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.