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Finding Hope in Hotel Rooms and Other Unfortunate Places

24 May

I believe in my previous post I mentioned that Whole Foods is the place where my money goes to die.  Well, in a more intangible sense, business conventions are, in my opinion, the place where hope goes to expire.  As much as conference organizers try to jazz up that fact their event will be held in a lovely place, they will always find a way to sequester you in some room where the air conditioner blows too much, the lights dim too low and your internal clock goes slightly bonkers as it loses track of time. The business conference is a place where one can only dream of finding sustenance beyond coffee and cocktails. It is the place where disorientation and dehydration prevail. It is not a runner’s paradise.

Last week, I had the privilege, or, perhaps the misfortune of driving down to the ends of earth (also known as Atlantic City) for a conference. While this may excite some, I instantly began to plot my escape in the form of a morning run. As I don’t like to run alone in new or potentially unsafe places, I began hitting up fellow convention-goers to see if anyone out there wanted to team up for a run in the morning….Alas, I found no takers.

The lecture days proved long and the breaks were short. After each session finished, I’d aimlessly find my way to the casino/conference area exit, desperately searching for indications as to the time of day. Like Robinson Crusoe heading toward the promised land, I pushed past the automatic glass doors, escaping into sunlight with dribs of cigar smoke still emanating from my suit.

Although I was unsuccessful in finding a running mate. I decided not to languish in a caffeine and cocktail induced stupor and neither should any of you when confronted with your next job-related travel venture.  If anyone out there has a busy business trip coming up, here’s a plan for working in a little extra exercise:

1.   PLANK it up…seriously, who doesn’t love dropping just for a little while. Hold it up for about a minute with your hips lifting and arms strong. For a little extra variation if you’re not feeling tired, alternate between the hands and the elbows. I have yet to develop the courage to be video-taped while doing any of these exercises but until I do, you can view a great demo of what I’m talking about here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5JUPHxHXhA

2. Hindu Squats: Yes, I said it and it sounds totally silly, but in my humble opinion these are more fun than regular squats and seem to give you a quicker burn in a shorter period of time. Once again, I am not yet prepared to be the demo queen, but I did scour youtube for a worthwhile video. Basically, there is a lot of crap out there when it comes to Hindu squats. Most people on the internet are not doing them correctly. This video is great because the guy actually knows what’s up. Please, don’t mind the dog that crosses the screen at one point : ) You can see this work of cinematographic genius here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O4MwQBZ-DY

Do several reps, or whatever your time permits.

3.  Side plank! Hang out on each side for a few. Or, if this is too easy for you and you’d like to kick it up a notch, then opt for side plank push ups. Again, here is a video with a quick demo (I love her accent and crazy scary tight abs). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa5Li3edwl4&feature=player_detailpage

4. Chair pose and/or twisted chair pose.  Ahhh, utkatasana!

5. I recommend coming through a vinyasa (dog to plank to ground to cobra then back to dog) then lunging into Warrior II and then, from there, folding into revolved triangle.

6. If this still hasn’t done it for you and you either have more time or energy, I recommend some yogi windmills and yoga jacks. Try a set of 25 then see how you feel! (p.s. if you watch this video, I am sure it will make you laugh…further, I am not sure if the user who posed it just thought it was too ridiculous to be true and posted it for a larf or shared it in the hope that others would truly like it. Either way, I am sure it will serve one of these purposes for you).

If you aren’t feeling a workout and instead just feel stressed out by all the extra socialization that goes on during large gatherings, I recommend sneaking off for a break and taking advantage of that big hotel bed (which is usually up against a nice big wall) and doing some good old feet up the wall.

Also, if you know that these trips drain you, plan to bring your own hydration and aromatherapy (I recommend pure lavender oil from aura cacia).  Although I’ll admit the carrying of all these liquids is much easier if you aren’t flying, of course. On this trip, since I drove, I came all stocked up with homemade coconut water chia drink (a great recipe recommended by the author of another great blog), some GT’s Kombucha (I am obsessed) and this f***ing awesome tumeric drink I just discovered. It’s expensive but it was spicy, delicious and I felt like it was giving my liver a bath after a night of wine.  I was so fascinated by this seasoned elixi that I am sharing the company story here: http://vimeo.com/laurabrooks/tumericalive

Above all else on a business trip, take time at the end to enjoy and explore something new and off the reservation so-to-speak. On this trip, my fiancé and I escaped the conference center for a visit to New Jersey’s tallest standing lighthouse. Complete with over 200 stairs!

Inside the lighthouse, preparing for the ascent.

Inside the lighthouse, preparing for the ascent.

Even if you can’t break away for an excursion or even a workout, certainly there may be at least one morning sunrise or one evening sunset worth your time. Regardless of how much of a spirit sapping vacuum conferences can be, stick it to ’em and prove that you’ve got to play a little even if you’re supposed to be doing work.

Sunrise over the strip (the Atlantic City Strip, that is). Time: about 5:15AM.

Sunrise over the strip (the Atlantic City Strip, that is). Time: about 5:15AM.

Until next time, namaste.

Beet/Beat down to your soul

26 Apr

photo (10)Apart from being an incredibly corny title, I’d like to dedicate tonight’s post to being beat/beet (in my case, physically by a strangely intense night of yoga), and, to eating beets by way of cooking them into an amazing quinoa salad. The evening started out simply enough: with me running out of work, dashing down the pavement in high heels in hopes of reaching my car and beating the traffic in time to get to yoga.

Of course, by the time I arrived at yoga, I realized the following: I did not have a hair tie, a sports bra, the yoga pants without a hole in the crotch, or any conceivable way to cleanse my terribly smelly feet (I have decided to wage war against pantyhose in the spring and summer time…I now go commando in my shoes, and I’m not afraid to admit it–unless we are together in yoga class). Rather than turning around and going home, I made the executive decision to attend class despite these minor setbacks. Little did I know that tonight’s session would not be a cool after hours wind-down. What I walked into was full-contact yoga. And, I have the bruises to prove it.

Class started out innocuously enough with the usual suspects: plank, down dog, cobra, etc. What I wasn’t expecting was this:

…the emergence of Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I.

Yah.  The name says it all, right? And from the looks of it, you can clearly see it’s right up there with child’s pose (this is me being facetious in case you can’t tell).

At any rate, I’m pretty good on my hands. Or so I like to think.

I’ve got a pretty good bakasana going on and I can hold my own when it comes to Parsva Bakasana, but as to the image above…I’ve never even tried it. I don’t know if you’re like me but sometimes, I can’t let go of the idea that there’s something out there I can’t accomplish because it’s not in my skill set yet. I’m impatient and I need to do.

While ambition drives me professionally, it is also kind of… well, crazy. And, ambition is how I got beat by yoga tonight. In my desperate attempts to nail this pose the first time, I ended up bearing too much weight on my biceps. I got myself into something that I believe resembled this pose…and even earned some oooo’ing and ahhh’ing among fellow classmates who were struggling to take the first steps toward achieving this strange contortion. Haha! I thought, I got it!  But, I later bore the brunt of my pride.

Less than four hours later and I am already rocking some tres awesome purple blotches on the backs of my arms. Tonight’s lesson: try to be badass in yoga, and you will get your ass kicked. After returning home with some seriously sore muscles, I turned to dinner for solace.

Since I’m training for a half marathon (to be completed, hopefully without as much hubris as my ill-fated yoga class, in two weeks’ time) I have been trying to eat pure, whole foods. I completed a practice half  marathon a week ago after a night filled with white wine, seafood and dairy…and I’ve been traumatized ever since. I did pretty good, but my stomach was in agony afterwards.

In furtherance of my efforts to purify pre-run, I’ve been trying to limit dairy and animal products…and when possible, alcohol : ) Tonight, in celebration of my burgeoning bruises and because I had an uneaten bag of frozen beets in the fridge, I decided upon this ‘Quinoa, Beet and Arugula Salad’  dish, accessible at: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/quinoa-beet-and-arugula-salad/. I liked this recipe because it was really simple. Plus, I saw that some of the ingredients could be easily substituted.

Instead of using olive oil, I used canola oil and I substituted goat cheese with almond cheese (I know it’s not the most appetizing thing, but when heated, it totally does the trick). Also, instead of waiting that hour and a half suggested by the authors of the recipe, I decided to make it a warm salad and made it in about half an hour. This means, I didn’t waste time conserving half of the dressing until after the quinoa had cooled. Instead, I dumped it all together the minute the quinoa had finished. I mixed in some spinach instead of arugula so it would warm up nicely. Additionally, I did not peel and steam the beets myself. Instead, I used some frozen beets, threw them on defrost in the microwave until warm and mixed them into the steaming quinoa. What resulted was a hot, healthy and hearty dinner.

And, if my endorsement isn’t enough, check out this article from the NY Times. Accordingly, beets are a great source of folate and may contain antioxidants that naturally fight cancer. So beet that!

With a little extra cracked pepper on top of my warm salad, I was beet down to my soul, and I think you will be too…

…Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious bruises to tend to!

photo (11)

In all things, balance and intention

26 Apr

When I ran my first post April-15th race last weekend, the moment of silence offered beforehand left me with a lump in my throat so large, I don’t know how I fought it down as I began to run.  Although it was only a 5k, I think it was a PR for me. Seeing as this blog is yoga-influenced, I hesitate to say my snappy performance was fueled by rage and an iPod filled with Dropkick Murphys…so, instead, I’ll just say I was powered by a great inner fire. In channeling that “fire” I began to think about the great need for all of us to keep our intentions in check. And, in this case, I believe it is not only important for all of us to keep running (as so many of the popular slogans that have evolved out of this crisis remind us to do) but also to keep our thoughts with those who have suffered.

I once read a book by Deepak Chopra (okay, fine! laugh all you want) in which he cites a study conducted on a group of patients in a hospital who are all ill with the same disease. Without their knowledge, one half of the group of patients had an individual (whom they did not know) who was assigned to pray for their recovery. The other half of the patients were not assigned someone who would pray for their recovery. After a period of several weeks, the study found that those patients who were kept in the intentions of a stranger experienced a recovery that was vastly better than their lonely counterparts.

In yoga, we talk about focusing our intentions all the time. We talk about the need to draw on our inner power and the need to do good. Similarly, I recently listened to an interview on NPR in which an experienced runner told the newscaster that she hoped the “karmic balance of running could be restored.” I can’t find the interview but it was an important point. There’s been so much talk about needing to get runners back out on the ground to start pounding the pavement in defiance of the bombings (which, I admittedly did). But, while it is necessary to get out there and reclaim the roads, it is also important to do so with a certain mindfulness. If you’re like me, I suggest you get the rage (or…ahem…fire) out of your system and then come back to your core, your center and send your best intentions out to all of those who have experienced great loss.

If you’re looking for a way to get started and to calm your mind, I found this article from Yoga Journal to be helpful: http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/926

They’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again:

Stay strong Boston.

From N.J. with love.

Photo from businessinsider.com

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.