Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Steadiness in the midst of change


One of the hardest things for a lot of people to fully accept and comprehend is that life is change.  Everything changes all the time.  Whether it be struggling to accept the change brought by a loved one's death, by the ending of a job, a relationship, or even something as simple as a favorite brand of food being discontinued, it's hard to roll with change.  Even positive change can be a source of stress, worry, and fear.

The concept of resiliency, therefore, is something that really appeals to me.  Even more appealing?  My wonderful, wonderful teacher and friend, Joe Somodi, creating and leading a workshop based upon building more resiliency in your everyday life.

A couple Sundays ago I journeyed with Marc and a dear friend Jamie (also a former student of Joe's) to Pure West to participate in his workshop.  It was about two hours, and the time absolutely flew.  It began with a discussion of the Yoga Sutras and how they relate to the concept of resiliency, and then Joe led us through an asana and meditation practice.  His calm, centered nature, his kind energy, and his extensive knowledge of yoga makes him the perfect person to deliver this message to stressed out New Yorkers (yogis, yes, but stressed out New Yorkers too!).

Joe Somodi
Joe has been studying with Rod Stryker, founder of Para Yoga, author of The Four Desires and one of the preeminent yoga teachers in the world, for several years now.  His teachings are firmly rooted in the ancient texts of yoga, particularly the Sutras.  Defining Resiliency as being steady in the midst of change, Joe draws upon three particular Sutras that concern asana, or our posture (also known as yoga poses, seat, pose...the physical element, essentially) that help illustrate how we can build resiliency in our practice and therefore our lives.  He also discusses the power of pranayama (breath control, or control of the life force energy) to help redirect our momentum and energy.

For example, if you're having a bad day, you can let yourself go with that flow, letting little annoyances build upon each other and creating more stress for yourself.  Or, as Joe teaches, you can just literally stop for a moment, steady your breath and your body, and you'll find your physical energy has changed - which then naturally translates to your mind and emotions.  We have the power to hit our "reset" button at any time, regaining a sense of control and power, therefore making decisions (or even just decisions about our attitude) from a more aware place instead of a reactive place.  It's funny that after this workshop the phrase "go with the flow" means something totally different now - I now see the value in making the flow work for you as well.
Jamie & I at the workshop (Pure West)

What I've written just barely scratches the surface of what I learned in this workshop, and of the concepts that my mind has been turning over and contemplating ever since.  After the workshop, Joe emailed each of us a 10 page handout further illustrating the concepts and an audio recording of both the discussion and the yoga practice for us to revisit on our own.  He's going to be traveling around the country with this workshop, returning to New York's Pure West for a different workshop in March, and then with this resiliency workshop at NYC's Reflections Yoga in May.  Click here to learn more about the workshop and about Joe.  I can't recommend it or him highly enough.  You know when you meet him and share is presence what a kind, rare, and unique soul he is.

The workshop was a really great reminder of why I practice yoga, and what "off the mat," which is a term thrown around a lot in yoga classes, truly means.  Bringing the ancient teachings of yoga to your everyday life to increase your mindfulness, strength, and peace is a major concept this workshop helped me to reconnect with.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fab Abs and Full Body Massage! (aka Shameless Promotion Time)

Happy Thursday, Internets!  I had hoped to present an entry all about a fantastic workshop I went to this past weekend given by one of my favorite teachers, Joe Somodi.  However, time that otherwise would have spent preparing and writing went to dealing with the sudden demise of my computer for the last 5+ years, Max.  (Maximillian Maxwell MacIntosh, to be exact.  I was very excited when I got him...)  Luckily I had a vast majority of my hard drive backed up, but unfortunately everything from last November has been lost, including at least 80 pages of my personal journal and the budget spreadsheet I spent all of New Year's Day painstakingly creating.

So, that was an unexpected hurdle, and as a result, you'll be granted with an even BETTER blog entry on Joe's workshop next week, now that I'll have more time to write it.

For today, I decided to use my blog for something I haven't used it for in quite awhile - promotion!  I hesitate to say "self" promotion, though, because two wonderful yoga studios I work with are involved too.

First up - an opportunity for my friends in NYC who would otherwise not need to come to my beloved Karma Kids Yoga to take a class from me and some other fabulous teachers!

Karma Kids Yoga started offering "Abs"-olutely Yoga in December, and the classes have been going great so far.  We even got a mention on Yoga Sleuth to help us build up buzz.  We offer the classes 5 days a week, and they are open to all grown-ups!  This includes you, my young, single friends from college who always ask when you can take one of my classes.  These classes are focused on building core strength for fabulous abs, easing lower back pain, improving posture, reducing stress, and more.  I teach most Saturdays at 11:30-12:30pm, and your first class is free!  You can find all the Abs classes at KKY's new Peace In Studio at 102 W 14th St between 6th and 7th Avenue.  Check out the schedule and more info here!

Next - an opportunity to experience Thai Yoga Massage at Integral Yoga's brand new Wellness Spa!

Integral Yoga Institute, which is right around the corner at 13th between 7th/8th, has been offering yoga classes and much more to NYC for decades.  They've recently opened their Wellness Spa which offers Reflexology, Reiki, Shiatsu, Swedish Massage, and Thai Yoga Massage.  I'm there every Thursday evening for appointments starting at 6pm.  I'm not the only Thai Yoga Massage Practitioner, however - my amazing friend Buffie offers her services in the late afternoon on Thursday, and I know there are more appointments available for Wednesdays.  Check out the spa's webpage or call Integral for more info.  Even if you're reading this thinking, "Well, I can get a massage for you at my place for free because we're friends!" - think about anyone you know who could use a yummy full body massage or foot reflexology treatment and send them Integral's way!

I could write for ages more promoting the wonderful studios I work with and classes they offer, but these are two really exciting, brand new programs that still need lots of support to get as busy as they ought to be.  Spread the word, and have a beautiful weekend, friends!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nothing but the truth

Do you ever get stressed out by someone's negative opinion of you?  We all have at some point, usually someone close to us or someone we see every day - a family member, friend, co-worker, etc.  Do you ever get stressed out at your perception that someone may have a negative opinion of you?

As people in a society that values individuality and independent strength, we're often told that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of us.  That's all fine and dandy, but the reality is that very often our chatty, insecure little egos will hang on to a misunderstanding, a cold look, a disapproving comment, whatever it might be - and spin it into a catastrophic internal emotional event that can ruin your day, your week - or even a relationship.  Perhaps insecurities you feel about yourself are hanging on to that outside stimulus and use it as an excuse to spin stories that only serve to feed those insecurities further.

I was struggling through a situation like that, and Marc, my usual source for nuggets of wisdom that wind up creating blog posts, said something that really stuck with me. 

"What someone else thinks of you is not more important than the truth."

Simple, why-didn't-I-think-of-that obvious, and so very true.

Whether it be someone's legitimate opinion or a misunderstanding on their part, if you believe in yourself, their negativity shouldn't really matter.  However, it's that believing-in-yourself part that's at the crux of it all.  Even if you have perfectly fabulous and flawless self esteem, everyone has a little dark side to their mind.  Perceived coldness or disapproval from someone else can all too easily unlock the dark side of our minds that tells us we suck.

The truth is, it's all coming from us.  Our happiness is something that we choose.  Letting someone else completely shift the way you feel about yourself is a huge waste of your time and energy.

Easy to say, less easy to practice.  All we can do is find what works for us - for me, it's just remembering that one sentence.  What someone thinks of you is not more important than the truth.

What do you all do to help lift yourself up out of the negative self talk?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Conclusion of No Dairy January

Happy February!  The first day of the shortest, sometimes coldest month of the year was an absolute stunner. I actually went for a walk in my flip flops if you can believe it (and if you know me well, you probably can).

Almost more importantly, I ate cheese.  And oh, it was so good.

After 31 days of abstaining from one of my favorite food groups, it felt overwhelming to finally go back over to the cheese section and know I could grab whatever my little heart desired.  And I did - I now have French brie, organic pepperjack, organic goat cheese, and cheap but tasty Trader Joe's parmesan chilling in the fridge.  I couldn't refrain from snatching all of them, but I can at least refrain from eating them all at the same time.  Small victories.

So how do I feel after this unique little experiment?

I hate to be anticlimactic, but I don't feel too dramatically different.  I do feel lighter, that much I can say.  I didn't really need to lose much weight, but everyone has their trouble spots that they're not crazy about, and mine definitely felt less troublesome throughout this month.  I also did notice an improvement in my skin, most notably in the absence of any red spots on either side of my nose and a lessening of the eczema patches on my ankles that have given me a lot of grief this year.

It wasn't a magical cure-all though, alas.  I didn't really expect it to be, because dairy isn't the only thing I have an allergy to, but there's always a part of you that hopes there'll be on magic thing that will cure you / make you look how you always wanted / make all your hopes and dreams come true.  But I'm really glad I did it anyway, and not just because I felt lighter and noticed some improvements in my skin and health woes.  It helped me cement the fact that I'm not a slave to my identity as a cheese-a-holic, or a choco-holic, or a take-your-pick.  I have things I love to indulge in, I struggle just like the next guy, but I'm the one who defines my choices, not my history.  Regardless of how many, many boxes of mac & cheese I could eat in high school, that's not who I am.  I can change myself anytime.

This is turning into a lot more of a Jillian Michaels affirmation than I'd planned, but I've been watching a lot of old school Biggest Loser, so I guess those notions have been on my mind this week.  It comes down to feeling empowered over my physical, emotional, and mental health.  It's one of the many, many things that drew me to yoga in the first place, and it's something I love about the yoga community here in NYC.  Even though it can be a little mentally draining seeing article after article about the evils and virtues of meat, gluten, dairy, veggies, organic, local, paleo, whole grain, take your pick - the crux is that we all care about taking care of our bodies so that our true selves are unencumbered to do whatever it is we love in this world.

I'm not going to ignore the ills that I've read about dairy and the downsides of it.  I'm already planning to stick to coconut milk for my morning cereal, and to avoid eating cheese with every meal as was my custom.  (Except, of course, when I'm in Paris!)  What will be very interesting to see is if I notice any big changes now that I'm introducing cheese back into my diet.  Maybe I will notice a worsening of the eczema or asthma - I'll certainly be on the lookout for it.  I'm taking what worked about this month with me, while still knowing that my life is too short to cut the goat cheese out of my salad.


Speaking of Jillian Michaels, though, I've got my next challenge underway - I'm doing her 30 Day Shred.  I've been feeling a little less stable and a little overly stretchy in some of my muscles, and this feels like a great way to build strength, shake things up, give myself a good at-home workout option for when the true February chill hits, and something to focus on so I don't wile away the hours daydreaming of April in Paris.