Focus on Your Own Breath: Of Art & Exercise

If there’s a single topic that I haven’t really been touching as frequently as I should in the past 7+ years of blogging, that’s my love for movement.  I was thinking about this as I was working out this evening.  Well, to boot, it’s not normal for me to workout and still have time to think about things. Haha. I usually just zone into the class and sweat it out.

Anyway, this afternoon, I was sitting on my desk and reflecting on how come my work looks different lately (or is visually heading towards a different direction altogether).


I would always be taken back to that day when the hubby and I were  invited to talk at the UST Blogcon. A member of the audience asked how I manage not to get drowned by all the inspiration on the internet.  That was the first time I ever received that question publicly and I wasn’t able to word it the way I wanted to convey the message.  My answer was something like this: These days, as much as inspiration is supposedly available everywhere online, there’s also a tendency for us to be overinspired.  *It bugs me that my blog console won’t accept this new word. Haha. Oh well.*  While this leaves us wanting to create, this can also make us feel confused as to what we really want to work on.  So, what do I do with it?  Sometimes, it is not enough to enough to even close your eyes because you can still see the images in your mind.  The images tell you what you’re SUPPOSED to do: how you’re supposed to respond to a trend, what subjects you’re supposed to tackle in your paintings.  So, I just end up unfollowing.


As soon as I blurted the word “unfollow”, I remember seeing the girl’s horrified face.  Once upon a time, when I had the luxury of time worrying about my cuticles, I would do social media purges: clean up the list of stuff I read on Multiply, weed out real friends on Plurk *Yes plurk! Haha.*, categorize everyone and fix my privacy settings on Facebook, create a rule on Instagram for myself that it’s my art feed and I should therefore retain only the things that make me happy.

Well, that was before I became a mom.  I’m teeming with thoughts and I really want to write about the upside of the limited time motherhood affords me.   *I’ve outlined that several times in my mind.  I swear, I’ve seen the slides already if it were turned into a presentation. Butttttttt, I’ll get to that later.*

These days, when I’m not working, all I want to do is to catch up with Riley, sleep beside him or connect with family & friends.  I guess that’s one of the “gifts of motherhood” as I would call it.  You don’t really have time to peg yourself against any result, you have more time to listen to your inner voice.  While working / working out, you only have time to focus on your own breath.


If you’ve been reading the blog for a while now, I’m such an advocate of finding your own style and I’m now LOLing at how much energy I’ve actually poured into this here on the blog & when I do workshops.  What I learned to do this year with my art though is what I usually do in when I workout is I just focus on my own breath.  When I feel like giving up or getting too distracted, I just inhale and exhale.

I was trained as a classical ballerina for 13 years and I just realized that today, I’ve been dancing different genres for a total of 20 years now. *OMG. An indicator of age.*  I also took piano lessons and was part of the choir in grade school and high school so musicality was everything to me.   These days, even when I’m attending Body Combat (OMG. Please. I don’t know how to punch properly but I’m trying), Hip Hop (yes, that lady who dances with feet turned out), or Zumba (certified Tita of Manila), even when I’m tired, I just really really try to dance to the beat.  I don’t want any note from any instrument I hear wasted.  It gives me so much joy in my heart when I’m able to move to the music that I just can’t explain it. 🙂 *Then proceeds to explain. Lol.* Big movements for big sounds, tiny articulated movements for tiny beats, expressing myself until the tips of my fingers for long held notes and suspended movements for slow songs.  I just really love it.  (Whether or not it loves me back is another question altogether. Haha.)

Anyway, after I quit ballet, I started to learn how to skate on ice.  This was the closest thing I got to having an actual sport.  As much as musicality is important in ice skating, timing is very important.  You had to listen to your body as to when you’re ready to jump or enter a spin.  This came as a shock to me.  Really??  Isn’t it the 1-2-3, jump-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3 kind of counting that we were supposed to do here?  It was hard for me to grasp the concept of timing.  Even when I was doing Googly Gooey comics and some posts would go viral, it would be a puzzle to me.  I don’t have a good comical timing in real life and I just feel that in comics, I get to edit it several times, analyze the framing and choose the words before I send it out to the world wide web.

The Cost of Not Listening to One’s Body

After a while, I don’t know what led me to doing yoga but that’s ultimately when I got injured.  Okay. Wait!  Yoga isn’t bad at all but this NOT listening to your body is.  You see, I was raised to believe that:

(a) I should always do my best and
(b) if I work hard at something, I will be able to achieve it.  

Sure, yoga was all about following your breath but I was thinking how about going this extra mile by inhaling & exhaling deeper until finally, my left toe could reach my head.  I was also obsessing on being able to jump properly on ice I’d spend time with my jumping rope doing x jumps on one foot only (which is just ridiculous for my body because I skipped all the street games that involved jumping as a kid). *Yes to patintero. No to Chinese Garter. Mwhehehe.*

My knees finally gave up on me after several years of dancing and jumping.  I just got married and here I was not being able to leave our sofa for a week except for trips to the bathroom.  I wasn’t able to squat or do an Indian sit position for almost two years.  My knees would shake if I stood too long when I would wash the dishes.  At first, my knees even complained when I carried my bag & laptop.

I would cry in the bathroom during work hours and think about not being able to do the stuff I always loved doing: hiking, photography, traveling and all the things twenty-somethings were into.  I remember having to check whether an event was going to be held on the second floor because it took me time to go up the stairs.  I gave away all my pairs of heels too!


Luckily, I didn’t need an operation.  I ended up attending a combination of dance / pilates classes and that helped me tighten the muscles around my knees and strengthen it.  *If you have knee injuries, please check with your doctor first if you’re cleared for a particular exercise.* 😀

Then it dawned upon me: I actually have a recurring theme in my life.  I tend to just go on and go on believing that if I do one thing over and over, I will achieve results.  You see, here I am, movement-loving person getting injured for doing so much movement.  I go to the dentist and I always get feedback that I floss too much, it’s damaging my teeth.  My laptop and phone cables just give up on me every time (much to the hubby’s dismay) because I would wind it too tightly.  In short, I am not so wary about limits and I just keep on going just as I was programmed to be.

*Oh wow. I totally went over the 1,000 word mark but huhu, I really have a lot to say and I guess, outside Twitter, brevity is really not my thing. Haha.*

Then, I remember, as my coach pointed out, there’s practice that will lead you to do excellent things and there’s bad practice.  Okay. I totally did the second one.  *Oops*.
My knees are better now just because I know how not to abuse it.  I finally learned that no matter how excited I am, it’s okay to skip a class if my knees need time for healing. 

I was finally humble enough to accept that my body had limits.  I finally went back to attend yoga classes and learned to close my eyes if the position allowed me to.  I learned how to focus on my own breath and take my own pace.  Was it time for an upward dog? Maybe not yet because I’m not yet finished exhaling and that’s okay.  Was my classmate just soooo sooo sooo good it became so distracting how she can be so graceful while I just look like a cartoon character trying to do all these positions?  I would just close my eyes so I can focus on my own movement.

The Energy Crisis

But, that was Yoga & Pilates were afforded me to close my eyes.  I finally got back to attending dance *ahem zumba* classes.  I had to see where I’m going and even if I learned to be humble enough to skip the jumps if my knees weren’t ready, I was so particular about energy in general: What was the vibe of the class?  Was the teacher able to execute the steps and actually inspire the class to move?  It wasn’t enough for me that someone was good at dancing.  The energy had to be on point.

I would choose a spot that would be strategic enough so I can focus on my hyper teacher and classmates.  Then, I realized how ridiculous it is: the amount of time and energy I spend focusing on this whole energy thing. *Yes, redundant too.*  It’s just inevitable that a lazy soul would always walk into the class and I finally need to learn how to co-exist and not be distracted by all other things!  I know it sounds crazy looking back but maybe it’s just so important to me that I get the most enjoyable experience out of my time away from designing especially when I’m feel I’m out of ideas and my brain refuses to work with me.

*OMG. Tippy, this article is about focusing on your own breath and you barely touched the topic after almost two thousand words!??!?!?*  Wait, let me get to that:

Last week, I attended a Body Combat class and the girl in front of me ( front of the whole class) wasn’t moving as much.  If you workout (and are easily distracted like me), you know that you’ll have to double your efforts to get pumped up or endure the class if the person in front of you is a big flashing sign of GIVE UP, GIVE UP, GIVE UP!  Since the routine was repetitive, I closed my eyes, focused on my breath and felt I wasn’t actually as tired as I thought I was just because I was bound to give up and the person in front of me was about to give up.  I was just totally playing the part of the moon, getting only energy (or lack thereof) from the sun.

So, what am I really saying here?
*Also, noting that next time, I shouldn’t really be using an inductive way of writing.  Too much suspense. Oops.  Fine, fine, I’ll keep my conclusion short! ….Yeah right.

Lessons Learned

1.  In the online world where getting fed with too many images every day (every hour even), curate what you’d like to feed your mind.  Andy J. Miller talks about it more on his podcast, You Are What You Eat.  *Thanks Abbey for the podcast tip.  I never have to feel lonely when working on deadlines at odd hours ever again!*
Andy J. Miller You Are What You EatFor the record, I haven’t been able to purge my Instagram account.  I’m actually following more people more than ever thanks to it’s new algorithm.  Also, mommyhood:  Purging is currently my least priority as I don’t even have time to scroll down as much as I used to (which is probably a good thing and I’ll tell you why in another blog post.)

2.  Focusing on your own breath and pacing when it comes to exercising is tantamount to focusing on your own inner voice.  *Okay. There was another Creative Pep Talk episode for that.  I just totally forgot the number but you can check out Andy’s Podcast here.*  As I would always mention in workshops, and also on this post:

I just can’t seem to change my palette whatever mood I’m in.  I really tried to do so several times.  I thought my work would somehow look deeper and darker if I felt miserable, frustrated or angry.  But nope.  It just looks happy and sunny all the time.  Maybe that’s my personal style and I just have to look for other ways to express my thoughts like that happy piece I did about the mermaid which was apparently about capitalism & totally left a friend a bit disoriented after telling the story behind the piece.

Related Reads:
Following Your Own Style (Part 1)
Following Your Own Style (Part 2)
How to Make Your Colors Vibrant


3. Wanting to be someone you’re not:  Speaking of, I totally forgot to talk about this piece I did for the exhibit at the Ayala Museum! :O   I also forgot to post a photo of the whole thing too.  This is a piece about a mermaid who wants to be human and a human wanting to be a mermaid.  It’s the usual case of grass-is-greener (water is more more marine blue??) on the other side.  They’re both attracted to the star and so are the other creatures in the sea.  They so want whatever it is the star is offering–things they think they might need.  It has gotten so bad that they’ve forgotten how to swim.  They’re actually wearing flotation devices!  It’s about capitalism and consumerism but it’s also about just ignoring our inner voice and natural capabilities.  It’s ridiculous but I’ve seen this happen to other artists as well as myself.   By ignoring my inner voice, I ended up investing time doing something else.  Having less time to go online and lurk as a new mom has helped me focus on just improving based on my previous work, doing more research in terms of techniques, taking the time to study and do some actual reading on what more I can do to refine my style and ultimately, just going with the things I’m happy about such as incorporating abstract colorful elements into my client work. 🙂  Ya know, maybe I don’t really need a flotation device,  maybe I really know how to swim in my own little funny quirky way. 🙂

For further reflection, there’s another @andyjpizza podcast for that. Haha! Enjoy!

Chase Jarvis
I’ve always been uncomfortable sharing my thoughts about my dancing life but it’s where I’m able to draw most of my metaphors from, connect the dots, philosophize and attempt to make sense of my life in general!  I’ve also been traumatized to talk about how I really feel about certain things to the point that I might be speaking my mind too much but this is how my journey is so far and I just suddenly had the urge to share it.

Well, thanks for staying with me at 2862 words & counting! :O

Thanks again for being such cheerleaders this year!  All the Tweets, DM’s on Instagram stories, comments on IG, replies on Facebook and especially our quick conversations and exchanges at events and workshops really mean a lot to me! Thank you guys and keep on inspiring! 🙂

Sending you fluffy hugs from sleepy boy Riley! 🙂

P.S. And oh, speaking of workshops, the first workshop in 2017 will be at Fully Booked in BGC on January 15 from 1-5pm, you may sign up here:

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7 years ago

I love it when you write these “pep talks”. It’s such an inspiration and a great motivational push. I’m really glad I found your space in the world of the internet Tippy. Your art and blog has grown so much and with it you too. Thank you for this. Also, advance merry Christmas to everyone! 🙂

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