Friday, July 21, 2017

Home is Where the Heart is

One of the most cloyingly saccharine cliches of all time?  Yes.  True?  Also yes.  Sort of.

It's been an incredibly eventful three weeks.  At the end of June, my sister underwent major abdominal surgery to repair a major diastasis caused by two back-to-back large pregnancies.  On that same day Marc and I headed up on the Megabus to Massachusetts for a fun long July 4th weekend of family (including our two delicious little LeVasseur nephews!), wine, fun, and going through endless boxes of nostalgia from his childhood as his parents prepare to put their gorgeous house on the market.  The baby pictures!  The metric tons of books! The middle school poetry!  Oh, the earnest and terrible middle school poetry...

Then last weekend, I flew to SC for a whirlwind celebration of the twins' third birthday with family (third!!!), helping out my sister, who is recovering beautifully in every sense of the word.  Just shy of three days of nonstop work, play, and extreme highs and lows of overstimulated and excited toddlers.  Coming back, I snapped immediately back into doula-mode and helped a fantastic couple as they brought their tiny new daughter into the world.

Also, I've powered through three Harry Potter books in the last 3 1/2 weeks.  That has had no less of an emotional/nostalgic effect on me...Plus all kinds of other things I won't get into that various friends/family are going through - health challenges, emotional upheavals, big changes.

So, there's been a lot going on, and there's been a lot to say about what's going on, but I haven't been able to distill any of it into a blog-worthy 'lesson' or phrase or clean, clear tie to yoga.

The one thing that does come to mind as I struggle to articulate the aftermath of all of this dusting up of old memories is actually something that happened in a kids' yoga class I taught last week (which feels like ten years ago now!).  We were sharing a big fuzzy ball with our feet (cause hands are just too easy!) and taking turns sharing our name / age / and something else about ourselves.  That last is usually "favorite color" or "favorite flavor ice cream," but if a kid has another idea, I'm always up for it.  (One kid wanted everyone to share what our favorite pairs of pants were) . This particular little girl said we should share, "the favorite house in our family."

I was sort of surprised with the force with which that hit me.  I thought about the LeVasseur home in Mass., and how it's been Marc's home since he was 7 years old and where we celebrated his brother's wedding and ours.

I thought about how my family moved around more in my childhood, and I loved my home in Virginia that I spent my middle & high school years in - but my mom had to sell it to care for my Granddaddy my freshman year of college, so I had to say goodbye to it long ago.  Which of course makes me think of my grandmother's house, which up until 5 years ago was my biggest definition of home or a home base.

There's also my sister's home, which I think she moved into maybe five and a half or six years ago now - maybe longer?  That's definitely my new home base, along with the LeVasseur house, my brother-in-law's house in Jersey, and though we can't afford to go there often, the Costa Rica house!  My mom is going to be moving, after many years, into a place of her own, and I could not possibly be more excited about gaining a new home base and more importantly, for her gaining a new home base.

And our own apartment, of course - I love this place more than any other place that's been "mine," but no apartment lasts forever in this city, unfortunately - especially as everyone keeps figuring out how awesome Astoria is and making it more expensive.  I'd love it to be our place for years to come, but there's just no certainty.

When it was my turn to share and answer my young student's question, I said my favorite house in my family was my sister's, because it was where my niece and two of my nephews live.  There was a bittersweetness - the bitter of having not just one solid nostalgic childhood home of my own, of thinking of those homes that are no longer in my life, but also the sweetness in having so many scattered beautiful pockets of homes in our family to choose from.

So back to the saccharine title of this blog.  If home is where the heart is, what is the heart?  Is it where we are, wherever we are?  The people we love?  Our blood family, our chosen family?  I think it's all of it.  My mom always tells me, particularly in the years after she moved when I was in college and I was struggling to handle the change in a home base, that my home is wherever she is.  It is that, and it's where my sister, my in-laws, Atlas, Zoe, Caleb, Kai, and Lucas are.  My home is always wherever Marc is.

Now more than ever, I'm bitterly and sweetly aware that the only constant in life is change.  Babies turn into kids who turn into grown-ups.  People move.  Homes are sold, apartments lost.  Relationships change. Home where we feel a pull to return and where we feel a drive to start anew, and wherever there are those who love us.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Yoga Love for the Neck, Shoulders, & Upper Back, by Karma Kids Yoga!

My upper back & shoulders have been bugging me all week - I strongly suspect it's due to reading 200 pages of the fifth Harry Potter book at the beach on Sunday.  (And yes, I deserve the world's tiniest violin for that.  Biggest first world problem in human history)  I've been doing a little self-massage with doTERRA's Deep Blue Rub (which is basically like magic in a tube), but have needed a little bit more to loosen things up.

By total coincidence, my wonderful boss, Shari Vilchez-Blatt (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga) was inspired this week to share some of her favorite neck, shoulder, and upper back releases after talking with some lovely women at her daughter's school.  Like so many people, they work at desks and computers all day and suffer from the eternal hunched-over-a-keyboard posture.  New moms suffer from this too, from holding and feeding their babies all the time.

So many of us could benefit from taking some time out to give our shoulders some love - and this video is only 8 minutes!!  Check it out, share, and subscribe to our amazing YouTube page!  We've got videos for kids and grown-ups.  Learn more about Karma Kids Yoga by visiting our website.



With two flights in two days coming up this weekend as I take a whirlwind trip down south for Atlas & Zoe's birthday party, I know I'll be doing this video again very soon!

Namaste, y'all!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Music Share: Paul Simon & Other Cool Cats

Doing a little bit of a cheat this week as the clock runs down on this blogging week - I have a lot more to say about last weekend (and will have tons to say about next weekend when my firstborn niece & nephew turn THREE!!) but for now, I'm just going to get this one up.

In honor of my in-laws and the incredible memories I have around their fire pit and in the living room  with endless glasses of wine, jamming to Simon & Garfunkel (among many others), are my Paul Simon (and friends) playlists.  The first one is 64 minutes, a good-ish yoga class length, and curated to start slow, build, and end slow.  The second is an hour and 42 and in no particular order.

Paul Simon always makes me think of happy sunny summer days and my amazing in-laws.  Enjoy!










Tuesday, June 27, 2017

9 : 1 and DONE

This past weekend, I finally did what I set out to do last year - I finished the 9:1 program with New York Road Runners.  Run in 9 races and volunteer in 1- and you qualify to run the following year's New York City Marathon.

After I got injured last August with just two races to go (just two!), and found absolutely no mercy or help within NYRR to offer me a chance to get those credits back, my running wife and cheerleader Laura sent me a sweet little meme that simply said, "Injury makes the comeback sweeter."  It feels so amazing to be on the other side of that journey and to feel that...yep.  Yep, that's true.

Would I have preferred not to have gotten injured and to have done it all in one go last year?  110% YES.  But it didn't work out that way, and I definitely felt ten times more emotional crossing that final stepping-stone finish line yesterday than I would have had I been able to achieve it last year.

These last two races were particularly meaningful just on their own.  The Pride race is one I've always wanted to participate in, but my Saturday morning classes always conflicted.  The turnout was low this weekend due to the crazy downpour of rain in the morning, but miraculously as soon as the clock struck 8:30 and it was time to start, it stopped.  By the end of the race, the sky was almost completely clear and the sun was blazing.  The spirits of everyone who made it out weren't dampened a bit, though - they even had cheerleaders on the sidelines for us!  My personal favorite was the guy who started singing "Turn the Beat Around" at the top of his lungs while struggling through the hills alongside me.

The Achilles race - Sunday's race, and race #9 - is one I've done about four or so times now, and is absolutely amazing.  It honors the Achilles organization which pairs disabled athletes - whether they are a veteran missing a limb or someone with special needs, a wheelchair athlete or a blind athlete - with guides to help see them through a race.  Seeing folks push through obstacles far worse than any I've ever had to face is always a humbling and heart-opening experience.  I usually spend half the race in tears, and yesterday was no exception.  Having Laura by my side - and it was her final qualifying race too! - made it a thousand times better.

Now we don't have another one on the docket until August's France Run (which I was so sad I didn't get to do last year), and we're both eagerly looking ahead to the Abbott 5K Dash to the Finish in November, the day before I'll be cheering on my friend Lu in the NYC Marathon (check out and donate to her fundraising page here!).  It'll be the first time I train for a 5K since my very first 5K over nine years ago, when 3.1 miles seemed an insurmountable distance.  This time, I'm training for speed and efficiency.  It'll be good for my body to have a race on the horizon to train for that's a shorter distance - I know it makes my physical therapist happy!  The rest of the summer I'm focusing on getting stronger - and running stronger.


Just shy of seventy weeks until the 2018 New York City Marathon.  I can't wait.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Discipline of Restraint

I try to live my life as a disciplined person.  I have certain habits I work to maintain, I'm disciplined about my running, and try to be disciplined in my work.  I always think of discipline as more, harder, faster.  Working harder and longer, pushing yourself past your limits, going to that place of being uncomfortable and challenged.

This week, I discovered the discipline of restraint.  It took me much longer to get back to full health post-virus than I imagined - and truthfully, I'm still not eating 100% normally for fear of my body revolting.  As soon as my body gave an inch of recovery, I wanted to take a mile in jumping back into my normal routine.  I was desperate to go for a run again, especially since I have my final two qualifying races this weekend to gain entry into the 2018 NYC Marathon.  After last year's injury and coming so close - two races away, in fact - and not meeting my long-awaited goal of making this year's marathon, I am chomping at the bit to get these under my belt.

But - I needed a different kind of discipline this week to keep me from racing out of the gate and doing too much too soon, like I did on Friday night which led to a terrible setback...and then another setback on Monday morning.

I felt better - and then waited.  Rested.  Did the gentlest 15-minute YogaGlo possible instead of the strength-building workout I really wanted.  I wanted so badly to be better again, I wasn't giving myself the chance to get better again.

I'm thrilled to report that my self-imposed short leash has worked, and although absolutely wiped out from a 5-class day, I'm feeling so much better and stronger and like my normal self again.  I'm more than ready to tackle a busy weekend - races, family, a Moana-themed birthday party at Karma Kids, and hopefully - fingers crossed - a little wine?

Discipline is not always about pushing yourself.  Sometimes it's about knowing when to hold yourself back - and sometimes that's even harder to do.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Too Much Too Soon / Child's Pose

Nothing humbles you like a stomach virus.  Except maybe forgetting how humbled you were the first time, overdoing it on food and wine (I know!) the second you feel normal, and then getting the humbling smackdown again.  "Too much too soon" is basically my middle name after every single illness or injury I ever have.  You'd think I'd learn.

Physical illness, mental illness, grief, pregnancy, existential stress at the state of the news (and as always, there's so much to rail against) and so much more can shake you off your foundation.  Luckily, yoga is infinitely adaptable - it's not all sweaty vinyasa classes in lululemons.

Meditation, restorative yoga, and my all-time favorite, Child's Pose, are just what the doctor ordered when the doctor has you in a humble ball on the floor.  And it's there for you when you're ready to - slowly - build back up.

So - child's pose today.  Back to the resistance next week.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Life Time

Whenever I come back from my sister's, I'm acutely aware of how much downtime I have.  Even on my busiest of busy days, I have a little time to myself in a way that just doesn't exist for her anymore unless she works hard to schedule it in - and luckily, she makes that self care effort as much as possible.

Being down there, I couldn't help but be acutely present for a majority of the time.  When three kids under 3 are up and running, you have to seriously be on your toes, because Kai will find a ladder and climb it all the way to the top.  I was also super disconnected from the news, which was glorious.  I checked in every so often to make sure I wasn't missing the impeachment (alas) but I let all my podcasts go off to the wayside and the world continued to turn.

This entry's title is taken from a quote I saw a long time ago, posted by a friend whose music taste is vastly different than mine.  I saw the quote before hearing the song (Shine by The Rollins Band), and having just listened to it thanks to the magic of Spotify after all these years of the lyrics floating through my memory, the song sounds nothing at all like I imagined!  All the same, I really love these lines.  And although as an introvert, I have a deeply jealous need for spare, free, and downtime, it's a reminder that time is really all we've got - and no one knows how much of it we have.

It's a reminder to make every moment count and to be there for every moment, no matter what you're doing.  It's also a reminder that there's always someone in this world who manages to do a lot more than us with a lot less time, and we can always push ourselves to use our time better - for ourselves, for others around us, for the world.  When I see how much my sister accomplishes in such little time, it pushes me to live my life better, make fewer excuses, and get on with it.

No such thing as spare time
No such thing as free time
No such thing as down time
All you got is life time
Go!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Where You Are

I'm going to lay it all out there right up front - I am about to write a blog post that is inspired by lyrics from Disney's Moana.  Mock if you wish - but hear me out!

First of all, if you think you're too cool for this movie, I'm here to tell you that you are not.  If anything, this movie is probably too cool for you.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's glorious, perfect music has been swirling in my head since Laura started playing the soundtrack in her kids' classes before I had even seen it.  Like Hamilton, it's dense with driving beats to the point where it will get stuck in your head, and you will have trouble falling asleep when they are stuck in your head.

This past week while visiting my sister (who needs a new title besides SuperMom, because she's even more incredible than that - I'm open to suggestions) and her amazing family, I got to finally watch Moana with the kids.  I've been looking forward to that forever, especially since my sister posted Atlas watching it.  (If you're Facebook friends with my sister, you can spend the next 3 minutes of your life experiencing this cuteness.  If not, I will show you on my phone literally anytime)

Best/Messiest tea party companions ever
It was hilarious and adorable (and ultimately abandoned for playing trains, because - 3 under 3) and once again got the music stuck in my head.

We left that night, which was extra heartbreaking because they're finally old enough to say, "I don't want you to go."  The next morning walking to work, I decided to skip my usual news podcast (yet another parenthetical - I hardly paid attention to the news at all last week, and it was glorious) and listen to something that would cheer me up and get me in a better energy and frame of mind for the first day back to reality post.  Naturally, I went straight to the soundtrack and selected Where You Are.

The song in its entirety, especially in the context of the movie and the story, are obviously very different from my life and emotional situation, but the idea of this one line - "You must find happiness right where you are" - resonated so powerfully to me as I walked the city streets that are at once familiar for being my streets, and iconic because it's New York City.  Sometimes, especially after a much-needed getaway, I forget how lucky I am to be living here in this city that I love and grew up watching on TV, movies, on the news - in awe.

The idea of finding happiness where you are, no matter where you are or what your current circumstance, is fairly yogic.  Yoga focuses less on the idea of happiness and more on the idea of equanimity, contentment, and presence, but I think it's safe to say most of us who practice yoga get a big happiness boost out of it.  The only constant in life is change, and if your happiness is solely dependent on exterior factors, you will eventually be out of luck.  Adaptability and a strong sense of self - while cherishing those outside circumstances that bring you joy - I think are keys to lasting happiness.

I miss and love and adore my family and the south, but I love and adore my life and home up here too.  It's important to remember that both can exist at the same time - the bitterness of missing what's not here right now, and the sweet of finding happiness right where you are.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bounce Back

Yesterday, I ran my fourth half marathon, and my third Brooklyn Half.  It's an amazing race with a really well-designed course that starts at the Brooklyn Museum, takes you into beautiful Prospect Park, and then sends you straight down Ocean Parkway to end at the beach in Coney Island.

The first time I ran Brooklyn, as a newlywed in 2013, I ran my best time at 2 hours, 17 minutes.  I'd yet to have a running injury, but oh lord, I look back on the videos Marc took of me when he was cheering me on from the sidelines and my form was terrible.  I was pronating all over the place, and my knees knocking together look like an ad for How to Eventually Need Knee Surgery.

The second time was last year, with my stalwart and amazing friend Laura.  We both felt undertrained, we both had plantar fasciitis that was concerning to us, and neither of us had the training season we were hoping for, so we were anxious to get the damn thing over with in one piece.

Yesterday carried with it similar worries of last year's race in the sense that I've been extremely neurotic about injuries and injury prevention, but it was less a "thing to get through" and more a challenge to see - am I really and truly well?  Was going for this race that I love so much so soon after a significant injury a stupid idea or the perfect way to get my brain back on board with my body?

The healing force that came into my life in 2014, while I was still dealing with vague mystery hamstring pain that had plagued me all year, was a physical therapist named Fabricio Rodrigues.  I've sung his praises in the blog before but mainly I just recommend him to everyone I encounter who complains as having so much as a slight headache.

Fabricio got me back to running after my hamstring injury, even joining me for my first race back.  When a random case of runner's knee popped up the following winter, he gave me the tools to squash it immediately without slowing down.  He's let me swing by multiple times so he can KT tape me before a race to get me feeling stable, supported, and strong.

And when I continued to run on my plantar fasciitis last summer and tore the damn thing, he made "house calls" to Karma Kids to help my crazily out of balance body as it went through life on crutches / the peg-leg.

Fabricio, me, & Marc
Achilles Run, 2015
He pushed me to swim, which kept me sane and kept my left leg moving pre/post cast.  He's been treating, supporting, and helping me every step of the way through recovery, rehab, and getting back out into running.  He challenges me to do hard, new things, and also knows when I need to be pulled back a little from my running ambitions.  He has coached me to strengthen parts of my body I had no idea weren't already strong, fixed my atrocious running form, and I think about each and every movement my body makes in a completely different way based on what I've learned through my work with him.

Plainly put, I probably would not have run a single pain-free step these nearly three years without him, and I just finished a half marathon entirely due to his expertise, treatment, and friendship.

So, don't be like I've been oh-so many times in my life - don't push through pain if you don't have to.  Bounce Back Physical Therapy is where you'll find not just Fabricio but other caring PT's (and the fabulous Irene at the desk) who can set you back to doing what you love again.  I cannot overstate how profoundly it has changed my life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

That Beatles Time of Year

Obviously, there's never a bad time to listen to The Beatles, but I've recently been on a bit of a kick lately.  Partly inspired by the lovely Iris's Aroma Yin class at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio, partly by spring, I created a new yoga playlist that is 100% The Beatles (with a couple instrumental versions thrown in to bookend it).

Enjoy!  Feel free to follow me on Spotify, where you can find me as "yoginiannie."





More to come next week - I'm sure I'll have much, much more to say, as I'm running the Brooklyn Half on Saturday!  I'm nervous but mostly excited - it's not just my first big race since recovering from my injury, but it's a big race way sooner than I would have originally expected since going on crutches in August.  So, stay tuned!