Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ready to Run (Almost)

I want to mention something I've been meaning to write about since September - I'm not sure why it's taken me this long!

Starting in September, I started seeing an amazing physical therapist, referred to me by my incredible mentor.  I've been sidelined all year long post-marathon - first the scary hamstring pain before the marathon back in January, then the foot injury after the marathon, and then just as my foot was healed and I went to start running again...the hamstring pain came back.  I'd run, feel pain, then rest for a week or two (or four).  Then start again, the pain would come again.  Then gradually it became a part of my every day life, spread to my hip and glute, and would get worse after teaching classes.  I sought out a sports medicine doctor who ordered an MRI which showed me nothing at all (except a much emptier bank account).

So although I dearly wish it hadn't taken me from January til September to finally get to a physical therapist about this, I'm there now!  It took me a nine months to get to this point so I know I can't expect results right away, but the amount of help Fabricio, my PT, has given me in these three months since I've been seeing him is astronomical.  We even went on a few runs together, and I went on a few on my own.  We've held off the running because a) he wants me to be barefoot to help my foot strike and to improve my stride and it's freezing cold and b) after over-doing it on some of our strengthening exercises some of the pain was coming back.

I'm back to feeling great again, though, and I'm sure Santa will give me the means to get a Fabricio-approved running shoe and I'm so excited to keep going on my journey back to running in January.

I've gotten really despondent about this throughout the year.  Running, even more than yoga, is my primary stress reliever and mood booster when it comes to physical activity.  (I obviously love yoga, but I have a hard time keeping myself from analyzing the teacher and sequence!)  I was even experiencing pain after taking yoga classes so those were out too.  I also didn't want to wallow because so many people I knew this year were going through much worse physical trials than me.  I've been more sedentary and I know it's had an effect on my overall mood and health this year, which has been really hard.

What I've been learning through my PT work, though, has been so instrumental and changing the way I sit, stand, teach, practice, run, and do random functional activities throughout the day.  For my birthday, Fabricio gave me a book called Ready to Run by Dr. Kelly Starrett which has clearly been influencing the work we've been doing to get me back to running.  It's fascinating and so much of what it says has me saying, "Duh! Why have I not always been doing this?"  It talks so much about how much of injury prevention is in our own hands.  We have to get to know our own body mechanics, mobility, range of motion, limitations we can work on, sit less, use good posture, and perform daily maintenance on our bodies.

I can't recommend this book enough and I'm not even finished with it yet.  It's packed with exercises, mobility tests, foam roll/pressure point ball exercises for self massage and fascia release, and great information.  Whether you'd define yourself as an athlete, a yogi, or neither, this book is a must read!  Treat yourself to Ready to Run and you'll be so inspired to take better care of yourself in 2015.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Now is now

Although I have a couple of massages planned today, and I just spent several days not working due to the lovely Thanksgiving holiday, today feels like my first day off in awhile.  I think it's because I'm at home.  I'm at home, I'm alone, and as usual, I have a giant to-do list of things I want to accomplish, some of which I feel like I've been trying to accomplish for months now.

Something that wasn't on the list but that I just "accomplished" as I tried out a new oatmeal recipe - I finally finished rereading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I started re-reading this book in September, when Marc and I had just gotten back from seeing the babies and we were still very new to our beautiful new apartment.  I thought I'd follow along with the book, dedicating my own resolutions and changes and goals, making our home the happiest, most organized home EVER.  Of course, work and life got in the way, and my massive plan was put off.  But I still very much enjoy her writing and the entire concept of her Happiness Projects.  (In fact, I wrote a book report - I should start doing those again - on her first book, back in September of 2011)

Reading as I was cooking/eating this morning, I realized I had nearly unintentionally finished the book.  As one might expect, the last passage is particularly interesting and struck a chord with me - something that Marc and I had been talking about just this past weekend.

The notion of "being present" is so very challenging for so many of us because we tend to be focusing on either the past and the future, and most people tend more toward one than the other.  I am much more of a future-oriented person.  I have a pathological tendency toward planning.  Planning, daydreaming, anticipating, worrying - and I've lately gotten into a lovely habit of preparing for and imagining entire arguments or debates with people before they've even happened.  And of course - they might never happen.

In the last passage of her book, Rubin discusses the notion, one of her personal Splendid Truths, of, "Now is now."  She explains:

"One of the persistent follies of human nature is to imagine true happiness is just out of reach.  The "arrival fallacy" describes our tendency to believe that once we arrive at a particular destination, then we'll be happy. People generally expect the future will be slightly happier than the past; in one study, when asked where they thought they'd be in ten years, 95% of people expected their lives would be better in the future than in the past, and people already satisfied with their lives believed they'd be even more satisfied."

I can very much relate to that, as I think a lot of people can.  Regardless of how you'd describe your current state of happiness, there's so often with people a feeling of "Once I've accomplished this" or "Once I'm making this amount of money," or fill in the blank - then we can rest and bask in the glow of our happy present.

Rubin mentions a couple of times the idea of nostalgia, and pining for the "good old days," when in fact at some point, we will look back on right now with that nostalgia of it being the "good old days."  It makes me think of high school and college, which I so desperately loved, and being baffled by my friends who were so deeply anxious to graduate and get the hell out.  I, on the other hand, had to be dragged kicking and screaming across the graduation stage so badly did I want to stay in my comfort zone with my friends.  I had a strong sense that I'd look back and pine for those days, and I wanted them to last as long as I could.

Luckily, I can confidently say that as much as I loved those years, they were not the pinnacle of my life.  The happiest day of my life, still, as cliche as it might sound - was my wedding day.  And the reason for it is because - it was the most consistently present day of my life.  It was a day that had been so incredibly anticipated, with excitement but also a lot of angst and family drama surrounding it, that once it arrived I truly enjoyed every single moment of it.  And I didn't want to rush time, either - excited as I was to see Marc and for the getting-married part, I loved everything leading up to it as much as during and after.

Like high school and college, I don't want or expect my wedding day to be the pinnacle of my life.  I should hope I still have several decades of living to go beyond that one day, and how depressing would it be if it were all downhill from there?  But the biggest reason for why that day has been the best, outside of the friends, family, new husband, dress, cake, dancing, etc - it was because I was 100% immersed in every moment as it was happening.  I've had days where I've come close to that level of presence, but nothing's equalled it just yet.

I don't think life has one particular meaning, but for me, I live by the philosophy that, "The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment."  As Gretchen Rubin puts it, "Now is now."  If what's happening in this moment is good, bad, painful, joyful - it's still what's happening now, and it's meant to be felt and experienced to the fullest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Forgiveness & Closure. And questions.

There's been a lot of change this year.  I write about it almost every week.  A lot of birth, growth, new beginnings, endings, sickness, brushes with death, and recently for me, ending a relationship.  (Not Marc!)

An ongoing family drama lasting almost two years now has come to a pretty firm conclusion the last two days.  The details beyond that are private and not really important, but it's obviously got me asking all kinds of questions and wondering about all kinds of things.

What is closure?  How do you forgive someone?  What do those words and concepts even mean?

Over the past several years, I think the concept of forgiveness has changed in our culture from something involved in repairing a relationship with a person to being much more focused on doing it for yourself - a way to free yourself of past hurt.  There's the simpler level of having a fight with someone, forgiving them, and truly being able to move forward with that relationship.  That is a bit more cut and dry and easy to understand (though not necessarily easy to do!)

Easier said than done, dude.
That idea of forgiveness as being more "for yourself" is especially helpful, I imagine, if the person you're trying to forgive has passed away or is just no longer in your life.  It's not about them validating you or forgiving you in return - it's about you.  Or you also read about extraordinary people who have forgiven the murderer of a friend or family member, talking about a need to free themselves from living a life of bitterness and resentment.  It makes sense, and sounds amazing.  It also sounds deceptively easy - but of course there's no way it can be easy!  Can it?  I suppose it's different for everyone.  The quote on the right I think typifies this type of thinking about forgiveness and working to let go of anger, however justified.

Closure is an even more open-ended concept to try to get my brain around.  What gives something the power of being "closure?"  How can you measure it?  What does it feel like?  If we're talking about something on a relationship level, you're dealing with at least two parties - what if one has closure and one doesn't?

I know these are really abstract questions.  I think they're abstract mainly because I tend to be more literal and more tactile.  It's probably why I've been more drawn to a spiritual practice that has such a physical component as opposed to a more traditional religion.

I realized last night, talking this through with Marc, that I've never been able to "achieve" forgiveness with anything beyond the most basic kind of working something out with a friend and moving forward in that relationship.  I haven't been able to get to a point where I've just decided to forgive something I'd categorize as major in my life.  Part of why I haven't is because I don't know what it feels like.  I don't know what it means.  It almost certainly doesn't take away feelings of sadness and anger and a feeling of being wronged or hurt.  If it's "for me," what does that mean?

It's the same feeling of uncertainty that comes up when I address the question of God.  I'm an agnostic because while I don't believe in God, I also know that I don't know for sure that there isn't a God.  I just don't know, and I don't feel I can presume to commit fully to one side of the spectrum or the other.

Relating that to the concepts of forgiveness and closure, I know that they aren't magic buttons you can press to make anger and sadness go away.  So what are they?  What does it mean?  What does it take to get there?  How can forgiveness set you free if the pain is still there?  And am I just being too damn literal about all this?

Any and all ideas are welcome.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veteran's Day!

This Veteran's Day, I'd like to share my all-time favorite rendition of our national anthem.  Future star of stage & screen, Lisa Helmi Johanson, rocks it like no other.  Just cock your head to the left ;)

Namaste, y'all!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I am a DOULA!

I can't believe that one week ago today, I was sitting in Birth Day Presence in the presence of one of the country's most established doulas soaking in her wisdom.  I wish so much I could go back and take that training again and again and again and again.  (Luckily for me, as a doula, I'm required a certain amount of continuing education credits each year so I may just get the chance!)

Debra Pascali-Bonaro, I'm so very proud to say, has made me a trained doula!  I still have a ways to go before my certification is complete, but this is the most significant part of the certification process to complete before I start attending births.  Debra was wonderful - there are not enough adjectives in the world.  She was warm, put us all immediately at ease, funny, unbelievably knowledgeable, and her heart is clearly in every single thing she says and does.  Her genuine love radiated through every word she spoke.

I'm gushing, I know, but I just don't know how else I'm going to write about this workshop!

With a lot of upheaval going on lately at Karma Kids (I can't reveal our exciting news just yet, but stay tuned!) and my mind and energy focused on that, I've been saying over and over what "terrible timing" this workshop has been for my life - but like so many things, what I thought was going to be a massive disadvantage turned out to be a huge advantage.  I was so caught up in everything else going on I had nearly forgotten my passion which sparked my desire to become a doula in the first place - this pushed me right back into the deep end of it.

The first day was focused primarily on childbirth education, while the second two days focused on the role of a doula as well as anything and everything we'd need to know going forward as doulas, from pre and postnatal visits with clients, to providing emotional support, physical comfort measures, and the history of female support at birth, before it moved into the hospital in the early-mid 20th century.

Each day's lunch break we had the option to stay and watch one of Debra's many documentaries she had on hand, and we also were able to come early to watch them too.  There were so many inspiring stories - Guerilla Midwife featuring the unbelievable humanitarian work of Robin Lim in Indonesia and the Phillipinnes and various other areas natural disaster has struck (read more!), A Doula Story focusing on angel-in-human-form Loretha Weisinger is doing in Chicago for pregnant teens (read more!), and so much more.

None of us in the group wanted the training to end - we could have happily gone on like that for another week!  But we all feel so grateful for the time we were able to have with Debra and with each other and all look forward to coming back together whenever and however possible.

I'm so excited to keep moving forward in this direction with the help of my invaluable mentor, pre/postnatal expert and doula Juliana Secches.  I'm so ready to start attending births and, after all this talk and practice and theory, really start doing this work that I feel so called to do.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Laughter Yoga (but not)



I'm down for the count tonight - I've been fighting a cold all week long and I have a huge week coming up.  Big things coming up for Karma Kids and my three-day Doula Training is going to be right smack in the middle of it this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  My plans with my beautiful friend Laura are cancelled (including my plan to take my first gentle yoga class since rehabbing my hip and hamstring) and I'm hoping that between all the prep work I have to do for doula training I can get enough rest to beat this thing.

In the meantime, this has totally made my day.  It has pretty much nothing to do with yoga in any way, but I guarantee it will make you laugh.  I love me some good bloopers and a good case of the giggles.  Enjoy a rush of mood-boosting endorphins, fire up your belly muscles, and boost your mood.  Late Night with Jimmy Fallon = Laughter Yoga (but not really).

Hope to be back next week with an exciting announcement about Karma Kids Yoga, an update on how my doula training went, and something I've been wanting to write about for a month now - my life-changing physical therapist!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Despair is the greatest sin

I was fully prepared to let myself off the hook again today.  My weekly-blogging has been once-every-two-or-three-weeks blogging lately.  There's a lot going on with work, and I've been desperate to spend every single second Marc and I both had free together - which unfortunately were not that many seconds.

He left today to go do another show at the beautiful People's Light & Theatre in Malvern, PA.  It's a beautiful theatre, a great company, and the show will be tons of fun with fantastic people.  I wish I were going with him.  I wish he were staying here.  I wish the contract wasn't so frigging long.

I have a lot on my plate today - things that I've been neglecting in favor of all else we've had going on - and especially since I'm not feeling terribly inspired or, honestly, terribly happy, I was going to give myself another pass.  Next week I'll be more "YoginiAnnie" like - not today.

However.

As I've written before, and as much wiser and more eloquent people than I have said, yoga isn't just about being shiny and happy and Instagramming yourself in a headstand.  It's accepting the present and yourself, no matter what.  Suffering isn't caused my the circumstances themselves (even when that's really hard to believe), it's caused by our inability to accept and integrate them into our present.

I have a ton of reasons to be grateful.  My overall health is good, and my health is being improved by a phenomenal physical therapist who will hopefully be getting me back to running (!) and taking yoga classes for myself in the next couple of months.  My husband's not going off to war or dying, he's going to Pennsylvania to do what he loves.

One of the things on our to-do-before-PA list was to finish the series Masters of Sex, which we both absolutely love and which featured our beautiful friend, the insanely talented up-and-coming actress Katie Parker in the last two episodes.  There's a beautiful scene between two characters - one a Christian and one an atheist - who are both struggling deeply with emotional issues.  Barbara, the Christan, says at one point that, "Despair is the greatest sin."  To my Christian readers, this probably isn't a big revelation (ha) to you, but I had never heard that before.  You mainly just hear about murder, adultery - the more obvious stuff.  But despair?

It seems like a really bold statement to me.  Similar to the idea that suffering isn't caused by the world or external circumstances - it's caused by how we react to those circumstances.  We have the ability to accept, make peace with, and maybe even find joy in everything - to indirectly quote Angels in America, in every awful thing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just Doula-ing It

Yep, I just made that pun.

I realized today I haven't really written that much about this next chapter of my education/career/passion/life that I'm entering into, and that a lot of my friends might not know a whole lot about what this new position really means.

In late October, I'll be attending a childbirth class and doula training program under Debra Pascali-Bonaro, author and director of Orgasmic Birth (both a birthing book and an eye-opening documentary) and experienced childbirth educator and doula.  I've already started the process of reading everything both on and off my reading list, and I have quite a few more hurdles to climb before I'm an officially certified doula, but I'm jumping in with both feet.

Super exciting, right?  But what's a doula?

The word Doula comes from ancient Greek meaning a female servant.  It is a woman who is literally there before, during, and after labor and birth to support the mother and partner through the process.  Most women in this country give birth in a hospital where the staff is almost certainly overworked and overseeing multiple patients at a time.  For a lot of couples, this can breed a lot of anxiety and uncertainty - even when the staff is excellent.  Most women wind up being hooked up to some kind of fetal heartrate monitor and staff (and partners!) can run the risk of paying much closer attention to the printout of the monitor than the actual mother in labor, leaving her feeling isolated and ignored.

Having a doula as a constant, attentive, knowledgeable, comforting presence, whether in a hospital, birth center, or home birth, can make the couple feel more at ease, can make the partner more confident in how he is helping the mother, and provides the couple with a whole host of nonmedical techniques to alleviate pain.

Nowhere is the mind-body connection more potent and powerful during childbirth.  If you have someone supporting you and your choices (whatever they may be, as it is not a doula's job to judge or push an agenda) and helping to guide you through this most intense and overwhelming physiological event the human body can experience where emotions are inevitably running high, you are going to come out the other side having had a more positive experience.

My sister laboring in the tub with the support of one of her
two fantastic doulas, Maggie Gentilini
My sister and brother-in-law experienced that first-hand after having two excellent doulas attend them during the birth of the twins this past summer.  They cannot sing their praises high enough, and I know it absolutely made all the difference in the world in making the birth experience a positive one for them.  Not to mention, the second doula took some phenomenal pictures that we'll treasure forever!

So what does a doula actually do?  The short answer is, whatever the mother and/or partner wants or needs.  Helping inform and educate the couple on normal birth processes before or during, sneaking a turkey sandwich into the hospital, showing the partner how to perform helpful massage techniques, giving the nurse the birth plan, remaining a steady face of calm in high intensity situations - you name it.  Doulas are not medical professionals, however.  Unlike a doctor, nurse, or midwife, they do not perform medical procedures or give medical opinions.  Their job is to be the stalwart support system for the couple.

Why pay money to a stranger to support you when you could get your mom or your friend in there for free?  There are lots of potential answers to this one, but two that pop up are - 1. Your doula is going to be trained and experienced, so when she says what you're experiencing is normal, you may put more stock into her answer than someone else's.  2. Your doula has practical techniques at her fingertips to help birth proceed smoothly.  3. There aren't years of potential emotional baggage with the doula, which there almost certainly is with other family and friends.  This doesn't mean you don't love your mother, sister, or friend, but it's kind of like seeking a therapist's advi
ce for your problem's rather than your friend's.  The therapist is an impartial party whose only job is to do what's best for you - not necessarily what you're going to want him or her to say or do, and not anything guided by his or her own personal preference.

That's not to say you'd have a doula at the expense of another friend - but it is an invaluable option that statistically is shown to reduce medical interventions and increase a feeling of satisfaction in one's birth experience.  (This study is just one of many that support this statement)

I could easily write about this all day, but instead I'll close by promoting an amazing event I'll be attending tonight.  If you're expecting or know a couple who is, please send them this information!

We are having our popular Doula Speed Dating Event tonight at Karma Kids Yoga, where couples can meet doulas who work in the tri-state area and possibly find the right one for them.  You can interview them, learn more about what they do, and maybe win a prize in our raffle.  It's incredibly fun and for the first time I'm excited to attend not just as a birth junkie but as a potential doula.  Call 646-638-1444 to register!  It's so fun and could change the way you bring your baby into the world.  What's not to love about that?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

September has been a really trying month in a lot of different ways.  It's contained a lot of fun and fabulousness too - getting to visit with my parents and in-laws is always amazing - but there's a lot going on in our lives right now and sometimes I just feel tremendous stress.

To take myself out of self-pity (which is something I fall into much more easily than I'd care to admit), I think about those enduring hardships much worse than I've ever had to face - and doing it with more grace than I can imagine.  My friend Lu is one; I have some family members who I look to as well.

For today's post, however, I'm writing about someone I've never met and about a disease I've never been touched by.  Given that it's such a small world, however, I'm sure at least one person who reads this will have had some kind of personal experience with this preventable yet deadly disease.

I was contacted by a man asking me to share his wife's story and some facts about Mesothelioma.  This Friday, September 26th, is Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and we are hoping other bloggers will join in spreading the word about this disease.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that is directly linked to exposure to asbestos.  Asbestos was once widely used (and is still present in many of buildings today) for everything from insulation to fire proof vests - even being mixed in with cement.  It's a naturally occurring mineral - yet it is a toxic carcinogen that many developed countries (including Canada and Russia) still use.  Although the EPA banned the use of most asbestos in the USA in 1989, that regulation was overturned in 1991.  Now only a very few asbestos-related products are banned in the US - this means that a known cause of cancer is being used in our homes, workplaces, and who knows what else.  Why?  Convenience?
Cameron, Lily, and Heather

Between 2,500 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year and on average, the patient is given only 10 months to live.

Cameron Von St James's wife, Heather, was diagnosed with mesothelioma eight years ago.  Three months after giving birth to their daughter Lily, she was told she had only fifteen months to live.  Amazingly, after a life-saving surgery that included removal of her left lung, she has survived and thrived.
Lily and Heather

Heather and her family are just a few of the many voices who are speaking out to raise awareness about this preventable, deadly disease.  Friday is the 10th Annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  Give this post a share, write to your representatives, and help start a national conversation about preventing anyone else from having to endure what this family and thousands of others are enduring.

Follow Heather on social media via Facebook and Twitter, and check out her Mesothelioma Awareness page here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Change - again.

I realize this is the third entry out of five that focuses on change, but, well, that's obviously where I am at the moment and all I can do is go with it!

I'm hoping now that as fall has begun and something resembling a normal schedule is starting to set in that I'll be back to my once-a-week pace of writing.  It's been very hard to get consistency with everything going on this summer, and I mostly blame those dang babies.  Not to mention Baby LeVasseur, our new nephew coming this November!  Days after getting back from seeing the twins (and them getting to meet their Uncle Marc!), we had a whirlwind trip to Boston to celebrate Marc's brother, Paul, and his lovely wife Sharon and their little bundle o' joy.

I scratched down a couple of Baby Thoughts a week ago, my last full day with Atlas and Zoe, knowing that I'd want to write about them.  What I wanted to muse over today was not the big, obvious kind of change - a change in job, schedule, a big change like a baby learning to walk - but the kind of change you have to search a little harder for.

Babies change every single moment of every single day.  You can put a baby to bed, and come get them the next morning and their cheeks are a little chubbier, or maybe they give you a smile they couldn't give you the day before.  They crawl, walk, run, talk, and lord do they every grow a mile a minute.  It's obvious, and it's rapid-fire.  Each week is a time capsule and you know you're on a rollercoaster that will never, ever stop.

When I saw Atlas and Zoe the first time, seeing them at six weeks after last seeing them at one week, I was staggered.  Atlas was unrecognizable.  Zoe still looked like Zoe, just bigger.  It's one of the reasons I hate leaving them so much - I know I'm never going to see them this size again.  The next time I visit won't be until December and they'll be totally different creatures then - and huge!  Especially if they keep growing at this rate.

They're different kids every time.

Do adults change that much?  It's not as obvious in terms of physical milestones or physical changes, unless you get a haircut or something.  When we gain and lose weight it's usually on the gradual side.  We're done growing - and if we're going to shrink, taht usually happens gradually too.  If you haven't seen a friend for a month, you can expect they're still basically your same friend.

We still live and grow and learn every day, though.  There's still got to be some kind of internal change.  Is your friend the same person now as they were a month ago?  Are your parents?  It's an interesting question.  I don't know the answer to it, so there's not really going to be a wise conclusion, but the more I spent time with little A&Z, marveling at how time flies and how unfair it is that they won't be my tiny little bugs forever, the more it opened me up to wondering about how this change applies to everybody.  It's the only constant in life - yet I feel like there's a constant narrative in our culture about how, "People don't change."  Or worse, can't change.  Men get stuck with that more often than women, I think.

What do you think, friends?  Do we change that much as adults?  Is our outward lack of rapid development and change reflective of our inward selves?  Or does it just depend on the person?  Is it better or worse to change?

Big thoughts inspired from tiny little creatures.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yoga and Cancer

This post, with the above title, and absolutely nothing written in the body where the brilliant blog is supposed to go, has been sitting in my Drafts for about three weeks.  I've been wanting to write about this for awhile.  Earlier this year, a very close and beloved family member was diagnosed with cancer.  A few weeks ago, I humbly accepted the opportunity to sub a Yoga for Cancer Survivors class at the beautiful Giving Tree Yoga Studio.  And most recently, a friend, who although is a new presence in my life honestly feels like family, was diagnosed with leukemia.

This blank post has been sitting here collecting metaphorical dust for a lot of reasons, and I think the main one is that I am intimidated.  I don't feel qualified to speak to this.  I'm not certified to teach yoga to cancer patients or counsel them or do anything of the kind.  I haven't gone through it myself.  I haven't done any research myself and haven't researched the effects in any deep way - not in anyway that someone with a free afternoon and Google couldn't do just as well.

I'm also intimidated because I want to promote yoga as a way to cope with the physical and emotional challenges cancer brings, but lately I've had trouble engaging in my own yoga practice and using it as a tool to help me in my issues lately - none of which hold a candle to the challenge of cancer.

So, I won't pretend to have wisdom and experience that I don't have.  I'll only say that study after study shows that it can provide wonderful benefits to patients and their friends and family.  That there are plenty of resources, online and in person, for those seeking yoga for cancer patients. (In NYC: The Giving Tree, Sacred Sounds, and World Yoga Center)

And finally, that this girl who I've only met this summer is now a personal hero.  She is the forever-love of my first love Aaron.  His parents have remained a constant and loving presence in my life, even visiting with Marc and I early on in our relationship and forming a friendship with him.  Aaron and I recently reconnected after so very many years, and are both so thrilled with the different paths our lives have taken, for ourselves and each other.  Lu couldn't be more perfect for him; Marc couldn't be more perfect for me.

Lu is doing great, but still fighting and she can use our help.  Please consider donating so that she and Aaron can deal with this head-on, and then put their focus on the long and happy life they have ahead of them here in the one and only NYC.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Meditations at the Laundromat

These last three and a half weeks have been crazy.  After spending a week in absolute heaven with my family welcoming the precious Atlas & Zoe, I came back and, as I mentioned last week, was thrown into moving madness.  Marc has been working his butt off taking catering jobs left and right to help us through the move, and between his work schedule and mine, we were almost never home together at the same time - until the night before the move.

Emotionally, it was an insanely hard week.  I was missing the babies more than I could have ever imagined and felt heartbroken beyond the telling of it.  On one hand, having to get my butt into gear on moving helped me from wallowing too much, but on the other hand...oy.  Moving, even when it goes well overall like ours thankfully did, is stressful.

We said goodbye to absolutely spectacular friends as they made their way to London on Tuesday, July 29th, and on Thursday, July 31st we said goodbye to our very first home together - of four years! - and then hello to our gorgeous new place which was already filled so very much with love (and incredible style and furniture) by Billy & Ramsey.

After seven days of hard work, we became completely box-free in our beloved new apartment - and now the work that lies ahead of us is organization, putting up our art and pictures, and laundry.

So.  Much.  Laundry.

It turns out when you use your clothing to pack all of your valuables, those clothes should probably be washed.  I did a massive load last Sunday, and it's how I've been spending the last two plus hours of this Sunday morning as well.

Laundry has never been such a nuisance to me as it is as a New Yorker.  Down home in the South, your washer and dryer (that only you and your family use!!!) live in your house or apartment with you.  Even as a college kid, I was deeply spoiled by Christopher Newport University's kickass dorms and with the exception of the laundry room freshman year (and maybe sophomore?), we had washers and dryers in our apartments.

Here in New York, large loads are the order of the day.  Colors, textures, instructions on the tag be damned - you fit 10 pounds of clothes in a 5 pound bag in a 2 pound washer and call it a day.  Hauling stuff back and forth from the apartment in lord knows what kind of weather...yes, I'm aware that it is a massively first world problem, but when you have an overflowing to-do list, laundry sometimes just feels like a damn expensive waste of time.

Which is why I am always baffled whenever I go to laundromats and see people just...sitting there.  Just sitting there!  Not at home vacuuming or working, not at the grocery store, not doing anything useful with themselves - just sitting!  It always strikes me as a monumental waste of time.  They might as well be staring at the clothes as they go through the spin cycle - or watching it dry (at least it would be more interesting than watching paint dry).

This morning, as I struggled with my four extra large loads and figuring out the timing and the hauling-back-and-forth of it all, I was stressing about having to write this blog and that I hadn't yet done my meditation practice for the day, and I finally realized I was being ridiculous.  I've been caught up in this constant go-go-go pace - slightly different from my usual go-go-go pace.  Between spending a week helping my sister keep two tiny infants alive (which didn't feel like work for one single second, but which did involved a lot of running around and multitasking), a week packing up everything I owned, and a week unpacking everything I owned with a lot of cleaning and teaching and working along the way...I have anxiety about the empty, unscheduled, unstructured space.  I feel guilty if I'm not doing something useful, something to push our place towards being done.

The truth is, there won't be any kind of finish line for the apartment.  Even after we organize it all and hang up our art...we'll always be making dirty laundry.  We'll acquire new things that need homes.  We'll make messes and break things and sometimes the place will be a disaster area.

I decided to take advantage of an awkward 15-minute gap between my loads of wash being done and sit on one of the plastic chairs outside of the laundromat, and just sit.  Enjoy the uncharacteristically mild August weather.  Enjoy the sights and sounds of the new trees, the new mildly obnoxious guys on the street, the new families walking by.  The late summer sun and leaves and the joy of being fortunate enough to sit in that chair on that street on a lovely Sunday morning.

We are so happy to be here.  Now the next thing on the to-do list is to relax into being home.

After I fold all this laundry.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A hurricane of change

So remember last week when I was all on about how I think change is a fabulous thing and I'm totally into it?

A HUGE part of me wants to take all of that back.

This past week with the precious twins was more life-changing and overwhelming than I could have ever possibly known, and there was just no way to prepare for it.  It was one of the best weeks of my entire life, and I haven't been so heartbroken as when I had to say goodbye to them in a very, very long time.  Not just feeling heartbroken that I had to leave, but heartbroken because I will never ever see them at that tiny size again.  They've already grown and changed so much in just nine little days on the planet.  When Marc and I go see them again, they'll be six weeks old and so much bigger.  They'll have hit tiny milestones I'll have missed.  When we leave, we won't see them again until December when they'll be over five months old.  It might seem silly or trivial, but it feels truly heartbreaking.

And now that I'm back, we are thrown head-first into moving and it feels like we have a billion things to do and haven't had a chance to start hardly any of it.

So - this blog will not be my best!  I am short on inspiration, high on joy and stress from the babies and moving, and ready to get this show on the road so we can be in our new beautiful place this time next week.  I leave you with, instead of anything inspiring, informative, or yogic, some beautiful baby pictures:


My sister is not only phenomenal for delivering twins without C-Section and being an amazing mother to these kids, but because only four days after doing that she was up for venturing out into the world!  Babies' first Target trip!
Second Storytime ever!  Atlas was mildly into it; Zoe slept through it.

Holding my Zoe-bug for the first time - she's
only about 13 hours old.
My last morning with my sweet one-week-old Atlas.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Constant of Change

Happy July!  The month has partly felt like it's crawling, but mostly just feels like it is sprinting recklessly ahead.  Three people I encountered today experienced massive shock over the fact that it's already the 11th?

Two huge life changes are coming up for us, and one admittedly is a much bigger life change for my sister and Jeremy than it is for Marc and I.  We thought they'd be here by now, but they will certainly be here by tomorrow - our first beautiful niece and nephew, Zoe and Atlas, will be making their debut any moment now.  (Not a moment too soon for any of us, especially their mama!)  I'm flying out next Wednesday to meet them, and I am exploding with excitement.  I cannot wait to spend a week completely immersed in them.

The second, the secretive one I eluded to last week, is finally official - Marc and I are moving!  We're staying in the beautiful Ditmars area of Astoria, and are taking over the gorgeous apartment of our very dear friends Billy and Ramsey who are moving to London after a fabulous job opportunity came knocking.  Marc and I had no plans at all to leave our humble little abode in which we've spent the last four years, but the timing of everything turned out to be perfect.  (With the obvious exception that we are truly devastated to have two amazing friends moving so far away.) It's financially scary, but the big positive is that it's finally gotten us on the same page about a budget (which probably counts as a third change, and could very well have its own entry.  Or entire blog)

It's gotten me thinking about change itself.  I used to be absolutely petrified of change - I hated the idea of it.  This is mainly back in high school and college, where I had amazing friends that I couldn't fathom the idea of leaving behind.  And leaving for college meant leaving the structured school/class system - I had no interest!  It's a wonder I didn't end up applying to grad schools.

The older I get, though, the more I've been able to embrace change and see it as a good thing.  Something like new babies being born or moving into a bigger apartment can obviously be seen as positive, but I feel like I've been able to take on that attitude toward changes that aren't so welcome.  I've learned that things I thought would be terrible or setbacks have turned out to be either wonderful or wonderful teachers.  After all, doesn't adversity grow character?

In yoga, nothing is static.  You're shifting from pose to pose, or even in the stillness of meditation you have the movement of the breath.  In a balance pose, you wobble, even if just slightly.  And in a kid's yoga class, forget it - we're changing animals and adventures and shapes every five seconds.  You go on a mini-journey in each class and strive to have the same balanced breath and meditative mind-state throughout each and every step.  From beginning Om to the hardest poses to savasana and every change in between, there's nothing but change.  The you who enters the classroom and the you who leaves are not the same person.  We shed and regenerate cells constantly.  We grow older every day.

I'm not sure what my broader point here is today, except to say - change is inevitable.  Change is great.  Change is sometimes sad and scary.  Change can be overwhelming.  The key is to have the flexibility of mind and breath to go with the flow.  Overprepare...and then go with the flow.

I may or may not see you next week - if I do, it'll be a long distance blog from gorgeous South Carolina!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sports + Yoga = World Cup Success

Big Life News is coming up, but it's not in a place yet where I can put it up on a blog.  Call it superstition, or call it hippie paranoia over Mercury's Retrograde, call it what you will - hopefully by next week I can talk about the thing that will likely be inspiring most entries this summer (except for course for the entries inspired by my sister's upcoming twins!).

In the meantime, my most public Big Life News is THE WORLD CUP!  The US lost to Germany (inc case you're living under a rock and didn't know) but we're advancing to the next round!

In honor of that, an article on our intense new coach - including a tiny little mention of his introduction to yoga to the team.

Go Yoga - Go America.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mental Movies

Whenever I read a book, I have to cast all of the characters as either actors or people in my life.  I need a "mental movie" going in my head along with the story or I can't delve into it as deeply as I want.  For most of my favorite books, I could tell you exactly who plays what part.  (And chances are, Matthew McConoughey will be in it)  As a movie addict from the time I was a tiny tot, the language of "mental movie" is something I can easily connect to, and now that I work with kids and with adults for whom meditation is new, it's a really effective way to start introducing visualization techniques.

As so many of us do, I tend to worry.  At the moment, there are a lot of uncertainties going on in Marc's and my life and we've been playing the waiting game a lot in the last two or so months with regard to family, finances, and our apartment.  It's been a constant battle to quell the mental movie of disaster - the worry - and just try to stay focused on the present and the fact that most of this is out of our hands.

Last night, I attended an Inversion & Arm Balances Refresher Course at my good ol' Karma Kids Yoga.  The event was for KKY Trained teachers to help us refresh us on how we can better teach these challenging poses to the kids we work with and how to work with them in our own personal practice as well.

My boss, KKY Director Shari Vilchez-Blatt, is addicted to these poses!  She is always up for a new challenge and for working on seemingly impossible and crazy physical feats, including quite a few that either blow my mind or just scare the bejesus out of me.

Handstand fever at one of our KKY Playdates (aka a "Staff meeting")
from February.  I'm third from the left, Shari's last on the right.
For me, the big challenge lay in two particular poses - tripod headstand (a pose I've struggled with and hated forever!) and jumping into crow from downward dog (which she makes look so damn easy and impossible at the same time).

After reviewing some of the elements of jumping into crow for a bit, she had us stop and just sit for a minute to ground ourselves.  She guided us through a simple but powerful and effective "mental movie" meditation.  She had us sit, breathe, and watch a movie of ourselves doing the pose.  Gliding into it as if it took no effort, as if it were as easy as walking.

And for the first two minutes of this, my mind showed a very clear mental movie of me......breaking my wrists.  Falling on my face.  Breaking my arms.  Somehow, impossibly, even breaking my neck.  I had to stifle my laughter because it was just so ridiculous and so typical of my worrywort brain.  How revealing this was that I sit with a full intention of visualizing success and I visualize immediately violent failure.  After a few minutes I was able to shift the movie, and I got pretty darn close when we went back to trying the pose, but I've been thinking about that ever since.

I worked on positive visualization later on when she was helping me into my dreaded tripod headstand and was struck by how much of my struggle in that pose is mental and a result of all the mental movies of myself breaking my neck in that pose.  Instead of defaulting to an inspirational movie, I default into a horror movie!  As yoga so often does, it gave me a massive insight into how this mirrors my "off the mat" life.

Whether you practice yoga or not, this so-simple and so-powerful tool is a must for us to practice in life.  Visualizing yourself doing a challenging yoga pose or physical feat will be incredibly helpful toward reaching it, and more than that, visualizing a positive outcome for something in your life whether it's in your control or not is so good for your brain, your stress level, your emotional well-being.

We spend so much time and energy visualizing things going wrong, consciously and unconsciously.  If we work hard at visualizing the positive outcome, we might still wind up disappointed if it doesn't work out, but at least we haven't made ourselves suffer in the interim.  I can't remember who, but someone once said that when you worry about a problem, you experience it twice - once in the worried anticipation, and once when it actually comes to pass.

There's enough in the world to worry about, but we have the power to choose a positive thought and shift our energy in the other direction.  With time, with practice, with consistency...who knows what kind of seemingly impossible feats will suddenly become possible.  I'm working on switching my mental movie from horror to inspirational, and plan to keep chasing that jump into crow.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Three Minutes

If you "Like" Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebok, then you probably don't need to read any further.  If you don't...start!  Her short essays, musings, whatever you want to call them on almost a daily basis are so inspiring and somehow so grounded.  In honor of "throwback Thursday," she has shared a brief interview (barely 3 minutes of your precious time) about integrating spiritual lessons she learned after four months in an Indian Ashram into her daily life.

Inspiring + Grounded = Elizabeth Gilbert.  I don't have anything that could hold a candle to this in me today, so enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Attitude Schmattitude

I remember as a kid that nearly every single classroom would have some variation of a cheesy laminated poster that would invariably have a slogan about Attitude!  Attitude is everything!  It's all about Attitude!  Have a Positive Attitude Today!

And because as a kid I so very often prided myself on being, as they say, too cool for school, I always found them embarrassing and dumb.  For no particular reason, of course - it's just that I was a kid and found most everything that could be put into cheerful poster form at school to be terribly cheesy.  Attitude schmattitude.  Bo-ring.

It's very strange how in some ways, kids are the big cynics and adults are the big open-hearted softies, and it others it's exactly the opposite.  Understanding, valuing, and respecting the massive importance and power of a positive attitude is something I have only come to understand as an adult.  It's also only as an adult how much I've come to understand that attitude is 100% a choice.  It's not always an easy choice, especially when your mind is in a continual habit of having a negative attitude or simply not exercising any power of altering your attitude, but it is a choice, every single damn time.

One of the many benefits of yoga is that as you practice watching your thoughts and detaching yourself from identifying solely with your thoughts and emotions (which change with the breeze), you start to gain an understanding of that choice.  With practice, it gets easier and easier.

It's a continual challenge for me, and some days go better than others, but I always appreciate reminders that it truly is all about attitude - attitude is everything.

I'll close with a quote from one of the many birth stories that has been reminding me of this fact.  In anticipation of the newest members of my family being born soon (but not soon enough for me!), I've been reading bits and pieces of the birth stories at the beginning of Ina May Gaskin's masterpiece, Spiritual Midwifery.

It's amazing for so many reasons - for one, the hippie lingo of the era is truly something to behold - but one of the most common threads I find in these stories and in the philosophies Gaskin and her team of midwives espouse, is that you can choose to have a good experience or a bad experience.  You can choose to identify as pain or sensation.  The mind is more profoundly powerful than any of us know, and so many of these stories are proof of that.  Obviously they deal exclusively with childbirth, but if they can apply these principles to childbirth - how much more easily can we apply the lesson to every other trial and tribulation life throws our way?

This is an excerpt from a woman named Linda's birth story, "Rear Entry," describing the first breech birth performed at The Farm (as opposed to the local hospital).  Dr. Williams, local OB and great partner to the midwives at The Farm, was skeptical about the possibility of a drug-free breech and was attending the birth to be on hand in case of emergency.  Here, Linda is talking about the pressure she felt leading up to the birth.

"I got emotional and teary again, and later Ina May and Margaret came over and said they wanted to know where I was at, because both times Ina May had seen me I had been upset and crying.  Ina May said that The Farm women had a really good reputation with the local hospital because of how they had their babies, and if I started blubbering at everything, how was I going to have a baby without anesthesia?  I realized right then that I had to stop being self-indulgent and straighten up.  I promised them right there that I was going to do it right and they trusted me.  I really believe that any woman has the option to chicken out or not.  I felt like I had made a vow to have a good time at my birthing, and I knew a month ahead of time I was going to have fun.  That left the rest of my pregnancy to look forward to it."

Spoiler alert:  She does indeed have fun.

How amazing is that attitude?  How many people these days do you ever think stop to check themselves and stop being self-indulgent and "straighten up?"  I love it and look at it as a challenge to live up to.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ugly and Lovely Spring

This gorgeous, finally-warm month seems to have been packed with lots of violence and sadness.  Some of which I experienced within my circle of family and friends, or was at least as spectator to personally, but most of which took place outside of my life and inside my world of news in the New York Times and the mammoth that is the Internet and social media.  Some of it was me choosing to delve back into a dark time in our history which also produced wonderful things - I've been watching and reading Band of Brothers, and on Memorial Day Marc and I decided it was finally high time I watched the devastating Schindler's List.  Some of it was the absolute mad state of our current events: following the stories of the Nigerian girls, the shootings at UCSB, the scandalous goings-on with the VA, which directly affects my family, and now the death of the incomparable Maya Angelou, and more.

Despite all of this, I'm approaching the end of May feeling strangely happy and inspired.  I think in part I've just been feeling a profound sense of gratitude for my circumstances in life and a feeling of total humility for how relatively charmed my life is - and it really, really is.

It's tempting to avoid the news because it is usually overwhelmingly depressing, negative, and tragic, and there's no way any one individual can carry with them all of the horrors that happen day to day.  I often go through phases where I just have no desire to follow the news too closely.  However, I usually find that the more connected I am to it and the more I try to learn about a story (and better yet, try to do something about it or engage with someone about it), the better I feel about things overall.  I'm still left with knowledge and images of tragedy I might not otherwise have if I didn't watch the NBC Nightly News (how I love me some Brian Williams!) or decided not to read various shared articles by my Facebook friends, but the old cliche "Knowledge is Power" is always and profoundly true.  It's always better to know and to be an informed citizen.  Heartbreaking though it might sometimes be, it gives you the gift of perspective in your own life, to say nothing of gratitude.

I have stopped myself so many times this month during challenging moments at work, frustrations when traveling, when I was struggling to heal ASAP from a stupid and stubborn minor toe injury, and told myself how tiny those problems are in the grand scheme of what so many other souls are dealing with or have dealt with.  I received some wonderful news last week regarding a family member's health and was at once overcome with a sense of joy that I felt almost anything could go wrong for me that day and I just flat out wouldn't care.  The relief I felt overshadowed absolutely everything else, and man, were my priorities straight that day.

It's hard to put into words everything I'm feeling as this month draws to a close with all the joy and madness it's contained, and with Maya Angelou's death yesterday causing the world to overflow with her massive abundance of wisdom and articulation, I was terribly tempted to just plaster my blog with her words.   When you're searching for profundity, who better to turn to than her, right?

But - that wouldn't really have been in keeping with her spirit.  However inarticulate, I believe she taught that it's important to speak - to sing.  To at least try.  We can't solve everything wrong in the world or prevent bad things happening in our lives, but we can do our part.  We can keep our priorities straight, have compassion for those less fortunate, and hold tight to whatever religious or spiritual practices keep us grounded.  I know with every fiber of my being that my new daily practice, which is roughly two months strong now, has been invaluable in keeping my head on straight.

I will close with her last public quote, however - a tweet, which is just so very 2014.  It's simple, it's profound, it's why I practice and need yoga.


"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
-Dr. Maya Angelou-

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Simple Inspiration

I'm keeping things pretty simple today - a relief after last week's rather gut-wrenching, but necessary and therapeutic, post about my jury duty experience.  Normally when I keep things simple it's because I'm just linking to an article I liked, or posting a picture of some kind.  But today I feel inspired by a very simple quote brought to my attention by my incredible mother-in-law, who inspires me herself in so many ways.  And what the hell, I'll accompany it with a link and a picture.

A study came out last fall detailing how the anticipation, and more specifically the dread, of a painful event is actually worse on us than the thing itself.  (Read a summary of it here) To me, that doesn't seem like a huge discovery.  I suppose they've officially proven it, but it honestly seems rather like common sense.  I think anyone who tends to be a worrier would probably agree.  It's easy as yoga teachers or for those who are very religious to talk about surrendering to the universe or to God, but it's tough to really practice it from day to day.

It doesn't just have to be something major or physical - I find so often that when I worry or anticipate something going on at work or someone's reaction to a problem, the reality is almost never as bad as the scenario I've worked out in my head.  And what a waste of that time I just spent dreading, worrying, and anticipating!  I feel like I've lost entire days worrying about an event, spending the day anxious and miserable, only for it to wind up being no big deal.

One of my little "life commandments," after being inspired by Gretchen Rubin's "Happiness Project" is that, "Worry is futile."  I believe that sentiment with every fiber of my being, but find it hard to put in to practice.  I tend to be a worrywort in general, so it's a constant practice for me to be aware and let it go.  Sometimes when you repeat the same mantra over and over, however, instead of gaining power it can lose a bit of power - you get used to the words, you get used to repeating it to yourself and honestly sometimes the power and effectiveness wears off a bit.  It helps to hear the same teaching, the same reminder, the same sentiment in a new way.

My mother-in-law, who is a devoted Christian, reads a particular passage in the Bible every morning and shared with Marc and I this one line that she finds comfort in.  It's been rolling around and around in my head all day long, and when I sat down to write this was truly the only thing I wanted to share.  I hope it sticks with you and gives you some comfort today, whether you're a Christian, a yogi, a worrywort, or blessedly laid back and present.  It's striking in its simplicity and in its command, and today I feel there's really nothing left to add...


"Be anxious of nothing."

My beloved mother-in-law and I by the Ipswich River, 2010.
Guess which one of us struggles more with worry?

(Though in my defense, Marc had just stolen my paddle.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Yoga for Coping

I typically try to be very faithful to my weekly blog habit (or sometimes, I'll admit - obligation).  When I go off a week, there's usually a good reason, typically because I'm out of town.  These last (almost four!) weeks I've just been damn busy. Days off have been very few, and haven't involved burrowing at home but rather going out and about in this gorgeous city, seeing theatre, family, and friends.  That's part of the joy of spring - it's a hell of a lot easier and more pleasurable to go out in the world and escape the walls of your tiny apartment than in polar vortex weather.

Last week was supposed to house my first day off since Easter - last Thursday.  Instead, I spent last Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday sitting on a case for jury duty.  I don't want to go into any more detail than I have to, because it still hurts my heart to think of it.  Just emailing a friend about it this morning has been enough to send me into a funk today (the dreary overcast sky and the sudden jerking stop after two and a half weeks of go-go-go momentum certainly contributed as well, I'm sure).

On Tuesday morning I was selected as part of the jury for a trial on allegations of child sexual abuse.  There was no physical evidence in the case, as was made clear to us before we were selected.  It was purely he-said-she-said, her word against his.  In this case, the word of a mentally delayed 13-year-old child against a 58-year-old man, who invoked his legal right not to testify on his own behalf.  We only heard from her, the other witnesses called, and both attorneys who were both clearly slumming it.  That's one thing we as a jury all 100% agreed on.  This case was tough, no doubt about it, but the way it was tried by both sides was abysmally bad.  Important questions by both sides were just never asked, too many details remained unexplained, and so many hours were wasted on repeating simple points that frankly didn't really matter when it came to the question of finding this man guilty or not guilty.

The trial lasted a little more than six hours.  The only testimony that honestly mattered worth a damn lasted an hour and a half at most.

We deliberated for over fourteen hours.  Over the course of Wednesday afternoon, all day Thursday, and all day Friday, the twelve of us were in a room together trying to make sense of this case, trying to come to a unanimous decision, and all too often, simply at a loss for what else to say and simply willing the time to pass faster.

We never reached a verdict.    I was one of 10 who firmly, whole-heartedly, repeatedly voted Guilty.  Two firmly, whole-heartedly, repeatedly said Not Guilty.  There were two women who had initially voted Not Guilty and changed their votes, one on Wednesday and then the other by Friday. The judge finally accepted our inability to reach a verdict on Friday afternoon and it was those last few hours of Friday's deliberations that the truth of what it meant for us to be a hung jury hit home.  A lot of us cried.

After the trial I felt physically sick - physically heartbroken.  I felt, and am still feeling, guilty, so confused as to what the purpose of me being on that trial was, horrified that I played a part in a failure of our justice system, and just so, so, so, so sorry for that little girl and her family.

What does any of this have to do with my blog about yoga, you may be asking?  (And WOW, what a departure from the last entry, huh?)

The whole point I wanted to make from this entry is that the yoga has been getting me through it.  I woke up extra early every day before schlepping out to damned Kew Gardens, Queens to make sure I could get in some kind of movement (especially on days we were trapped in the room for hours on end) and my morning meditation practice.  Most mornings I woke up after a horrible night's sleep, my stomach feeling upset, my heart heavy, and my head a bundle of anxiety.  This practice went such a long way toward strengthening my spine, both literally and metaphorically, and allowing me to face the day.

Coming home after, I always tried to do something - a restorative pose or a bath (and yes, a non-yogic amount of wine) to help myself shed as much of the case as I could.

The power that it had in helping me cope was amazing.  I feel like so often yoga teachers only show the brightest, sunniest sides of themselves on social media - for a variety of understandable reasons - and yoga has this reputation of being a cure-all and of guaranteeing a happy, trouble-free life.  Like it's some kind of protective bubble.  It's an amazing thing, but nothing can completely protect a person from whatever trials life is determined to throw at you.  Just like you can be a Christian but still have a bad day and not live up to the ideals you strive to live up to, you can be a yogi and have shitty days where you just can't help but see the bad in the world.  It's just part of life.

These days, yoga is as much a business as it is a practice, and it's easy to merge and confuse the two.  I make my living teaching yoga, and marketing what I do is a part of my livelihood.  I'm not saying that I lie or would promote something I didn't believe in, but because my job for the most part makes me incredibly happy, I put forth that positivity, that happiness, the occasional party-trick pose.  It's just as easy for me to forget that just because I'm a yogi doesn't protect me or my family from the fact that sometimes shit happens.  The real power of yoga is not just that it makes you happy or even cheers you up - it's an unbelievable tool for coping.  For getting through.  For feeling the fear, the remorse, the shit, and breathing through it.  Until you get to the next day, the next, and the next.

The day after the trial, I immediately jumped back into my work and slowly but surely, started feeling better after each subsequent class I taught.  I started the day sobbing on my co-worker and friend's shoulder and ended it quietly content, feeling rewarded for having reconnected with my students.  I can't undo what was done last week, as much as I want to more than anything.  But thankfully my job allows me to help make life a little less stressful and a little easier to cope with for others - and reminds me to do the same thing for myself.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Model Morning

It's that glorious time of the year again - the quarterly Athleta event!  Because fashion is always two seasons ahead, I was kindly invited to check out the fall fashions Athleta has coming up.  Considering how absolutely freezing the winter has been and the spring continues to be (seriously, why so few 60-degree days? And WHERE ARE THE BUDS?), I confess that seeing fuzzy sweaters and fall things was almost a little depressing.  I am in 1,000% countdown-to-summer mode right now!

It's always a huge treat to come to one of these events.  As is often the case, we were invited to take a complimentary fitness class, given a complimentary outfit, and some complimentary tasty breakfast treats.  Something new this time around was complimentary express manicures!  I could seriously get used to this...

One of my favorite things about these events is definitely exploring other fitness programs.  It's how I discovered and absolutely fell in love with Refine Method and it often gives me a chance to head to parts of the city I don't normally go to.

Today's adventure was down to Bowery off of Spring St to take a class from the brand spankin'-new fitness studio ModelFIT, helmed by trainer to Victoria's Secret and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models Justin Gelband (often referred to in press as "The Model Whisperer" - an enviable title!).  I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, and I'm not entirely sure of my feelings having taken the class.


On the plus side, it was definitely a powerful upper body workout (as promised), and there was some bonus but much appreciated hip/butt work as well.  I liked the look of the studio and all of the toys and accessories they had (ankle weights!!  brilliant), but I was really not sure how I felt about Justin - and I'm kind of still not.  I get the sense he's much better one-on-one than in a larger group.  He just jumped right into the class with zero preamble and I almost got the sense he didn't want to be there.  Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but he was so "strictly business" that it affected my motivation a bit.  I don't mind being yelled at boot-camp style by any means, but for god's sake, throw me a little humor or encouragement or personality or something! 

Overall, what was promised, was delivered - a great workout.  He's clearly talented based on his clientele and the overall response from my fellow participants (most of whom are actual legitimate journalists but I think there are some fellow NYC bloggers among the group) was positive. 

The manicure was lovely and such a nice bonus treat, and the clothes look fantastic!  My only slight beef - apparently tapered leg is coming back into style.  Ack.  Not a good look for most people, I'd argue.  I thought we left that look to die in the early 90's?  And yet it's Athleta, so they're soooo comfy...

They have their usual bright blues and fuchsias but they also had a rack of really lovely neutral/nude colors.  The 80's and 90's are definitely rearing their loud, patterned, cut-off top, tapered leg heads, and if anyone can make it look and feel good, it's Athleta!

They're an awesome company that always shows me a great time.  I love supporting them - love the generous teacher discount they offer! - and am always excited to see what's coming up next in fitness in the city and in their lines.





Thursday, April 3, 2014

Flat Tires & Perspective

When I was interning in Sarasota, FL at the beautiful Florida Studio Theatre, I met some incredible people.  None so unique as Doctor Nik, aka Doc, who rode around the theatre and the city on his flamingo bike, rocket bike, and any other crazy kind of bike you could imagine, has two of the sweetest basset hounds I've ever seen, and was an absolute font of silliness, wisdom, and kindness.

Something he posted on facebook a few weeks ago wormed its way into my brain and I've found that it keeps coming back to me over and over again, and it's amazing how much it's changed my perspective on little everyday things in my life that I'd normally stress over or take a negative attitude toward.


Doc says, "A flat tire isn't a bad thing until you make it one."


To me, this is very akin to the line in Hamlet, "There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so."


These are basically saying the same thing, yet for some reason Doc's resonates more with me (Well done, Doc, you trumped Shakespeare!).  Much to my philisophical husband's chagrin, I tend to be very literal minded, and  although my high minded yogic self completely agrees with the sentiment, I always found myself arguing with this line of Shakespeare's - torture is certainly bad!  Losing a loved one.  Losing a limb!  It's the ultimate declaration of the yogic concept of non-attachment, which is one of the hardest ones to wrap your brain around.


As lovely and profound as it is, I can rarely bring myself to totally acquiesce to this line from Hamlet, but for some reason the way Doc phrases it I can completely get on board with.  Maybe it's the more specific and mundane event of a flat tire as opposed to the open ended nothing of Shakespeare's line makes it a little more palatable for my nit-picky and argumentative brain.


Regardless of whether you react favorably or not to either quote or the idea that they present, I invite you to try applying the idea to little things in your every day life.  Being late.  Getting stuck in traffic or on the subway.  Catching a cold.  Something unexpected and stressful at work.  Canceling plans.  Unexpectedly small paychecks or large bills.  A burnt out lightbulb, a hole in your shirt, an unexpected detour.  Take anything that might pop up in your day that you'd normally respond to with complaints and frustration and try to take a moment to see what positive spin you can take on it - even if it's just that adversity builds character!


The more we apply this practice to the everyday, to the mundane, to the things that annoy us but don't upend our lives (the way the Big Stuff does - loss, severe illness, etc.) the more we prepare ourselves for the inevitable days when we will have to cope with the big stuff.  You take the time to act instead of react and to look for the positive ways you can either change or surrender to the situation.


My one memory of a literal flat tire was back in Virginia.  It wound up keeping me from seeing a show I wanted to see (granted, I had already seen it like 5 times, as I am wont to do), but it gave me a chance to bond with my mom's new-at-the-time boyfriend and to see his generosity of spirit in action.  I felt a level of gratitude and affection for him that I don't know if I had yet felt up until that point.  I'm sure it was a massive inconvenience to whatever he had going on that day, but he appeared almost instantly and completely took care of me.  


It was stressful at first, but wound up being perfectly okay.  When I look back on it, I feel it as a positive memory over a negative one, and as one that marked a mini milestone in our relationship - and had I continued to let stress rule the day, who knows if I'd even remember it at all ten years later?

"A flat tire isn't a bad thing until you make it one." 


Listen to the Doctor, friends, and make it a beautiful day.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Good morning!

So many of my posts are about morning rituals or general daily practices, I've found.  Whether it's about getting back to the basics with a simple seated meditation following the breath, finding joy by singing in the morning, or a variety of physical but not-necessarily-yogic practices, I've been struggling for the past year and a half with consistency in my home practice.  In my last entry two weeks ago (I took a week off for anniversary fun in PA!) I wrote about how there are so many Internet/iPhone resources that I've found helpful in my own home yoga practice outside of a studio.

Two of these resources together in particular, YogaGlo and my Insight Timer app, have been instrumental in helping me find a morning ritual that I've been pretty consistent with the past two weeks.  With the exception of a few lazy, yoga-less mornings on my anniversary weekend, there is a ritual from the amazing yoga teacher Amy Ippoliti called, "Set a Positive Tone for Your Entire Day" available for YogaGlo users.

It requires pen and paper, or maybe a journal if you're the journaling type, and a place to sit.  I won't go through the entire video, as I know YogaGlo is sometimes a little intense with copyrighting, and this is Amy's practice.  But I can say I've modified it a little bit to suit my needs, and have used the Interval Bell setting on my Insight Timer app so that I can be self guided through this practice without having to rely on a teacher telling me when to shift my focus or write things down.

It's essentially a very mindful way of having a "gratitude" journal or a "success" journal.  You take a few moments to connect with your breath, to reflect on what you're thankful for, and briefly come out of meditation to write down your top 3 or 5.  Going back into meditation, you then start to reflect on what went will for you the day before, and then coming out of it to write those down.

From there, the possibilities are endless.  You can throw in some pranayama (breath work) of any kind - I prefer kapalabhati - or a visual meditation where you can visualize the breath coming in through the third eye, through the heart, or through the crown of the head.  Or if that's a little too hippie-dippy for you or hard to connect with, just follow the breath as it travels in and out of the nose.  Amy is a big fan of heart breathing which is lovely, but as someone who tends to hold a lot of tension in my chest, I prefer to direct my focus elsewhere.

You can also end by imaging the qualities you want to bring in to today.  Or if you're practicing this in the evening, the qualities you want to bring to your day tomorrow or the kind of rest you'd like to have if you tend to have trouble sleeping.  If you're practicing in the evening, ending in legs up the wall or a few moments in child's pose can be really lovely.

This is a great practice if you struggle with meditation because your to-do list or other thoughts keep cropping up and distracting you - there's a pen and paper right there for you to get the thoughts out of your head so you can bring your attention back to what you'd like to bring it to.  I highly recommend checking the video out - YogaGlo allows you to watch a preview of it if you are not a member.

Happy Thursday morning, everyone, and I hope it's a beautiful day for you!