How to have a good day

We wake up every morning – some days feeling like P-Diddy (couldn’t resist) – not really knowing how our day will go. Prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. Some days unexpectedly exciting things happen and other days cat videos are the highlight. But there are a few things you can do to help yourself along to a good day.

Cat and Egg

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Even if it means 10 minutes less of sleep.
  • Wear clothes that make you feel good. Not too tight. Not too loose. Clothes that are just right.
  • If you have a crappy commute to work, expect that it will be crappy and stop fighting it. Put on some music instead or bring a book with you.
  • Make a to-do list. Then attack it. Maybe celebrating every time you check an item off of the list.
  • Get up from your chair and chat up a co-worker about something non-work-related.
  • Play your favorite songs. You know, the one you can’t help but sing along to or tap your foot to.
  • Do something nice for someone. No need to be extravagant. Just a random act of kindness.
  • Drink lots of water. Coffee and soda don’t count.
  • Have lunch away from your desk. (Even if it means sneaking into an empty conference room).
  • Get some sunlight. (Pull your chair right up to that window).
  • Give someone a hug. (Preferably not a stranger on the Metro).
  • Try not to dwell on or rehash unpleasant events from your day or the day before.
  • Read or watch something funny.
  • Tell someone how much you love and appreciate him/her.
  • Do yoga. (Duh)

These are just some suggestions. Maybe an impromptu dance party will dispel cranky thoughts or an ice-cold glass of something. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you not get mired in the muck of your day. Break away from your train of thought and give yourself some space to breathe. We don’t have complete control over our day-to-day but since spending our days hiding under our covers isn’t an option, I suggest you try any of the items above.

What do you do to make it a good day?

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Mar O.olmL.

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Getting hurt while doing yoga…

Lorin at The Vegan Asana recently wrote about yoga sometimes hurting. In it she says, pain is okay

as long as the pain is not extreme, is not unusual, is not unbearable, does not produce dizziness or nausea, and is not in areas of the body that are very easily injured (e.g. knees) or where injuries could be quite dangerous (e.g. neck).

Great things to keep in mind with any physical activity. At the beginning of my class and throughout class, I remind students that though they should feel challenged within the poses, they should not feel any sharp pain and if they do, then they need to slowly and carefully come out of the pose. Additionally, I emphasize modified versions of poses by demonstrating that first then showing the more advanced positions before returning to the other version to encourage students not to push beyond what they are capable of at the present. (Yes, more often than not, I can tell when a student is not ready for a pose).

Despite all of that I still see plenty of students who push harder than they should at the risk of getting hurt.

But I encourage them to come back because I want them to learn that a great thing about yoga is that it provides an opportunity to tune in to your body while it is in action. Whether you are moving into the warrior poses, holding them or coming out, you are mindfully going slowly enough to listen to your body. You can ask: what felt good? What didn’t? Did adjusting one way make it better or worse? You will learn so much about your body during a yoga practice.

That is, if you are listening…

The key to avoiding getting hurt inside and outside of yoga is knowing where your edges are. Your physical edge is that line in your body right before the benefit of exertion becomes harmful and injury is likely. Like a cliff, you approach your edge slowly and carefully so that you don’t fall over. Knowing where solid ground ends and free fall begins is important to preventing injury.

For example, in a seated forward fold, a student with tight hamstrings shouldn’t grab his feet, jerk his torso towards his legs and pull as hard as he can to get his chest as close to his thighs as possible. This can cause a serious tear and take him out of commission for weeks. The fold should be approached slowly, bending from the hip creases while using the breath to gradually lower the chest towards the legs to deepen the stretch. Done carelessly, it’s not just your legs that you can hurt but your back as well.

The mentality of pushing past pain does more harm than good. Pain, after all, is your body telling you that it is not okay. Ignoring pain comes with a price that can easily be avoided if we spent just a little more time listening to our bodies and being kinder to ourselves. There is, of course, a difference between pain and intensity. In a stretch, it changes from intensity to pain when you are no longer enjoying the movement. At that point, pulling back is recommended.

It is up to us to define our own edges – physically and psychologically. It is the only sure-fire way to stay safe. If you have any wisdom to share about your experience with injury, please leave them here!

Smarter than you are

A kink in the shield

Late Sunday evening I started to feel dizzy… As in room spinning… Drunk-without-the-alcohol dizzy… By 5:00 PM on Monday, the dizziness hadn’t gone away and it was making me feel really queasy. I had no other symptoms and as long as I wasn’t moving I felt perfectly fine. I thought it was strange so instead of letting it linger on like I like to do, I headed to urgent care last night and was told that I was experiencing VERTIGO.

Damn it all to hell.

Vertigo Staircase

With vertigo, I could not go to work. I could not take a walk let alone attend Monday night yoga class and I had to find a substitute for my yoga class tonight. So I am sitting at home, staring at my computer screen, not doing much.

This morning, I started the day with a little meditation in the hopes that it would make me feel better. Two minutes in… an emotional dam broke. Tears came flooding out of me. We’re talking body wracking, full-on sobbing, snot running down my face, Ron Burgundy weeping… And I couldn’t stop. The tears just kept coming.

I was scared.

When I closed my eyes to listen, I ran smack dab into a scared yogi.

What if it keeps coming back and gets worse? What does vertigo mean for me and my yoga practice? What if I had to stop doing the things I enjoy? What if I had to change my lifestyle? This person I had become? I’m doing everything right. How could this happen???

You see, I don’t get sick. Not really. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been really really ill. I even escaped my husband’s bout with viral meningitis. I have never been seriously injured. I exercise. I eat well. I get plenty of sleep. I take good care of my body. Fanatically so.

And I guess I felt like I was invincible.

But I wasn’t. Vertigo has shown me that. I was terrified. And humbled.

I am reminded that life holds no guarantees for us. That try as we might and as healthy as we are – things happen. Beyond our control. No one is immune. Not even the most health-conscious.

I have calmed down since my weep-fest this morning. Although I have yet to find the words to allay my fears and give me comfort. For now I am simply acknowledging the possibility that I am overreacting and senselessly worrying myself.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Ewar Woowar.

Get me off this food roller coaster!!

Remember when the advice was to eat three whole meals a day? And that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? But then it changed to having six small meals a day was better for you?

Remember when we were told to avoid carbohydrates at all cost? Gluten? Or that meat was going to be the death of us? Then we were told that the Caveman Diet (Paleo) was the way to go?

But not to be outdone, from somewhere else it’s being extolled that FASTING! Fasting works wonders!

SOUTH BEACH DIET, ATKINS DIET, BODY FOR LIFE, WEIGHT WATCHERS, JENNY CRAIG, YOU ON A DIET, THE ZONE DIET, THE RAW DIET…

Aaaaaaaargh! Is your head spinning like mine is?

If it is, you’re likely choking on all the nutritional advice being shoved down your throat. It’s enough to make me want to head down to my beloved Taco Bell and beg for its forgiveness for having neglected it for so long.

The problem is behind almost every diet is a very real and rational science. With support from nutritionists and health professionals, even your doctor! You may even know people who have done well with one of the diets  – and they swear by it! And they’re all very convincing! And they all mean well! One minute you’re stuffing your face with bacon and then the next you’re eating more green, leafy things than goats and cows!

ENOUGH!

I am tired of being made to feel insecure about my food decisions. I am tired of counting calories. I am tired of jumping from one diet wagon to another. I am tired of bookmarking every single article on what to eat – for the “optimal ME!”

I just want to feel good. I want to be happy. I don’t want to be just physically healthy – I want to be emotionally healthy as well. And most of all I don’t want to waste a single moment fretting over a damn cupcake!

I am done with all the noise. I am done with all the food bullying. I am done listening to others. I need to listen to my body.

YOUR truth lies somewhere amidst the chaos. Let me reassure you that your gut is probably right. If a certain nutritional diet plan doesn’t make you feel good, then you should do something else. Humans are as unique on the outside as they are on the inside. What works for your best friend isn’t necessarily going to work for you. You have to find what does.

My friend, Joy of The Joy of Acupuncture, suggested a food journal. No, not so you can obsess over every single calorie but so that you can pay close attention to your body’s reaction to the food that you eat. Yes, tracking everything that you eat is a pain in the neck. But you might discover that raw foods just ain’t your thang. Or that eating fruits late in the day keeps you awake at night. Maybe gluten makes you gassy. From there you can build on a diet plan that works for you. With food that makes you feel good, gives you energy, lets you thrive and do all the things that you want to do.

Obviously, if you declare that you’re going on an all-McDonalds all-the-time plan because that would make you “happy,” I would probably block your way with an electrified cattle prod. If you really listen to your body, I doubt you would hear “let’s eat more junk!”

So today I am declaring myself FREE! Be the master of my own dietary fate! I am going to figure out what foods are good fuel for my body and I am going to stop worrying about what the latest and greatest is in nutritional news.

Won’t you join me? Tell me what your relationship with food has been like. Do you have any tips?

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Meredith_Farmer.

Personal training or personal torture?

Last November, after months of toying with the idea and agonizing over the cost, I hired a personal trainer. When I shared this with others, the most common reactions were…

  • “Why? You don’t need a trainer! You’re thin enough already!”
  • “Isn’t this something you already know how to do?”
  • “Isn’t your workout regimen enough?”
  • ::blank stare::

Yes, I do exercise regularly on top of teaching yoga classes. And I know my way around the gym but I needed to do something more… I was at my heaviest weight. And no matter how hard or how often I worked I didn’t feel like I was getting any results. I was also bored with my workout and my motivation was waning day after day. I was skeptical about the magic trainers can do but I was getting more frustrated so I caved in and hired a personal trainer.

I chose Francois Edouard, an Elite Trainer, at Sport and Health in Bethesda. Why? For the following reasons:

  1. He was fit.
  2. He was friendly with an evil sense of humor.
  3. He was highly recommended by friends and other personal trainers.
  4. He could work with my late gym schedule.
  5. He had the credentials and experience I was looking for. (Certified by the National Strength Professionals Association with 14 years of experience)

Our first session together was an assessment. We talked about what my goals were, my eating habits, any injuries I might have and my current workout schedule. He also wanted to see what I could do or as he put it “how much gas was in my tank…” So he made me do some pushups, some core work and other exercises and finally checked my flexibility. Based on his assessment we agreed on 30-minute sessions twice a week for three months.

After the first week or two, I was sure Francois had broken me as I limped around through my day. At every session all I could think about in the longest 30 minutes of my life was “Do not puke. Do not puke – at least not in front of everyone.” My body did start to hurt a little less as we progressed but I still wasn’t exactly skipping along.

And you know what? It was worth it.

After three months, I lost 5 pounds and 2 inches. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it was to me. I certainly hadn’t been able to do it in the 12 months that I had been trying. Turns out I needed that extra push to knock me out of my exercise plateau. I had never worked so hard in my life and it gave me a better idea of what I was capable of. Francois was great to work with – although I was terrified of whatever torture he had planned for the evening.  He kept our workouts fun and interesting. I feel stronger. I feel better. And confident that I can keep this going.

He also inspired me to change my habits outside of the gym. (Yes, I did get my 30-day alcohol fast idea from him.) It also felt good to have someone who was helping me work towards my goal, pushing me and motivating me when I needed it. More importantly, I learned a lot about proper form and other exercises I could do that worked several muscle groups all at once so I could get more out of every workout.

I highly recommend working with a good trainer. Someone with experience. Someone you can relate to. Someone who understands your real limits and pushes you farther than you’ve ever gone before. Whether you’re a workout newbie or a seasoned fitness star, a trainer can help you get to your fitness goals.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

And if you happen to be near Bethesda Sport and Health, tell Francois I sent you. I’ll also leave you with this parting advice: If you’re not afraid of your trainer, then he’s not working you hard enough.

Happy training!

Your ticket to the gun show

The light at the end of the sober tunnel…

You know when Jennifer Love Hewitt on her show, Ghost Whisperer, talks about heading towards the light? And how warm, beautiful and great it’s going to be? Well, believe it or not, the end of my 30-day alcohol fast wasn’t quite that simple (or glorious). But let me start from the beginning…

Day 1 to day 12: Pretty much sucked. I’m not going to mince words. It really sucked. I was restless. I didn’t know what to do with myself. All I could think about was having a drink. I was also dreaming about drinking. It was social drinking withdrawal. I was even dreading the weekend – which is when the urge to drink hits the hardest!

Day 13 to 18: I became sullenly resigned to the experiment. I was starting to see the benefits but was still pretty salty about it. Grudgingly, I was sleeping better – feeling a bit more alert and less sluggish. I even felt thinner (even if the scale wasn’t showing it).

Day 19 to 28: I was finally in it to win it. I was getting the hang of it. Mentally I was no longer yearning for a yummy pint of beer or glass of wine. I was like a normal functioning member of society! (I said “like”… I wasn’t drinking that much before). 😉 I could also talk about it without hyperventilating or sobbing.

Day 29 to 30: As I was thinking about where I was going to have my first drink to break my fast, I started to feel a little anxious about getting back off the wagon. It was a struggle to stop depending on alcohol socially (and emotionally) and I was feeling pretty good so why get back on? Why am I throwing away this newfound feeling of wellness? Will I go right back to previous habits? What about all the money I will no longer be saving?

Cheers!

I had my first drink three days ago with a great group of friends… I was excited to be back… BUT I did end up having beer spilled on me, a sick feeling in my stomach and the worst night sleep in weeks! Ack! Remind me again why I jumped off my healthy wagon?

Overall, the drink fast was a great experience. I learned a lot about my relationship with alcohol. Mostly that I was starting to depend on it a little too much.

That I was actually drinking more than I realized…

That if I go without for a really long time, I’d be okay…

That life is possible and pretty good on and off the sauce…

And though there is no way to calculate the money I saved, I know I did save some and I am treating myself to a bicycle – at last.

Moving forward I plan on continuing to drink but cutting back a lot — maybe even reserving it for special occasions only — treating drinking as a bonus in my life rather than a requirement.  I am also planning on doing my alcohol-fast annually. Just as a way of getting me back on track and shaking things up.

Will you join me next year? How did your drink fast go?

Never say never

I am not a quitter.

I am opposed to the idea of all or nothing.

I believe in MODERATION.

Even when we’re talking about bad habits. After all, everyone has one (or, in my case, five…… thousand).

One of them was my dependency on soda. A can of soda first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I was having about 3 to 5 a day. It was my pick-me-up, my panacea, my crutch… If I didn’t get any, I would get cranky — okay, MORE cranky.

Finally, two years ago – after much nagging by family and friends – I made the bold decision to cut out soda from my life. I was getting older, gaining weight, my sleeping pattern was wacky and I was not bouncing back as quickly from the abuse I was giving my body.

At the beginning, I kept failing at it. I was sneaking it in when no one was around. I would lie if anyone asked if I had had any soda. Then I’d be plagued with guilt and shame. I felt pretty pathetic. And I really thought I couldn’t do it. That I was doomed to age badly with osteoporosis.

But then a friend pointed out that if drinking soda was one of the worst things I was doing to myself then maybe I just need to relax – to quit being so hard on myself. There were worse things I could be doing. And so I thought, “What if I just cut back instead?” A little soda wasn’t bad. It was that I was drinking it like water. Suddenly a gigantic eco-friendly light bulb went off in my head!

So when I said cut out I didn’t mean never ever. And it’s that distinction that has allowed me to dramatically cut down on my soda intake. I went from having soda every single day to once a month – if that.

The key has been not saying NEVER. Allowing myself to have it on very rare occasions has made avoiding it so much easier. It’s not draining on my self-control and I feel a lot happier. It’s a little way of tricking myself but it has made all the difference.

And when I “slip” I’m a lot kinder to myself. There’s no beating myself up. There’s no disappointment. There’s no feeling of failure. There are no late night soda benders – where I’m up all night and I wallow in self-recrimination the next day. Because no one’s perfect. I would love to tell you that as a yogi I eat well and do well all the time but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. By taking the word NEVER out of my vocabulary I am loving myself better. I don’t get as easily derailed and I’m more likely to get back on and start again. To relax, relate and RELEASE!

So write NEVER on a piece of paper, rip it up and throw it away. You can thank me later. I accept cupcakes as a form of payment.

And if you have any tips that you use to stay on track, please let me know! Let’s get some ideas going!