Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hashtag Blessed

Not being of any religious persuasion, I've never really felt compelled to wish someone a "blessed day" or to use the word blessing too often in describing my own life or someone else's situation.  (Also, my mom would look at me like I had 3 heads if she heard me wishing someone a blessed day.  She has a funny thing about it...)

The older I get, though...Between two of my best friends on this planet earth being devout and Christ-like Christians, my deep foray into the "Slumber Party Theology" (to crib a term Elizabeth Gilbert references in Eat, Pray, Love - which I'm falling back in love with, but that's another story) that is being a yogi in this day and time and place, and between my work and my life circumstances taking the direction that it has been taking...damn.  I feel the need to throw myself on the floor in gratitude sometimes for how ever-lovingly blessed I feel.  I feel the word cross my mind and on my lips more and more as the years go by.

Becoming a doula was really daunting, and I put off going down that road for a long time.  It had been on my mind, and my mentor, Juliana, saw it in me and kept predicting that it would happen and urging me to do it.  But it was too much time, I didn't have space for it, it was too scary, too real.  And after the gracious and selfless and phenomenal work of my sister's two birth doulas helping to make A+Z's arrival the once-in-a-lifetime family event that it was for my sister and brother-in-law, after seeing the positive effect that having doula support had on their new family...

I only feel mildly self-conscious in using this term - I felt called to do it.

This past week, I attended my longest birth so far as a doula.  It won't be the longest I ever attend.  It had a lot of factors that made it new and exciting and unique and scary, and because I want my clients to trust my promise of confidentiality I won't go into great details.  I will say that I felt such a deep connection with this couple that it was truly an honor to be there with them.  I loved every minute of it, even the minutes fraught with uncertainty and fear and waiting waiting waiting.  To be a part of their once-in-a-lifetime experience...I can't express my gratitude to have been able to have been a part and to have helped.

Sundays I usually like to have my whole day open so I can do...whatever.  My laundry.  Watch Orange is the New Black until my eyeballs pop out of my head.  Today, I took a class for myself, gave a Thai Yoga Massage, met with a new doula client and her husband, and attended the 3rd birthday party of a wonderful little boy I've known since he was...I don't even know - maybe 3 months old?  My husband finally got to meet the beautiful community of Astoria moms and their kids that I've known through The Giving Tree Yoga Studio and loved for roughly 2.5 years, some of them when their babies were still in the belly.

I mean...damn.

The words "blessed," "grateful," "honored," "humbled" - a lot of them are overused, used for humble-bragging, for compliment-fishing, and because of that they're so often dismissed or used ironically.  Lord knows I love mockery as much as the next guy.  But I find sometimes it makes it difficult to truly express those pure feelings.  Because it's naive?  It makes people uncomfortable?  It makes them roll their eyes and gag a little bit at the saccharine of it all?  It shines a light on an element of their own life that maybe isn't going so great?

For better or for worse - the Internets are here to say.  Good, bad, ugly - it all gets out there these days.  We're the guardians of how much we share and how we share it.  My life isn't perfect and it's not always sunshine and rainbows, but dammit - I just feel really, really, really, really blessed today.  I could not love what I do more.  As one of my heroes, Buddy the Elf would say, "I'm in love, I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it!"

And to make up for all the joy, if it's too much for your modern sensibilities - a great NYTimes article on the use and abuse of #blessed on social media.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August is the new January

Oh, hello.  This old thing.

Six weeks!  Has it been six weeks?  That's probably the longest I've gone without updating this guy.  It's of course been near the bottom of my to-do list for probably about the last 3 of these weeks, and with every passing day that I don't write, I get more and more in my head about what I should write and why do I still have this blog when I feel like it had much more purpose and structure and direction when I started it five years ago, and no one really reads it anyway, and the last thing the Internet needs is one more blog about yoga or whatever the hell this blog is about now - blah de blah.

So, with no clear direction or easily boxed-in-able topic, I'm writing again!  The Whole30 was an excellent way to get me back on the blogging horse, but it has long since passed - but not without leaving a seriously lasting impact.  Plenty of programs say that they will change your life, and I often find it not to be the case, but the Whole30 really was life-changing.

That's not to say I didn't fall hardcore off the wagon and back to a lot of old habits (which I did - so many leftover cookies from Atlas & Zoe's birthday party!!!) and not to say that I haven't felt mopey despair after said moments of falling off the wagon into impulsive, binge-y eating, but overall the choices I make when I eat, the habits I've formed, and the way I think about it has changed, and for the better.  I have my eye on doing another Whole30, maybe in the fall, and definitely around the New Year.  My mom and Jim have both embarked on the journey as well, losing weight and gaining health which makes me immeasurably happy and proud.

One of these days, I'm going to drag Marc along with me on the journey...

After getting back from SC, I immediately hit the ground running back to the NYC hustle.  Teaching, managing, and doula-ing (and RUNNING!) have been taking up my time, although the changes of our schedule in the summer have allowed for blessed pockets of free time that are nowhere to be found in the much busier fall, and for that I am so very grateful.

August always feels like - and I'm sure I write this sentence in this blog every single year, and I expect to do so for every year to come - a second chance at a New Year's Resolution-type fresh start.  It's the calm before the back-to-school storm where there's a little chance in these days of gorgeous late summer to reflect and reconnect with what I really want and how I really want to live.

This August in particular I feel drawn to reconnect to that fresh-start feeling that I'm so addicted to via two of my all-time favorite books - My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor and that ubiquitous soul-stirring book of women of my generation and beyond, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

And just last night I finished a new addition to those beautiful books by strong women - Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.  Obviously drawn to it from the phenomenal Netflix series that I have been obsessed with the past few weeks as I finally finished season 3, the book bears striking similarities to Taylor & Gilbert's books - except instead of a stroke or a crippling divorce leading to world travel, the catalyst is prison.  It's an incredible book on a personal level and even more so on a larger, societal level.  It sparks a tremendous amount of outrage at the waste, inefficiency, inhumanity, and lack of common sense in our prison systems.  It's worth the read for that, the humor, the sisterhood, and the personal strength and resilience Kerman exhibits.


I could go on and on, because like I said, this particular entry clearly has no defined structure or message, but I won't.  It's enough just that I wrote, for those three of you kind people who read it.  This old girl is 5 years old and I can't let her go just yet!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Whole30 DONE

It's my I DID IT! post!  And I did it!  Hooray!

I finished the Whole30, and while I'm proud of myself for doing it, I'm more proud (and surprised!) by how easy it was.  I thought it was going to be a form of self-torture, but...it was not that hard.  There were challenging moments, but I was never holding a bag of tortilla chips and weeping because I couldn't eat them.  I just ate something else instead...and then felt good about my choice and moved on to more important things in my day then my food choices.

As they say in the Whole30 rules:

It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. - See more at: http://whole30.com/step-two/#sthash.cUOb5LDE.dpuf

It required more time in the kitchen - and sadly, more money spent at the grocery store - but I love spending time in the kitchen.  Sure, it was sometimes challenging to find the time, but it's all about priorities.

I probably could have eaten fewer nuts and slightly more green vegetables on certain days, but especially considering my first client's long labor earlier in the month and my lack of a dominant arm last week, I feel like I did really well.

I feel fantastic, most importantly.  I finally stepped on the scale (which is not allowed during the 30 days) and am almost at my wedding weight, which I never thought I'd see again!  I honestly want to continue eating like this 90% of the time.

Now don't get me wrong...I have a gigantic glass of red wine with my name on it tonight and I will be having chocolate.  But it'll be a paleo, just-a-little-honey-for-sweetener dessert that I make myself.

I'm figuring out the best reintroduction schedule for what I really want to pinpoint - my big question mark foods that I know I'm allergic to are corn, milk, and wheat (and also eggs, but I've been surviving fine without them).  I'm fortunate that I'll get a chance to reintroduce everything, with Whole30-style days in between so I can really evaluate how each food/food group is affecting me, before heading down to SC to stay with my sister and soak up my beautiful Atlas and Zoe.

I'm a little nervous about spending a week putting the health and feeding of two other tiny people ahead of my own after being so hyper-vigilant with my diet for the past month and a half.  Whole30 isn't exactly fast/convenient food!  It'll be really disappointing and challenging if I find out that gluten/wheat upsets my stomach or dairy makes my eczema explode.  If I find that out, I'll figure it out and do my best to work around it.  But I will be having birthday cake, dammit.  You only turn 1 once!

Overall, this was a fantastic experience.  I could see myself doing this again in January as a post-holiday/birthday reset!

For tonight though...I am ready for my wine, please.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Whole30, Day 24 Update

Holy moly.  If last week's lesson was to take me out of constantly thinking about me and food and how it's all affecting me, this week's is a big smack in the face (or in my left arm) to remind me that life is random and no matter how good a handle you may think you have on your health - we are ultimately not in control.

(Ironically, not being in control is also a theme expounded upon during Jurassic World.  Which despite being depressingly non-feminist, was super fun)

So this week's adventure: I got bursitis in my elbow and it got infected.  Lord only knows how on earth this happened.  I didn't even know what bursitis was (it's this), and then suddenly my left ( and dominant, of course) arm was in excruciating pain and I could no longer bend it.

But what?  This diet is supposed to REDUCE inflammation in my body!  WTF!  Also, this apparently happens mainly to elderly people...and I'm 30.

My sister's wise answer:  "Bodies do weird things sometimes."

Why did she get a tumor in her jaw a few years ago that ruptured and became infected?  Why did my mom need knee surgery when she never had a noticeable incident or accident to injure it?  Why do otherwise healthy, vibrant, fabulous people get cancer?

It doesn't mean throw in the towel and don't work hard on your health.  It's actually all the more reason to take an active role in your health and well-being.  That way, the things that diet, sleep, exercise, etc can help, prevent, or control are as taken care of as they can be.  As for the rest?  Bodies just do weird things sometimes.  The better your baseline health, the better shot you have at dealing with the weird curveballs.

It's been a frustrating and humbling few days.  I think Monday evening was one of my strongest moments in terms of temptation - lord, how I wanted tortilla chips, wine, and chocolate.  It was all I could do to keep from polishing off an entire bag of dates when I got home after the weirdness and pain and stress and frustration of the day.  I'm thankful Marc was home yesterday during the worst of it to help dress me and feed me and bathe me and try to give me perspective and to do pretty much everything for me.  I'm thankful to live in a country with access to antibiotics - this would totally have killed me on the Oregon Trail, but instead it's just a temporary injury that will hopefully get knocked the hell out as soon as possible.

Tempted though I've been (and man, being home alone from work is prime breeding ground for boredom-eating for me) during this little curveball, I've stuck to Whole30.  Buying a $5.00 grilled salmon at a grocery store Monday after Urgent Care and awkwardly eating it on the subway - holding it arm's length in my immobilized left arm while stabbing at it with the fork in my nondominant right hand - was worth it to stay on plan and probably hilarious to everyone around me.

I always get very angry and very frustrated when I get sick or injured and my best laid plans get knocked around.  It's good for my control-freak to be shaken up like this, as much as I hate it.  Once I get over it, it always helps when I'm humbled with a bit of perspective.  I don't need to eat through a straw for weeks on end like my sister, I don't need knee surgery like my mom, and I don't have frigging cancer.  Time to suck it up and heal and move on!

To that end...time to end this entry and ice my elbow.  I've got a 5 mile race to run on Sunday (and possibly a woman to help through labor between now and then!) in celebration of my hamstring's PT "graduation."  Though it's totally like me to get totally randomly injured before a race and just keep pressing on like an idiot, I'm going to not push it and just cross my fingers that come race day I'll be healthy and 5-mile ready.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whole30, Day 18 Update

Just barely squeaking this into Week 3.  It's been a crazy one.  One of my two doula clients for this month had her baby on Tuesday, and it was an extremely intense almost-24 hours.  I stayed on track, Whole30 wise, but the circumstances surrounding the birth and everything else has shot Whole30 firmly into the backseat of my priorities!

I've been a little disoriented and my sleep has gotten off track a bit as a result.  I'm supposed to be in the "Tiger Blood" phase of feeling amazing, and I'm sure I will be once I feel like I'm back to normal.

I also just don't feel right writing about my little Whole30 adventure when just 48 hours ago I was in the midst of a much more intense life event for my wonderful client and her amazing family.  It feels quite small by comparison, but out of respect for her privacy I can't go into any details about the birth or how I've been processing it (let alone how she's been).

For now, I'm just happy to have posted something on the blog, as I'm trying to stay faithful to updating once a week.  I'm also quite proud to have stayed on the plan - never have I wanted a glass of wine more than when I was walking home on Tuesday night!  I will hopefully have something more substantive to say next week, and when my next client goes into labor I plan to be just as well prepared to take care of myself while taking care of her!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Whole30, Day 9 Update

Hello hello!  I'm actually writing a blog post within a week of my last one - will wonders never cease.  I'm hoping to finally jump back on board to consistency with this thing.

Consistency is actually one of the biggest gifts I think I've gotten from the Whole30 so far.  Strangely, I don't feel compelled to blog much about food - although I will obviously mention it!  Maybe that's where I should start:

First of all, I do not feel deprived - generally speaking.  The food I'm eating is so delicious and because I absolutely love to cook, I'm still feeling excited about the program because I'm learning so many new recipes and having to get much more creative than usual.  According to the Whole30 Timeline, I'm encroaching on the point where a lot of people have to really fight temptation to quit.  A big cause is often food boredom.  I'm feeling incredibly grateful that I'm not falling into that category!  The Whole30 book and their awesome recipes are a big part of that.

Now, did I almost dive head-first into the bowl of tortilla chips at my friend Gemma's 30th birthday party this weekend?  Did I want my friend Morgan's insanely amazing fig gin?  Did I cry inside a little because I had to pass up incredible Brooklyn farmer's market cheese my friends Aaron and Lu brought for our Tony Night Extravaganza?  Do I miss chocolate and wine almost as much as I miss my nephews and niece?

Yes.

HOWEVER - my enjoyment of the program, excitement of the benefits I know I will reap, and my desire to really, truly, honestly complete it are all stronger than those things.  It's pretty amazing to acknowledge that there is a force in my willpower stronger than chocolate.  Brave new world.

So what does consistency have to do with this?

Because I've had to be so completely on-top of meal planning, what I'm eating, label-reading, and so consciously in tune with my body (such as nixing eggs - sadface), I've naturally fallen back into good habits that I've tried to maintain for so long.  The Whole30 program is also huge on the importance of sleep - and even if it wasn't, my lack-of-sugar crashes on Wednesday and Thursday were epic enough that sleep just shoved its way to the front of the importance line - and so I've been guarding my sleep even more fiercely than usual. (For those who know me well - I know it's hard to imagine me guarding my sleep more fiercely than usual, yet it has happened)

My body has always naturally been early-to-bed, early-to-rise, but a lot of things will often conspire to get in the way of that.  This past nine days, I have been consistent with that, which has lead to more time in the morning, which has lead to a consistent morning routine, which I always pine for but so often just completely suck at maintaining.  I've blogged/whined about it more times than I can count.

My mornings are now open enough that I can fit in all of the stuff that I both need and want to do for my health:  mobility work (for physical therapy), meditation, journaling, finally becoming consistent in taking my supplements, and dry brushing.  Then by the time my day starts, I actually feel settled instead of rushing around like a maniac and barely getting out the door in time!

Overall, I feel like with Whole30, rather than putting the emphasis on sad, scary deprivation, the emphasis has turned to my overall health.  It's been really awesome so far, even with the crazy brain-fog sugar crashes, and I'm really excited to keep going.  I can already tell it's having a huge, huge impact on my overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Whole30: Day 1

First of all, I can't believe it's been a month since I've written.  For shame!

The good news is, May was a pretty awesome month overall.  I bought a one month unlimited new student special at Y7, a fabulous hot yoga studio just upstairs from Karma Kids Yoga.  (Can't beat that for convenience!)  Extra yoga, more running with my physical therapist and on my own, a race to look forward to at the end of June (my first in over 18 months!!!) and a gloriously long Memorial Day weekend in PA to visit Marc - I can't find much to complain about!

Except...

Like every other person in this country, I have a funny relationship with food.  I was a deeply, deeply picky eater (my poor mother) as a kid.  Although I also had allergy testing as a tween that revealed some strong allergic reactions to corn, wheat, milk - you name it - I never made an effort to cut any of these foods out.  I honestly would have subsisted only on carrots and celery if I had done that because I was just so. damn. picky.

I didn't start making a conscious effort to eat vegetables or connect the dots between not just food and weight but food and health until my early 20's.  Becoming a runner and a yogi at that time got me more into cooking and my sister's forays into the culinary world helped expand my previous palate of cheese-chocolate-noodles. It didn't necessarily help my massive addiction and emotional attachment to chocolate, but you know - baby steps.  I flirted briefly with vegetarianism after moving to New York and starting my vinyasa yoga teacher training...and then I started dating Marc LeVasseur and was reminded that I am a carnivore for life!

I've gone through different phases, like everyone else, when it comes to healthier eating.  Sometimes I'm more in sync with it than others, sometimes I'm more motivated than others.  Pre-wedding or during a yoga teacher training = High motivation.  Laid out by an injury during a polar vortex an unable to do any of the physical activity that makes me feel strong and healthy = Low motivation.

I think it's because May was an overall good month, health-wise, that I'm inspired to take on this dietary experiment with myself.  As I wrote in my last entry, I've struggled with eczema and skin issues my whole life.  While switching over to more homemade products has been helping, it's also made me pay closer attention to it and to how I feel overall.  After a wine-and-chocolate-and-popcorn-and-you-name-it bender of a Memorial Day weekend, I felt pretty crappy and my skin was furious with me.

As fate and Facebook would have it, I noticed a random post from my fantastic former yoga teacher and current CrossFit guru Keith about the less-than-healthiness of legumes.  I've never understood why legumes were "vilified" by some nutritional camps, and when I asked him about it he provided a link that led me to reading about Whole30 - which I recalled my good friend Gemma committing to do for the month of May.

After reading more about it, I was hooked on the idea.  It's not permanent, and it's not exactly a diet.  It's a 30-day nutritional reset.  It's pretty damn intimidating to look at the rules and what not to eat, so let's start with what I will be eating the next 30 days:  Lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices & seasonings.

Now, the list of what I will not be eating:  grains of any kind, legumes (this includes peanuts and soy), dairy (!!), alcohol (!!), and added sugar of any kind, including honey and agave (!!!!).

There's a lot of stuff I love deeply on that list above - which is why this isn't forever!  The purpose of this re-set is to basically learn more about myself and how food affects me - physically, psychologically, and emotionally.  Physically, the factors that the above foods on the "no" list can adversely affect are digestion, skin (big one for me), energy level, sleep, and general inflammation.  Psychologically and emotionally, it forces me to detach from the habit of turning to a glass of wine or a brownie (or as so often happens, two or three or five) to unwind at the end of a long day, or to eat all the mini peanut butter cups in the Karma Kids fridge (sorry, Shari!) during that 3:00 crash because I need/deserve/whatever a mid-day treat.  The habit of chocolate with every meal (yep, even breakfast.  I'm a master of chocolate chip oatmeal variations).

This stuff is honestly a big part of my identity.  I'm passionate about good wine, I love to cook, and it's something Marc and I both love and bond with together (we went to France on our honeymoon specifically for this reason!)  After life as such a picky kid, it's exciting and liberating to be at a point where I'll try almost anything new and like almost anything that's put in front of me.  And when you live in New York City, the culinary possibilities are endless!

But as I said - this is not forever, and it's not a diet.  It's a venture to improve my health, my relationship with food, and to allow me more awareness of how what I eat affects me.  When I reintroduce corn, does that cause my skin to flare up?  When I reintroduce gluten, how will that affect my digestion?  I'm curious to see if my hamstring (which has been healing really well thanks to physical therapy) feels better at the end of the thirty days too.  I've had a couple medical professionals recommend I eliminate one thing or another from my diet but it all sounded like too much deprivation to me and just not worth it.  I guess I'm just at a point now - maybe it's because we recently turned 30, maybe it's because more people in our circle of friends and family have started to have serious health concerns - where having the information is worth it.  Information on my health trumps dessert.  (And I can honestly tell you that is something I never thought I would say!)

So, here we go.  Day #1 of 30.  I'm nervous and excited.  I'm curious how bad the sugar crash/cravings will be.  I'm wondering how I'll do at social events without alcohol.  But I suppose all will be revealed.

More information about the Whole30 can be found here, and I'll be one of those annoying people posting food pictures on Instagram at yoginiannie.  (I sort of already am one of those people, but this month it'll have way less cheese and chocolate!)  Not every meal, because - good lord.  But I'll be there!  Anyone care to join me?


...anyone?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Au Naturel

(No, this post is not about nudity.  Sorry.)

I've had sensitive skin forever and a day.  I still have eczema, though it's less severe than when I was a child, thank god, and growing up I suffered from a tremendous amount of allergies.  A few years ago, when I started falling into the yoga scene and learning what organic meant, I started to get interested in a more natural approach to my skin care, cosmetics, and housecleaning.  This essentially led to me spending an insane amount of money on boutique organic brands of all manner of products, and then years later realizing I couldn't afford it and then going to back to good ol' reliable Dove and Clorox.

Although I knew there was an alternative to that, I think it was a healthy combination of intimidation and laziness that kept me from exploring it - homemade!

Yes, I know DIY is so five-years-ago.  (Or maybe ten)  But sometimes I'm slow to catch on.

My older sister paved the way for me when she started exploring homemade recipes for lotion and household cleaning products a few years ago.  This makes sense, especially considering she used to be a chef so she has no fear of trying a new recipe, whatever it might be for.  With the arrival of the babies, she became even more concerned about the quality of ingredients she uses in essentially everything in her house.

Sadly, I think what finally tipped me over the edge to trying it was money related!  It has to be cheaper to buy your own and make your own stuff then to keep paying $15 every time you need more lotion, right?

Using the power of Google to find good recipes, the power of Amazon.com to buy ingredients in bulk, and essential oils, which I'm also starting to dip my toes into, I have finally, after years of curiosity, jumped on board and have made my first homemade beauty products.  Hooray for me!

I'm excited to see the effects of cleansing my face with the mix of castor and sunflower oil (with a tiny bit of tea tree, Vitamin E, and jojoba), skipping moisturizer, and my homemade lotion on my perpetually dry, pesky skin.  It's super easy and fun to make, and pretty easy to correct if you feel like you've screwed up.

Below is a recipe my sister used that we've both adapted with extra touches here and there from the blog WellnessMama - she calls it her Luxurious Homemade Lotion Recipe.  You can find the full post and more from her here.

Ingredients
  • ½ cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup beeswax
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter
  • Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (8 ounce) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Use as you would regular lotion. This has a longer shelf life than some homemade lotion recipes since all ingredients are already shelf stable and not water is added. Use within 6 months for best moisturizing benefits.
Notes
A little goes a long way! This lotion is incredibly nourishing and is also great for diaper rash on baby, for eczema and for preventing stretch marks!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shoutout (aka - five years!)

I've been mulling over and over in my head what to write about in the four weeks since I've last written.  Actually - make that the last two weeks since I got back from being Annie the Nanny to my sister's twins for a week.  Prior to that, those two chubby faces were all that was on my mind!

My last entry was all about slowly easing back into my own yoga practiced.  That hasn't stopped by any means, and I'm very grateful for it.  My busy schedule doesn't always allow for classes, but when it does I've been much more proactive about where and how I spend my time, and it's really been helping me.

Blogging on the other hand...I've just felt flat-out uninspired lately.  I'm not sure exactly what the reason is or how to climb out of it.  I think part of it has to do with the fact that I have just felt over saturated in general - inundated via my lovely Facebook friends with endless articles that might catch my fancy on yoga, on pregnancy, on parenthood, on health, on fitness, on eating, on relationships - you name it.  We are more in the information age than ever before, and sometimes I think I just have article fatigue.  So maybe I feel weird contributing yet more noise to this over saturated little world of blogs and online articles.  Maybe I'm just waiting until I feel like I have something truly awesome to say.

However - today is the five-year anniversary of my start to this ol' thing, and for most of those five years I have been super devoted to writing once a week, every damn week.  Even on the weeks it was a bit of a cheat - just posting a link to a YouTube video, for instance, or another post written by someone else.

It feels like I should write in the ol' girl on our five year anniversary.  So with that in mind, here is what I wrote in my first entry.  Is it narcissistic to think that it's cute?  It's kind of cute.  Anyway - enjoy!


Greetings, Blogverse!  I am officially joining the ranks of the millions, billions, and/or zillions of self published and self proclaimed gurus of the Internets.  Who am I to do this, you ask?

Well, I'm Annie Foster, first of all.  Most of you reading this probably know me but if not - hello! I'm starting this little ol' yoga blog for various reasons.  I'm a southern girl who moved up to the Big City from beautiful Virginia this past September.  I had no idea how dramatically and positively it would change my life.

I've practiced yoga for about 7 years total.  It started as an off-and-on thing for when I had access to a gym or did a yoga tape (remember tapes?).  I started practicing more consistently during my senior year at beautiful Christopher Newport University, and after graduating in 2007 my practice really began to deepen.  I thought about becoming a teacher, but lack of confidence, scheduling challenges, or lack of money always made it seem impossible. After I decided to finally take the plunge and move to New York, it was clear there would be no better time (or place!) in my life to finally sign up for a training program.

I chose Sonic Yoga in Hell’s Kitchen for my 200-hour training, and it was the best thing I have ever done for myself.  The teachers there are phenomenal, and the program is life changing.

Since the program ended in December, I’ve striven to continue what I view as just the beginning of a lifelong journey in not just teaching yoga but becoming a better student of yoga.  My teachers referred to the 200 hour training as “yoga nursery school.”  Having graduated and subsequently been thrown into the big world of articles, books, classes, styles, workshops, not to mention more clothes, accessories, and various merchandise than anyone could possibly wrap their brains around, I’ve been yearning for some kind of outlet to help me make sense of this big yoga universe I’ve plunged into.

Hence: blog.

As my career as a full time yoga teacher starts taking its first steps and leaps I hope to make this blog an extension of everything I learn through both study and experience.  I plan to share thoughts on books I’ve read, concepts I’ve learned, and start a conversation with all the lovely souls who are kind enough to read it.

The past couple of weeks have been full of first steps for me as a teacher.  I subbed my first studio class and secured my first regular studio class, both at Creative Vibrations.  I'll be teaching there Mondays at 5:00pm and I'm very excited.  I also taught my first private client (or the first private client who wasn't already my friend, I should say!) last week.  I'm nearly finished collaborating with the excellent Billy Griffin to launch my yoga website.  I have my first exposure to the amazing world of Thai Yoga Massage via the Integral Yoga Instituteand will soon have my first 5-day intensive there to become certified.  Lots of stuff is happening and I hope this can be a place where I share all that I learn through my study and practice yoga!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Starting Home

I've been distant lately, not just from the blog but from so much of what it represents in terms of my connection to a spiritual practice, a physical practice, my health - all that beautiful stuff I started this blog to explore and blather on about.

Since last January, after the marathon led to my hamstring, my foot, then my hamstring again being injured, I've been slowly retreating further and further from running, yoga, and any other type of physical activity.  I didn't want to in the least, but I found I had to.  It's been very frustrating, and I've written a lot about it.  I started the amazing journey with my physical therapist back in late September to try to get me all fixed, and while I'm not 100%, I'm so much better.  I haven't done much running aside from some glorious barefoot 5-minutes-at-a-time sessions back in October and November - before the polar vortex came to stay - but those little sessions were amazing and so different from what I'd been used to and so hard.

I've missed the mood and energy boost from working out just as much as the physical effects, and I recently discovered yet another thing I missed about being active - the extra willpower.  I've always had an emotional and contentious relationship with food, and varying degrees of inactivity brought me back to that full swing.

Even after making big strides in physical therapy, I still almost never took a yoga class for myself in these past almost six months.  Either I was afraid of aggravating my hamstring further (after months of recklessly pushing myself last spring and early summer, I'm done taking chances) or just felt like I was too damn busy and the last thing I needed after a full day of teaching was to spend more time in downdog.

And yet.

I remember talking to a beautiful yoga teacher who is, sadly for me but wonderfully for her, moving to Colorado soon after getting married this weekend (which, if I may say, is a pretty awesome weekend to get married) awhile ago about this.  She mentioned that she was taking a class with a teacher we both loved later that day, after just having told me she'd already taught some ridiculously high number of classes already (kids and grown-ups).  When I asked how on earth she could possibly manage to do more yoga after all of that, she just responded very matter-of-factly that she needed to keep time for her own practice too.

That little exchange has come back to me every so often, and it's been a little bug in my ear more and more lately as I've emerged from a truly insane February and the city emerges from a truly brutal winter.

Yesterday, I practiced at Astoria's lovely Yoga Agora with my absolute best friend in the world first thing in the morning.  And just this evening, I practiced at one of my beautiful home studios, The Giving Tree Yoga Studio right down the street for a delicious 90 minute, half flow-half restorative class.

The amount of mental and emotional weight I can feel having melted out of myself is pretty amazing after just those two classes in two days.  Even today, after teaching 5 kids classes in the morning and one adult private in the evening, I am so happy I dragged myself back out into the wind from my warm apartment to take a class.  All of that plus the beautiful feeling of not being physically spent, exactly, but just knowing that I did work for myself.

When I'm teaching, I'm either playing or demonstrating.  I think I've forgotten what a massive difference there is between that and taking - even if I were to take a class of the exact same sequence that I may have taught.  It sounds obvious to be writing it out, but I never quite realized it.  When I'm practicing, it's my breath, I set my pace, I make modifications if I need to, I let myself be led and cared for by a teacher.  Not only that, I get inspired as a teacher to steal whatever wonderful things I'm doing or hearing to bring back to my students.  I can get stuck in ruts from time to time and I can't believe I forgot how necessary it is to shake things up.

So there we go.  I practiced, and I've revisited this neglected, dusty old blog.  Slowly but surely I'm getting back to a place where I'm carving out time for my physical practice, which always puts me on a road to being happier and saner.