Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Sounds of Silence

Full disclosure:  As I write this, I am bouncing and fidgeting in my seat with anticipation and excitement at seeing my sister in an hour.  Just one hour!!!  I can't take it.  It's her first kid-free, husband-free getaway since the kiddos were born, and we are going to eat all the food.

Since my attention will be 100% swept away this week as a result, I'm writing today.

This morning marked another first in my return to running - or as I'm referring to it for now, (w)running, because my intervals for any given run contain a higher ratio of walking than running as I ease back in.  My left heel, for the record, feels great - about 98% recovered after these frustrating last six months of recovery.  My right big toe, which I just stubbed stupidly on New Year's Eve, is still talking to me a little it.  It's always something...

Today was my first run post-injury that I did with zero headphones.  No music, no podcasts, no nothing (except my running app telling me when to walk).  Nothing in my ears but the sound of my breath, my steps, and my neighborhood.  It's an absolutely invaluable form of meditation that I didn't even realize how much I missed.

I've been desperately missing the endorphins from running these last six months.  I've missed being outside, I've missed that active alone time, I've missed romance runs with Marc, the chance to do training runs with Laura, missed running into friends in the park, missed the unmatched feeling of having accomplished something great before most people (non parent-people, anyway) are awake on a Sunday morning.

The silence - the head space, if you will - was something I forgot about.  It's one of those things that you know is good for you, you know you genuinely enjoy, yet you sort of sabotage yourself on.  We've become conditioned to always be looking for the next source of information input, and so I feel I have to have a podcast or a playlist or I won't enjoy myself.  I keep forgetting - my own company is pretty awesome, and it's so important to give my brain time and space to wander off.  Plus, nothing is motivating like a really detailed daydream about running the NYC marathon.

If you're not a runner, take a walk - or do a solo yoga practice that you make up as you go along with no music and no guidance.  Find some kind of activity with which you'd normally have some background noise and turn off the noise.  It's one of the easiest and most satisfying shortcuts to presence.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to open your heart, even when you're tired. Or lazy. Or both!

Happy (day after) Valentine's Day!  Or as I like to think of it, Love & Chocolate day.  It's always been one of my favorite holidays, even though I spent most of them single in my teens and early twenties.  I never wanted to be one of those negative, bitter folks about it - why force it into a pigeonhole of just being about romantic love?  We all have people we love in our lives, and my God, who doesn't love an excuse to eat all the chocolate?

This week, in the spirit of opening and sharing our hearts around Valentine's Day, I want to share one of my favorite restorative poses - a pose I love all the more because I actually cannot stand the non-restorative version of it.

Matsyasana, or fish pose, is a very intense upper-back-and-neck backbend.  For me, there is nothing restful or peaceful or pleasant about it.  My neck doesn't like going that far back, my throat doesn't like being that exposed, and I always feel like my shoulders are shoving themselves into my ears.

From YogaJournal.com, as photographed by David Martinez.  Not my fave...
The restorative version of this pose, however, is absolutely delicious for a variety of reasons.  First of all, there are a billion different ways to do it.  Even though my favorite version involves two yoga blocks, you can enjoy this pose even if you don't own a single yoga-related item (including a mat).  You can use a yoga bolster, pillows, rolled up or folded up blankets, or even super thick books to mimic the feel and heigh of blocks.

The fact that I couldn't find a picture of my favorite way to do it on the Internets just shows you how many ways there are to enjoy this deliciousness - check out the variety of a Google image search of it.

The idea is to support yourself and prop yourself up until you are 100% comfortable and can sustain your position for 5-15 minutes.  (Or longer!)  Prop up either starting at the base of your spine or just below the shoulder blades - you can either prop the head up so it's level, or give yourself a hint of that big throat opener by letting it rest on the ground or propping it up a little lower than your heart.

In restorative fish, take slow, deep breaths with a focus on the inhalation and the deep expansion of the ribcage.  You can keep your focus on the breath or come into any number of visualizations.  Imagine the breath massaging or soothing your heart, or imagine your heart as a warm, shining beacon of light.  Or, you know.  Just relax and take a little yoga nap.

Pictured with smaller-than-average yoga blocks - I prefer a slightly thicker block, but it still feels deeeeelicious.
It's a lovely (and yes, cutesy) pose for this full-of-love holiday, but it's also a really great pose to take in the thick of winter.  Walking around the city, we all scrunch our shoulders up and hunch forward to stave off the cold and wind, leading to caveman posture and ridiculously tight chests and shoulders.

Bonus points - take a deep breath of some essential oils (like Eucalyptus, Peppermint, or a blend like doTerra's Breathe) to really open up.  You can also put your feet together and add on supported baddha konasana (or cobbler's pose / butterfly) by supporting your knees with blankets, pillows, or blocks.  YUM.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Running. Just in time.

I have to start by saying - I should really plan on writing my blog before reading the news.  My plan was simply to write about the absolute joy and glory and gratitude of finally, finally, FINALLY - after almost six months - I went on my first walk/run since my injury.  And as of this morning, my second!

And then - Betsy DeVos and the inevitable gutting of our public schools.  HR 861.  A permeating feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, despair, rage.  A feeling that all the phone calls and protests are for naught.  How can I write about something so trivial as running after all of that?

Because running will be an absolutely essential tool for my sanity during these hard times.  Last week I touched a bit on self care, and running is really more of the same.  Part of why it's been so hard not to run is that it automatically gives me more energy and confidence and ability to take other people's crap without taking it on.  Running doesn't just make me physically stronger and more powerful, it makes me mentally and emotionally stronger and more powerful.

If there's one thing the left needs over these next years, it's strength and power.

I'm starting slow.  Walking for 4 minutes, running for 1 in intervals for 30 minutes this week.  Seeing how I feel.  Checking in with my feet. (Yes, feet plural - my right big toe doesn't want to feel left out of all the attention my left heel is getting) But even that slow, steady start is bringing back a strength and a joy that I haven't felt in so long I almost forgot how amazing it feels.

We're going to get knocked down a lot in the coming years, no doubt about it.  What matters is the strength to get back up and fight harder and smarter with each subsequent issue worth fighting for.   I waited about a thousand times longer to get back to running then I thought I would have to when I first went to the doctor back in August, but there is no time like the present to get it all back.

Stay tuned for more about how my running - and eventual races - are going to be put toward good causes in this good fight.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Self care for the resistance

I was going to write much more about this, but it's one of those days where I honestly just don't have a lot to give.  Just posting feels like enough.  I fully admit that I am feeling beat down by all of the horrifying news that has been coming out.  Even if you put everything policy related aside, it's the attitude toward the press, purging the state department, firing the acting attorney general, and complete mismanagement and gag orders of government agencies that are really making it hard to sleep at night.

Luckily, we have helpful folks like this lady to help remind us to calm down and not operate in panic mode 24/7.  No one can survive that way - and no one can be useful that way.  Check out her article on medium.com here.

I promise next week I'll write with more perspective and elegance about how to find and embrace the good during these crazy times.  Today, I need to get away from the screen to not go crazy myself.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Report: Plan B (and its extreme timeliness)

Well, hello there on a Sunday!  My designated day of the week to post is Tuesday, and more often than not I'm dragging myself kicking and screaming to the computer, either feeling like I have nothing to say or that I have so much to say that there's no way I could even start.

After a week like this, well...it's definitely the latter.

Other blogging challenges for me lately have been political.  I make no secret that I'm a liberal (also, I'm a yoga teacher living in New York City - it doesn't take a genius to figure that one out) but in the past I usually tried to avoid anything too political on this blog.  I have plenty of conservative family and friends who I love and I don't like the idea of alienating anyone.

What's happening now in our country, though, is way beyond politics.  It's not about liberal or conservative, it's about decency and respect for the truth, about keeping with our core American values.

Again, as a yogi it should shock no one that I gravitated toward the calm, measured, thoughtful, educated candidate who practices meditation as opposed to the one who can't name a particular group of people without putting the othering "the" in front of them (i.e. "the" blacks, "the" gays, "the" Mexicans), and who has said, "Show me someone without an ego, and I'll show you a loser."

Even her slogan of "Stronger Together" is all about the true essence of what yoga is - connection, yoking together, all things being one.  Hell, it's our country's national motto - e pluribus unum.  Out of many, one.  So I strive to be inclusive rather than divisive, and at the same time feel a profound patriotic duty not to remain silent when the stakes are this high.

So where does this book come in?

In our fearless leader's absence, the fabulous ladies' book club I've been a part of for years has been left in my care.  At my friend Laura's insistence, and given the struggles we have to look forward to, I chose for our next book Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott.  It's a memoir about her improbable conversion to Christianity after being raised by fiercely atheist/agnostic parents and friends in California during the 60's and 70's.  I'm not a Christian, but Laura and Lisa (aforementioned fearless leader of our club) are, and I always love talking faith and spirituality with them.  They always inspire me.

In anticipation of loving Lamott (I already loved her memoir on writing, Bird by Bird) I stocked up on her stuff before heading to Costa Rica.  I wound up leaving Traveling Mercies with my wonderful mother-in-law, as it's right up her alley.  She is also a devout Christian, and while she doesn't share Lamott's poltiics (or mine, for that matter), she also grew up in California around the same time and found a lot to relate to.

So after devouring Traveling Mercies, I moved right along to Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.  It was written years after Traveling Mercies in the early throes of the Bush administration's tragic decision to go to war in Iraq.  It was so striking to find Lamott having such similar anxieties and feelings of writhing, angry powerlessness as I feel now.  It felt comforting to know she survived it - although I think we all agree we are in a wildly different league than with Bush.  At least he has class.

Although portions of Plan B would probably not be the most enjoyable read for a conservative - Lamott pulls zero punches with how she feels - it's not all politically focused.  Again, it's mostly a spiritual memoir about her faith, and she also talks a lot about being a mother, a friend, coping with her contentious relationship with her mother and her mother's Alzheimer's, and surviving life's challenges and tragedies.

Much of her books are collections of essays that Lamott has written for publications like Salon.  Happily, I can share with you in entirety one of my favorite essays of hers that had the most resonance.  This sentence in particular struck a chord in my heart, "I felt addicted to the energy of scorning my president.  I thought that if people like me stopped hating him, it would mean that he had won."  And thus follows an essay about one of the single hardest challenges of my life - the notion of forgiveness.

Later, she goes on to say:

Driving home, I tried to hold on to what I'd heard that day: that loving your enemies was nonnegotiable.  It meant trying to respect them, it meant identifying with their humanity and weakness.  It didn't mean unconditional acceptance of their crazy behavior.  They were still accountable for the atrocities they'd perpetrated, as you were accountable for yours.  But you worked at doing better, at loving them, for the profoundest spiritual reason:  You were trying not to make things worse. 


It touches on an element that I've struggled with a lot all election season.  To be passionate without going crazy.  To be informed without becoming obsessed.  To have some peace in your heart, even if the news makes you despair.  It's like the old quote, often attributed to the Buddha - "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of hurting another person - you are the one who gets burned."

The entire essay is really worth a read:  "Loving Bush, Day 2."  And just go ahead and order the book, which is seriously worth it:  Plan B:  Further Thoughts on Faith

---

Yesterday was exhilarating.  The women's march in literally all 7 continents did my heart so much good.  To feel so connected, to feel so one, with so many people was heartening.

But it hasn't fundamentally changed anything - not yet, at least.  The work that is yet to be done is less fun, and much harder.  We still have a President who sends his press secretary to dispute accurate reporting on the size of his inauguration crowd instead of actual life and death issues facing this country.  In attempting to protect his ego, he puts us all at risk.

Yet even though I'm not a Christian, and even though I am sure as hell not a Trump supporter, and even though I don't pray with much regularity or structure or faith that I'm actually being heard - I'm going to pray for this President.  I have never prayed regularly for a President before, not even Obama.  He did just fine without my help.

But I will be praying every. single. day. that whatever forces or Gods are out there help him to keep us safe.  Help him to keep him off his goddamn Twitter.  Help him to see truth and seek truth to the best of his ability, even if it's not that great.  I will be praying that he listen to the better angels of his nature - and he must have some, he is still a human being.  I will be praying that he grows a semblance of thick skin, that he can ignore inevitable criticism and get to work.  I will pray his attention span grows.  I will pray every single day.

And I will donate, and I will call, and I will write letters, and I will march when there are marches, and I will do everything in my power to stop him from destroying this country that I love.  We are the popular vote.  We are not going away.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whole 30 Round 4 / New Year's Round 2

So, tragically, we had to return to the US after a magical time in Costa Rica.  It was extraordinary beyond any description - we cried having to say goodbye, and have already made plans to return March 2018 to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary.

Every morning - with the exception of the morning we had surf lessons (so fun!!) - I did my very own yoga practice outside in an observation deck my father-in-law had built outside, just above the house.  Like the house itself, it has both a jungle view and an ocean view.  No guidance, no teacher but me.  No music, no soundtrack but nature.  I can't adequately describe how special and moving it was, each and every day, so I'll just the pictures speak a thousand words.

 It was so special getting to share my in-laws dream house with them and spending so much time together.  We were incredibly sad to part, but so grateful to them in knowing that this home is in our family forever.

Coming back, I wasted no time - Sunday was Day 1 of my 4th round of Whole30.  It's definitely the most whiplash-like I've ever done it, in the sense that the day before was full of non Whole30 foods and spent largely in the air, rather than in the kitchen prepping and cooking.
But having done it a few times gives me the advantage of having a predictable few simple, easy meals I can easily whip up.  My mom is joining me too, which always makes it easier and more fun!

So while I'm mourning the end of both vacation and the Obama administration, it feels like a second crack at New Year's.  A second crack at that feeling of fresh-start, of getting ourselves grounded.  Reaffirming resolutions, immediately taking drastic steps to improve my health on as many fronts as I can, and settling back in to our home sweet home feels really good.  Almost as good as the Costa Rican sun, but I'll still take it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Adios for now...

Sitting down to write this, I'm 100% distracted by wondering if I remembered to do everything on the eve of our first vacation in two years.  Did I tie up all the loose ends at work?  Did I pack everything?  Prepare everything?

I'm in a fairly scattered place to be writing a blog, is what I'm saying.

2016 decided not to leave without throwing in a few parting shots so very typical of the year.  I came down with a New Year's cold (feels like my 407th since November) and jammed the bejesus out of my right big toe, in a repeat of a minor injury (that I never got treated because I am so foolish sometimes) I got about three years ago.  It doesn't quite want to straighten on its own and while I can move it through a full range of motion, I can't do that without pain.

So, sigh.

Small potatoes, and immediate challenges to my sunny 2017 attitude.  I am 100% someone who buys into the magic of The New Year and resolutions and intentions and all of that.  So two things that are sure to set me off to all of my super unattractive and super un-yogic traits of being angry and sad and frustrated and self-pitying - being sick and being injured.  Check and check.

Luckily, my word for 2017 - Light.

Lighten up.  Spread light.  All the myriad of ways you can think of it.  I want more light.

There is a lot of darkness to come in 2017, and I want to fight against it without becoming a part of it.

Luckily, I'm about to go to Costa Rica - where I can soak up light by the absolute barrel-ful.

So I'll expound and pontificate on that more when I get back - hopefully with a clean bill of health, a fully functioning right toe, a fully healed and pain free left plantar fascia and heel, and a tan - but for now, I leave you with one of the most beautiful songs that make me think of my 2017 intention.  You should all listen to it.  Track 10, the last track of this totally lovely album by Leo Sidran.

Friday, December 30, 2016

There's an app for that

At the beginning of December, I wrote a blog post all about how in preparation for getting swept up into the annual madness that is the month of December, I wanted to really double down on all of my habits and be really proactive about taking care of my health - on the cold & flu front as well, the foot front, the workout front, the mental front - all the fronts.

I'm very proud to say that, along with the indulging, joy, stress, and travel that goes along with the holidays, I've done just that.  The biggest tool for me in maintaining my routines, habits, and health has been - because it's 2016 - an app.

I downloaded the Productive App at the end of June after seeing Marc use it, and I seriously can't believe I haven't written about it yet.  I use it religiously every single day to track habits that I want to keep up with - daily habits, weekly, monthly - it's incredibly flexible in the frequency you want to set.  There are plenty of built in suggestions as well as options for you to write your own.  If you go a whole day with every single habit done, it marks it as a "perfect" day - which as an upholder, gives me a ridiculous amount of joy.   When I went back last night to look at my overall progress, I saw that December had more days marked as "perfect" than any other month since I started using it - definitely not what I expected.

January and New Year's is a time that I love - I welcome any arbitrary excuse to find a fresh start, to renew or begin good habits and become introspective.  This app - and I don't use that many - has truly helped me to end this year on solid foundation so I can look ahead and aim even higher for 2017, instead of needing to use New Year's as catch-up.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Organizations to Donate for Aleppo Aid

I had an actual topic for an actual blog post planned today, but Aleppo looms too large.  Instead, and in the spirit of this season which is coming at the end of a violent, divisive, tumultuous year, I want to put some resources all in one place if you're looking to spread some charity and goodwill toward our fellow man (and women and children).

Save the Children Federation:  Donate to the Syrian Children's Relief Fund
"Save the Children is on the ground in Syria, and is helping refugee communities throughout the region, providing Syrian children and their families with emergency care, shelters, protection, clean water and warm clothes."


The Compassion Collective:  Together Rising
Touted by Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, and Glennon Doyle Melton, this charity is specifically aiming to create a mobile hospital.  More info here

Doctors Without Borders for Syria
Donate directly via this link to this group that gives desperately needed medical aid.

Hand in Hand for Syria

As the name suggests, a hands-on organisation which prides itself working directly with Syrians inside Syria, even when other aid organisations considered it too unsafe. They had a team inside Aleppo when it was over-run by Assad loyalists last week and are still sending aid into the area


There are certainly more, but this is a great place to start.


For our birthday's this year (mine was last Tuesday, Marc's was last Thursday) we agreed that we didn't need any stuff (especially since Christmas is right around the corner!) and agreed to donate to a charity of each others' choice for our birthday's.  Marc will likely choose an environmental cause, and my original plan was to give to the Center for Reproductive Rights (which could still use our money!), but the fact that Aleppo keeps hitting bottom and sinking lower and becoming more desperate - that's now where my birthday money is going.  


Please, please, please, find something you can sacrifice out of your holiday season this year and let's put our money, resources, and prayers to where they are truly and desperately needed.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Music Share - Winter Playlist

I am 100% using my birthday, Marc's birthday, and the birthday of my client's beautiful baby all happening in one week (not to mention the rockin Karma Kids Yoga holiday party) as an excuse for not having an original blog this week.

Instead, please accept my offering of my newest playlist - songs that make me think of winter (or that just go with the songs that make me think of winter).

I'm particularly obsessed with Leslie Odom, Jr's version of Winter and his incredible new album Simply Christmas.  Check it out on Spotify!