Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville. Thoughts and Feelings.

I have two other blog post topics rarin' to go - I've started my fifth round of Whole30 and reread the book that started it all, and I've come up on a very important injury-a-verysary which is leading to a redemption run this weekend.  This explosion of things to write about is rare, as I'm often scraping the bottom of the mental barrel for inspiration week-to-week.

It's amazing how something can feel so vitally and urgently important and meaningful one day, and beyond trivial the next.  It just keeps happening during this national emergency known as the Trump presidency.

Each day that goes by since this weekend, it's hitting me harder and harder, and in quiet moments when I'm not working or busy or filling my head with podcasts, I just want to cry.  I'm so deeply afraid to live in a country where the President falsely equivocates racists storming a city with the people who stand on the side of racial equality.  When he has to be practically forced to denounce hate groups by name, and then turns around and tell us all what he really wanted to say in the first place.

The absolute worst part of it is - it's not surprising.  It's who he's shown himself to be all along.  And yet he was still elected to hold the highest office in the land.

I'm a Virginian and a southerner and proud to be both.

And I've started and re-started the next several sentences to follow that a billion times.

I don't tend to get political on this blog (or at least not since the election), although I am extremely passionate about my political beliefs.  I could write a book about my complicated history and feelings about the south and the Confederacy and how I understand people who say, "Heritage not hate"  - because I used to be one of them, and I'm related to plenty.  It is a really intense, complicated issue for a southern liberal, and this isn't the place to hash it out.

You know what's not a complicated issue?

People identifying as Nazis, as the Ku Klux Klan, as White Nationalists, as whatever they call themselves, storming a town and spreading a violent message of "cleansing" this melting pot that is our country are on the wrong side of history.  It is wrong.  And it's terrifying.  And if it doesn't terrify you, you need a good, long, hard look in the mirror, a more diverse group of friends, and therapy.

Counter-protesters defending their city from the scourge of these hateful men (and they did all seem to be men, didn't they?) are in no way EVER to be equivocated to them.  It's beyond apples and oranges.  One person likened it to cancer and chemotherapy - yes, they're both aggressive.  But they are not the same.  One is a force for good, and fighting for good means defending yourself.

It's so far beyond politics.  And I'm so fearful for citizens of this country who are not evil people but whose worldview is shaped by such radically warped media that they believe the false equivocation.  That they actually believe the Black Lives Matter movement and activists are violent when nothing could be further from the truth - the aim is to stop systemic violence and promote equality.  Donald Trump has absolutely convinced himself that his beliefs are true, because he wants them to be true.  So do thousands - and God help us, it's probably millions - of his supporters.  This is not a new problem in America.  It's the oldest problem we've got.  But the side of "white power" just got a hell of a lot louder and more emboldened.

This frightens me down to my core.  I'm so afraid of what this is leading to.

So what to do?  How to cope?  What to say?  What to think?

Standing up to racism every single day when we encounter it is a start.  Speaking up and out.  Asking how to help and be of service and showing up to rallies and volunteering your time and energy and ear is a start.

In the short time - I want to share some words that have been helpful and comforting to me in hopes that they're helpful and comforting to you.


"It's strange to be in Europe while horrible terrorism occurs in your home state.  It's even more surreal when in Berlin, where so much Nazi hate and power rose.
The same question keeps ringing in my ears, reverberating in my heart, and weighing like a fetter with every step I take through this extraordinary city's history:  Why haven't we learned?
There is no freedom in ignorance, there is no power in walls, and there is no safety in accusing others as the guilty ones.  The lesser ones.  Those not worthy of life.
Focusing on the speck of sawdust in the eye of a scapegoat when that speck came from the spiteful sawing of the log in one's own eye is the farthest thing from what any loving God would condone.
And the Germans would be the first to tell you that."
Lisa Helmi Johanson, Actress, Musician, Best Friend, Soup Sister, Excellent Human Being

"Us good spirited human beings have a responsibility to use our superpowers to spread joy and kindness and stand up to hate.  Joy-makers unite!"
Joshua Holden, Creator and Star of The Joshua Show, Puppeteer, Joy-Maker, Friend, Excellent Human Being

"We hate the President, we hate the south, we hate the ignorant, we hate the people who don't have the same views.  See the pattern?  Hate begets hate, rage begets rage.  Hate is still hate, even if our hate is standing on the right side of history.  See, when we see ourselves as right in our hatred, we don't see how we are also poison ourselves.  What would happen if you stopped hating Donald Trump and started putting love into action?"
Laura Frye, Actress, Yoga Teacher, Best Friend, Work/Running Wife, Excellent Human Being

And Laura nicely segues into the most important person whose words have given me catharsis and comfort - a woman among the most deeply, profoundly, and permanently affected by this weekend's events, and by the lack of a leader who in any other world would have been present at her daughter's memorial - or at the very by-God least, said her name out loud.



Heather Heyer's last post online before she was murdered in an act of domestic terrorism were, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."  She was right.

Let's feel what we feel.  Let's channel and fuel our righteous and self-righteous anger and outrage and fear and frustration into loving action.  Let's let it go and fill our hearts with love, otherwise that anger and outrage and fear and frustration is going to live in us and marinate in us and harden our hearts - and that self poisoning, that hatred that can't help but make you bitter and hateful is exactly the kind of thing we're fighting against.  That's what makes us on the right side of history.  That's the difference.



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Music Share - Mumford for Yoga & Running

My mother-in-law is really really into music.  In her next life, she will be the next Freddie Mercury.  Her passion for music is infectious and always leads to incredibly fun times, dance parties, and sing-a-longs at the LeVasseur's.

In 2013, the year Marc and I got married, she got me into Mumford & Sons.  (This is how out of touch I am with my own generation's music)  I had heard their big hits, of course, but one day when my in-laws were visiting she brought their concert DVD, The Road to Red Rocks.  Seeing them live absolutely floored me and I appreciated their lyrics, musicality, and energy in a way I never had before.

I listened to them a ton during that incredibly emotional, change-filled year, and I always associate it with that time, with our honeymoon, and I always crave it when I'm about to take off on a plane, during late summer, and when life generally has me reaching out for comfort, consoling, and spirituality.

So - I've been in a Mumford place recently.  Luckily two of my favorite activities, running and yoga, lend themselves quite well to their style of music, so I have two playlists for each.  Enjoy, give into the banjo, and maybe receive some comfort and inspiration.


For running, when the relentless build keeps you going (and the slower times signal a walk break!)  Strictly Mumford.




For yoga, mixed in with a couple of other wonderful artists and some instrumental.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Simple meditation

It's been a week.  Marc finally returned home in the wee hours last night from his crazy week-long adventure to Pennsylvania and Seattle to see two wonderful friends from two different parts of his life.

It's been a week of gaining perspective, sending prayers and good thoughts to those in need, and being forced to surrender to what is, when "what is" is no respecter of what you or anyone wants.

So here's what I did this morning, and I hope it can help you too.  Set a timer (with a gentle chime) for as long as you like, or just sit for as long as you like.

Sit comfortably with your back against the wall.

Find something to fix your gaze upon - a candle works well for this.

Keep your eyes open but soft.

Bring your attention to your breath without trying to alter it.

Notice how you feel in your body.  Release any tension that can be released - the eyes, the jaw, the neck, the shoulders, the abdomen, the hips, the legs.

Notice if any emotions are creating physical sensations in your body.  Breathe into those sensations without trying to change anything.

Open your heart to what is, without judgement.

Open your heart to what is.

Open your heart to what is.

Imagine a warming, comforting light around your heart.

Breathe.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Running with Lady-Friends

One of the many things I love about running is that it's usually a great source of alone time.  As an introvert, I prize alone time.  As much as I love working at a place where I get to meet an interact with so many families, kids, and amazing teachers, too much time around people really drains my batteries.  Running solo - especially with no headphones! - is a great way for me to hit the re-set button.

However, there is seriously something to be said for running with other people.  Cribbed from my all time favorite running (and life) podcast, Two Gomers Run for Their Lives which you should listen to immediately from start to finish, whenever Marc and I run together we make a date of it - it's a Romance Run!  It's a great opportunity for us to catch up with each other, especially since our schedules are usually opposite and we don't get a ton of time together during the week.  Also, his long legs almost always push my pace, which is great for me in my new quest to work on my speed! More on that next week...

Today's entry, though, is really about honoring my running lady-friends.  (Sorry, Marcus!)

Laura, Luisa, me, & Lisa.
I didn't get the "L" name memo...
There are four exceptional ladies who are also integral sources of inspiration in my running life.  We don't usually run together as much as I'd like, although Laura and I went through most of our respective 9:1 journey running together and had an amazing run this morning, but knowing they are out there crushing it always gives me more motivation and more heart.

Soup Sisters!
My best friend Lisa is probably the person who's most responsible for my turn toward living a healthier life that I took after college - although I'm not sure if she knows it.  After graduation, I really wasn't sure what to do with my life, but I knew I could do four things - 1. Start running (because I secretly always wanted to even though I always used asthma to get out of it) 2. Do more yoga (I was just starting to really fall in love with it) 3. Join a gym and 4. Eat vegetables sometimes  (And maybe stop eating chicken nuggets multiple times a week)  Without even meaning to, Lisa showed me a stellar example of how to take care of yourself and value health and the one body that you get in this life.  We almost never get to run together, and our busy lives never intersect as much as we want, but running the women's only mini-10K together was an amazing experience that I will always treasure.  It was the longest race she had ever done, which blows my mind because her seemingly effortless commitment to healthy living has always made her an inspiration to me.

Laura has taught me the art of
race pictures.  Bk Half, 2016
My running wife (I think it's official now) and work wife and partner in multiple crimes Laura did track & field in high school, but didn't run much (or at all, I think!) when we first became friends ten (!!!) years ago.  When I started getting into the half marathon & marathon distance, she joined the chorus of many people who were amazed and claimed they could never do it.  Fast forward, and she has run probably more half marathons than I have at this point, and is training for the Goofy Challenge - the Disney half marathon and then the very next day, the Disney Marathon!  The girl has become a running machine and was one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders during my injury and my subsequent return to running.  We've run the Brooklyn Half twice together and I am so beyond happy she has discovered her passion for running.

You can check out her chronicles on the Road to the Goofy Challenge on her awesome YouTube channel, Laura Runs and Eats.  Subscribe!  She's hilarious and awesome.

Lu crushing this year's Brooklyn Half.
My lovely friend Luisa was a runner and overall ridiculously healthy person when I met her three years ago.  Vegetarian, meditator, non-smoker, runner - all the boxes were checked.  Unfortunately, cancer didn't seem to give a damn about any of that when she was diagnosed last July.

Inspirational isn't a strong enough word, and I can't do justice in describing what she went through with her diagnosis, her treatment, and her long, hard road to remission and recovery.  Today, she is cancer free (YAHOO!) and getting stronger and stronger.  She was a runner before cancer changed her life, and now she is running to help others afflicted by it.  Lu is running the 2017 NYC Marathon (!!!!!) with Fred's Team, raising money to support leukemia research at Sloan-Kettering which provided her with truly life-saving care.  Please please please click here to donate to her fundraising effort!  She already crushed her original goal of $3,500 and is now stepping it up to $5,000.  I'm pretty sure she'll be able to step it up one more time before November...just sayin' . Let's get here there!  And while you're at it, read her blog.  She's an incredible writer, and you need to read what she has to say.


At the marathon. Best sister ever.
Finally, I would be totally remiss not to mention my sister and very first running partner, Megan.  She started running very shortly after I did, and always having been the natural athlete between the two of us, really took off.  We ran our first race distances together - first 5K in Williamsburg, VA (I thought I was going to die), first 10K in Charleston, SC (also thought I was going to die), and our very first half marathon in Myrtle Beach, SC (funnily enough, that one felt fantastic!).  We planned to run our first marathon together at Disney, but fetal Atlas & Zoe got in the way of her plans.  She has always been there for me, commiserating over our struggles to eat healthy vs. eat everything because running gives you a great excuse to do that, sharing tips when we were running together, and providing tons of support when I've been running and she hasn't been able to - which has been the dynamic for the past three and a half years.  We haven't run together since a 2014 Turkey Trot - which we took easy, since she had just found out she was pregnant (with, we assumed, one baby...ah, the innocent old days).

Luckily for her, she found a phenomenal surgeon who has helped her get through the considerable challenges that having two back-to-back pregnancies had left her with.  I wrote last week about how she's been recovering beautifully, and her recovery gets more impressive every week.  She finally has a functional core again, and the more time that goes by the closer she'll be to fully recovered.  There's a laundry list of reasons why this surgery has been amazing for her, but I have to say I'm so excited about my most selfish reason - we can finally run together again.  We always have good conversations when we run, and considering our last running conversation was all about anticipation of her first baby...we have a lot to talk about on our next one!

April of 2008, after our very first 10K...who are these people???


Friday, July 21, 2017

Home is Where the Heart is

One of the most cloyingly saccharine cliches of all time?  Yes.  True?  Also yes.  Sort of.

It's been an incredibly eventful three weeks.  At the end of June, my sister underwent major abdominal surgery to repair a major diastasis caused by two back-to-back large pregnancies.  On that same day Marc and I headed up on the Megabus to Massachusetts for a fun long July 4th weekend of family (including our two delicious little LeVasseur nephews!), wine, fun, and going through endless boxes of nostalgia from his childhood as his parents prepare to put their gorgeous house on the market.  The baby pictures!  The metric tons of books! The middle school poetry!  Oh, the earnest and terrible middle school poetry...

Then last weekend, I flew to SC for a whirlwind celebration of the twins' third birthday with family (third!!!), helping out my sister, who is recovering beautifully in every sense of the word.  Just shy of three days of nonstop work, play, and extreme highs and lows of overstimulated and excited toddlers.  Coming back, I snapped immediately back into doula-mode and helped a fantastic couple as they brought their tiny new daughter into the world.

Also, I've powered through three Harry Potter books in the last 3 1/2 weeks.  That has had no less of an emotional/nostalgic effect on me...Plus all kinds of other things I won't get into that various friends/family are going through - health challenges, emotional upheavals, big changes.

So, there's been a lot going on, and there's been a lot to say about what's going on, but I haven't been able to distill any of it into a blog-worthy 'lesson' or phrase or clean, clear tie to yoga.

The one thing that does come to mind as I struggle to articulate the aftermath of all of this dusting up of old memories is actually something that happened in a kids' yoga class I taught last week (which feels like ten years ago now!).  We were sharing a big fuzzy ball with our feet (cause hands are just too easy!) and taking turns sharing our name / age / and something else about ourselves.  That last is usually "favorite color" or "favorite flavor ice cream," but if a kid has another idea, I'm always up for it.  (One kid wanted everyone to share what our favorite pairs of pants were) . This particular little girl said we should share, "the favorite house in our family."

I was sort of surprised with the force with which that hit me.  I thought about the LeVasseur home in Mass., and how it's been Marc's home since he was 7 years old and where we celebrated his brother's wedding and ours.

I thought about how my family moved around more in my childhood, and I loved my home in Virginia that I spent my middle & high school years in - but my mom had to sell it to care for my Granddaddy my freshman year of college, so I had to say goodbye to it long ago.  Which of course makes me think of my grandmother's house, which up until 5 years ago was my biggest definition of home or a home base.

There's also my sister's home, which I think she moved into maybe five and a half or six years ago now - maybe longer?  That's definitely my new home base, along with the LeVasseur house, my brother-in-law's house in Jersey, and though we can't afford to go there often, the Costa Rica house!  My mom is going to be moving, after many years, into a place of her own, and I could not possibly be more excited about gaining a new home base and more importantly, for her gaining a new home base.

And our own apartment, of course - I love this place more than any other place that's been "mine," but no apartment lasts forever in this city, unfortunately - especially as everyone keeps figuring out how awesome Astoria is and making it more expensive.  I'd love it to be our place for years to come, but there's just no certainty.

When it was my turn to share and answer my young student's question, I said my favorite house in my family was my sister's, because it was where my niece and two of my nephews live.  There was a bittersweetness - the bitter of having not just one solid nostalgic childhood home of my own, of thinking of those homes that are no longer in my life, but also the sweetness in having so many scattered beautiful pockets of homes in our family to choose from.

So back to the saccharine title of this blog.  If home is where the heart is, what is the heart?  Is it where we are, wherever we are?  The people we love?  Our blood family, our chosen family?  I think it's all of it.  My mom always tells me, particularly in the years after she moved when I was in college and I was struggling to handle the change in a home base, that my home is wherever she is.  It is that, and it's where my sister, my in-laws, Atlas, Zoe, Caleb, Kai, and Lucas are.  My home is always wherever Marc is.

Now more than ever, I'm bitterly and sweetly aware that the only constant in life is change.  Babies turn into kids who turn into grown-ups.  People move.  Homes are sold, apartments lost.  Relationships change. Home where we feel a pull to return and where we feel a drive to start anew, and wherever there are those who love us.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Yoga Love for the Neck, Shoulders, & Upper Back, by Karma Kids Yoga!

My upper back & shoulders have been bugging me all week - I strongly suspect it's due to reading 200 pages of the fifth Harry Potter book at the beach on Sunday.  (And yes, I deserve the world's tiniest violin for that.  Biggest first world problem in human history)  I've been doing a little self-massage with doTERRA's Deep Blue Rub (which is basically like magic in a tube), but have needed a little bit more to loosen things up.

By total coincidence, my wonderful boss, Shari Vilchez-Blatt (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga) was inspired this week to share some of her favorite neck, shoulder, and upper back releases after talking with some lovely women at her daughter's school.  Like so many people, they work at desks and computers all day and suffer from the eternal hunched-over-a-keyboard posture.  New moms suffer from this too, from holding and feeding their babies all the time.

So many of us could benefit from taking some time out to give our shoulders some love - and this video is only 8 minutes!!  Check it out, share, and subscribe to our amazing YouTube page!  We've got videos for kids and grown-ups.  Learn more about Karma Kids Yoga by visiting our website.



With two flights in two days coming up this weekend as I take a whirlwind trip down south for Atlas & Zoe's birthday party, I know I'll be doing this video again very soon!

Namaste, y'all!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Music Share: Paul Simon & Other Cool Cats

Doing a little bit of a cheat this week as the clock runs down on this blogging week - I have a lot more to say about last weekend (and will have tons to say about next weekend when my firstborn niece & nephew turn THREE!!) but for now, I'm just going to get this one up.

In honor of my in-laws and the incredible memories I have around their fire pit and in the living room  with endless glasses of wine, jamming to Simon & Garfunkel (among many others), are my Paul Simon (and friends) playlists.  The first one is 64 minutes, a good-ish yoga class length, and curated to start slow, build, and end slow.  The second is an hour and 42 and in no particular order.

Paul Simon always makes me think of happy sunny summer days and my amazing in-laws.  Enjoy!










Tuesday, June 27, 2017

9 : 1 and DONE

This past weekend, I finally did what I set out to do last year - I finished the 9:1 program with New York Road Runners.  Run in 9 races and volunteer in 1- and you qualify to run the following year's New York City Marathon.

After I got injured last August with just two races to go (just two!), and found absolutely no mercy or help within NYRR to offer me a chance to get those credits back, my running wife and cheerleader Laura sent me a sweet little meme that simply said, "Injury makes the comeback sweeter."  It feels so amazing to be on the other side of that journey and to feel that...yep.  Yep, that's true.

Would I have preferred not to have gotten injured and to have done it all in one go last year?  110% YES.  But it didn't work out that way, and I definitely felt ten times more emotional crossing that final stepping-stone finish line yesterday than I would have had I been able to achieve it last year.

These last two races were particularly meaningful just on their own.  The Pride race is one I've always wanted to participate in, but my Saturday morning classes always conflicted.  The turnout was low this weekend due to the crazy downpour of rain in the morning, but miraculously as soon as the clock struck 8:30 and it was time to start, it stopped.  By the end of the race, the sky was almost completely clear and the sun was blazing.  The spirits of everyone who made it out weren't dampened a bit, though - they even had cheerleaders on the sidelines for us!  My personal favorite was the guy who started singing "Turn the Beat Around" at the top of his lungs while struggling through the hills alongside me.

The Achilles race - Sunday's race, and race #9 - is one I've done about four or so times now, and is absolutely amazing.  It honors the Achilles organization which pairs disabled athletes - whether they are a veteran missing a limb or someone with special needs, a wheelchair athlete or a blind athlete - with guides to help see them through a race.  Seeing folks push through obstacles far worse than any I've ever had to face is always a humbling and heart-opening experience.  I usually spend half the race in tears, and yesterday was no exception.  Having Laura by my side - and it was her final qualifying race too! - made it a thousand times better.

Now we don't have another one on the docket until August's France Run (which I was so sad I didn't get to do last year), and we're both eagerly looking ahead to the Abbott 5K Dash to the Finish in November, the day before I'll be cheering on my friend Lu in the NYC Marathon (check out and donate to her fundraising page here!).  It'll be the first time I train for a 5K since my very first 5K over nine years ago, when 3.1 miles seemed an insurmountable distance.  This time, I'm training for speed and efficiency.  It'll be good for my body to have a race on the horizon to train for that's a shorter distance - I know it makes my physical therapist happy!  The rest of the summer I'm focusing on getting stronger - and running stronger.


Just shy of seventy weeks until the 2018 New York City Marathon.  I can't wait.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Discipline of Restraint

I try to live my life as a disciplined person.  I have certain habits I work to maintain, I'm disciplined about my running, and try to be disciplined in my work.  I always think of discipline as more, harder, faster.  Working harder and longer, pushing yourself past your limits, going to that place of being uncomfortable and challenged.

This week, I discovered the discipline of restraint.  It took me much longer to get back to full health post-virus than I imagined - and truthfully, I'm still not eating 100% normally for fear of my body revolting.  As soon as my body gave an inch of recovery, I wanted to take a mile in jumping back into my normal routine.  I was desperate to go for a run again, especially since I have my final two qualifying races this weekend to gain entry into the 2018 NYC Marathon.  After last year's injury and coming so close - two races away, in fact - and not meeting my long-awaited goal of making this year's marathon, I am chomping at the bit to get these under my belt.

But - I needed a different kind of discipline this week to keep me from racing out of the gate and doing too much too soon, like I did on Friday night which led to a terrible setback...and then another setback on Monday morning.

I felt better - and then waited.  Rested.  Did the gentlest 15-minute YogaGlo possible instead of the strength-building workout I really wanted.  I wanted so badly to be better again, I wasn't giving myself the chance to get better again.

I'm thrilled to report that my self-imposed short leash has worked, and although absolutely wiped out from a 5-class day, I'm feeling so much better and stronger and like my normal self again.  I'm more than ready to tackle a busy weekend - races, family, a Moana-themed birthday party at Karma Kids, and hopefully - fingers crossed - a little wine?

Discipline is not always about pushing yourself.  Sometimes it's about knowing when to hold yourself back - and sometimes that's even harder to do.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Too Much Too Soon / Child's Pose

Nothing humbles you like a stomach virus.  Except maybe forgetting how humbled you were the first time, overdoing it on food and wine (I know!) the second you feel normal, and then getting the humbling smackdown again.  "Too much too soon" is basically my middle name after every single illness or injury I ever have.  You'd think I'd learn.

Physical illness, mental illness, grief, pregnancy, existential stress at the state of the news (and as always, there's so much to rail against) and so much more can shake you off your foundation.  Luckily, yoga is infinitely adaptable - it's not all sweaty vinyasa classes in lululemons.

Meditation, restorative yoga, and my all-time favorite, Child's Pose, are just what the doctor ordered when the doctor has you in a humble ball on the floor.  And it's there for you when you're ready to - slowly - build back up.

So - child's pose today.  Back to the resistance next week.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Life Time

Whenever I come back from my sister's, I'm acutely aware of how much downtime I have.  Even on my busiest of busy days, I have a little time to myself in a way that just doesn't exist for her anymore unless she works hard to schedule it in - and luckily, she makes that self care effort as much as possible.

Being down there, I couldn't help but be acutely present for a majority of the time.  When three kids under 3 are up and running, you have to seriously be on your toes, because Kai will find a ladder and climb it all the way to the top.  I was also super disconnected from the news, which was glorious.  I checked in every so often to make sure I wasn't missing the impeachment (alas) but I let all my podcasts go off to the wayside and the world continued to turn.

This entry's title is taken from a quote I saw a long time ago, posted by a friend whose music taste is vastly different than mine.  I saw the quote before hearing the song (Shine by The Rollins Band), and having just listened to it thanks to the magic of Spotify after all these years of the lyrics floating through my memory, the song sounds nothing at all like I imagined!  All the same, I really love these lines.  And although as an introvert, I have a deeply jealous need for spare, free, and downtime, it's a reminder that time is really all we've got - and no one knows how much of it we have.

It's a reminder to make every moment count and to be there for every moment, no matter what you're doing.  It's also a reminder that there's always someone in this world who manages to do a lot more than us with a lot less time, and we can always push ourselves to use our time better - for ourselves, for others around us, for the world.  When I see how much my sister accomplishes in such little time, it pushes me to live my life better, make fewer excuses, and get on with it.

No such thing as spare time
No such thing as free time
No such thing as down time
All you got is life time
Go!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Where You Are

I'm going to lay it all out there right up front - I am about to write a blog post that is inspired by lyrics from Disney's Moana.  Mock if you wish - but hear me out!

First of all, if you think you're too cool for this movie, I'm here to tell you that you are not.  If anything, this movie is probably too cool for you.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's glorious, perfect music has been swirling in my head since Laura started playing the soundtrack in her kids' classes before I had even seen it.  Like Hamilton, it's dense with driving beats to the point where it will get stuck in your head, and you will have trouble falling asleep when they are stuck in your head.

This past week while visiting my sister (who needs a new title besides SuperMom, because she's even more incredible than that - I'm open to suggestions) and her amazing family, I got to finally watch Moana with the kids.  I've been looking forward to that forever, especially since my sister posted Atlas watching it.  (If you're Facebook friends with my sister, you can spend the next 3 minutes of your life experiencing this cuteness.  If not, I will show you on my phone literally anytime)

Best/Messiest tea party companions ever
It was hilarious and adorable (and ultimately abandoned for playing trains, because - 3 under 3) and once again got the music stuck in my head.

We left that night, which was extra heartbreaking because they're finally old enough to say, "I don't want you to go."  The next morning walking to work, I decided to skip my usual news podcast (yet another parenthetical - I hardly paid attention to the news at all last week, and it was glorious) and listen to something that would cheer me up and get me in a better energy and frame of mind for the first day back to reality post.  Naturally, I went straight to the soundtrack and selected Where You Are.

The song in its entirety, especially in the context of the movie and the story, are obviously very different from my life and emotional situation, but the idea of this one line - "You must find happiness right where you are" - resonated so powerfully to me as I walked the city streets that are at once familiar for being my streets, and iconic because it's New York City.  Sometimes, especially after a much-needed getaway, I forget how lucky I am to be living here in this city that I love and grew up watching on TV, movies, on the news - in awe.

The idea of finding happiness where you are, no matter where you are or what your current circumstance, is fairly yogic.  Yoga focuses less on the idea of happiness and more on the idea of equanimity, contentment, and presence, but I think it's safe to say most of us who practice yoga get a big happiness boost out of it.  The only constant in life is change, and if your happiness is solely dependent on exterior factors, you will eventually be out of luck.  Adaptability and a strong sense of self - while cherishing those outside circumstances that bring you joy - I think are keys to lasting happiness.

I miss and love and adore my family and the south, but I love and adore my life and home up here too.  It's important to remember that both can exist at the same time - the bitterness of missing what's not here right now, and the sweet of finding happiness right where you are.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bounce Back

Yesterday, I ran my fourth half marathon, and my third Brooklyn Half.  It's an amazing race with a really well-designed course that starts at the Brooklyn Museum, takes you into beautiful Prospect Park, and then sends you straight down Ocean Parkway to end at the beach in Coney Island.

The first time I ran Brooklyn, as a newlywed in 2013, I ran my best time at 2 hours, 17 minutes.  I'd yet to have a running injury, but oh lord, I look back on the videos Marc took of me when he was cheering me on from the sidelines and my form was terrible.  I was pronating all over the place, and my knees knocking together look like an ad for How to Eventually Need Knee Surgery.

The second time was last year, with my stalwart and amazing friend Laura.  We both felt undertrained, we both had plantar fasciitis that was concerning to us, and neither of us had the training season we were hoping for, so we were anxious to get the damn thing over with in one piece.

Yesterday carried with it similar worries of last year's race in the sense that I've been extremely neurotic about injuries and injury prevention, but it was less a "thing to get through" and more a challenge to see - am I really and truly well?  Was going for this race that I love so much so soon after a significant injury a stupid idea or the perfect way to get my brain back on board with my body?

The healing force that came into my life in 2014, while I was still dealing with vague mystery hamstring pain that had plagued me all year, was a physical therapist named Fabricio Rodrigues.  I've sung his praises in the blog before but mainly I just recommend him to everyone I encounter who complains as having so much as a slight headache.

Fabricio got me back to running after my hamstring injury, even joining me for my first race back.  When a random case of runner's knee popped up the following winter, he gave me the tools to squash it immediately without slowing down.  He's let me swing by multiple times so he can KT tape me before a race to get me feeling stable, supported, and strong.

And when I continued to run on my plantar fasciitis last summer and tore the damn thing, he made "house calls" to Karma Kids to help my crazily out of balance body as it went through life on crutches / the peg-leg.

Fabricio, me, & Marc
Achilles Run, 2015
He pushed me to swim, which kept me sane and kept my left leg moving pre/post cast.  He's been treating, supporting, and helping me every step of the way through recovery, rehab, and getting back out into running.  He challenges me to do hard, new things, and also knows when I need to be pulled back a little from my running ambitions.  He has coached me to strengthen parts of my body I had no idea weren't already strong, fixed my atrocious running form, and I think about each and every movement my body makes in a completely different way based on what I've learned through my work with him.

Plainly put, I probably would not have run a single pain-free step these nearly three years without him, and I just finished a half marathon entirely due to his expertise, treatment, and friendship.

So, don't be like I've been oh-so many times in my life - don't push through pain if you don't have to.  Bounce Back Physical Therapy is where you'll find not just Fabricio but other caring PT's (and the fabulous Irene at the desk) who can set you back to doing what you love again.  I cannot overstate how profoundly it has changed my life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

That Beatles Time of Year

Obviously, there's never a bad time to listen to The Beatles, but I've recently been on a bit of a kick lately.  Partly inspired by the lovely Iris's Aroma Yin class at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio, partly by spring, I created a new yoga playlist that is 100% The Beatles (with a couple instrumental versions thrown in to bookend it).

Enjoy!  Feel free to follow me on Spotify, where you can find me as "yoginiannie."





More to come next week - I'm sure I'll have much, much more to say, as I'm running the Brooklyn Half on Saturday!  I'm nervous but mostly excited - it's not just my first big race since recovering from my injury, but it's a big race way sooner than I would have originally expected since going on crutches in August.  So, stay tuned!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Green & Green

Being from the South, springtime in New York always feels like it comes way too late.  By March, I'm expecting full on blooms.  Even though it always comes a little later than I want it to, it still somehow seems to come in perfect time.  March is the slow (painfully slow) thaw, April is for the blossoms, and in May - almost like clockwork - the buds blow away, the leaves fill in, and it's green, green, green everywhere you look.  At long, long, long last.

I always associate May and springtime with green for the obvious reasons, but lately I've had a different green on the brain - money.  As a freelancer married to an actor, money is always on the brain, and 99% of the time it's a source of stress.  I'm sure no one else on earth can relate!

We've used a system for a few years now to track our expenses called You Need a Budget (yes, you do) which has been amazing in keeping us on the same page and helping us communicate about our money or, often, lack thereof.  We didn't always use it as intended, though - we used it more as a tracking tool than as one to actually help us stick to the principles it lays out for eventually saving and aging your money so you break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

YNAB recently updated its whole system, which inspired us to make a fresh start and lay out a new, updated budget to better reflect our life as it is now, rather than a few years ago when we started.  We also recommitted to each other to stick to the budgeting principles and exercise more self discipline than in the past.  (Also, not being injured / not doing lots of showcase shows for little pay really helps in the money department too!)

So now here's where the yoga comes in - as part of the eight limbs of yoga, there are ten ethical guidelines (so to speak) that are things not to do (yamas) and things to do (niyamas).  Budgeting - and even just attempting to budget - employs all of them to some degree, but there are two I feel it touches on the most:  self-study (svadhyaya) and truth (satya).

You manage what you measure.  Tracking your spending requires complete and total transparency with not just yourself but another person.  It can be very easy to deceive yourself and live in a state of denial about spending habits, especially with handy dandy credit cards, which never feel like spending real money the way it does when you use cash.  By utilizing self awareness with every dollar earned and spent, you are automatically gaining more control over your financial habits.

Budgeting not just your own money for your own self, but with another person  makes it harder to keep up that habit, that we all have, of self-deception.  We're all very good at telling ourselves little lies or simply glossing over our bad financial habits, but when you have to track every little thing, and be accountable not just to yourself but with your partner, the truth can't help but come out.  It's not about assigning guilt, blame, or shame, but simply taking an honest look at your habits, strengths, and weaknesses.

What's difficult and sometimes painful in the short run, though, is ultimately what's best in the long run.  (Isn't it annoying how often that's the case in life?)

We seriously can't recommend this app enough, and recommend it all the time to friends and family.  Money is hard.  It's hard when you don't have enough, when you don't understand why you can't get ahead, when you're unsure of how you're managing it.  Yoga is all about awareness and connection - this lets you gain that clarity which leads to accountability.

And while it would be AWESOME if this were a paid advertisement, it's really not - just an entry I've been meaning to do for a long time in praise of one of my favorite things.  (YNAB, if you're listening, I'll totally be a paid shill for you...)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Health Scare

I had a whole draft of a blog in my head all made up, but it has been a day.  And now that I've come down from all the life-stuff of the day, I'm left to ponder with a growing, nauseating dread what 217 elected representatives voted for today.

Forgive the pun-y and ridiculous title.  I'm just so afraid that this is our country now.

In case you're wondering who voted how, check out this helpful page in the NYTimes.

Listen - we all know Obamacare wasn't perfect.  But I know several people who would literally not be alive today without it.  I wouldn't have health insurance without it - and you better believe I use my health insurance.

Instead of having a group of adults who can intelligently discuss policy and talk about improving our health care system, we have a group of children who stick their fingers in their ears and simply shout about destroying any bit of legacy President Obama may have had.  They've denigrated this so deeply that there are literally people in the world who don't realize that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing.  It's politics.  Not policy.  How much do you want to bet that most of these jackals haven't even read the bill?  We know the President hasn't.

Victim of a sexual assault?  You now have a pre-existing condition under this bill and would be denied health insurance.  So that basically covers half the women the President has ever come into contact with.  Cancer survivors, pregnant women, asthmatics like me - basically everything you could possibly imagine is a pre-existing condition and grounds for denial of coverage, except for erectile dysfunction, probably because the majority of congress suffers from it.  Not that that really matters, since they're not including their own health care plans under this bill.  Even they don't want this unhelpful piece of garbage that doesn't solve any actual problems of Obamacare - it just creates all new ones.

This has nothing to do with yoga.  I'm angry.  I'm sad.  I feel sick.  I'll do some yoga tomorrow and feel better and more balanced and better able to fight back and do what I can to protest this horror of a bill.

Please, please, please - call your reps.  Write your reps.  Show up at town halls and give them hell.  And then tell me what else I can do.  I feel at such a loss.  All my reps are solid blue - they're already going to vote my way.  So I'm open to ideas, friends.  Tell me what to do.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Long Run & Long Road

I haven't written about running as much lately - partly because this was originally intended to be a yoga blog, so I do try to write about that occasionally, but mostly because these last few weeks of training have been more stressful.

When I agreed to run the Brooklyn Half this year with my wonderful Laura, I did so with nerves and reservations.  It's one of my all-time favorite races, and when I first ran it in 2013 I felt amazing and unstoppable.  It's the race that convinced me I was capable of running a marathon.  But looking at the calendar and looking at my expected recovery time, it seemed like there was enough time to responsibly train without overdoing it.

As I started to kick my mileage up a little bit in mid-March, however, I had fewer pain-free runs and more consistent encounters with aches and pains.  Not enough to indicate re-injury, but just enough to bump up my anxiety ever-higher.  It was tricky to differentiate the normal and expected running pain versus things I should be truly worried about.  I've been hyper-aware, which is a good thing, but it led to being hyper-worried, which is not.  May 20th suddenly went from seeming very far away to much, much too close.

I started to realize in the last week or so that I wasn't enjoying my running - which is the whole damn point.  I love running.  It's one of my all time favorite things in the world to do.  I've been so consumed with the worry and paranoia that I might not be able to do it that I've been keeping myself from fully enjoying the fact that I am doing it.  I'm under the care of an excellent physical therapist every week who helps me get stronger and deal with my issues.  I'm building more cardio.  And a lot of my aches and pains, I've come to realize, are a result of the fact that I'm finally running with much better form than I used to - which in itself is a road to injury-free running.

Awareness and worry don't have to go hand in hand.  Moreover, they shouldn't go hand-in-hand.  It tints everything, just as it did last summer when I was on the opposite end of the spectrum - stubbornly ignoring pain that should have sparked some worry and attention.

The trick, I think, is to find that happy medium.  Last summer I wanted so badly to be fine and healthy that I was able to convince myself that the pain I was feeling - almost all day every day - couldn't possibly lead to anything serious.  I felt that I had a complete handle on it, and instead of resting until the pain was gone, I would take a week off because that was all I was willing to give up.  This past month, I've been worrying myself out of enjoyment and failing to notice how much better I feel now than I even did last summer when I was technically in better shape.

I seem to have to learn this lesson again and again - attitude is everything.  After a particularly helpful PT session yesterday, I decided to go into this morning's run - the peak of my training and the last long run before the race and also on a windy, rainy day - with awareness without the side of worry.  Paying attention to my body and when it needed a break or a stretch or to walk but enjoying myself every step of the way.  The difference it made was unbelievable, and instead of worrying and doubting this ten miles, I enjoyed it and was able to end it with exhilaration, pride, and trust that I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy while still pursuing my goals.

And seriously, it doesn't hurt that I have a killer new running playlist.  Something else I realized today is that I've been deliberately avoiding running with music because I haven't wanted to get carried away and go faster than I ought to.  While I think this was totally responsible and the right thing for the first few weeks back, I'm at the point now where I'm able to push my pace.  The first half of today's run was accompanied by a podcast (the excellent Pod Save America) and I decided for the second half to finally treat myself to some music - the first time since last summer I've run with any music at all.

I completely forgot how good it feels to run with music.  Running without any earbuds at all is its own kind of magic, don't get me wrong - but Nina and Janis were just what the doctor ordered to help me get my joy back.


Check it out here - start with Sinnerman, shuffle the rest, and enjoy every moment.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

An Earth Day Recent-History Lesson

Earth Day (which also happens to be the seven year blog-a-versary for this ol' thing) is today, and it's fitting that I just learned about an environmental activist I had never heard of before.

Julia Butterfly Hill may be a familiar name to you, but I'm sad to say her name didn't ever register in my time as a self absorbed middle and then high schooler in suburban Virginia.  She sat in a redwood tree in California to protest deforestation for two years.

She sat in a tree.  She lived in a tree.

For two. freaking. years.

Meanwhile, I've been feeling so powerless and useless and frustrated lately in the face of the never-ending tsunami of news of corruption and incompetence coming out of the White House (or Mar-a-Lago, more often than not), and on the one hand, hearing about this just makes me feel even worse and even more useless.  I donate to charities, I keep myself informed, I write and call my elected officials, I make my living helping women and kids feel empowered and peaceful, I do my best to use reusable shopping bags over plastic, but what am I really doing?  What is any of it really doing?  (And dear lord, the amount of times I don't have a reusable shopping bag and contribute to the plastic crisis!)

On the other hand- it actually makes me feel better.

I learned about Julia because one of the world's most spectacular yoga teachers and humans, Elizabeth Barnett, spoke about her in class at The Giving Tree last night, and read a quotation of hers that brought me to tears.  I'll pull from her website:

No matter the diversity of beliefs, we all know we live in a world full of problems.  Yet, one of the biggest problems is that not enough of us realize that we also live in a world full of solutions - and then live our lives as these solutions in action.

May you know that your every thought, word, and action makes a difference.

The question we need to ask ourselves is not, "Can one person make a difference?"  Each and every one of us does make a difference.  It is actually impossible to not make a difference.  So the question we need to ask ourselves is, "What kind of a difference do I want to make?"


It sort of reminds me of the butterfly effect (no relation).  The smallest action can have a massive impact.  Even though sometimes the things I might do feel small and trivial and not actually helping to save the world, it's better than choosing not to do it at all.

It also reminds me to be brave and try to do more than I am.  Even when I don't know what that is, or if I struggle with self doubt.

Every day, to once again crib from Elizabeth, is Earth Day.  We need it more than it needs us.

Let's all do something big or something small, but let's do something, today and every day to help support it, and support our future as a species.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bus Yoga!

This week was spring break for public schools in NYC, which also means it was spring break for the kids classes at Karma Kids.  Our truncated schedule (prenatal & baby classes only) and my boss's well-deserved vacation left me with both way more and way less time in my schedule at the same time, somehow.

The point being - I'm squeezing my weekly blog in at the last second before Marc and I take a very mini-break of our own as we head to Philadelphia to see our spectacularly talented friend Jake Blouch in The Walnut Theatre's The Importance of Being Earnest.  We are taking a Megabus there this morning and a Megabus home this afternoon - and tragically, that means a lot of travel time with me unable to read due to the last stubborn bits of lingering childhood carsickness.

So, I've got my knitting needles, my headphones, my crossed fingers - and alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana.

My friend and often-times guru Laura Frye suffers much more acutely than me from carsickness, and she swears by this yoga breathing technique to get her through.  It's also incredibly handy for springtime, especially on weeks like these where NYC is finally (FINALLY!) seeing our first real leaves and blooms and green - and pollen.

Thanks to http://www.healthyhints.com.au for this adorable and useful illustration

Sit comfortably.  Gently close your left nostril and inhale into the right.  Retain the breath for one to five seconds.  Gently close the right nostril and exhale out the left.  If you wish, retain the exhalation for one to five seconds.  Inhale into the left nostril, and retain the breath for one to five seconds.  Gently close the left nostril and exhale out the right.

Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

Stress reduction, nausea reduction, allergy reduction - nadi shodhana is one of the most useful and simple pranayama, or breathing, techniques you'll find in a yoga practice.

Time to catch a bus!  Happy spring break, everyone!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Paradigm Shift / Pratipaksha Bhavana

When I was new to yoga, I loved reading Yoga Journal every month.  I subscribed to it, and was stoked when I was able to get a reduced rate as part of my liability insurance once I became a teacher.

The last few years, though - eh.

Part of it is almost certainly that I've allowed time to diminish my interest in to the capital-Y Yoga practice - reading the sutras, learning more about the history and diving deeper into the non-asana parts of the practice.  I expected to be knee-deep in it forever, but when I took a shift toward kids yoga and prenatal yoga years ago, that became less a part of my teaching and therefore I let it slip as part of my personal practice.

The other part of it is that the magazine has largely let itself turn into Glamour with a side of yoga. Every issue it seems like there are more and more pages - not just advertisements, mind you, which come with the territory, but actual magazine content - that's nothing but product placement.  The clothes you have to have, the meditation cushion you need.  Every single cover - every single cover - has been reduced to "8 poses to cultivate inner peace!"  "10 poses to strengthen your core!"  "The 4 poses you need to beat the winter blues!"

Yes, yoga poses are amazing and helpful and can do all those things.  But...come on.  It's not a magic bullet or a magic cure.  Yoga should be better than that, and the magazine's continual quick-fix implications feel gross.

Anyway - getting off my high horse, let me take a moment to actually give props to YogaJournal - or to a teacher quoted in an interview with them, at least.  It's been a long time since I've turned to the Yoga Sutras for help and guidance, but I've been thinking about them more lately, and this week was reminded of sutra 2.33.  My favorite interpretation is from Nischala Joy Devi from her lovely book The Secret Power of Yoga.

"When presented with disquieting thoughts and feelings, cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude.  This is pratipaksha bhavana."

Like a lot in the yoga sutras, it sounds so ridiculously simple.  Having negative thoughts?  Think happy thoughts!  Yay!  All better!

The key word here is cultivate.  The presence of that word indicates an acknowledgement that this is not always so simple.  To cultivate is to try, to foster, to encourage, to seek, or - my favorite definition, from Merriam-Webster: "to improve by labor, care, or study."

My favorite example of this physically is the idea of countering fatigue and exhaustion by doing something as simple as ten jumping jacks.  Just try not to change your energy level after that - you can't help it!  The key is to get yourself up to standing and doing those jumping jacks in the first place to spark the change in your energy level.

As hard as it can be to get your body to move when it's tired, it's all the harder (for me, at least) to get the mind to move when it's stuck on negative thoughts and perceptions.  Whether it's a person whose actions or words have you hurt or angry or a simple case of a negative mood, the mind usually wants to stay in that negative space.  My mother-in-law always refers to the law of inertia (usually in a physical context), and for me that totally applies to a bad mood.  My mind in a whiney space wants to stay in a whiney space.

Tiffany Russo, the yoga teacher quoted in YogaJournal, explains this sutra further: "Patanjali said it's taking a negative and making it a positive.  I think it's also that moment when you can pause and choose to make a shift.  That's yoga - if you can pay attention enough to pause, you have a strong sense of your foundation, and you can blossom and grow from there."

This strikes a chord with me, and makes me think of one of my all-time favorite books My Stroke of Insight, where brain scientist Jill Bolte-Taylor details the stroke she suffered and how much more she learned about the power of our brains as a result.  She teaches us that we have so much power in how we interpret events and thoughts.

We can make a choice to focus on the negative or to focus on the positive.  We can make a choice to step back, take a breath, take a pause, and re-evaluate any given situation from a different perspective.  It's simple, but simple doesn't mean it's easy.  As we say at Karma Kids - that's why we call it a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.

So - well done, YogaJournal.  Amidst your all-too-typical front cover promises that all my life's problems will be fixed with your "7 poses to find quiet amidst chaos," I feel so much more connected to the true work and benefits of yoga.  More of that, please!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Partial Book Report / Cultivating Play

Have you ever read a book that strikes such a chord with you that you almost don't want to read it because it's overwhelming?

Last month, my book club and I selected Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection after one of our members said she was rereading it.  Coincidentally, my sister happened to be reading that when she came up for her visit last month, so I was excited to get into it, especially after seeing Brene Brown's TED talks.

It's so dense with nuggets of great information and moments of, "Yes, that's so me," that I was very particular about when I read it.  And even as I was reading it, I'd know I would need to reread it several times for it all to sink in.  So, I'm not up to writing a full entry about it because it encompasses a lot - but one element of it has been popping up a lot this last week.

The book is divided up into ten Guideposts - things we ought to work on cultivating, and things we ought to work on letting go.  Easier said that done - another reason why this book overwhelms!

Guidepost # 7 is Cultivating Play & Rest - Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol (hello, NYC) and productivity as self-worth (ME).

Now, the letting go stuff is a waaaaay longer post / therapy session, but cultivating play and rest is really important to me.  I feel incredibly blessed that I work at a place which, though it can be stressful and demanding like any job, is devoted to play.  Even beyond playing yoga with the little yogis who come to our classes, the other teachers and I are constantly playing to find new poses, new games, new events, and new ways to connect to our community and each other.  Just this week I had the opportunity to spontaneously turn into a mermaid as the class that Laura was teaching went on their under the sea yoga adventure!

We talk a lot at Karma Kids Yoga, especially when we're talking about bigger kids and teens, about what a huge stress reliever laughter is.  When was the last time you were in a fit of hysterical laughter?  Like belly cramping, face hurting, genuine-danger-of-peeing-your-pants laughter?

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a laughter meditation.  We share it with the trainees in our Teen Yoga Teacher Training Intensive and it's always the most incredible release.  Yoga doesn't always have to be so holy and serious and all about flexibility or silence - you can play it!

Especially with the news moving at a speed impossible to keep up with, we need the balance of play and laughter in our lives more than ever.  So find a toddler to run around with, grab some friends willing to be ridiculous with you and try a laughter meditation, watch something silly (maybe even live theatre!).  It's hands down the most fun way to beat stress and anxiety while cultivating the joy of play.

Me with the creator of Karma Kids Yoga and all the fun and games I get to enjoy every day, Shari Vilchez-Blatt.
There was much laughter and play as we figured out how to get in to this awesome new partner pose.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

What is your happy place?

Ever since the election, and even more so since the most frightening ever Inauguration Day, I've been trying to temper staying informed and being involved with putting more effort toward adding things that make me happy to my days.  It's a silver lining of the cloud we find ourselves stuck under that this administration has me turning more than ever to practices of self care and focusing on the positive.

In that spirit, I want to start a series of entries focused on those things that bring me joy in life.  A happy place seems like a good place to start.

There are many places I'd identify as my Happy Place, and the one I'm featuring today isn't necessarily a specific place.  Races are a major happy place for me.

This past Sunday, I fulfilled my volunteer credit to work toward getting into the 2018 Marathon.  I went to bed at 9:30, woke up at 4:20, and was out the door by 4:40 heading to Central Park.  If you think that's early, just ask the volunteers for bag check - I think they had to be there at 3:30!  Total madness.

There's a quiet excitement in Central Park before sunrise on the day of the NYC Half Marathon.  20,000 runners are preparing to descend upon the park, heading to their respective park entrance depending on their corrals, checking bags, bouncing up and down or wearing soon-to-be-donated sweatshirts to stay warm.  Volunteers are cheerful and excited and giving as much crazy energy as they can - to stay awake, to stay warm, and to get the runners even more pumped up.


This is the second year I've been a NYRR Ambassador for the Half and both years it has been freezing cold.  One of these days I'll remember that March in NYC does not equal March in the south.  In the south, March is basically the start of flip flop weather!  The cold does, however, I think make the energy even more fun.  Runners who are feeling nervous probably feel a little more nervous, runners who are feeling excited probably feel more excited - and since most runners are feeling both of those emotions at once, it makes for really intense energy really early in the morning.

By the time the first two waves of runners are headed through security and toward the corral, the sun starts to rise over the park.  The world starts to feel a little more real, although there's a profound sense of unreality at sunrise in Central Park, especially when you've already been up for three and a half hours.


My volunteer shift is fun, simple, and rewarding, and this year I got to take advantage of the amazing NYRR RunCenter and their free lockers and went for a run myself around the park after my shift ended.  Running around the course, cheering the runners on, seeing the gorgeous snow in Central Park, seeing the area get flooded with typical Sunday tourists and atypical excited, cheering friends and family just creates even more joyful, excited energy.

Usually, I'm a runner at a race - and usually, the race is a smaller one, like a 5K or a 4 miler.  Volunteering is so valuable not just because it's so very necessary for races to function, but because it reminds you of what is so wonderful and special about racing from a totally different perspective.  It also brings back both bitter and very, very sweet memories of my half marathons and marathon.  Being on the outside looking in helps you see things from a different angle and, for me,  helps me value it all the more the next time I get to be the one wearing the race bib.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A dose of irrational love

The snow day sucked the motivation out of me to do a decent entry yesterday - I did a self-driven home practice for the first time in ages, though, as the snow fell early on Tuesday morning, so that was fabulous.  I still get a yoga related gold star, despite giving my blog the short shrift.

I have a lot of things to write about in the coming weeks, but for now, I'm just going to share something that I really, really, really needed to hear today, for a wide variety of reasons in a wide variety of circumstances.

These words are attributed to Mother Teresa, though some original lines were written by Kent Keith.  She certainly made it famous, in any case.

Wishing everyone peace and warmth on yet another frigid, frigid NYC night!


People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough.
Give the best you've got anyway.
You see,
in the final analysis it is between you and God;
it was never between you and them anyway.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Down, Ten to Go

When I tore the plantar fascia in my left foot last year, I wasn't just upset because of being confined to crutches and all the expense and inconvenience and garbage that entails.  I was just two races away from qualifying for the 2017 NYC Marathon under the New York Road Runner's 9:1 program - run in 9 races, volunteer in 1 during a calendar year, and you automatically gain entry into the following year's marathon.

Running in the 2017 marathon was to have particular significance for me because it would fall around my ten year anniversary of being a runner.  I'm a big nerd when it comes to anniversaries and special occasions and pretty much any excuse to celebrate or acknowledge milestones, and the symmetry just seemed to perfect.

Shortly after I first started running in August of 2007, I subscribed to Runner's World.  The idea of running any farther than a 5K seemed like an insane, superhuman feat of unattainable athleticism.  I was intrigued by the columns and articles meant for runners far more advanced than I, and by the constant emphasis on half marathons and marathons.  The race that sounded the most appealing - if I were an athlete instead of just an out of shape college graduate trying running for the first time because I secretly always wanted to and didn't think I could - was the New York City Marathon.

Now, obviously last summer's injury was not a death sentence.  I'm here, I'm almost 100% recovered, and I'm back chasing the goal of the NYC Marathon.  And honestly, I don't care if I ever run another marathon ever again after I conquer this goal.  The marathon distance is not my favorite, and the Disney marathon was really rough.  But there's just something about the New York City marathon - about running through all five boroughs, all of the neighborhoods and cultures and people and life of the city, that has been on my mind for what feels like forever.  I don't really have a bucket list - I just have this one thing that I want desperately to do.

As grateful and happy as I've been to dip my toes back into running, the fastidious, precise part of me that was so pleased by the symmetry of completing this goal on in the same year I'd celebrate 10 years of running was still incredibly disappointed by the loss of the race this year.  And of course, though I entered the lottery for the 2017 marathon, I didn't get a spot.  (It's about as likely as winning the Hamilton lottery if you opened the Hamilton lottery out to the entire world.)

And yet - there's another way to look at it.  As my always-helpful husband pointed out, I can look at the 2018 marathon as a way to kick off the first year of my second decade of running.

And in 2017, this tenth year of running, my challenge to make it to that 2018 marathon is to complete - oh, how funny - 10 races.  Running in 9, volunteering in 1.  My neurotic desire for symmetry is satisfied!

All of that incredibly long and wordy and self indulgent intro is to say - I ran my first race toward that goal on Sunday.  I ran my first race in over 7 months on Sunday.  I ran my first race after injury and rehab and muscle atrophy and oh so much physical therapy homework on Sunday.

After layering with approximately 47,000 pieces of clothing for the 5-degree-with-the-wind-chill-weather and making the hour long schlep up to Washington Heights (it's a lovely race but NEVER AGAIN!), I made it to my corral, bouncing up and down with all the other crazy people running the race with me.  (Some of whom were in shorts.  SHORTS!) Once we crossed the start line and really got going, I kept thinking back to my first race ever, back in the early spring of 2008.  My sister came up from South Carolina, where she was living at the time (or was she in Charlotte by that point?) to run it with me, as she started running shortly after I did and we Galloway method-ed together, which was an awesome way to long-distance bond.

The course was around a place I know and love well, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  And oh lord, I thought I was dying.  I think it was the first time I ever ran 3.1 miles, it was probably the hilliest course I'd ever run (and how could it have been that hilly?).  My sister ran ahead at a certain point, and I ran/walked it the rest of the way myself, wondering if I could make it.  My mom was at the finish line cheering us on - a physical manifestation of the metaphorical cheering on she does constantly for us.

My concerns about this run on Sunday were simply paying attention to any pain or sensation in my feet, making sure I didn't let the excitement of a race keep me from my run/walk plan of taking it easy, and making sure my eyeballs didn't freeze solid.  Luckily, I had success on all fronts - although my run/walk ratio was definitely a little off in the first and third miles.

The emotions that overcame me approaching and crossing the finish line were so similar to those I've felt crossing the finish lines of my distance races - the half marathons, the oh so painful marathon.  The sense of accomplishment was for much more than running 3.1 miles, but to being free to go back to doing something I love so much and the hard work it took to get back there.

For a yoga teacher, I can be incredibly inflexible.  I get hung up on an idea of how I want things to be, how I think things are supposed to be - and when things go wrong, when plans, change, when injuries and sickness happen, it can take a long time for me to calm down and get perspective.  It took awhile, but I think I'm there.  I'm so grateful for this giant mess of a race and for the opportunity to participate in 9 more this year on my long, long road to run NYC.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I love running. That is all.

I've had a topic I've wanted to blog about for almost a month now, and it keeps getting sidelined.  Plus I had a phenomenal visit with my big sister this week!  It'll all have to wait til next week because today, I am just overwhelmed with joy and literally crying and have to shout out the rooftop of the Internets that I love running.

I've been gradually increasing my run intervals since I started back to (w)running at the beginning of February, and today I broke the one-minute interval of running - hooray!  Today's run was 30 minutes at 2 minutes walking / 1 minute, 30 seconds running.  If my left heel and right big toe continue to improve, next week I hope to bump that to 2:2 intervals.

Compared to the half marathons I've run and the marathon I ran (which admittedly was probably my poorest performance and worst-feeling race of all the races I've done) and the smaller road races, this is total peanuts.  But compared to the August 16th-end of January, it's like an ultramarathon, with all the endorphins, sense of accomplishment, and pure joy that go along with it.  (I assume.  Ultramarathons, I can confidently say, are not in my future)

Running gets me outside when I otherwise wouldn't be out.  This past week was gorgeous (thanks, Global Warming?) and this morning is right back to chilly weather.  But oh man, the light blue February sky, the early morning sun peeking through Monet clouds, seeing the vast empty park and the other few hardy souls out running or walking, letting my mind go off leash and unplugged and wandering to the Brooklyn Half and someday, dammit, the NYC Marathon, and all the work it takes to get there, and the things I've done right in the past and the things I've done wrong, paying attention to my form, and just being so unbelievably grateful for my body and for what it's capable of and for what it's gone through and overcome and what it will accomplish.

When I got home and moved into my post-run routine of snack and stretch, I just started crying out of nowhere.  Granted, a part of it is probably due to the fact that I had a terrible night's sleep last night, and bad sleep = quick tears for me every single time - but I really had just turned into a leaky faucet of thankfulness.  I am so grateful to have gone from being in a cast to where I am now, even though where I ultimately want to be is far beyond where I currently am...if that makes sense.  Having the ability to even just run 90 seconds at a time gives me an unbelievable well of hope.

There is a lot to be frightened of and angry about at this moment in our world and our country, and that's all the more reason to move deeper toward what brings you satisfaction and joy.   If you have something that makes you feel this way, go to it today.  If you don't, go exploring and find something. I suggest going for a run.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Sounds of Silence

Full disclosure:  As I write this, I am bouncing and fidgeting in my seat with anticipation and excitement at seeing my sister in an hour.  Just one hour!!!  I can't take it.  It's her first kid-free, husband-free getaway since the kiddos were born, and we are going to eat all the food.

Since my attention will be 100% swept away this week as a result, I'm writing today.

This morning marked another first in my return to running - or as I'm referring to it for now, (w)running, because my intervals for any given run contain a higher ratio of walking than running as I ease back in.  My left heel, for the record, feels great - about 98% recovered after these frustrating last six months of recovery.  My right big toe, which I just stubbed stupidly on New Year's Eve, is still talking to me a little it.  It's always something...

Today was my first run post-injury that I did with zero headphones.  No music, no podcasts, no nothing (except my running app telling me when to walk).  Nothing in my ears but the sound of my breath, my steps, and my neighborhood.  It's an absolutely invaluable form of meditation that I didn't even realize how much I missed.

I've been desperately missing the endorphins from running these last six months.  I've missed being outside, I've missed that active alone time, I've missed romance runs with Marc, the chance to do training runs with Laura, missed running into friends in the park, missed the unmatched feeling of having accomplished something great before most people (non parent-people, anyway) are awake on a Sunday morning.

The silence - the head space, if you will - was something I forgot about.  It's one of those things that you know is good for you, you know you genuinely enjoy, yet you sort of sabotage yourself on.  We've become conditioned to always be looking for the next source of information input, and so I feel I have to have a podcast or a playlist or I won't enjoy myself.  I keep forgetting - my own company is pretty awesome, and it's so important to give my brain time and space to wander off.  Plus, nothing is motivating like a really detailed daydream about running the NYC marathon.

If you're not a runner, take a walk - or do a solo yoga practice that you make up as you go along with no music and no guidance.  Find some kind of activity with which you'd normally have some background noise and turn off the noise.  It's one of the easiest and most satisfying shortcuts to presence.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to open your heart, even when you're tired. Or lazy. Or both!

Happy (day after) Valentine's Day!  Or as I like to think of it, Love & Chocolate day.  It's always been one of my favorite holidays, even though I spent most of them single in my teens and early twenties.  I never wanted to be one of those negative, bitter folks about it - why force it into a pigeonhole of just being about romantic love?  We all have people we love in our lives, and my God, who doesn't love an excuse to eat all the chocolate?

This week, in the spirit of opening and sharing our hearts around Valentine's Day, I want to share one of my favorite restorative poses - a pose I love all the more because I actually cannot stand the non-restorative version of it.

Matsyasana, or fish pose, is a very intense upper-back-and-neck backbend.  For me, there is nothing restful or peaceful or pleasant about it.  My neck doesn't like going that far back, my throat doesn't like being that exposed, and I always feel like my shoulders are shoving themselves into my ears.

From YogaJournal.com, as photographed by David Martinez.  Not my fave...
The restorative version of this pose, however, is absolutely delicious for a variety of reasons.  First of all, there are a billion different ways to do it.  Even though my favorite version involves two yoga blocks, you can enjoy this pose even if you don't own a single yoga-related item (including a mat).  You can use a yoga bolster, pillows, rolled up or folded up blankets, or even super thick books to mimic the feel and heigh of blocks.

The fact that I couldn't find a picture of my favorite way to do it on the Internets just shows you how many ways there are to enjoy this deliciousness - check out the variety of a Google image search of it.

The idea is to support yourself and prop yourself up until you are 100% comfortable and can sustain your position for 5-15 minutes.  (Or longer!)  Prop up either starting at the base of your spine or just below the shoulder blades - you can either prop the head up so it's level, or give yourself a hint of that big throat opener by letting it rest on the ground or propping it up a little lower than your heart.

In restorative fish, take slow, deep breaths with a focus on the inhalation and the deep expansion of the ribcage.  You can keep your focus on the breath or come into any number of visualizations.  Imagine the breath massaging or soothing your heart, or imagine your heart as a warm, shining beacon of light.  Or, you know.  Just relax and take a little yoga nap.

Pictured with smaller-than-average yoga blocks - I prefer a slightly thicker block, but it still feels deeeeelicious.
It's a lovely (and yes, cutesy) pose for this full-of-love holiday, but it's also a really great pose to take in the thick of winter.  Walking around the city, we all scrunch our shoulders up and hunch forward to stave off the cold and wind, leading to caveman posture and ridiculously tight chests and shoulders.

Bonus points - take a deep breath of some essential oils (like Eucalyptus, Peppermint, or a blend like doTerra's Breathe) to really open up.  You can also put your feet together and add on supported baddha konasana (or cobbler's pose / butterfly) by supporting your knees with blankets, pillows, or blocks.  YUM.