting here on Saturday afternoon, after having made a turmeric latte for myself on this very fall-like day, doing what I do most weekends – reading, writing, researching and daydreaming.

Today, on the weekend, when the world around me is quiet, there is no work to go to, and no appointments to keep, no one asking for anything from me, and I have control over my environment (well, minus the barking from the world’s most vocal puppy). I feel very at ease, calm, happy, peaceful even, and I wondered, how can I bring more of this feeling, this state of being, into my days during the work week?

For me, this is a real and serious question, which I need to figure out in order to be at my best, mentally, emotionally and physically. I feel very different on the weekends when I can control my schedule, versus during the week, when sometimes it feels like my schedule controls me.

Let me give you a run down of a typical day, so you have a feel for that schedule:
3:30 Wake up, wash face, meditate, journal
4:00 Workout
5:00 Shower, make lunch, get dressed
6:00 Head out the door to commute to work
7:00 Work
4:00 Commute home
5:30 Make it home and make dinner, sit down to eat
7:00 An hour to chill, read, etc.
8:00 Get ready for bed
9:00 Usually when I fall asleep

There’s not much time in there for any additional things, and when I do try new yoga classes in the evenings, or I meet a friend for dinner after work, I’m exhausted the next day. Usually the one thing that will slide off the table of priorities above is sleep. I am lucky if I were to get seven hours of sleep, but it is usually more like six. I have no doubt that this contributes to my feelings of stress, but I can’t seem to squeeze everything into my schedule otherwise.

So, the big question is, what can I do with this schedule in order to be more calm? In order to feel more in control? In order to feel better?

By putting some of these things down in writing, I’m making myself accountable to this challenge. Here are my zen ten:

1. Take a five minute break every hour to breathe deeply and reset
2. Bring an essential oil diffuser to work for my office to promote calm
3. Put items that are beautiful nearby – flowers, paintings, decor
4. Eat nourishing food to fuel you for the day – lots of veggies
5. Make time in the evening for reading, not tv, reading – to inspire and relax
6. In the office, after morning emails, set a task list of priorities to keep yourself organized and focused
7. Find new amazing podcasts to learn from on the commute
8. Try to get outside for at least a few minutes during the day (because there is no natural light in my office)
9. Get some pictures of my puppies framed and put in my office for smiles
10. Say no to any additional commitments that do not make me happy

Maybe part of the answer is fiercely protecting this weekend space, all to myself, where I feel calm and at peace. Keeping this as a sacred time for me to take care of me. To recuperate from the week, and do all the things I couldn’t do during the week (re: yoga classes or seeing a friend), yet not too much so as to take away from my rest and quiet.

It is always about balance, isn’t it?
I hope that these small changes will make a big impact.
My health and happiness depends on it.