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.