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!

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...