Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ramblings on faith & tragedy

The last week feels like a blur.  I had a wonderful birthday, I celebrated Marc's birthday with him, and most significantly, we suffered an extreme national tragedy.

After hearing about Newtown last Friday while I was at work, all I wanted to do was go into a room all by myself and glue myself to the TV for any updates and just cry and cry and cry.  I wanted to take every single child I know and squeeze them tight and feel that they were safe.  I wanted to hug all of my teachers, including my mother who was an elementary school teacher and would often substitute teach at my school as a kid (it always made me so proud when my mom was the teacher for the day!).  I wanted to hold my best friends and fellow teachers - whether it's yoga, music, even nannying - so we could console each other.

I don't know what to write about today.  This will probably be a non-cohesive mish mash of various things that will hopefully all make sense strewn together, but if not, bear with me...

Marc's wonderful dad came into town for work and among the many topics we debated and dissected was faith.  He is a Christian, even though he doesn't trust any man-made organized religion.  He's a skeptic and a believer all in one.

We had a huge and fascinating conversation about how he defines faith, and how faith is different than belief.  In response to his good-natured assertion that an agnostic is just too lazy to call themselves an atheist, I said that I'm not even sure if I'd go so far as to claim the label as agnostic.  I'm one of those many, many modern people who describes themselves as "spiritual, but not religious."  It's basically the same thing - a searching, undefined gray area where we want to believe in something but just can't seem to figure out what.

I do pray, but I have no idea who or what I'm praying to.  I believe in something, but I'm just not sure what.  I'm not comfortable totally aligning myself with any kind of text, because I think they were all written by man and no man (or woman) is perfect.  Although I try to live by some of the principles written out in the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita, yoga isn't a religion and I'm nowhere near well versed enough in them to claim that I live my whole life by them.

Where does that leave us spiritual seekers after a tragedy like this?  After twenty babies are horrifically murdered for absolutely no reason, not to mention the adults who looked after them and gave their lives to try to save them, what do we do?  Who do we turn to for comfort - aside from each other?

This shooting is also bringing up so much debate about so many different things, and probably the hardest one to deal with is those who claim that it happened because we took "God" out of the classroom.  That offends me to the absolute core.  There are plenty of good, gentle, kind, intelligent Christians who live up to that honorable ideal.  There are also plenty of unkind, hypocritical, extreme, and violent Christians.  You don't need a God to know that killing an innocent person is wrong.  People do that every day with or without a personal relationship with God and with or without ascribing to a particular religion.

This isn't one of those blogs where I have an answer and I explain how I came to my tidy conclusion.  I'd love to speak more eloquently and knowledgeably about this but I just can't.  I know I'm jumping all over the place, but there's so much to say and I have so little idea how to say it.

All I know is that this tragedy, and even the fact that it was sandwiched by my birthday and by Marc's as we move ever closer toward cementing our commitment to live our lives together, has gotten me thinking about faith.  I'm nowhere close to defining it, but there is one definition by Judith Hanson Lasater that I absolutely love.  From her book Living Your Yoga:

"...I came to understand that belief is a preconception about the way reality should be; faith is the willingness to experience reality as it is, including the acceptance of the unknown.  An interesting way to understand the difference is to use the words interchangeably in the same sentence:  I believe in Santa Claus.  I have faith in Santa Claus.  Belief can impede spiritual unfoldment; faith is supremely necessary for it."

"Reality as it is" is sometimes tragic and horrifying. It's sometimes wonderful and fortunate beyond all measure.  Both of those things are always true all at the same time all around the world.  All we can do is deal with whatever is in front of us with as much grace and love as we can muster.  And to hug children and each other whenever we get the opportunity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

As my birthday gift to myself...

...and also in the spirit of doing less to survive December, I'm letting someone else do the writing for me this week.

This blog post by Jessica Berger Gross speaks to a lot of what I feel often, and was particularly feeling last night as I was about to go to sleep.  I have a big to do list, as I often do, and I spent the evening after getting home from work plowing through it.  Christmas cards, cleaning, budgeting, wedding stuff - the usual.

As I was going to bed and making a new list of all the things I didn't get to, it occurred to me that day after day and week after week I obsess over my list and of crossing things off, but I very rarely take time to appreciate or applaud all that I actually do.  I don't really give myself credit for the productivity that I work so hard to achieve.  It made me think a lot about the niyama santosha, meaning contentment, that I've been hoping to spotlight this month.  Celebrating the now instead of constantly anticipating with joy or trepidation the next item on the to-do list, the next party - or my wedding.

Searching for morning inspiration, I came across this lovely, concise little blog that says so much of what I want to say from another person's perspective.  Given that she's a mom, it adds a whole new interesting layer to the dilemma.

I hope you enjoy - I'm off to enjoy my last day as a 27-year-old!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finishing Strong in 2012

Things seem to be starting earlier and earlier this season - Christmas decorations go up before Halloween is even a week away, the Christmas carols follow not too long after, and we all heard about the drama of starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving night (don't even get me started on that).  For the most part, I think it's all more than a little ridiculous, and does nothing but contribute to people being more likely to be Scrooge-y - who can blame you when you've just heard Here Comes Santa Claus for the 47 millionth time before December has even started?

This is one instance, however, where I am more than delighted to get a jump start.  I got an email from Athleta yesterday about a really great idea that happens to support a really great cause.

If you've ever watched The Biggest Loser or had a track coach or personal trainer, you've probably heard the phrase "Finish strong!" a lot.  It's at the end of a workout, whether it's the last mile or the last few reps, that you're tested the most and you're truly building your mental as well as physical strength.  Athleta is applying the mentality of "Finish Strong" to the year 2012 - why wait until January to set fitness goals for yourself?  Keeping up with a pledge to yourself will not only make you feel awesome instead of burned out at the end of the season, but it can benefit a fantastic organization, Girls on the Run, as well.  Read on:

Athleta will be engaging women to finish their 2012 strong by inspiring users to share their remaining 2012 aspirations and goals and encourage them to realize them before the year’s out.  In the spirit of community, the efforts made across Athleta’s Twitter and Facebook will collectively result in inspiring and empowering young girls (through the amazing organization Girls on the Run) to do the same. 

How it Works
Housed on Athleta’s Facebook page, Athleta will ask, “How will you Finish Strong in 2012?”. When an individual makes a pledge to themselves, it is published to their Facebook wall and then aggregated with other responses to form an inspirational mosaic of pledges within the application.  With every action (pledge, share or like), Athleta will donate $1 to Girls on the Run.

In addition to entering goal pledges through the Facebook app, users can participate via Twitter by tweeting their goal with the hashtag #FinishStrong2012.

The Facebook app will pull in all tweets with this hashtag and display them on a randomly selected background. Each use of the hashtag will drive a $1 donation for Girls on the Run.

My pledge is to run at least 2x/week and to strength train - either through the amazing Refine Method, or my beloved Jillian Michaels - at least 1x/week.  It's definitely not the most ambitious of fitness goals I've ever set, but let's be realistic, y'all - December is madness.  Setting yourself up for failure can sometimes be just as destructive as not setting any expectations for yourself at all.

I hope you'll join Athleta in supporting Girls on the Run and supporting your own good health!  Happy December! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Decadent/Detox/Dreaded/Delightful December

Oh, December.  You're not even here yet and you're already stressing me out.

There's the usual insane glut of holiday parties, December babies having birthday parties (including not only me but my fiance - born two days after me!), amazing movies and shows opening, and of course, the holidays.  Whichever holiday you celebrate, and whether you're traveling or staying home, the anxiety and pressure to crank out a zillion Christmas cards or buy the perfect gift without breaking your bank is enough to make you forget the point of the holidays in the first place.

Alongside all of these lovely problems to have, I've also got a wedding dress to squeeze into the day after Christmas for a fitting (and did I mention I'll be having Christmas dinner with my butter-and-bacon-lovin' southern Grandma who cooks like nobody's business?) and my cousin's wedding to attend on the 29th.  And my own wedding that I honestly haven't really done a thing to plan for in the last couple of months that edges closer every day.

My goal is to have this month be more about detoxing than decadence, more about delight than dread.

We'll see how it works out...but here are a couple of things I hope to employ to help me survive the month.  Each and every one will be a challenge!

1. Saucha

A niyama meaning purity or cleanliness, this is how I'm hopefully going to avoid the ever-present decadent temptations of the season.  December is probably the most ridiculous time to start counting calories and expect to lose weight...but I think it's an interesting challenge.  This principle can apply to external - our homes, our clothes, our skin - or it can apply to the internal.

Along with invoking this principle to choose to stick to just one glass of wine or pass up the amazing free cake, it's also something you can apply mentally and emotionally.  Purify your internal state before bed to get a better night's sleep - a few minutes of stretching, reading, or just not texting can do wonders for your quality of rest, helping you avoid burnout.

2. Aparigraha

A yama meaning non-hoarding or abundance, this can help stave off the inevitable materialism of this month.  Giving and getting gifts is exciting and fabulous, but is it me or has Black Friday and everything it represents gotten beyond ridiculous?  A hand written card is always, always going to mean more than a new gadget.  Not that you can't want or buy the gadget, but just keep in mind - we all already have everything we really need.  Everything else is just cake.

3. Santosha

A niyama meaning contentment, this is a really important one to remember once you get into the groove of constantly having to answer the question of what you want for the holidays.  You can get locked into the loop of constantly looking to the external world for your needs met - once you start to make a list, it's hard to stop (for me, anyway!).  Even if it feels a bit false at first, practice being content with where you are, what you have, and who you are.

4. This!  A must read for introverts or anyone who finds themselves feeling burned out by the holiday party circuit.

5. Prioritizing - and Letting Go

Some things are inevitably going to fall by the wayside.  Writing this blog, keeping up with my budget, and cleaning my floors are three things that are really important to me that I do every week (which I'm aware makes me sound like the most boring person ever) and it's often a challenge to find the time.  There are going to be weeks that one or all three might just not happen - and I'm resolving to recognize that 9 times out of 10, it's for a damn good reason, like a birthday party or extra work opportunity (everyone loves holiday yoga).  What am I going to remember a month from now - vacuuming or a friend's Christmas party?  If you're somewhat type A, this is probably the most important tip.  Prioritize what's iron-clad important, and sacrifice an opportunity to go out or a particular shopping trip to get it done.  If it's not top on the priority list...let it go.

6. Do Less

If you're overwhelmed, take something off the table.  Whether it be declining a party invite, slacking a bit on chores, or passing on a workout in favor of restorative rest, it's okay to create some space to breathe.

As I said, all of this will be a challenge and is much easier said than done.  Despite all my high minded ideas and yogic principles, I get stressed out very, very easily, so I'll be referring back to this list quite a bit this month.  It's already been helping me this week - I hope it can help you too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gratitude Practice

When Thanksgiving comes around and someone inevitably asks you what you're thankful for (at least I hope everyone gets asked this question!), it's very easy to pull from the basics - family, friends, health, home, relative safety and security.  It's pretty much a given that those are the things that will be at the top of our gratitude list.

What about the things you regret in life?  Heartaches that still provoke pain that you wish had just plain never happened, or had happened differently.  Periods of depression or health issues.  Even a situation currently going on in your life can be something you wish would just go away.

I had tea with an old friend who was an intern with me at Florida Studio Theatre four years ago, who I haven't seen since that time in my life.  We had a blast catching up, reminiscing, shuddering at past behaviors and events.  I went back later that night and reread some of my journal entries from that period and was brought back so vividly to how sad I was at that time in my life and what ridiculously intense feelings of sadness I so often felt.  It tapped in to a lot of fear, shame, and other lovely things of that sort to the point where I wished so much of it had never happened.

By the same token, though, it's exactly those feelings and those experiences that I've learned the most from and have shaped me the most profoundly as a person.  It's important to give the dark times our acknowledgment in gratitude, too.

Try a new gratitude practice this Thanksgiving.  Take something - it can be the worst regret of your life or a current tiff with a family member, or anything that you'd paint with a negative brush at first glance - and at least for one moment, see if it's possible to be grateful for it.  It's easy to feel gratitude for the obvious blessings and things going right all the time, but let's work that gratitude muscle a little harder and go deeper.  How did that dark moment make you stronger?  How did that heartache make you more independent?  How have embarrassing moments made you more aware of your flaws?  Turning darkness into light is definitely something we can use more of this time of year.

Happy Turkey or Tofurkey Day, everyone, and I'll see you next week!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life Plugged in, Life Unplugged

Ever since I wrote that post back in August about creating more space - and I'm sure before then - I've thought about how rarely I have moments in the day where I'm not reading something, listening to something, watching something, or doing something.  Idleness.  Moments where my mind can just go where it'll go.

Too often the only time that happens is when I'm meditating for my 7 or so minutes in the morning - and then I wonder why I can't seem to turn my brain off or turn my interest inward.

Reading Kris Carr's weekly blog, she quoted a friend of hers, Cheryl Richardson, as saying something that really struck a nerve:  "When we lose connection to our spirit, the outer world and all its stimulating distractions become more alluring."

(Can you say iPhone?)

The very next morning, I was reading a passage from Rolf Gates's Meditations from the Mat in which he quoted Henri J. M. Nouwen, who Google kindly tells me was a respected Dutch priest who published many books on spirituality.  Nouwen wrote, "When the deepest currents of our life no longer have any influence on the waves at the surface, then our vitality will eventually ebb, and we will end up listless and bored even when we are busy."

The final inspiration was this New York Times article called "Hurricane Sandy Reveals a Life Unplugged," about how people who were mercifully unaffected by the hurricane in any life threatening way dealt with their power loss - most notably, how their children and family unit coped with loss of power.

Reading the article, I found myself feeling all high and mighty and more than a little judgmental of this upcoming generation's frankly frightening addiction to phones, iPads, and computers...and then I checked Facebook.

When I got back to being introspective, I realized that for all my lofty goals and expectations of how I'll be someday as a parent in terms of setting technology limits (no cell phones for kindergarteners, for God's sake), I was addicted to our mouseless Dos computer as a kid, playing games and writing short stories.  You couldn't tear me away from Windows 95, Microsoft Word, and America Online (remember instant messaging??) as a middle schooler.  In high school, I was obsessed with an online message board and counted my online friends as some of my best.  In fact, I met my oldest friend through the Internet.

As for today?  My iPhone is never too far from my grasp and Facebook never goes unchecked for too long.  Although I like to let myself off the hook by using the excuse that it's imperative for my work (and it is), it's also my responsibility to set limits for myself.

As Cheryl Richardson so eloquently and simply stated, the more we're distracted by or reaching for outside things, the less we're satisfied with our most basic relationship with our spirit.  In yoga, the yama aparigraha and the niyama santosha are huge, huge factors in this particular spiritual struggle.

Aparigraha is often defined as "non-grasping" or "greedlessness."  Nischala Joy Devil in The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman's Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras interprets it as "abundance."  By acknowledging the abundance we already possess, we have the ability to say "Enough" and resist waste and over-accumulation.

Santosha is a bit easier to define - most sources agree on the translation of "contentment" or "I am content."  Easy to define, hard to practice each day.

New York City in particular is a really challenging place to practice these two principles.  Nearly every single street you walk down houses a clothing store, a convenience store, a delicious restaurant or pastry shop or food truck or Halal cart.  Opportunity and temptation to spend money and acquire new things are everywhere you look - not to mention you can have essentially anything you want delivered to your door at anytime.  It's tough to stay a sensible spender or remember that you don't actually need 47 more pairs of yoga pants.  It's also tough to feel content when you're in a city that's filled with some of the most driven, ambitious workaholics on the planet always seeking more success, more validation, more accomplishments, more money.  It's one of the things I love so much about the city, but it's also one of the ways in which it can be exhausting - in every possible way.

It's one of the oldest cliches in the book and it's absolutely true:  Money doesn't buy happiness.  Money very often buys regret.  It can certainly afford you and your family a certain amount of stability, standard of living, and security, but as we most recently learned from Sandy, all of that can be wiped away in the blink of an eye.

Just as money doesn't buy happiness, the bursts of dopamine your brain releases when you get a new email, text, or Facebook notification don't give it to you either.

What I've come to believe is this:  The more constantly plugged in you are to the external world, the more unplugged you will likely be from your internal strength of spirit.  The more plugged in you are to your spirit, the less you need that constant plug-in to the outside world.

I'm not saying throw your iPhone on the subway tracks and move to a cabin in Vermont - although that does sound nice some days.  I'm not saying shirk your responsibilities by any means to this external world, or that the external world is intrinsically evil.  But set some limits for yourself.  Be your own guardian just as parents are (or should be) guardians of what their children are exposed to.  You know how every single study on how to fall asleep more easily says no electronics a half hour before bed?  Try that.  (It's harder than it sounds, at least for me)  Don't check your email while you're still laying in bed in the morning having just woken up.  Give yourself a little space throughout the day, and just be with you.  Let that be enough.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Compassion, Gratitude, and Lightness

Sitting down to write today's blog is very intimidating.  So much has happened the last week and a half.  So many peoples' lives are completely uprooted, homes and livelihoods destroyed, there was so much controversy and intense emotion about the NYC marathon, there was a monumentally emotional presidential election, and oh yes - a snowstorm in the tri-state area yesterday.  In-sane.

Compassion, Gratitude, and Lightness are the three most positive yoga-y words that come to mind when I think about this last week and a half.  There are plenty of other words - fear, stress, power, MTA, mother nature, climate change, suffering, volunteer, voting, freedom, donate, misery, trauma, sadness, cold...this week and a half could be an endless exercise in free association and freewriting.

I want to keep things short and sweet, though, if that's possible (it may not be!).  My head has been spinning as I've been absolutely addicted to the news and facebook to get updates on Sandy, the marathon madness, the election, and the nor'easter.  I've read more articles in the last two weeks than probably the last two months!  I just have this to say:

For the victims of the extreme weather, for people disappointed in the election's outcome, for the person who rushes to get on the crowded subway without letting you off first or the person who cuts you off in traffic.  Compassion.

This one almost feels like a no-brainer.  Especially with Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday!) just around the corner, gratitude is already on my brain in November.  But sitting here at my desk, with my window open showing a gorgeous sky and a few gorgeous, hardy fall leaves who have survived the last couple of weeks, and feeling warm and sheltered...I'm overhwelmed with gratitude.

Instead of handing out water to marathoners approaching Mile 25, Marc and I instead spent Sunday heading to Staten Island.  We sorted through donated clothes, brought donations of our own, and before we left took a walk down to the beach and saw a devastated neighborhood.  It was overhwelming.  There's grief, there's misery, there's so much pain - and there's also so much selfless, incredible mobilization on the part of government programs, nonprofits, and citizens to donate their time, money, and anything they can spare.  The gratitude from the victims for the outpouring of support (not to mention the canceling of the marathon - too late, but thank god the call was made), and the gratitude those of us unaffected or less affected are currently feeling for our blessed situation is everywhere.

We "went dark" last Sunday with Daylight Savings Time.  At a time when the city and tri-state area - as well as many around the country having major anxiety about the election, no matter who you were voting for - were suffering so much, it was already feeling pretty damn dark.  The burden of all this added stress and madness has made everyone feel incredibly weighed down with worry or suffering.

It all made me think of a quote I became familiar with after reading The Happiness Project, one attributed to G K Chesterson:

"It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light."

It's so true and it's important to recognize the value of cultivating lightness.  It's not about caring less, and it's not just about painting on a false smile or forcing an affect of cheerfulness.  It's constant work to free your heart and mind from whatever negativity - whether it be anxiety over your candidate or no longer having a roof over your head - is facing you.  When we are light, we are better equipped to help ourselves and to help others.  We are more inclined to take positive, concrete action.

I don't write this to seem glib or to imply that just by adopting a sunny attitude everything's going to get easier, and don't worry, it'll all be okay!  I write this to acknowledge that it's one of the hardest possible things to do, but it's worth it.  It's often something worth reminding yourself of a billion times a day, and sometimes you just have to live in the darkness or the heavy, heavy burden and just be there.  That's okay, too.  But there will always, always be a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you're alive.

With that, I'm cribbing a list of ways to help from a fellow yoga blogger.  Keep spreading the word, keep spreading your light, keep spreading your gratitude, and keep spreading compassion!

Occupy Sandy Relief - This is a fantastic online resource of relief/volunteer information in our area. You can sign up for texts or emails to stay informed. There's also a volunteer update page that tells you what's happening on the ground and how you can help. - An online community that allows neighborhoods to efficiently come together to help those in need. There are pages for Red HookAstoria, the Lower East Side, and Staten Island.

Red Cross - You can text REDCROSS to 90999 and instantly donate $10 to Disaster Relief. Or you can donate online. For other ways to make a financial donation, click here.

NYC Service - An amazing resource for up-to-date opportunities to help.

The Salvation Army - To make a monetary donation. There are also separate websites specific for NY and NJ

The Humane Society - It's totally inconceivable to me that many people were rescued from their homes but were not allowed to take their pets. You can make a donation to help the Humane Society's efforts in recovering animals after the storm.

Benefit Yoga Classes - Many of the NYC/NJ studios are offering benefit classes to support relief efforts. Check your local studio.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Refine Method, brought to me by Athleta

Happy Hurrication Day, fellow east coasters!  I hope everyone is battening down the hatches and staying safe.  (Or planning hurricane parties, if you're in New York City)  Marc's relishing the rare opportunity to sleep in, while I slept in...til about 8:45.

Today will be all about making sure we're all set for the storm - my mom just gave us the excellent advice to make sure we have cash on hand, which we didn't even think about, so heed my mom's advice, everyone! - and finally turning our attention back to that little event known as our wedding coming up in less than five months.  What with my race, Marc working hard to prepare for filming a sketch he wrote this weekend, and life in general being busy, we haven't really had time to spare for it.

I also wanted to take advantage of the unexpected free time to write my entry this week.  I'm glad I don't have to wait until Thursday, my typical bloggin' day, to write about the awesome morning I had last Thursday.

I was once again generously invited by Athelta to preview one of their collections - this time it's their upcoming Spring 2013 collection.  (Spring?  Really?  The two-seasons-ahead nature of fashion has always thrown me off.)  The clothes, as always, are beautiful and functional, and they're really expanding into so many other sports than the typical run-and-yoga-wear you see in many athletic clothing lines.  They're developing swim pants for surfing, paddleboarding, and other water sports, triathalon suits designed to go easily from swimming to biking to running, and even clothing for sports like golf.

After taking a tour of the collection, I was ushered into the room where the morning's complimentary fitness class was going to take place - a new class called Refine Method.  I had absolutely zero idea what to expect - all I knew was I was told to wear my running shoes.

The class was fantastic, hard, and sweaty.  It felt like I was doing a Jillian Michaels video but with an actual teacher and with props.  Refine mixes cardio and functional training for a safe and intense workout that leaves you a quivering, sweaty, but very happy puddle on the floor afterward.  The class was taught by Brynn Jinnett, who I later discovered was the founder of the class.  With locations in Union Square, the Upper East Side, and the Upper West, I'm definitely going to be back.  The classes are on the pricier side for me, but they offer great new-student packages.

After the class, I got my incredibly generous free gift - a workout top and capris from Athleta.  I found my gift bag among the rest, and couldn't help but notice the other name tags on some of the bags noted people from Women's Health, the New York Times, and other really respected and legitimate news organizations...and then couldn't help wondering what my name was doing among them!  Regardless, I'll take it with lots of enthusiastic gratitude!   The enclosed outfit could not have been more perfect - the top was the new Skills & Drills Tank and the bottom was the Relay Capri.  The top is that perfect Athleta combination of girly and pretty and incredibly funcional and comfortable.  It might be the first top I can take running without an extra sports bra underneath, which would make my weekly laundry load happy.  The capris were a really exciting treat, as my Relay Capris in black were the pants that saw me through every single long run I took in my half marathon training as well as the race itself.  Happily, the gifted capris were in a beautiful black heather (i.e. grayish) color, which I like even more than my original blacks.

I already recommend Athleta to any woman with any need for any workout clothes, sportswear, comfortable undies, or cute dresses - now I'd love to recommend Refine Method to anyone living in New York City looking to shake up their workout routine with a really intelligent blend of cardio and functional strength training.

Once again, Happy Hurrication, and stay safe everyone!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Finish Line

Well, readers, I did it.  13.1 miles with my sister by my side, starting at the still-dark hour of 7am and ending around 9:30 (I had 2 hrs 25 minutes by my watch, but our official time says 2 hrs and 29).

What shocked me most of all was how doable it was.  Not necessarily easy, of course, but completely within my capacity to do.  It was an amazing feeling coming up on Mile 10 - previously the farthest I've ever run - and realized that I felt great and had enough gas in the tank to increase my pace.  Despite my aching, aching feet (which started talking to me around miles 5 or 6 and didn't let up) and my intermittent hunger pains, I was so excited just to be in the moment.

For the last few miles when our conversation, which had been steady up until that point, started to ease off, I would occasionally find myself wanting it to be over, wanting to be at the finish line so I could stop and eat and drink and celebrate.  Whenever that happened, though, I reminded myself that this was the only first time I was ever going to be running 13.1 miles at this beautiful place, with the weather we were so blessed with, with my sister, during this wonderful, life changing year. I tried to mentally relax, to be where I was, and to enjoy the present.  Hearing the huffs and puffs of the runners around us, passing them or being passed by them, basking in the moments where there were spectators and supporters - and at that point, much faster runners who had already finished the race - and laughing at the one guy at the aid stand who instead of calling out "Water!" called out "Mimosas!"

It sounds incredibly simplistic, but it's something yoga tells us to do constantly - instead of yearning for the past or anxiously awaiting the end of something, be where you are.  It might not be easy - and it might not be as overwhelmingly meaningful to you as this race was to me - but you will get so much more out of each and every experience.

My main life philosophy was, I'm only slightly ashamed to admit, cribbed from a Yogi Tea Teabag (for the record, I feel the quality of the little teabag wisdom phrases has declined over the years...) and it reads "The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment."  As I've written before - that's a lot easier to do when you're staying present for every moment.

A funny little post script to this weekend - I went for my first run since the race early yesterday morning.  I only planned an easy 3 mile run around Astoria Park, just to get my body moving again. Halfway through, I started feeling hip pain - that I hadn't felt at all during or after the race - and walked for most of the last mile.  As my sister said earlier, some mornings you can run 13.1 like it's no problem - some mornings you can barely run 3.  It's humbling!

And without further rambling, some pictures from my fabulous photo (and video!) taking sister - to whom I owe a great debt for having this idea in the first place.

3.1 miles in and feeling fabulous!
At around the 6 mile mark or so...almost halfway!

Heavenly reward for all that running...

We had such a blast at Mt. Atlanticus with Megan's friend Kenny, who also ran the race and was so much fun to play with this weekend.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Final Countdown

This morning marked my very last training run before Sunday's half marathon.  I ran five miles around the neighborhood - to LaGuardia airport and back, then on to Astoria Park with its amazing view of the Manhattan skyline.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the coming race.  I'm unbelievably excited, first and foremost.  I can't wait to get on that plane to Myrtle Beach, to see my sister for the first time since her wedding last month, to actually run the 13.1 miles, and to eat all the glorious food that will fuel us up before and after.  Also she said something about a hot tub and an indoor pool at the hotel, so there's that...

I feel really prepared, which isn't necessarily something I anticipated feeling.  I think part of me really thought the training was going to kill me!  I still can't really believe that I've run as much as I have these last months.

Amidst all the excitement and pride, I'm also feeling both sad and relieved.  I don't have a desire to run a full marathon (sorry, Megan!) and this is the "last first time" I'll train for a half.  The discovery of my ability to just plain do it has been really rewarding and special, and it's an experience I want to savor before life blazes forward like it does.  Training for this race has been one of the best ways to appreciate the gorgeous transition into fall.  Being outside more, being in the most nature-heavy parts of this city, and watching the leaves turn even more beautiful today than they were yesterday has been so wonderful.  The runs where I don't have any music or any podcast have been incredible ways to think through problems, zone out and daydream, visualize the race, and meditate.

Despite my reluctance to let this moment in time go, there is certainly a part of me that will greatly appreciate the space this will open up in my life.  As much as I have loved Sunday morning runs in Central Park - especially when Marc comes with me and joins me for a fabulous post run brunch - it will be nice to have a day during the week where I don't have to wake up to an alarm clock.  I can turn my attention to my best autumn friend - my Crock Pot!  I'll have a little more space for yoga, and a little more space to plan that little wedding that's happening in a little over five months.  I'm also expecting Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen cookbook in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to get experimenting with new healthy recipes!

I'll also have more space to reread (yep, reread) an absolutely wonderful book that I just devoured:  the sequel to Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project that I was so insanely obsessed with last fall, Happier at Home.  It's very similar to her first book, she just delves more deeply and tackles some different resolutions.  It's fun, fascinating, and as compulsively readable as a novel (or maybe a novel in blog-style).  It completely appeals to me, as a resolution-making, goal-setting, chart-loving, self-improvement and organization freak.

So in two days I'll be off to beautiful Myrtle Beach, SC, and I'm sure the following week's blog will be a recap of the amazing weekend.  Soon, though - back to book reports, non-running ponderings, and oh yeah - yoga!

Happy Thursday, Internets!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Non-Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

This past weekend threw a (delightful) wrench into my usual training schedule - Marc's lovely cousin Dan married his lovely longtime love Amanda and we went up north to join in the festivities.  It was a great time, and I absolutely love Marc's family.  I even got to spend time with his Grandpa and with his brother and sister-in-law who are visiting from London for the occasion.

Normally I go for my long runs on Sundays, with shorter runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Between being sick last weekend and having to skip my scheduled 9 mile run, and this past weekend pushing my Sunday run to very early Monday morning, before my full day of teaching and working, I was a little worried about how that run (10 miles) would turn out.  It was my first long run since doing 8 over two weeks ago, I was running on a barely healed blister on my right instep, and most importantly, I would be running all 10 miles completely by myself.  No Marc, no Megan, no running buddy whatsoever.

"Gulp" was my major reaction when I thought about this run.

Although I was a little worried about how I would do physically, between the loss of training, the blister, and the decadent eating and drinking that always occurs when I'm with the LeVasseurs (and at a wedding no less!), I was much more concerned about how I would survive the alone part.  With no Marc to talk to to make the first 5 or 6 miles fly by, how would I possibly be mentally able to stay in it for the long haul?  Even for the race I'm not going to be alone - Megan and I are going to stick together as long as we can until our paces start to differ.

Despite my reservations, sleepiness, and the chill in the air, I got myself up, cued up my GPS, and went for it.  For part of it I listened to podcasts (the remainder of a Jillian Michaels Show and most of a Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me) but for a good two and a half miles in the middle there I went without anything but my little ol' brain.  I was continually surprised throughout the whole run - or really, once I woke up after mile 2 - at how easy it seemed.  Not that it wasn't challenging, because obviously I was running, but I'd think at any given time at how many I had run so far and how many I had to go and I always knew I could do it.  Given how doubtful I felt, and despite the violent reappearance of my blister at mile 5, it's amazing that once I was out there doing it, it seemed like no big deal.  After the halfway point, my trusty Nike GPS man said "4 miles to go" instead of "6 miles completed," and I immediately thought - "4 miles?  That's nothing!"

After the run, I still have a very long day ahead of me and I was quite worried that I'd burn out and just be completely physically exhausted and mentally fried by the end of the day, but I was truly in such a fantastic mood the whole rest of the day.  I had good food and some time to stretch and put my legs up the wall for 10 minutes or so, and I was good to go.

I'm still a little sore from it, and the short, easy runs since then have felt even harder than the 10 miler.  But I'm 10 days out from the race and very much looking forward to tapering down the mileage.  I'll be running 7 miles on Sunday, and then the following Sunday...the big 13.1.

Luckily I'm taking a yoga class later with my best friend to help heal from this crazy new mileage and to help reset my brain with the reminder that worry is truly futile.  I didn't feel lonely or scared on that run, and I know that I can do this race now with no problem.  It's pretty awesome.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Drive by post, sponsored by Athleta!

Holy moly, what an insane week it's been.  Super long, busy days, the craziest zombie party ever, a massive head cold, the return of my best friend from upstate, and now heading out of town for my fiance's cousin's wedding.  Yet somehow, I'm posting a blog this week.

I could pontificate on being forced to surrender to my cold on Sunday instead of running the 9 miles that were on my training schedule, or how that first run yesterday to cement my conquering of the cold felt, or plenty of other things that happened this week, but I'm going to instead write about my favorite clothing company, Athleta!

I stopped by Athleta on my way to a private yesterday to return a pair of pants - my very favorite pants ever, the Java Capris - for a new pair because I've literally worn a hole in them, and wound up with some other goodies.

I was also generously gifted with some awesome hi-res images of some of their upcoming running gear for winter.  My half marathon will end just before temperatures get really chilly (especially since the race itself is going to be in balmy Myrtle Beach) but my love for running is at an all time high and I want to be able to get out the door no matter how cold or snowy or icy or whatever it may be outside.

Enjoy the pretty pictures, check out, and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Fourth Constant

Everyone has heard the expression that the only two constants in life are death and taxes.  They're the only two things you can always, always, always be sure to count on.  The older you get, the more you also hear the little pearl of wisdom that change is the only constant in life.  People usually tell you this when you feel you're at the 'end of an era,' like the end of college or a relationship.

Those three things are pretty well embedded into our consciousness, I think, so much so that they're cliche.  I think there's one more constant (at least - anyone else think of any?) that often gets overlooked.

You always have yourself.

It's so unbelievably simple (and potentially hokey sounding) so it makes sense that we take it for granted.

I have so many friends and family right now that are going through huge life changes - getting married, getting engaged, breaking up, moving in, having babies, having parents divorce and remarry, losing family members - every single friend of mine that I can think of is going through or has gone through one of these staggering life changes over the last year or so.  Change is such an unbelievable constant in our lives that it's easy to get swept up in those external changes in circumstance and forget about the other side of the coin.  No matter what happens in your life, you're alone in the beginning, you're alone in the end, and you always have yourself through the crazy middle.

A lot of people might find it morbid or depressing - the total aloneness of birth and death - but it can (and I think should) be comforting and empowering.  It doesn't mean that you don't open yourself up to love or that you don't ever get married, but it just means you should never take yourself for granted as a source of comfort, strength, and love.

This is one of the main reasons why a mediation practice is so powerful.  I don't even mean a seated-in-lotus meditation necessarily - any kind of communal time with yourself is so important and powerful.  Any activity where you're alone and you're in that space that's somewhere between zoning out and finding that elusive quiet, present, focused mind, whether it be yoga, running, knitting, swimming, journaling, even walking to the subway or doing the dishes.  However lofty or mundane, those moments of quiet and self communion are so precious because whether we realize it or not, we're connecting more deeply with ourself.

I'm about to experience this on a very small scale.  For the last three Sundays, Marc has been my faithful running partner.  With his help, 7 and 8 miles felt like a normal day's run, and this past Sunday's 10K felt like a breeze.  It was the farthest he had ever run before, and I shattered my previous 10K record from 2008 by 15 minutes.  Running with Marc, we pace each other, talk to each other, encourage each other, inspire each other, and basically make running easy and enjoyable.

This coming Sunday, however, he'll be working when I tackle my longest distance yet - 9 miles.  I'll be going it totally alone, and I'm extremely nervous that I won't be able to do it.  I tried to help encourage myself this morning by running my 4 miles without a podcast or music (or Marc, who was working).  It went really well and I found myself thinking about all of this (running is the best blogging brainstorm) and how I so often doubt that I'll be okay on my own at something where I've decided I need a security blanket or someone to hold my hand.  We disempower ourselves so quickly and so easily, and it's amazing how quickly we declare ourselves to be dependent on someone or something outside of ourselves.

It's all an illusion.  I can run 9 miles by myself.  People survive breakups.  Young parents survive new parenthood.  We live on after our loved ones pass away.  Meditation in any form makes it so much easier to always know you can count on yourself as your ultimate rock and support.

There's a quote from a book I've talked about a lot in this blog, The Joy of Living, that sums up much more eloquently and succinctly the point I'm trying to make:

"The only difference between meditation and social interaction is that the friend you're gradually coming to know is yourself."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

World Peace Day

Good Saturday morning!  I'm squeezing this week's post in just under the wire...

Yesterday was the International Day of Peace, an annual observance by the UN every September 21st.

I taught a Tween (10-12 yrs) and Teen class at Karma Kids, and Shari reminded me it was world peace day (because I of course had no idea!) and to mention it in my classes.

I'm still building my new voice as a tween/teen yoga teacher after my amazing training this summer, and it was really exciting to be gifted a theme to plan a class around.  I'm still not a huge planner - I always ask the kids if there's anything special they feel like doing and I try to accomodate as much as I can.  But I did throw plenty of "peace" into the class, starting from our opening chant, and at the end of class as they lay in relaxation, I read a peace meditation that I adapted from a few google searches that I'd like to share with you today, readers:

Close your eyes. Relax your body. Try to let go of all outside thoughts and just for a moment watch your breath. Feel the air flowing in and out of your body.
Then start to imagine imagine that it is not air that you are breathing in but peace. Think about a time when you have felt very peaceful and very strong and try and breathe in that feeling. Breathe it in and feel the peace flowing throughout your entire body. Feel that the peace is flowing into your heart and then down to your toes and up through your arms and to the top of your head. Imagine that peace as a white light that is full of strength and calm, and it is filling you with that light. Now as you breathe out try imagining that you are breathing out of yourself any fear or anger that you might have. Breathe in and out like this for a few minutes and when you start to feel full of peace and strength, you can release the breathing out of anger and instead imagine that you are breathing peace into the world. You are creating peace for others to feel. You are helping the whole world to feel more peace.

When you are ready, let that practice go. Keep your eyes closed. Just for a few moments think about how you can be more peaceful in your life. Perhaps the next time you are about to get angry over something very small, remember that anger causes unhappiness not just for you, but for those around you. Remember the strength that comes from peace.

And I concluded with a quote that I love:

Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Teen class turned out to be much larger than normal, which I was thrilled about. Unfortunately I was pressed for time at the end and we didn't have much time for discussion after class about how the meditation went for them and how it made them feel. Next time we do this or a similar exercise, I really look forward to getting feedback from them. Try this practice yourself sometime - I think it's one that we all sorely need.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A gateway to being present: Slow Down

I'm sitting down to write this blog and to be honest, 47 million other things on my to do list are scattering around in my brain, plus the temptation to just mess around on facebook for an hour.  I have to be out the door at a certain time and I always, always, always have more to do than time to do it in.

On Sunday, I went for my longest run ever - so far.  Compared to the 13.1 I'll be running (ack!) in little over a month, 7 isn't such a huge number, but it's a mile farther than I'd ever run before.  Luckily, I had Marc with me for almost the whole time, which was such a huge help in so many ways.  One of the biggest benefits to having him with me was how often he told me, "Slow down."  The long runs are supposed to be at a slow, conversation, and dare I say leisurely pace.  There's no rush to get to the finish, the point is just to do it and get those miles in your body.  Conserving energy is essential, and you don't want to put anymore stress on your body by going fast than you already are by upping your mileage.

When I went out again on Tuesday morning and then again this morning, I was alone, but every so often his voice would pop up in my head:  "Slow down."  What's the rush, after all?  It's not like I'm an elite athlete trying to set records - I just want to make it to the finish in one piece!

I'm feeling a similar sense of rushing - and thus feeling overwhelmed - when I look ahead to my schedule for the next few months.  I'm very excited and very fortunate to be teaching some new classes - I'm continuing to learn and explore Prenatal Pilates, I'll have a regular Circus Yoga class, and I'm teaching tween and teen classes for the first time since my amazing Karma Kids Yoga Teen Teacher Training blew my mind.  I also have my very first regular Mom & Baby Yoga class on Friday mornings at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio.  I took the training last October and have subbed here and there, but I've never had a chance to teach a regular class and build the skills and confidence that comes from consistent teaching.

All of these great new opportunities make me want to spend every waking moment rereading my manuals, planning out classes, and practice teaching - but I'm also working 6 days a week, planning a wedding, training for this race, and attempting to keep my apartment clean (and hang out with my fiance!).  When I get overwhelmed - or just plain exhausted from all this crazy overstimulation of my brain and long days after a month of vacationing - I've started to tell myself this week - Slow Down.  Take things a class at a time, a day at a time, and I know that eventually I'll get to where I want to be as a teacher.  I talk all the time about my discomfort with being a "beginner" - I want to be good at what I do, and confident in my abilities.

If these past two years at Karma Kids Yoga has taught me anything, it's that I just have to put in the time and keep teaching and I'll get to where I want to be.  Sure, if I were only focusing on one of these new things I'd get way better at it way faster, but ultimately I'm going to have an even more widely diverse skill set than I already do - and the most important thing is, there's no finish line to it!  To deeply overuse a's a (half) marathon, not a sprint.  More importantly, it's life, and not a race.

Slow down.  It keeps you present, keeps you sane, and keeps challenges manageable.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Big excitement!

(If you've ever seen Drop Dead Gorgeous...that was the inspiration for this post's title.  I was sitting here all happy and excited and trying so hard to think of a cute and clever title, and that moment from the movie just shot into my brain!)

I probably write this every single year, whether in this blog or my own journal, but I love fall.  I can't possibly overstate how much I absolutely love this season.  I love spring too, and summer is always a blast and it's sad to say goodbye to the beach, but I think fall is my favorite because, without fail, it always gives me a boundless sense of enthusiasm, energy, optimism, and desire to be productive and awesome.   (And it apparently inspires even more run on sentences than usual.  Sheesh.) A few years ago, while journaling, I referred to September as "my second January."  That about sums it up!

As a result of all this excited energy, I have about 80 billion things I want to write about, and don't really feel up to writing about any one particular thing in depth.  Hence - hodgepodge blog!

They were married in a rose garden by their good friend Red
The most important thing to mention is that I gained an amazing new family member - my big sister married Jeremy Arel, her love of nearly three years.  I loved Jeremy from the first time I met him and felt he and my sister were a perfect match.  Their wedding was beautiful, the vows were heartfelt (I think every single picture I'm in of the ceremony I'll be crying my eyes out), and they had the most amazing after party ever.  You can't top bowling and karaoke!  I'm still waiting for that video of the group doing Bohemian Rhapsody to show up on Facebook...

Husband and Wife!
And as a quick plug - if you live in the Charlotte, NC area or near Ft. Mill, SC or are every there for any reason, you should definitely check out their amazing school for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Great Grappling.  Jeremy is the professor (he earned his black belt in Brazil a couple of years back) and Megan runs the show.  The space is beautiful and they even have a room for the kiddies to play while the grown-ups grapple!  I'm so insanely proud of this awesome burgeoning business they've worked so hard to build.

Tears of joy!
Megan's wedding was the last event I had to travel for after a seriously travel-heavy summer.  Although I've been mostly able to keep to my half marathon training plan, some aches, pains, hard runs in the heat, and too much homemade moonshine at the wedding's afterparty knocked me slightly off-kilter.  This week has been about getting back to a comfortable place in my running (I run the longest I've ever run in my life on Sunday - 7 miles!  Ack!) and more importantly, reconnecting with my own yoga practice.  This year I've been teaching and working so much that I really stopped prioritizing fitting in my own yoga practice and taking yoga classes just for me, and I definitely prioritized running over yoga while traveling in August.

Thankfully, with Karma Kids opening for kids classes on Monday, I've had some open spots in my schedule this week and just got back from my third yoga class in five days.  This is a huge deal for me these days and I can't express how amazing I feel.  It's obviously important for me to incorporate yoga into my life to help balance out all the running, but the most important thing is how yoga helps me to cope with everything life throws at me, good and bad.  It helps me let go of resentments I've been hanging onto, helps me keep a cheerful disposition, and it reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for.  It's hard to whine and complain after a great yoga class!

Finally, I wanted to share a little something.  One of my friends at Athleta emailed me the image below and asked me to please share it with my readers.  Check out their website to learn more!

Happy September, everyone!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Farewell to Summer, Farewell to a Friend

It's getting to be that wonderful time of year...the cool breeze of fall starts to blow, the leaves are already changing, my Crock Pot will soon be dusted off, and it's time to say a sad goodbye to the beach and hello to back-to-school.  Karma Kids slows down considerably during the summer only to crank into overdrive after Labor Day, so I'm feeling the calm-before-the-play-yoga-storm right now.  I've got one more summer adventure ahead - my big sister's wedding on Saturday - and then I get to settle back down into a regular schedule.

Yesterday's sad (but unbelievably fun!) goodbye to the beach wasn't the only goodbye I had this weekend.  One of my best friends and the reason why I'm living this life I so dearly love of working with children today, Laura Frye, has finally bid farewell to New York and is starting a new adventure with her wonderful husband in Milwaukee, WI.

It's not goodbye forever - they'll be back for a least a little while in March, and she'll be back just next and will join me in celebrating our boss's daughter's awesome haunted house birthday.  But my everyday life will be dramatically different and less bright without her in it.

I've known Laura for about 5 years, but we really became close 3 years ago at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival where I was the Company Manager/Assistant to the Artistic Director/Much Ado groupie.  We had many great times together and she started accompanying me to yoga classes at a great Williamsburg, VA studio Body Balance.

That September, when I moved to New York and started Sonic Yoga's 200-hr Teacher Training, our friendship became more yoga-fied when we started having weekly yoga dates where I'd practice teach her in her living room.  The combination of yoga, gossip, and occasionally wine and sushi, only served to deepen our friendship!

Playing with little Karma Kids Yogis
The following year, in 2010, was when Laura started working at Karma Kids and got me on board to take the teacher training and work at the desk.  Obviously, the rest is history - I got hooked on kids yoga, expanded to pre and postnatal, and now am even doing pre/postnatal Pilates through Karma Kids.

We've taught each other, learned from each other, helped each other out, and been there for each other countless times over the years - both in yoga and life.  It's been very hard not to feel sad and depressed about her leaving, despite how happy I know she and Lenny will be in Milwaukee.  I've decided to think of Laura, instead of just a beautiful friend that I'll miss at work and at play, as a teacher that I've learned so much from.  As with anyone or anything in life, it's really about what you can take away from it and what you've learned.

Reading at her wedding to Lenny
So in honor of my friend and my teacher, I just wanted to list a tiny handful of things I've learned from her.  Love you and miss you, Lala, and NYC is not the same without you!  See you next time :)

No one's problems are worse than anyone else's.  Everyone's going through something, so don't put your issues up on a pedestal over someone else's.

Stay positive, even if you don't see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ask for what you want in a loud, clear voice.

Our southern manners are one of the greatest gifts we've received in life - use them!

Kids are never in charge.

Work hard - we're only here once.

Wear sunscreen.  Wear a hat.  Get screened.

American Eagle has the best underwear.

Be proud of your faith.

You can't be vegan in Italy.

Every girl needs a secret summer.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What the World Needs Now

I was going to write about all the crazy mental places my mind goes during a long or difficult (or both) run today, but in light of yet another mass shooting in America, this time in my very own city, I've been thinking about other things.

The song, obviously, says we need love - and that's always true.  We can also use compassion.  Compassion for those whose views differ from ours (never more needed than in an election year in the age of the Internet, god help us), compassion for those less fortunate, and compassion for each and every person who's been affected in Aurora, Milwaukee - to say nothing of the victims of violence around the world.

I'd like to share a really lovely Compassion Meditation today.  I've seen it in many different places - from Sharon Salzberg, to to my KKY Teen Teacher Training Intensive.  It can vary a bit depending on where you see it, but I'll offer a pretty simple distillation of the various versions.

Come to a comfortable seat, either on the floor, up against the wall, or in a char.  You can also come to lay down on your back - any position that allows you to be comfortable with your spine straight.

This meditation is in three parts.  To begin, bring your attention to your breath to help quiet and focus your mind.  Begin to repeat the following phrase to yourself:

May I be happy and peaceful
May I be safe and protected
May I live with ease and joy

After repeating the phrase a few times to yourself, come to mind someone in your life that you love very much.  Attributing the phrases now to them, begin to repeat:

May you be happy and peaceful
May you be safe and protected
May you live with ease and joy

Finally, begin to think of someone you struggle with.  It doesn't have to be a person who has severely wronged or abused you if you don't think you're ready to wish them well, it can just be someone who perhaps gets on your nerves or with whom you occasionally argue.  Once again, now attributing the phrases to this difficult person.

May you be happy and peaceful
May you be safe and protected
May you live with ease and joy

To close, bring your attention back to your breath for a few moments before slowly blinking the eyes open.

As I said, there are many variations of this meditation.  You can also include a round where you think of someone you don't know very well but who you maybe see often - a familiar face on the subway, a clerk at the grocery store.  You can leave one out or you can slightly change the wording of the repeated phrase.  Any google search of "Compassion Meditation," "Loving Kindness Meditation," or "Metta Meditation" will yield some interesting results.

The world needs a lot more concrete action than just love and compassion to keep tragedies like this from occurring, but we should never, ever underestimate the power of giving and receiving love.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Postural Precision. And Passion.

When you know a great deal about something - whether it's your passion, your job, or both - it's very easy to overthink basic elements about it.  Actors often have a hard time just sitting back and purely enjoying a show or movie without analyzing or critiquing elements of it that might not bother anyone else (I call it having his "Critical Pants" on too tight when Marc does this with a show I love).  My future brother-in-law is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I highly doubt he ever watches a match purely for enjoyment without having some seriously analytical, critical insights and very strong opinions.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can sometimes turn our passion into a grind instead of, well, a passion.

One way in which this has manifested itself for me is massively overthinking my posture.  Posture is one of the most central elements of yoga - whether you're standing in tadasana, tree pose, on the subway, or sitting in meditation, the posture is where it all begins.

I've been reading and rethinking posture as I've been (slowly) reading ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer.  The book is all about running from your center, working with gravity and not against it, and keeping your core strong and your limbs soft and relaxed, so your legs don't have to do nearly as much work as in typical "power" running.  It's a hell of a lot to take in, and I really feel like I need a teacher to take me through all the work and specifics the book is talking about.  

So far, I'm starting small by focusing on running with parallel feet instead of my natural turnout.  Yoga has helped me seriously reduce my natural turnout (which I have thanks to 13-or-so years of ballet) which in turn is only going to help my knees, hips, pelvis, lower back - all kinds of fun stuff.  It's been an interesting way to stay "tuned in" while I run instead of just totally letting my mind go wherever it wants to.  In a strange way, running has become a lot more similar to yoga for me in the last couple of weeks because of this book.

My really big postural breakthrough came yesterday, though, as I took a Pilates training with the amazing Michelle Pritchard of Evolution Pilates.  Three other lucky teachers and I were there to learn more about Pre/Post-Natal Pilates and we spent a good 9 hours practicing and learning Pilates.  Michelle, who has an unbelievable eye after years of teaching Pilates, was constantly on me about my shoulders.  I had no idea how inefficient my posture had become - I was tensing my shoulderblades together in an attempt to avoid slouching without realizing that just letting my shoulders rest comfortably was actually good posture.

In ChiRunning, Danny Dreyer calls it "Body Sensing" when you consciously bring awareness to your body's position in space - notice what it looks like and what it feels like, because they're often two different things.  When I run with parallel feet, for example, it feels very weird and like I'm running pigeon-toed.  What I feel like I'm doing and what I'm actually doing are very different things.  With my posture, I'm trying so hard to have Perfect Yoga Posture that I'm actually putting strain on myself - no wonder I always have so much tension around my traps!

By directing my focus to running and Pilates as well as continuing with my yoga practice and teaching, I'm finding so many ways in which my practice and teaching are being enriched.  Variety really must be the spice of life, it seems.  It keeps the Critical Pants, Teacher Brain, and the risk of burnout at bay when you keep a healthy mix of interests along with whatever might be your greatest passion.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Today is my one mini-day tucked in between two fantastic vacations.  I just got back from a fun, debaucherous, sunny, ocean-filled, amazing weekend celebrating my wonderful big sister with her just-as-wonderful friends.  They partied this little yogini out!

Tomorrow morning, Marc and I get up bright and early to catch a bus to Boston, where my southern mama will meet us.  She's joining us at our tasting at Willowdale Estate (where we're getting married) on Wednesday for a tasting so we can set our wedding menu!  It's super fun stuff, and I'm really excited that my mom finally gets to see the place, not to mention see Marc's family's beautiful house and spend some quality time with him and his parents.

Needless to say - my brain is not in a yoga blogging place!  I am proud of myself, though, because I've kept up with my daily meditation and my half marathon training schedule throughout the fun times.  Out of respect for my limits, need for balance, and in the spirit of vacation (which is scattered throughout this whole month) - I'm taking the week off from the blog!  I hope everyone has a beautiful one and I'll see you next week!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Space to Hear

Ah, August - my unofficial (although it might as well be official) Month of Travel.  It seems every August I'm running from one place to the next like a chicken with my head cut off, and/or hosting far away friends who are visiting or need a place to crash.  It's like the last minute mad rush to do things and see people before September brings us back to the "back to school" routine.  I'm not alone on this, particularly in the city - August is the emptiest month of the year around here.

It was this time last year that I finally managed to find a consistent time to meditate every. single. day.   I took a little European Vacation from it this spring, but aside from that I've been able to sit every single day.  It doesn't mean that I sit and suddenly feel relaxed and peaceful.  Most of the time I sit and one part of my brain repeats a mantra while the other part just starts rambling on about my to-do lists or what's happening later on that day.  It's very much the downside of multitasking.

I think part of why I tend to reconnect to meditation at this time of year is because the break from the normal routine both makes me feel the need to have some sort of grounding ritual and that I'm spending more time being rather than doing, which leads to my mind actually being able to quiet for a moment or two.

I'm so over-connected these days, and I think a lot of people suffer from this.  It's automatic habit after a class is over or I'm sitting on the train home or whatever to check my phone, to check my email, to check my facebook, to start reading my book again.  My mind never gets a chance to rest and do nothing - it's no wonder than when I sit down to purposefully rest in nothingness my brain doesn't know what to do with itself!

Last month's meditation practice was a really wonderful set of mantras I learned in the Karma Kids Teen Yoga Teacher Training.  Erin (our amazing facilitator) gave us a CD of meditations, one of which was a Breathing Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I repeated this meditation to myself every single morning, and while at first it was all shiny and new and I felt focused, once I got used to repeating it, my mind did that annoying split-down-the-middle thing where part of it just goes off and thinks about anything else but my breath or the present moment.

This month, I don't have an exact mediation technique, but I am going for some element of quiet, space, and listening.  There's a quote - and I can't seem to find who it's attributed to - that says something like, "Prayer is talking to God.  Meditation is listening to Him."  I realized that just as I go through my day and scarcely give myself a moment to just do one thing at a time or even just nothing, I always sit to meditate with a plan, a mantra, a "right" way.  That quote has never been true for me because I never have the space to listen.

We'll see if I hear anything worth sharing!  In the meantime, I'll be trying to keep up with my neverending quest to unplug and mono-task and enjoy my jet-setting for the next 31+ days.  Happy August, everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Athleta 2012 Holiday Preview!

Last Thursday the lovely ladies of Athleta kindly invited me to the Aspen Social Club in Midtown to take a sneak peak at what they have coming up in their stores for the fall and winter.  It's always exciting to get invited to these things, especially because all I really do is write a blog on whatever I feel like week to week.

Athleta is a clothing company designed for active women involved in any sport or activity, from yoga to running to surfing to skiing.  They're owned by the Gap and are committed to not only high performance technical fabric but to exploring the latest in eco-friendly fabric.  (My favorite example of the latter:  Java Capri) The clothing is designed and "road-tested" by female athletes and they have an unbeatable return policy - return it any time for any reason.

I really love Athleta's clothes, and especially given my half marathon coming up, I was so excited to see some of their new products and returning (and improved!) items as well.  A lot of it won't be hitting the shelves until October, which is good news because it gives me time to save up - and coincidentally, that half marathon is going to be in late October, right when the weather starts really shifting and I need to change my usual running wardrobe.

Another thing I like about Athleta, aside from their clothing's comfort, cuteness, and oft eco-friendliness is how often the clothing translates from the activity it's designed for (i.e. yoga) to every day life.  As a New Yorker, the clothing I leave the house in is usually the clothing I'll be in until I get in at night, which means I often need to balance the functionality of my clothing with looking like a "normal person" at night.  Athleta has clothes I can run around and get sweaty and silly with kids in, and then turn up to a friend's birthday party or a date with Marc and not look like just a yoga teacher.   In addition, they also do sell clothing specifically for looking like a "normal person."  Their dresses are great and so comfortable, which is a huge plus for me.

Best of all - they offer a HUGE discount to yoga teachers - 30%!!  Insane.  It makes the clothing actually affordable on a yoga teacher's budget.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

For my "trouble" of coming to see their new winter looks they even gave me a free hoodie and healthy breakfast munchies!  How cool is that?

Finally, I wanted to share an article about Athleta and Lululemon that will be in BusinessWeek, hitting stands Friday.  The lovely author of it interviewed me for a yoga teacher's perspective on the similarities and differences between the two businesses, and she found me via - wouldn't you know it - this little blog.  I feel like I should buy my blog a drink or something for all it's been doing for me lately.

Hope everyone has a beautiful week!

Resurrection of a blog (and a hip)

One year ago today - on a much cloudier, much colder, and quite frankly very hungover morning - I went out to run.  My goal was either 4 mil...