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Go on, make a date with yourself

1 Jul

“Curving back within myself I create again and again.” ~ The Bhagavad Gita

“Sometimes you gotta have a conversation with yourself.”  Or, so a co-worker told  me the other day.  Actually, it was her grandmother who first gave her this advice.  Although I’ve never actually called it that, I probably couldn’t agree with grandma more. In almost everything we do in life, we often don’t have sufficient time to pause and reflect on our choices, our desires or our dreams.  Sometimes we find that we are simply “doing” things and we don’t even know why.

While I think it’s generally unhealthy to believe that we can turn infinitely inward to find answers, there is certainly power derived from being with oneself.  I love running and yoga so dearly because they bring me great pause.  As my joint passions, they are both activities that remind me that I frequently have more answers and more strength than I think.

When we build connections within ourselves, we can find the strength to create, to hope, to accept and to push harder in all things, whether they be physical or mental.

Sometimes our usual routine to workout or unwind ceases to be sufficient and stops providing us with the solace we need for thought and introspection. I’ve been feeling that way recently.  It’s like I haven’t been able to connect with what’s really going on…with me.

Given the fact my sick days are limited, I was able to get away for some quality “me” time this Saturday when I  headed to the Hudson for a kayaking trip. A few hours on the cool waters did the trick.  Kayaking is something I don’t get to do all that often, so it really broke down the doldrums of my usual weekend workout routine. While physically strenuous, it’s not murderously hard (as is something like crossfit) thus paving the perfect path for some steady contemplation. And, I’ve got to tell you, it was amazing.

The glorious Hudson River Valley. The perfect remedy for my rut.

A view of the glorious Hudson River Valley as seen from my kayak. The perfect remedy for my rut.

Something about the magic of the Hudson brings out the poet in me. As the waters churned beneath my oars, I couldn’t help but feel the words of Walt Whitman come to mind:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

So now, I challenge each of you, to take time, as my co-worker mentioned, to simply be.  To exist with yourself. To be alone with your inner voice. To come to complete stillness, like a compass settling on a smooth surface, and find your inner north. While others are inevitably a part of our daily lives, being alone is often equally as important. Do whatever moves you to happiness, to thought, to purpose.

I promise, you will not let yourself down.

Coming Down is the Hardest Thing

7 Apr

I have a confession to make, the first being that I am well-aware that I’ve shamelessly lifted lyrics from a Tom Petty song…I know it’s corny, but it feels so appropriate for this post. My second confession is that I really love delving into exciting new endeavors. Whether they be work-related, yoga-related or food-related, I’ve always been addicted to good things when I find them. Lately, I’ve slipped into such a steady workout routine that it’s been hard to quit.  For a few weeks now, I’ve fallen into what felt like a seamless schedule encompassing multiple workouts in a single day.  I know! I know! It’s nuts but, until quite recently, it’s been really great.

I’ve been rising on time, getting myself to spin class by 5:45am, then returning home, banging out some weight lifting reps and heading off to work. After work, I’ve been feeling so energized that I have consistently taken off on long runs before dashing to a yoga or cross-training class. For the first week or two, I felt awesome. I am gearing up for a half marathon in May, so I figured training hard is the only way to prepare. But, alas, I was wrong.

Toward the beginning of this week I started to feel a little weak, and then, by Wednesday, my muscles were so sore and fatigued that I was basically falling asleep at the job. By Thursday afternoon, I felt positively, absolutely, rotten but, nevertheless, pushed myself through a timed 5k. I finished and felt downright beat. On Friday, I felt like a walking zombie. I came home and crashed early. I dove into bed at 8:30PM and woke the following day at 11:00AM. Soooo unlike me!

In answer to the question: What’s up with that? I did a little research.

Turns out that over-exercising can have major impacts on your hormone levels. Doh! Of course! Overdoing it can cause your body to go into overdrive. It can keep you awake at night when you should be asleep. It can make you crabby when exercise should make you happy. And, it can even, get this, weaken your immune system! Worst of all, it can leave the muscles you work during exercise sore and painful for days at a time. Ugh. Bummer.

So, what was I to do? If you’re like me, you find it insanely hard to stop moving. Fortunately, yesterday I had the good sense to know that it was really time for some much needed rest.

I went back to the basics. In yoga, the goal is balance. Both physical and mental.  In fact, according to B.K.S. Iyengar, the word itself means “to yoke”, or to unite body and mind in a single practice.  How had I allowed myself to get so far out of whack that I’d worked myself to near exhaustion? I was filled with a sense of disappointment.

Having nothing else to do but move forward, I took up some restorative yoga poses (you know, the ones you hate because you aren’t being physically active enough while doing them).

If you’re feeling overwhelmed this week, and need to chill out, please do so!  Even if you’re not feeling totally smoked yet, take some time for yourself and recover. Please do not end up as exhausted as me. In the case you heed my advice, I recommend the following:

  • After you’ve calmed down with some yoga, why not spend time in the shower? (those early morning scrub downs are not doing you justice!)
  • Finally, make a cup of tea and get the hell into bed (EARLY!!!).  I recommend brewing anything that appeals to you by Traditional Medicinals.  My favorite calming tea is Organic Ginger Aid (pictured below).

Ginger Aid®

After partaking in the aforementioned routine, I felt somewhat cured. Namely, it was sleep (and lots of it) that my body craved. I slept for a long, long time. When I woke up this morning, I found my muscle pain had diminished so significantly that even I was impressed that a little relaxation had the power to do the trick.

What I learned from this experience is as follows: Life is really short. Sometimes you need to give yourself the power to feel tired, to feel weak and to engage in restorative practices. Be honest with yourself and follow your needs.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical problems. It is purely informational. Any statements contained above are not designed to replace the care and recommendations of your physician.

Spring into Change and Challenge Your Perspective

3 Apr

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Hello and please allow me to reintroduce myself. I feel I’ve failed you in not delivering a more constant stream of posts. Now I am back and hopefully, it’s for good. It’s officially springtime…actually, spring began on March 20, 2013, the date of the vernal equinox. I’m going to get a little philosophical here before I get down to business, but even when it doesn’t feel like it outside, springtime has always been an important state of mind. Ever since I was a little kid, the disintegration of winter served as such a powerful sign of hope. In the Judeo-Christian faiths, we celebrate important miracles and remember that as humans we are deeply connected not only to the earth but, possibly, to something beyond it.

Through my yoga practice, I feel my beliefs in this life force have strengthened and, although sometimes it’s a great struggle, have helped to open my mind and body to change. For me, the month of March marked a time period during which I took time off from work to reconnect to the things I love, to travel and reflect. During these last few months, I’ve been consumed with one professional endeavor after another. It gets to be really draining. Which is why, when I was presented with the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, I jumped on it. The trip was a drain on my savings, but it was well worth every cent. Traveling, especially to far off places is a challenge as much as it is a blessing. But challenges are good, right? I want to avoid sounding terribly cliché, but I truly believe that taking time away from anything in your life that has become easy or part of a routine is a good thing.

In yoga we always talk about inversions about being a physical way to change your perspective. I don’t have the sources for you right now, but studies have been done (or so asserts my favorite yoga teacher) that holding a head or handstand can actually lift your mood because it changes your perspective. Handstands are challenging. But why? Because they demand all your focus and energy. When you travel or embark on a new activity you are challenged. The doldrums of your routine evaporate and the brain is totally transfixed and consumed. You are transported to a new place and time where everything feels…and, is, possible.

In celebration of spring, I invite all of my readers to try something challenging. You will likely find that a good challenge will get you going in the gym and may provide fire to improve your performance during your regular workout routine. If you’re stuck, here are some ways I’ve thought of recommending challenges for people in my life who seem very afraid to take them (p.s. I don’t give out larger life advice here, I just try to inspire you physically and boost your sense of adventure… don’t expect any business tips from me):

  • Sign up for a race – so many people I know seem to be terrified of participating in a competitive running or other athletic event and I have no idea why. When you have a goal in mind, you’ll be tempted to push yourself harder in anticipation of the big event and the payoff will seem even sweeter.
  • Get outside – check out Map My Hike and hit the trials. Do I even need to enumerate the benefits of getting some sunlight?  http://www.mapmyhike.com/
  • Stop saying you don’t have the skills – one friend I have finds a reason not to attend any new fitness classes ever because she insists she is simply “not good at (insert activity name here)”
  • Take a class – after sitting for the bar exam, I felt totally bereft and couldn’t quite figure out what to do with my aching mind. I skimmed my town’s community school catalogue and found an amazingly cheap bi-weekly Chinese class was being offered for three months…sure, I still can’t speak lick of Mandarin but it was…you guessed it…a challenge.
  • Volunteer – seriously, you must have some skill you could teach a child at your local Boys and Girls club. Or, maybe you could sort cans once a weekend at a food pantry. I hate the word charity as it implies an activity that is only done by the most benevolent people. Volunteering is something I believe we all have a civic duty to undertake. Humans helping other humans is empowering. After all we are all inexorably linked to one another and it’s important to remember.
  • Start planning your next escape – even if you don’t have the cash to get away this minute, making a plan to do so can give you something to look forward to. If you’ve got the time and resources, why not get out of your comfort zone (within reason) and see a part of the world you’ve never seen before.

So, what are you waiting for? What will you do this spring?

I hope it’s something you enjoy.

I leave you with a photograph from my trip to Lalibela, an ancient site of Christian pilgrimage and a place that moved me deeply…both spiritually and physically as I scaled the rocky climb down into its churches and up again into the mountains above.

DSCN1163

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