Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In The Beginning....

I bet some of you thought I forgot that I was going to start my Meditations from the Mat experience yesterday. Well, you were totally WRONG! I did it, but in doing so I realized that I needed that special pastel note card time to focus my thoughts before posting here.

So, everything has a beginning, even journeys that you've been on before. And, especially books with introductions. Seriously? When you want someone to get started on something, don't put one more hurdle in front of them; just start with Chapter 1. Or, if you must write an introduction, just call it Chapter 1. If I ever write a book I won't be writing an introduction, or, as my friend Sarrah suggested to me, I will secretly hide it after Chapter 3 just to throw you all off balance!

Well, since I am a thorough reader, I have read and did read again the intro to this book which basically explains that this book does not have all of the answers. Instead, Gates will now be my partner during my journey inward....less of a Shaman and more of my shadow walking along side me for the next 365(plus intro) days.

At the beginning of each day he presents a quote, verse, song lyric, reading, etc to set the tone for the day's meditation. Intro day was about an ideal that most of us hold: make the world a better place. So, my meditative practice yesterday was on the image of backpacking. When I backpack or camp or hike or do any of those naturey things I always practice the "pack in; pack out" philosophy and try to leave little to no trace of my having been there. When I take my kids to play places I try to leave it in the same, if not better, condition than we found it. So, meditating on the image of backpacking left me feeling grounded, but also sad and missing the mountains. I will be taking my family camping at the end of September to help with that whole in my heart and to celebrate my birthday. In the meantime, I have come up with four ways that I plan to make the world a better place.

1. Bring my children up with love and kindness so that they may be better people than we are. Keep a close and open connection with them while teaching them to give back, love and respect others, and to try to leave the world better than when they received it.

2. Give to others around me. Give respect and share my talents and gifts in life. Donate time, money, resources and compassion.

3. Support sustainability of the world around me. Don't support bad business practices. Recycle. Buy local and organic foods. Patron small businesses. Support the arts, education, and other qualities I value.

4. Educate by recognizing the possibilities in others and exuding the best of me. To lead with LOVE always. Love of myself, of what I do, of the life I live, and the world around me.

If you had to come up with a way to make the world a better place, what would you do?

And if you're wondering about the video at the top, that was the song that popped into my head when I started this post. It was a random song that has been banging around in there since I was 17 and my brother found a random techno cd in our yard and we just stuck it in our pick-up and played it once in awhile. Because that's what white kids in Iowa do for fun.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Girl Power....sorta

So, here is the rest of my never ending thought fest from the other night.

Part 3 - I am a feminist; please hold your applause.
My whole life I have had one goal: To be me and be authentically me. This has worked out for the most part, but sometimes has failed miserably. I have crashed and burned in more than one relationship by trying to be a little less me. I have bombed out of jobs for trying to follow the crowd. I have had crushing bouts of depression and confusion all from trying to "fit in" with what is "normal". Then, I just said screw it all and did what made me happy. That didn't solve much of anything, but it works a whole lot better than all of the other things I've tried.

The Benjamin Lorr book I'm reading right now just allowed me a deeper sense of this feeling. The other night when I was brainstorming all of this amazing stuff, I found a connection within myself that I had never found before. I have been practicing and teaching yoga for 10 years now and have had a serious struggle from time to time with the connection of body and mind. I have taught Pilates and been a Personal Trainer and taught other forms of group exercise. I've coached sports and taught academic classes and workshops on health and fitness and athletics. In all of this time I believe everything I tell others to be true....even if I've never experienced it myself.

Like I said yesterday, (and if you have no idea what I'm talking about, please go back and read yesterday's post Hell-Bent on Cakes) while I was reading the first section of his book I decided to start practicing poses. They just started happening as a natural flow as I listened to what my body needed. I was really trying to work out some kinks and get to the point where I might be able to go to sleep and instead I started letting go of what I thought I knew about myself and yoga. I felt a real sense of nonjudgement of myself for the first time in a long, long, long time. Not the kind where you say, hey, it doesn't matter if I comb my hair today because I'm really smart and things like that don't matter in the long run. Or, no one is going to care if my kids eat dessert every day this week as long as they don't turn out to be serial killers. No, the kind of real nonjudgement that means I love myself just the way I am.

In doing this I also started listening to the book and how they practice backbending. I have since decided that no way in hell do I ever want to try to do a backbend no matter how much you try to convince me to do so. But I did start to push through a little pain I had in my shoulder because Lorr talks about how many of us turn away at the first shiver of pain when doing things and never go past that point. In backbending they push through that pain and then the body gives and eventually releases and there is a little bit of euphoria that comes along with it. I am a firm believer in practicing yoga to the point of mild tension only and that "no pain; no gain" was one of the worst slogans ever to hit fitness and sport. However, I realized I wasn't even practicing to the point of mild tension when it came to my left shoulder. I was just flat out cowering away from anything that seemed like it might hurt without even trying. I pushed and it released and in doing so I found and physically felt a connection between my shoulder and my rectus abdominus. I always talk about everything in your body is connected to your "core" and this was the first moment that I felt it so strongly that it made me feel grounded and whole all at once. With that being said...on to part 4.

Part 4 - The Questions...duhn, duhn, duhn (or however you spell that)
I figure that this section will kind of be an expanded "About Me" since I didn't give that part of my blog too much thought in the beginning.

Question 1 - What are you working on at the moment?
The short answer: My course syllabus for the fall
The long answer: Myself
If you haven't already been over to read Jenny Lawson on The Bloggess, then you really should. She has opened my eyes in so many ways, but she is not one of my "featured bloggers" today. She just gave me a few new perspectives on things that also sprouted out of my assignment from Stef and reading Benjamin Lorr's book.

So, I'm still working on all of my fitness goals and will be starting my 365 with the Rolf Gates book tomorrow, but I am working on appreciating who I am and where I am in life and I'm learning that that means that I am a little more of a feminist than I once believed and it's starting be a driving force behind my choices in life. I have been a procrastinator on many things and doubted myself so many times, but if I look back at all of my life choices, I've turned out pretty great and that's how I ended up here, writing for you.

In school I was a full on athlete who adored her Rosie the Riveter shirt and had aspirations of being the first woman to play in the NBA. I shifted gears after the creation of the WNBA and once I started doing triathlons. This led me to study sport science in college and eventually I found myself in graduate school. There my eyes were opened even further by the most amazing instructor I've ever had (Dr. Melanie Sartore-Baldwin, look her up, she's great). Since then I've been biding my time and enjoying life as a stay at home mom until I can get it together and get back to school. I really want to head in the direction of women's studies and the sociocultural exploration of sport and fitness.  This plus yoga kind of sums up me in a nutshell.

Question 2 - How does my work differ from others of this genre?
Honestly, when I started blogging back in January I couldn't find a single other mommy blogger that wrote about fitness and even harder to find some good ones that wrote about yoga. I think that being in the industry that I'm in and still working while I stay home helps me to come up with ideas for what to write about and how to look at the topics. My writing has changed a lot in the last seven months because I'm reading more of other people's work and allowing it to influence me in a good way and to spark interest. I'm also trying to stay away from writing like an information center and more conversational so it will be easier to read.

Question 3 - Why do I write what I do?
I started this blog for two reasons. The first is that I heard I could get sponsored if I got good at it and I kind of wanted an extra way to bring in some cash for my family. I know that may seem like a rotten reason to start out, but at this time in my life I need to help out financially as well. The other reason, the reason I've stuck with it, is because I really like helping people and want to find a way to reach others. I travel for one of my jobs and help make better fitness professionals, but unless I can travel everyday I feel like I'm not doing enough to share my knowledge and help people find accurate and safe fitness advice. I hope someday to have a large following and to be able to help people find their healthy and happy moments in life. Please feel free to post or email me fitness questions so I have more ideas of topics (even other than yoga and running) to share with you. I didn't get my master's degree in this stuff for it to sit in my head and be beneficial only to me and my workouts.

Question 4 - How does my writing process work?
Pastel colored note cards. Seriously, I keep them in my desk drawer and run to it any time I have an idea. Most of the time I think of a billion ideas when I'm out running or walking and then, as soon as I get home, dash upstairs to jot them down and make something of them later. I also use those note cards as book marks when I'm reading so that I can keep track of things that stand out to me. Then, when the kids are asleep for naps or whenever I can find a minute to myself, I plop myself down on my exercise ball or free wooden chair that was left here by the previous owners or tenants and just type away until it all makes sense to me. When I write papers though it's a lot different. Then I use a lot of legal pads because, for me, there's just something about still putting it on pen and paper that helps me process. I'm sure that if I ever get to working on my dissertation that I will kill an entire forest and annoy my mentor to death. But, as I hate to type on the computer and do not have enough ink in my printer at the moment for it to work, I still have not finished my research paper from my graduate program that I was really hoping to have published 3 years ago. So, there's that too.

Okay, time to finish this novella out....

Part 5 - And the academy goes to.....
Unfortunately I do not currently personally know of anyone who blogs, so this next part is kind of a stalker's follower's perspective on blogs I like to read. 

Fit Is a Feminist Issue - Sam and Tracy are two amazing women who are headed to 50 this year and are kicking butt and taking names. They have a unique feminist philosophical perspective on the fitness world and after reading their blog for awhile I've determined that if I knew them they would be the awesome big sisters that I would follow around like a lost puppy dog. Seriously though, reading Tracy's post last week about cycling encouraged me to drag my bike out of the back of the garage, pump up the tires, and go for a nice 10.55 mile ride yesterday. I haven't been on that bike since I was pregnant with my first in 2010! Plus, now I'm on the hunt for a bike trailer so I can pull my monkey and alligator around with me as I redefine my calves without the help of high heels.

Manure Girl - Marg over at Manure Girl cracks me up, but is currently on a little blog hiatus while she writes. When I emailed her to see if I could feature her and begged her to come back to blogging she asked me if this was a chain letter.  It kind of is, but I hope that, since her reason for not blogging lately is that she's writing, this will be the perfect segway to bring her back. She makes no attempt to hide who she really is and that's probably why I like her. Most of my favorite bloggers are the kind of women who tell it how it is. Please come back Marg and soon! PS-Because you agreed to do this you will receive one million sets of fine china in the mail, but should you fail to post within the next seven days and thus break the chain, you will instead find a flaming bag of manure on your front step.

We Don't Chew Glass - Steph (with a ph, not the same as the Stef with an f above) is another mom who has got the right idea....just feed and water your kids and they'll turn out fine. I forgot to ask Steph if she'd do this, but she said she was going to be my second follower ever, so hopefully she'll play along. Maybe I can convince my real life friend Stephanie to be my third follower? I don't even remember how I found her blog, but I am sooooo glad I did and I look forward to laughing at her posts daily. Go visit Steph and maybe take that crazy kitten off of her hands for her!

Iowa Girl Eats - I also forgot to ask Kristin over at IGE if I could feature her here, but you should check her out anyway. Kristin is a runner and a mom just like me and also from Iowa (although lucky enough to not be stuck in NC). Also different from me, Kristin is a food blogger and comes up with some amazing looking stuff that makes me want to stuff my face. Some of it is just sinful, but most of it is really good for you. I've made quite a few of her recipes and my family's favorite is a homemade take on hamburger helper. Kristin has one more amazing talent that I'm not sure she's aware of; she can pose for any photo and look flawless! If you don't believe me, scroll through her pics and see that she seems perfect at all moments. And just to prove that I'm not making this up and that her pics aren't all doctored...here's a snapshot stolen from my friend Jeri's photo album of Kristin and Jeri at Subway where she ran into her and did the celebrity thing:

If you've made it all the way to the bottom of this very long post, THANK YOU FOR READING! I'll be back tomorrow with more yoga and less talking.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hell-Bent on Cakes

Good Saturday Morning Everyone! I could hardly sleep last night, so I read and wrote. Now I have a five part novella that I will share with you over this weekend. The first section (parts 1 and 2) will be revealed here and section two (parts 3-5) will come sometime tomorrow (Sunday). I'm so excited because my brain was working on overtime and I feel like something really great came out of it all.

Part One - Hell-Bent
So, Thursday (our usual library day) I decided to try and find a new book for me. I knew I was going to start up with the Gates book on Monday, but still wanted to do a little more "free reading".  HAHAHAHA! *sigh* Because I don't have to pay for books when I get them from the library....okay, maybe not that funny, but it's Saturday morning and I only slept 5 hours last night.

I just opened up the digital library catalog to see what was in and found this gem: Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and The Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga.  Yeah, the name alone made me say, "I HAVE TO CHECK THIS BOOK OUT!" And so I did. The motivation behind diving into this book comes from a post I did earlier this week: Hobbling Like a Hobbit and finding the balance between a competitive nature and the teachings/practice of a yogi.

Yesterday I sat down to test out this book and wondered why it has taken me so long to find it. I only got 12 pages in before I had to set it down and get kids who were awakening from naps and eventually squeeze in a quick run that I'd put off earlier in the day. Yet, at 1230 at night I lay awake in bed. The kind of awake that can only be changed by a blow to the head, a stiff drink, some intense activity, or a good read. I chose the last option and snuck upstairs to rejoin Benjamin Lorr and his adventure into competitive backbending. I was hooked and finished the whole first section of the book....while practicing yoga asanas.

In his book he talks about and debunks a lot of the misconception around yoga. He's done his research and made me feel a little misinformed despite my many reads and research into the practice and history of yoga. I always knew that no one historical account was true to the last drop, but his take on the whole thing opened my eyes further and almost blew my mind. His writing style is very blunt, humorous, inspirational, and easy to read all at once. I'm pretty sure that I will have this book completed in the next week if not sooner.

My take away from last night is that I want to delve deeper into this book and my thoughts on yoga and my practice (good thing I'm starting my 365 journey on Monday) and this take away from one of his gurus, Esak, "competition only reflects what is already part of us." (p.60) If competitions are a reflection of something that is already a part of us and yoga teaches that we are all a part of one big whole, then I feel like there is room for me to be both competitive and a yogi.  More to come on Mr. Lorr.

Part Two - It's a long story made short
Second story of this long weekend rant is that not only am I discovering a connection and a deeper nonjudgement in myself, I'm also being discovered! Thank you to the amazingly talented, insanely funny, real and down-to earth writer Stef S. who is currently my only "follower" for highlighting this blog in a beautiful light on her blog. I love reading Stef's stuff about her life with her daughters, her many times she was almost famous, the adventures of her youth that shaped her into the woman she is today, and also about her CAKES!

I will be posting my answers to the four questions tomorrow in part 4 of this installment and giving you a preview of some other blogs I find amazing in parts 3 and 5. For now, I want to pay homage to Stef and say how humbled I am at her talent. Here are some photos of cakes I have made in the past which don't hold a candle to hers. AHAHAHAHA! I crack myself up at 9am! But seriously, now I want cake.
My 27th birthday cake that I made myself because none of my friends new how to bake. It's a dark chocolate cake with raspberry filling, chocolate ganache and real raspberries and hot pink buttercream frosting. It was a hilarious cake to make with all of the pink since I'm not much of a pink girl myself. I don't even think I ate any of this cake, which was my practice back then. Bake and give it away. This is one of the few cakes I have digital photos of prior to 2009.
A birthday cake in the oven, but fully decorated. This was my first cake for my now niece. It was her 5th birthday and I slightly disappointed her because I guess Strawberry Shortcake looks different now than she did when I was 3 and my mom made this very same cake for me.
Shaped cake seem to be easy for me because you just follow a template and make a million stars. The only problem comes when you don't have the right color for your frosting tint and Ariel the Little Mermaid comes out looking like she has a great tan despite living Under the Sea.  (I'm sure the song is now stuck in your head....you're welcome.)
My son's first cake! I had to improvise to make it a sock monkey and it came out alright if you ask me. He will never remember this or the little smash cake I made for him (applesauce, banana, chocolate chip with cream cheese frosting), but it means something to me to carry on this tradition. My mom made all of my cakes growing up and my graduation cakes etc.
Back to my niece. She was obsessed with Spongebob Squarepants, but I didn't want to buy the pan for it. So, I freehand designed it on a 9x13 for her party. Not bad for never having watched the dude before. Although I wish I had cut the cake out and then decorated it.
I love this photo where Ike is in awe of his second birthday cake. Can you guess what he was into? This was another guess at how to make something. It's two pound cakes made in loaf pans and turned onto each other. Oreos for accessories will be a repeating theme.

I made this same cake for both of the boys' dedications. I can't find the picture of Ike's. Nothing fancy, but here I tried playing with smoothing the frosting with a paper towel to give it a little texture without being starred or "rustic".
On to trains. This one took a lot of work with color flow to make animals, constructing things out of marshmallows, Oreos, ice cream cones, Fudge Stripe cookies, licorice, and graham crackers. It was delicious!

My niece now wants to help with baking and we made this cake for my mother in-law's birthday this year. She came dressed to her party to match a cake she didn't know she was getting. It was great! Syd says she wants to be a cake maker some day. I hope she's far more talented than I. Her cake this year will be a real challenge and I'm sure I'll post all about it. The girl is into Duck Dynasty of all things!

And finally to the little guy's 1st cake. He is our little alligator and this was a creation from my mind as well. Unfortunately this 19x13 cake took us a week to finish. Both of the boys were sickish the day of the party which left many guests at home avoiding the illness possibility. Their loss.
Until tomorrow....I'm out the door to run and enjoy the fresh, humid air of a NC Saturday in July!

Friday, July 25, 2014

4 Magic Words

You know those 3 little words that everyone wants to hear? They are not at the top of my list right now. Instead I want to hear 4 magic words: "I have to poop!" No joke.

We are now at the end of the third week of no more Pampers Easy-Ups at our house. My 3 1/2 year old is being a champ and has really gotten the hang of the bathroom thing...for the most part. We have had a few close calls, but mostly we're getting in there on time without fail. I don't remember learning to use the bathroom as a small child and I hope he won't remember it either. Thus, why it is hard for me to relate to being "scared" of pooping. The terror on his face sometimes is confusing. It's just poop.

Some of my favorite quotes from the past three weeks include:
"I pooped!" (with a look of surprise)
"See, I just let it out. I just let the poop out."
"I can do this every day."
"I pooped in the toilet. Now I get a cupcake." (Yeah, we were bribing rewarding him for awhile.)
"My poop looked like a telephone."
"That smells terrible!" (wish I could share a sound bite of how he says this one)
And yesterday, "Move! I have to poop!" I had just gotten out of a shower post-run and he had decided he wanted to use my bathroom.

One thing that has amazed me about this little guy is his amazing sphincter control. He was holding it in for days at a time at first. Literally 3-4 of them while still consuming loads of fruit, veggies, nuts, whole grains, and beans. It blows my mind! This is mostly because I am "old" and have had two children and things down there just kind of tell you: "NOW!" For instance, yesterday we went out for a run (2.11 mi). It's a fairly easy course that I've done many times before and was actually my first walk in our new neighborhood. Things started out great and I was smiling and hearing my mantra about long and propulsive steps. It's a bit of an uphill at the beginning, so it felt a little slow, but I hit my stride and was headed back into our neighborhood when I had to stop and walk. I had to stop and walk in one of those hunched over, butt clenched positions that tells everyone you need to find the bathroom ASAP, but you're still 1/2 mile from home and feel like you're going to die!

The truth is that I have been experiencing some serious cramps this week which have hindered a lot of my activities and made me feel like I should be in an IBS commercial:
Yes, that's my actual stomach taken this morning; sorry for the "selfie" nature of the photo. I told you I'd post more pictures. I used to feel very self conscious of my fallen belly button, but hey, who am I trying to impress these days? I'm married and have two kids to show for that stomach!

All of this got me thinking that maybe I need to do a little more yoga to help alleviate some of these symptoms. But this is a tricky situation, yoga during menstruation.

I wrote the following for the yoga teacher training manual I completed in May:

A Special Note on Contraindications for Menstruating Women:
In some of the following asanas you will find a contraindication for menstruating women. These poses, most likely inversions or balance poses, are considered contraindicated by some professionals, especially during the heaviest flow days because yoga can increase the menstrual flow, cause a backflow of blood stores, reverse energy flows, and/or stretch the broad ligament due to a heavy uterus pushing upward into the body. However, others believe that yoga can be very beneficial during menstruation to aid in increasing energy levels and alleviating some of the issues associated with menstruation like cramps, headaches, etc. We feel that these are all valid points and therefore recommend each individual woman decide what is right for her in her practice during this time. We encourage you, as instructors, to educate the female participants in your class about the benefits and risks of participating in yoga and encourage them to engage in a practice that makes them feel most comfortable.

So, here are three yoga poses that are good for alleviating these symptoms include things that open up the hip and pelvic joints and basically soothe and massage the organs in this area. With photos:

Butterfly aka Cobblers Pose aka Bound Angle

Goddess or Supine Butterfly

Bow Pose

These will be on my afternoon agenda after groceries and getting kids down for naps alongside some breathing exercises for relaxation and a little meditation. Enjoy the weekend ahead!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hobbling Like a Hobbit

I spent a nice 3 days with some of my husband's family this last weekend. It is something we have done every year for the last three years, but this year we were a few family members short due to illness. These visits with family are always nice, but a challenge because I tend to spend a lot of time not doing anything but eating and visiting. And the eating is not always mindful, but more social in nature.

When we got back on Sunday it was nice to be home again and Monday morning I was back pounding the pavement and thinking about all of the important issues that are always running in my mind. The run was short on purpose because Sunday evening I injured my hip again and it has been bothering me ever since. I am now hobbling around and, for some reason, can't get the idea out of my head that I somehow look like a hobbit. The boys and I tackled a walk this morning too in attempting to get back in the groove, but my hip was just not into it. It was slow (18min/mi) and painful. Additional pain was added to the process by the fact that after 22 months of pregnancy and breastfeeding my cycle has returned and with a fervor! Thank goodness it was today and not yesterday.

Yesterday I was watching the TODAY show (as it's always on in our house in the morning) and Jenna Wolfe was interviewing one of the creators of the Spartan Race series (see video here). It looked like so much fun and I wanted to start planning for how I could participate in one of these events. I was trying to decide if it would be better to train specifically for the event or to train as I usually do and then work on my burpees for my first attempt at a course. See, for every obstacle that you fail to accomplish you have to do 30 burpees before moving on to the next challenge. If you've never done a burpee or heard of one:

I love this step by step image, but also love this:

Yeah, burpees are not fun, but they are great exercise. Yesterday I decided to get started on my burpee training. I did exactly 8 before noticing my husband standing outside our front door in the pouring down rain like a creeper....LAUGHING at me! Why? I have still yet to figure that out, but I promptly stopped and haven't gotten back to them today due to my uterus feeling like it's being trampled by elephants. (Trust me...do NOT Google image search that phrase!)

Anyways, this all got me thinking about my yoga life. In yoga we teach the concept of non competition. Do not compete with others around you in order to do the pose the way they are doing it. Accept yourself for how you are and how you practice each day. Does it make me a bad yogi if I want to compete? How do I balance competition in other aspects of my life, but use the idea of non competition and acceptance to be balanced and happy? What is the opposite of non competition if it isn't competition and therefore, do I not need a little of both to be balanced?

This is what is challenging my mind today through the cloud of Tylenol and Hershey's bars. Therefore, I'm going to start on my 2015 challenge a little early (all of 5 months early, but it's time). I am going back to a book I love called Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates. I am going to dig in on Monday, July 28th, and diligently do my reading, one each day, to help me re-learn some more about yoga and myself. I want to figure out how to be a competitor and a yogi at the same time. Want to join me? Pick up the book or just follow along. In the process, I am going to work up to doing as many burpees as I can and pick a Spartan Race to accomplish no later than July 28, 2015.

Okay, because I know you're dieing to find out....here's one of the scary images of a uterus trampled by an elephant:
SOOOOO glad I only have one uterus to give me troubles! Happy Tuesday everyone!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vroom, Vroom, Beep, Beep

My posting of late has been delayed due to travels and weather. First, I had the most amazing 24 hour visit with my long time friend Sarrah whom I hadn't seen in person for almost 6 years. It was bittersweet fun as I knew it wouldn't last. This, I believe, is how you can measure true friendship...take a 6 year break and it feels like you just saw the person the other day. Here's to hoping it's not another 6 years before we're back together!

I was able to get in a nice 4 mile walk with Sarrah while staying at my in-laws. This is a place where exercise is usually thrown out the window and especially since my husband stayed home by himself for a few days. However, I took advantage of nap time and having grandparents on hand to handle any emergencies with the boys.

When we returned home (and even on our trip) the weather was bad. We have had some serious down pours over the last week which have prevented a lot of runs and walks. This is probably a good thing in some respects as I have now worn an "almost hole" into the bottom of my shoes and am looking forward to starting regular work in August so that I can get a new pair.

I drove a lot in the few days I was gone and while driving for hours on end with my children in the backI heard a great slogan:

"You take your car in for a tune up; why not your body."

This got me thinking about all the things we take care of on a daily basis that do not include taking care of ourselves. I tried Googling a statistic to see how many Americans get a yearly physical and instead got a whole slew of info about why you do not need one. I'm kind of in a different mind set all together about the practice. For one thing I do agree that many doctors will order unnecessary tests and lab work during physical exams and therefore jack up the cost of health care. However, I think that Americans (as a general population) are not taking very good care of ourselves and therefore may need to check in a little bit more with their health care professionals.

I have a 13 month old and a 3 1/2 year old. The little one is still going to the pediatrician every 3 months for a variety of vaccinations, growth checks, etc. The big guy is going just once a year and a second time for his flu shot. I haven't had a full on physical that was just for me since I was in high school and playing sports. I have had yearly exams for my female health and all of the necessary check ups when I was pregnant. I get eye exams yearly, mostly because I wear contacts, and visit the dentist every 6 months. But I started thinking about all of the other ways that we should get checked up or tuned up each year.

This ad was for a massage company (almost said parlor, but that wasn't even close to right). They suggested by their slogan that we regularly need time to release the tension in our bodies, but I think we need more than just that. I wish that my insurance company would pay for several different yearly physicals. I want a yearly meeting with a nutritionist in order to talk about my eating habits at each age (because I have a different metabolism at 33 than I did at 23). I want a regular mental health professional meeting. I think it would be nice to know that twice a year I could go and talk to someone about what I've got going on without it costing an arm or leg. I also don't think that we should only seek out therapists when we've got something "wrong" or feel depressed. It'd be nice to talk to someone when you're on the up and see how best to maintain that feeling. I'd also like a chance to meet with another personal trainer (one who has a degree and holds an accredited certification) to help me set new fitness goals and teach me some new exercises. It'd be nice if that person could observe me as I do my regular workouts and see all of the things I'm missing myself.

I believe in preventative maintenance for my car and myself. I think this is why I am so deeply drawn to yoga. Yoga focuses on the individual (all aspects), but also as the individual as a part of the whole. By doing more yoga I feel more deeply connected to those around me. I notice simple things like how the sound of my breath can put my baby to sleep or calm him down. I notice that when I am grounded that I parent better and let go of tension easier. I notice that when I feel limber and loose that I perform better in my running and other physical training. And I notice that when I meditate I see more clearly my life and the beauty in it.

Today is a good day for meditating on the self and getting in tune with the body. In listening to the body, think about what areas are telling you that they need more attention. Consider which areas are telling you that things are going smoothly. Sometimes, when all we listen to is the negative, it's easy to get down, but if we can also hear the parts of our vehicle that are driving us forward we can hold out until our next pit stop and know that things are going to be okay.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Series of Unfinished Projects

Now that Arthur and the 4th of July have passed, it's time for some more reflection and some more yoga. You know how they say life is a journey and not a destination? Well, my life seems more like a series of unfinished projects. Yesterday I tackled two of them: sew up the whole in a pillow and sew my pocket back on my pj pants. Maybe that's only one project as they were both in the "to sew" pile. Today I am working on the loading of pictures to the computer and then out to the family....that doesn't mean I'll get it done, but I'm working on it. Oh, and there are pictures to be mailed too that will have to wait for another day.

I often find myself with lots on my mental "to do" list and I think this is common of many people these days. I wonder when I am going to start enjoying the things I am doing instead of staring down the massive pile of things I have yet to do. I try not to take on too much, but I believe it's part of my personality to intentionally overwhelm myself in order to feel superhuman when I finally accomplish it all. However, it makes you feel miserable in the process and even like you're drowning.

I'm not good at asking for help, but really like to offer it. My high school swim coach and very close family friend once told me that I would know the right person to marry when I could ask them for help. If this were true I'd still be single. I'm not at a point in my life where I'm ready to reach out and completely surrender to another person. I like things done my way and I like the sense of pride that comes from doing the things I do.

Today it got me thinking about a few more things I want to finish before the year is through, but more importantly it got me thinking about me and acceptance of me how I am. My yoga practice today was going to be one of the physical path with the Asanas as my guide. However, I think I'm going to bridge between physical and mental/spiritual by meditating on my breath.

Before I sent back the Amy Weintraub book I took notes on one of the sections about breathing (p.128-150). She noted that if you breath in your chest or see your clavicle rise when you breathe that it's a sign you're too much in your own head. I wonder if I were able to look back at my former self (prior to learning "how to breathe") that I would see myself as a clavicular breather? If you breathe into your belly you tend to be more grounded and in touch with your emotions and gut feelings. I feel like I must be breathing somewhere directly around my diaphragm as I'm in my head a lot but also very in tune with what is going on with my body.

Weintraub then talks about breathing in the different sides of your nose in an alternating nostril breathing practice called Nadi Sodhana Pranayama. In observing your breath you may notice that you tend to inhale and exhale more strongly through one side over the other. The right side is a warming breath and associated with characteristics of a left brain person; more creative and relaxed. These people sometimes need to more heat building breathing exercises to ignite themselves and get motivated to accomplish tasks. The left side is a cooling breath and associated with characteristics of a right brain person; more logical and organized. These people need the cooling breath to keep them from "burning out". These people should practice pranayamas found often in group fitness yoga classes to help them relax. I am one of these people. My right nostril is definitely blocked most days and I am a Type A personality. I also like to consider myself creative and fun. (I guess I should stop referring to Type A persons as not fun.....) I also wondered if my constant want to grind my teeth (not just at night) and the tight jaw I experience when I'm doing pranayama, or just really deep in thought, is a symptom of that congested right nostril. I want to feel balanced in my breath, but not forcibly so.

Finally, Weintraub talks about the dangers of practicing activating breaths. While the cooling breath is often very good for those who need to settle their minds, she warns that these breaths can also cause depressive moods because it can cool the brain too much. She warns too that the activating or warming breaths can lead to manic episodes in those who suffer from bipolar. Reading the book at this point both challenged and scared me. I wanted very much to try something new (an activating breath series), but struggled with the fear of finding myself in a manic state. "What if?" I wondered over and over again. I have never been diagnosed with bipolar, nor has anyone in my family. I have never even considered the possibility until the moment that I read her caution. So, I skipped that section and moved on until I had to take the book back.

I may still revisit the activating breaths some day, but I find that this fear has rooted itself a little too much and I need to dismiss it before moving forward. So, for today, to cool my mind and not let it list the 8 million things that I feel I should be accomplishing, I will just try to balance my breath and bring balance to my life.