On getting a fire lit under your butt (A note about motivation)

What is the difference between a couch potato and a runner? (Besides several pounds?) It is MOTIVATION.

Most people are active  for health reasons. For others it’s vanity. Some are adrenaline junkies and a small percentage go for the gym eye candy (you know who you are!). But the real question is: what is your motivation?

I don’t know about you but “it’s good for me” very rarely gets me going. When I have had a long day or a late night and the bed is super comfortable or it is bitterly cold outside, the only thing that would get me going is a plate of crispy bacon.

Getting yourself moving is a matter of digging deep and figuring out what really matters to you. What are you hoping to accomplish? How do you want to feel? Are the results worth it for you? What sacrifices are you willing to make?

These motivating factors are something  you need to keep in mind constantly. Decide what these factors are and then develop goals that are going to get you there. Get into a routine and firmly integrate it into your life. Remember: being active is a way of life not just something you do occasionally.

For some feeling good and looking good is its own reward but that might not exactly get a fire going under your butt. Especially when getting there requires a tremendous amount of determination, discipline and just plain grit.

Yes, even for a yoga teacher like me! I teach so I am at the gym anyway but do I go an hour early so I can take a class before mine or do I let another episode of “What Not To Wear” hold me back? Despite my already active lifestyle some days are harder than others. It’s a struggle to get up when my husband is still warmly snuggled in bed but I drag myself out knowing it’s going to feel really good when I get back (especially when I take a running head start and belly flop on to my still sleeping husband). ::evil laugh:: Anyway…

There is the additional difficulty of getting distracted and even well-meaning people can pull you away from your goals. When I first started going to the gym, it was hard to choose working out over spending time with friends. Just about anything is better than running on a treadmill, including eating bad chinese food and drinking cheap wine with a friend. But I wanted to change my body. I wanted it to be strong and healthy so I created a gym schedule that I could stick to and told my friends that those days were off-limits for gatherings. Occasionally they would try to tempt me from the gym but I was already too far committed to cave in. Besides, I didn’t want to miss Mr. Eye Candy kickboxing instructor (sorry, friends!).

Once you have found your motivation and outlined your goals it is incredibly important to make them known to the people who surround you and ask for their support. Maybe you can even get them to join in! After all, nothing is more inspiring than outrunning a friend or significant other.

So whether your motivation is looking good in that bikini or improving your cholesterol level or finally hiking the Appalachian trail make sure you keep it in the forefront of your mind as you make your day-to-day activity decisions. Take it one day at a time but keep at it and I promise it will get easier.

So tell me… What motivates you?

Image via Flickr (creative commons) by wolfsavard.

Meditation: It’s here to cure what ails you

When you find a nice flat rock, you should sit on it.

These days we’re hearing more and more about the benefits of meditation. We’re reading about how it can make you more alert, reduce your stress, enhance your creativity, make you taller and pump up your biceps… (Okay, scratch the last two…) But it is starting to sound like the magical pill that will cure whatever ails you and it seems like everyone is trying to get in on it… After all, it’s only about sitting on a cushion, closing your eyes and breathing deeply, right?

Well, yes and no.

Meditation could be as simple as that but it actually takes a lot of work to get there. And you’re selling yourself short if you don’t consider all the possibilities of meditating. Don’t forget that it is an ancient tradition and certainly an important part of any yoga practice. Its powers can literally transform you if you let it.

But what makes meditation hard? Well, try this little exercise with me: Sit still for a moment, hands in your lap, back straight and shoulders relaxed. Now turn your attention to your breath and let it come in and out without any effort. Then clear your mind… Try not to think of anything. Just sit quietly blank for a few moments. Continue to keep your mind clear and keep pressing away any thoughts that may come in. Are you breathing still? Okay, now keep it going for a solid ten minutes…

Not so easy, is it? Little thoughts keep trying to jump in and drag you away from your center. Maybe your back will start to twitch or slouch or maybe you get completely carried away and start to fall asleep! Like everything else it requires discipline and practice and a helluva lot of patience.

But, Sam, how can I get in on this, you ask?

To start, I highly recommend you participate in a guided meditation class to get an idea of how it goes. Let someone ease you into it. Let them guide your breathing and your posture. You can very easily find a free class to join if you google “free meditation class” in your neck of the woods. Try it a few times. Try several different studios until you can find one where you feel comfortable. Then go ahead and try it at home.

Don’t forget that there are many different styles of meditation. And just like yoga, meditation is a personal journey. Some need a space to do meditation while others can do it just about anywhere. Some include moving (e.g. walking) while others involve visualization. There is no one correct way to do it. It’s about getting in touch with what feels good for you and what allows you to let go and surrender to the present. I wish I could tell you how it’s supposed to feel but I can’t. It is going to be different for you.

I think it would also help if you read about meditation, its history and its tradition. I would recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh. Allow yourself to obtain a deeper understanding of the practice including its variations. Learn about different techniques and immerse yourself in it. It will give your process a whole new dimension.

But make no mistake meditation is not a quick-fix for your not taking care of yourself. If the source of your stress is doing too much or not getting enough rest, an additional activity is not going to help. Trust me. It certainly does not take the place of much needed sleep or exercise.

So that is MY take on meditation. Excuse me while I get off my soapbox now. If you have tips, books or experiences in meditation to share with me and my readers, please feel free to do so! In the meantime, let’s all slowly say OM together… Ooooooooooommmmmmm….

Older and wiser? (On “not” aging gracefully)

I think I’ll have to settle for just older… Wiser kind of comes and goes as it pleases. And what I’ve learned over the years is that I’m okay with that because it’s better than nothing.

So here’s to another year older… To being a little bit more cranky… To calling everyone under 20 years old a bunch of hooligans…

And to my sisters… I would have never made it in this crazy world without you.

I'm the short one in the middle!

An ode to idiosyncrasies

A picture of YogitasticThis is post ONE in what could be a “get-to-know-me” series… I said “could” because I’m not quite sure you’re ready for so much of my self-awareness. 😉 But for you to understand where I’m coming from you should know a little bit about me. To kick off my potential series I thought of the most salient thing about me that you should know… and it is this…

I am crazy.

Not in that wonderful Kate Winslet eccentric kind of way but more in a Katharine Hepburn no wire hangers kind of way… And while we’re on the subject of hangers I use white ones. ONLY white ones.. Not off-white or beige or like-white… Just white. Okay? Good.

I was not “cute” growing up… It’s probably the last adjective anyone would assign to me. I was surly and withdrawn. I didn’t stand out in a good way or a bad way. I didn’t look for trouble and he thought I was boring. I was just kind of there. Silently stewing… Observing… When they coined the phrase “watch out for the quiet ones,” they meant me. My mouth wasn’t moving but my mind was going a mile a minute.

I  don’t know if generally being left alone/ignored led to my obsessing over my surroundings but I am extremely organized… to the point of being handicapped. I start to twitch if someone moves something out of place… So creative juices only start flowing once everything around me is neatly in its place. Some days it never gets there. Sitting down to write only comes after a little decluttering and Swiffering of the furniture. Does it help that I’m terrified of creativity? Probably not. (A college professor termed it as “productive procrastination.”)

I am ultimately a collection of weird little habits, pet peeves and idiosyncrasies. Including my hatred for avocado to eating my food in concentric circles – a tendency I’ve thankfully outgrown. (I’ll probably have to dedicate an entire post just on that behavior). I’m functional and I look normal enough to the average person… trust me – sometimes that is all I can ask for.

Over the years I’ve grown and changed… for the better? In some ways. But crazy is as crazy does and maybe the only thing that has really changed is my ability to take me as I am. Warts, white hangers and all.

But I’m not the only one who’s a little weird, right? Right? Bueller?