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Kristen Domonell, MS, RYT, is a Seattle-based health, wellness, and fitness writer. 

When Was the Last Time You Learned Something New?

When Was the Last Time You Learned Something New?

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re stuck? Over the last year or so I found myself feeling a little out of control of my own life. I was constantly scheming up ways that I could be a little happier in my adult life, but not really doing anything about it. Part of this slump involved always worrying about what’s next, something that I admittedly still do just about every day. I think I share this problem with a lot of people my age. I grew up an overachiever, always striving for something. In high school it was getting into college. I’d replace fun elective courses with an extra math class, even though I hate math, just because someone told me this would help me get into my “dream school.” Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you, it’s nearly impossible for me to calculate a tip when we’re eating out, so it clearly paid off.

Once I graduated college and got a job, I had that feeling of, so this is life. It wouldn’t last four years (hopefully), and honestly seemed, and still seems, really daunting at times. Throughout college I was very into working out, it was one of my favorite things. But over time, being stuck in a cubicle from 9-5 just made me not really want to do much of anything. I stopped going to the gym as frequently and doing other things I enjoyed. It just felt forced. In the midst of this slump I decided to get away. My boyfriend Andrew and I went to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica this past February–a great little surf town filled with expats who moved there to enjoy life. They run businesses, but mostly surf, and everyone gathers on the beach each night to watch the sunset.

The first thing I noticed was that the people there all really did seem genuinely happy, and not the least bit stressed. And that’s how I felt after just a day there. A perk of the trip for me was that it was out of the country, so I didn’t have cell service. It’s really nice to get away from the internet and Instagram-ing every exciting moment. I could really just allow myself to be.

One of the things that made me love this trip so much was yoga. I had dabbled here and there before the trip, but always thought it was just “stretching” and good for a day at the gym when I was hungover, tired, or just didn’t really feel like doing much (I had clearly not tried Vinyasa). But something about the environment I was in just clicked. I thought, this is something I could really see making me happy long term.

When I came home I felt a little changed. I thought about quitting my job and moving to Costa Rica, but instead I decided it was time to dive headfirst into yoga. I quit the gym I no longer had a good relationship with and searched for a studio. That’s when I found Saraswati’s Yoga Joint, and I was instantly hooked.

I can now walk into class feeling like complete crap and within 10 minutes I don’t even remember what was bothering me. And it’s not just me. Researchers from Duke recently found that yoga provides a benefit in depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and problems with sleep. Studies have also found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores.

lolcat is doin’ it right

lolcat is doin’ it right

Not only does it make me think differently, yoga has had a huge impact on my body. Before I started practicing I couldn’t touch my toes, but now I’m happy to say I’m more flexible and stronger than I’ve ever been. I also get really excited every time I master a difficult pose. Just last week I learned how to do a headstand and I couldn’t stop doing it in my living room, I felt like a little kid. I made my roommate watch, and then take a picture, which I then sent to my mom.

And think about it, when was the last time you learned something new?

I’ve heard a lot of things about my generation: that we’re entitled, coddled, self absorbed. We were given trophies just for trying, and our parents raised us to believe we could do anything if we put our minds to it. And while we shouldn’t expect we’ll be famous actors or have a starting salary of $100,000, I don’t think our parents did us a disservice. Because at the end of the day, I think that everyone, regardless of generation, is entitled to be happy. I’m still figuring out what this means on a daily basis, but yoga helps me deal with things better, and know myself better—and I’m hoping everyone can find something like this for themselves.

These lines from poet Mary Oliver that one of my yoga teachers read in class a couple weeks ago really resonate well with yoga, life, and Ignite Stamford–a talk series I help put on with a few friends where I had the pleasure of sharing this story last Thursday:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

At Ignite, speakers share their personal or professional passions using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds, with the purpose of enlightening–quickly. Think TED on speed. While I help organize the events and think the concept is pretty awesome, it was a really big deal to actually give a talk. For starters, I haven’t had to speak in front of any sort of crowd since graduating in 2010. My story was also pretty personal, so I was really putting myself out there in a pretty vulnerable way to friends, family, and perfect strangers. I was terrified, excited, and proud all at the same time. So my voice was shaky and I was audibly (and visually, I’m sure) nervous, but who cares. I tried something new. I got outside of my comfort zone–and that takes guts.

Head to It’s Relevant, a local news site, for coverage of the event.

Summer Soundtrack

Summer Soundtrack