Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reset

When teaching my prenatal yoga classes, I always give the same schpiel when I first bring my class into child's pose.  I let them know they can come to this pose at any time throughout class for any reason if they need a break, even if I don't guide them there; that it's a chance to hit the reset button and come back to their steady breath, their intention, and to completely relax their body; and I say that it's just as important if not more important to learn how to tap into that relaxation and release as it is to master the more physically challenging poses of class.  I talk about that intention - something they are to keep their mind focused on throughout class with the expectation that the mind will 100% wander off and get distracted - and how each child's pose is a chance to come back to it, no matter how far off you veered, without judgement.

In labor, the body gives you a break in between contractions.  The body is designed to give you that rest and release in between the intensity (however maddeningly brief it might be), and if you're already in the habit of taking rest where you can get it - and as best as you can, not worrying about what happened before or about what's coming next - you'll be that much more prepared and present to take whatever comes at you next.

Today I finally started my day with my morning ritual I'd set out for myself that includes Brain Gym exercises (which I could have sworn I'd blogged about before but apparently not, so that'll be a future entry!), meditation, journaling, etc etc.  I traveled down to northern VA for five days earlier this month to visit one of my best friends of all time, her husband, and their gorgeous gorgeous baby boy.  And who wants to meditate when there's a baby to play with?

A few days after I got back, I developed one of those low-grade, nagging change-of-season colds.  I don't know if it was the preschoolers, the weather, or both, but something got me and just had me dragging for a week.  The travel, the cold, the various schedule shakeups - it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed in the morning in time to get to work, let alone meditate.

Now - I'm finally back.  My Tuesdays are finally just for getting chores done in Astoria (and the return of book club tonight!!!) and I got up extra early with Marc, who headed off to Philly before the sunrise for a day of workshopping the exciting new play he'll be working on this winter.

So - finally - ritual.

And it occurred to me while I was meditating for the first time in awhile that my normal reaction would be to worry and feel guilty and feel like the worst yogi ever for letting so much time slip since I had done my own practice, and how hypocritical, etc etc.  But how hypocritical of me to judge myself for being human when I continually tell my students - the mind wanders, we falter, but all we can do is reset without judgement.

Reset without judgement.  

Even if you do it a billion times during your class, your day, your life - you're still building mental strength and receiving benefits.

It also reminded me of one of the funniest quotes I've read in ages - a friend was sharing an article about the silliness of 'food guilt' on Facebook and pulled out this quote that has stayed with me all week:  "Unless you baked that chocolate cake with blood from a murder, there is no need to feel guilty about it."

I think we sometimes use the feeling of guilt as an effort to keep ourselves on track.  At least I know I do.  If I don't have the presence of mind to feel guilty for slipping up on something I care about, what's to keep me on track for next time?  It sort of makes sense except that a) it's unrealistic and b) why give myself negative motivation when I can give myself positive motivation instead?  And also just plain not take myself so seriously?

Meditation, eating well, being patient with people - insert whatever virtue you struggle with here - it makes us feel better.  When we do it, it's good.  When we don't do it - guilt is absolutely pointless.  If it served a purpose, we'd all be perfect.  Instead, just notice how the absence of whatever that virtue you strive for makes you feel and at the earliest opportunity - reset.

Life will knock you off your path with sickness, with a few random curveballs that make your busy week busier, and with just plain lack of motivation.  It's the coming back to your intentions and the ways in which you take care of yourself that matters, not whether you do it every single day perfectly.  Even if you get knocked off and have to get back on track a billion times, it's the coming back that matters.

This has gotten a little unwieldy and rambley and I feel like there's so much more I want to say on this subject, but I'm going to post it anyway in hopes that it at least resonates with someone.  I suppose the point is - less guilt, more love.  And more taking advantage of opportunities to reset ourselves.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spontaneous Sunday!

For someone who likes schedules and plans and preparation, I can be extremely impulsive.  When I get excited about an idea, I often leap forward full speed ahead without a ton of deep forethought, stubbornly convinced it's a good thing to do.  This is occasionally a huge fault, and occasionally a huge asset.  I'm pretty sure this time it's an asset, but with all of my spontaneous decisions, only time will tell.

My sister and I at the 10K point of our
very first half marathon
Last night (so I guess on Spontaneous Saturday...) I read my first issue of Runner's World in a really long time - probably not since shortly after I got injured after the marathon in January 2014.  My subscription inexplicably ran out and since I couldn't run and felt depressed about it, I didn't renew.  It's an excellent magazine and I forgot how every single time I read it I get a massive burst of inspiration and excitement.  As a result, before I had even read the last page, I had decided to register for and run the NYC Half Marathon in March of 2016.  My big return to distance running was going to be the Brooklyn Half in May, but I counted out the weeks and my rough estimate of my training needs and decided I could do both.

From there, I naturally started thinking about one of the two things currently on my bucket list.  Item #1 - Have a baby.  Not ready for that one yet, and that would've been a weird thing to think of next, so it was obviously Item #2 - Run the NYC Marathon.

As a New York Road Runners member, I can gain entry if I run in 9 races and volunteer for 1 in the 2016 calendar year.  I've thought about it for a loooong time over the years, and my injury put an indefinite hold on my fantasies of crossing that finish line in Central Park after running through all five beautiful boroughs.  I'm feeling strong enough though - and more importantly, much smarter about my body than I was pre-injury - that I think it's time to put a real live actual date and goal out there.

November 5th, 2017.  It's gonna happen.


The next spontaneous thing is slightly less earth shattering...or at least it would be if I were a little less neurotic.

I deleted Facebook off my phone.

Half of those reading this probably wonder why this is a big deal at all, and the other half are probably shuddering in horror.

I'm not deleting my account  - there's no way I could cut myself off from that many baby pictures from all my family and friends and students and clients - but I have so much to read both for doula training, running, yoga, and pleasure, and Facebook absolutely dominates my commute.  More often than not, I stay on it longer than necessary and get sucked down a rabbit hole of political depression and upsetting news stories.  That's not to say I won't follow news or political issues important to me anymore, but I just need to be a better guardian of how much energy I'm putting toward something that isn't giving me a whole lot in return.

So there you go.  Spontaneous Sunday.  Decisions both big and petty - it's all happening.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hashtag Blessed

Not being of any religious persuasion, I've never really felt compelled to wish someone a "blessed day" or to use the word blessing too often in describing my own life or someone else's situation.  (Also, my mom would look at me like I had 3 heads if she heard me wishing someone a blessed day.  She has a funny thing about it...)

The older I get, though...Between two of my best friends on this planet earth being devout and Christ-like Christians, my deep foray into the "Slumber Party Theology" (to crib a term Elizabeth Gilbert references in Eat, Pray, Love - which I'm falling back in love with, but that's another story) that is being a yogi in this day and time and place, and between my work and my life circumstances taking the direction that it has been taking...damn.  I feel the need to throw myself on the floor in gratitude sometimes for how ever-lovingly blessed I feel.  I feel the word cross my mind and on my lips more and more as the years go by.

Becoming a doula was really daunting, and I put off going down that road for a long time.  It had been on my mind, and my mentor, Juliana, saw it in me and kept predicting that it would happen and urging me to do it.  But it was too much time, I didn't have space for it, it was too scary, too real.  And after the gracious and selfless and phenomenal work of my sister's two birth doulas helping to make A+Z's arrival the once-in-a-lifetime family event that it was for my sister and brother-in-law, after seeing the positive effect that having doula support had on their new family...

I only feel mildly self-conscious in using this term - I felt called to do it.

This past week, I attended my longest birth so far as a doula.  It won't be the longest I ever attend.  It had a lot of factors that made it new and exciting and unique and scary, and because I want my clients to trust my promise of confidentiality I won't go into great details.  I will say that I felt such a deep connection with this couple that it was truly an honor to be there with them.  I loved every minute of it, even the minutes fraught with uncertainty and fear and waiting waiting waiting.  To be a part of their once-in-a-lifetime experience...I can't express my gratitude to have been able to have been a part and to have helped.

Sundays I usually like to have my whole day open so I can do...whatever.  My laundry.  Watch Orange is the New Black until my eyeballs pop out of my head.  Today, I took a class for myself, gave a Thai Yoga Massage, met with a new doula client and her husband, and attended the 3rd birthday party of a wonderful little boy I've known since he was...I don't even know - maybe 3 months old?  My husband finally got to meet the beautiful community of Astoria moms and their kids that I've known through The Giving Tree Yoga Studio and loved for roughly 2.5 years, some of them when their babies were still in the belly.

I mean...damn.

The words "blessed," "grateful," "honored," "humbled" - a lot of them are overused, used for humble-bragging, for compliment-fishing, and because of that they're so often dismissed or used ironically.  Lord knows I love mockery as much as the next guy.  But I find sometimes it makes it difficult to truly express those pure feelings.  Because it's naive?  It makes people uncomfortable?  It makes them roll their eyes and gag a little bit at the saccharine of it all?  It shines a light on an element of their own life that maybe isn't going so great?

For better or for worse - the Internets are here to say.  Good, bad, ugly - it all gets out there these days.  We're the guardians of how much we share and how we share it.  My life isn't perfect and it's not always sunshine and rainbows, but dammit - I just feel really, really, really, really blessed today.  I could not love what I do more.  As one of my heroes, Buddy the Elf would say, "I'm in love, I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it!"

And to make up for all the joy, if it's too much for your modern sensibilities - a great NYTimes article on the use and abuse of #blessed on social media.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August is the new January

Oh, hello.  This old thing.

Six weeks!  Has it been six weeks?  That's probably the longest I've gone without updating this guy.  It's of course been near the bottom of my to-do list for probably about the last 3 of these weeks, and with every passing day that I don't write, I get more and more in my head about what I should write and why do I still have this blog when I feel like it had much more purpose and structure and direction when I started it five years ago, and no one really reads it anyway, and the last thing the Internet needs is one more blog about yoga or whatever the hell this blog is about now - blah de blah.

So, with no clear direction or easily boxed-in-able topic, I'm writing again!  The Whole30 was an excellent way to get me back on the blogging horse, but it has long since passed - but not without leaving a seriously lasting impact.  Plenty of programs say that they will change your life, and I often find it not to be the case, but the Whole30 really was life-changing.

That's not to say I didn't fall hardcore off the wagon and back to a lot of old habits (which I did - so many leftover cookies from Atlas & Zoe's birthday party!!!) and not to say that I haven't felt mopey despair after said moments of falling off the wagon into impulsive, binge-y eating, but overall the choices I make when I eat, the habits I've formed, and the way I think about it has changed, and for the better.  I have my eye on doing another Whole30, maybe in the fall, and definitely around the New Year.  My mom and Jim have both embarked on the journey as well, losing weight and gaining health which makes me immeasurably happy and proud.

One of these days, I'm going to drag Marc along with me on the journey...

After getting back from SC, I immediately hit the ground running back to the NYC hustle.  Teaching, managing, and doula-ing (and RUNNING!) have been taking up my time, although the changes of our schedule in the summer have allowed for blessed pockets of free time that are nowhere to be found in the much busier fall, and for that I am so very grateful.

August always feels like - and I'm sure I write this sentence in this blog every single year, and I expect to do so for every year to come - a second chance at a New Year's Resolution-type fresh start.  It's the calm before the back-to-school storm where there's a little chance in these days of gorgeous late summer to reflect and reconnect with what I really want and how I really want to live.

This August in particular I feel drawn to reconnect to that fresh-start feeling that I'm so addicted to via two of my all-time favorite books - My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor and that ubiquitous soul-stirring book of women of my generation and beyond, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

And just last night I finished a new addition to those beautiful books by strong women - Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.  Obviously drawn to it from the phenomenal Netflix series that I have been obsessed with the past few weeks as I finally finished season 3, the book bears striking similarities to Taylor & Gilbert's books - except instead of a stroke or a crippling divorce leading to world travel, the catalyst is prison.  It's an incredible book on a personal level and even more so on a larger, societal level.  It sparks a tremendous amount of outrage at the waste, inefficiency, inhumanity, and lack of common sense in our prison systems.  It's worth the read for that, the humor, the sisterhood, and the personal strength and resilience Kerman exhibits.


I could go on and on, because like I said, this particular entry clearly has no defined structure or message, but I won't.  It's enough just that I wrote, for those three of you kind people who read it.  This old girl is 5 years old and I can't let her go just yet!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Whole30 DONE

It's my I DID IT! post!  And I did it!  Hooray!

I finished the Whole30, and while I'm proud of myself for doing it, I'm more proud (and surprised!) by how easy it was.  I thought it was going to be a form of self-torture, but...it was not that hard.  There were challenging moments, but I was never holding a bag of tortilla chips and weeping because I couldn't eat them.  I just ate something else instead...and then felt good about my choice and moved on to more important things in my day then my food choices.

As they say in the Whole30 rules:

It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. - See more at: http://whole30.com/step-two/#sthash.cUOb5LDE.dpuf

It required more time in the kitchen - and sadly, more money spent at the grocery store - but I love spending time in the kitchen.  Sure, it was sometimes challenging to find the time, but it's all about priorities.

I probably could have eaten fewer nuts and slightly more green vegetables on certain days, but especially considering my first client's long labor earlier in the month and my lack of a dominant arm last week, I feel like I did really well.

I feel fantastic, most importantly.  I finally stepped on the scale (which is not allowed during the 30 days) and am almost at my wedding weight, which I never thought I'd see again!  I honestly want to continue eating like this 90% of the time.

Now don't get me wrong...I have a gigantic glass of red wine with my name on it tonight and I will be having chocolate.  But it'll be a paleo, just-a-little-honey-for-sweetener dessert that I make myself.

I'm figuring out the best reintroduction schedule for what I really want to pinpoint - my big question mark foods that I know I'm allergic to are corn, milk, and wheat (and also eggs, but I've been surviving fine without them).  I'm fortunate that I'll get a chance to reintroduce everything, with Whole30-style days in between so I can really evaluate how each food/food group is affecting me, before heading down to SC to stay with my sister and soak up my beautiful Atlas and Zoe.

I'm a little nervous about spending a week putting the health and feeding of two other tiny people ahead of my own after being so hyper-vigilant with my diet for the past month and a half.  Whole30 isn't exactly fast/convenient food!  It'll be really disappointing and challenging if I find out that gluten/wheat upsets my stomach or dairy makes my eczema explode.  If I find that out, I'll figure it out and do my best to work around it.  But I will be having birthday cake, dammit.  You only turn 1 once!

Overall, this was a fantastic experience.  I could see myself doing this again in January as a post-holiday/birthday reset!

For tonight though...I am ready for my wine, please.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Whole30, Day 24 Update

Holy moly.  If last week's lesson was to take me out of constantly thinking about me and food and how it's all affecting me, this week's is a big smack in the face (or in my left arm) to remind me that life is random and no matter how good a handle you may think you have on your health - we are ultimately not in control.

(Ironically, not being in control is also a theme expounded upon during Jurassic World.  Which despite being depressingly non-feminist, was super fun)

So this week's adventure: I got bursitis in my elbow and it got infected.  Lord only knows how on earth this happened.  I didn't even know what bursitis was (it's this), and then suddenly my left ( and dominant, of course) arm was in excruciating pain and I could no longer bend it.

But what?  This diet is supposed to REDUCE inflammation in my body!  WTF!  Also, this apparently happens mainly to elderly people...and I'm 30.

My sister's wise answer:  "Bodies do weird things sometimes."

Why did she get a tumor in her jaw a few years ago that ruptured and became infected?  Why did my mom need knee surgery when she never had a noticeable incident or accident to injure it?  Why do otherwise healthy, vibrant, fabulous people get cancer?

It doesn't mean throw in the towel and don't work hard on your health.  It's actually all the more reason to take an active role in your health and well-being.  That way, the things that diet, sleep, exercise, etc can help, prevent, or control are as taken care of as they can be.  As for the rest?  Bodies just do weird things sometimes.  The better your baseline health, the better shot you have at dealing with the weird curveballs.

It's been a frustrating and humbling few days.  I think Monday evening was one of my strongest moments in terms of temptation - lord, how I wanted tortilla chips, wine, and chocolate.  It was all I could do to keep from polishing off an entire bag of dates when I got home after the weirdness and pain and stress and frustration of the day.  I'm thankful Marc was home yesterday during the worst of it to help dress me and feed me and bathe me and try to give me perspective and to do pretty much everything for me.  I'm thankful to live in a country with access to antibiotics - this would totally have killed me on the Oregon Trail, but instead it's just a temporary injury that will hopefully get knocked the hell out as soon as possible.

Tempted though I've been (and man, being home alone from work is prime breeding ground for boredom-eating for me) during this little curveball, I've stuck to Whole30.  Buying a $5.00 grilled salmon at a grocery store Monday after Urgent Care and awkwardly eating it on the subway - holding it arm's length in my immobilized left arm while stabbing at it with the fork in my nondominant right hand - was worth it to stay on plan and probably hilarious to everyone around me.

I always get very angry and very frustrated when I get sick or injured and my best laid plans get knocked around.  It's good for my control-freak to be shaken up like this, as much as I hate it.  Once I get over it, it always helps when I'm humbled with a bit of perspective.  I don't need to eat through a straw for weeks on end like my sister, I don't need knee surgery like my mom, and I don't have frigging cancer.  Time to suck it up and heal and move on!

To that end...time to end this entry and ice my elbow.  I've got a 5 mile race to run on Sunday (and possibly a woman to help through labor between now and then!) in celebration of my hamstring's PT "graduation."  Though it's totally like me to get totally randomly injured before a race and just keep pressing on like an idiot, I'm going to not push it and just cross my fingers that come race day I'll be healthy and 5-mile ready.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whole30, Day 18 Update

Just barely squeaking this into Week 3.  It's been a crazy one.  One of my two doula clients for this month had her baby on Tuesday, and it was an extremely intense almost-24 hours.  I stayed on track, Whole30 wise, but the circumstances surrounding the birth and everything else has shot Whole30 firmly into the backseat of my priorities!

I've been a little disoriented and my sleep has gotten off track a bit as a result.  I'm supposed to be in the "Tiger Blood" phase of feeling amazing, and I'm sure I will be once I feel like I'm back to normal.

I also just don't feel right writing about my little Whole30 adventure when just 48 hours ago I was in the midst of a much more intense life event for my wonderful client and her amazing family.  It feels quite small by comparison, but out of respect for her privacy I can't go into any details about the birth or how I've been processing it (let alone how she's been).

For now, I'm just happy to have posted something on the blog, as I'm trying to stay faithful to updating once a week.  I'm also quite proud to have stayed on the plan - never have I wanted a glass of wine more than when I was walking home on Tuesday night!  I will hopefully have something more substantive to say next week, and when my next client goes into labor I plan to be just as well prepared to take care of myself while taking care of her!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Whole30, Day 9 Update

Hello hello!  I'm actually writing a blog post within a week of my last one - will wonders never cease.  I'm hoping to finally jump back on board to consistency with this thing.

Consistency is actually one of the biggest gifts I think I've gotten from the Whole30 so far.  Strangely, I don't feel compelled to blog much about food - although I will obviously mention it!  Maybe that's where I should start:

First of all, I do not feel deprived - generally speaking.  The food I'm eating is so delicious and because I absolutely love to cook, I'm still feeling excited about the program because I'm learning so many new recipes and having to get much more creative than usual.  According to the Whole30 Timeline, I'm encroaching on the point where a lot of people have to really fight temptation to quit.  A big cause is often food boredom.  I'm feeling incredibly grateful that I'm not falling into that category!  The Whole30 book and their awesome recipes are a big part of that.

Now, did I almost dive head-first into the bowl of tortilla chips at my friend Gemma's 30th birthday party this weekend?  Did I want my friend Morgan's insanely amazing fig gin?  Did I cry inside a little because I had to pass up incredible Brooklyn farmer's market cheese my friends Aaron and Lu brought for our Tony Night Extravaganza?  Do I miss chocolate and wine almost as much as I miss my nephews and niece?

Yes.

HOWEVER - my enjoyment of the program, excitement of the benefits I know I will reap, and my desire to really, truly, honestly complete it are all stronger than those things.  It's pretty amazing to acknowledge that there is a force in my willpower stronger than chocolate.  Brave new world.

So what does consistency have to do with this?

Because I've had to be so completely on-top of meal planning, what I'm eating, label-reading, and so consciously in tune with my body (such as nixing eggs - sadface), I've naturally fallen back into good habits that I've tried to maintain for so long.  The Whole30 program is also huge on the importance of sleep - and even if it wasn't, my lack-of-sugar crashes on Wednesday and Thursday were epic enough that sleep just shoved its way to the front of the importance line - and so I've been guarding my sleep even more fiercely than usual. (For those who know me well - I know it's hard to imagine me guarding my sleep more fiercely than usual, yet it has happened)

My body has always naturally been early-to-bed, early-to-rise, but a lot of things will often conspire to get in the way of that.  This past nine days, I have been consistent with that, which has lead to more time in the morning, which has lead to a consistent morning routine, which I always pine for but so often just completely suck at maintaining.  I've blogged/whined about it more times than I can count.

My mornings are now open enough that I can fit in all of the stuff that I both need and want to do for my health:  mobility work (for physical therapy), meditation, journaling, finally becoming consistent in taking my supplements, and dry brushing.  Then by the time my day starts, I actually feel settled instead of rushing around like a maniac and barely getting out the door in time!

Overall, I feel like with Whole30, rather than putting the emphasis on sad, scary deprivation, the emphasis has turned to my overall health.  It's been really awesome so far, even with the crazy brain-fog sugar crashes, and I'm really excited to keep going.  I can already tell it's having a huge, huge impact on my overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Whole30: Day 1

First of all, I can't believe it's been a month since I've written.  For shame!

The good news is, May was a pretty awesome month overall.  I bought a one month unlimited new student special at Y7, a fabulous hot yoga studio just upstairs from Karma Kids Yoga.  (Can't beat that for convenience!)  Extra yoga, more running with my physical therapist and on my own, a race to look forward to at the end of June (my first in over 18 months!!!) and a gloriously long Memorial Day weekend in PA to visit Marc - I can't find much to complain about!

Except...

Like every other person in this country, I have a funny relationship with food.  I was a deeply, deeply picky eater (my poor mother) as a kid.  Although I also had allergy testing as a tween that revealed some strong allergic reactions to corn, wheat, milk - you name it - I never made an effort to cut any of these foods out.  I honestly would have subsisted only on carrots and celery if I had done that because I was just so. damn. picky.

I didn't start making a conscious effort to eat vegetables or connect the dots between not just food and weight but food and health until my early 20's.  Becoming a runner and a yogi at that time got me more into cooking and my sister's forays into the culinary world helped expand my previous palate of cheese-chocolate-noodles. It didn't necessarily help my massive addiction and emotional attachment to chocolate, but you know - baby steps.  I flirted briefly with vegetarianism after moving to New York and starting my vinyasa yoga teacher training...and then I started dating Marc LeVasseur and was reminded that I am a carnivore for life!

I've gone through different phases, like everyone else, when it comes to healthier eating.  Sometimes I'm more in sync with it than others, sometimes I'm more motivated than others.  Pre-wedding or during a yoga teacher training = High motivation.  Laid out by an injury during a polar vortex an unable to do any of the physical activity that makes me feel strong and healthy = Low motivation.

I think it's because May was an overall good month, health-wise, that I'm inspired to take on this dietary experiment with myself.  As I wrote in my last entry, I've struggled with eczema and skin issues my whole life.  While switching over to more homemade products has been helping, it's also made me pay closer attention to it and to how I feel overall.  After a wine-and-chocolate-and-popcorn-and-you-name-it bender of a Memorial Day weekend, I felt pretty crappy and my skin was furious with me.

As fate and Facebook would have it, I noticed a random post from my fantastic former yoga teacher and current CrossFit guru Keith about the less-than-healthiness of legumes.  I've never understood why legumes were "vilified" by some nutritional camps, and when I asked him about it he provided a link that led me to reading about Whole30 - which I recalled my good friend Gemma committing to do for the month of May.

After reading more about it, I was hooked on the idea.  It's not permanent, and it's not exactly a diet.  It's a 30-day nutritional reset.  It's pretty damn intimidating to look at the rules and what not to eat, so let's start with what I will be eating the next 30 days:  Lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices & seasonings.

Now, the list of what I will not be eating:  grains of any kind, legumes (this includes peanuts and soy), dairy (!!), alcohol (!!), and added sugar of any kind, including honey and agave (!!!!).

There's a lot of stuff I love deeply on that list above - which is why this isn't forever!  The purpose of this re-set is to basically learn more about myself and how food affects me - physically, psychologically, and emotionally.  Physically, the factors that the above foods on the "no" list can adversely affect are digestion, skin (big one for me), energy level, sleep, and general inflammation.  Psychologically and emotionally, it forces me to detach from the habit of turning to a glass of wine or a brownie (or as so often happens, two or three or five) to unwind at the end of a long day, or to eat all the mini peanut butter cups in the Karma Kids fridge (sorry, Shari!) during that 3:00 crash because I need/deserve/whatever a mid-day treat.  The habit of chocolate with every meal (yep, even breakfast.  I'm a master of chocolate chip oatmeal variations).

This stuff is honestly a big part of my identity.  I'm passionate about good wine, I love to cook, and it's something Marc and I both love and bond with together (we went to France on our honeymoon specifically for this reason!)  After life as such a picky kid, it's exciting and liberating to be at a point where I'll try almost anything new and like almost anything that's put in front of me.  And when you live in New York City, the culinary possibilities are endless!

But as I said - this is not forever, and it's not a diet.  It's a venture to improve my health, my relationship with food, and to allow me more awareness of how what I eat affects me.  When I reintroduce corn, does that cause my skin to flare up?  When I reintroduce gluten, how will that affect my digestion?  I'm curious to see if my hamstring (which has been healing really well thanks to physical therapy) feels better at the end of the thirty days too.  I've had a couple medical professionals recommend I eliminate one thing or another from my diet but it all sounded like too much deprivation to me and just not worth it.  I guess I'm just at a point now - maybe it's because we recently turned 30, maybe it's because more people in our circle of friends and family have started to have serious health concerns - where having the information is worth it.  Information on my health trumps dessert.  (And I can honestly tell you that is something I never thought I would say!)

So, here we go.  Day #1 of 30.  I'm nervous and excited.  I'm curious how bad the sugar crash/cravings will be.  I'm wondering how I'll do at social events without alcohol.  But I suppose all will be revealed.

More information about the Whole30 can be found here, and I'll be one of those annoying people posting food pictures on Instagram at yoginiannie.  (I sort of already am one of those people, but this month it'll have way less cheese and chocolate!)  Not every meal, because - good lord.  But I'll be there!  Anyone care to join me?


...anyone?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Au Naturel

(No, this post is not about nudity.  Sorry.)

I've had sensitive skin forever and a day.  I still have eczema, though it's less severe than when I was a child, thank god, and growing up I suffered from a tremendous amount of allergies.  A few years ago, when I started falling into the yoga scene and learning what organic meant, I started to get interested in a more natural approach to my skin care, cosmetics, and housecleaning.  This essentially led to me spending an insane amount of money on boutique organic brands of all manner of products, and then years later realizing I couldn't afford it and then going to back to good ol' reliable Dove and Clorox.

Although I knew there was an alternative to that, I think it was a healthy combination of intimidation and laziness that kept me from exploring it - homemade!

Yes, I know DIY is so five-years-ago.  (Or maybe ten)  But sometimes I'm slow to catch on.

My older sister paved the way for me when she started exploring homemade recipes for lotion and household cleaning products a few years ago.  This makes sense, especially considering she used to be a chef so she has no fear of trying a new recipe, whatever it might be for.  With the arrival of the babies, she became even more concerned about the quality of ingredients she uses in essentially everything in her house.

Sadly, I think what finally tipped me over the edge to trying it was money related!  It has to be cheaper to buy your own and make your own stuff then to keep paying $15 every time you need more lotion, right?

Using the power of Google to find good recipes, the power of Amazon.com to buy ingredients in bulk, and essential oils, which I'm also starting to dip my toes into, I have finally, after years of curiosity, jumped on board and have made my first homemade beauty products.  Hooray for me!

I'm excited to see the effects of cleansing my face with the mix of castor and sunflower oil (with a tiny bit of tea tree, Vitamin E, and jojoba), skipping moisturizer, and my homemade lotion on my perpetually dry, pesky skin.  It's super easy and fun to make, and pretty easy to correct if you feel like you've screwed up.

Below is a recipe my sister used that we've both adapted with extra touches here and there from the blog WellnessMama - she calls it her Luxurious Homemade Lotion Recipe.  You can find the full post and more from her here.

Ingredients
  • ½ cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup beeswax
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter
  • Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (8 ounce) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Use as you would regular lotion. This has a longer shelf life than some homemade lotion recipes since all ingredients are already shelf stable and not water is added. Use within 6 months for best moisturizing benefits.
Notes
A little goes a long way! This lotion is incredibly nourishing and is also great for diaper rash on baby, for eczema and for preventing stretch marks!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shoutout (aka - five years!)

I've been mulling over and over in my head what to write about in the four weeks since I've last written.  Actually - make that the last two weeks since I got back from being Annie the Nanny to my sister's twins for a week.  Prior to that, those two chubby faces were all that was on my mind!

My last entry was all about slowly easing back into my own yoga practiced.  That hasn't stopped by any means, and I'm very grateful for it.  My busy schedule doesn't always allow for classes, but when it does I've been much more proactive about where and how I spend my time, and it's really been helping me.

Blogging on the other hand...I've just felt flat-out uninspired lately.  I'm not sure exactly what the reason is or how to climb out of it.  I think part of it has to do with the fact that I have just felt over saturated in general - inundated via my lovely Facebook friends with endless articles that might catch my fancy on yoga, on pregnancy, on parenthood, on health, on fitness, on eating, on relationships - you name it.  We are more in the information age than ever before, and sometimes I think I just have article fatigue.  So maybe I feel weird contributing yet more noise to this over saturated little world of blogs and online articles.  Maybe I'm just waiting until I feel like I have something truly awesome to say.

However - today is the five-year anniversary of my start to this ol' thing, and for most of those five years I have been super devoted to writing once a week, every damn week.  Even on the weeks it was a bit of a cheat - just posting a link to a YouTube video, for instance, or another post written by someone else.

It feels like I should write in the ol' girl on our five year anniversary.  So with that in mind, here is what I wrote in my first entry.  Is it narcissistic to think that it's cute?  It's kind of cute.  Anyway - enjoy!


Greetings, Blogverse!  I am officially joining the ranks of the millions, billions, and/or zillions of self published and self proclaimed gurus of the Internets.  Who am I to do this, you ask?

Well, I'm Annie Foster, first of all.  Most of you reading this probably know me but if not - hello! I'm starting this little ol' yoga blog for various reasons.  I'm a southern girl who moved up to the Big City from beautiful Virginia this past September.  I had no idea how dramatically and positively it would change my life.

I've practiced yoga for about 7 years total.  It started as an off-and-on thing for when I had access to a gym or did a yoga tape (remember tapes?).  I started practicing more consistently during my senior year at beautiful Christopher Newport University, and after graduating in 2007 my practice really began to deepen.  I thought about becoming a teacher, but lack of confidence, scheduling challenges, or lack of money always made it seem impossible. After I decided to finally take the plunge and move to New York, it was clear there would be no better time (or place!) in my life to finally sign up for a training program.

I chose Sonic Yoga in Hell’s Kitchen for my 200-hour training, and it was the best thing I have ever done for myself.  The teachers there are phenomenal, and the program is life changing.

Since the program ended in December, I’ve striven to continue what I view as just the beginning of a lifelong journey in not just teaching yoga but becoming a better student of yoga.  My teachers referred to the 200 hour training as “yoga nursery school.”  Having graduated and subsequently been thrown into the big world of articles, books, classes, styles, workshops, not to mention more clothes, accessories, and various merchandise than anyone could possibly wrap their brains around, I’ve been yearning for some kind of outlet to help me make sense of this big yoga universe I’ve plunged into.

Hence: blog.

As my career as a full time yoga teacher starts taking its first steps and leaps I hope to make this blog an extension of everything I learn through both study and experience.  I plan to share thoughts on books I’ve read, concepts I’ve learned, and start a conversation with all the lovely souls who are kind enough to read it.

The past couple of weeks have been full of first steps for me as a teacher.  I subbed my first studio class and secured my first regular studio class, both at Creative Vibrations.  I'll be teaching there Mondays at 5:00pm and I'm very excited.  I also taught my first private client (or the first private client who wasn't already my friend, I should say!) last week.  I'm nearly finished collaborating with the excellent Billy Griffin to launch my yoga website.  I have my first exposure to the amazing world of Thai Yoga Massage via the Integral Yoga Instituteand will soon have my first 5-day intensive there to become certified.  Lots of stuff is happening and I hope this can be a place where I share all that I learn through my study and practice yoga!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Starting Home

I've been distant lately, not just from the blog but from so much of what it represents in terms of my connection to a spiritual practice, a physical practice, my health - all that beautiful stuff I started this blog to explore and blather on about.

Since last January, after the marathon led to my hamstring, my foot, then my hamstring again being injured, I've been slowly retreating further and further from running, yoga, and any other type of physical activity.  I didn't want to in the least, but I found I had to.  It's been very frustrating, and I've written a lot about it.  I started the amazing journey with my physical therapist back in late September to try to get me all fixed, and while I'm not 100%, I'm so much better.  I haven't done much running aside from some glorious barefoot 5-minutes-at-a-time sessions back in October and November - before the polar vortex came to stay - but those little sessions were amazing and so different from what I'd been used to and so hard.

I've missed the mood and energy boost from working out just as much as the physical effects, and I recently discovered yet another thing I missed about being active - the extra willpower.  I've always had an emotional and contentious relationship with food, and varying degrees of inactivity brought me back to that full swing.

Even after making big strides in physical therapy, I still almost never took a yoga class for myself in these past almost six months.  Either I was afraid of aggravating my hamstring further (after months of recklessly pushing myself last spring and early summer, I'm done taking chances) or just felt like I was too damn busy and the last thing I needed after a full day of teaching was to spend more time in downdog.

And yet.

I remember talking to a beautiful yoga teacher who is, sadly for me but wonderfully for her, moving to Colorado soon after getting married this weekend (which, if I may say, is a pretty awesome weekend to get married) awhile ago about this.  She mentioned that she was taking a class with a teacher we both loved later that day, after just having told me she'd already taught some ridiculously high number of classes already (kids and grown-ups).  When I asked how on earth she could possibly manage to do more yoga after all of that, she just responded very matter-of-factly that she needed to keep time for her own practice too.

That little exchange has come back to me every so often, and it's been a little bug in my ear more and more lately as I've emerged from a truly insane February and the city emerges from a truly brutal winter.

Yesterday, I practiced at Astoria's lovely Yoga Agora with my absolute best friend in the world first thing in the morning.  And just this evening, I practiced at one of my beautiful home studios, The Giving Tree Yoga Studio right down the street for a delicious 90 minute, half flow-half restorative class.

The amount of mental and emotional weight I can feel having melted out of myself is pretty amazing after just those two classes in two days.  Even today, after teaching 5 kids classes in the morning and one adult private in the evening, I am so happy I dragged myself back out into the wind from my warm apartment to take a class.  All of that plus the beautiful feeling of not being physically spent, exactly, but just knowing that I did work for myself.

When I'm teaching, I'm either playing or demonstrating.  I think I've forgotten what a massive difference there is between that and taking - even if I were to take a class of the exact same sequence that I may have taught.  It sounds obvious to be writing it out, but I never quite realized it.  When I'm practicing, it's my breath, I set my pace, I make modifications if I need to, I let myself be led and cared for by a teacher.  Not only that, I get inspired as a teacher to steal whatever wonderful things I'm doing or hearing to bring back to my students.  I can get stuck in ruts from time to time and I can't believe I forgot how necessary it is to shake things up.

So there we go.  I practiced, and I've revisited this neglected, dusty old blog.  Slowly but surely I'm getting back to a place where I'm carving out time for my physical practice, which always puts me on a road to being happier and saner.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Saucha: Next to Godliness

February was a whirlwind.  The first half felt like nonstop teaching, and the second half felt like nonstop struggling to teach nonstop while losing my voice and being on call for my first doula client.  Now that my voice is back, a beautiful baby girl was born last week (in one of the most unbelievably awe-inspiring moments I've ever experienced!)  and I'm more grounded, I feel like I'm coming up for air, and I'm overjoyed to find that it's finally March...despite the layer of snow and ice currently dropping on the ground.

Despite the snow, when I hear "March," my brain says, "SPRING!"  Now that I've had a day off where I've felt up to doing more than laying on the couch binge-watching The Mindy Project and recouping my energy, I've been indulging in one of my favorite nerdy housewife-y things - Spring Cleaning.  It made me smile, knowing this was my plan for today, to get the March newsletter for my wonderful neighborhood yoga studio, The Giving Tree, and see that their theme for the month is, "Fresh Start."  It's exactly what it feels like - and it's usually how I feel at the start of every March.  (And September.  And January.  And a little bit June)

I always feel happier in a cleaner home, and man alive did this place need it.  Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, which I mention a lot on here, identified cleaning/purging as the first thing she needed to do to start her project.  In her chapter on it, she found it interesting that there's very little research on link to happiness/stress levels and clutter!  She does a tremendous amount of research in her book about all manner of things, so it was fascinating - considering our pop culture's obsession with things like Hoarders - that there isn't much "official" information about that.

Yogically speaking, the first niyama, or observance, is saucha - purity or cleanliness.  Literally, clean body, spirit.  Energetically speaking, a place for everything and everything in its place.  Everyday - brushing our teeth, showering, even making the bed.  Some yogis go further with practices like neti potting, oil pulling, and use of particular oils on the skin.

There are all kinds of deep thoughts and analyses I could throw into this entry about saucha - the interesting quotes from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (where yamas/niyamas are first mentioned and discussed) that imply our body can never be clean and is in fact something to be considered "disgusting."  I could talk about parallels to certain religions and other implications of purity, and impurity...but that's for another day.

For me, today - it's much more on the simpler (and yes, metaphorical) side.  Deep cleaning the oven, clearing off the (embarrassing amount of) dust off of my counters and bookshelves, cleaning the bathroom - unbelievably simple stuff that just gets thrown to the wayside when things get busy.  It's unbelievable how grounding and inspiring dealing with it can be.  I joke with my boss that I need one day off a week to "do my laundry," but it really is the truth!  To be a good "housewife" it takes at least a whole damn day...and there always seems to be more that you can do.  Adding to that facing and getting our finances in order, which is never fun at the time but always feels (somewhat) good to be done with - icing on the incredibly nerdy, boring, grown-up cake.

The mundanity of these accomplishments, though, don't seem to lessen the quiet joy they bring me.  We may still be in the "lion" phase of March, but my love of spring cleaning is warming my spirit up already.  Who knows - with this solid foundation, I might be able to blog about more yoga-y elements of yoga soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Lent" for the Yogi

Holy moly - how on planet earth has it been a month since I've written?  I have no other excuse to offer but that most ubiquitous and obnoxious of NYC reasons - I've been crazybusy.  (Is that exclusive to NYC or does pretty much everyone everywhere blame things on that?)

I want to just write a brief entry - sort of about Lent, and sort of not.  I'm not Catholic, or even Christian, but I'm a sucker for anything resembling a resolution, or a finite amount of time in which to try something, give something up, or better yourself.  I certainly don't want to offend anyone who is devout and takes their practice seriously - I am not trying to trivialize your religious practice by any means, merely taking inspiration from it as I go on my own continuing journey.

A few years ago, I started my year off - literally starting January 1st - with a 40-day meditation with my mala beads, chanting the same thing each and every day.  It was pretty fabulous and grounding and I learned a lot.  It wasn't related to Lent, I just wanted to give the practice a go.

I typically don't do anything for Lent (again - not Catholic), but I do remember when I was interning in Sarasota, over 6 years ago now, that I decided to add something to my life for 40 days instead of the traditional practice of giving something up.  I added what I called a "devotional practice."  Every morning for a minimum of 20 minutes, I'd meditate and then do at least one other thing - either practice yoga, write, or go for a run.  It was really phenomenal, and if memory serves I think I managed to make it happen every single day.

This year, I have one thing I want to add and one thing I want to give up - sort of in line with my Inward/Onward theme of this year.

Inward - Adding:
-Devotional practice, just like back in good ol' Sarasota.  Minimum 20 minutes every day.  Meditation is mandatory!  Adding along writing, yoga, or my (also mandatory) physical therapy exercises.  Eventually I'm hoping I can add running to the list!

Onward - Subtracting:
-Complaining!  Not necessarily being a robot who never utters a declarative sentence stating unpleasant things ("It is -10 degrees out today.") or a holier-than-thou beatific martyr, but I don't want to get caught in the very easy cycle of whining, continually directing my energy toward negativity, and most importantly, having the complaining ease myself into a pattern of worrying.  I am a mega-worrier, and I think there's a big link between that and complaining.

The "no complaining" thing has been on my mind for a long time, and it reminded me a little bit of this article, which wasn't focused on complaining or general negativity so much as it was more about gossip or unkind words.  Also a valuable thing to examine further in your own life and habits!

For my perspective, not being tied into the dogma of religion, the 40 days is a bit of a trivial number for me.  There are experts who say it takes 21 or 28 or 100 days to build a habit, and plenty who throw 40 around as being significant either because of the religious/historical significance it holds or because a research study suggested people kept good habits after that amount of time.

Regardless of the length of time or the reason, I'm always in favor of a little more self-study (svadhyaya in yoga-speak) and self-improvement.  Whether you're observing Lent or not, I hope the next 40 days are good ones...and the best part is, by the time it's done, we'll finally be seeing the glorious light of SPRING!

Not that I'm complaining about the winter.  But...it is very cold outside.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Updated & Improved YoginiAnnie.com

Hello hello, kind readers of my blog!

Today is my only day (and it's really a half day) at home to get myself situated before the hubs and I head down south to Costa Rica for a week (!!!).  In between following up on doula to-do's, cleaning the apartment, watching the videos and doing the homework my physical therapist has assigned me, juicing, following up on bills, and making sure we aren't broke - I have a very exciting announcement!

After nearly five years, I finally got my website updated!  My wonderful friend Billy Griffin built this site for me back in March of 2010, and then we both took forever and a day to get it to the point where I could update it myself.  He put me in touch with a fantastic web guy, Kyle Walters who helped me get it to where it is right now.

To get an idea of how badly this website needed updating - I had never even heard of kids yoga, let alone Karma Kids, back in March of 2010.  I had taken only one introductory course of Thai Yoga Massage.  I had just barely gotten my 200 hour!  And I probably had never heard the word doula before.  So, yes - it needed a little sprucing up!

Now here it is, in all its glory.  Enjoy, and THANK YOU, Billy Griffin and Kyle Walters!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Inward & Onward!

Happy 2015!  As I and every other person who writes a blog on earth am wont to do in early January, I want to write just a little bit about my resolution/word/phrase for 2015.

I'm a huge New Year's nerd - the countdown to midnight, the black eyed peas for dinner New Year's Day, and the reflection.  Oh, the endless reflection and journaling and yoga-ing!  It's one of my favorite holidays by far.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are so much about being around loved ones and traveling to see family and celebrating with them, which is priceless and which I wouldn't trade for the world.  But for a reflective introvert, New Year's Day is a damn close second.

I tend to overdo resolutions, and like everyone else in the world, tend to see certain resolutions pop up again and again and again, year after year.  After awhile, it gets a little disheartening, but I love New Year's and resolutions way too much to become jaded and just give it up.  Instead, I've changed my tactic a little bit in recent years.

Instead of just one word as I've done in some years past (because that would be too simple), I felt compelled to choose two - Inward and Onward.  The idea of using these words as a guidepost for the year means that instead of seeing one concrete resolution as a success or failure - with a start and end-point - is that I can use them as a mantra throughout my days and when things get hard to help guide my everyday thought patterns and decision-making.

Housed within Inward
-More Being, Less Doing
-Less screen time (specifically - less time per day on the Book of Faces)
-Make the time when things are busy for things that will really nourish me, as tempting as reality cooking shows may be.  Writing, meditating, practicing, reading, etc.
and much, much more that I will spare you

Housed within Onward (inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert)
-Worry is futile - move on
-Take responsibility for the energy I bring into a room
-The oh so familiar and frequent regret after an over-indulgent meal or night at a bar or whatever it might be.  Enjoy it for what it was, learn from it - onward.
and much, much more that I will spare you


How do you do New Year's?  A word?  A phrase/motto?  A list of detailed resolutions, goals, and deadlines for said resolutions goals?  Or do you just say screw it and reach for another bottle of champagne?

The world could use a more peaceful year ahead which is what I ultimately wish for myself and all of you.  Happy 2015!