Friday, December 30, 2016

There's an app for that

At the beginning of December, I wrote a blog post all about how in preparation for getting swept up into the annual madness that is the month of December, I wanted to really double down on all of my habits and be really proactive about taking care of my health - on the cold & flu front as well, the foot front, the workout front, the mental front - all the fronts.

I'm very proud to say that, along with the indulging, joy, stress, and travel that goes along with the holidays, I've done just that.  The biggest tool for me in maintaining my routines, habits, and health has been - because it's 2016 - an app.

I downloaded the Productive App at the end of June after seeing Marc use it, and I seriously can't believe I haven't written about it yet.  I use it religiously every single day to track habits that I want to keep up with - daily habits, weekly, monthly - it's incredibly flexible in the frequency you want to set.  There are plenty of built in suggestions as well as options for you to write your own.  If you go a whole day with every single habit done, it marks it as a "perfect" day - which as an upholder, gives me a ridiculous amount of joy.   When I went back last night to look at my overall progress, I saw that December had more days marked as "perfect" than any other month since I started using it - definitely not what I expected.

January and New Year's is a time that I love - I welcome any arbitrary excuse to find a fresh start, to renew or begin good habits and become introspective.  This app - and I don't use that many - has truly helped me to end this year on solid foundation so I can look ahead and aim even higher for 2017, instead of needing to use New Year's as catch-up.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Organizations to Donate for Aleppo Aid

I had an actual topic for an actual blog post planned today, but Aleppo looms too large.  Instead, and in the spirit of this season which is coming at the end of a violent, divisive, tumultuous year, I want to put some resources all in one place if you're looking to spread some charity and goodwill toward our fellow man (and women and children).

Save the Children Federation:  Donate to the Syrian Children's Relief Fund
"Save the Children is on the ground in Syria, and is helping refugee communities throughout the region, providing Syrian children and their families with emergency care, shelters, protection, clean water and warm clothes."


The Compassion Collective:  Together Rising
Touted by Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, and Glennon Doyle Melton, this charity is specifically aiming to create a mobile hospital.  More info here

Doctors Without Borders for Syria
Donate directly via this link to this group that gives desperately needed medical aid.

Hand in Hand for Syria

As the name suggests, a hands-on organisation which prides itself working directly with Syrians inside Syria, even when other aid organisations considered it too unsafe. They had a team inside Aleppo when it was over-run by Assad loyalists last week and are still sending aid into the area


There are certainly more, but this is a great place to start.


For our birthday's this year (mine was last Tuesday, Marc's was last Thursday) we agreed that we didn't need any stuff (especially since Christmas is right around the corner!) and agreed to donate to a charity of each others' choice for our birthday's.  Marc will likely choose an environmental cause, and my original plan was to give to the Center for Reproductive Rights (which could still use our money!), but the fact that Aleppo keeps hitting bottom and sinking lower and becoming more desperate - that's now where my birthday money is going.  


Please, please, please, find something you can sacrifice out of your holiday season this year and let's put our money, resources, and prayers to where they are truly and desperately needed.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Music Share - Winter Playlist

I am 100% using my birthday, Marc's birthday, and the birthday of my client's beautiful baby all happening in one week (not to mention the rockin Karma Kids Yoga holiday party) as an excuse for not having an original blog this week.

Instead, please accept my offering of my newest playlist - songs that make me think of winter (or that just go with the songs that make me think of winter).

I'm particularly obsessed with Leslie Odom, Jr's version of Winter and his incredible new album Simply Christmas.  Check it out on Spotify!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Focus on Foundation

I'm on call for a birth right now - my first time being on call in December.  I wasn't sure what to expect, as this is the most wonderful / most completely insane time of the year, but so far I'm finding it to be an incredibly grounding force - despite the nerves and "Oh my god, I haven't looked at my phone in 20 minutes" anxiety that pops up with being on call.

For me, December isn't just about Christmas - both Marc and I have birthdays 10 and 12 days before, right on the heels of Thanksgiving - and we have two gorgeous nephews born in November and December as well.  There's always something going on, always money to spend, always places to go, always Titan Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol to go see (opening this Friday!), always a holiday party.

What being on call demands, though, is (along with sobriety!), self-care.  Getting enough sleep, staying healthy (no easy feat after a week with three snotty children over Thanksgiving, but we made it!), and keeping myself organized and ready to go is essential.

This December also marks a desperately long-awaited turning point in my recovery from my torn plantar fascia.  It was a complete shock back in August to hear that I needed to be on crutches for six weeks, and a bigger shock when I saw just how ridiculously long the recovery process was taking.  My original doctor said recovery was 6-8 weeks - and my sports medicine doctor confirmed my suspicions (after it was taking so long) that practically no one fully recovers from this injury in less than 3 months - at the absolute minimum.  And getting back to running obviously takes more time from there.

Since re-adjusting my expectations to that new time-frame, December has taken on an entirely new significance.  Now that it's here - now that I'm healthy - now that the emotional shock of the election is shifting (heaven help us) into reality - and now that I have an external obligation to take excellent care of myself - I'm finally able to see myself getting back to my life pre-injury.  Upping my physical activity not just doing my PT homework or even having a great swimming workout, but being more active overall.  And if we're being honest, here, November was spotty at best on the workout front.

As anxious as I am to get back to running - and it feels so close I can taste it, yet still far - what I really need to get back to first is a consistent, actual, strong yoga practice.  I still have to pull my punches on some standing poses, as that deep bone-bruise type heel pain is still present, but I feel I can get back to the studio - my beautiful yoga-home, The Giving Tree - and start to rebuild a strong foundation for myself.  And is there any better time than December to give yourself that gift?

The world tends to go mad in December and try to build itself back up again in January.  My intention this month is to focus, amidst the joyful noise, on rebuilding my foundations now so that come January when that frenzied New Year's energy is abundant and everyone emerges hungover and bleary-eyed and ready to live their best life because it's a new year - I'll be ready to build.  And hopefully, maybe, just maybe - ready to run.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Painful Progress

I have no idea what to write today.  There's so much going on that I just feel stuck.  Things too personal to share, things too overwhelming to articulate.

It's always incredibly hard to leave my sister and her family.  It's the most deeply painful illustration of how nothing lasts forever that I've ever experienced, and ever will until I have my own kids.  Whenever I go, it's for a full week, and I get immersed.  The outside world mostly ceases to exist.  I'm in baby land.  It's nonstop, it's exhausting, it's wonderful.   I know I can't stay there forever - I have my own life and a city that I truly love.  But when I'm in it, I want to stay there forever.

It was sort of a holdover, a respite from the stark and frightening post-election reality we find ourselves living in.  Coming back doesn't just mean back to work or back to a normal routine, but back to facing fully head-on the challenges ahead and how I can be of help.  It's overwhelming.  It's jumping back into the process of processing the results and what it means for the future all over again, only halfway through.

But - nothing lasts forever.  Life is change.  My heart breaks when I think about all the cute and funny things the kids say and do and how the next time I see them, some of them might still be but others will be outgrown.  Replaced by new routines.  Same kids, same personalities, but so wildly different from visit to visit.  When I leave, I'm not just sad that I won't see them again for a little while but that I'll never see that version of them again.

Marc and I were given a surprising gift coming back from the visit on Friday - our plans to meet our sweet month-old nephew Lucas and visit newly two-year-old nephew Caleb were thwarted by the nasty colds we got from Atlas, Zoe, & Kai - we wound up with a weekend together.  Two days in a row.  Off.  Together.  Not off with one of us chasing one kid in one direction and the other chasing the other two kids in two other directions, but off.  God knows the last time that happened.  A weekend to heal, to recover, to reflect on our wonderful week and the challenges ahead.  We did what any normal couple would do - we watched all six hours of the masterpiece that is Angels in America.

Everything it says about love, change, God, politics, family, relationships, New York City, America, good, evil, the world...it feels so relevant in every facet of life these days.  Go back and watch it.  Go back and read it.  It offers hope, comfort, catharsis, inspiration.  Go.

I'll close this disjointed, rambling, vague piece with one of the last monologues of Angels, one that never fails to bring me to tears.  Happy, sad - all at once.  Emphasis mine.

“Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.”


The world only spins forward, as Prior says.  Let's keep doing the good work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Deep breaths

It shouldn't come as a surprise that we say, "Deep breaths" to ourselves and each other at Karma Kids Yoga all the time when we know we're about to encounter (or are in the midst of) a challenge. Maybe it's a trying parent or an event with 30+ crazy excited kiddos or spending hours of our lives on hold with Verizon because the Internet is slow again -

Deep breaths, we tell ourselves.  Deep breaths, we tell each other.

Never have I - never has the nation - been more in need of that advice than right now.

Deep breaths, because while there is a time to process shock and emotion and disappointment, we have to keep taking care of ourselves - and taking care of each other.

It often feels like laziness or cheating (because it often is!) when I simply use the week's blog post to outsource to other articles or videos, but today it simply feels like the only work there is to do.

We are about to be led by a man who has no regard for the freedom of the press, among many other things.  Seeking the truth and protecting the vulnerable has never been more important in our lifetimes.  Let's take a few deep breaths and go do the good work together.

There's a lot of overlap here, but they're all great resources.

27 Productive Things You Can Do If You're Upset About the Election
Buzzfeed

How to channel your post-election anger, sadness, and fear into action
Slate

The election is over, and here's what you can do about it
Chicago Reader

"If you're overwhelmed by the election, here's what you can do now"
Huffington Post

Michael Moore's Morning After To-Do List
Alternet

Finally, the phenomenal John Oliver finds the perfect blend of terrifying truth and desperately needed humor - as always.

Last Week Tonight

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Discipline of Gratitude - Election Day Edition

Anyone else excited out of their minds for today?  It feels like going to vote for the very first time!

In honor of where I first heard the term, "discipline of gratitude," and in honor of election day, my blog is getting outsourced to the original source of inspiration.



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Discipline of Gratitude

November brings with it my hands-down favorite holiday - Thanksgiving.  Food & Gratitude - two of the most beautiful things in life, in my humble opinion.

I heard a phrase that caught my attention a few weeks ago, and knew right away it was a thought/practice I wanted to explore.

The Discipline of Gratitude.

It seems like it deserves capitalization.

What I take it to mean at first glance is to not just take the idea of gratitude lightly - as the latest buzzword or the latest supposed key to instant happiness and contentment.  Keeping a gratitude journal is I'm sure a legitimately awesome tool for a lot of folks, but it can also turn very rote very quickly (or even start out that way).

We who are blessed to have enough in our bank accounts to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves all know in an almost dismissive way that we have a lot to be grateful for, and that everything else is all the small stuff.  But in the thick of day-to-day life, the small stuff becomes the big stuff, and we do sweat it.  In that context, it can be easy to write down that we're grateful for the Basics, but how often are we stopping and reflecting and feeling not just gratitude for it but feeling humbled with gratitude?

I've been pondering similar things a lot lately with my foot injury.  It hurts much more than I wish it did today, and since I'm waiting very impatiently for MRI results, my mind is left to its own worrying, worst-case-scenario-writing, self-pitying devices.  The discipline of gratitude, to me, seems entwined with the notion of perspective.

As my beautiful friend Laura often will remind me - we do not live in Aleppo.  There is almost no problem that we are facing in our blessed, blessed lives as New Yorkers - who, while struggle to make rent, are not living in poverty by any stretch of the imagination - that even compares.  The same idea of perspective, in my more mentally composed moments, is what reminds me that even if it takes much longer than I want it to (like it already has), I will get better.  Even though I struggle with the financial burden of my medical care and the work that's sacrificed, I have access to medical care and I can still do some work.  Even though not being able to walk normally/without pain is crushingly dispiriting, it's not like I'm going to lose my foot.

It's so hard to have the perspective that it's temporary, and sometimes I don't even want to admit to myself that it is because I'm stuck in that negative loop - and sometimes the negative mindset you know is much more comfortable, even when it's making you miserable, than the very frightening idea of hope and positivity.

There's a lot more I want to say about the discipline of gratitude, but - there's a lot more November to go.  I'll close this blog by taking the opportunity again to wish my beautiful big sister the happiest of birthdays!  I never have to dig deep to remember how grateful I am that she is my sister.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Resilience and Rebellion

After a rough September, I decided to make my word (or intention or goal, if you like) for the month of October - Resilience.  I'm resisting the temptation to share the definition because you all have google and you pretty much know what the word means anyway.  But it's a word that really appealed to me, because if September (not to mention the latter half of August) was my month of being injured, then October was my comeback month!

It turns out I should've extended my intention of Patience a liiiiiiittle bit longer.

October hasn't quite been the bounce-back I hoped and expected.  I'm certainly better than I was a month ago today - after my cast came off, the smallest bit of pressure on my foot was agony, and I was still figuring out the mechanics of walking again.  But today, I still experience pain when I walk, I'm much farther from back to normal (to say nothing of back to running!) than I expected, and I haven't always dealt with the disappointment in the healthiest ways.

Last week I wrote about boundaries and my anxiety over the election, as well as my health.   One would just feed the other until I was a depressed and anxious pile of goo.

It helps that there are no more debates, thank the sweet sweet lord.

But the fact is, that boundaries don't help worth a damn unless you set and enforce them.  (Gotta build a wall...)

And resilience is just a pretty word if I keep rebelling against doing the things that I know will actually help my mental and emotional and physical health.  Following rules I know I should follow, rules that are for my own good for reasons that I do actually understand.  Limit electronics.  Have a book to read so my attention span grows from the 3 seconds it currently is as I constantly skim headlines or bounce from work email/text back to whatever else it is I'm trying to do at home.  When I write, actually pay attention to writing without interruption.  Eat foods that quell instead of increase inflammation.  Get up on time, even when the snooze button is calling my name.  Actually focus when I meditate instead of just using it as another snooze button.

Intention really is a powerful thing, and words do make a difference - but it's just syllables rattling in your head if you don't put a plan of action to go with them.  That's why the advice to "Be present" always annoys me - yes, that's great, but how?

It's also hard to find the motivation to do those things or follow those rules or dig deep and get perspective that I'm really okay when I'm truly just not feeling it.  If I'm particularly stressed or scared or depressed at the glacial rate of my recovery and I let myself cry or get down, I find that I automatically go to a place of feeling like I don't deserve to feel this way because I'm really okay.  I'm not dying, for God's sake.  So then by not letting myself have a moment (or even a day) where I'm just sick of it all, those feelings just continue to simmer under the surface and negatively impact every other decision, conscious or unconscious, that I make.

My beautiful friend Michael Bartelle, who is one of the most inspiring, kind, funny, beautiful, and loving people I've ever met, wrote something strikingly similar to how I've been feeling today.  He shared several methods and techniques and practices he's engaged in throughout the years (such as meditation, doing morning pages a la The Artist's Way) and how when he seems to need those practices the most, he's least likely to habitually do them.

It's a reminder, especially coming from someone who inspires me as much as Michael does, that we're all human and we all go through rough patches that knock us off our pedestals and practices and keep us from being our best selves.  No one has maintained perfection in their practice in life - if they are, they're probably living on top of a mountain far, far away.  It's just part of life.

I think that's why the phrase, "Take care of yourself," exists.  When someone says that to us, don't we tend to just sort of nod and agree and appreciate the warm thought without really thinking about what it means?

To "Take care of yourself" probably means, more often than not, taking away the short-term dopamine hit (ie checking Facebook for the 100th time in an hour) from yourself and replacing it with something that you probably don't feel like doing, but that will be infinitely better for you.  The emotional, spiritual, and often literal version of Eating Your Vegetables.

So I'm here toward the end of this month where my resilience has been tested deeply by my inner, struggling rebellion.  Today feels a little different, though, and it just takes a few positive steps and a few good days to shift momentum to a better direction.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Setting boundaries

In case you haven't noticed - there's an election going on.

For people like me, who have tremendous interest in and anxiety over it, it's very, very easy to get unhealthily preoccupied.  It's one thing to be informed, and quite another to spend every free moment listening to or reading about it - even when there's no new-news from the last time one checked (even though in recent weeks it seems like there's a new development every five seconds).

There's a lot of talk among parents and teachers over a great "screen time" debate.  Parents worried (or decidedly not worried) about exposing their toddlers to the TV and iPad, parents trying (or not so much) to have family meals without phones at the table, the idea of having time limits vs. total freedom on video games - there are arguments to be made for every kid, family, and situation, and people spend a gigantic amount of time judging each other over it and judging themselves, often, over failing in their goals. (And for the record, I have no judgement or opinion on what anyone does - it is 100% not my place, and I don't even have kids so I'm not coming down on any particular side)

We spend so much time analyzing the effect that screen time has on kids, but it seems we don't even put one tenth of the same effort into analyzing the effect that it has on us as adults.  Sure, there's a flurry of recommendations about having TV in the bedroom or using electronic devices before bed, but how many of us let that permeate into the reality of how we live our lives?

I go through phases with this. Sometimes I'm great about avoiding my phone before bed...but most times I'm not.  Sometimes I resolutely delete Facebook from my phone, thus removing the ability to constantly check so I can post whatever article has most recently articulated my views.  Then inevitably something pops up (like a day full of air travel) where I feel I need / deserve to bring it back again.

The bottom line is, we all ought to honestly look at our intake of and exposure to media, and assess how it really affects us.  At what point might it just be reflexive, addictive?  At what point is it truly helpful?

And more importantly - what do you replace it with?  For me, that's usually diving deep into a novel.  I tend to be a happier person when I'm reading a book.  I'm able to get absorbed into one long narrative, rather from skipping and skimming article after article after article.  Also - hey, music still exists!

I think part of my issue with this is that I'm so much less mobile than I used to be while my foot is still healing, and obsessing about the election is an activity that requires zero movement.  If I were still able to go for a run three times a week and jump into a yoga class every so often, I'd also have a much better outlet to let the anxiety physically get the hell out of my body.

In the meantime, I just have to rely on good old self-discipline.  Usually not a problem for me, but there's something about an injury that makes you insanely permissive to yourself, usually at the eventual expense of health or sanity.

And therefore - boundaries.  Hiding the phone from myself.  Deleting apps. Creating boundaries of time when I'm on and when I'm off - and the kicker is, I'll probably pay even closer attention to and be more present with the news that I'm reading when I'm finally reading it.

I'll confess right now that, with the election three weeks away, I don't have the highest confidence in my ability to stick to these boundaries.  But at least they're there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Music Share - Hipster Playlist

Lots going on this week, but not for blogging.  Instead I'd love to share one of my most used playlists that I bring out for my Prenatal / Mom & Baby classes.

A lot of this was taken from the Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify, which is always full of hidden little treasures.  It's bookended with some gorgeous music by Dustin O'Halloran from one of my favorite albums chock full of beautiful instrumentals for savasana.

My favorite song on this, though, has to be Bells by The Bengsons.  I first heard it in savasana after one of Elizabeth Barnett's spectacular classes at The Giving Tree (check her out on Monday's at 7:45 and Friday's at 6:30!), and it absolutely floored me.  Astorians especially will like the shoutout to our neighborhood in the song.

There's a lot of poignancy in the song as well as throughout the playlist...it's one that makes me happier when I'm happy and heartens me when I'm sad.  Enjoy!



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Peg Leg & the Pool

Last week, I was dealt a setback to my foot's healing process that pretty well broke my spirit for a couple of days.  It's been hard for me to write about my emotional reaction and struggle with my injury because all I can keep thinking about is how much worse other people have it and how sort of inappropriate and gross it would feel to put that out into the world with so much else going on.  Because of that, I think I've been repressing my frustration and disappointment and heartbreak and anger in an effort to be as positive as possible.  As a result, when I had the setback (back to crutches instead of finally being able to walk again), I took it insanely hard.  Tears, pity party - the whole 9 yards.  (Shouldn't it be the whole 10 yards...?)

Luckily, I have the world's best physical therapist who gave me the best advice: get back in a pool.

Because I was in such a negative headspace last week, I kept focusing on the obstacles.  Figuring out how to join, how I should get there, when I should go, the pool schedule, what a pain in the ass it is to get around a wet locker room on a crutch and to change with the use of one leg, getting in and out, dealing with a wet towel and suit and goggles and swim cap when I have to go to work right after and have a hard time carrying a lot around...little things.  Petty annoyances that I let myself get caught up in and complain about.

And then - just like this summer, when getting to the pool was such an ordeal on the crutches - as soon as I got in the water, it all melted away.  The freedom that I've always felt anytime I get in the water is that much more healing and necessary and soothing with this injury.  When I swim, I can use my entire body, I can use my left AND right side at the same time in the same way!  I have freedom and symmetry in the water in a way that I just don't on dry land right now, and won't for a while, even once I get walking again.

My main homework in the water is to do some practice walking, in water up to my chin so I'm as weightless as I can manage to be.  As you can imagine, it's very slow work.  No other distractions - no headphones, no phone, no nothing except paying attention to how my body moves, how it feels, and the space around me.  It's the most meditative thing I've experienced in quite a long time, and it's so important that my brain be given that space where it's not engaged in anything else except what I'm doing at that moment.  No news.  No podcasts.  No Facebook. No reading.  No work.  Just my own brain and my own body.  It's the most yoga I've practiced since even before my injury, I think.

I honestly don't know if it was the feeling of walking, the freedom of swimming, or the forced mental freedom that's been the most impactful.  I've been mourning the loss of running lately for a variety of reasons - the primary one being what a huge outlet for stress relief it is.  The pool is helping me to fill that void in a totally new and totally needed way.

I've got another appointment with the doctor tomorrow.  I think the days of getting off my foot and back into the crutches coupled with the weightless practice-walking have paid off.  This process is still painfully, frustratingly, infuriatingly slow, but - I have my perspective back.  We'll just see what the next slow step is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Breathing through anxiety

I'm hoping that every single person who is reading this watched last night's debate. This is the most consequential election in our country's history and it demands our very careful consideration and every possible vote.

It also demands, for me at least, that I constantly check the news, Facebook, political podcasts, and every other morsel of information until I'm a useless, jelly-like puddle of horrified anxiety, convinced that this time next year it won't be global warming that's the biggest threat to humanity, but nuclear winter.

What's a little meditation or breath in the face of this overwhelming existential anxiety?

Pretty damn effective, actually.

If you've been anxious like I have lately, even if it's unrelated to politics or injury, I've found this to be a very helpful grounding technique:


Take a comfortable seat, either cross-legged on padding or with two blocks between the ankles in supported hero's pose.

Align your spine - shoulders down and back aligned over the hips, chin slightly tucked and back of the head pulled back in space so the earlobes align over the shoulders.  The crown of the head is aligned over the center of the pelvis.

Imagine a long line, or a long column of light, running from the center of the pelvis up and out through the crown of the head.  With each breath in, that line grows longer in both directions.  With each breath out, soften your body around your tall spine.

Inhale as everything from the navel up grows longer, lighter, taller, more lifted.  Exhale to soften the expression on the face, the jaw, the neck, the shoulders.  Inhale as the crown of the head lengthens toward the ceiling.  Exhale to soften tension in the chest, belly, back, and to release any gripping in the hips or legs.

Imagine everything from the navel up grows taller and lighter, while everything from the navel down becomes heavier, more rooted, more grounded.

Allow the inhalations and the exhalations to be even - inhaling and exhaling for a count of 4 or any length of time that will keep it a calming, easy breath.

Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

And then go vote.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Yoga Flow In A Cast




Better late than never...

My cast came off on Thursday (yay!  but whose skinny, dough-y calf is that underneath!?!?) but with the help of my magician husband, I've finally been able to upload my yoga class that I made it my goal to create during my weeks in the cast.

This can be done without being in a cast, of course - just don't take any of the necessary protective modifications.  If you're feeling like a challenging class that skips out on Warrior I and Warrior II, and standing in general, please check it out!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reasons to be Happy

(With apologies to Neil LaBute)



I've been thinking about this quote a lot the past few days.  My moods have been a bit up and down - I can go from cool, self-assured calm about the whole injury situation one minute, to a flurry of worry and anxiety and self pity the other, as the uncertainty about how the healing process will go after the cast comes off weighs on me.

If you ask me the things I'm grateful for, the things I really value and treasure in my life, one of them would be my physical fitness.  My health, my (relative, at this point) youth.  My energy.  My New York paced walk.  My ability to run.  I still have some of those things, of course, but in this temporary situation, I feel more like an ancient slug, with an aching lower back and pain all through my right hip and foot as it bears my weight.

So, how do you avoid the self-pity trap?  It's normal to feel sad and frustrated, and I don't think it would be wise or healthy to suppress those emotions when they come up, but you can't let them drive and you can't let them settle in.

There's got to be a deeper reason for joy, or even just a deeper sense of peace and equanimity that surpasses your life circumstances.  Your relationships, your job, even your health.  Life is nothing but change, as my mom reminded me recently.  This too, shall pass, applies to everything in life - the good, the bad, the indifferent.

The concepts of impermanence and non-attachment are important ones in the practice of yoga.  The idea of practicing, of having a meditative practice, is to hold to that center at your very core, to have a certain amount of equanimity to keep you from getting swept up in the waves of good and bad that live washes over you.

The best example of this, of course, is the tradition of the Sand Mandala among Tibetan Buddhist monks.  Pouring your attention, work, and presumably your heart into making something painstakingly beautiful...and then gently destroying it.  I don't think a lot of us would be capable of that.  (Though I have destroyed some rather ugly creations in my adventures in knitting that I've felt quite attached to...)

Then do we achieve the equanimity just to go around being robots?  Or do we detach emotionally from the circumstances and find joy anyway?  I don't know if equanimity really is achievable, though I'm sure some spiritual masters have probably claimed to have it.  Enlightenment, equanimity - they're cousins, I think, in the spiritual family.

I had a hard time, as a lot of Western yogis do, wrapping my brain around the benefits of detachment.  It's hard not to view it as something that means you love less, care less, feel less.  But it's really just about not letting these changeable, impermanent, outside circumstances so deeply penetrate the core of your being to the point that they can overtake and overwhelm you - for good or for bad.

I'm nowhere near the level of having achieved any sort of high-level equanimity or enlightenment, but I am working very hard to be in the circumstances I'm in and to find some happiness anyway.  Suffering is caused by not accepting the present circumstances.  It doesn't mean by accepting you just roll over and give up - you can still work to change your circumstances.  But until you accept things as they are, you'll never know peace.  So why not be happy on the lifelong journey?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Get some Headspace

Happy Friday, world!  Even though tonight is the eve of the busiest day of work I'll have all week - three classes!  Despite the frustrating limitations and challenges of teaching in the cast, it'll feel good to have so many students' positive energy in one day.

I'm not feeling terribly motivated to write this week for some reason, so I'm going to mainly use this week's entry to praise and recommend Headspace, an excellent meditation app.  It's not free (nor is it cheap, fair warning) but it does offer a free trial, and I am surprised to find that I think it's worth every penny.

Marc discovered this app a few months ago and immediately started singing its praises.  I let my arrogance get the better of me - I'm a yoga teacher, I've been learning and practicing meditation for over seven years, I don't need an app to tell me what to do, blah blah blah.  But the truth is, despite my fairly consistent practice, I had absolutely no consistency with what I was doing with my practice.  Sure, I'd sit every day - for 5, 7, maybe 10 minutes on a motivate day.  But I didn't have a consistent technique and it's a lot easier to get completely lost on trains of thought without ever coming back when you don't have a teacher, a guide to help you.

Those two things - consistency and a guide - are 100% what make the difference since I've been practicing regularly with Headspace.  Lovely, British, friendly Andy leads series that are just basic or focused on any wide variety of things - Kindness, Patience (which was my first pick when Marc let me choose the series), Anxiety (our current series), Depression, Competition, Focus, you name it.  Oh, and let's not forget - SLEEP.  Rather than a series, this one-off meditation has almost never failed to put me out like a light before the exercise is even finish.

I've gotten so many day-to-day benefits of Headspace, and I've enjoyed even more seeing how much Marc has benefitted and how incredibly devoted he is to his daily practice now.  Especially these days when the simplest of actions I'd have previously taken for granted take foreverrrrrr because of my cast situation.  The presence and patience I've gained has definitely kept me from having a meltdown.

This has been not just an invaluable tool for us, but also a reminder that as much as I resist being a beginner and love being an "expert," as people we can never stop learning.  And that means having an open, receptive, humble beginner's mind.  How ridiculous to assume I couldn't benefit from this!  It's not as though I've found enlightenment, for God's sake.

Check Headspace out.  They have a great free trial offer, and absolutely everyone, from the meditation novice to the meditation expert (if there even is such a thing) will reap great benefits.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Casting On

This morning marks the beginning of Day 2 of the 20 days my foot (and lower leg) will be in a hard cast.  Just shy of three weeks - which is seriously not bad at all.  So many friends and friends-of-friends have told me far worse injury horror stories, and I am counting my blessings.  My left foot desperately wants to point and rotate at the ankle joint and wiggle and be free, and it's a very strange feeling for it to be restricted!

But, marvels of modern medicine - it's not an old-fashioned, heavy plaster cast.  It's thin fiberglass, rolled around like gauze.  Inside my foot is cushioned in soft pillow-y wrapping.  Having never had a hard cast before and imagining the worst sort of immobile misery and torture, this is not half bad!

As I'm wont to do, I've set myself some goals for this time where I can't pursue all my usual goals.  I plan on recording a yoga video demonstrating and teaching a Yoga with a Cast Sequence.  It'll be the first time I'll ever have done that, aside from being featured for Karma Kids Yoga's Peace In studio (check out Prenatal Yoga/Pilates here!).  There are a few cast sequences out there on YouTube, but for the most part they're in the 5 minute or so range.  I'm going to see what I can do to come up with a more substantive, 20-30 minute class with a little strength work mixed in.

My main goal, or my main skill that I've acquired that I want to master - is knitting.  Last week, my incredibly loving friend Laura Frye came over to help escort me to the pool (ah, the pool!), have dinner with me, and teach my clumsy hands the art of knitting.  I am completely hooked.  It took me about four days to be able to do a slipknot without having to watch the video she made for me a dozen times and failing two dozen times each attempt, and I spent an entire Sunday unable to get past the first row without a gigantic loop at the end, but casting on is the one knitting skill that I took to right away.  I find the semantics of that pretty funny.

Knitting has been a funny combination of soothing and infuriating so far.  I really struggle at being a beginner at something - I take the inevitable mistakes and failures that are a part of learning a new skill entirely too seriously and it sets off a frustrated temper that I'm pretty sure I came by honestly from my mom and granddaddy.  But it's good for me to be humbled by new things.  It's good for me to be a beginner instead of an expert.  And when I do find myself in a good groove, getting it, my muscles starting to make it a memory, then I find that soothing zen extolled by so many knitters.

So, here I am.  Instead of up in Cold Spring, enjoying my first married getaway since our honeymoon hiking with my love, we're here in Astoria.  The husband is sleeping in.  (I slept in til almost 8!  A big accomplishment)  We're already having a wonderful Staycation together, which we plan to stuff with movies, delicious food, games, reading, knitting (for me, not him!) and some time with beloved friends.

The cast is on.  It's helping my torn ligaments and other soft tissues mend back together.  I might as well love it, and use it as a chance to dive into my new practice - slipknot, cast on, and knit.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

AromaYIN at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio

Forty-five minutes after the end of yoga class and I have finally crutched all the way back home, sitting at the computer, ready to write my blog.  Had I left after my prenatal class, I could've been done for the day (and the week) and at home by probably about 6:00, given my speed on the street these days.

What kind of class was worth taking, and worth keeping me out of the house an extra 90 minutes worth of class time and seemingly endless amount of getting-ready and crutch-commute time?  That would be the outstanding AromaYIN class at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio.

Yin, similar to restorative, yoga involves holding poses for much longer than in a typical hatha or vinyasa class - 5-10 minutes.  Like restorative, props are utilized for comfort, but in yin yoga there is a greater emphasis on therapeutic stretching of muscles and the connective tissues as well as resting comfortably in the poses.  You're changing your body more with yin than with restorative.

I have always been a huge fan of restorative - and now also, yin - yoga.  (For one thing, it's basically the only way I can really take a good nap.)  With both of these wonderful practices, you can take most any pose that comes to mind, add enough props and creativity, and you can allow your body to open, backward bend, forward fold, twist, laterally stretch, and rest with a minimum of effort and a maximum of results that make you feel completely refreshed.

The Giving Tree has been my neighborhood yoga studio since Ditmars has been my neighborhood - six years now.  There used to be just one or two restorative classes on the schedule, but as time has gone on and teachers have come and go, and as owners Anne-Margaret and Anthony have continued to evolve as phenomenal teachers, teacher training facilitators, and givers to their community, they developed a class based on a two and a half hour workshop they offer - which also adds massage and reiki to the mix.

Now AromaYIN is offered four times a week, with four different teachers.  I can most often be spotted in Iris's class, where her warm hands offer such comforting hands-on assists or in Clay's, where his soothing voice helps lull me into relaxation at the end of a long week.  I've had the pleasure of also taking Donna and Kim's classes, which are also lovely.

Having this class right in my neighborhood is so helpful whenever I'm on call for a doula client.  I often get too in my head and have a hard time sleeping when I ought to be logging as many solid hours of sleep at night as I can, or perhaps my client is in days-long early labor where I know I need to be ready at any moment.  Just getting into my bed for the purpose of napping usually just involves me tossing and turning fitfully while having insane conversations with myself - but in the context of yoga poses, guided by a teacher - and not to mention the wonderful aromatherapy - it completely turns off my anxious mind and helps rest my body.

Now I'm no longer on call, but my torn plantar fascia has my mobility and activity severely limited.  I find myself constantly exhausted now, either from the exertion it takes just to get from Point A to Point B, or because I'm also paradoxically nowhere near as active as I normally am on a day-to-day basis and I feel like inertia is pulling me under and sucking the energy out of me.  It'll be a long time before I can take a regular class and actually practice along with everyone else, but AromaYIN has been such an unbelievable comfort.  It helps me to rest, helps me to soothe my sore and imbalanced body, and probably most importantly, has helped me to feel supported and keep my spirits up.  My practice is different for the near future, but I still have one, and it's still powerful and profound.

Whether you're struggling with an injury or healthy as a horse, whether you have a type-A anxious New York mind that has a hard time being still or are just curious about trying something new, I cannot recommend the AromaYIN class highly enough.




Infusing the wisdom of the chakras with the balancing properties of aromatherapy, AromaYIN
offers a yin-like, feminine practice, exclusively on the floor, that restores the body, mind, and spirit. Each restorative and yin pose is enhanced with the inhalation of therapeutic-grade essential oils, chakra meditations, and hands-on adjustments to melt the body into sweet surrender. Created by Anne-Margaret Redding, AromaYIN is featured at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio in Astoria, NY.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Love & Obstacles

My original subject from this post was going to be all about responding with love to adversities and adversaries.  I was inspired by Corey Booker's response to a standard-issue negative tweet from the Republican nominee - answering the hatefulness with love, compassion, and rising above the negativity.  It's a truly admirable example, and one that everyone should follow, regardless of your party affiliation, if we actually want to make the country and the world a better place.

Little did I know that the obstacle put in my way this week would quite be to this level.

After trying to self-manage mild but ever-present pain in my left foot this summer, which I self-diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, my first run in a few weeks sent the pain level up a few notches and finally got my stubborn, prideful self to the podiatrist.  I expected to leave with admonitions about better shoes and not being barefoot in hardwood and maybe a cortisone shot to get me through.

Instead, I was told what no active New Yorker - or anyone, for that matter - wants to hear:  Crutches.  For at least 4 weeks, if not 8.   God save me from any more than that.  A tear in my plantar fascia.

So, yes.  My left foot is now my not-quite-literal flat tire - my obstacle.

I'll be put in a cast after Labor Day - wearing a boot until then, because I will be damned if I miss out on my last two weeks of swimming.  Crutching my way down to the pool took forever (and good GOD I forgot how painful it is to crutch around the city...my hands and my armpits are 20 billion times more painful than my foot) but hitting the water made it so very worth it.  Watching the sun set over the East River as I glided through the water was the absolute best thing for my body and soul.

So, now is where all my platitudes get put to the test.  The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment is my life philosophy, and I intend to enjoy this adventure as much as I can, despite the disappointments.  No more Labor Day getaway filled with hiking and exploring Cold Spring with my love.  No 10-mile Bronx race in September or 8K Run for France on Sunday.  No taking for granted going up and down stairs, making dinner, setting up mats for my yoga classes, dashing across the room to get the phone or the door, speedwalking from my apartment to the subway in 5 minutes.  As a very active, very self-sufficient, very spry (for lack of a better word) person, not being able to do these big and little things can set me off in anger and frustration like nobody's business.

But.

Silver linings.

Acts of kindness are never more on display, from my friends and from strangers, than when I'm injured.  My husband, thank the sweet lord, is not out of town doing a show like he was the last time I was confined to crutches, and takes incredible care of me in sickness and in health.  And despite being unable to run, I got to swim into the Astoria sunset tonight.

Perspective.

A torn plantar fascia is not a broken foot, or a broken leg, or cancer.  I'm young and in great shape.  Despite the considerable expense, I'm able to get good health care and have the resources to get the shoes and myriad of accessories needed for recovery and rehabilitation.  I am blessed with a roof over my head and stability & love in my life.  I have a job I love so much that it brings tears to my eyes when I think of not being able to do it.  I acknowledge that this is a first-world problem.

I am an optimist at heart.  I do have an excellent ability to be cynical and negative, to complain and to burrow myself into being a victim, but I truly am an optimist at heart.  And in the end, I know I will learn valuable lessons from this.  (The first being - stop trying to tough out pain, because the only medal you will be rewarded is crutches!  For some reason that one takes awhile to stick...)

They say comedy is tragedy plus time, which is completely true.  This doesn't qualify as major tragedy, not by a long shot, but it is a big physical, emotional, and mental obstacle.  So I'm just going to try to love it.  I'm going to try to love doing everything incredibly slowly.  I'm going to love the flights of stairs awaiting me in these next weeks.  I'm going to love my foot instead of reacting how I normally do to injury - with anger and resentment of my body.

Mainly, I'm going to try to find the humor and perspective in the moment that normally comes with time.  I will need lots of help and encouragement, but I know my fellow New Yorkers and loved ones are up for the job.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Let's go swimming

Two to three mornings a week, I go running.  This summer, though, in preparation for next year's NYC Marathon, I wanted to take some time off to let my body fully recover from the Brooklyn Half.  I've been running 1-2 times a week max, spending more time strength training, and luckily was given an absolutely perfect gift by my neighborhood - a chance to stay in shape and stay cool at the same time, while doing one of my favorite activities on the planet.

The Astoria Park public pool offers lap swim for grown-ups from 7-8:30am and 7pm-dusk - this has apparently been offered for years, but I've had my head under a rock and didn't realize it.  Of all the summers to discover it, how awesome that I'm getting back in to lap swimming during the Olympics!  I competed on swim teams for a good 5 or 6 years as a kid and I regret quitting when I did.  Swimming just for fun has always been one of my absolute favorite things to do - my mom has said that I could swim before I could walk (I don't know if that's true, but it sounds awesome).  If I could have any superpower, it would definitely be the ability to breathe underwater so I could basically live like a mermaid.  If I'm at the beach, I'm going in the water - temperature be damned.

Incredibly, we're approaching mid-August, which means we are approaching fall.  I think in the hot humid misery of our current state, most of us are forgetting the joys of summer and are ready for cooler weather - and after the Olympics, I know at least I will be seriously ready for football season.

But even though now is the time to start preparing and laying the groundwork for "back to school" season, which in my line of work means back to a much fuller working and teaching schedule, now is also the time to revel in summer, even when it's as miserably hot as it is today and has been this week.

I've been replacing running with swimming every chance I've gotten, and one of the many things I love about swimming is that, unless you're shelling out the money for waterproof headphones, you can only listen to yourself and to your breath.  I don't run without headphones quite as often as I probably should, and most yoga classes I attend play music.  Swimming is a chance to move, meditate, and focus on the breath all at the same time.  It's a chance to feel cool and weightless and graceful.

It's also humbling.  Breast stroke comes very naturally to me, so as a result I hadn't attempted to swim freestyle in a very long time.  Probably years.  I assumed that because I'm a strong swimmer in the sense that I'm comfortable being knocked around by waves in the ocean, that I'd glide right back into freestyle.  That was definitely not the case.  It's an advanced stroke and it was good for me to get my butt kicked trying to rediscover it.  It took a few visits before I was able to make an entire lap of freestyle start to finish, but I'm finally back there.

Getting the chance to have that time to myself before teaching, especially for teaching my beloved and often totally insane Friday morning classes at The Giving Tree, has been wonderful.  It's always good, mentally and physically, to switch things up every so often, and I'm so grateful to the NYC Parks department for this free opportunity!

There are more community pools around the area if you aren't an Astorian - this website gives you locations.  Summer isn't over yet - get inspired and get swimming!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stronger than we think

I had the honor of attending my 9th birth this past weekend.  It knocked me off my regular blogging schedule (a baby being born is slightly more important than my self-imposed goals...), so here's a quick one as I run around getting my head back on straight, my house back in order, and getting ready for the new week and month ahead.

During each and every birth I've attended, whether it's been completely drug free or medicated, whether vaginal or cesarean, there reaches a point (or several points) where the mother says, "I can't do this.  I can't do this anymore."

And yet somehow - they do.  They get through it, the baby comes out however he or she comes out, and life continues on to the next adventure, the next challenge, the next demands.

I'm inspired similarly whenever I come home from a visit with my sister, in frank awe of everything she accomplishes every day by raising her 3 small children and the absolute onslaught of work that entails - not just feeding and comforting and playing, but the phone calls to insurance companies and dealing with when things break in the house and being a support for my brother-in-law, who works his heart out on their business.

I never fail to be inspired by moms, and it never fails to remind me that we are all stronger than we think we are.  We can all do more than we think we can.  We all have more time than we realize, if only we did not squander it - through shallow distractions like facebook (and lord knows I am not counting myself above that one) and through deeper distractions like freezing in self doubt.

Sometimes, your body takes over and shows you the spectacular strength and capability you never realized you had, as in many births I've witnessed.  Sometimes, it's the mind that takes over in the face of overwhelming challenge, and a stubborn mental belief and strength is what carries you through.

The truth remains the same, though - we are all so much stronger than we realize.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Stewardship

A funny, fancy, formal, old-fashioned word - Stewardship.  That's been my word-o-the-month for July, inspired by one of my all-time favorite podcasts:  Two Gomers Run for Their Lives.

Like me, the Gomers choose a word to help to shape and define their thoughts, goals, and actions for each particular year, and I remember a year or two ago, one of them chose Stewardship.  It always stuck in my mind, and now it's maybe one of my favorite "words to live by" because it cuts across all categories - the gift of my time, my health, my marriage, my family, my friends, my work, the gift of my home, my energy, my city.  And it's less of a word, really, than a constant framework to a question - "Am I being a good steward of my {fill in the blank}?"

For me, it's become a simple way to get ahold of myself when my addiction to election coverage is causing me to breathe fire or a good way to motivate myself to get moving when the makes staying inside so very compelling.  When I know I'm squandering time or doing something not consistent with the habits I want to build and keep, the concept of stewardship pops in my head and makes me think about my actions - and on a good day, improve them.

It's remarkable the power that one little word or phrase can have when we consciously set an intention to be guided by it each morning.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A few words for Nice

I've been in love with the idea of Nice since around 2006, or maybe a year or two before.  I had read The Bay at Nice by David Hare, the one act play that was to be my senior thesis directing project.  True, the play is set in Russia, but its constant evocation of Nice as this heavenly place filled with perfect light and beauty, combined with my pre-existing love of all things French inevitably created a wistful desire to some day go and see it for myself.  I always smile as I remember some college friends teasing and mocking me for my snooty (though it was quite cheap) French wine and my Edith Piaf music as I was immersing myself into writing and directing my thesis.

Fast forward to 2013, and I'm newly married with a French last name, and I'm heading to the only place that's ever crossed my mind if I were to imagine where I might go on a honeymoon.

Over our two week honeymoon that September, we spent 4 or so days in Italy's stunning Cinque Terre, but the bulk of the time was spent, at my request, in Nice.  Our favorite beach was Lido Plage.  Our favorite restaurant, hands down, was Le Bistrot du Fromagere - we loved it so much we went there 3 times. We wanted to be best friends with the owner, who was also our server and the slicer of the home-made bread, which is still the best bread I've ever had in my life.   Our favorite wine was a rose, of course - Chateau de Berne.  Every single night, no matter how much we had at dinner, we got gelato and walked down the Promenade des Anglais.  I cried when we had to go home.

The beauty that I read about, the beauty that I saw in pictures, the beauty that I imagined - absolutely nothing compared to seeing it in person.  Even my own photographs don't properly capture the light and color - the staggering blue of the Mediterranean and of the sky, the spectacular golds and pinks of the sunsets, the vibrant bursts of color of the fireworks at night.  We were so wrapped up in the la-la land of honeymooners that I don't think we ever did figure out why there were fireworks displays so frequently during our time there in early September.  We were content enough to let the occasion be a celebration of the city itself.  Who needs a reason when you're Nice?  A city full of the friendliest French people you're likely to find, the best seafood in the world, endless bottles of cold rose, gelato for days, and simply effortless beauty.

My head and my heart can't keep up with this summer.  Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, and now Nice.  And forgive me because I know that list isn't comprehensive - how could it be?  And I can't write an ode to each tragedy, to each city, I can't change my profile picture in solidarity with every act of violence in every culture - to do so would be pointless and madness, anyway.

But oh, how I love love love love love the city of Nice, France.  How my heart aches for the residents and tourists who stood where we stood, looked up at the sky as we did at the fireworks and the stars and the moon, breathed the same salt sea air.  It just aches, and I just have to share it and find comfort in the beauty of the city, and the knowledge that as it always does, out of this tragedy will grow love and brotherhood and fellowship and stories of courage and kindness.

Often it feels like there's nothing we can do in the wake of tragedies, particularly those that occur across the country or across the ocean.  You can always live your life striving to be an agent of peace.  You can strive to be peaceful in the microcosm of your life, and do what you can to allow your love in action affect the macrocosm of this brutal but beautiful world we live in - and it is a beautiful, beautiful world.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fear and Heartache, Love and Change

What a week it has been.  I find myself both at a loss for words of what to write this week, and also overflowing with ramblings thoughts pouring every which way, going down this branch of reasoning or that.  The idea of coming up with something coherent and comprehensive and concise but not reductive is more than a little overwhelming.

This past week was mired in heartache, on a personal level for various private reasons, and of course, on a national level.  Baton Rouge.  St. Paul. And my beloved home during my childhood, Dallas, TX.

I think the root of so much of this violence and inequity is fear.  Black citizens are afraid of police officers.  Police officers are afraid of black citizens. (Dallas citizen Kellon Nixon articulates it much better than I; please give the video a watch.  It inspired this post.) That's what racism - conscious or unconscious - is.  That's why we use the word "homophobia" to describe discrimination or hate against gay people.  Homophobic people feel their own sense of normality and the way the world should be is threatened by this reality wherein it's okay for two men or two women to love each other, and that fear leads to hate.

Like with any extreme, though, there exists its opposite, and there have been heartwrenchingly beautiful moments of connection and peace in the midst of the division and violence.  Protestors from opposite movements crossing lines and embracing.  Police officers and Black Lives Matters leaders and protestors having respectful and caring dialogue, or marching together (as in Dallas, before the protest turned deadly).  Stories of kindnesses, and strangers reaching out to each other in their grief.

I can't pretend that I have a clue what it's like to be a police officer.  To undergo the constant stress of risking your life and putting yourself in harms way every single day.  I can't pretend that I have a clue what it's like to be a black American - to continually see videos of unjust police shootings, and live in a society where so many fellow black citizens are incarcerated disproportionate to whites, and a thousand small everyday injustices and inequities in between.  But I am a citizen of this country, and so I've been grappling with and trying to wrap my head and heart around all of this to see how we can cope.

One thing I've learned as a yoga teacher, doula, and student of my wonderful prenatal mentor, is that the opposite of fear is love.  Fear produces adrenaline; love produces oxytocin.  One produces the "fight or flight" sympathetic response; the other produces what some call a "tend and befriend" parasympathetic response.

How do we overcome fear?  We look it straight in the face.  We get to know it.  We educate ourselves.  Movements progress through dialogue and connection and common ground with your counterparts.  On the small scale, it's reaching out and talking.  Hate speech and violence perpetuate the problem, dig people deeper into their entrenched beliefs, narrow their blinders, and either affects no change or makes things worse - usually both.

My mom told me this week that life is all about change.  That's all it is.  Yoga teaches us that nothing is permanent.  As Lin-Manuel Miranda so poignantly put it - "nothing here is promised; not one day."

Change is scary.  Change usually provokes fear.  This is a situation that has to change and has to stop.   There is so much we can do - and there are many helpful lists circulating online of numbers to call, bills to ask for action on, groups to join, marches to attend - there's so much we can do on our community level and by engaging with our lawmakers.

On a smaller level, the change we should first and foremost be enacting is within ourselves and to our neighbors.  Especially in New York, where the order of the day is to avoid eye contact with everyone you encounter on your commute - make a connection.  Even a moment of eye contact and a slight smile.  Be an agent of peace and love.  Speak out against racism even when it's uncomfortable.  Be kind.

It's oft-quoted to the point of cliche, but Ghandi's, "Be the change you want to see in the world," has never rung more true for me than during these violent and unkind days.  Focus on those kindnesses you see in the news alongside the tragedies that also rightly demand our focus.  Then do it, and be it.  That's how I see getting through this, and I hope many more join.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Control, Risk, and Cliche

I realized after I posted my blog last week that I had completely lost the little spark of inspiration that led to me wanting to write about that topic at all.  In my haste of following my rigid and totally arbitrary standard of posting something every Tuesday no matter what, I found the random idea I had jotted down and went with it...totally forgetting about the root and revelation of it all.

As I was running in a race last month, I had found myself thinking of the 2017 NYC Marathon - which is not unusual, as that's where my thoughts usually tend when I'm running these days.  Then my thoughts shifted to a few variations on the theme of crossing my fingers and hoping that I'd be able to make it through this marathon uninjured and relatively unscathed.

And that's when the thought occurred to me - so much of that is in my control.

We don't realize through the course of living our lives just how much of what happens to us is in our control.  How much control we have over our reactions to events that befall us.  How much influence our previous actions have over those events that befall us.  How much responsibility we bear, how much of a difference we can make.

In the context of running, that of course led me to figuratively smacking myself upside the head and realizing that I could wish and hope that I can do this without getting injured and continue to live in my comfort zone - in this case, doing some PT and strength training when I'm inclined to, but mostly just rigidly following an intense running schedule - or I could actually change my behavior which might actually change my result.

Do I want to change my behavior?  Hell no.  The ways in which I've prepped for a race are challenging but familiar in their challenge.  Changing that will be uncomfortable and require way more effort, but I know it will lead to the results that I actually want.

Now, I know there's no such thing as being totally injury proof, but if I make an active, concerted, real effort to do the work that I know in my head I need to do to prevent injury...that's not just me wishing and hoping and throwing it to the Gods that I don't get injured, but that's me putting in a real effort, making a real change, and actually contributed toward that hoped-for outcome.  And hell, I might make this big change and put in all this effort and still get injured, and that sure would suck.  But it probably wouldn't suck as much as it would if I made a half-assed effort and just crossed my fingers for the other half.

So yes - that's the running context.

In the larger context, I think it has to do with putting yourself out there.  Or with choosing optimism over cynicism.  To admit that you're actually trying to do something hard or new or different or risky or something that doesn't come naturally.  From the small and mundane (attempting to keep a house plant alive would be on my list) to the bigger and bolder (making a career switch, moving to a new city), just making the decision to try, and just making that attempt to succeed is a brave act.

It sounds very simplistic and obvious, I know.  And more than a little superior and preachy despite my best efforts.  But the older I get, the more I realize that often the lessons that are the hardest to learn, the most profound, and the most valuable are the simple cliche's that you've heard repeated a thousand million billion times before.  You hear them, repeat them, let them fly in one ear and out the other thinking that you get it, but then some sort of life circumstance befalls you and you really hear that advice for the first time and get it.

The phrase "putting yourself out there" is probably the most neat bow I can put on what it is I'm trying to talk about here.  It's often easier to accept challenges in life without challenging back.  It's easier - in the short run - to play the victim of your circumstances instead of seeing what kind of space there might be for you to change the course of things.  Because what if you put yourself out there, what if you try to take control, what if you try to make a change - and you fail?

Well, then.  You fail.  And that sucks.  And that's embarrassing.  And sometimes it's even heartbreaking.

But what's the alternative?  I'd rather not find out if I can help it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The (Running) Journey

Everyone know the cliche - "Life is about the journey, not the destination."

We all hear it.  We all "know" it.  When someone says it, it sort of washes over us and through us.  But the only way you really learn it, the only way you really feel it, is through some sort of significant personal experience.

In this particular context, I am, of course, talking about running.  This is a lesson that's been painfully (literally) slow to sink in for myself, and it started with the marathon, subsequent injuries, and more importantly, the subsequent journey into the world of physical therapy, mobility work, and strength/cross training.

Runners hear all the time about the importance of strength training, but I kept myself stuck in a narrative that said that I "can't" do strength work on my own.  I can do it under a teacher's guidance or in a class setting where I have someone to impress, someone to push me harder than I'd push myself, but I just don't have it in me to do it by myself in my living room.  Running is so easy by comparison - you decide how long you're going, and you just go.  No agonizing of decisions over how many sets, how heavy, how long, when you can cheat and when you can quit.

Even after my PT "graduation," after plenty of time of faithfully doing my PT strength homework as assigned, doing that work still felt somewhat temporary.  I regarded it as just a warm-up to do before a run and as tune-up to do when I started to feel any nagging pain.

However, my painful and slow, but ultimately healthy, half marathon last month finally hammered it home.  If I really want to run for the rest of my life - to say nothing of running next year's NYC Marathon - I have to accept so much more than running as part of my journey.

Listening to a special episode of the best running podcast ever, Two Gomers Run for Their Lives, articulated this as well.  One of the Gomers got a lecture from his physical therapist (PT's to the rescue, once again) about how runners and athletes, especially younger ones, put all their energy into the race or the sport/activity itself, and nowhere near enough emphasis on form and technique - aka STRENGTH.  Injuries happen as a result of this - sometimes permanent injuries.  Your speed or personal record race time is not an accurate reflection of being a healthy, well rounded athlete - just as being able to do a headstand is not an accurate reflection of being a "true" yogi.

It means spending less time actually running, and it demands so much more honest awareness.  I used to think that because I taught and practiced yoga, that was all the "cross-training" my body needed.  I felt like I got a pass.  But repetitive motions of any kind, even the sainted practice of yoga, can cause imbalances and potential injury.  The real work of keeping our bodies healthy and active for the rest of our lives is not that exciting.  It's not in the moment of crossing the finish line, it's in all the boring, sometimes tedious, but sometimes tremendously rewarding little moments that lead up to it.  It's all the little moments where you show up - where you foam roll for a half hour in front of the TV instead of sit.  Where you decide to no longer short change the warm up or the cool down.  It's an honest, thorough assessments of points of pain, points of weakness, and facing them unflinchingly.

And of course, it's all a metaphor for life too, isn't it?  We have watershed moments, the big milestones in the personal and professional realms.  But without the hard work to build us up to those moments, they wouldn't exist.

I've been a runner for nearly nine years - but in some ways, I feel like a complete novice.  I feel like for the first time I'm treating my body responsibly, like the fragile and finite - and strong - thing it is.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sleep Tune Up

Today is Day 21 of my 3rd round of Whole30!  Physically, I feel fantastic - my energy is starting to level out (those 3pm crashes are on their way out!), ----, and I'm enjoying one of my favorite Whole30 benefits - better sleep.

Of course, full disclosure - I drafted this post last Tuesday (Day 14), and before a 36 hour birth-a-thon.  So, every night has not been full of sleep, glorious sleep and even-keel energy levels.

One of the best things about Round 3?  I'm really not thinking about food that much!  I was really worried this go-round for some reason - worried because two rounds of Whole30 and I'm not a magical perfect eater who has figured her way out of emotional eating and chocolate/sugar addiction, and I thought that my mind would cling harder than ever to the sugar I was going to be denying it for the next 30 days.  The opposite has turned out to be true.  My brain went right back into Whole30 mode, planning delicious protein and veggie filled meals, with only a passing wistfulness for the glass of wine and dessert I'd be forgoing for the next 30 days.

Because of my brain's remarkable ability to jump onto a Whole30 autopilot (who knew such a thing would exist for me last June when this was such a terrifying new endeavor?), I've actually spent the past three weeks focused on improving other areas of my health alongside the improvements that I'm making by eating a whole-foods, sugar-free diet.

One of the major areas of focus:  Improving sleep!

Living in the city that never sleeps, and working every day with new moms for whom four uninterrupted hours is a luxury, I sometimes feel like I'm all alone on Sleep Zealot Island.  I've been that way mostly my whole life (with the possible exception of college...), and I think it's partly due to my morning-person nature and the fact that my brain and body just shut down when it gets late.  When I don't get enough sleep, I'm emotional, cranky, foggy, and about 30% less smart.

For the most part, falling asleep has never been much of a problem for me, but I find the older I get, the less frequently I can just pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow.  The first days of a Whole30 often negatively affect my ability to fall asleep quickly too, because drinking a few glasses of wine is a great way to ensure I will fall asleep hard! Of course, issue with that comes with staying asleep through the night, but I digress.

As I've been expending way less mental energy on food (can I have chocolate after dinner? how much?  what kind?  can I have another glass of wine? will it really matter if I eat this entire bag of tortilla chips?), I've spent more of my energy focusing on helping myself to a better night's sleep.  I've been (a little) better about not looking at screens an hour before bed, carving out more to read, taking a magnesium supplement, and finally, I'm incorporating the amazing Yoga Tune Up balls to help my to body release tension and my brain to shut the hell up.

Yoga Tune Up isn't so much a type of yoga like Hatha or Vinyasa or Bikram - it's a "fitness format" that focuses not just on stretching and strengthening, but on self-massage, corrective posture, and the awareness to identify and consciously improve problem areas throughout the whole body.  It has been a huge part of my self-care arsenal, thanks to my fantastic physical therapist and to a former yoga teacher who also happens to be a renowned CrossFit coach and an inspiration to my first Whole30, Keith Wittenstein - aka Coach Panda.

For a yoga teacher, I don't always actually use the practice in ways I know I should.  One of the most powerful ways to incorporate yoga into your daily routine is right before bed to wind down and help transition your mind and body from the go-go-go bombardment of daily life to the quiet and ease of sleep.

Below are the two Tune Up techniques I've found to be most powerful and beneficial to sending me off to bed - and bonus points, they reduce the intensity morning headaches to which I've become accustomed.  If you don't have Tune Up balls, try lacrosse balls.

Coach Panda can take you through these better than I can, so I leave it to him.  Click the links below for his detailed explanations and videos.

The Headrest
This is also fantastic to do pretty much any time of day, or anytime you have a headache.  Use two Yoga TuneUp balls in their tote, or two lacrosse balls in a sock.  If you don't have a yoga block, use a thick book or two.  It may feel weird while you're in it, but after you come out you should feel a nice rush of relief from head and neck tension.

The Jawbreaker
This is a must of those of us who clench their jaws or grind their teeth in sleep!  It doesn't take long to gently massage each side, and consistency with this one will yield results down the road.


If you don't have TuneUp or Lacrosse balls, simply doing a few gentle yoga poses accompanied with slow, deep, full breaths in a quiet, dim room goes a really long way toward preparing your brain and your body for sleep.  My all-time favorite before-bed yoga practice is this classic from Jason Crandell, which I'm sure I've raved about on the blog before.

I highly encourage anyone to try adding a little pre-bed yoga - see if it yields results, and tell me about it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thoughts, Prayers, & Action

I drafted a post early Sunday morning - before connecting with the news - as part of my efforts to get back in touch with writing proper entries in my blog.  In light of the horrifying massacre in Orlando this weekend, it just seems trivial to share it today.

Instead I want to provide a list of organizations to which you can donate and things you can do to take action in response to this hate crime, this terrorist act, this worst mass shooting in our history, this attack on an LGBTQ sanctuary, this attempt to decimate freedom and love.

I'm sure a thorough Google search of one's own could turn these up, but it feels like the right thing to do today - to help throw more positive, actionable resources out there.  It should go without saying that my heart, my thoughts, my prayers, my tears are with the victims and their loved ones.  It should go without saying because we say it way too often, and the people who say it the most frequently are the ones who have the power to actually do something.

So without further ado:

Pulse Victims Fund for Equality Florida

Pulse Tragedy Community Fund

"We Stand with Pulse" Victim's Fund

Donation Page for the Orlando Regional Medical Center

Donation Page for the Florida Disaster Fund via VolunteerFlorida

Guide to contacting your representatives about gun control

Sign the petition to lift the ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual citizens

Finally, just turn to your loved ones and let this be a reminder to never ever take them for granted.  Tell them you love them.  Give your love and support for the beautiful gay community of this nation and the world.  On this Pride Month, declare yourself a straight ally to them.  Show love, kindness, and solidarity to the Muslim members of your community, and don't give in to the hysterical right's attempts to simplify this issue by calling it an issue with Islam as a religion.  There are over 1 billion Muslims worldwide.  If they were all evil and out to get us, do you really think we'd still be here?

Have civil and reasoned conversations with family and friends and colleagues who don't hold the same views about all of the various factors that contributed to this horrible crime.  Don't just blindly unfollow that acquaintance on Facebook who supports the un-American ban on Muslims - engage them in respectful debate about it.  You never know - you may begin to change someone's mind and open their heart.  Or if it's too much of a source of pain and stress - step away from Facebook (my own advice is the hardest to take) and keep engaging with the people in your life that you love and remind them every day that you love them.

In short, just love.  Love and love and love and love and love some more.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Overabundance

Happy June!  It's been just over a month since I've posted, and I can't blame it on how oh so crazy life has been like I always do.  It's been the usual amount of busy, plus a wonderful holiday weekend with in-laws, but there really hasn't been any reason for not writing except I haven't been met with the clarity (ha) of inspiration and the time - or more specifically, the time and inclination - to sit and find something specific, articulate and worth sharing.

The two main things keeping me from posting since May 10th are a lack of scheduled structure to when I'm supposed to write in this thing and an overabundance of things to write about.  It's sort of like the opposite of writer's block, but the end result is the same - nothing gets written, and this sits here collecting Internet-dust.  It's sort of like when you have so much to do that you become paralyzed and simply do nothing.

Considering this is a voluntary, just-for-me, 100% not making any money off of this thing blog, it's ridiculous the inner agony that can go on when I think about how I've been delinquent in posting.  Seriously - it's no big deal.  But my upholder nature doesn't like the idea of a half-hearted commitment, and lazy excuses.

So, I'm utilizing the #1 tactic that always works on me when trying to build a new habit - I'm scheduling it.  Every Tuesday, rain or shine, idea abundance or idea desert, I'm going to post something.  And I'll try to make it worth reading.  For me, the simplicity, clarity, and most importantly, the obligation of having something on my calendar is what gets me to do something.  Whether it's a dreaded one time chore that I've been putting off or something recurring that gets lost in the shuffle of unstructured time, scheduling is basically my way of coping and meeting the expectations of Life as a Grown Up.

This may very well be one of the most boring posts I ever share, but it does feel a bit like an important declaration - like putting it out there that I'm doing another Whole30.  If I keep it a secret, I can choose to quit or self-sabotage.  But I wanted to set the stage for the hopefully more interesting things I want to touch on in weeks to come - lessons I'm learning in this 3rd round of Whole30 (spoiler alert: they have almost nothing to do with eating), lessons I've learned from my 3rd half marathon, and my struggles to find rhythm, normalcy, and boundaries between work and rest while leading a career where my schedule is frequently full of irregularity - especially when I'm on call.

I'm excited to jump start this old girl out of the slump we've found ourselves in for the past two years.  This blog did turn 6 years old in April, after all, and I want to continue to let it help me with figuring out the mysteries human nature, yoga, and all the rest of life's madness.