Saturday, September 24, 2016

Yoga Flow In A Cast




Better late than never...

My cast came off on Thursday (yay!  but whose skinny, dough-y calf is that underneath!?!?) but with the help of my magician husband, I've finally been able to upload my yoga class that I made it my goal to create during my weeks in the cast.

This can be done without being in a cast, of course - just don't take any of the necessary protective modifications.  If you're feeling like a challenging class that skips out on Warrior I and Warrior II, and standing in general, please check it out!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reasons to be Happy

(With apologies to Neil LaBute)



I've been thinking about this quote a lot the past few days.  My moods have been a bit up and down - I can go from cool, self-assured calm about the whole injury situation one minute, to a flurry of worry and anxiety and self pity the other, as the uncertainty about how the healing process will go after the cast comes off weighs on me.

If you ask me the things I'm grateful for, the things I really value and treasure in my life, one of them would be my physical fitness.  My health, my (relative, at this point) youth.  My energy.  My New York paced walk.  My ability to run.  I still have some of those things, of course, but in this temporary situation, I feel more like an ancient slug, with an aching lower back and pain all through my right hip and foot as it bears my weight.

So, how do you avoid the self-pity trap?  It's normal to feel sad and frustrated, and I don't think it would be wise or healthy to suppress those emotions when they come up, but you can't let them drive and you can't let them settle in.

There's got to be a deeper reason for joy, or even just a deeper sense of peace and equanimity that surpasses your life circumstances.  Your relationships, your job, even your health.  Life is nothing but change, as my mom reminded me recently.  This too, shall pass, applies to everything in life - the good, the bad, the indifferent.

The concepts of impermanence and non-attachment are important ones in the practice of yoga.  The idea of practicing, of having a meditative practice, is to hold to that center at your very core, to have a certain amount of equanimity to keep you from getting swept up in the waves of good and bad that live washes over you.

The best example of this, of course, is the tradition of the Sand Mandala among Tibetan Buddhist monks.  Pouring your attention, work, and presumably your heart into making something painstakingly beautiful...and then gently destroying it.  I don't think a lot of us would be capable of that.  (Though I have destroyed some rather ugly creations in my adventures in knitting that I've felt quite attached to...)

Then do we achieve the equanimity just to go around being robots?  Or do we detach emotionally from the circumstances and find joy anyway?  I don't know if equanimity really is achievable, though I'm sure some spiritual masters have probably claimed to have it.  Enlightenment, equanimity - they're cousins, I think, in the spiritual family.

I had a hard time, as a lot of Western yogis do, wrapping my brain around the benefits of detachment.  It's hard not to view it as something that means you love less, care less, feel less.  But it's really just about not letting these changeable, impermanent, outside circumstances so deeply penetrate the core of your being to the point that they can overtake and overwhelm you - for good or for bad.

I'm nowhere near the level of having achieved any sort of high-level equanimity or enlightenment, but I am working very hard to be in the circumstances I'm in and to find some happiness anyway.  Suffering is caused by not accepting the present circumstances.  It doesn't mean by accepting you just roll over and give up - you can still work to change your circumstances.  But until you accept things as they are, you'll never know peace.  So why not be happy on the lifelong journey?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Get some Headspace

Happy Friday, world!  Even though tonight is the eve of the busiest day of work I'll have all week - three classes!  Despite the frustrating limitations and challenges of teaching in the cast, it'll feel good to have so many students' positive energy in one day.

I'm not feeling terribly motivated to write this week for some reason, so I'm going to mainly use this week's entry to praise and recommend Headspace, an excellent meditation app.  It's not free (nor is it cheap, fair warning) but it does offer a free trial, and I am surprised to find that I think it's worth every penny.

Marc discovered this app a few months ago and immediately started singing its praises.  I let my arrogance get the better of me - I'm a yoga teacher, I've been learning and practicing meditation for over seven years, I don't need an app to tell me what to do, blah blah blah.  But the truth is, despite my fairly consistent practice, I had absolutely no consistency with what I was doing with my practice.  Sure, I'd sit every day - for 5, 7, maybe 10 minutes on a motivate day.  But I didn't have a consistent technique and it's a lot easier to get completely lost on trains of thought without ever coming back when you don't have a teacher, a guide to help you.

Those two things - consistency and a guide - are 100% what make the difference since I've been practicing regularly with Headspace.  Lovely, British, friendly Andy leads series that are just basic or focused on any wide variety of things - Kindness, Patience (which was my first pick when Marc let me choose the series), Anxiety (our current series), Depression, Competition, Focus, you name it.  Oh, and let's not forget - SLEEP.  Rather than a series, this one-off meditation has almost never failed to put me out like a light before the exercise is even finish.

I've gotten so many day-to-day benefits of Headspace, and I've enjoyed even more seeing how much Marc has benefitted and how incredibly devoted he is to his daily practice now.  Especially these days when the simplest of actions I'd have previously taken for granted take foreverrrrrr because of my cast situation.  The presence and patience I've gained has definitely kept me from having a meltdown.

This has been not just an invaluable tool for us, but also a reminder that as much as I resist being a beginner and love being an "expert," as people we can never stop learning.  And that means having an open, receptive, humble beginner's mind.  How ridiculous to assume I couldn't benefit from this!  It's not as though I've found enlightenment, for God's sake.

Check Headspace out.  They have a great free trial offer, and absolutely everyone, from the meditation novice to the meditation expert (if there even is such a thing) will reap great benefits.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Casting On

This morning marks the beginning of Day 2 of the 20 days my foot (and lower leg) will be in a hard cast.  Just shy of three weeks - which is seriously not bad at all.  So many friends and friends-of-friends have told me far worse injury horror stories, and I am counting my blessings.  My left foot desperately wants to point and rotate at the ankle joint and wiggle and be free, and it's a very strange feeling for it to be restricted!

But, marvels of modern medicine - it's not an old-fashioned, heavy plaster cast.  It's thin fiberglass, rolled around like gauze.  Inside my foot is cushioned in soft pillow-y wrapping.  Having never had a hard cast before and imagining the worst sort of immobile misery and torture, this is not half bad!

As I'm wont to do, I've set myself some goals for this time where I can't pursue all my usual goals.  I plan on recording a yoga video demonstrating and teaching a Yoga with a Cast Sequence.  It'll be the first time I'll ever have done that, aside from being featured for Karma Kids Yoga's Peace In studio (check out Prenatal Yoga/Pilates here!).  There are a few cast sequences out there on YouTube, but for the most part they're in the 5 minute or so range.  I'm going to see what I can do to come up with a more substantive, 20-30 minute class with a little strength work mixed in.

My main goal, or my main skill that I've acquired that I want to master - is knitting.  Last week, my incredibly loving friend Laura Frye came over to help escort me to the pool (ah, the pool!), have dinner with me, and teach my clumsy hands the art of knitting.  I am completely hooked.  It took me about four days to be able to do a slipknot without having to watch the video she made for me a dozen times and failing two dozen times each attempt, and I spent an entire Sunday unable to get past the first row without a gigantic loop at the end, but casting on is the one knitting skill that I took to right away.  I find the semantics of that pretty funny.

Knitting has been a funny combination of soothing and infuriating so far.  I really struggle at being a beginner at something - I take the inevitable mistakes and failures that are a part of learning a new skill entirely too seriously and it sets off a frustrated temper that I'm pretty sure I came by honestly from my mom and granddaddy.  But it's good for me to be humbled by new things.  It's good for me to be a beginner instead of an expert.  And when I do find myself in a good groove, getting it, my muscles starting to make it a memory, then I find that soothing zen extolled by so many knitters.

So, here I am.  Instead of up in Cold Spring, enjoying my first married getaway since our honeymoon hiking with my love, we're here in Astoria.  The husband is sleeping in.  (I slept in til almost 8!  A big accomplishment)  We're already having a wonderful Staycation together, which we plan to stuff with movies, delicious food, games, reading, knitting (for me, not him!) and some time with beloved friends.

The cast is on.  It's helping my torn ligaments and other soft tissues mend back together.  I might as well love it, and use it as a chance to dive into my new practice - slipknot, cast on, and knit.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

AromaYIN at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio

Forty-five minutes after the end of yoga class and I have finally crutched all the way back home, sitting at the computer, ready to write my blog.  Had I left after my prenatal class, I could've been done for the day (and the week) and at home by probably about 6:00, given my speed on the street these days.

What kind of class was worth taking, and worth keeping me out of the house an extra 90 minutes worth of class time and seemingly endless amount of getting-ready and crutch-commute time?  That would be the outstanding AromaYIN class at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio.

Yin, similar to restorative, yoga involves holding poses for much longer than in a typical hatha or vinyasa class - 5-10 minutes.  Like restorative, props are utilized for comfort, but in yin yoga there is a greater emphasis on therapeutic stretching of muscles and the connective tissues as well as resting comfortably in the poses.  You're changing your body more with yin than with restorative.

I have always been a huge fan of restorative - and now also, yin - yoga.  (For one thing, it's basically the only way I can really take a good nap.)  With both of these wonderful practices, you can take most any pose that comes to mind, add enough props and creativity, and you can allow your body to open, backward bend, forward fold, twist, laterally stretch, and rest with a minimum of effort and a maximum of results that make you feel completely refreshed.

The Giving Tree has been my neighborhood yoga studio since Ditmars has been my neighborhood - six years now.  There used to be just one or two restorative classes on the schedule, but as time has gone on and teachers have come and go, and as owners Anne-Margaret and Anthony have continued to evolve as phenomenal teachers, teacher training facilitators, and givers to their community, they developed a class based on a two and a half hour workshop they offer - which also adds massage and reiki to the mix.

Now AromaYIN is offered four times a week, with four different teachers.  I can most often be spotted in Iris's class, where her warm hands offer such comforting hands-on assists or in Clay's, where his soothing voice helps lull me into relaxation at the end of a long week.  I've had the pleasure of also taking Donna and Kim's classes, which are also lovely.

Having this class right in my neighborhood is so helpful whenever I'm on call for a doula client.  I often get too in my head and have a hard time sleeping when I ought to be logging as many solid hours of sleep at night as I can, or perhaps my client is in days-long early labor where I know I need to be ready at any moment.  Just getting into my bed for the purpose of napping usually just involves me tossing and turning fitfully while having insane conversations with myself - but in the context of yoga poses, guided by a teacher - and not to mention the wonderful aromatherapy - it completely turns off my anxious mind and helps rest my body.

Now I'm no longer on call, but my torn plantar fascia has my mobility and activity severely limited.  I find myself constantly exhausted now, either from the exertion it takes just to get from Point A to Point B, or because I'm also paradoxically nowhere near as active as I normally am on a day-to-day basis and I feel like inertia is pulling me under and sucking the energy out of me.  It'll be a long time before I can take a regular class and actually practice along with everyone else, but AromaYIN has been such an unbelievable comfort.  It helps me to rest, helps me to soothe my sore and imbalanced body, and probably most importantly, has helped me to feel supported and keep my spirits up.  My practice is different for the near future, but I still have one, and it's still powerful and profound.

Whether you're struggling with an injury or healthy as a horse, whether you have a type-A anxious New York mind that has a hard time being still or are just curious about trying something new, I cannot recommend the AromaYIN class highly enough.




Infusing the wisdom of the chakras with the balancing properties of aromatherapy, AromaYIN
offers a yin-like, feminine practice, exclusively on the floor, that restores the body, mind, and spirit. Each restorative and yin pose is enhanced with the inhalation of therapeutic-grade essential oils, chakra meditations, and hands-on adjustments to melt the body into sweet surrender. Created by Anne-Margaret Redding, AromaYIN is featured at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio in Astoria, NY.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Love & Obstacles

My original subject from this post was going to be all about responding with love to adversities and adversaries.  I was inspired by Corey Booker's response to a standard-issue negative tweet from the Republican nominee - answering the hatefulness with love, compassion, and rising above the negativity.  It's a truly admirable example, and one that everyone should follow, regardless of your party affiliation, if we actually want to make the country and the world a better place.

Little did I know that the obstacle put in my way this week would quite be to this level.

After trying to self-manage mild but ever-present pain in my left foot this summer, which I self-diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, my first run in a few weeks sent the pain level up a few notches and finally got my stubborn, prideful self to the podiatrist.  I expected to leave with admonitions about better shoes and not being barefoot in hardwood and maybe a cortisone shot to get me through.

Instead, I was told what no active New Yorker - or anyone, for that matter - wants to hear:  Crutches.  For at least 4 weeks, if not 8.   God save me from any more than that.  A tear in my plantar fascia.

So, yes.  My left foot is now my not-quite-literal flat tire - my obstacle.

I'll be put in a cast after Labor Day - wearing a boot until then, because I will be damned if I miss out on my last two weeks of swimming.  Crutching my way down to the pool took forever (and good GOD I forgot how painful it is to crutch around the city...my hands and my armpits are 20 billion times more painful than my foot) but hitting the water made it so very worth it.  Watching the sun set over the East River as I glided through the water was the absolute best thing for my body and soul.

So, now is where all my platitudes get put to the test.  The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment is my life philosophy, and I intend to enjoy this adventure as much as I can, despite the disappointments.  No more Labor Day getaway filled with hiking and exploring Cold Spring with my love.  No 10-mile Bronx race in September or 8K Run for France on Sunday.  No taking for granted going up and down stairs, making dinner, setting up mats for my yoga classes, dashing across the room to get the phone or the door, speedwalking from my apartment to the subway in 5 minutes.  As a very active, very self-sufficient, very spry (for lack of a better word) person, not being able to do these big and little things can set me off in anger and frustration like nobody's business.

But.

Silver linings.

Acts of kindness are never more on display, from my friends and from strangers, than when I'm injured.  My husband, thank the sweet lord, is not out of town doing a show like he was the last time I was confined to crutches, and takes incredible care of me in sickness and in health.  And despite being unable to run, I got to swim into the Astoria sunset tonight.

Perspective.

A torn plantar fascia is not a broken foot, or a broken leg, or cancer.  I'm young and in great shape.  Despite the considerable expense, I'm able to get good health care and have the resources to get the shoes and myriad of accessories needed for recovery and rehabilitation.  I am blessed with a roof over my head and stability & love in my life.  I have a job I love so much that it brings tears to my eyes when I think of not being able to do it.  I acknowledge that this is a first-world problem.

I am an optimist at heart.  I do have an excellent ability to be cynical and negative, to complain and to burrow myself into being a victim, but I truly am an optimist at heart.  And in the end, I know I will learn valuable lessons from this.  (The first being - stop trying to tough out pain, because the only medal you will be rewarded is crutches!  For some reason that one takes awhile to stick...)

They say comedy is tragedy plus time, which is completely true.  This doesn't qualify as major tragedy, not by a long shot, but it is a big physical, emotional, and mental obstacle.  So I'm just going to try to love it.  I'm going to try to love doing everything incredibly slowly.  I'm going to love the flights of stairs awaiting me in these next weeks.  I'm going to love my foot instead of reacting how I normally do to injury - with anger and resentment of my body.

Mainly, I'm going to try to find the humor and perspective in the moment that normally comes with time.  I will need lots of help and encouragement, but I know my fellow New Yorkers and loved ones are up for the job.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Let's go swimming

Two to three mornings a week, I go running.  This summer, though, in preparation for next year's NYC Marathon, I wanted to take some time off to let my body fully recover from the Brooklyn Half.  I've been running 1-2 times a week max, spending more time strength training, and luckily was given an absolutely perfect gift by my neighborhood - a chance to stay in shape and stay cool at the same time, while doing one of my favorite activities on the planet.

The Astoria Park public pool offers lap swim for grown-ups from 7-8:30am and 7pm-dusk - this has apparently been offered for years, but I've had my head under a rock and didn't realize it.  Of all the summers to discover it, how awesome that I'm getting back in to lap swimming during the Olympics!  I competed on swim teams for a good 5 or 6 years as a kid and I regret quitting when I did.  Swimming just for fun has always been one of my absolute favorite things to do - my mom has said that I could swim before I could walk (I don't know if that's true, but it sounds awesome).  If I could have any superpower, it would definitely be the ability to breathe underwater so I could basically live like a mermaid.  If I'm at the beach, I'm going in the water - temperature be damned.

Incredibly, we're approaching mid-August, which means we are approaching fall.  I think in the hot humid misery of our current state, most of us are forgetting the joys of summer and are ready for cooler weather - and after the Olympics, I know at least I will be seriously ready for football season.

But even though now is the time to start preparing and laying the groundwork for "back to school" season, which in my line of work means back to a much fuller working and teaching schedule, now is also the time to revel in summer, even when it's as miserably hot as it is today and has been this week.

I've been replacing running with swimming every chance I've gotten, and one of the many things I love about swimming is that, unless you're shelling out the money for waterproof headphones, you can only listen to yourself and to your breath.  I don't run without headphones quite as often as I probably should, and most yoga classes I attend play music.  Swimming is a chance to move, meditate, and focus on the breath all at the same time.  It's a chance to feel cool and weightless and graceful.

It's also humbling.  Breast stroke comes very naturally to me, so as a result I hadn't attempted to swim freestyle in a very long time.  Probably years.  I assumed that because I'm a strong swimmer in the sense that I'm comfortable being knocked around by waves in the ocean, that I'd glide right back into freestyle.  That was definitely not the case.  It's an advanced stroke and it was good for me to get my butt kicked trying to rediscover it.  It took a few visits before I was able to make an entire lap of freestyle start to finish, but I'm finally back there.

Getting the chance to have that time to myself before teaching, especially for teaching my beloved and often totally insane Friday morning classes at The Giving Tree, has been wonderful.  It's always good, mentally and physically, to switch things up every so often, and I'm so grateful to the NYC Parks department for this free opportunity!

There are more community pools around the area if you aren't an Astorian - this website gives you locations.  Summer isn't over yet - get inspired and get swimming!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stronger than we think

I had the honor of attending my 9th birth this past weekend.  It knocked me off my regular blogging schedule (a baby being born is slightly more important than my self-imposed goals...), so here's a quick one as I run around getting my head back on straight, my house back in order, and getting ready for the new week and month ahead.

During each and every birth I've attended, whether it's been completely drug free or medicated, whether vaginal or cesarean, there reaches a point (or several points) where the mother says, "I can't do this.  I can't do this anymore."

And yet somehow - they do.  They get through it, the baby comes out however he or she comes out, and life continues on to the next adventure, the next challenge, the next demands.

I'm inspired similarly whenever I come home from a visit with my sister, in frank awe of everything she accomplishes every day by raising her 3 small children and the absolute onslaught of work that entails - not just feeding and comforting and playing, but the phone calls to insurance companies and dealing with when things break in the house and being a support for my brother-in-law, who works his heart out on their business.

I never fail to be inspired by moms, and it never fails to remind me that we are all stronger than we think we are.  We can all do more than we think we can.  We all have more time than we realize, if only we did not squander it - through shallow distractions like facebook (and lord knows I am not counting myself above that one) and through deeper distractions like freezing in self doubt.

Sometimes, your body takes over and shows you the spectacular strength and capability you never realized you had, as in many births I've witnessed.  Sometimes, it's the mind that takes over in the face of overwhelming challenge, and a stubborn mental belief and strength is what carries you through.

The truth remains the same, though - we are all so much stronger than we realize.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Stewardship

A funny, fancy, formal, old-fashioned word - Stewardship.  That's been my word-o-the-month for July, inspired by one of my all-time favorite podcasts:  Two Gomers Run for Their Lives.

Like me, the Gomers choose a word to help to shape and define their thoughts, goals, and actions for each particular year, and I remember a year or two ago, one of them chose Stewardship.  It always stuck in my mind, and now it's maybe one of my favorite "words to live by" because it cuts across all categories - the gift of my time, my health, my marriage, my family, my friends, my work, the gift of my home, my energy, my city.  And it's less of a word, really, than a constant framework to a question - "Am I being a good steward of my {fill in the blank}?"

For me, it's become a simple way to get ahold of myself when my addiction to election coverage is causing me to breathe fire or a good way to motivate myself to get moving when the makes staying inside so very compelling.  When I know I'm squandering time or doing something not consistent with the habits I want to build and keep, the concept of stewardship pops in my head and makes me think about my actions - and on a good day, improve them.

It's remarkable the power that one little word or phrase can have when we consciously set an intention to be guided by it each morning.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A few words for Nice

I've been in love with the idea of Nice since around 2006, or maybe a year or two before.  I had read The Bay at Nice by David Hare, the one act play that was to be my senior thesis directing project.  True, the play is set in Russia, but its constant evocation of Nice as this heavenly place filled with perfect light and beauty, combined with my pre-existing love of all things French inevitably created a wistful desire to some day go and see it for myself.  I always smile as I remember some college friends teasing and mocking me for my snooty (though it was quite cheap) French wine and my Edith Piaf music as I was immersing myself into writing and directing my thesis.

Fast forward to 2013, and I'm newly married with a French last name, and I'm heading to the only place that's ever crossed my mind if I were to imagine where I might go on a honeymoon.

Over our two week honeymoon that September, we spent 4 or so days in Italy's stunning Cinque Terre, but the bulk of the time was spent, at my request, in Nice.  Our favorite beach was Lido Plage.  Our favorite restaurant, hands down, was Le Bistrot du Fromagere - we loved it so much we went there 3 times. We wanted to be best friends with the owner, who was also our server and the slicer of the home-made bread, which is still the best bread I've ever had in my life.   Our favorite wine was a rose, of course - Chateau de Berne.  Every single night, no matter how much we had at dinner, we got gelato and walked down the Promenade des Anglais.  I cried when we had to go home.

The beauty that I read about, the beauty that I saw in pictures, the beauty that I imagined - absolutely nothing compared to seeing it in person.  Even my own photographs don't properly capture the light and color - the staggering blue of the Mediterranean and of the sky, the spectacular golds and pinks of the sunsets, the vibrant bursts of color of the fireworks at night.  We were so wrapped up in the la-la land of honeymooners that I don't think we ever did figure out why there were fireworks displays so frequently during our time there in early September.  We were content enough to let the occasion be a celebration of the city itself.  Who needs a reason when you're Nice?  A city full of the friendliest French people you're likely to find, the best seafood in the world, endless bottles of cold rose, gelato for days, and simply effortless beauty.

My head and my heart can't keep up with this summer.  Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, and now Nice.  And forgive me because I know that list isn't comprehensive - how could it be?  And I can't write an ode to each tragedy, to each city, I can't change my profile picture in solidarity with every act of violence in every culture - to do so would be pointless and madness, anyway.

But oh, how I love love love love love the city of Nice, France.  How my heart aches for the residents and tourists who stood where we stood, looked up at the sky as we did at the fireworks and the stars and the moon, breathed the same salt sea air.  It just aches, and I just have to share it and find comfort in the beauty of the city, and the knowledge that as it always does, out of this tragedy will grow love and brotherhood and fellowship and stories of courage and kindness.

Often it feels like there's nothing we can do in the wake of tragedies, particularly those that occur across the country or across the ocean.  You can always live your life striving to be an agent of peace.  You can strive to be peaceful in the microcosm of your life, and do what you can to allow your love in action affect the macrocosm of this brutal but beautiful world we live in - and it is a beautiful, beautiful world.