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.