When Your Fears Come True

Sometimes instead of doing yoga, I like to go running. I got into running a few years ago when I wanted to get in shape after having gained 60 lbs during pregnancy. When I started, I couldn’t go half a mile without losing a lung in the process. After a while, I hit the 3 mile mark and the eventually the 5 mile mark, until this year I invited myself to run a Half Marathon with a group of friends who were tackling a race as a group, and with training managed to finish intact and with a relatively decent time.

There’s something about being tired and sweaty that makes me feel like I just accomplished something BIG. Running doesn’t have the same mind-anchoring effect as yoga does, but covering one more mile than the prior week, or running a little bit faster than I was once able to fills me with enough pride to keep me coming back for one more run. Continue reading

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“Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”

1043945_10153025310860707_1834943329_n (1)My sister and I have been taking a trip together every summer since 2011.

The tradition started in Europe, when we headed to Croatia for a dear friend’s wedding and made a short pit stop in Italy (where our father’s family is from) to go hiking in Cinque Terre, pretend we were rich and famous in Portofino, and head down to Bari to take the ferry to Dubrovnik.

During last year’s trip, by far the most exotic yet, we went to Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. A first for both of us, only one thing stood between us and our adventure in the early days of planning: we’re both afraid of flying. Continue reading

My Thoughts on…. Well, Me

I really like me.

I’m not just saying that because I just had 2 glasses of wine. In fact, I can remember a time not too long ago when I couldn’t say that at all.

I really, really like me. I’m proud of me. I like how I look, I like what I’ve accomplished, I like how I think…. I enjoy my own company, even when the “crazies” set in. I’m neurotic, I worry, I’m always anxious… but that’s a part of me – it fits, so I wear it proudly. Continue reading

Your Personality as Reflected by Your Practice

My son and I, finding our balance.

My son and I, finding our balance.

My balance is VERY terrible – particularly right side up, although not so much upside down. I’m also weirdly inflexible in some places and highly flexible in others, so much so that I sometimes end up providing the comedic relief in my yoga class when trying to come into what for most other people is a very basic pose. I’ve held back giggles more than once as everyone around me sits with their legs in a V and folds forward, and I have to conjure up all the strength I can muster to even sit up straight without propping my self up with my hands. Even a 45 degree angle would be a challenge for me in this pose! Continue reading

The Universe is Unfolding as It Should

578240_10151648358665437_965653965_nThose who know me well will tell you I’m practical to the extreme. I don’t get overly emotional about things. I don’t get attached to stuff, don’t fuss over small things, and generally reject things that put me or stress me out if I don’t view them as strictly necessary.

Cleaning is a good example of this. I don’t get too worked up about cleaning at home just because I’m “supposed” to. Any time we move, I prefer to throw everything out and start over than to hang on to baubles and trinkets we’ve accumulated over the years that don’t serve any practical purpose.

In college, my good friends teased me because my dorm rooms always had one characteristic in common: they were adorned by nothing else than the essential bed, dresser, desk and computer. The walls were bare. Decorating doesn’t really serve much of a practical purpose, so why bother? Continue reading

The One About Never Getting Too Comfy

I discovered yoga a few years ago when my friend (then coworker) A.T. introduced me to her local studio. Her studio became my studio, and I’ve been practicing there ever since.

I really love my studio, and my teachers. I stuck to it mostly because it’s a place that doesn’t perpetuate the stereotypes people tend to have of yoga – that all yogis all look, think, and dress a certain way, and that yoga is all about breathing, stretching and levitating with your eyes closed in Lotus Pose, never breaking a sweat.

There IS, of course, a very spiritual component to yoga that I fully admit to not having really explored. But there’s also a very physical aspect to it that a lot of people don’t know about. And depending on what kind of yoga you practice (there are MANY), you can get a hell of a workout.

My studio is very much about the athletic, strength-building facet of yoga. It’s a small, practical place. The teachers don’t take themselves too seriously. My favorite teacher is as sarcastic as I am, and she’s as good at providing entertainment as she is at providing instruction. In other words, this place fits me.

But by now, it offers up no surprises. It’s really comfortable.

Today, I decided to try a new studio. I’ve gone to other studios before, especially when I travel, but in my area I usually stick to my regular place. Occasionally, though, I get curious, and even though it’s a little awkward, I’ll pop into a new place.

I’m not going to lie, it sucked a little. There were a lot of regulars, and they must not get a ton of newcomers because it felt like everyone checked me out a little when I walked in. I also seemed to be the only person in the room wearing anything colorful. Now, I have to admit, I kind of overdid it today with the pink top, blue leggings and orange sports bra, but holy crap I REALLY stood out among the sea of black on black on dark gray.

Peekaboo!

Peekaboo!

A funny thing happens during these yoga classes, though, that I think most people don’t realize. It might feel a little weird when you first walk in, but once you start practicing everyone is so preoccupied with their own awkwardness that they stop paying attention to other people. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the front of the room, the middle, or the back, in the middle of your practice you’re usually way too focused on keeping your balance and straightening out your legs to take the time to judge your neighbor.

The verdict? I’m glad I tried something new, but I think I’ll go back to my own studio for now. Not enough sarcasm at this place to get me to switch.

 

Something in the Water

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The Great Escape of 2011. Dubrovnik, Croatia.

I have a real escapist streak in me. When I’m stressed or when things aren’t going my way, my initial instinct is to retreat. It’s been a blessing and a curse of sorts, since professionally it makes for someone who’s not afraid of – but rather seeks out – change. Personally, however, it was easy to escape from one place to the next when I was single and childless. Having a husband and a six year old son, neither one of whom shares my affinity for wandering the world untethered by earthly possessions, puts a damper on my ability to sell our house and everything in it and go set up a yoga studio on the banks of Lake Como.

I’m not sure how I discovered that the water has an uncanny ability to calm my thoughts and focus my mind on the here and now rather than the imaginary worst case scenario future most people with anxiety live in. It was probably fortunate that our apartment in Barcelona was somewhat close to the beach. When I couldn’t take any more of the dread, the crying, and that choking feeling I STILL haven’t been able to describe for you guys, I would hop on the subway and head down to Barceloneta and the beach. And then I’d just sit there for as long as it took to get a breather, hop back on the subway, and go home.

That attachment to the water has stayed with me through the years, despite my days of non-stop anxiety being long gone. Washington, DC isn’t exactly close to the ocean, and while we do have the Potomac River very close by, I’ve actually found yoga classes have a similar effect on me when things get out of control. I’m not going to lie, there are times when we’re doing core work (Boat or other similar poses) or going into my most DREADED pose Utkatasana (Chair of Torture pose) that I think to myself – why do I like this again?? But then we finish our practice and regardless of what I came into the class thinking about non-stop (oh yeah, I’m also a little obsessive with my thoughts – more on that later), an hour and a half has gone by and all I’ve thought about is yoga. The same thing doesn’t happen when I’m running. In fact, the opposite happens when I’m running!

I think part of it is the fact that yoga is designed to get you to focus on the here and now. The poses are difficult enough that you actually have to focus on doing them properly (or as “properly” as you can manage, anyway). But I also think part of it – at least for me – is that my anxiety is always pushing me to fixate on something, and by focusing on something positive I’m creative more productive emotions than those created when I focus on something negative.

As a side note, most of the beautiful pictures I post on this blog are courtesy of my pillaging my gifted photographer sister Val’s Instagram feed – and I haven’t even picked the best ones! You can catch some of her stuff on Twitter, too.  Tell her I sent you!