Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Updated & Improved YoginiAnnie.com

Hello hello, kind readers of my blog!

Today is my only day (and it's really a half day) at home to get myself situated before the hubs and I head down south to Costa Rica for a week (!!!).  In between following up on doula to-do's, cleaning the apartment, watching the videos and doing the homework my physical therapist has assigned me, juicing, following up on bills, and making sure we aren't broke - I have a very exciting announcement!

After nearly five years, I finally got my website updated!  My wonderful friend Billy Griffin built this site for me back in March of 2010, and then we both took forever and a day to get it to the point where I could update it myself.  He put me in touch with a fantastic web guy, Kyle Walters who helped me get it to where it is right now.

To get an idea of how badly this website needed updating - I had never even heard of kids yoga, let alone Karma Kids, back in March of 2010.  I had taken only one introductory course of Thai Yoga Massage.  I had just barely gotten my 200 hour!  And I probably had never heard the word doula before.  So, yes - it needed a little sprucing up!

Now here it is, in all its glory.  Enjoy, and THANK YOU, Billy Griffin and Kyle Walters!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Inward & Onward!

Happy 2015!  As I and every other person who writes a blog on earth am wont to do in early January, I want to write just a little bit about my resolution/word/phrase for 2015.

I'm a huge New Year's nerd - the countdown to midnight, the black eyed peas for dinner New Year's Day, and the reflection.  Oh, the endless reflection and journaling and yoga-ing!  It's one of my favorite holidays by far.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are so much about being around loved ones and traveling to see family and celebrating with them, which is priceless and which I wouldn't trade for the world.  But for a reflective introvert, New Year's Day is a damn close second.

I tend to overdo resolutions, and like everyone else in the world, tend to see certain resolutions pop up again and again and again, year after year.  After awhile, it gets a little disheartening, but I love New Year's and resolutions way too much to become jaded and just give it up.  Instead, I've changed my tactic a little bit in recent years.

Instead of just one word as I've done in some years past (because that would be too simple), I felt compelled to choose two - Inward and Onward.  The idea of using these words as a guidepost for the year means that instead of seeing one concrete resolution as a success or failure - with a start and end-point - is that I can use them as a mantra throughout my days and when things get hard to help guide my everyday thought patterns and decision-making.

Housed within Inward
-More Being, Less Doing
-Less screen time (specifically - less time per day on the Book of Faces)
-Make the time when things are busy for things that will really nourish me, as tempting as reality cooking shows may be.  Writing, meditating, practicing, reading, etc.
and much, much more that I will spare you

Housed within Onward (inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert)
-Worry is futile - move on
-Take responsibility for the energy I bring into a room
-The oh so familiar and frequent regret after an over-indulgent meal or night at a bar or whatever it might be.  Enjoy it for what it was, learn from it - onward.
and much, much more that I will spare you


How do you do New Year's?  A word?  A phrase/motto?  A list of detailed resolutions, goals, and deadlines for said resolutions goals?  Or do you just say screw it and reach for another bottle of champagne?

The world could use a more peaceful year ahead which is what I ultimately wish for myself and all of you.  Happy 2015!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ready to Run (Almost)

I want to mention something I've been meaning to write about since September - I'm not sure why it's taken me this long!

Starting in September, I started seeing an amazing physical therapist, referred to me by my incredible mentor.  I've been sidelined all year long post-marathon - first the scary hamstring pain before the marathon back in January, then the foot injury after the marathon, and then just as my foot was healed and I went to start running again...the hamstring pain came back.  I'd run, feel pain, then rest for a week or two (or four).  Then start again, the pain would come again.  Then gradually it became a part of my every day life, spread to my hip and glute, and would get worse after teaching classes.  I sought out a sports medicine doctor who ordered an MRI which showed me nothing at all (except a much emptier bank account).

So although I dearly wish it hadn't taken me from January til September to finally get to a physical therapist about this, I'm there now!  It took me a nine months to get to this point so I know I can't expect results right away, but the amount of help Fabricio, my PT, has given me in these three months since I've been seeing him is astronomical.  We even went on a few runs together, and I went on a few on my own.  We've held off the running because a) he wants me to be barefoot to help my foot strike and to improve my stride and it's freezing cold and b) after over-doing it on some of our strengthening exercises some of the pain was coming back.

I'm back to feeling great again, though, and I'm sure Santa will give me the means to get a Fabricio-approved running shoe and I'm so excited to keep going on my journey back to running in January.

I've gotten really despondent about this throughout the year.  Running, even more than yoga, is my primary stress reliever and mood booster when it comes to physical activity.  (I obviously love yoga, but I have a hard time keeping myself from analyzing the teacher and sequence!)  I was even experiencing pain after taking yoga classes so those were out too.  I also didn't want to wallow because so many people I knew this year were going through much worse physical trials than me.  I've been more sedentary and I know it's had an effect on my overall mood and health this year, which has been really hard.

What I've been learning through my PT work, though, has been so instrumental and changing the way I sit, stand, teach, practice, run, and do random functional activities throughout the day.  For my birthday, Fabricio gave me a book called Ready to Run by Dr. Kelly Starrett which has clearly been influencing the work we've been doing to get me back to running.  It's fascinating and so much of what it says has me saying, "Duh! Why have I not always been doing this?"  It talks so much about how much of injury prevention is in our own hands.  We have to get to know our own body mechanics, mobility, range of motion, limitations we can work on, sit less, use good posture, and perform daily maintenance on our bodies.

I can't recommend this book enough and I'm not even finished with it yet.  It's packed with exercises, mobility tests, foam roll/pressure point ball exercises for self massage and fascia release, and great information.  Whether you'd define yourself as an athlete, a yogi, or neither, this book is a must read!  Treat yourself to Ready to Run and you'll be so inspired to take better care of yourself in 2015.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Now is now

Although I have a couple of massages planned today, and I just spent several days not working due to the lovely Thanksgiving holiday, today feels like my first day off in awhile.  I think it's because I'm at home.  I'm at home, I'm alone, and as usual, I have a giant to-do list of things I want to accomplish, some of which I feel like I've been trying to accomplish for months now.

Something that wasn't on the list but that I just "accomplished" as I tried out a new oatmeal recipe - I finally finished rereading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I started re-reading this book in September, when Marc and I had just gotten back from seeing the babies and we were still very new to our beautiful new apartment.  I thought I'd follow along with the book, dedicating my own resolutions and changes and goals, making our home the happiest, most organized home EVER.  Of course, work and life got in the way, and my massive plan was put off.  But I still very much enjoy her writing and the entire concept of her Happiness Projects.  (In fact, I wrote a book report - I should start doing those again - on her first book, back in September of 2011)

Reading as I was cooking/eating this morning, I realized I had nearly unintentionally finished the book.  As one might expect, the last passage is particularly interesting and struck a chord with me - something that Marc and I had been talking about just this past weekend.

The notion of "being present" is so very challenging for so many of us because we tend to be focusing on either the past and the future, and most people tend more toward one than the other.  I am much more of a future-oriented person.  I have a pathological tendency toward planning.  Planning, daydreaming, anticipating, worrying - and I've lately gotten into a lovely habit of preparing for and imagining entire arguments or debates with people before they've even happened.  And of course - they might never happen.

In the last passage of her book, Rubin discusses the notion, one of her personal Splendid Truths, of, "Now is now."  She explains:

"One of the persistent follies of human nature is to imagine true happiness is just out of reach.  The "arrival fallacy" describes our tendency to believe that once we arrive at a particular destination, then we'll be happy. People generally expect the future will be slightly happier than the past; in one study, when asked where they thought they'd be in ten years, 95% of people expected their lives would be better in the future than in the past, and people already satisfied with their lives believed they'd be even more satisfied."

I can very much relate to that, as I think a lot of people can.  Regardless of how you'd describe your current state of happiness, there's so often with people a feeling of "Once I've accomplished this" or "Once I'm making this amount of money," or fill in the blank - then we can rest and bask in the glow of our happy present.

Rubin mentions a couple of times the idea of nostalgia, and pining for the "good old days," when in fact at some point, we will look back on right now with that nostalgia of it being the "good old days."  It makes me think of high school and college, which I so desperately loved, and being baffled by my friends who were so deeply anxious to graduate and get the hell out.  I, on the other hand, had to be dragged kicking and screaming across the graduation stage so badly did I want to stay in my comfort zone with my friends.  I had a strong sense that I'd look back and pine for those days, and I wanted them to last as long as I could.

Luckily, I can confidently say that as much as I loved those years, they were not the pinnacle of my life.  The happiest day of my life, still, as cliche as it might sound - was my wedding day.  And the reason for it is because - it was the most consistently present day of my life.  It was a day that had been so incredibly anticipated, with excitement but also a lot of angst and family drama surrounding it, that once it arrived I truly enjoyed every single moment of it.  And I didn't want to rush time, either - excited as I was to see Marc and for the getting-married part, I loved everything leading up to it as much as during and after.

Like high school and college, I don't want or expect my wedding day to be the pinnacle of my life.  I should hope I still have several decades of living to go beyond that one day, and how depressing would it be if it were all downhill from there?  But the biggest reason for why that day has been the best, outside of the friends, family, new husband, dress, cake, dancing, etc - it was because I was 100% immersed in every moment as it was happening.  I've had days where I've come close to that level of presence, but nothing's equalled it just yet.

I don't think life has one particular meaning, but for me, I live by the philosophy that, "The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment."  As Gretchen Rubin puts it, "Now is now."  If what's happening in this moment is good, bad, painful, joyful - it's still what's happening now, and it's meant to be felt and experienced to the fullest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Forgiveness & Closure. And questions.

There's been a lot of change this year.  I write about it almost every week.  A lot of birth, growth, new beginnings, endings, sickness, brushes with death, and recently for me, ending a relationship.  (Not Marc!)

An ongoing family drama lasting almost two years now has come to a pretty firm conclusion the last two days.  The details beyond that are private and not really important, but it's obviously got me asking all kinds of questions and wondering about all kinds of things.

What is closure?  How do you forgive someone?  What do those words and concepts even mean?

Over the past several years, I think the concept of forgiveness has changed in our culture from something involved in repairing a relationship with a person to being much more focused on doing it for yourself - a way to free yourself of past hurt.  There's the simpler level of having a fight with someone, forgiving them, and truly being able to move forward with that relationship.  That is a bit more cut and dry and easy to understand (though not necessarily easy to do!)

Easier said than done, dude.
That idea of forgiveness as being more "for yourself" is especially helpful, I imagine, if the person you're trying to forgive has passed away or is just no longer in your life.  It's not about them validating you or forgiving you in return - it's about you.  Or you also read about extraordinary people who have forgiven the murderer of a friend or family member, talking about a need to free themselves from living a life of bitterness and resentment.  It makes sense, and sounds amazing.  It also sounds deceptively easy - but of course there's no way it can be easy!  Can it?  I suppose it's different for everyone.  The quote on the right I think typifies this type of thinking about forgiveness and working to let go of anger, however justified.

Closure is an even more open-ended concept to try to get my brain around.  What gives something the power of being "closure?"  How can you measure it?  What does it feel like?  If we're talking about something on a relationship level, you're dealing with at least two parties - what if one has closure and one doesn't?

I know these are really abstract questions.  I think they're abstract mainly because I tend to be more literal and more tactile.  It's probably why I've been more drawn to a spiritual practice that has such a physical component as opposed to a more traditional religion.

I realized last night, talking this through with Marc, that I've never been able to "achieve" forgiveness with anything beyond the most basic kind of working something out with a friend and moving forward in that relationship.  I haven't been able to get to a point where I've just decided to forgive something I'd categorize as major in my life.  Part of why I haven't is because I don't know what it feels like.  I don't know what it means.  It almost certainly doesn't take away feelings of sadness and anger and a feeling of being wronged or hurt.  If it's "for me," what does that mean?

It's the same feeling of uncertainty that comes up when I address the question of God.  I'm an agnostic because while I don't believe in God, I also know that I don't know for sure that there isn't a God.  I just don't know, and I don't feel I can presume to commit fully to one side of the spectrum or the other.

Relating that to the concepts of forgiveness and closure, I know that they aren't magic buttons you can press to make anger and sadness go away.  So what are they?  What does it mean?  What does it take to get there?  How can forgiveness set you free if the pain is still there?  And am I just being too damn literal about all this?

Any and all ideas are welcome.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veteran's Day!

This Veteran's Day, I'd like to share my all-time favorite rendition of our national anthem.  Future star of stage & screen, Lisa Helmi Johanson, rocks it like no other.  Just cock your head to the left ;)

Namaste, y'all!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I am a DOULA!

I can't believe that one week ago today, I was sitting in Birth Day Presence in the presence of one of the country's most established doulas soaking in her wisdom.  I wish so much I could go back and take that training again and again and again and again.  (Luckily for me, as a doula, I'm required a certain amount of continuing education credits each year so I may just get the chance!)

Debra Pascali-Bonaro, I'm so very proud to say, has made me a trained doula!  I still have a ways to go before my certification is complete, but this is the most significant part of the certification process to complete before I start attending births.  Debra was wonderful - there are not enough adjectives in the world.  She was warm, put us all immediately at ease, funny, unbelievably knowledgeable, and her heart is clearly in every single thing she says and does.  Her genuine love radiated through every word she spoke.

I'm gushing, I know, but I just don't know how else I'm going to write about this workshop!

With a lot of upheaval going on lately at Karma Kids (I can't reveal our exciting news just yet, but stay tuned!) and my mind and energy focused on that, I've been saying over and over what "terrible timing" this workshop has been for my life - but like so many things, what I thought was going to be a massive disadvantage turned out to be a huge advantage.  I was so caught up in everything else going on I had nearly forgotten my passion which sparked my desire to become a doula in the first place - this pushed me right back into the deep end of it.

The first day was focused primarily on childbirth education, while the second two days focused on the role of a doula as well as anything and everything we'd need to know going forward as doulas, from pre and postnatal visits with clients, to providing emotional support, physical comfort measures, and the history of female support at birth, before it moved into the hospital in the early-mid 20th century.

Each day's lunch break we had the option to stay and watch one of Debra's many documentaries she had on hand, and we also were able to come early to watch them too.  There were so many inspiring stories - Guerilla Midwife featuring the unbelievable humanitarian work of Robin Lim in Indonesia and the Phillipinnes and various other areas natural disaster has struck (read more!), A Doula Story focusing on angel-in-human-form Loretha Weisinger is doing in Chicago for pregnant teens (read more!), and so much more.

None of us in the group wanted the training to end - we could have happily gone on like that for another week!  But we all feel so grateful for the time we were able to have with Debra and with each other and all look forward to coming back together whenever and however possible.

I'm so excited to keep moving forward in this direction with the help of my invaluable mentor, pre/postnatal expert and doula Juliana Secches.  I'm so ready to start attending births and, after all this talk and practice and theory, really start doing this work that I feel so called to do.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Laughter Yoga (but not)



I'm down for the count tonight - I've been fighting a cold all week long and I have a huge week coming up.  Big things coming up for Karma Kids and my three-day Doula Training is going to be right smack in the middle of it this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  My plans with my beautiful friend Laura are cancelled (including my plan to take my first gentle yoga class since rehabbing my hip and hamstring) and I'm hoping that between all the prep work I have to do for doula training I can get enough rest to beat this thing.

In the meantime, this has totally made my day.  It has pretty much nothing to do with yoga in any way, but I guarantee it will make you laugh.  I love me some good bloopers and a good case of the giggles.  Enjoy a rush of mood-boosting endorphins, fire up your belly muscles, and boost your mood.  Late Night with Jimmy Fallon = Laughter Yoga (but not really).

Hope to be back next week with an exciting announcement about Karma Kids Yoga, an update on how my doula training went, and something I've been wanting to write about for a month now - my life-changing physical therapist!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Despair is the greatest sin

I was fully prepared to let myself off the hook again today.  My weekly-blogging has been once-every-two-or-three-weeks blogging lately.  There's a lot going on with work, and I've been desperate to spend every single second Marc and I both had free together - which unfortunately were not that many seconds.

He left today to go do another show at the beautiful People's Light & Theatre in Malvern, PA.  It's a beautiful theatre, a great company, and the show will be tons of fun with fantastic people.  I wish I were going with him.  I wish he were staying here.  I wish the contract wasn't so frigging long.

I have a lot on my plate today - things that I've been neglecting in favor of all else we've had going on - and especially since I'm not feeling terribly inspired or, honestly, terribly happy, I was going to give myself another pass.  Next week I'll be more "YoginiAnnie" like - not today.

However.

As I've written before, and as much wiser and more eloquent people than I have said, yoga isn't just about being shiny and happy and Instagramming yourself in a headstand.  It's accepting the present and yourself, no matter what.  Suffering isn't caused my the circumstances themselves (even when that's really hard to believe), it's caused by our inability to accept and integrate them into our present.

I have a ton of reasons to be grateful.  My overall health is good, and my health is being improved by a phenomenal physical therapist who will hopefully be getting me back to running (!) and taking yoga classes for myself in the next couple of months.  My husband's not going off to war or dying, he's going to Pennsylvania to do what he loves.

One of the things on our to-do-before-PA list was to finish the series Masters of Sex, which we both absolutely love and which featured our beautiful friend, the insanely talented up-and-coming actress Katie Parker in the last two episodes.  There's a beautiful scene between two characters - one a Christian and one an atheist - who are both struggling deeply with emotional issues.  Barbara, the Christan, says at one point that, "Despair is the greatest sin."  To my Christian readers, this probably isn't a big revelation (ha) to you, but I had never heard that before.  You mainly just hear about murder, adultery - the more obvious stuff.  But despair?

It seems like a really bold statement to me.  Similar to the idea that suffering isn't caused by the world or external circumstances - it's caused by how we react to those circumstances.  We have the ability to accept, make peace with, and maybe even find joy in everything - to indirectly quote Angels in America, in every awful thing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just Doula-ing It

Yep, I just made that pun.

I realized today I haven't really written that much about this next chapter of my education/career/passion/life that I'm entering into, and that a lot of my friends might not know a whole lot about what this new position really means.

In late October, I'll be attending a childbirth class and doula training program under Debra Pascali-Bonaro, author and director of Orgasmic Birth (both a birthing book and an eye-opening documentary) and experienced childbirth educator and doula.  I've already started the process of reading everything both on and off my reading list, and I have quite a few more hurdles to climb before I'm an officially certified doula, but I'm jumping in with both feet.

Super exciting, right?  But what's a doula?

The word Doula comes from ancient Greek meaning a female servant.  It is a woman who is literally there before, during, and after labor and birth to support the mother and partner through the process.  Most women in this country give birth in a hospital where the staff is almost certainly overworked and overseeing multiple patients at a time.  For a lot of couples, this can breed a lot of anxiety and uncertainty - even when the staff is excellent.  Most women wind up being hooked up to some kind of fetal heartrate monitor and staff (and partners!) can run the risk of paying much closer attention to the printout of the monitor than the actual mother in labor, leaving her feeling isolated and ignored.

Having a doula as a constant, attentive, knowledgeable, comforting presence, whether in a hospital, birth center, or home birth, can make the couple feel more at ease, can make the partner more confident in how he is helping the mother, and provides the couple with a whole host of nonmedical techniques to alleviate pain.

Nowhere is the mind-body connection more potent and powerful during childbirth.  If you have someone supporting you and your choices (whatever they may be, as it is not a doula's job to judge or push an agenda) and helping to guide you through this most intense and overwhelming physiological event the human body can experience where emotions are inevitably running high, you are going to come out the other side having had a more positive experience.

My sister laboring in the tub with the support of one of her
two fantastic doulas, Maggie Gentilini
My sister and brother-in-law experienced that first-hand after having two excellent doulas attend them during the birth of the twins this past summer.  They cannot sing their praises high enough, and I know it absolutely made all the difference in the world in making the birth experience a positive one for them.  Not to mention, the second doula took some phenomenal pictures that we'll treasure forever!

So what does a doula actually do?  The short answer is, whatever the mother and/or partner wants or needs.  Helping inform and educate the couple on normal birth processes before or during, sneaking a turkey sandwich into the hospital, showing the partner how to perform helpful massage techniques, giving the nurse the birth plan, remaining a steady face of calm in high intensity situations - you name it.  Doulas are not medical professionals, however.  Unlike a doctor, nurse, or midwife, they do not perform medical procedures or give medical opinions.  Their job is to be the stalwart support system for the couple.

Why pay money to a stranger to support you when you could get your mom or your friend in there for free?  There are lots of potential answers to this one, but two that pop up are - 1. Your doula is going to be trained and experienced, so when she says what you're experiencing is normal, you may put more stock into her answer than someone else's.  2. Your doula has practical techniques at her fingertips to help birth proceed smoothly.  3. There aren't years of potential emotional baggage with the doula, which there almost certainly is with other family and friends.  This doesn't mean you don't love your mother, sister, or friend, but it's kind of like seeking a therapist's advi
ce for your problem's rather than your friend's.  The therapist is an impartial party whose only job is to do what's best for you - not necessarily what you're going to want him or her to say or do, and not anything guided by his or her own personal preference.

That's not to say you'd have a doula at the expense of another friend - but it is an invaluable option that statistically is shown to reduce medical interventions and increase a feeling of satisfaction in one's birth experience.  (This study is just one of many that support this statement)

I could easily write about this all day, but instead I'll close by promoting an amazing event I'll be attending tonight.  If you're expecting or know a couple who is, please send them this information!

We are having our popular Doula Speed Dating Event tonight at Karma Kids Yoga, where couples can meet doulas who work in the tri-state area and possibly find the right one for them.  You can interview them, learn more about what they do, and maybe win a prize in our raffle.  It's incredibly fun and for the first time I'm excited to attend not just as a birth junkie but as a potential doula.  Call 646-638-1444 to register!  It's so fun and could change the way you bring your baby into the world.  What's not to love about that?