My Self-Improvement Summer

As most of you know, I’m back at my parents’ house for a few months between Steve and my epic three-month, cross-country road trip and reuniting with him in Ireland again before we head on to a working holiday in New Zealand. As my town is quite small and uneventful and my work doesn’t take up too much of my time, I decided that for the summer I would work on setting some habits, reaching some goals, and making it a summer of self-improvement.

I know that summer isn’t technically over, but I’m wearing a hoodie and drinking hot tea during the day for the first time in ages, so it definitely feels like fall and therefore I’m going to check in as I move into My Self-Improvement September. The eight things I wanted to work on this summer were: yoga, meditation, piano, guitar, Duolingo’s German course, running, dance and this blog. Let’s see how I did:

Yoga: I’ve taken yoga classes before, but most of my practice has been home-based and done with the help of youtube videos. However, I decided that in order to advance my practice and hopefully eventually work toward doing a teacher training course myself, I would be best served in a class where I could receive instruction from a teacher and really dedicate myself to working on my form. I immediately fell in love with Blossom Yoga, a small studio just a few minutes’ drive from my house. The classes are small and intimate, the teachers are excellent and caring, and I’m excited to go to class each time. I’m averaging three visits a week in addition to my home practice. Definitely successful in this area of my self-improvement summer. Goal for September: Continue going 3+ times per week, continue to practice headstands, continue work on progressing splits, return crow to my home practice.

Meditation: For me, yoga has mostly been a physical exercise rather than a spiritual practice. However, a combination of the studio classes I’ve been taking and reading Jessamyn Stanley’s Every Body Yoga has made me want to get in touch with the arms of yoga beyond the asana practice. In June I downloaded the Headspace app, which I’ve frequently seen recommended as a good introductory program for beginners’ meditation. However, I found it very difficult to get into the mindset, and I didn’t stick with it for too long. At the same time, I did begin going to a class that was structured as 60 minutes of vinyasa and 15 of guided meditation (rather than the usual 75 minutes of vinyasa), and I am enjoying that. This is one I’ll have to work on in the future. Goal for September: Incorporate meditation into my home yoga practice, try at least one sans yoga meditation per week.

Piano: I played the piano for over a decade as a child/young adult, but not having access to a piano in and post college has meant that my practice has died away. While I’m home I decided to take advantage of having a piano in the house after my parents offered to have it tuned. As I wrote about previously, it’s been somewhat difficult to get back into the swing of it. I find myself getting easily frustrated when I can’t play with the same ease that I could when I was practicing more consistently. Still, I’ve made an effort to practice at least once a week. Earlier this week was the first time I played something new to me, rather than a piece I’d been practicing previously. And I’m going to redouble my efforts for September. Goal for September: I’m going to practice a minimum of twice per week, including trying one piece per week that I didn’t play when I was taking lessons and working on memorizing/re-memorizing one sonata.

Guitar: For some reason, maybe because I also was never as dedicated to learning it as I was to piano, I haven’t had as strong an urge to pick up my guitar and play as I have to go downstairs and practice from my book of sonatas. Every once in a while I’ve gone on Ultimate Guitar and picked a few songs to noodle around on, but I haven’t gotten in any sort of routine or worked much on technique the way I’ve been trying to with the piano. However, I’m okay with that; I don’t have to be devoted to everything I do. The guitar is is just for fun. Still, that doesn’t meant that I can’t work to improve a bit. Goal for September: I’m hoping to practice at least twice per week, with some practice of basic chords and scales in addition to playing songs for fun.

Duolingo German: I finished the German skills tree on Duolingo at the end of last year, and since then I have been trying to “keep those strength bars full” by going back over each skill and trying to improve. There’s only so much you can learn of a language from Duolingo (although it is definitely my favourite language-learning app), and I think I’m reaching the point where I know the vocabulary but will have to turn to a different method of learning if I want to progress my German skills into actual speaking and thinking ability. However, it’s important to keep practicing the vocabulary and basic sentence structures, because if I miss too many days in a row I quickly forget. Goal for September: I plan to practice using Duolingo every day, as well as looking into the best way to move forward with German learning from here—a class or a language-learning group, perhaps.

Running: Last year I ran a half marathon. In the year that followed, I think I could probably count on my hands the number of times I went running. Maybe I was a little sick of running, maybe it was the heat of Vancouver’s summer and the rainy cold of its winter, maybe it’s just because I was busy. I missed running though, and I know that I want to run another half-marathon (if not a full marathon?) when I go to New Zealand, so I knew I had to get back into it. I haven’t been pushing myself too much (because if Vancouver’s summers are hot, they’re nothing compared to the gross humidity of southeastern Pennsylvania), but I have been making an effort especially over the last month to run at least a few miles a couple times per week. Goal for September Now that the weather is getting cooler, I want to start upping my milage again, with the goal of reaching 8-10 mile runs by the time I leave for Ireland.

Dance: Even before we started our road trip, one thing I had already done to plan for my time at home was to do some research and find an ATS® Bellydance studio in the area. Now that I’ve been bellydancing for over two years and dancing ATS® for over a year, I feel very serious about it and I wanted to make sure that since I’m only home for a few months I get in as much class time as possible. Luckily, I found one nearby easily and I’ve been able to go to two classes almost every week with a great teacher and a lovely group of women. I was hoping to perform at least once while I’m here, which I’ve already done a few weeks ago, and it looks like we’ll be doing at least one more performance before I leave. Goal for September: I don’t practice at home as much as I’d like to, so I’m going to work on that, and I also plan to reach out to the ATS® group I’ve researched in Wellington and ask about their classes.

Blogging: I’ve always been a fairly sporadic poster on this blog, but the eight months between my post-election thoughts and my post-road trip tips was definitely one of my longer breaks. I don’t want that to happen again, especially since I have some big future blogging plans that require more consistency, so I’ve really been making an effort to update this blog more frequently. In July and August I wrote 11 posts, so that’s just over a post a week or a bit more than five posts a month. That’s obviously an improvement over zero posts for eight months, but it’s also better even than I’d been writing previously. I’d eventually like to be writing a minimum of two posts per week or 10 to 12 posts per month, which means double my current output, plus ensuring that consistency so I don’t go back to random, irregular posts. Goal for September: I don’t want to set a 10-12 posts per month goal yet, but I’ll work my way up to it with a goal of 7 posts this month.


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