Resisting change

I am a creature of habit. I find a lot of comfort in routine. I try to sit in the same place in my yoga classes. I like to order the same dishes in my favorite restaurants. Every night, I change into my PJs, take my vitamins then take out my contact lenses. In that order. Every time.

I also drive the same route to and from work everyday. It is a short cut through back roads that shaves about five minutes off of my commute. But on Friday, I noticed a few new signs on my way home. Access during rush hour has been restricted on the roads I was using! I could no longer drive that way to work. I would have to use the already heavily congested main roads!

AND I SAW RED!!!!!

Do Not Enter Sign

“What the hell? Why would they do that? So that a few of the more affluent people in the neighborhood could walk their precious ugly little dogs in peace? We live in a CITY. If you want quiet suburban roads, then move out! You don’t get to choose who does and doesn’t use your streets. I pay taxes in this county, too!” (Pepper it with a few choice expletives and you come pretty close to what I really said).

AND IT JUST GOT UNDER MY SKIN… That night I couldn’t focus, couldn’t relax into my weekend, couldn’t stop talking about it… I slept poorly… In fact, I slept poorly all weekend! Every time I thought about it, I got upset all over again. Who the hell did these people think they were?!? Evil thoughts were running through my head like egging houses in that neighborhood. Or hoping they all got robbed. This feeling sat like a brick in the bottom of my heart and it weighed me down.

This morning, I headed to work and took a different route. It was as annoying as I thought it would be. But I got to work and got a sweet parking space. There was no apocalypse. Dead puppies and unicorns didn’t litter the streets. Nothing had changed for anyone else. And I got to work just fine. A little later but just fine.

I tortured myself all weekend over this thing that wasn’t personal. And over something that I could not change. Something I could simply adapt to. But I resisted it as hard as I could… to my detriment and to no one’s benefit. And I paid the price… I needlessly suffered instead of adapting to the change.

So the next time you run up against something that is or will disrupt your life, ask yourself and answer the following questions:

1. What is it about this change that bothers me?

2. Can I do something about it? (Like write my representative?)

3. How can I integrate this change into my life?

Then take a deeeeeeep breath and play Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

The more quickly you go through the process by answering these questions, doing what can be done and accepting the change, the more quickly things can become smooth again. I am not suggesting you turn yourself into a doormat but some suffering stems from resisting change that we cannot do anything about. And there is no purpose to that kind of suffering.

Now, it’s your turn: How do YOU adapt to change?

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Sharing the light series: Meet LAUREN UBERMAN!

Lauren is a nice person… I don’t mean that in a prosaic “I don’t have anything better to say about her and she’s dull as dishwater” way. I mean that she’s good to people. Really good to people (her students especially).

When I see her I always feel like she’s got a laugh lurking around her smile just dying to get out. And this excited energy permeates her classes and leaves you tired and yet somehow refreshed. Maybe it helps that she doesn’t seem to take herself so seriously.

She was teaching a Yogilates (a yoga and Pilates combination) class at Gold’s Gym when I first met her. Despite the fact that laughing hurt for days after her class because of my abs, I really enjoyed it. She is a great teacher – clear, concise, approachable and obviously loved by her students. Sometimes yoga teachers with all their knowledge can become inaccessible and a little out of touch… But not Lauren. She knows her stuff and more importantly she is willing and able to help you.

Luckily for us all, you can find Lauren’s wonderful classes at Blue Pit Workouts. She has also been known to participate in a few plays in our area. When you see her, tell her I said HI.

1.  How did you find your way to yoga?

I grew up doing ballet and gymnastics but struggled with lower back pain due to mild spinabifita. I always stayed active but was in a lot of pain. I tried yoga and pilates (somewhat out of desperation) and have NEVER looked back!! My back NEVER bothers me anymore and I’ve found that due to my own struggles, I’m better able to help my clients and students with theirs – I can relate. We have to know our limitations before we can expand them. Yoga has definitely expanded mine.

2. How would you describe your teaching style?

Varying. I stay true to Iyengar (of course, from ballet, I’m focused on alignment!) but I go with the energy of the group I’m practicing with each time. I like to ask people what they feel like working on (it’s their class after all!) and incorporate that into our practice, whether it be adding extra hip openers to some Vinyasa or extra planks to Ashtunga. I like to mix it up so that the class doesn’t get bored and it keeps their muscles guessing as to what will come next from week-to-week. No same positions each class here!

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

Deep Breaths. And music. Both can do wonders for your mind, body and mood. Sometimes it’s fun to relax and breathe to “yoga music” then dive into a full practice to Led Zeppelin or Bob Dylan. Whatever helps to keep us, as a class, in the moment, in the room, in the posture and out of our heads! Outside of class, going for long walks (while listening to my iPod), and playing guitar, piano, or ukulele takes my stress away – same principle – being in the moment and not wasting energy with worry.

4. Describe your perfect day.

Perfect Day? California-weather. Blue Skies, sunshine, and some kind of outdoor activity. Follow it up by either jamming with friends or going to watch some great live music. Yeah…nice. 🙂

5. Your last meal would be?

Something spicy. Either mexican or sushi – mmmmmm…… :-p

6. Best advice you can give someone would be?

Embrace your flaws, embrace your strengths. Usually one can help the other. No one has it all together and everyone is trying to figure it out. Cherish what makes you different, but don’t lose your desire to connect to your fellow man (or woman :-p). Take life in, ALL of it – the good and the bad – there is something to be learned in every situation, no matter how small. Other than that, it’s not a competition, encourage each other and be loving and kind, you never know who you may positively effect. It’s worth it. Count your blessings and just keep on keepin’ on. 🙂

Beach umbrella at sunset - Antigua, Mar 2010

Why you need a mental health day

What if you had a whole day to yourself? What would you do?

With no errands, appointments, obligations or responsibilities… Just a whole day beautifully looming before you?

What if you had a car and perfect weather to go along with your day?

What would you do? Where would you go?

………………And why haven’t you done it?

We all deserve a mental health day. WAIT! Screw deserve… We NEED a mental health day. A day to get away from life… Our life. I don’t care how awesome it is.

Taking the time to step away from your day-to-day allows you a different perspective on where you are and where you are going. From a changed vantage point you can more easily avoid pitfalls, take detours and correct your direction as necessary. Maybe even find opportunities you may have missed in all the hustle and bustle. You might even hear the quiet voice in your heart telling you what you need.

I always know I am due for one when weeks fly by and I know I have been busy and yet still feel like I haven’t done anything. My energy dips. My crankiness increases (it’s possible and it’s scary). I’m listless and though there is nothing wrong, nothing feels quite right either. I inexplicably cry happy tears and sad tears almost in the same moment. And anything that requires more than staring into space is a huge effort. In short, I am a total zombie.

Last week, out of nowhere I found myself getting emotional over a Nike ad about young girls finding their voices. Then I was perfectly fine after. But a few moments later I was teary eyed over the delicious dinner my husband had made. Huh? What the hell just happened there?

So tomorrow I am taking a day off… from work, from yoga and from my life. I am going to the beach. I am bringing my favorite hat, a notebook, some knitting, comfortable walking shoes and music. I don’t have a plan. Just a destination.

When I return, I might make some changes. Or I may find that I have been on the right path all along. But I know my smile will be a little less forced. My heart will be a little more calm and I will be better able to share my love.

So plan your next mental health day. Yours may not look like mine. Mine doesn’t even look the same every time. And, hey, sometimes you only need a few hours and other times you may need a few days. The plans could be an elaborate spa day filled with pampering and luxury or a quiet day relaxing at home and catching up on your reading. Maybe it’s a retreat you’ve been meaning to go on.

Don’t feel guilty. Go ahead. I’ll cover for you.

If you need ideas or encouragement, let me know.

Remember: Our voices are at its clearest during the quiet moments.

Beach umbrella at sunset - Antigua, Mar 2010

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Ed Yourdon.

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.