Yoga: All Day Erryday

As some of you may or may not know, my friend Jess and I got into yoga at the same time. One of us became a yoga instructor, one of us did not. It was me, I did not become the yoga instructor.

Either way, Jess is a pretty special person and we have a great time doing yoga together. Rain or shine, but mostly in the shine.

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Because she wanted to be even cooler, she also started to do stand up paddle board yoga.

It was a long time coming and today was the day she decided to not only organize a trip out on the bay to do stand up paddle boarding, but also a free yoga sunset session on the beach.

Because she is an overachiever.

I had a dilemma at hand: How can I go to three sessions of yoga? Can I? Will I die? Are there enough hours in the day?

At 10 a.m. a group of us girls went out for a paddle board session and had an amazing time. Usually she is an instructor through Skudin, so check them out if you are in the area and are looking for something fun to do.

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I always repeat this, but stand up paddle boarding is not as easy as people make it look- unless I’m just as spastic as I do look. And yes, you can look spastic. I am covered in bruises on the regular. I particularly took pleasure in watching my friends fall into the water. But that’s just me. A few of us grabbed some lunch and upon realizing that a towel was left back at the beach, we went back and hung around the area for a little while.

When was the last time you went on a swing? Because I went today and cannot remember the time before. My butt definitely did not fit in the seat the same way it used to, but swinging is a good time! I also tried to re-learn how to dive. Diving is another one of those things that people that can do it will tell you is easy, but somehow you [and by you, I mean me] suck at. It was the kind of day that reminded me of being a kid.

Today is day 19 at the Bikram studio and from there I will be heading straight to beach yoga. Peace, love, and yoga ya’ll. See you on the zen side.

That time John did Bikram

I love, love, love having a friend by my side for a workout. I don’t know what the scientific reason for this is…OK, well, I just googled this and there are many reasons, but whatevs, I love it. Having a friend by your side is immediate camaraderie and emotional support. In fact, when I began going to yoga in 2013, Jess was right by my side throughout it all. When I started to run, John jumped on board and started running too. The sad thing is, I struggle to get Jess to run and John to do yoga. One of the few times Jess did a 5k with me she damaged her foot and struggled to walk comfortably on it for some time. John just hates the idea of yoga entirely.

I want to accept that not everyone I adore has to adore the things I adore, but, why not?!

Well, I’m proud to say that I got my fiance to come to a Bikram class. I think in part because I didn’t bully him like I normally would to get my way. Instead, I was casual about it- at least that’s how I remember it going down, though it is possible that there were threats involved. I do not recall. I do recall telling him the following things:

  1. It is the worst heat you will ever experience.
  2. You can watch the sweat form on your body as it’s happening.
  3. The smell. The smell is like a garbage can and a diaper had a baby with a foot.
  4. It’s physical torture and you might faint.

His initial thoughts? Wait, why am I doing this again? And so naturally I explained my inclination to want to give him the worst possible aspects of Bikram yoga so that there are zero surprises or expectations. Actually, your expectations are now so horrible that you might be pleasantly surprised by what you do experience during class. Somehow, he still wanted to come.

As soon as we got to the studio I saw a few men pass us by so I leaned over to John, oh so casually, and said, “hey babe, look, guys are here. Something I love about yoga is that people of all ages, races, genders, shapes and sizes come together to practice.”

He shot me a glance like, you have to be joking, and said “yeah, I don’t care- it’s not a big deal.”

Alrighty then, buckaroo. 

In some ways this was the best class ever, and in some ways in was the worst class.

Best class? I had Jess and John both with me on my halfway through my thirty day challenge day. It just felt like emotional support overload (yeah, yeah, Jess had to be there because she is doing it too, but it was still exciting). I also loved that I could share my practice with the person I’m spending my life with and that he was willing to give it a shot for me.

Worst class? I sat on my mat in terror envisioning worst case scenario- because that’s what I do. I imaged him getting up and leaving, throwing up on the mat, shooting death stares my way, the list goes on. Because I was so concerned he was miserable during class, I found myself falling out of everything. It didn’t help that I was perpetually checking on him to make sure he was breathing and doing alright. Or trying to catch his eye to give him a “hang in there, champ!” sort of smile.

What I really needed to do was focus on myself because- he did everything. Was he drenched in sweat? Hot? Tired? Yes. Yes. and Yes. But so is everyone at the end of class. We walked out and he said, “that was fine. It’s not my thing, but it was cool.”

And that is the end of my fifteenth day.

Moral of the story: Worry about yourself. Everyone will be alright on their own.

Step Right Up

Have you ever woken up feeling more appreciative than you have felt about life in a long time? Warning: That was me this morning, so, I suggest you stop reading if you despise the happiness of others. And then quickly find a therapist or a hobby because you have some stuff to straighten out. 

To be cliche, I have always felt like life is similar to a roller-coaster in that it’s thrilling, terrifying, exhilarating, and sometimes nauseating all at once. It’s because of the ups and downs, isn’t it? I am an emotional person and I have always been an emotional person, but I love feeling it all, making me receptive to the good as well as the bad. At times when I’m feeling particularly wallow-y, I imagine myself as an artist feeding off my own negativity to fuel whatever creation I’m currently working on. And I can use my occasional cynicism to truly appreciate the loveliness that surrounds me as well. So you could say that I kind of revel in the twists and the turns and the unpredictability of it all. And that’s what takes me to where I’ve been.

With the start of the school year approaching, I felt myself getting off the ride of summer and it was like this insane adrenaline high that was disappearing. I felt vacant and the end of summer began to feel like a never ending Sunday. Dramatic, I know. But it did- because I felt unprepared and sensitive and nervous…and full of irrational fears such as: What if I forgot how to teach?! dun…dun…dun…

And so as the first week approached and then passed I was able to get back into the swing of life and predictability. And closed-toe shoes. Which completely suck, by the way. I met my students, and gave hugs to work friends that I haven’t seen since June. It was so easy to remember why I chose this profession from the get-go and how powerful of a career teaching is. And just like that I climbed out of my hole of insecurities. And, clearly, I did not forget how to teach.

 

This morning as I did monotonous tasks such as laundry and grading, I thought over the weekend I just had. One with laughs, friends, as well as a volleyball tournament in memory of Michelle O’Neill, a young woman, only 24 1/2 when she lost her battle to cancer (http://monfoundation.org/). A full day event, we spent the entire day on the beach with the sun beating down on us. I had forgotten my umbrella and two hours into the day I recognized I was being foolish for sitting in the sun. A kind group of people offered me theirs and I spent the remainder of the day when we weren’t in the ocean or on the court hiding from the sun. Once a month I allow myself to get angry at lupus- that bitch. A friend asked me earnestly, what is lupus? I explained the disease. Embarrassed that I was explaining something I live with to a person that is also a cancer survivor on a day that was for a young girl that had lost her life to her battle. And I was humbled. Humbled by his question and a discussion on life and appreciating the one we have and how envying the life of another does nothing for anyone because we all have our ups and our downs. Every person has their own story. 

And on this Sunday, despite the day on the calendar telling me that it’s still summer, I walked outside to a strong sun and a cool fall breeze. I took in the air as I temporarily stepped away from my work to turn over the laundry. I’m so fortunate. 

 

SUP

Never judge a task by how easy really good people make it look. I’m looking at you, Jess, my standup paddle board queen!

Omigoodness- I never thought I would be a rockstar on my first SUP (that’s standup paddle boarding for you new people) outing, I didn’t expect I would struggle as much as I did either. And maybe that’s my fault… I’ve mentioned it before, but I loathe not being immediately skilled at things in life that require skills… What do you mean I can’t just pick up Mandarin Chinese?!

I didn’t bomb today, but holding your arm straight as you paddle is surprisingly difficult. I also didn’t fall into the water which is a huge pro. And I got to try yoga on a paddle board- you thought yoga required balance on a mat? Good luck as you gently rock (barf) in marshlands as boats pass by.

So, how did I get this new life experience handed to me? I’ve mentioned Jess numerous times on this blog because she’s my yoga buddy. She returns for another story: she is now a certified yoga instructor and stand up paddle board instructor AND stand up paddle board yoga instructor. That was a mouthful. I’m so unbelievably proud of how far she’s come in such a short amount of time- thanks for taking me out for a lesson. It was a blast. I promise to have slightly less self doubt next time. Because we all need that. Just stop making it look so effortless. I’m basically asking you to slip into the water, just once, to make me feel like the rockstar.

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Reading Material

I haven’t given you too much to read as of late… I’m aware. But I’ve been doing a ton of reading. And news watching. And working. And running. And yoga-ing. And blogging has taken the back seat and maybe it will until July. Until then, I would like to share an article I had the pleasure of coming across (thanks Jess!) and get your thoughts!

20 Habits of Highly Authentic People
Click me to read!

After reading this article I realized two things.
1) I have not been the most authentic person throughout my life
2) I have thankfully become much more authentic in the past year

So I began to analyze what makes me genuine and where could I relate?

Authentic people:

1. They aren’t afraid to express their opinions even though those opinions might be different than the opinions of the majority.

In some ways I have always been true to myself and my identity- at the age of sixteen I was the person to go to if you wanted it straight. I was also the one in class fighting against every opinion that didn’t fit into my understanding of the world. I still find myself defending my beliefs on a day to day basis, go ahead, tell me sexism doesn’t exist. I’ll read you my manifesto.

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6. They allow their friends and people they meet to show their true selves.

Hell yes. The weirder we are, the better. And I love that we can all interpret life in such unique ways. Case in point, one flower, five ways:
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Some measures of authenticity I’m not sure about. Others I’m still striving for:

19. They let go of critical and ill-wishing people, although they don’t hold any bad feelings towards them.

Yep. I hold bad feelings towards people from time to time…

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Does that make me immature? Maybe…

And after reading this article, I was led me to the question- does authenticity come with age? Do you grow into it?!

When did you begin to feel most like your truest self?
What’re your thoughts on this article?

“We should all be feminists”

We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes

-chimamanda ngozi adichie

I love this quote- and that’s an understatement. Ladies, play nice with one another – I recall a time in 8th grade as the new girl in town. At that time, I had the misfortune of being liked by the boy to like (Hey Bri, still love ya!) needless to say, the mutual crush that we developed became problematic when my friend liked him too. I decided to let her know how I felt- Neither of us needs him- girlfrenz before menz. Preach. We agreed and the backstabbery began. She tried to snatch him right up from underneath me! This was my first, but not last, underhanded girl relationship.

It frustrates me to no end that we do this to one another. Girls are girls worst enemies. We judge, we talk, we snicker, we gossip. We are just straight up evil sometimes. Well, today I say no more! Girls, lay down your weapons, and by weapons I’m referring to that stink eye you’ve been giving me all day!

Today I will be surrounded by women in celebration of my dear friend Molly and her husband to be Nate! Hug a girlfriend today- or just be nice. That works too.

Luna

I believe that truly learning about life comes from experience- it has to be authentically earned from moments we come across whether they are positive or negative. Whatever the moral of the story may be, it’s what that connection imparts in us that helps to define our understanding of the world. Life lessons have come to me from all corners of my tiny universe but one that I have learned greatly from is my relationship with my dog, Luna.

My dog taught me patience- half lab, half crazy, Luna was never the easiest pup to own and though her name came from her dark color that reminded me of the night sky, we would often refer to her as Luna-tic. From the time she was a puppy she made no discrepancies in her hatred towards all humans not in her family. Sure, her incessant barking at strangers was bearable as a little black puff ball, but as she got older and stronger it could scare the pants off of a grown-ass man. A lovely midday walk could result in a 90 pound dog taking me on a drag as she launched her body at a tender little child passing by on the street. I chose the word tender because I imagine that Luna would use that word to describe the child. She looked like she wanted a steak dinner. Because of her difficult behavior, we were forced to keep her bound to the confines of our small raised ranch in the quiet hills of Westchester, New York. As an avid pet lover, it was disappointing that our dog would never be the hiking partner I dreamed of. Or would she.

When I say that Luna will take you on a drag it’s because she truly will, but after becoming a closet Dog Whisperer admirer I began to use Caesar’s training methods on Luna on a regular basis in the Summer of 2007- I was a bored college student home on break and I made it my mission to tame the wild beast. Every day I would take her leash, bring her to the car, and go down to the bike path, choosing the least desirable time for bike riders, joggers, and children to be present (for fear of their safety.)

Day in, day out, this became our routine, 10 miles on the bike path, just me and my dog. If I so much as walked by her leash her head would perk up. I had to be careful with my words around her and even spelling the word car became part of her repertoire. We were bonded by the bike path and overtime she learned that if she even so much as gave a human the side-eye it was back in the car. We are nice in this family, Luna! We don’t eat our friends! I can’t tell you that she became this human loving, child canoodling, dog, and I’m not even convinced that if given the chance she would never eat a child, but within a summer she learned that if she wanted to run, she had to play by the rules. I learned a lot too. I learned the love and bond a person can develop with a pet is remarkable. I learned that hard work and perseverance paid off and I learned to never quit, and never say never. Many people would have quit on Luna a long time ago, but our family loved that dog.

This non-quitting attitude carried into the following year as Luna got sick and stopped walking. The veterinarian put her on a medication but she was given too much and her liver and kidneys went into failure. As a family we discussed at great lengths what to do with our sick, but young dog. The decision was to bring her to another veterinarian and give her a chance. This vet practices holistic medication and today Luna receives acupuncture on a weekly basis- I can’t make this up, that’s how loved this dog is.

Luna getting accupuncture

Luna getting acupuncture

At times we questioned what was the right thing to do. There was never an easy answer, but I will tell you that the right decision was made. Today she can no longer run, but she has been given six extra years of life that were almost taken from her. Since receiving treatment she has regained the ability to walk though she struggles to do long distances. This dog is a fighter, a wise old lady, a family guardian. She is stoic, but humble, and the boss of the other dogs in the house. I admire her.

The summer of 2007 we connected over those walks and developed this secret bond that only she and I will ever understand. I can never thank her enough for those memories. Today I no longer live at home but when I am home she still gets excited when I walk towards the door or near her leash. It breaks my heart to know that times will never be like they were seven years ago, but we both still remember, and that’s a beautiful thing.

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Living Outside the Box

Today I stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried Acro Yoga with my yoga partner in crime, Jess. I say that I stepped outside of my comfort zone because despite practicing yoga since May, this was different. My first question was- acro yoga? What the hell is that… Rather than explain it, check out this link for a better understanding than I could ever explain:
http://www.acroyoga.org

Another reason I entered into this apprehensively- it’s a partner class. As much as I love my friend, working with someone is terrifying. Maybe it’s that trust component that had me fearful. The class brought me back to grad school when they literally took us to Lake George and into the woods for some team building exercises. Lame? Yes. Necessary? Not necessarily. Worth it? Somehow, totally.

By the end of the class we laughed hysterically, made new yogi friends, and somehow, got a little closer. Maybe it was the Thai yoga massage training, or the fact that our heads were literally in very personal places.

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The moral of the story: step outside of the familiar. In the words of this wise person I know named Nick, the only place we truly grow in life lies outside of our comfort zone… And doesn’t that make life more exciting?!

Blog? Running? I have hobbies?

I’m a soul searcher in constant need to figure it all out. Ride out life? Allow myself to naturally grow into who I’m supposed to be, no questions asked? Never. Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe it’s a bad thing, but I always have a deep need to understand who I am.

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Mom, leave me alone… I’m questioning these awfully cut bangs. And life. I’m totally side-eyeing the camera too… Like, seriously, are we taking this picture now, I’m enjoying Barney and my Pizza Hut cup. So, back to this post and not that adorable child- can you guys believe my family told me I looked like either a gremlin or a pigeon.

Growing up I never had a true hobby. In high school I did drama club and I was voted as the superlative “most dramatic” (people’s views as to why differ, but I digress), and as much as I enjoyed acting, it wasn’t my niche. I often felt like an imposter next to the kids that viewed theater as their life dream. It was possibly my ongoing awkwardness and discomfort that made me feel that way, but I never viewed acting as a true passion.
Sports. That’s all. There is nothing to say.
Art was ok. I toyed with photography but I loathed developing my own film and back in 2003 before the overwhelming digital age we actually had to do that. I’m more of a point and shoot kinda girl.
I tried playing the guitar- boring.
Video games made me cringe.
Hiking was fine unless you actually wanted to do a serious mountain, in that case I hated hiking.
Even the most easy hobby for a high schooler, drinking and drugs, just never interested me.

I wasn’t a quitter in finding what brought me happiness, but nothing stuck. Everything engaged me for a short amount of time, but then it fell short. I didn’t have that passion that the drama kids in good old MHS had, and I craved it. I wanted something of my own. Ultimately, I allowed myself to believe that I was one of those people that would never have a hobby. And I made peace with that.

Until I met Jess and John- Jess, one of my dearest friends, and John, my main squeeze. Believe it or not, we all met on the same day as new hires and though the love wasn’t immediate, I can’t imagine my life without either of them. The two of them are hobbyists- that word exists as a real word, but it does not mean what I want it to mean, so for this post a hobbyist is a person with a lot of hobbies.

Jess will try anything- she loves (real) hiking, snorkeling, scuba, surfing, bikram, any kind of yoga, traveling, cooking (including baking), and more. I could smack her she’s so awesome. Since we began of friendlationship I have definitely opened myself up to more things, such as bikram yoga. She’s currently doing the thirty day challenge where you complete 30 days of bikram in a row. You can do it, girl! We are also doing a partner class TOMORROW. So help me, god. Basically, I love her because she’s fabulous and does things like swimming with whale sharks. You should be jealous she is my friend.

John’s hobbies date back to his youth but the one that I’m most impressed with is his guitar skills. When I first met him I never imagined he would own way too many guitars, but he does (sell some. Please.) I love that he will serenade me with songs like, Look at Talia, she is cleaning, she’s always makin’ a mess as I clean the apartment. I also love that he’s not that guy. You know what I mean, the guy breaking out the guitar while everyone is hanging out. Most people don’t even know John plays- now they do! His newest hobby is cooking, my newest hobby is eating the deliciousness he cooks. This is why we are perfect together. There is something wonderful about being with a person that likes things other than you. As weird as that sounds, I like knowing I’m not his only thing. I’m just the most special, right?!

I love surrounding myself with people like this- people that make me come out of my shell and want to find what makes me happy. I guess that’s where I found my (sometimes, when it isn’t that hard) love of running and more importantly, blogging. My dear blog friends, this is quite the outlet for me. I could write in a private journal, sure, but it wouldn’t give me the satisfaction that I get from communicating with you all. I’m regularly inspired by the newest runner, struggling like myself, or the seasoned runner who pushes me. I love the ability to relate to like minded people who are searching for themselves as well. It could be that we all are and maybe we just don’t talk about it. Sometimes this world feels lonely, like, am I the only loser that doesn’t have a hobby? Nope. Most of us are.

Do you have a hobby? What is it?! Give me something to contemplate trying!

Friends with Benefits

Not like that you pervert.

I literally mean that my friends come with additional benefits (other than their adorable little faces).  What exactly are those benefits you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

I think it’s important that you know that I cannot take total credit for having this awe inspiring moment of fitness and health that arrived to me like a burning bush to Moses.  I actually owe it to friends for getting my head on straight.  It was as though we simultaneously had life changing moments, but all for unique reasons.  We all needed a change that required us to make fitness and better choices a priority.

I’ve written about it before, but turning 25 hit me like… turning 25.  It is never easy to accept that you are no longer 16.  Life suddenly smacks you across your newly acquired cellulite and says “you cannot eat whatever you want, do whatever you want, live however you want.”  Even though there were consequences then, they never seemed as real.  Even the lupus felt unreal, I felt healthy, I looked healthy-  I must be healthy. Well, as I have spoken about previously, that caught up to me this year.

When I began my personal journey in May I was a weaker person.  I had limited commitment, limited self-control, and limited motivation.  Getting in shape just didn’t seem worth it- However, my couch, take out Chinese, and some good TV in my PJs did.  It was that post college, I have a career, I’m tired, slump phase, and quite honestly, it’s an easy phase to be in.  Because it feels so good.  I legitimately did not care, and I felt fine with my life choices.  Now, I explained how having a flare is what made me hit my breaking point and come to the realization that I needed some physical reform.  I cannot speak for my friends and tell you what made them arrive to their own personal catharsis-esque moments, but I will tell you that they are the ones that kept me going.

First it began with yoga.  We were a tribe of friends going to through hot yoga.  Occasionally we would glance at each other if something that needed to be discussed after class happened, for example any time the guy who makes provocative breathing noises would breath.  At times we acknowledged a ridiculously challenging posture just by making eye contact.  You can say a lot with your eyes in a 90 degree 1.5 hour class.   We would give slight smiles for a job well done that actually meant, HOLY COW- YOU JUST DID THAT, YOU ARE AN AMAZING SUPER-HUMAN… maybe I was just saying that with my smile, but whatever.

We would take this challenge with us to Bikram yoga.  Which led to longer amounts of eye contact, and 15 minute debriefs in the air conditioned bathroom following class.  We would high five and say, “we are survivors!”  I began to look forward to spin class, and step, and the other classes we would challenge together.  My workouts became friend time in their own way.  By sweating it out together we were able to commiserate on the difficulties after class and realize that we were in it as a team.  At times I would not have gone if it wasn’t for a phone call, “are we meeting on the corner to bike over at 4?” Or the pinky-swears that we are indefinitely getting up at 9 for the class on Saturday.  Even a phone call from Danielle, living in the city, telling me about a boot camp class, made me realize- why can’t I get up and just do something right now?!  They all inspired me when I didn’t have the strength to inspire myself.

Friends serve many purposes, but I’m glad to have friends that regularly make me want to be a better version of myself. I have come a long way since May. Surprisingly, even to myself, I actually enjoy running on my own now.  Running is now my release and a cleansing period from my day.  It is a time to reflect and relax and to push my abilities and challenge myself.  I needed my inspirations to get me to where I am today.  My friends are the ones that keep me because they keep going.

Am I perfect?  Far from it.  Every day requires some inner strength to get me out the door.  Even if I am tired, or the day was long, I know it will all be worth it in the end.  And do not get me wrong- I still love my couch, take out Chinese, some good TV, and hanging out in my PJs, but now I do it after I run.