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!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Green & Green

Being from the South, springtime in New York always feels like it comes way too late.  By March, I'm expecting full on blooms.  Even though it always comes a little later than I want it to, it still somehow seems to come in perfect time.  March is the slow (painfully slow) thaw, April is for the blossoms, and in May - almost like clockwork - the buds blow away, the leaves fill in, and it's green, green, green everywhere you look.  At long, long, long last.

I always associate May and springtime with green for the obvious reasons, but lately I've had a different green on the brain - money.  As a freelancer married to an actor, money is always on the brain, and 99% of the time it's a source of stress.  I'm sure no one else on earth can relate!

We've used a system for a few years now to track our expenses called You Need a Budget (yes, you do) which has been amazing in keeping us on the same page and helping us communicate about our money or, often, lack thereof.  We didn't always use it as intended, though - we used it more as a tracking tool than as one to actually help us stick to the principles it lays out for eventually saving and aging your money so you break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

YNAB recently updated its whole system, which inspired us to make a fresh start and lay out a new, updated budget to better reflect our life as it is now, rather than a few years ago when we started.  We also recommitted to each other to stick to the budgeting principles and exercise more self discipline than in the past.  (Also, not being injured / not doing lots of showcase shows for little pay really helps in the money department too!)

So now here's where the yoga comes in - as part of the eight limbs of yoga, there are ten ethical guidelines (so to speak) that are things not to do (yamas) and things to do (niyamas).  Budgeting - and even just attempting to budget - employs all of them to some degree, but there are two I feel it touches on the most:  self-study (svadhyaya) and truth (satya).

You manage what you measure.  Tracking your spending requires complete and total transparency with not just yourself but another person.  It can be very easy to deceive yourself and live in a state of denial about spending habits, especially with handy dandy credit cards, which never feel like spending real money the way it does when you use cash.  By utilizing self awareness with every dollar earned and spent, you are automatically gaining more control over your financial habits.

Budgeting not just your own money for your own self, but with another person  makes it harder to keep up that habit, that we all have, of self-deception.  We're all very good at telling ourselves little lies or simply glossing over our bad financial habits, but when you have to track every little thing, and be accountable not just to yourself but with your partner, the truth can't help but come out.  It's not about assigning guilt, blame, or shame, but simply taking an honest look at your habits, strengths, and weaknesses.

What's difficult and sometimes painful in the short run, though, is ultimately what's best in the long run.  (Isn't it annoying how often that's the case in life?)

We seriously can't recommend this app enough, and recommend it all the time to friends and family.  Money is hard.  It's hard when you don't have enough, when you don't understand why you can't get ahead, when you're unsure of how you're managing it.  Yoga is all about awareness and connection - this lets you gain that clarity which leads to accountability.

And while it would be AWESOME if this were a paid advertisement, it's really not - just an entry I've been meaning to do for a long time in praise of one of my favorite things.  (YNAB, if you're listening, I'll totally be a paid shill for you...)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Health Scare

I had a whole draft of a blog in my head all made up, but it has been a day.  And now that I've come down from all the life-stuff of the day, I'm left to ponder with a growing, nauseating dread what 217 elected representatives voted for today.

Forgive the pun-y and ridiculous title.  I'm just so afraid that this is our country now.

In case you're wondering who voted how, check out this helpful page in the NYTimes.

Listen - we all know Obamacare wasn't perfect.  But I know several people who would literally not be alive today without it.  I wouldn't have health insurance without it - and you better believe I use my health insurance.

Instead of having a group of adults who can intelligently discuss policy and talk about improving our health care system, we have a group of children who stick their fingers in their ears and simply shout about destroying any bit of legacy President Obama may have had.  They've denigrated this so deeply that there are literally people in the world who don't realize that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing.  It's politics.  Not policy.  How much do you want to bet that most of these jackals haven't even read the bill?  We know the President hasn't.

Victim of a sexual assault?  You now have a pre-existing condition under this bill and would be denied health insurance.  So that basically covers half the women the President has ever come into contact with.  Cancer survivors, pregnant women, asthmatics like me - basically everything you could possibly imagine is a pre-existing condition and grounds for denial of coverage, except for erectile dysfunction, probably because the majority of congress suffers from it.  Not that that really matters, since they're not including their own health care plans under this bill.  Even they don't want this unhelpful piece of garbage that doesn't solve any actual problems of Obamacare - it just creates all new ones.

This has nothing to do with yoga.  I'm angry.  I'm sad.  I feel sick.  I'll do some yoga tomorrow and feel better and more balanced and better able to fight back and do what I can to protest this horror of a bill.

Please, please, please - call your reps.  Write your reps.  Show up at town halls and give them hell.  And then tell me what else I can do.  I feel at such a loss.  All my reps are solid blue - they're already going to vote my way.  So I'm open to ideas, friends.  Tell me what to do.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Long Run & Long Road

I haven't written about running as much lately - partly because this was originally intended to be a yoga blog, so I do try to write about that occasionally, but mostly because these last few weeks of training have been more stressful.

When I agreed to run the Brooklyn Half this year with my wonderful Laura, I did so with nerves and reservations.  It's one of my all-time favorite races, and when I first ran it in 2013 I felt amazing and unstoppable.  It's the race that convinced me I was capable of running a marathon.  But looking at the calendar and looking at my expected recovery time, it seemed like there was enough time to responsibly train without overdoing it.

As I started to kick my mileage up a little bit in mid-March, however, I had fewer pain-free runs and more consistent encounters with aches and pains.  Not enough to indicate re-injury, but just enough to bump up my anxiety ever-higher.  It was tricky to differentiate the normal and expected running pain versus things I should be truly worried about.  I've been hyper-aware, which is a good thing, but it led to being hyper-worried, which is not.  May 20th suddenly went from seeming very far away to much, much too close.

I started to realize in the last week or so that I wasn't enjoying my running - which is the whole damn point.  I love running.  It's one of my all time favorite things in the world to do.  I've been so consumed with the worry and paranoia that I might not be able to do it that I've been keeping myself from fully enjoying the fact that I am doing it.  I'm under the care of an excellent physical therapist every week who helps me get stronger and deal with my issues.  I'm building more cardio.  And a lot of my aches and pains, I've come to realize, are a result of the fact that I'm finally running with much better form than I used to - which in itself is a road to injury-free running.

Awareness and worry don't have to go hand in hand.  Moreover, they shouldn't go hand-in-hand.  It tints everything, just as it did last summer when I was on the opposite end of the spectrum - stubbornly ignoring pain that should have sparked some worry and attention.

The trick, I think, is to find that happy medium.  Last summer I wanted so badly to be fine and healthy that I was able to convince myself that the pain I was feeling - almost all day every day - couldn't possibly lead to anything serious.  I felt that I had a complete handle on it, and instead of resting until the pain was gone, I would take a week off because that was all I was willing to give up.  This past month, I've been worrying myself out of enjoyment and failing to notice how much better I feel now than I even did last summer when I was technically in better shape.

I seem to have to learn this lesson again and again - attitude is everything.  After a particularly helpful PT session yesterday, I decided to go into this morning's run - the peak of my training and the last long run before the race and also on a windy, rainy day - with awareness without the side of worry.  Paying attention to my body and when it needed a break or a stretch or to walk but enjoying myself every step of the way.  The difference it made was unbelievable, and instead of worrying and doubting this ten miles, I enjoyed it and was able to end it with exhilaration, pride, and trust that I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy while still pursuing my goals.

And seriously, it doesn't hurt that I have a killer new running playlist.  Something else I realized today is that I've been deliberately avoiding running with music because I haven't wanted to get carried away and go faster than I ought to.  While I think this was totally responsible and the right thing for the first few weeks back, I'm at the point now where I'm able to push my pace.  The first half of today's run was accompanied by a podcast (the excellent Pod Save America) and I decided for the second half to finally treat myself to some music - the first time since last summer I've run with any music at all.

I completely forgot how good it feels to run with music.  Running without any earbuds at all is its own kind of magic, don't get me wrong - but Nina and Janis were just what the doctor ordered to help me get my joy back.


Check it out here - start with Sinnerman, shuffle the rest, and enjoy every moment.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

An Earth Day Recent-History Lesson

Earth Day (which also happens to be the seven year blog-a-versary for this ol' thing) is today, and it's fitting that I just learned about an environmental activist I had never heard of before.

Julia Butterfly Hill may be a familiar name to you, but I'm sad to say her name didn't ever register in my time as a self absorbed middle and then high schooler in suburban Virginia.  She sat in a redwood tree in California to protest deforestation for two years.

She sat in a tree.  She lived in a tree.

For two. freaking. years.

Meanwhile, I've been feeling so powerless and useless and frustrated lately in the face of the never-ending tsunami of news of corruption and incompetence coming out of the White House (or Mar-a-Lago, more often than not), and on the one hand, hearing about this just makes me feel even worse and even more useless.  I donate to charities, I keep myself informed, I write and call my elected officials, I make my living helping women and kids feel empowered and peaceful, I do my best to use reusable shopping bags over plastic, but what am I really doing?  What is any of it really doing?  (And dear lord, the amount of times I don't have a reusable shopping bag and contribute to the plastic crisis!)

On the other hand- it actually makes me feel better.

I learned about Julia because one of the world's most spectacular yoga teachers and humans, Elizabeth Barnett, spoke about her in class at The Giving Tree last night, and read a quotation of hers that brought me to tears.  I'll pull from her website:

No matter the diversity of beliefs, we all know we live in a world full of problems.  Yet, one of the biggest problems is that not enough of us realize that we also live in a world full of solutions - and then live our lives as these solutions in action.

May you know that your every thought, word, and action makes a difference.

The question we need to ask ourselves is not, "Can one person make a difference?"  Each and every one of us does make a difference.  It is actually impossible to not make a difference.  So the question we need to ask ourselves is, "What kind of a difference do I want to make?"


It sort of reminds me of the butterfly effect (no relation).  The smallest action can have a massive impact.  Even though sometimes the things I might do feel small and trivial and not actually helping to save the world, it's better than choosing not to do it at all.

It also reminds me to be brave and try to do more than I am.  Even when I don't know what that is, or if I struggle with self doubt.

Every day, to once again crib from Elizabeth, is Earth Day.  We need it more than it needs us.

Let's all do something big or something small, but let's do something, today and every day to help support it, and support our future as a species.