Tomorrow is my 22nd birthday.
I was re-reading my post Twenty that I wrote two years ago today. I remember writing it like it was yesterday. I am still the same person that I was when I wrote that blog post, I still have the same dreams and I still believe that turning twenty was a defining moment in my life. Since then I have graduated from university, I have visited Dublin with my boyfriend, I have started an internship at VIVA magazine and I have started to make plans for my future.
Honestly, it has been a hard two years, there have been a lot of struggles but everything I go through is making me a stronger person. I’m trying to live my life day by day instead of year by year but my mind always wanders to the future. I’m a dreamer, I always have been and always will be.
Another birthday is passing by and I might not be where I want to be but I have to be patient, I have time. I have years to accomplish everything I want to do. I am enjoying my life right now. I might not have a job or enough money to buy the things I want to buy and go to places I really want to go to but I am surrounded by love. I have to believe that my future will be bright. I have to believe that things will get better and I have to believe in myself.
If there is one thing that changes every year on my birthday, it’s my perspective. Whenever my birthday approaches, I look at life in a different way. I look back on the year that has passed and what I have achieved in that time. Life is a journey and sometimes we don’t appreciate moments until they are memories. I’m going to start enjoying the present. I’m going to be patient and grateful, I am going to smile even when I feel like I can’t and I’m going to keep hoping and dreaming that I will make it to my next birthday and I will be one step closer to my dreams and one step closer to the person I want to be.
I’m always wishing for something or thinking about something I want. I know that I should appreciate what I already have but sometimes, I find myself stuck in an endless cycle of negativity and hopelessness. I’m tired of struggling. I just want everything to happen. Right now. I don’t want to wait any longer. I’m still waiting for the day that changes everything.
Why is it so difficult to see what is right in front of me? What is this selfish need that all humans have to always want more? I feel like I have fallen into the same trap that everybody else falls into. I have it imprinted in my mind that the only way I am ever going to live a happy life is to get everything I want. But I know deep down that none of it really matters.
I have a long mental list of things that I want to complete, I want to have lots of money and own expensive possessions, get my a dream job, be able to travel the world and possibly have a family of my own one day. But do I really want all of that? More importantly, do I really need all of that? Or is society’s influence so strong that I don’t know the difference between what I really want and who I want to be and what society expects of me?
Dreaming is an important part of living. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a better life and wishing for good things to happen but when they start to control your overall happiness, it becomes a big problem. And it’s starting to become a big problem for me. I’m only twenty one years old, why do I feel this pressure to achieve everything and have everything I want right now? I blame society. I blame social media. I blame the high expectations that are set by others. I also blame myself for succumbing to this toxic way of thinking. I don’t need to follow any guidelines, my life is not going to be the same as anyone else’s, I need to start believing this.
I try and switch off and embrace the day, live my life and stop worrying about the future but it’s hard. None of us know how much time we have and I think that urgency causes this need to want everything right now. I want so many things. Maybe I should start focusing on what I need? I already have everything I need. I have amazing friends, a family, a loving partner and a home. I am more privileged than most but I fail to see how lucky I am on a daily basis. I am surrounded by love, I experience happiness every day but I don’t realise it because it is clouded by the pressures of the future and everything I have yet to achieve and material possessions I have yet to own.
I need to stop thinking of happiness as a goal. Life is a journey and finding happiness is part of that journey. I’m not always going to be happy. I’m going to have days that I feel so bad about my life that I won’t want to get out of bed in the morning and that’s okay because there are plenty of days ahead of me that I will experience joy and contentment. I might not be where I want to be right now but I need to start enjoying the present and stop fretting about the future. I’m not perfect, I’m going to make lots of mistakes, I’m still young and I still have so much I need to learn about this crazy and perplexing thing we call life.
English Name: Warrior I
Sanskrit Name: Virabhadrasana I
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Stretches the shoulder, stomach, groins, chest and lungs, strengthens the arms, muscles in the back, shoulder, thighs, calves and ankles.
How to do it: Start by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Exhale deeply, step your right foot forward. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other. Stretch your fingertips and focus on all of your energy on your arms. Draw the coccyx in and make sure your back is straight. Turn your left foot in at a 45 to 60 degree angle and make sure your right foot is 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left. Exhale and rotate your torso to the right. Arch your upper torso back slightly. Breathe.
With your left heel firmly anchored to the floor, exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor. Keep your arms strong, lift your ribcage away from the pelvis. Ground down through the back foot. If you can, bring the palms together. Keep your head in a neutral position, gaze forward and look up at your hands. Breathe, smile, enjoy.
Stay in this pose for thirty seconds and work towards holding it for a minute. To come up, inhale, press the back heel firmly into the floor and reach up through the arms, straightening the right knee. Turn the feet forward and release the arms with an exhalation, take a few breaths. Next, turn the feet to the left and repeat for the same length of time. When you’re finished return to Mountain Pose.
English Name: Tree Pose
Sanskrit Name: Vrksasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Tree pose is great for improving balance, strengthening thighs, ankles, calves and the spine. It stretches the groins and inner thighs, shoulders and chest. It can also relieve sciatica and reduce flat feet.
How to do it: Begin by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Shift your weight slightly onto the left foot, keep the right foot firmly on the floor and bend your right knee. Use your right hand and clasp your right ankle. If you lose your balance don’t worry, try again.
Draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh, if possible, press the right heel into the inner left groin, toes pointing toward the floor. Make sure the pelvis is in a neutral position. Lengthen your tailbone. Breathe. Firmly press the right foot sole against the inner thigh and resist with the outer left leg. Press your hands together in Anjali Mudra. Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you to help with your balance.
Stay in tree pose for thirty seconds and work towards holding it for one minute. Step back to Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with an exhalation and repeat for the same length of time with the legs reversed.
Yoga Vocabularly: Anjali Mudra is a hand gesture which is practiced in yoga. It is used as a sign of respect and a greeting in India, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia. The gesture is incorporated into many yoga asanas. The meaning of Anjali Mudra is Salutation Seal. It has the same meaning as the Sankrit phrase Namaste.
English Name: Lotus Pose
Sanskrit Name: Padmasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Padmasana is a great pose for stimulating the pelvis, abdomen, bladder and spine. It has the ability to calm the brain, stretch the knees and ankles and can ease sciatica and menstrual discomfort. Consistent practice during pregnancy can also ease childbirth and some traditional texts say that doing Lotus Pose can destroy all disease and awaken kundalini (a shakti energy found in the base of the spine).
How to do it: Lotus pose can be quite difficult for beginners, don’t worry about looking like the picture, just do what you’re comfortable with. Start by sitting on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your right knee and bring the lower left up into a cradle. The outer edge of the foot is notched into the crook of the left elbow, the knee is wedged into the crook of the right elbow, and the hands are clasped (if possible) outside the shin. Lift the front torso toward the inner right leg so the spine lengthens (and the lower back does not round). Rock your leg back and forth a few times, exploring the full range of movement of the hip joint. Don’t push yourself too much, if you have hip pain then don’t go any further.
Next, bend the left knee and turn the leg out. Rock your right leg far out to the right, then lock the knee tight by pressing the back of the thigh to the calf. Next swing the leg across in front of your torso, swiveling from the hip and not the knee, and nestle the outside edge of the foot into the inner left groin. Make sure you bring the right knee as close to the left as possible, and press the right heel into the left lower belly.
Now lean back slightly, pick the right leg up off the floor, and lift the left leg in front of the right. To do this hold the underside of the left shin in your hands. Carefully slide the left leg over the right, snuggling the edge of the left foot deep into the right groin. Again swivel into position from the hip joint, pressing the heel against the lower belly, and arrange the sole perpendicular to the floor. Draw the knees as close together as possible. Use the edges of the feet to press the groins toward the floor and lift through the top of the sternum. If you wish, you can place the hands palms up in jnana mudra, with the thumbs and first fingers touching.
English Name: Mountain Pose
Sanskrit Name: Tadasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Tadasana is a standing pose, it can improve posture, strengthen thighs, knees and ankles, reduce flat feet, it can firm the abdomen and buttocks and can relieve sciatica.
How to do it: Mountain Pose seems like an easy pose but there is definitely more to it. Start by standing in the middle of your mat, or at the end, which ever you prefer. Stand with the bases of your big toes touching and have your heels apart slightly, so that your second toes are parallel. Spread your toes and the balls of your feet, place them softly on the mat.
Rock back and forth and side to side and gradually reduce the swaying until you are standing still. Make sure that your weight is evenly distrubuted through your feet. Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches of the feet. Imagine a line of energy starting at your feet and going all the way up to the crown of your head. Breathe. Lengthen your tailbone towards the floor.
Press your shoulder blades into your back, widen them and release them down your back. Inhale deeply. Lift the top of your sternum towards the ceiling. Exhale deeply. Soften the throat, the jaw, the tongue, your eyes. Enjoy the pose. Feel the earth beneath your feet and stand strong. Hold this pose for thirty seconds to a minute and breathe easy. Tadasana is the starting position for all standing poses but it is useful to practice this pose on its own as it improves balance which is required for other asanas in yoga practice.
English Name: Cobra Pose
Sanskrit Name: Bhujangasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Cobra pose strengthens the spine, stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. It has the ability to stimulate abdominal organs and relieve stress and fatigue. It can soothe sciatica, can be therapeutic for asthmatics and some yoga texts claim that it can increase body heat, destroying disease and awakening kundalini.
How to do it: Lie on your stomach on your mat. Stretch your legs back and place the tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands wide under the shoulders. Hug the elbows into your sides and press the tops of the feet and thighs into the floor. Inhale, straighten the arms and lift the chest off the floor. Smile. Enjoy this pose.
Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the back bend evenly throughout the entire spine. Hold the pose for fifteen seconds and breathe. Release from the pose slowly with an exhalation.
Yoga Vocabularly: Kundalini, in yogic theory, is a primal energy, or shakti, located at the base of the spine. Different spiritual traditions teach methods of “awakening” kundalini for the purpose of reaching spiritual enlightenment.
English Name: Happy Baby Pose
Sanskrit Name: Ananda Balasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Happy Baby Pose gently stretches the back, the spine and inner groin. It calms the brain and can relieve fatigue and stress.
How to do it: Lie down on your back with your legs straight. Exhale deeply and bend your knees up to your stomach. Inhale and grip the outsides of your feet with your hands. If this is difficult then you can use a yoga strap and wrap it around the middle arches of your feet. Open your knees slightly wider than your torso and bring them up towards you.
Position each ankle directly over the knee, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Flex through the heels. Gently push your feet up into your hands as you pull your hands down to create a resistance. There you have it, happy baby pose.
Yoga Vocabulary: Yoga Strap – A popular prop used during yoga practice to help achieve poses that are a bit out of the reach for beginners. It is often used by those who haven’t quite achieved the flexibility necessary to perform a full pose.