“Nothing happens until something moves.” -Albert Einstein
Those words are plastered across the wall at The Movement Minneapolis, and they serve as a reminder to those of us who train there that movement is the key. Not necessarily even just physically — taking action and breaking out of mental and emotional ruts is just as clutch.
The following is a guest post from Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake (pictured above), Pilates instructor and co-coach (with me) of the Movement’s women’s-only strength class, about how she did just that, and in the process, made 2013 The Year of the Jelly Bean.
You know those moments where someone says something that doesn’t appear to apply to your own life, but the phrase remains stuck in your head, on repeat, like a skipping record? (Yes, I realize I just dated myself. Umm, what’s a record?)
Early last December, I was having a conversation with Jen at the gym. I can’t remember exactly how it went, but it was something about how I loved her workout gear: bright colors, lots of patterns, shoes in a rainbow of colors. A far cry from my usual black. I complimented her on what she was wearing and she said “Thank you! I aim to constantly dress like a bunch of jelly beans.”
And then the conversation went on to who knows what, and most likely we resumed our lift. Nothing heavy here, right?
Ever since, this comment has gone round and round in my head: “Jelly bean, jelly bean jelly bean.” It struck a chord with me that has been ringing ever since.
Fast forward a month to January 2013. My best friend was hosting a restorative yoga retreat at her home. It was an afternoon to gather with girlfriends, participate in a yoga session led by a yoga-instructor friend of hers and follow that with food, wine and good conversation.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my 35 years is that the more you can open yourself to new experiences, the more you can move your body in different and varied ways, the more satisfaction you will gain from the life you are living.
Yoga is not a part of my daily routine. You are definitely more likely to find me hoisting a heavy barbell off the floor than relaxing in child’s pose.
But, it turned out yoga has much more to offer than what they teach at Core Power, and that January day, I found out just how much more there is to learn. About myself. Oh, the drama! (If we were talking face to face right now I would mimic dramatic chords on a pipe organ. With sound. Ba-ba-BUMMM.)
Back to the jelly bean. Every New Year’s Eve, I set a resolution that is meant to be silly and fluffy. I don’t do a real resolution because I don’t really feel like there is anything about me that needs to be resolved or fixed. A resolution implies there is something wrong with me or my behavior. It lingers in the past.
Since I am all about moving forward, always learning, always progressing, I make my resolutions something like, “This year I resolve to stop matching the socks of all the damn people that live in my house.”
That was 2012’s resolution and I kept it perfectly, as one might expect. I thought the one I’d set for 2013 would be silly, as well: “This year I’m going to dress like a jelly bean. No more black!”
For me, quite the switch: My whole wardrobe is built around the color black. It’s easy. Slimming. I can throw it on and not have to worry if I’m keeping up with the trends; I can add a colorful scarf around my neck to spice things up a bit. So daring! Black is classy, right? It never goes out of style.
To those of you that are nodding your heads, “Yes, yes, you’re right Jennifer. Look at me now and how spiffy I look in my black top, skinny jeans and black knee-high riding boots!” I have to break something to you right now:
Black. Is. Boring.
And stifling. And plain. (Other than the perfect LBD that every woman should have in her closet — that is one fashion rule that will never go out of style.) I think those of us who have lived under the comforting blanket of our monochromatic wardrobes should take a good, hard look at if a stifling, plain and boring image is truly what we want to present to the world. Not me. Not anymore.
It was time to start showing you the brightness that lives inside me.
So. Back to yoga. How does it all tie together? Who even suspected that it would? Not me.
Before class started, we were milling around, chatting and having a good natter. Bridgett, the instructor, complimented me on my pants; she said she loved the color, a sort of bluish purple. I told her about my New Year’s faux-lution and we had a little laugh about it. But maybe Bridgett, being the insightful and thoughtful empath that she is, caught on that this had more meaning to me than I was letting on.
We gathered on the floor of my friend’s in-home photography studio — lots of light, white walls and hardwood floors — spread out our yoga mats and listened.
Bridgett began describing that the purpose of our yoga session was set our intentions; meaning, we were to mentally plant a seed of purpose, of a direction that we wanted to move in. We were to explore that intention throughout the session, to let it grow but also to strip it down, condense it into what our intention really meant.
Yes, this sounds hokey and yes, I was thinking the same thing. At first. As an example, Bridgett brought up my jelly bean comment. She said that I might want to explore what that meant for me; that maybe my purpose as a jelly bean was to express what was going on inside of me through the way I dress.
OK, fine. I decided to take my jelly bean and let that be my intention; boil it down and find out what I really wanted to make of it.
We reclined into a relaxing pose that I’m sure has a sanskrit name I can’t pronounce and began our meditation. Using phrases and breathing techniques, Bridgett guided us deeper into our intentions, and soon enough I felt the stress of my week drop off my shoulders, a lightness creep into my body. Focusing on my intention, these phrases came into my mind:
Show the world who you really are.
Put down the masks.
Live your purpose.
Take the risk.
And then I felt tears leak out of the corners of my eyes and roll down my temples.
I didn’t stop to think about why I was crying. I knew I wasn’t sad. I knew they weren’t tears of fear or anxiety or shame. They were tears of release.
The past year had been a period of transition for me; I had been creating change in a life that was for the most part stable and comfortable. It’s caused a big schedule reorganization, lots of help and patience from my family, and not a few forgetful moments.
But, like I said, I’m always striving to learn more, do more, progress more, and you can’t do all those things and stay in the same place. Even good change is stressful. It’s scary and unknown, even if you know your intended end-point is better than where you started.
By embracing my inner jelly bean, I let go of fear — I put myself out there and either I fail or I don’t. But if I do fail (and along the way I’m sure I will) at least I can say I did.
So here’s to The Year of the Jelly Bean, which was a wild, juicy success. To living a life of wonderful, brightly colored sweetness. To rolling headfirst through whatever comes my way. You won’t see me in black anymore. If you happen to spot a woman in hot pink, a black (OK, just a little black here and there) and white chevron scarf around her neck and a shock of blond hair, that just might be me. Living out her intentions, terrifyingly happy.
Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake is a personal trainer at The Movement Minneapolis.
Growing up, she was plagued with respiratory and skin issues that didn’t allow for vigorous activity, so she was elated when she discovered at age 20 that she was able to do Pilates without ill effect. Jennifer credits Pilates with giving her a “solid grasp of muscle integration through movement, and knowledge that a strong core didn’t just mean a six-pack.” This made her transition into strength training an easy one, she says.
Her website is Jennifer Blake Fitness.
[photo credits: Jalbus Photo]