Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A bientot!

Which means, minus a few missing accents, bye for now!

Marc and I are leaving on a jetplane today for beautiful London, to be followed by a few wonderful days in fabulous Paris.  Needless to say, it's a vacation, and as such I'll also be taking a vacation from this blog!

I hope to return with fabulous reviews of the yoga classes I take in both London and Paris, and maybe some nerdy pictures of me doing yoga poses in front of famous sights.

I hope life in New York stays busy and beautiful while I'm gone and while I'm so excited for this vacation, I know I'll be happy to return home after a couple of weeks.

Au revoir, blogverse!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring and Symmetry

Happy spring, blogverse!

Spring, like fall, can cause us to feel a little shaken up out of our routine and as a result, feel a little less grounded.  Spring and fall (for me anyway) are always incredibly welcome - it's nice to feel like we have more mild, balanced weather than the extremes of hot and cold (not that our cold was too extreme here in NYC this year).  Though the weather can still bounce back and forth through its bizarre little dance to summer, it does the heart and soul good to see so much fresh new green, new buds, and feel the warm sunshine on our coatless, hatless, and (perhaps) scarfless bodies.

Unfortunately, my body isn't feeling quite so balanced these days.  Over the last couple of weeks I've been feeling a variety of strange little pains here and there.  One day my knee will hurt - and after 27 years of absolutely zero knee problems, that's a scary first - the next I discover I somehow managed to burst a blood vessel in my wrist in the middle of teaching a series of preschool classes.  This week, the part of me crying for attention is my left foot.  Yesterday as I limped home in my beloved flip flops, the top of my left foot was crying to be free of the long walk from the subway to my front door.

None of these are serious problems (knock wood), but almost certainly a symptom of an active job, a lot of hustling around the city, changing shoe styles from winter boots to spring Toms and flip flops, running around playing yoga with active kids, and, much to my chagrin, my body finally feeling the effects of over a year lugging around an obscenely heavy and large lululemon bag that serves as my survival kit every day.  I pack that thing with props for adults, kids, usually a book or journal, often up to three meals a day (saving money for those long dawn-til-dusk work days!), and the general purse essentials, and man does it get heavy fast.

For a yoga teacher who spends a lot of time preaching balance and alignment, I haven't been following my own advice too much.  Each and every day as I walk around, my left side is shouldering a heavy burden which effects my posture, the way I walk, and how strongly my left foot hits the hard concrete versus my right.  Even though I try to even myself out by switching sides from time to time, the left always somehow winds up winning (or losing, depending on how you look at it).

So starting this afternoon, I'm backpacking it at least until I leave next week.  This seems like an incredibly silly, trivial thing to be writing an entire blog about, but many women (and men, especially in New York) carry purses, diaper bags, duffel bags, gym bags, or monstrous bags that serve all three purposes, and feel the physical effects in their shoulders, hips, knees, and feet.  Something that seems like a fashion choice one day can lead to major consequences for your body in less time than you'd think.

Anyone else shouldering too heavy a burden?  If so, join me for my newly declared Symmetrical Backpack week and let's see if it makes a difference!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Yoga BFF

A week ago today, one of my very dear friends flew in to NYC from Chicago to take the Karma Kids Yoga teacher training.  Cassi was my very first yoga friend.  We met at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, FL, where we were both lowly interns surviving on peanuts, beautiful beach sunsets, wine, running, and most sacred to both of us (even more than the wine!), yoga.

I knew we'd be friends as soon as my boss at the time told me one of the new interns was a yoga teacher.  At the time I was still a theatre girl and yoga was just a way to try to keep stress and blues at bay, so I didn't really have any friends who practiced yoga as much or loved it as much as I did.  When I met Cassi, we were both not in the best of places in our lives emotionally, and we really bonded fast and leaned on each other for support.

Traditionally, in yoga, the student-teacher relationship is a lot more intensely one-on-one.  Particularly given that there's a much deeper emphasis on meditation and lifestyle than in modern US yoga classes, the one on one relationship is essential to navigate the scary waters of meditation.  Here, however, you're typically just one in a class of 20 or so who show up for the 60 or 90 minutes, get your physical practice on, and then leave - maybe lingering to thank the teacher or to ask for tips on modifying for wrist pain or a bum knee.

For me, having Cassi was my first experience in having someone else to bounce all my yoga love and questions off of.  It reminded me that even though yoga is a very personal, solo journey, we're still all connected and there's never any reason to feel you're going through anything alone.

As time went on after I left FST in the spring of 2009, yoga obviously took a more prominent place in my life and I've since made tons of yoga friends and colleagues in the city who are all very special to me.  Being with Cassi this weekend, though, not only reminded me of how important she was to me when we first met but how far we've both come in our lives.  We've left behind the unsure, melodramatic tumultuousness of our early twenties in favor of more self confidence, more poise, and a stronger ability to roll with the punches that are thrown our way.  Something tells me all the yoga has something to do with that.

Cassi had a blast at the Karma Kids training (and I was lucky enough to join in and play when my schedule permitted) and I don't think we could have packed more fun and awesomeness into the weekend if we tried.  Thank you and namaste, my beautiful friend!  I can't wait for our paths to cross again.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Trusting in Yourself

 I've written a lot on this blog about worrying, staying present, my tendency to plan out every second with my life at the expense of being present - things that I'm sure most everyone can relate to at least a little bit.

A couple weeks ago, I was taking a class that always starts out with a brief meditation - at least five minutes or so.  When my mind inevitably wandered, it immediately wandered to planning for the next day, and it finally occurred to me that some part of me must not trust myself.  If I trusted in myself, wouldn't I have the ability to sit back and let my mind have its time to rest, and then pick up all the worries and particulars of the day afterward?

It sounds a little simplistic perhaps, but the concept of self trust has been knocking around in my brain ever since then.  I always thought I trusted myself - I don't have any huge self esteem issues, and I know that I can get things done and be successful in a variety of ways.  Even with that knowledge, however, I can't seem to just let go and relinquish that mental control, trusting that I'll be able to plan out what I'm going to have for dinner when I get home even if I haven't pre-planned during sun salutations at yoga class.

One thing that I have done in response is that when my mind starts to wander toward unnecessary planning or anticipating of the next day's outfit or lunch, I make the mantra that brings me back: "Trust me" or "Trust yourself."  Whether it be during meditation, yoga, or during time spent with friends and loved ones.  It's helpful and helps the little worrier within chill out a little bit.  Hopefully with time it will become even more effective.

This is one of those entries for which I don't really have an answer or a solution or a lot of analysis about the topic - it's just something that's been knocking around in my head and this felt like the appropriate place to share.  Does anyone else ever feel this way?  Anyone have any other steps they take to rid themselves of the inner planner?

Finally, because I love him and because his music has always been a guru for my heart, so to speak, I leave you with some words from my beloved Bob:

Don’t trust me to show you the truth
When the truth may only be ashes and dust
If you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself
-Bob Dylan- 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Honest and Unmerciful

 Svadhyaya, one of the five niyamas (or observances) of yoga, literally means self-study.  Revered yoga teacher TKV Desikachar offered one of my favorite comprehensive definitions of svadhyaya as "Self-inquiry; any study that helps you understand yourself; the study of sacred texts."

The idea is that by studying not just our selves and not just sacred texts (whether they be the Yoga Sutras, the Bible - whatever sacred texts means to you), but by studying them both together, we can truly come to know ourselves and edge ever closer to samadhi, that utmost state of consciousness.

As a more secular yogi, I largely focus on the self-study part of svadhyaya.  This component can be explored through any activity throughout your day - the only thing you need is mindfulness.  Whether it's paying attention and being mindful of your body during an asana practice, watching your busy mind during meditation or a stressful subway commute, or reflecting on the way you handled a disagreement with someone, each and every moment of our lives is a constant opportunity for self study and reflection.

My favorite way to actively observe svadhyaya is through journaling.  I've been an avid journaler (which I will firmly insist to spell check is a word, because it's a word to me) since I was a kid and my mom gave my sister and I each beautiful new Lisa Frank journals to keep the summer I was 8 and she was 10.  As any girl growing up in the 90's knows, Lisa Frank was the designer name in school supplies!  The bright, bold colors and gorgeous artwork made the journal a really exciting present, but the knowledge that each page was mine to fill with my own private thoughts, opinions, stories, and ramblings and that no one would ever read it except for me - that made it a priceless gift that has kept giving and will continue for my whole lifetime.

There are so many benefits to writing regularly in a journal, including better writing and reading skills, but one of them has definitely been an increase in self awareness.  By checking in with myself through private journaling, whether I'm on a once-a-day streak (as I currently am and hope to remain!) or writing sporadically, I can keep myself honest about where I am with my goals, my relationships, my life's direction - you name it.  Because of the trust my mother established with me as a child by assuring me that this was one place I could be completely open and free, she helped me establish a truthful and open communication with myself that is invaluable.

One of my all time favorite movies is Almost Famous, starring Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, and the incomparable Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs.  A key line in the film that's often repeated is a piece of advice Lester gives to young reporter William Miller:  "My advice to you - and I know you think those guys are your friends - you wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful."

For a journal to have true value, true benefit, and to truly be a form of svadhyaya, it most definitely requires you to be honest and unmerciful.  An honest journal enables you to be your own best friend, and as a reminder that no matter how much you change and how much everything else changes throughout your life (and everything does change), the only constant is you.