The perils of watching the clock

While exchanging emails with fellow gym instructor, Curtis, I was lamenting how quickly the summer was passing me by. His response was:

“I try not to mourn the passing of summer until September…”

It both shamed and inspired me.

You see, I constantly fail at enjoying the present because I am already dreading the end. For example, when I visit my family, I feel sad about the inevitable goodbye. And I have actually thought to myself that if I don’t see them at all I won’t have to say goodbye! Problem solved! (Stupid, huh?)

I am most guilty during the warm months. It is my favorite time of the year. I am fearless when the sun is darkening my skin and I have a tasty Margarita in hand. I eagerly anticipate this awakening… I talk magnanimously about all the wonderful things I am going to do with my friends… Then the days and months pass by in a blur. Before I know it, it is time to don a jacket again and face shorter days with less sunlight. I am left unfulfilled, incomplete and a little depressed… Great. Just great. Year after year the best season seems to catch me unprepared.

After all, time flies when you are having fun, yes? But the real injury is that I am missing out on fully enjoying the present. On love. On life. On unadulterated joy. I am not allowing myself to completely experience moments so that I can learn from them and be refreshed!  Life is passing me by!

I know I can’t enjoy the present when I am living too far into the future. And I have to stop myself every time from looking at my watch and thinking “oh it will be time to go again soon.” (Unless I’m in a meeting then staring at the clock is a MUST).

A picture of my watch

I need to change this behavior. And Curtis’s statement reminded me that I need to work harder to do so. I can’t keep worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. {Insert cliché on worrying HERE}

I don’t yet have a solid solution to my self-jeopardizing tendency but awareness of the behavior and knowing my penchant for doom and gloom will hopefully keep me in check. I am patiently training myself knowing that it will be a dance of two steps forward, one step back.

Have you kicked this habit? Do you have any advice to share? Or are you (like me) still in the throes of fighting it? I would love to hear about it.

Sharing the light series: Meet ANNIE CARLIN

I am always on the look out for good yoga teachers to connect with. On Twitter I have been fortunate to talk with a whole slew of yogis, teachers and like-minded folks. Annie Carlin is one of them. When she invited me to attend one of her classes, I jumped at the chance.

I was uncertain when I walked into the room but Annie’s infectious smile made me feel at ease. Her smile also had an element of mischievousness right at the very tips and I knew I was in for a fun class. I was not disappointed. From her I learned a nifty trick to help me strengthen my full boat pose… And it’s so great that I still get bubbly excited just thinking about it. These are the things you look forward to when teachers take classes from other teachers. The sharing of knowledge and feeling yourself expand right into that new information.

I look forward to many more experiences with beautiful Annie.

You can find out more about Annie here. She was also recently featured in Curvy Yoga.

1. How did you find your way to yoga?

Before I moved to DC five years ago, I lived in New York City my entire life. New York has a zillion yoga studios, but during college, one of my roommates told me I had to try a free class at a yoga studio a couple of blocks from where we lived. Though that first class kicked my butt and I felt like I would faint at any minute, something obviously spoke to me. When I moved back to Brooklyn after college, I found a studio I loved and was soon practicing almost everyday. To say that changed my life would be an understatement. Moving to DC was rough – but since then, I’ve become a yoga teacher myself and can pay forward the experiences I’ve had.

2. How would you describe your yoga teaching style?

So I’m a Prajna Inspired teacher – i.e. certified at 200 hours by Prajna Yoga out in New Mexico. The style incorporates asana principles from ashtanga and iyengar yoga with detailed anatomy instruction and wisdom from the buddhist traditions.

I teach a hybrid of flow and longer holds, and specialize in modifications for every body including working around injuries and other physical issues. I sometimes call what I teach what I call supportive yoga – yoga that incorporates props and modifications for folks who might not feel comfortable in a typical yoga class. I’ve done both a very physical and necessarily therapeutic practice at various times in the past ten years so I can adapt for students of all levels and needs. My current regular class is specifically for those who live in larger bodies, but I teach general classes quite often as well (as you saw this weekend)!

3. What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Yoga certainly is up there, but I read somewhere once that singing was a great way to relieve the symptoms of stress because it forces you to regulate your breathing naturally. Since I love to sing anyway, it works especially well for me. My neighbors might feel otherwise. 😉

4. Describe your perfect day.

65 degrees, sunny, no humidity…

I tend to wake up early naturally so I’d start the day by walking to the local coffee shop, then I’d hit a farmers market and buy way too many delicious fruits and veggies. I’d spend a couple of hours at a yoga class with a teacher I adore or at a rocking zumba class, and then I would come home and make something amazing with my farmers market purchases. Finally, I’d spend the rest of the day snuggling with my boyfriend and/or chilling with friends.

5. Your last meal would be?

This one is hard! I’m going to say french fries from Cafe Luluc in Brooklyn, a Ray’s Hell Burger and a perfectly ripe plum or three. 🙂

6. Best advice you can give someone else would be?

Don’t miss the process for the outcome and don’t avoid experiences because you don’t know if you will succeed. I wish I always followed this advice myself – I think many mistakes I have made would have been avoided.

What I learned from the D.C. storm power outage

On Friday, June 29th, a weather phenomenon called a Derecho, slammed into Washington, DC and left more than a million people without electricity. I was lucky enough to have been away for a few days and only had to suffer through the power outage from Sunday evening to Tuesday evening. But, boy, did those few days test my mettle! It left me cranky and sweaty but with some incredibly powerful lessons…

  1. Eat the ice cream. Right away. Don’t save it for an emergency. When there is ice cream in the fridge, every single day is an emergency.
  2. Hanging out in the outdoor patio furniture section of Target is totally acceptable.
  3. Trees are lovely things… Lovely, deadly things that like to take down power lines. You will never look at a tree the same way again.
  4. You will re-evaluate your friendships based on their location on the power grid.
  5. Complaining won’t get you anywhere, but it’s going to feel damn good.
  6. When you don’t have power, you will actually look forward to going into the office. It’s possible.
  7. You will invent new ways to stay cool – like naked brushing your teeth or naked sweeping the floor.

I know I sound like a Baz Luhrmann song telling you to wear sunscreen but if you take anything away from this post it’s that you should never let ice cream go to waste.

What did YOU learn from the power outage?

P.S. A HUGE thanks to the men and women who worked tirelessly in the blazing heat to get power back on as soon as possible.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Brittany Herbert.

Sharing the light series: Meet ALLY SHUTTY

Ally Shutty and I were introduced via email by a mutual friend. Her first few words to me were, “Hiya Sam ~ I don’t know if people call you that but I will.” As I laughed to myself, I immediately knew that I’d be dealing with a firecracker.

There is a yoga teacher perception and though it’s not all bad it’s still not always true. Ally was generous, upbeat and straightforward in our email exchange and I wanted to see how that would translate into her teaching. When I finally had the chance to take a class with her, I enjoyed the combination of her vibrant personality with a direct and concise teaching style. No frilly, out of this realm, intangible words… She was clear, down-to-earth and completely relatable. I look forward to taking more classes with her.

Ally teaches in the DC/MD metro area. If you have any questions for her, leave a message here or send me a message and I’ll get you in touch with her.

1. How did you find your way to yoga?

I used drugs for many years to escape depression…. however, this just sent me into a deeper depression.  My mom bought me a gift certificate to a yoga class and I think the teacher took particular interest in me… perhaps she could sense my darkness. She asked me to show up for class everyday and from there on out I was hooked. Yoga became my drug of choice and allowed me to escape the dark and head towards the light.

2. How would you describe your yoga teaching style?

I teach from the heart. Whatever life lessons I am currently learning I incorporate into my practice. I use poses that might resemble that theme. I don’t box myself with a certain style a.k.a. vinyasa, yin, hatha… I mix it up. At the end of the day I get students to move and breathe to create healing in the body. After all yoga is used to end suffering and remind us who we are.

3. What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Anytime I move my body whether its yoga or running… this is my go-to stress fighter. When I can match my body rhythms and my mind rhythms to the same tempo, it creates a steadiness and ease in my life.

4. Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day would begin sitting on my front porch with a cup of warm tea watching and listening to nature. Then some form of yoga or exercise. In the evenings I like to gather with friends or practice my ukulele.

5. Your last meal would be?

I love Pho… it would have to be a bowl of Pho!

 6. Best advice you can give someone else would be?

The body is our wisest tool and it can heal itself from heartburn to heartache.  Stop and listen… the signs and signals it sends us are all we need to heal ourselves. Are you eating the right foods, are you hydrated, are you sleeping enough, are you having fun?  Ask yourself these questions, do your practice, and all will come.

Sharing the light series

I am eternally grateful for the wonderful people I have encountered in my life. Some I have known for a few years and others are recent acquaintances. I am featuring a few of them here.

They are real people. Real yogis. With a tremendous amount of love to share. I am hoping they will inspire you just as they have inspired me in big and small ways.

I have asked each one to answer the same set of questions below. Discover how the same questions evoke different answers based on her own experiences.

How did you find your way to yoga?

How would you describe your teaching style?

What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Describe your perfect day.

Your last meal would be?

Best advice you can give someone else would be?

Feel free to direct a question their way – whether it’s for clarification or just looking for advice. Either way, stay tuned and enjoy!

Namaste.

My motivation

Why do I exercise?

  • Because I feel like a badass after pushing myself harder than I ever have before…
  • Because it’s not called an adrenaline rush for nothing…
  • Because I don’t want to feel my age when I’m over 50…
  • Because I love myself more than my couch…
  • Because I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe every six months…
  • Because my family and friends deserve me at my best…
  • Because vanity won’t allow me to do any less…
  • Because donuts and cupcakes aren’t going to eat themselves…
  • Because heart disease and diabetes are not my friends…
  • Because I want to live long and I want to live well…

Why do YOU exercise?

Asking the tough questions – Who are you?

If a complete stranger asked “Who are you?,” how would you respond?

Would you respond with the roles that you play in life? Father, daughter, best friend, grandmother…

Or would you identify with your job? Engineer, yoga teacher, housewife, scientist…

Or would you describe yourself by your hobbies? Reader, hiker, karaoke queen, amateur spelunker…

Or would you deflect the question entirely? Maybe by asking in return “Why do you want to know?”

“Who are you?” is a simple yet important question because the response to it is so revealing. It tells others what you value and whom you value. Don’t consider a person’s answer as all-encompassing but it is a starting point in getting to know him/her. And it is your starting point to begin defining who you are – what you consider important, what you believe in, what to discard and eventually how you want people to think of you. There is no right or wrong answer, of course, just hopefully the answer that best describes you. It’s worth thinking about if only to help shape future decisions. Essentially it’s about your life defining who you are rather than the other way around.

So do you have a ready response or does the question stymie you? Do you respond with candor or do you recoil and consider it an intrusion?

My mind reels a little when I think about my own response to that question. “A yogi” doesn’t begin to encompass all of my idiosyncrasies, my obsessive need for efficiency, or my hatred for all things cheerful. I’m not my job. I’m more than Warren’s wife. I’m more than a sister or a daughter. I’m more than my creepy collection of nesting dolls (okay, that one is a gray area).  I’m even more than my bio on Twitter. So who the hell am I?

What I ultimately came up with is I am a flawed yogi on a journey – learning and loving as best as I can.

I feel the need to say something about my Russian nesting dolls but this isn’t a post about how to lose friends and alienate people. (That’s for another time.) I am also resisting the urge to tack on all the things that make me… well, ME – the fun, quirky things. In fact, the little voice inside my head right now is screaming, “For pete’s sake, please think I’m interesting! I’ll do anything!”

But I’m choosing to stand by that answer instead. Knowing that it is only the beginning and that my response will change over time.

I would love to know who you are right now… So I’m asking you, my dear friends, to think about and answer the question WHO ARE YOU?

How to deal with your non-drinking friend

As you know, a group of us are going alcohol-free for 30 days starting February 1st. There have been a variety of reactions to my plan ranging from a congratulatory hug to visible recoil. It is pretty interesting to see them and get a feel for other people’s relationship with alcohol.

But let’s not forget that drinking has a huge social component to it so here is how you can deal with your alcohol-free friend (whether her sobriety is temporary or permanent):

1.  Do not talk her into having a drink.

2.  Do not treat her like a social pariah or like she’s lost her mind.

3.  Do not give her the “head tilt – I’m so sorry” look every time you see her.

4.  Do not hide your alcohol from her or flaunt it in her face either.

5.  Do not explain to her why you would not give up alcohol.

6.  Do ask her how she’s feeling and provide encouragement.

7.  Do continue to invite her to your parties and get-togethers.

8.  Do treat her like nothing has changed.

9.  Do buy her a juice or soda if she’s at a bar with you.

10.  Join her. You might be surprised at what you will discover about yourself.

It’s not hard. It’s not weird. And  you will help your friend accomplish something good. If you’re on Twitter, follow along and provide support with the hashtag #dry or #drinkstrike. You can also leave a comment here or on my Facebook Page.

Below is the list of intrepid individuals joining me in February:

1.  My husband, Warren
2.  My sister, Mary Jane
3.  My friend, Joylette
4.  Danny Stewart
5.  Lisa Byrne
6.  Shonali Burke
7.   Vanessa French
8 .  Michelle Nguyen
9.  Krista
10.  Jeff (aka) Malnurtured Snay
11.  Danielle Ricks

It’s not too late to join us! February 1st  is only TWO days away… Are you ready?

Why I’m not joining your positive thinking cult…

The other day someone tweeted that doing social good for her meant only tweeting positive things and good news. I rolled my eyes and muttered, “How on earth is that helpful?”

I am a firm believer in yin yang. The idea that opposite forces are connected and dependent on each other – that one cannot exist without the other. After all, how would we know what good is if bad didn’t exist? Our daily goal should be to find and maintain balance in our lives – balance between too much of anything.

Whether or not we acknowledge the existence of negative things in the world, they are there. No amount of positive thinking is going to prevent bad things from happening to us. If we choose to ignore it, we risk being unprepared when negative things do happen. Does that mean we should be walking around like a grouch? No, but there is a happy middle ground between negative and positive extremes. A middle ground that prepares us for the worst while hoping for the best.

Being unprepared for negative events is only one of my issues with too much positive thinking. Another issue is the potential for laying the blame on individuals for the negative things that happen to them. Things that are beyond anyone’s control. The idea that positive thinking can protect us from negative things then implies that these negative things that happen to people are deserved. That somehow someone did something to deserve cancer or some other terrible disease. Or that the guy with the corner office positive thought his way in there rather than working his butt off. These are obviously extreme examples but fall in line with the same train of thought. Ultimately, bad things happen to good people and to bad people. It is about accepting it and coping/moving on. Sometimes there just isn’t an explanation for the amount of pain in a person’s life. It is not necessarily a reflection of who he is. What will say something about him is how he has dealt with whatever life has thrown his way.

It’s nice to believe that the universe conspires to get us what we want but maybe it would be easier on our souls if we didn’t take it so personally. That we just have to accept what comes our way and cope with it as best as we can. You do your best and that is all anyone can ask for. Does this belief absolve us from doing anything? No. Does it mean not even bothering to participate? No. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a lottery ticket.

Not to mention that some of the most brilliant and creative minds we know are borne out of strife. And if you think about the negative things that have happened to you, aren’t you a better person for it? A lot of positive change has come out of negative events so why do we think that we’re better off without it? Because it’s hard? Sure. But Thomas Paine said it best when he wrote,

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods…

Call me a realist. Call me whatever name you want but I’m not joining your positivity cult. Now let the good times roll…

YIOM

In case you were wondering, YIOM stands for Yoga Inspired Online Movement. We are a collection of yogi bloggers talking about all things yoga… from true life experiences to embarrassing moments to tips on reaching your full yogi potential. Check us out on: YIOM. Join our community, ask your questions, share your wisdom and let’s get deeper into yoga.