Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Big 2-0

It's done - the pinnacle of of my marathon training, the big 20 mile long run that so intimidated and terrified me is behind me.  It's still hard to believe, but it's a little easier when I just feel how much everything below my waist freaking hurts.  Butt, hips, thighs, knees, shins, calves, ankles, feet, toes.  It all hurts.

Luckily, the amazing Exhale Spa offers anyone who has ever taken a class there 50% off of a spa treatment for their birthday month.  For the past three years (this'll be the 3rd), an hour long massage there has been my present to myself, and dear god it was never more needed (or deserved) than today!  I'm leaving for that shortly and debating whether to take a brief ice bath before since it's the only chance I'll have to squeeze it in.

Anyway!  Running more than 15 miles makes me incredibly spacey, so forgive the inevitable tangents.  I just wanted to write about the experience while it's still (painfully) fresh.

This really does feel like a culmination and a pinnacle.  Obviously there's still the race ahead of me, but this is the longest training run.  The longest run with no volunteers, no cheering spectators, no race day adrenaline, no frills, no sister - just me.  Me and the frigging hilly Central Park loop.

On Marathon Day, my sister and I have no time goals, no plans to give an amazingly fast/athletic debut.  We want to have fun, be safe, and enjoy the inevitable spectacle of the Disney Marathon.  Today, though - I had a time goal.  I wanted to finish in under 4 hours, which I'm very proud to say I achieved despite a slow start.  I always plan to start slow, but this was slower than usual!  I guess the time goal of it makes it feel like almost more of a "race" than actual race day in a sense.  It'll just be a completely different beast, totally uncharted territory - and not to mention, 6.2 miles longer!

I started a little after 9 - the MTA was reliably unreliable and the train was stalled for quite a long time before, during, and after Lex & 59th - the stop before the one I needed.  I just sat there, having had my "pre-race" Clif Shot (Strawberry with caffeine!) and my tiny 8 oz water bottle from my corner store, anxiously tapping my feet, trying not to get annoyed about being late on my imaginary timetable, and listening to one of the ultimate Rocky songs, Burning Heart.  Cheesy perfection it is.

Finally I got there, took my customary last-chance pit stop at the Apple Store (thanks Apple!), and got on with it.  I always like to start my long runs with 1-3 miles of no music, no podcasts, just me.  Just to get in a good groove.  At around 1.5 I approached the reservoir with my fingers crossed that it would be all melted away and runnable so I wouldn't just have to do 3 + loops around the park, but once I was a quarter of a mile into the reservoir loop (if that!) I realized it was barely runnable.  I decided rather foolishly to press on, figuring if I finished just one lap of the 1.5 mile reservoir loop I could do the 3 6.2-mile laps around the park and that would take me just about to 20 miles when I hit the intersection of the Park and 5th ave, where I'd catch the train home.

That's a lot of numbers, but the point is, it made sense in my head to press on despite the thick ice on the ground and the fact that it got so slick at some points I just had to walk it.  This slowed me up considerably, as even when I was running I was going at like a 13-14 minute mile, and am terrified of slipping on ice and breaking something.

So that was a bit of a disconcerting start to the day, but once I finished it I knew all I had to think about was just 3 laps.  I was 3 miles in and ready to just mindlessly put one foot in front of the other on the same course I've gotten to know quite well over the last year.

I listened to a Jillian Michaels podcast for the next 4-ish miles, which took me to the end of the loop.  I was feeling pretty good but with a little more foot pain and pain in my left knee than I wanted, especially considering how much further I had to go.  After the podcast I didn't put anything else on for awhile and ran in silence, then got my bottle of water from one of the many incredibly nice vendors in the park and ate my second Clif Shot - chocolate, of course.  I expected to find the sugar/salt/electrolyte gels that long distance runners eat to be incredibly gross and weird, especially since I hate anything gelatin/Jell-O-like.  To my very pleasant surprise, though, they're delicious and I'm able to process them perfectly fine.  Whew!

The second lap was a little harder.  I listened to my very favorite podcast, Two Gomers Run a Marathon - the first episode of their third season, The Sub-5 Strive, where their goal is to run a marathon in under 5 hours - which is what my goal will be when I inevitably run another marathon someday.  Once enough time has passed for me to forget how painful and dumb it is, of course.  The podcast got me to almost the full 6.2 loop and helped distract me from the Worst Hill in the World (it occurs after the 3-mile mark as the loop starts heading south on the west side around W110th St) which is just friggin endless.  I think it's about .6-.75 miles long.  I used to think it was a full mile but it's not quite that long.  It's just horrible.  I find the west side to be way harder than the east.

Around Mile 14 I had my second and last Clif Shot and finished my water.  I was definitely glad to be free of the water - I tend to get weird pain around my left arm from just holding it the same shape forever, and holding the water bottle is just annoying.  And very cold for my already chilly and swollen hands.

I took a break from listening to podcasts again after the Gomers finished their silliness then listened to a perfectly timed 14 minute "mini" episode they had recorded which took me right to mile 16, where I had planned to call Marc to let him know I was still alive and almost finished.  It was a short conversation since my phone was running low on battery and I really wanted to it to last until I hit the 20 miles, but it was so incredibly helpful to hear someone's voice besides mine telling me I could do it.  He's pretty much the best and I'll leave it at that!  It was also perfect because we chatted right as I got to the beginning of the Worst Hill in the World so it was perfect timing to get an extra boost of encouragement.

Once I hit 17 miles and was pretty much done with the hill, it was time to switch to music.  I have a playlist of 5 of my most all-time inspiring and fun running songs - 4 from Rocky and then the ultimate running song (in the random order they appear on the playlist):

Burning Heart, Survivor (Rocky IV)
Eye of the Tiger, Survivor (Rocky III)
Gonna Fly Now, Theme from Rocky
Lose Yourself, Eminem (THE. BEST.)
Heart's On Fire, John Cafferty (Rocky IV) <--one 80="" about="" an="" arker="" favorite="" gets="" he="" his="" how="" imitating="" inspiration.="" is="" it="" learly="" like="" much="" my="" nbsp="" of="" one="" p="" parker="" s="" singer.="" sounds="" things="" this="" trey="" where="">
So basically, tons of cheese mixed with Eminem.  It works for me!

Miles 17 and 18 went by...not fast, but they definitely felt like they had a growing momentum.  Toward the end of 18 my knee really started yelling at me so I took an unplanned walk break until it calmed down, then just drove through 19 and waited and waited and waited and waited to be told I was done.

And then finally - it was over.  Lots of walk breaks, lots of wind in my face as I gutted through the stupid hills on the west side, lots of blowing snot rockets (sorry to everyone behind me...and everyone who just read that), lots of not being able to decide if my hands were hot or freezing, lots of forceful self encouragement...and just a lot of putting one foot in front of the other.  My mind went loony tunes a bit around mile 15 and hasn't come all the way back, so hopefully it'll get back to normal in time for work tomorrow.


So there you have it.  Time to get moving, as I'm moving a bit slowly at the moment!  Tonight Marc and I are having dinner at our very favorite restaurant in the neighborhood - Francis Cafe on Ditmars and 35th.  Amazing amazing French food - we highly recommend it!  Disney will be all about my mom and my sisters, so it feels good to be able to have a marathon-type celebration with Marc as well.

Peace out, Internet!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Last Day of 28

Or an alternate title:  12 on 12/12.

I can already tell this is going to be a bit of an all-over-the-place blog today.  I've run out of steam and brain cells for the day and am well past the point where I just need to put my legs up the wall, put on a knee brace, and foam roll today's miles out of my legs!  I'm feeling very happy, but I notice on long run days I tend to lose quite a few brain cells.  I'll have to work on that...

Maybe I'm also feeling loopy because of the day.  I ran 12 miles on 12/12/13 - which also happens to be my last day as a 28-year-old.  Tomorrow starts the concluding year of my 20's, and when I think about the distance I've travelled in that decade as a person...it's staggering.  And also makes me wince a little to think of me at 20.  (She wasn't terribly happy or healthy)

I was talking about this to my awesome boss, who was replaying what 29 was like for her - it was a great year in her life and a lot of amazing things happened for her personally and professionally.  I've felt that way about 28...and 27, and 26, and 25.  (24 started low but ended high)  I told her that truly every single year since I've lived in New York has been better than the last.  Blame it on Marc, or yoga, or how much I truly love my job, on running more, or just on this gorgeous city.  What I really think it comes down to is how a blend of all of those external things affects me as a whole.

Bad things have happened in those years - and lord knows bad days and weeks and moments have come around too.  There was some heartbreaking family stuff this year (weddings tend to bring that out, I guess) and things aren't always sunshine and roses.

I think what it all comes down to is how I - or anyone - deal with the inevitable crap life throws at you.  And understanding that with good years you'll inevitably have bad years to follow at some point.  Not to sound fatalistic or like I think my happiness has a time limit, but it's just the way the world works.  (Unless you are freakishly blessed)  I think that for me, the good and happy times build me up in a way that makes the tragedies and disappointments easier to deal with.  (Often after a few good hysterical cries, but that's me)

This is a totally random quote to close this entry on, but like I said - feeling a little loopy.  I think part of the blood that's supposed to help my brain run is too busy hanging out in my legs post-run.

Marc and I love the 2010 movie The Social Network about Mark Zuckerburg.  There's a moment when the Winklevoss twins have lost an important race, and a lovely English actor comes over and says, "Got to take the bitter with the better, boys."

Obviously Aaron Sorkin didn't make that up - it's an old expression - but Marc and I will often quote that to each other in the same kind, lovely English accent when a disappointment of some kind comes up.  It's a gentle perspective-giver.

In a way, it's very yogic.  Life is about experiencing it more than judging it, accepting it how it is instead of forcing it to be something its not, and figuring out a way to be present for all of it.  Right now I'm just soaking up all the gratitude I can for all the 'better' I've got going on.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Take My Classes!

Happy Thanksgiving, blogverse!  I had an amazing time with my family.  Just Mom, Megan, and our guys.  It's our first time having such a close-knit, immediate family only Thanksgiving and it was the best one I've ever had.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, though, something incredibly exciting launched at Karma Kids Yoga.  So often my pregnant friends are old friends from high school or college who live in Virginia or Texas and say they wish they could take the classes I always promote on facebook.  Now anyone can take not just my classes but the classes of some of my stunningly talented fellow Karma Kids Pre and Postnatal teachers!

StudioLiveTV has been working with us the past few months to film select yoga and Pilates classes and have launched a diverse library of classes available for purchase.  Even if you're 6 weeks along, if you're 40 weeks and counting, if you're not pregnant, even if you had your baby 20 years ago - and heck, even if you're a guy - these classes will strengthen your core and leave you feeling strong, relaxed, and empowered.

Classes are available for individual purchase for $6.00 a class, ten classes for $40.00, or for three months of unlimited access for only $20.00!  That's the price of a single drop-in class at the studio!

If you live far away or even if you're already a student and are dealing with a busy schedule, holiday madness, or crazy winter weather, this is an ideal way to get in your yoga on your schedule.  Check us out today!

http://karmakidsyoga.studiolivetv.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Talk, Don't Listen

This morning, from around 8:30 until around 11:30, I ran 16 miles.  By myself.  In beautiful, cold, sunny Central Park.  And it was awesome.

My longest training run before today was 12, and my longest run ever was 13.1 with the help of race day adrenaline, crowds, and either my sister or my husband, to cheer me on, distract me, and make it seem almost easy.

Needless to say, I am incredibly proud and incredibly excited that I not only did it, but I genuinely enjoyed it.  I was able to make my last mile my fastest, which I still can't believe, and I had a good balance of running with only the thoughts in my head, with my beloved Gomers, and briefly with my lovely husband on the phone.  I'm particularly proud of the miles I ran without anything at all in my earphones, particularly when I paused my podcast because I just needed to be in my own head and talk myself through.  I needed to be more present with myself.

Both my memory and Google have failed me in getting the source of my inspiration for today's blog, sadly.  The title of it comes from a segment I saw on the Today Show last week or a couple weeks ago where a guy was promoting his book - I can't even remember what it's about, but some kind of better living inspirational tips.  Those are a dime a dozen these days, especially when you're a yoga teacher and a runner and inundated with bazillions of links a day to numbered lists of how to live better/healthier/more inspired.

The one thing he said that really stuck out to me and that I've really taken to heart though, was:  "Don't listen to yourself - talk to yourself."

At first that seems just wrong to me - as a yoga teacher, I'm constantly telling my students to listen to their bodies before they listen to me.  It's important to follow our own intuition, to heed the signals our bodies give us, and to listen to our hearts.

However, we all know how easy it is to fall prey to that other set of voices which tell us to quit, or which give us permission to indulge in something we had vowed not to.  The little voice that can have so much power over us - the little devil on our shoulder.

The quote to me is all about the unbelievable power of positive self talk.  That phrase sounds cheesy, but it is one of the most important tools we have in our toolbox when it comes to any kind of positive action in our lives.

Runners always say that running is mostly mental.  Life coaches (and the like) always opine on the power of positive thinking - we even have a yoga game by that name at Karma Kids!

There are few things more awesome than experiencing it for yourself first hand.  Whether it's running a stupidly long distance or making a choice as to how you're going to mentally approach your day, try it - don't listen to the negative or lazy voices in your head.  Talk to yourself instead and see what happens.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marathon Fever

There's so much I could write about and so much I could say about these past two weeks!  I gave my blog the week off last week (and will likely do so again next week) due to visiting Marc in gorgeous, gorgeous Pennsylvania while he performs in Pride and Prejudice at the lovely Bristol Riverside Theatre.  (Featuring fabulous reviews that single him out here.  And here.)  It hasn't been fun having him gone, but it's been awesome to have these mini-vacations to look forward to - as I say in my yoga adventures with my kiddies, it's so great to get out of the city for a little while!

The big headline in my life over these past two weeks, though, is something that is just going to keep taking more and more of my time, energy, and passion for the next 61 (!!) days - RUNNING!  Specifically, marathon running.

It's been a rough training start for me so far - I've had lost of aches and pains in my knee, my feet, and struggles finding the right new shoes.  I've had to take time off and am behind in my planned training schedule, which drives my type-A'ness absolutely nuts and frightens the wits out of the part of me that already has her wits frightened when I think about the fact that I'm running a marathon soon.  Or at all.

A highlight that I've been looking forward to on this training journey is volunteering at the NYC marathon.  I was supposed to do it last year, but of course we know mother nature had other (terrible) plans for the city.

After such a rough year for the running community and the nation - between the devastation of Sandy, the tragedy at New Town, and the Boston Marathon bombing among others - it was beyond inspiring and triumphant at the marathon this year.  Runners from all over the country, all over the world, in all shapes, sizes, and ages running for an infinite number of reasons and passions...it was an absolute privilege to be able to cheer them on for their last 800 meters of the race.  The time flew by and I just couldn't stop clapping and cheering.  It was fun to single out French runners and cheer for them in French, to cheer for all the Bostonites I saw, and any random thing I connected to or any random person who had their name on their shirt or just looked like they needed an extra boost.

The amazing Kathrine Switzer has been quoted very often, never moreso than this past year as saying, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."  It's hard to really understand what that means until you go to one, whether you're running it or not.  The absolute outpouring of love, support, respect, insane gritty effort, joy, and lots of agony too, is overwhelming.

Riding on that high, I had my fingers crossed tighter than ever that my nagging left foot and left knee would cooperate and my shoes would be on my side as I attempted my longest training run ever this morning.  I've raced 13.1 miles, but I've never run higher than 10 on my own without a cheering crowd and race-day adrenaline.

I'm happy to report that I made it all the way through - with quite a few walk breaks, aches, and pains, but with nothing too alarming or out of the ordinary.  (Your feet are just going to hurt after running a certain point, sadly.  No getting around that one)  Surrounded by stunning Central Park in its full autumn glory, with a mix of silence, the Two Gomers (best podcast EVER!), and a phone call with my hubs for the last two miles, I shuffled my way around the 6 mile loop twice and have lived to tell the tale.

I'm equal parts proud and relieved, and equal part absolutely terrified - this personally groundbreaking distance I just ran is going to be my easy distance for long runs going forward.  (Well, after next week's 10 at least)  In the not too distant future, I'll look at 12 on the schedule with more relief than terror.  The 12 will pale to the 16, 18, 20...I mean, gulp.  Seriously - gulp.  How am I going to pull this off?

I know my sister is struggling with the same thing right now - and thank goodness we have each other or I'm sure we'd have each quit by now after realizing what an insane thing we've gotten ourselves into!

All I can do is remember how profoundly moved I was this past Sunday cheering for the tens of thousands of incredible runners on Central Park South as they gamely ran toward the finish line.   I can remember how amazing it was to run my first 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon with my big sister and how proud of ourselves (and shocked!) we were at each distance.

And finally, to remind myself of two very crucial things:

1. The Disney course is FLAT.

2. Mickey Mouse will be there to cheer me on.  And maybe, if I play my cards right, Prince Eric will be too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Sound of Music

Tempting though it is, this isn't a blog post about one of the greatest films of all time, The Sound of Music.

No, on this day off from running (I'm calling it a "knee-hab" day because that's how I roll), I'm doing a lot to keep myself otherwise occupied - foam rolling, cross training, gentle yoga, cleaning the apartment, cooking, running errands...and continuing the slow process of outfitting my brand new iPhone with all the playlists I need in my yoga teaching (and running, etc) life.

I used to have a little ol' iPod packed with music from, as you would assume, my very own iTunes account of purchased music and burned CD's.  After the untimely death of my dear, loyal Macbook Max, and the many almost-deaths of my iPod, I've been using my iPhone 4 and Marc's iTunes and music library along with some of my old purchases.

It's been interesting dipping back and forth - there is some overlap for sure, but with this new phone I've been able to hook up my external hard drive with all my golden oldies - and, with Marc and his hard drive in PA, none of the stuff I've been more recently listening to.

Going from having 3 Dylan albums on my iPhone to 12 is a good, comforting feeling!  I've been reconnecting with beloved Bob, Joni, Janis, Jeff Buckley, and some yoga music I completely forgot that I had and had been living without!

My Kids stuff is mostly consistent, although I had a few great tunes for kid-friendly background music and kid relaxation that I had forgotten about and am joyfully using again.

As far as grown-up stuff goes, I'd love to share some of my long-lost favorites I've recently reunited with.  And okay, maybe some kid stuff in there too.  Enjoy, in no particular order, a Reunion Playlist!

New Year's Prayer, Jeff Buckley

Feeling Good, Nina Simone

Across the Universe, Fiona Apple OR Rufus Wainwright  (or, obviously, The Beatles)

The Tower of Learning, Rufus Wainwright

Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong, Michael Franti & Spearhead

Poses, Rufus Wainwright

Willy, Joni Mitchell

The Circle Game, Joni Mitchell (to be used with caution on moms and moms-to-be!)

I Shall Be Released, Jeff Buckley

Sacred Stones, Sheila Chandra (great for savasana!)

Secure Yourself, Indigo Girls

Welcome Me, Indigo Girls

Mystery, Indigo Girls

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Indigo Girls OR Elton John

Touch Me Fall, Indigo Girls

The Wood Song, Indigo Girls (can you tell I missed them terribly?)

Wonderwall, Ryan Adams

Gayatri Mantra, Deva Premal

Winter Song, Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson

Christmas Song, Mogwai (also great for savasana!)

Idiot Wind, Bob Dylan (from The Bootleg Series album)

Silent Ganges, Maneesh De Moor

Om Hraum Mitraya, Deva Premal

Staralfur, Sigur Ros


So there you have it - 24 of my favorite songs that are fantastic for a yoga class or just a chilled out (mostly) playlist.

A bonus track I absolutely have to mention, though it probably wouldn't fit so great into a yoga class, is Tangled Up in Blue as covered by The Indigo Girls on their album 12,000 Curfews.  It's long, it's beautiful, it's stunning.

Happy Thursday, all!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Search of Sadhana

I've written a lot (a lot - I know) lately about how I've struggled to find a steady practice on my own.  Whether it's just not wanting to give my brain a chance to quiet, becoming frustrated that it just won't, or dealing with finding the time to fit it in, I've bounced back and forth quite a bit.

One thing that's also been an issue is that I know I'll do better in a seated meditation if I've done something physical beforehand.  That could be breathing techniques (pranayama) or, ideally, some more physical practice along with that.

I've finally identified the big issue with finding a full daily practice that suits me:

I don't need to be doing anymore yoga poses than I already am.

Some days, like yesterday, I'll teach as many as 7 kids classes.  On Saturdays I teach 3 prenatal classes.  Fridays are a wild card - one mom & baby class, one toddler class, Storytime yoga (basically to toddlers), and a teen yoga class.  Not to mention all the extra subbing in between.

I wouldn't be serving my wrists or my shoulders to do yet another downdog, no matter how mindfully and properly I do it.  My knees and my hips don't really need another baddha konasana.

What I'm seeking - and I'm asking your help, please, readers! - is some kind of physical practice to help ground me in the mornings and/or the evenings.

I've started brainstorming and have so far come up with three ideas - I'm on the hunt for more!

First and foremost - I must incorporate more foam rolling into my life!  As a runner, it's non-negotiable.  The miles are going to continue to creep up as the marathon edges closer, and I promised myself (and Marc) that I would stay super vigilant about taking care of myself and preventing injury.  Foam rolling - which is a self massage/myofacial release - is an essential partner to stretching for any runner's self-care.

Second, I've recently learned about something called Brain Gym from my boss Shari, Karma Kids Yoga's Founder & Director.  She's taking courses to learn more about Brain Gym (an educational kinesiology program) and how to share it with kids, and she shared with me their concept of "Pacing" in the mornings to help bring calm and focus.  It's great, and one of the things about it that's so nice is that it's a very short series of exercises that I can squeeze on the busiest (or laziest!) of mornings.

Third, I've been thinking of some kind of program revolving around joint mobility/warming up.  I'll be taking my dear friend Catherine's Zen Flow yoga class tomorrow night at my local yoga studio, The Giving Tree, and her Zenyasa class always incorporates a sequence of joint mobility. Perhaps I should take notes!

I'm still on the hunt for more ideas, or for a good way to incorporate all of this into a consistent daily practice.  I'm open to suggestions and eager to hear what your morning routine is - even if it just consists of coffee, pastries, and the paper!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bird by Bird

Yesterday I was chatting with one of my best friends, kids yoga teacher and actress extraordinaire, Laura Frye, about the awesome upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream she's in.  (Directed by her super talented hubby Lenny - Check it out and get your tickets, NY'ers!)  One of her castmates is an avid runner and marathoner who likened the experience of their incredibly unusual and challenging take on the play with running a marathon.  Quick summary of the show's conceit:  Puck is played by one actor who draws names out of a hat to determine which roles the other 9 actors will play.  Every night.  This means that the entire cast needs to know the entire play and be able to effortlessly ease in to each role on a millisecond's notice.

Just a touch intimidating, yes?

This castmate of hers, however, likened tackling this challenge to running a marathon - if you look at the big picture of having to run 26.2 miles, it can be way too much to process and self doubt can come in like a tidal wave.  Taking it mile by mile, tiny chunk by tiny chunk, however, makes things much more doable.

For Laura, Lenny, and the cast, it's a great metaphor for how to tackle putting an entire play in your brain.  For me, it's both excellent advice for my own very first marathon (which is an uncomfortably close 89 days away!) and a great metaphor for...well, anything at all, really.

At work, looking at each and every thing I'm responsible can be overwhelming.

In the middle of a hard yoga class, thinking about doing every challenging we just did again on the other side and the class is only 30 minutes in can be overwhelming.

Thinking about how long it will be until Marc comes home (I know, tiny violins) can be overwhelming.

Wondering how we'll be able to afford to have a kid one day and move into a bigger apartment - also overwhelming.

Essentially anything in life that could be intimidating can be broken down - truly anything.  It's such a simple concept and a piece of advice we've all surely heard and given before, and it's so very easy to forget.

Author Anne Lamott speaks to this most eloquently, I believe, in her excellent Bird by Bird.  Marc has loved her work and this particular book for years, and the quote below was the first thing that popped into my head after my conversation with Laura:


“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” 


When faced with a daunting task, whether it be mighty or mundane, just keep the phrase "bird by bird" in your mind.  It keeps you more calm, more present, and ultimately more successful and whatever life is throwing your way.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Art of Self Soothing

We all have people we turn to in times of crisis - people we might refer to as our "rocks," close friends or spouses or family that we rely on to help bolster us when we're down, calm us when we're stressed, and tell us things will be okay when we can't seem to say it to ourselves.

As all-important as those people are, it's just as - if not more - important to have some tools in your mental/emotional toolbox to soothe yourself.  This is something I've thought about a lot at different points in my life, usually when a friendship unexpectedly implodes, or when I've been far from my family and feeling alone.  Now, a few days out from when Marc will be off on his first regional gig - yay! - I'm faced with forging ahead without my rock to give me a squeeze at the end of a hard day.

Not to exaggerate things, of course - with the magic of technology, we'll be able to stay in touch as often as we please, and since he's not going that far from the city, I'll be able to visit him twice.  On the scale of long-distance hardships, ours is nowhere close to being the hardest a couple can bear.  He's still in the same country, and he's doing Pride and Prejudice, not going off to war.  Still - life is all relative, and for us, it's a big deal.

So what does it mean to "self-soothe?"  Being able to comfort yourself as you would comfort a friend, or would like to be comforted, to me is all about consciously making a choice to treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.  You change your internal dialogue to one of support and positivity, and cultivate the ability to tell yourself that it will all be okay.

The yogic practice of mantra is invaluable to this.  When I was interning at Florida Studio Theatre, far from my mom and from my CNU family in Virginia, and going through a phase there where nothing seemed to be going right, the mantra that popped into my head one day was, "At this present moment, everything is exactly how it should be."

A little wordy, but that's what stuck for me, and it truly helped me.  The funny thing is, if someone else had tried to tell me that, I'd have found it far more irritating and condescending than helpful!

It could be something super simple like, "Strength" or, "You've/I've got this."  Whatever it is, it's a choice you make in the midst of stress to either stay attached to being stressed, or to give yourself permission to feel better and break out of it.  For me, I know it's a tool I'll need to use during a very hard run (like this morning's near-disaster!), when I'm overwhelmed after a crazy day at work, or when I'm just plain missing Marc and feeling sorry for myself.

Running without music or headphones for me is a great time to tap into an active meditation of sorts where I'm in a position to more consciously choose my thoughts and ask - are they helping or hurting me?  A physical yoga practice or seated meditation practice is also a wonderful place to cultivate this mental relationship with yourself and ability to self-soothe.

Try choosing one mantra or one tool to use throughout your week, and instead of immediately reaching for the phone to call a friend and vent, see if you can sit with it, breathe through it, and if you can help yourself.  Like anything else, it takes time to build up that "muscle," but it's worth taking the time to try it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Honeymooners

If only I had the shot of me doing a yoga pose on top of a mountain in Italy's Cinque Terre, I could post that and call it a day with the blog!  Alas, we need a special connector cord before we can download Marc's 1,000 pictures from the honeymoon so I'll have to think of something to say instead.

It's been a week since Marc and I got back from an absolutely spectacular honeymoon, and it feels like a lot longer.  It's been disorienting shaking the jet lag (which I believe we finally have) and not just going back to work, but going back to work at the kick-off of one of the busiest times of the year for Karma Kids Yoga - back to school!  Add in to the mix my new job of assistant manager bringing with it way more responsibilities than were on my plate this time last year, plus the start of marathon training (completed my first week's worth of training runs today with a slow 5 miler!) and things are more than a little nuts.

Going from the warm, sunny, stunning French Riviera where each day there was a minimum requirement of one bottle of wine and one baguette each and seafood coming out of our ears to cool, crisp autumn days, stunningly beautiful yellow leaves, and the packed, hustling melting pot that is New York has felt like walking through a wormhole.  And lest we forget, one of our all time favorite shows is ending on Sunday and has been consuming us since we caught up on the episodes we had missed over the honeymoon (if any blog readers are fans, CAN WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT JESSE??)

Needless to say, I'm not here to offer pearls of wisdom, anatomical insights, or philosophical lessons.  I've just been working on balancing keeping the absolute perfect relaxation of the honeymoon in my heart in the midst of New York craziness, while also gratefully jumping back into yoga, running, and green juice to help my body feel back to normal after the metric ton of perfect butter and olive oil I consumed over two weeks.

I get the sense that this blog may take on, once again, the feeling of a running blog moreso than a yoga blog over the next 16 weeks of training, but my running and my yoga are always so very intertwined.  I'm excited to see what comes up in my world and what inspires me to write and share with all of you!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Sadhana & Refreshing Honesty

Normally on a Saturday morning I'd be at Karma Kids Yoga's Peace In Studio, teaching the coolest group of pregnant ladies ever some prenatal yoga and prenatal Pilates.  Being the holiday weekend, however, we're closed!  So instead of sleeping in (I made it to 7:50!) I decided to get up and do something I haven't done in way longer than I want to admit - I practiced yoga and meditated here in my own apartment.

I've been very disconnected from my own practice lately, as I've written about here and there the last almost-year, and which is probably evident in my lack of inspiration of blog posts a lot this summer.  I've been getting caught up so much in my job of yoga (and managing) that I've lost touch with my practice of yoga - it's been hard to distinguish the two.  Usually when you get home from work, even if you love your job, you seek a respite from it.  I was finding the yoga of work and the yoga of home too similar to remember what it was to get peace and comfort from sitting and meditating.  Also I've become a massive adult-onset ADD New Yorker who is addicted to her iPhone, which makes sitting in meditation seem like almost a waste of time because I can't get over my desire to make a schedule, check facebook, or I suddenly remember 47 things I need to add to my to-do list.

This morning, though, was lovely.  I found a nice 30 minute yoga session on YouTube (still haven't done a self guided asana practice in awhile - that'll come, I'm sure) and then did a little pranayama and meditation for a few minutes.  It wasn't earth-shattering or revelation-filled, but man it was nice.  I'm not putting any big expectations on myself for the next two and a half weeks - as it will be my honeymoon soon! - but I'm hoping very much that I can rebuild my practice-muscle and my discipline and my desire for my own practice.  It can't do me anything but good.  When things get crazy this coming fall at Karma Kids, I need to remember that 30 minutes of legs up the wall and meditation after a long day are going to go a lot farther in relaxing and unwinding me than 60 minutes of Master Chef (but oh my god, that show is awesome - and I haven't seen this week's yet, so no spoilers.)

To close, I want to share a link that I saw a couple yogi friends post on facebook that made me laugh.  Some of these I relate to, some of these I think a lot, and some of them I don't relate to so much, but they're all fun:  Things Your Yoga Teacher is Dying to Tell You (but probably won't)

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fly like an Eagle

First of all, I apologize to everyone for getting that song stuck in your head.  However, it's the first thing that popped into mine for a title because today I'd like to talk about Eagle Pose - aka Garudasana.  This pose is translated in English to "eagle" but according to almighty yogajournal.com, it literally means "devourer."  Garuda was the vehicle of the god Vishnu, which was purportedly identified with the, "all consuming fires of the sun's rays."  You learn something new every day!

It's easy to see why this pose is associated with something all-consuming, though.  You're double-wrapping your legs and arms around each other, and in advanced variations, folding over on yourself.  For some, it's an extremely challenging pose.  Aside from having to balance on one foot, and remember which is right and which is left long enough to get the correct knee and elbow stacked on top of the other, this tremendously challenges the flexibility of the upper back and shoulders, the hips and thighs, and builds strength in the ankle.

I teach this pose a lot in my prenatal classes for women who suffer from pubic symphysis pain, general pelvic pain, and tight shoulders (the latter usually affects all my students, pregnant or not!).  It can also feel very nice for anyone suffering from sciatica.  This past month I've also been practicing it a lot at Bikram Yoga NYC .  I don't regularly practice Bikram (I have some big differences of opinion - not to mention issues with the founder himself) but I do enjoy it from time to time, and Eagle pose is always one of the poses I look forward to the most in the practice.  Although I disagree with the teaching and alignment of some of their poses, I think Eagle is usually taught quite well in a Bikram class.  These photos are both from Bikram students/instructors practicing the pose

To come into Eagle Pose, start by coming into utkatasana, usually known as chair pose.  To do the right side, lift your right leg up and cross it over the left, like you were crossing your legs in a chair.  The right foot can touch the floor if you're still working up to the full balance.  Regardless of where that right foot lands (most advanced variation has it wrapping around the left calf), keep squeezing the knees toward each other, making sure the hips stay level.  Feel like your outer hips are squeezing in toward each other.

From there, keeping your gaze steady on something eye level or higher that's not moving, wrap your left elbow on top of the right.  (Right leg on top, right arm on bottom.)  Squeeze the elbows together.  If the shoulders and back are extremely tight, the hands might not touch, and that's perfectly okay.  Eventually you'll be able to press the backs of the hands together, and then finally press palms together.  In Bikram, they also work toward getting the elbows down so low that the fingers are below the face (pictured right).

Finally, if you're feeling steady, you can carefully shift your gaze toward the floor and come into a forward fold, making a C with your spine and curling in on yourself.

Unwrap your arms and legs, and take the other side.  It feels so delicious afterward!  You've challenged, stretched, and/or strengthened nearly your body - stand in Mountain Pose, tadasana, and notice the effects.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Moms & Babies!

Happy gorgeous gorgeous Wednesday everyone!  A short entry today - again.  I have to admit, I haven't been feeling very inspired to blog the way I always thought I "should" be blogging.  When I started this a few years ago I had a very definitive idea that I'd have brilliant musings and insights on all things yoga every single week and that I'd be brimming with ideas and creativity...and yes, there are times when I have more ideas than I have time to write.  Everything comes and goes in waves, though, and I'm just having more of a fallow season I guess!

The good news is that I have something awesome to share on the blog today!  ABC News came to Karma Kids a couple of weeks ago to film one of Shari's Mom & Baby classes and their story is now up and available for viewing here.

I happened to just come from teaching a Mom & Baby class at The Yoga Room in Long Island City this afternoon.  Today most of my regular moms weren't there but I had a whole bunch of brand new moms - including one who had just moved to New York from Amsterdam.  I also teach a Friday morning class at 9:15 at The Giving Tree, and I sub Mom & Baby at Karma Kids whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Mom Catherine and baby Raphael (Rafa) chill out
in Legs Up the Wall at the end of class at The Giving Tree
This class is easily one of my all time favorite of all of the different populations I teach.  There is something so particularly rewarding about seeing moms connect with each other, relax in a safe environment where no one cares if their baby screams the whole time, and maybe even grab one or two rare moments of zen.  They leave feeling stronger and usually sure that they'll get a great nap out of their baby after class!  From the selfish end of things, I know teaching a baby class is a guaranteed way to lift my spirits if they're sagging for whatever reason.  It is absolutely impossible not to be in a wonderful mood after teaching a Mom & Baby class.  Interacting with all the different little ones and seeing how extraordinarily fast (too fast!) they grow and creating my own little bond with them is unbelievably rewarding.

If you have any friends who are expectant or new mommies, no matter where you live, see if you can find a Mom & Baby Yoga class in your area.  It's something that has brought so much to so many new moms I've seen and worked with!

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's Science

Big shoutout to the lovely Cassie Naatkgeboren for not only having the coolest last name ever, but for providing me with a link for today's blog!  Also, bonus points to anyone who can tell me the preceding sentence to the Anchorman quote ending in, "It's science" that inspired this post title...

I had planned a big, contemplate-y post about the amazing Orange is the New Black (but I'm only on episode 4, so no spoilers!) and the character of Yoga Jones.  She says some really interesting things about impermanence in the first episode, but alas, as is wont to happen to me these days, time has gotten away from me.  How is this happening - it's August, for goodness sakes!  Time is supposed to be growing on trees.  Oh well - just got to go with the flow, I suppose.

What's really cool about this link is that instead of just being written by any old schmo with a blog (like yours truly) there are some really fantastic scientifically based images and explanations around these ten pieces of advice that we've all received, and probably given, a zillion times over.  It puts it all in a different perspective.

Enjoy, everyone, and happy Friday!

Friday, August 2, 2013

My Prenatal Guru

This brilliant woman has been one of my heroes since I started my yogic journey - specifically when I started teaching Prenatal Yoga.

In honor of my 4 Prenatal classes I'm teaching tomorrow, I'd love to share some of her wisdom with you.  Ina May Gaskin is repeatedly described as the "mother of modern midwifery," and she truly is.  She's the author of several life changing (to me) books (my favorite being Ina May's Guide to Childbirth; her latest is Birth Matters which is an unbelievably important read!) and helped found The Farm Midwifery Center, which is the place where if I had my druthers, I'd have all my future babies!

There's so much I love about Ina May, but one of the main things is her dogged determination to quell fear and ignorance with knowledge and humor.  Birth is a wonderful, horrible, peaceful, excruciating experience depending on who you are and what your experiences are (sometimes all of those things at once!).  The more you know about it, whatever your experience winds up being like, the better off you'll be going into it - and the better prepared you'll be to throw all preconceived notions out the window when the time actually comes.

Obviously, for me all of this is second hand.  While I haven't yet experienced this for myself, and so in a sense am as ignorant as can be, I hear birth stories from my students constantly, as well as from my own mother and mother-in-law (both of whom are strong advocates for epidurals!)  From my students I hear experiences that truly run the spectrum - natural, epidural, c-section, wonderful, terrible, challenging, a breeze.  Each one is as unique as the woman who lived it.

I always encourage my students, as my teacher Juliana encourages me, to never take anyone - even Ina May's! - word as gospel and to always find their answers through as many avenues as possible.

Spare about 15 minutes to watch this - and get a load of the staggering statistics toward the end comparing the national US C-section and instrumental delivery rate versus the rates from births on The Farm!

 



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mala Madness!

I've written in the past about malas and about a japa meditation practice - a mala is typically a necklace of 108 beads used for meditation practice.  You choose a mantra, sit in your meditation posture, and thumb through each bead, repeating the mantra silently or aloud 108 times.  It's an ancient practice, and one very common among yogis.

Mala with a Ganesh charm; the remover of obstacles
One of our former teachers (and hopefully future...?) at Karma Kids, the lovely Camy Zachofsky, started making her own malas a few years ago after feeling like there wasn't a lot of variety or personality in many of the malas she was seeing at various studios and stores.  Camy has put a tremendous amount of thought into her designs, work into finding the best materials, and care in creating malas designed to support certain chakras, or energy centers, and different intentions for the person who will inevitably use that mala for a japa practice.

We had an incredibly fun workshop with Camy last week - Mala Madness, also the name of her company - where she taught us how to make our own malas as well as teaching us more about a japa practice.  Mine is a beautiful blue sodalite mala with a lovely copper key charm at the end.

I encourage everyone to check out Camy's website and facebook page and see her stunning malas for yourself!  They're great as a gift to yourself, to a yogi friend, or even to someone completely new to a yoga or meditation practice.  Enjoy your own mala madness!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Love Where You Are

I didn't write an entry last week as it was a semi-vacation week.  I worked every day except for the actual 4th of July, but I had an overall lighter schedule than usual and took full advantage of the time I wasn't working!

This coming week is much busier with both work and play - Marc's show opens on Thursday (Buy your tickets now and come see him!  Tickets are selling so fast!) and my wonderful in-laws are coming into town on Friday to see his awesome work as Macbeth.  I'm also doing a refresher course on Prenatal Pilates on Sunday, taking up what's often my day off.  I'm incredibly excited for it, but definitely hunkering down today and preparing for a crazy and hopefully please lord slightly less hot week.

Today's entry, at the bridge between last week and this week, will serve as the entry for both, and I want to share the little phrase that started rolling around in my head at the start of last week and has become my July mantra:

"Love where you are."

In yoga there's constant talk about "being present" and "staying present," but it can be hard to grasp what that actually means and what it feels like.  We can touch it from time to time but it's often fleeting in our practical, everyday life.  I think a lot of people often feel (I know I do!) that no matter where you are, you can't stop thinking about the past or the future.  When I'm at work, I think about what I'm going to do when I come home.  When I'm home, I think about what I'm going to do at work.  When I'm at a yoga class, I'm thinking about coming home and making dinner (it is a bit frightening and crazy how often I'm just thinking about food and cooking).

The thing is, though, even when I'm not enamored with where I am (waiting on a stiflingly, disgustingly hot subway platform for example), I do know that I have the ability to find at least a little bit of peace or even joy no matter what.  Even if it's just the perspective of having a moment of gratitude for the subway system, however imperfect, allowing me to live in my lovely neighborhood and work with relative ease in Manhattan.

The idea of loving where you are instead of just being there makes it a little bit more actionable - achievable if you will.  It's giving us something to do instead of trying to grasp at that ever elusive idea of simply being.  Maybe it can serve as a gateway - who knows.  So far, though, it's been a really great phrase to keep in my back pocket to give myself a reality check - or a reminder to put down the iPhone during an evening with Marc or lunch with a friend.

Let me know if this idea resonates with you - try repeating it to yourself whenever you catch yourself wishing you were someplace else or immersed in facebook during work.  Is it helpful?

I hope everyone has a wonderful week!


P.S.

In totally unrelated news, I was on a mission this weekend to keep my tradition going of making treats for the shows that Marc is in for the cast & crew to enjoy.  I came upon this recipe and blog and my life will never be the same.  Check it out!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Easier said than done

A short and sweet entry today, because someone else took the thoughts from my brain and put them down much more simply and succinctly than I think I am capable of!

Thanks to the lovely Lisa Feuer, of Yogini and Bambini, for sharing the link I'm going to share with you all today.  It's a list of things to give up "in exchange for" happiness.  I like that the title is "in exchange for" rather than "to find" happiness.  Every single thing on this list is easier said that done, but man are they worth doing. These concepts are often common knowledge, but they actually work if you're able to put them into practice.  The trick is to recommit every day and know that you are going to fail - a lot!  It's just about being mindful, having the intention to live well and give yourself a break, and pick yourself back up from one moment to the next.

Okay - enough vagueness from me.  Enjoy a nice "top 10" style blog from Tamara Star!

10 Things to Give Up in Exchange for Happiness

Happy last-week-of-June, everyone!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yin (Yoga) and Yang

From my personal life to my professional life, this past week has been an absolute doozy - in a great way!  But as I've said many times on the blog, however, even positive stress still counts as stress.  If you're flying high for a couple of days, you're bound to feel a let-down - physically, emotionally, or both in the following days.  It's just how we work as human beings.  Consciously or unconsciously, we're always striving for balance.

A week ago today I was promoted to Assistant Manager at Karma Kids, which I'll start July 1st.  I'll have some big shoes to fill as we bid our current Assistant Manager bon voyage as she starts an exciting new adventure in Portland, OR, but I am so excited and feel ready for the challenge.

Then on Saturday, I finally told my sister how I'd been mulling over and toying with the idea of running a full marathon.  Between running my first half, what happened with Sandy and this year's New York Marathon, the Boston bombing, discovering the best running podcast ever (Two Gomers Run for Their Lives - check it out!), and feeling GREAT in my second half marathon...I finally decided that running a full marathon is something I have to do in my life.  And when I get a bee in my bonnet about something, I have to plan it and do it RIGHT now!  My sister had continuously floated the idea of us running a full marathon when we were doing the half, but I've always, always said no to the idea.  Well...suddenly we were making plans, and now we are both officially registered for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon in January! And we are also insane.

Once it got to be Saturday late afternoon, I was getting ready to take a yoga class for myself after a morning and afternoon full of teaching (and constant texting and emailing with my sister during breaks about marathon possibilities!).  The past couple of days had been incredibly exciting and my mind was buzzing nonstop with what the future held.

Normally, the Saturday class at The Giving Tree had been taught by my wonderful friend, a BRILLIANT yoga teacher by the name of Joseph.  Sadly for me, he's no longer teaching that particular class, but as strange luck would have it, it's being taken over by the lovely Jennifer, a fellow Mom/Baby/Kid yoga teacher!  We're working together as I sub a Mom & Baby class at The Yoga Room this summer, and it's always so nice to meet fellow teachers in Astoria.

All of this is a giant lead up to say - I was feeling tired but very, very wired as I laid my mat down to get ready to practice with Jennifer.  The class is called Weekend Serenity, which Joseph tended to structure as half to 2/3's hatha-vinyasa yoga, and half to 1/3 of total restorative goodness mixed with his incredible wisdom and humor.

I figured her class would be similar to his, but Jennifer's first question as I was setting up was, "Have you ever done Yin Yoga?"

And then I got REALLY excited!

I've always wanted to try Yin Yoga - the amazing Masako offers workshops on it a lot at The Giving Tree and I've never been able to go.  Yin Yoga is essentially holding poses for a much longer period of time than usual - about 5 minutes or so - to deeply stretch not only the muscle but the supportive connective tissue around the muscles/joints.  It might seem totally counterintuitive to stretch the connective tissue, but it's meant as a gentle stretch and release to ultimately make it stronger.  It's also not meant as a sole practice on its own but as a complement (a yin complement, perhaps!) to more yang activities, whether it be vigorous vinyasa yoga, running, weightlifting - regular NYC life of fast walking and stair hopping.

Just as with Joseph's class, we spent the last half hour or so in total restorative postures (where your body doesn't have to do any work and you shouldn't feel an active stretch) but for the first hour, we held simple poses - forward folds, pigeon, low lunges - for a long period of time each.  We moved very slowly and did only a single standing pose.  If it sounds like scary torture - it's not, I promise.  I was pretty nervous for the first three poses, especially when halfway through standing forward fold, I got pins and needles from my knees down to my toes!  It was my mind more than my body, though, that was having a tough time adjusting to this sloooooow and steady pace of the class.  It was exactly what I needed.

After class, my body felt like one giant noodle and my brain felt about the same!  I was able to tap into a deep physical relaxation that allowed my mind some genuine rest.  The sequence of hip opening, shoulder opening, and especially hamstring opening was really thoughtfully put together to promote ease in the practice and not force.

As a planner, as a New Yorker, as someone who, though I'm 90% employed by Karma Kids, is technically an independent contractor who sets her own schedule - it can be extremely hard to slow down my mind and body.  Being a yoga teacher doesn't mean it's easy for me to actually keep up with my own personal practice - in some ways it makes it harder!

The Saturday class at The Giving Tree (and by the way, it's from 5:15-6:45 should you ever want to join me there!) has been my end-of-day treat for a long time.  I was very sad to see Joseph go (but if you're around in the morning, he now teaches at 10:15-11:45!) but change is the one constant in life, and I'm really excited to embrace this one.  Life these days tends to be highly yang - fast, aggressive, intense - and without a little soft, slow yin to find balance, we'll burn ourselves out before we know it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Guest Blogger!

Hi friends and followers!  I am super excited and humbled to announce that today's blog is going to be written by a guest blogger!  This couldn't have come at a more perfect time, as I was just telling my husband I had no idea what I was going to write about this week.  Lo and behold, I got an email from the lovely Caitlin Hudson (@HealthyHudson on Twitter) saying that she likes the blog and is interested in writing a guest entry!  Caitlin is in the process of starting up her own blog, and I'm very happy to help get her name and writing out there.  So without further ado, here she is!


Hi all, I'm Caitlin Hudson, a full-time mommy, nature lover, writer and health nut! I am in the process of starting my own blog, but in the meantime, Annie is so kindly letting me guest post on her blog. Today, I'd like to share with you some of my tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, even when life is hectic!


Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
While many today are under the impression that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be complicated, it can really be quite simple if you stick to the basics. Below are some of my personal tips to help live a healthy lifestyle even if you have a super busy schedule.

1    1.  Stay hydrated: Keeping your body properly hydrated is the first essential step to living a healthy lifestyle. Staying hydrated helps control appetite as well as prevent headaches, fatigue, and dry skin. To stay properly hydrated, make sure to drink before, during, and after exercise when heavy sweating is expected. Generally speaking, you should have at least 64 ounces of non-caffeinated fluids each day. While initially it may be difficult to drink that much each day as you begin to feel the benefits of staying hydrated, it will become easier. Learn more about how to stay properly hydrated on WebMD.com.

2.     Exercise: While this always seems like the last thing you want to fit into your busy day, it is one of the most important things. You probably don’t have time for an hour+ workout at the gym, but even a 20 minute jog can make a difference. Another idea is a workout program. There are a bunch of options to choose from if you want a shorter workout. The Power 90 workout from Beachbody consists of workouts, all less than 45 minutes! They are also coming out with a new workout, T25, which is only 25 minutes.  No matter your lifestyle, everyone can find 25 minutes, especially when it comes to your health.

3.     Avoid processed foods: It is always better to eat whole foods than processed foods. Eat unprocessed fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals. Always choose to eat lean meat, beans, and tofu for their high protein content. Avoid white bread and pasta and instead choose whole grains such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole wheat bread. Finally, eat low-fat dairy, skim milk and reduced fat cheeses.

4.     Reduce your stress: Stress can affect all areas of your life. A most likely, if you have a hectic schedule, you are likely to feel stressed often. A quick walk outside with some fresh air is always my go-to. Use deep breathing, yoga, and exercise as ways to reduce your stress level and bring your life back into balance. Sometimes all you need is 10 minutes to feel rejuvenated. If those don’t sound appealing, I came across thisarticle with 23 ways to help. Any way you can reduce your stress level will improve your overall health.

5.     Get enough sleep: While it may sound obvious, sleep is incredibly important. It keeps your memory sharp and your metabolism running at peak levels. Getting enough sleep can improve your cardiovascular health and your mood. Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night in order to avoid sleep deprivation. If you have trouble sleeping throughout the night, sound machines can work wonders. For others, it may be the pillow or mattress that causes the issue. If you can’t quite figure it out, seeing a specialist can’t hurt either.

I hope these five steps can help you work toward living a healthier lifestyle. If you have any questions about my tips, feel free to email me.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Inspiration

Inspiration is a big part of what I've been writing about lately.  I want to feel inspired by the practice of yoga as I did when I first discovered it, and when I first dove headfirst into my teacher training at Sonic back in the fall of 2009.

This week has been full of it - I started practicing at Laughing Lotus which I've thoroughly enjoyed, although the first class was jarring because I wasn't used to their fast-paced asana style.  I've since relaxed into it and really enjoyed the studio and it's philosophy for its fun-loving and unabashedly devotional, silly, loud self.  I think it's the kind of lighthearted yet intense approach that's perfect for what I'm seeking right now.  I've also rededicated myself to my personal meditation practice, very slowly building myself back up.

Most importantly, though, I've been inspired by my oldest friend, who lives across the pond in London.  We're very different people - different from each other and also very different from the people we were when we first met over 10 years ago.  He has decidedly and intentionally never been a yogi - claiming everything from being too inflexible (that's like saying you're too dirty to take a shower in my opinion!) to not being into anything with an ounce of, as he'd put it, "mysticism."  (We'd be more likely to call it spirituality, I think.)  Funnily enough, though, he's been a vegetarian since he's been a teenager - something lots of yogis would consider a prerequisite to the practice, but something I've never been.

Well, after taking a class with me with one of my very favorite teachers when he was visiting me this spring for the wedding, my beloved, skeptical, inflexible friend...may have enjoyed himself.  Never one to make a big and obvious fuss about things, he very quietly, discreetly, and adorably told me that he liked it, despite feeling like a fish out of water.

After going back to London, he and his best friend back home found a yoga studio close by where they each live and started going!  In all of our years I never would have imagined it, but you just never know how people will change.  He still can't believe that I voluntarily eat vegetables and go for long runs - it goes to show you can always surprise people, even the ones that know you best, and even yourself.

Corresponding with him lately about the different yoga classes he tried (we recently confirmed that I was right about him needing to avoid Ashtanga...oh, how I feel his pain!) has been so special and inspirational to me.  I don't think it's an accident that he's discovering yoga for himself right at the time I'm feeling a desperate need for the most basic reconnection with it.  Through his own unique experience, I'm recalling my days as a beginner and what the practice meant to me.  Even though he's coming at it from a totally different time of his life and even though he's different from me in so many ways, yoga is still giving him something important enough to keep him coming back to class.

That's what it really all comes down to - if you keep coming back to the mat, you'll keep finding reasons to stay.  And the rewards just keep coming.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Back to basics

Happy almost-June!  As May comes to a close and June with its promise of gloriously long and sunny (and stormy) summer days quickly approaches, it feels like a lot of things in my life are coming to a close and a lot of space is opening up.

From the wedding, I dove headfirst into a very fast and furious half marathon training.  From there, taking care of more newlywed business (this whole name change thing is a chore and a half in New York State!!), and then culminating this weekend, Marc and I tackled a massive spring cleaning of our apartment that was easily 3 years in the making.  It's been on the agenda probably since the winter - knowing that we needed a big spring clean/purge/reorganization - and we always put it off until that generic time, "after the wedding."

We spent all day Sunday and all day Monday under the bed, way back in closets, vacuuming places that hadn't seen the light of day in lord knows how long, dropping off trash bags of clothing and more at Goodwill, overwhelming our apartment building's garbage and recycle cans, and putting everything all back together again better than we found it.  It's an exhausting, frustrating, and ultimately massively rewarding thing to do and I'm so profoundly grateful we had the time to put into it.  (Now hopefully the next time we have a day off together we can make plans to just enjoy ourselves instead!)  It had me thinking a lot about some basic yogic principles - saucha (purity, cleanliness) and aparigraha (non-hoarding) chief among them - and I noticed that although we were putting them fully into practice in our apartment, I was still struggling a bit in applying it to my day to day life.

With those three big tasks behind me now - wedding, race, massive spring cleaning - my mind keeps finding its way back to yoga - specifically, my own practice.  During training both of my half marathons, my meditation practice got pushed to the back burner, and I feel like I've been so busy and so attached to the idea that I'm busy for so long, it's hard for me to just relax and to have an empty spot on my calendar and not fill it with something. It's an attachment to being "productive," or a habit, or some kind of anxiety, but whatever it is, I need to learn how to have the opposite as well!

I've had a hard time connecting with a genuine, personal yoga practice and with tapping into that which made yoga so important to me in the first place that I wanted to make it my life.  It used to be something I went to to help me deal with life and work and stress, but now that it's become my work, I don't know how to allow it to be both.  It's hard to be in a class and not have my analytical teacher mind and compare myself to the teacher - favorably or unfavorably.  It's hard not to turn off my "note taking" brain and think about her sequencing or whether I agree or disagree with her style.  I also keep thinking that I don't necessarily want to have my own personal asana practice if I"m going to be doign asana (especially with kids when it's harder to be careful of my body) becasue then I'm just asking for over-use injuries.

All of this is to say - I'm hoping this summer I can start to re-learn how to relax, connect, and enjoy my yoga again.  To be productive in my life without being obsessed with productivity and work - to come out of high gear sometimes.  This city has a way of sweeping you up to a fever pitch and it's unsustainable.  Back to basics for me - meditation, yoga classes with no expectations and a beginner's mind, and truly tuning in to what I need.