Being Present.

I wonder what everyone would be like if they took a moment out of their day to acknowledge their body.

Sit with their breath.

Be comfortable in the uncomfortable-ness of standing still.

There is this part of practicing yoga that forces you to be aware of what it feels like to breathe deeply. What it is like to take an hour or so out of your day to focus on what it means to sway back and forth in a forward fold.

Yoga stirs up those emotions.

You know the ones. Those sneaky bastards that are harbored deep in your spine, burrowed down in your hip bones. The stone in the back of your throat. With a gentle hand, I find myself in reclined pigeon, surprised at the release I didn’t know I needed.

How easy it is to whirlwind my way through life. Filling up every hour with plans and lists and day dreams. How simple it is to remain tied to my past while simultaneously flinging myself into my future.

To slow down. To stop the constant spinning. The never-ending planning. The “what now?” that has become my minute-to-minute mantra.

The time I take to dedicate myself to stretching is the time I take for myself. For my creaky knees and sloped back. For quieting my mind, for meditation in what ever form it will take for the day.

Yogi Tea

adapted from Yoga Yoga Austin Yogi Tea Recipe

We serve this tea after every class at the studio I work at… now I am lost and confused when I don’t have my tiny cup of spicy deliciousness… I am spoiled rotten.

To make two quarts:

  •     2 quarts water
  •     15 whole cloves
  •     20 black peppercorns
  •     3 sticks of cinnamon
  •     20 whole cardamom pods (split the pods first)
  •     8 ginger slices (1/4″ thick, no need to peel)
  •     1/2 teaspoon black tea leaves (we use decaf)
  •     Milk and Honey to taste (use local honey, helps with allergies and the like)

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a 3-4 quart pot. Add cloves and boil for one minute. Next, add cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, and fresh ginger root. Cover and boil for at least 30 minutes. For best flavor, cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. When ready, remove from heat, add black tea and let cool. Strain tea. When ready to drink, add soy and sweeten to taste with honey or maple syrup.

Drink often.

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Self Love

My body is cattywompus.

Truth be told, I really just wanted an excuse to use that word.

No, my body really is a hot mess. Having started running on a regular basis, imagine my frustration when not only did the ol’ knee pain flare up, but the shin and ankle on my OTHER leg started to ache something fierce.

It is as if the universe is telling me to not be a runner. Lets be honest, what I call “running” is most likely considered jogging– with a soft “J”. Whatever it is I am doing, it is causing me some serious pain.

So I bit the bullet and scheduled an appointment with a sports medicine doctor. He spent a good hour making me hop around the room, bending my knee and hip into weird positions and hemming and hawing over the weakness of my right hip. It was a combination of humiliating and enlightening.

He insisted that I see a physical therapist. Which led me to another hour of hopping, running on a treadmill and watching in horror as I watched myself run in slow motion. There are things a person should be spared from seeing, your white WHITE legs running and shifting in uncomfortable ways is one of these things.

Needless to say, I have a bum knee caused by an extremely weak thigh muscle that leads to a sad sad hip, and a lack of ab/glute muscles. Who knew that running/walking/yoga-ing and biking doesn’t build enough muscle… WTF.

So my new life plan includes physical therapy once a week, cutting back on running for a while, adding in spin classes and diving into the unfamiliar world of pilates.

When all is said and done, I adore this wacky body of mine. True, I have more ailments than a 25-year-old female should have. Yes, I threw out my back bowling. Yes, sometimes I need to go up the stairs REALLY slowly to avoid pain in my knee, and yes– I creak when I bend down to wipe the mud off my dog’s paws.

But you know what? This body allows me to walk six miles with my pup if the day calls for it. It allows me the flexibility to touch my toes, hold myself up in crow and hover proudly in chaturanga dandasana (heck yes arm muscles, here’s looking at you).

Anything that takes this much wear and tear is bound to rebel a little bit. My vessel just rebels a bit more than the average bear, and I will respond to all of these quirks with compassion and love.

You know what? my body is a freaking temple.

Yes. I went there. Deal with it.

 

Rain.

It was raining today. Big fat drops of rain. Windy too. Yes, I realize that I live in Seattle. And yeah, I did grow up here—rain should be my best friend. Here is the thing, we have had this surprisingly dry fall and winter. Pleasant, lots of my favorite days where the sky was clear but it was chilly. Perfect weather for down coats and wool scarves. Perfect weather for owning a dog and long ambling walks.

We all knew the rain would return. Like a habit, it came knocking on my window this morning. This wasn’t the kind of weather I wanted to face. But my dog is persistent. He just stares at me, incessantly, and wags his tail. You try and sleep with an 80 pound stinky hound dog smiling at you with adorable “walk me” eyes.

So I dressed myself from head to toe in rain gear—I’m PRETTY sure I become androgenous with my rain gear, but whatevs… that shit is practical. And like the good dog owner that I am, we did our usual hour walk. He was soaked, I was soaked—but we were both happy. Enjoying the fresh air, the lack of squirrels and the time to be with my thoughts. I think that I am a better person because of my daily morning walks. It gives me time to mull over whatever is going on in my life—and usually allows the rational part to overcome the cray cray part… which is a REAL good thing, let me tell you.

I have recently enrolled in a 6 week small group yoga class with my dream teacher. Her voice is ethereal  (I LOVE FINDING A REASON TO USE THIS WORD), her teaching style is soothing, yet difficult… she is a dream. The first session was today. It is held in this tiny little space a few minutes from my house. With paper thin windows, the sounds of rain and traffic permeated the practice.

During our introductions, Maria asked what we all wanted to work on. This is where I usually tell my sob story of throwing out my back (truth… I’m an old lady), and how I need to work on my core. Imagine my own surprise when I opened my mouth and admitted to being too critical of myself. As the words tumbled out of me, I realized how much truth is behind that. I always think that the way I’m holding the pose isn’t good enough… that the teacher MUST be thinking, “shoot, this girl SUCKS at yoga.” I am constantly berating myself.

Where in the hell did this come from? I suppose I could sit and psychoanalyze the shit out of myself—but that would lead to more break downs as I began to peel back the layers.

All I know is that I have now acknowledged it. I have sent it out to the world—I have exposed the vulnerability to my teacher. With all of those first steps, I will begin to heal. Hopefully, these six weeks I will stop pushing, trying, aching to be better and something other then myself.

It is amazing how many self discoveries you make, especially when you think you have your shit figured out.

May All Aquaintance Be Forgot…

I have a giant zit on my chin. My head also feels like it is full of fluff, and I am working a ten-hour shift.

waaaa waaaa. Pitiful me.

No no no, 2012… I will not start my year off feeling like a cotton headed ninny muggins (when else would I ever be able to use that line from Elf??)

So here is my cliché new years resolution list for 2012… Yes, most of it involves running, veganism and yoga. Deal with it.

1. Practice yoga at least four times a week. This means going to a class four times a week. The other three days, at least incorporating some sort of meditation/yoga/stretching into my daily life. YOGA EVERYDAY.

2. Diversify my vegan diet. Spend more time with kale. Use the new immersion blender/regular blender (my mom thinks vegans eat a lot of soups and smoothies) and make magic in the kitchen.

3. Continue training for my full marathon. RUN RUN RUN.

4. Allow myself space to be quiet. To sit and do nothing. To not plan every minute of every day scheduling something. Meditate.

5. Be kind to my body. As I am constantly being bombarded by germs from all angles (I work at a children’s Urgent Care clinic; sickness is literally FLYING at me)

6. Climb Mt. Baker– I will succeed in reaching the top of a mountain and once again reveling in the fact that our bodies can do amazing things, and this world we live in is a beautiful place.

7. Allow myself to be a quirkyalone for as long as I want. I refuse to ever settle, even if the loneliness sets in and the world tells me to fall in love for the sake of companionship.

8. Start a girl band with my friend Molly. She will play the ukulele. I will play the banjo.

9. Learn to play the banjo.

10. Make time for my friends. Always. Long walks with the dog. Chats over tea. Girls night out. Sessions in the sauna. I am the people I surround myself with. My friends are my sanity.

Here is to you 2012. Lets make my 25th year EPIC.

 

Seeking Clarity

Today I pretended to be a mom for 1.5 hours. It is exhausting. However, there is nothing more precious than receiving compliments from an adorable 3.5 year old. I traipsed around with this little boy whose energy astounds and delights me. It seems that I could care less about appearing like an ass in public, as I sneer, growl and run around like a fool. What can I say, this kid has my heart.

He also made me realize how I can’t see myself having kids for a REALLY long time…. if at all.

Gasp!

Not having kids? I know, I know. If my mom reads this, she will probably have a heart attack. I just don’t know if raising a child is in my future– and is that such a bad thing? I think there are enough children in the world, and perhaps my contribution to society is to NOT have a kid. I can be the fun aunt. Or whatever.

Mind you, I say this as a highly content 20 something single lady. Perhaps when I meet said lobster/dream man, the idea of babes will sprout up in my mind.

Speaking of minds, I had a beautiful practice today. I am still fighting this ridiculous head cold, so I contemplated not going to yoga. However, one of my absolute favorite instructors was leading, so I said eff you cold, I’m getting on that mat.

Thank goodness I did.

We spent a lot of time breathing. Which people don’t ever do. It blows my mind how you can feel the effects right away. While lying in shavasana, I tried to focus all my energy on quieting my mind (such an oxymoron, but that is a whole different discussion). To do this, I paid attention to my inhale and exhale. For me, I imagined my breath going into my brain, and where all the blood flows I imagined sprouting flowers, opening up passages, granting peace and new life.

It was the best shavasana I have had in a really long time.

I challenge you all to take 5 minutes to find a comfortable spot and practice breathing. I guarantee you will feel like a new person.

Make your weekend goal breathing… REALLY exciting, I know.

Yoga for Boys and Cookies… What?

First things first. Here is what I have discovered. There aren’t enough men that do yoga.

Perhaps it is the studio I practice at? Perhaps this is just a broad generalization that I am making? BUT, as far as I can tell, 85% of regular yogis are women.

Why is that?

There are a few dedicated men that I see in every class I take. Here is my second observation and broad generalization of the evening: they are all over 50. I marvel at their elegance and grace as they flip-up into head stand no big deal. These guys are the real deal. They practice regularly, and it shows. I look at them and am reminded why yoga is the best form of exercise.

But where are all the young men at? Now, I’m not looking to yoga as a way to meet my future lovah. If this happened, it would be pure magic I am sure. This man would most likely like Christmas and musicals, own a Newfoundland/Lab mix, know how to build a house, and be a farmer/rock climber/chef/pediatric surgeon.

A girl can dream.

Regardless, I want to see more young 20 somethings in yoga. Not just so the potential to meet my future lobster is there, but so the young men of the world can get limber. Boys of the world—get yourself to your nearest yoga studio and stretch yo’self. Yes, you will get a workout. Yes, you will be sore the next day. Yoga is hard. For all of those that doubt—go to a class.

Second observation/important detail of today. Christmas cookies.

Yes, I realize these two things have nothing in common, but these are the pressing matters in my life. What can I say, I am a bag of tricks.

So, this Christmas season is turning out to be the quintessential holiday season. Cutting down my tree—check. Hanging up my own Christmas lights—check. Having the most epic party ever—check. Buying soy nog, peppermint hot chocolate, candy-canes and Trader Joe’s peppermint joe joe’s—check. Sending out Christmas cards—check. SEATTLE MEN’S CHORUS—check. Date for the nutcracker and ice skating—check.

And most importantly, Christmas cookie baking date with my madre—CHECK.

However, unlike last year and every year for the past five years, I can’t make my go-to cookies. My triple ginger cookies and peppermint/gooey chocolate awesomeness? All full of nasty, mucus causing animal products.

Conundrum.

Luckily, I have pinterest and my new obsession, tastespotting, which is like pinterest for FOOD. GAH! From these sites I have found what appear to be good stand ins. I hope that they don’t let me down. A vegan thanksgiving was such a hit, I might as well make vegan Christmas just as awesome sauce.

First off we will have vegan ginger cookies. If I didn’t have ginger cookies on christmas I might explode. It wouldn’t be pretty. Found this awesome recipe at Go Lightly Gourmet. Looks like a winner to me. I will report back on said cookie.

Secondly, we will be making twice-baked cantuccini heaven… um what? Yeah, it is from My New Roots—the best blog to happen to me in a LONG time… these basically are healthy biscotti with holiday thrown in. So, they are perfect.

Third I will attempt to make the Raw Chipotle Cacao Brownies.. WAIT WHAT? Found these gems off of tastespotting, and then found yet another blog to follow. Rawmazing? You had me at cacao. WHAT WILL BECOME OF ALL MY FREE TIME?!

Ambitious? But of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday baking session without all or us deciding to make three to four cookies and then thinking WTF… This shit is a lot of work!

Happy baking!

Cancer. Strength and Yoga

There are two things on my mind today. First, my to-do-list for yoga poses.

Second, a little girl telling me she beat cancer… yeah. Let’s start with that one.

It is really hard for me to not burst into tears in situations like that. Especially when it is my time of the month—which causes me to cry at literally everything. Mariah Carey’s, “I don’t want a lot for Christmas”?… Yeah, I just admitted that. Gross.

So, here I was. A routine scheduling situation and this mom tells me, in a very nonchalant manner, that her daughter just beat cancer. It was so hard to not get caught up in their emotions, as I saw a sense of pride and relief surface in the mother’s watery eyes.

Here is her daughter, this adorable, lively thing that complimented me on my nail polish. This little spitfire/champion/bad ass extraordinaire stared cancer in the face and said “no”. You can imagine pitiful ol’ me, weeping at every single Christmas themed commercial (I realize how ridiculous I sound), having a slight break down.

So there you go reality, just one big dose of YOU.

I had to pull it together and gave that little girl the biggest high-five I could muster, and had a wonderful chat with the mother. Their strength is astounding.

Now on to much less important things.

I think I suck at yoga.

How trivial does THAT sound after my previous story?

However, this blog is about my path to self discovery via yoga, running and eating vegan. So perhaps I should write about those every once in a while.

Here is the reason that I think I fail at yoga. NOTE: I realize that there is no “failing” at yoga—that it is all about the practice, and being with yourself in that blissful 75 minutes, stretching to your own potential, not the potential of others. I get that. Or at least I understand that theory.

Let me break it down. I have been practicing yoga on and off for nearly seven years.

I should be bending myself into a pretzel on a whim. I should be able to throw myself into bird or paradise (which is a pretty cool pose), and fling myself into a head stand no big deal. But I can’t. I am nowhere close to being a human pretzel. I can kind of shimmy myself into bird of paradise. And I am terrified of head stands. I think my neck is going to break. I just chill out in the prep poses, pretending like I’m building up to something epic.

I’m not.

I was enrolled in yoga teacher training, and had to stop due to work commitments at my new job. I will eventually start the teacher training again, but before I do, I have a few personal goals.

1)      Master head stands. I will get over my neck fear. OR I will throw myself into it; probably end up crunching my neck forever. Right, I will take my time.

2)      Get over my fear of inversions in general. I have this looming fear that the moment I flip upside down in any capacity, something horrible will happen to my body. What this horrible thing is? No idea… but I imagine it involves excruciating pain and perhaps an explosion of moths. (my greatest fear)

3)      Learn to love my messed up displaced sacrum, my difference in leg length, my tighter-then-all-get-out hips, and my weak ankles. HOT MESS.

4)      Be able to jump (gracefully) from downward dog to the front of my mat, and from the front of my mat to plank. Right now, it is as if I am channeling an elephant.

5)      Stop being so damn judgmental.

That is all.

Goodnight and many happy thoughts and practices to you all.

Perspective

I work at a children’s hospital. I don’t know if I mentioned that before. This, as you can imagine, can be difficult. A lot of time I have to go in the back to regroup and not start weeping in front of the kids and their families. Fortunately, I work in an area of the hospital that deals with broken bones and the flu… not oncology, which would result in daily tears.

Working around children who have health issues really puts your life in perspective. Sometimes I find myself complaining about things that seem really important. Like how I sometimes feel overweight. How sometimes I get sad about my ex-boyfriend. How sometimes there is a symphony following me around with a thunder head above me.

You get the idea.

I am like every other human being. Self-involved and self-pitying. Basically, I am awesome…

So here I am, feeling whiny and upset about my miniscule trials and tribulations. And here comes a family, driving seven hours from destination X. They are here for their kid who has XYZ. Sometimes it is something simple like a broken arm, other times it is something like bone cancer.

Here is the kicker… they are always positive (well, not always… but give them a break—think about what they are dealing with!?!) So, 94% of the time, they are upbeat, they are kind, they are patient and the kiddo is usually always curious and hilarious. This is why I love kids. They always have a positive outlook, regardless of the situation.

It stops me in my self involved tracks. I take a step back, realize how blessed I am in this wonderful life/body of mine. Of course I feel things and get sad like everyone else (see last three posts…) but it is such a good eye opener to realize how lucky I really am.

For example, today I spent the morning walking in the rain with my dog (I adore the rain; thank goodness I live in Seattle). I followed that up by a wonderful yoga session, channeling grace and forgiveness, and ended my morning with an hour-long sauna… What in the world could I possibly be complaining about? On top of all of that awesome, I got lucky and scored some vegan leftovers from the S-mom who is like a god in the kitchen. A chickpeas/puff pastry/dried fruit pie that had me licking the plate.

True. Not all days are as incredible as today.

However, all days I am blessed.

truth

Letting Go

I don’t know if you know this, but hip opening poses in yoga are supposed to release emotion.

I usually chalk this up to mumbo jumbo and simply relish the feeling of stretching out my always-too-tight hips flexors. Imagine my surprise today, whilst in reclined pigeon, I had an emotional epiphany/breakdown.

Let me explain.

I consider myself a pretty strong lady. I am rational. I am grounded. I am logical and get the job done. With all of this awesomeness comes a pride and stubbornness that makes conveying emotions a difficult process. I deny feeling angry or being sensitive because I relate a lot of that to being weak.

I have no idea where this pride comes from, but whatever. It is there. And when I do feel vulnerable, I get kind of mean, sassy and lash out at the person who put me in that state of mind.

Recently having my heart broken definitely put me in a vulnerable place. Which definitely caused lashing out. Which definitely caused REALLY harsh words and things I should have most definitely kept to myself. However, I declared this in okay move because I was owning my anger, I was owning my bitterness, all these harsh emotions were MINE. It was okay to wish harm upon said person.

Needless to say, I wasn’t in a positive place. Remember the tiny violin? Imagine a Manheim Steamroller Orchestra. That shit was following me around.

So here comes the epiphany. While opening my hips, I felt this surge of emotion. I felt the tears coming on. I felt vulnerable, open and a deep sense of nostalgia wash over me. I thought about how my three years with the Ex was wonderful. I thought about how deeply we loved each other. I thought about how ridiculous it was that I assumed he didn’t love me ever because of his recent actions.

We heal differently. We cope with things differently. That doesn’t mean what we had wasn’t real.

All of this hit me like a wave. Let me tell you, I was a hot mess when I curled back into child’s pose. It was also poignant that my favorite magazine had an entire article based on forgiveness. The world was screaming at me to just let it go… All I needed was a good yoga session to push me to that edge.

At this edge I realized something. There isn’t going to be happiness in my next relationship if I hold this bitterness and resentment. I can’t move on unless my forgiveness is legitimate. I need to admit and confess my bitterness, apologize for being a heinous bitch, and wish him all the luck and love in the world.

Pinned Image

Man. Yoga… you are an eye opener.

Funk

It would not be an over-exaggeration if I were to say that this weekend I was in a funk.

And I am sorry to say, this post will not be about me getting funky fresh and awesome. It is about me feeling sorry for myself and having a tiny violin follow me around with a sad-faced cloud above my head.

Deal with it.

My life is pretty fantastic. I have a great job. I have amazing friends (seriously, I am the luckiest when it comes to my group of girls). My family is fantastic. I have my health. I think I’m pretty cute sometimes. AND I have my dog, who is the love of my life.

So what in the shit am I complaining about?

Who knows, sometimes that horrible, gut wrenching, soul crushing self-doubt seeps into your life. Perhaps I shall blame it on the old Ex, whose life–post me–makes me feel like throwing up. It is never fun to feel like a used kleenex after having spent three years with someone. Yes, bitterness… you are my friend at the moment.

So here is how my weekend went: me weeping for no reason, writing letters to people I shouldn’t write letters to, writing emails to people I shouldn’t write emails to, and eating a lot of chocolate.

Basically, I was a walking rom-com cliché.

And to make matters worse, my runners knee has come back, so I haven’t been able to run. Which makes me feel like an obese failure.

Seriously, can you hear the violin?

And yes, I am still kind of in a funk.

But here is what I know:

  1. My friends and I made oven roasted veggies with quinoa and non-dairy creamed kale while watching Crazy Stupid Love… best evening ever. This solidified my love of my wonderful, amazing friends. And my love for Ryan Gosling. I don’t think the man can be sexier… Did you know he can sing? Yeah, shut the front door.
  2. I have vowed to practice some form of yoga everyday. It centers me. It reminds me to seek peace. To let go of bitterness. To forgive.
  3. My friend from work posted this image on my Facebook and told me that she thinks of me and my life every time she reads it. It was a huge compliment. I am glad she sees me this way. I want to see me this way too.

Funk, be gone!