yoga


My dearest treadmill,

This is a hard letter to write. You and I have had so many wonderful times together — helping me get back in shape after Will was born, training for the ten-miler, listening to Britney Spears … even when times were tough, I always knew you were there for me. You really mean a lot to me, treadmill, so what I have to say is painful.

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You see, I’ve been cheating on you.

It started innocently enough, as these things do. You see, my new job comes with a fantastic perk — a discount on a gym membership! The gym. My old gym. My second home throughout 2011 and 2012. You know how much I have missed my gym membership since I stopped working, and Steve and I went to meet with the membership team over there one night a few weeks ago. (This doesn’t mean you were a second-rate gym replacement, treadmill! I love you for you, I promise.) Sure, we signed some papers and got keychains for the whole family, but it didn’t have to mean anything.

A few days later, I brought Will to the child care area while I — I’m sorry, but I have to say it — ran on the treadmill at the gym. Will it help if I say it was a really crappy run? (That’s a lie. It was a great run. Those treadmills have TVs, and built-in people watching. Is it my fault that my usual treadmill view is this?

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I’m sorry. That was harsh. It’s not your fault either.)

But here’s the thing — Will had a great time in the child care area. They had different cars and trucks, other kids to stare at play with, and lots and lots of room to crawl. Can you offer me that? Sure, running during naptime has been great this last year, but Will is down to one nap a day now, which means that naptime runs cut into naptime chores a lot more than they used to.

Though it may add insult to injury, I also have to confess that … I haven’t even been running much at the gym. I mean, they have yoga. Yoga! The thing I have missed so much since Will was born, the beloved practice I have struggled to maintain — it’s suddenly all available to me again. My gym has an amazing yoga program and I can take a vinyasa class almost any day of the week. I’ve been working on arm balances and challenging myself with new binds and deeper backbends. (I am sure you can appreciate with me, treadmill, the answer to prayer that this new job has been. Meaningful work + flexible schedule + great pay + regular yoga practice with child care included? It’s over the top, really.)

So yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga again and it feels so great. But it doesn’t end there. I’m sorry. I really am. I’m sorry — but I’ve discovered spinning.

Please don’t look at me like that.

You see — can I navel-gaze a minute? Will you indulge me? — you see, my heart just hasn’t been into running these last few months. Ten-miler training was really difficult for me both physically and mentally; you may recall that I found out at the end of January (six weeks before the race and at the peak of training) that my thyroid had gone from mildly hyper to wildly hypo, thanks to the fact that I apparently no longer needed my hyperthyroid medication. (Normal TSH levels are something like between 1 and 3; mine was over 7.) I felt terrible and run-down and miserable and tired and unmotivated nearly all the time, and I found training in general very tiring. I haven’t run further than four miles since the race and my weekly mileage has often been under ten miles total. Before the weather got really hot I was doing a lot of stroller running, and my speed is actually great these days (I think because my runs are so short I can go all-out with speed more often), but even though my latest bloodwork showed normal (and unmedicated!) thyroid levels, I’m just not in love with running right now. Like homemade yogurt, we are on a break.

Enter spinning. I hate to have to tell you this, but I’ve been to a couple of spinning classes and it is really fun and definitely just as hard as running! (I’m sorry. Again, I’m sorry. It’s just the truth.) I am headed back for another class tomorrow morning and I will definitely be pretending I’m climbing the Pyrenees in my red and white polka dot jersey.

Now feels like it would be a good time to start a new paragraph with the phrase but it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Except — I can’t. It has been all sunshine and rainbows. Will loves the child care area, I love my workouts — they even have a rooftop pool, though that has little to do with working out — the routine is great and it’s so much easier to take Will to the gym on Saturday morning while I go to spin class instead of trying to figure out when to fit in a run around Steve’s tennis matches. I lost a lot of workout motivation this spring after I finished the ten-miler and I’m glad I’ve got it back, even if I’m not running as much.

I just hate that it’s come to this, treadmill. I promise I’m not leaving you forever. You’re not destined for a yard sale. I still love you and you were an integral part of Will’s first year. I am sure you will continue to be irreplaceable during times to come as well, when the gym isn’t a part of our everyday lives. Take heart! I can’t bring Will to child care when he has a runny nose, for example, and some days a naptime workout will make the most sense. I still love you.

But I had to come clean. I’m a cheater. I am.

Hello! I’m just stopping by briefly on my way to make popcorn and watch last night’s Top Chef finale to share a few things I’ve been up to on my little blog break.

First:

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The maiden voyage! Leah came over last weekend with some homemade turkey stock and we got to work. The pressure canner was VERY easy to use thanks to some blog tutorials I had pinned. When I get a little more well-versed in pressure canning, I’ll share some more. Next I want to try canning beans, and then hopefully I can move on to soup bases and chili. (I want to see if I can can my own butternut squash soup and chili recipes, but I don’t know enough about the process yet.)

I haven’t popped open either of these jars yet but I think (and hope!) that we were successful. And no explosions.

Next:

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I feel like I have been working on this handwarmer for an eternity. I am a slow knitter again, but I have a bunch of Downton Abbey to watch so hopefully the second one will be done in time for, you know, June.

Also:

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We mastered the side carry and I am babywearing again! It’s so convenient. I carried Will like this the other day when we braved our first consignment sale. (BTW, ignore the clutter in the background. The bedroom is always the last room to get organized …)

Lastly: I ran THIRTEEN miles last Saturday. I can tell that I spend a lot of time with other distance runners because that did not sound all that noteworthy of an achievement to me until after I finished and was basically useless for the rest of the day. I can also tell my body is not at all accustomed to running such long distances. I am still undecided about a half marathon in April, but am leaning toward it, as long as I can keep my mileage up after the ten-miler in two weeks. However, I feel like diving back into a serious yoga practice again (which I REALLY want to d0) would necessitate cutting back on my mileage, just due to how much time I have to devote to exercise these days. I don’t think I can do both. Decisions, decisions. I’m going to see after the race whether I can wait six more weeks to start practicing yoga 3-5 days a week again, or whether I feel like I need to head back in that direction. We’ll see.

Now it’s time for popcorn and Top Chef. Is my blog break over? Another thing that we’ll just have to see!

1. My word for 2013 is mindfulness. I want to be making the most of my time, and what I’ve realized is that the first step here needs to be mindfulness. I need to be aware of what I am doing and not moving aimlessly through my days. I keep saying that starts … NOW, though, and then not changing anything. One step at a time. I guess recognizing my lack of mindfulness is the first step.

2. The yoga work/study ended up not working, unfortunately. The timing overlapped directly with Will’s nap, meaning I couldn’t take him with me after all and that I had to ask my sister Karen to come by every week to watch him while I was gone; and in addition to that I wound up having to schedule my entire day around what was supposed to (in my mind, anyway) be a one-hour commitment. I guess that’s just my life stage right now, though. I’m glad I gave it a chance, but it wasn’t worth it in the end. Since regular, weekly yoga is prohibitively expensive for us now I am going to have to focus a lot on my home practice — which, happily, will dovetail nicely with my emphasis on mindfulness this year. I do still plan to go to yoga classes, just not every week, and probably not nearly as often as I was hoping to. Sigh. Once the ten miler and potential half-marathon are over, I plan to put a lot more energy into my yoga practice. I may not be able to get into some of the more advanced poses I want to be able to do, but I am really missing the mental benefits (and the deep stretch!) that I enjoyed when I was practicing more regularly.

3. I just saw this on Pinterest:

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Look what #1 is — heh. Mindfulness. Reading these kinds of infographics is very affirming, because these are habits I try to cultivate and maintain and it’s good to see concrete evidence of the ways in which they pay off. In a lot of ways, I feel very happy these days.

4. I have a lot of updates on previous posts that I want to write — about dressing as a stay-at-home mom, about introversion vs. extroversion and where I fall on the spectrum, mindfulness and happiness in general, and about more of my natural living merit badges — but I want to watch another episode of Downton Abbey, so it’ll have to wait. (We rented season one from the library. Obsessed.)

5. Look at this picture from this morning. Steve took Will to Target while I was doing my long run (12 miles — my longest distance yet!).

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I know. Not that I’m biased or anything, but I think he’s basically the cutest baby that ever was.

Happy weekend!

I did a handstand in yoga class for the first time last night, and it was an exercise in faith.

Now, as an absolute beginner to handstand, I of course was not doing this unassisted. I had one person holding my hips, and another one supporting one leg as I kicked up. To my surprise, getting into handstand was not difficult at all. It was maintaining the handstand that was tough. Once I was upside down, handstand became not just a physical challenge, but a mental challenge as well.

So much about yoga for me is learning how to breathe through what my teacher has been calling “therapeutic irritation”. That deep stretch, that muscle shaking, that almost-but-not-quite-painful sensation that advances your asana practice. Learning to breathe in those moments translates into learning to breathe in a larger sense, learning how to stay calm, focused and centered when things in life are hard. But even more right now, it’s an act of faith. It’s trusting that my body can do things it’s never done before, that I can challenge myself and meet that challenge without falling apart.

I did almost fall apart doing handstand. I learned two things very quickly, but not quite quickly enough — one, that my body was, in fact, capable of holding a handstand. And two, that I had people supporting me and that I was not going to fall. (Even though once I got into handstand, I didn’t know what to do with my legs and felt pretty certain I was going to keep falling forward and break my neck. Turns out that wasn’t going to happen.) Handstand is scary! And scary things make it easy to want to panic.

How often do I live like I’m going into handstand for the first time? — forgetting to breathe, forgetting how to stay calm, forgetting even that with two people surrounding me, I wasn’t going to fall. And the fact that despite my doubts, my arms can and did support me. It made me think about how I live out my faith.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

Why is it so hard to put that into practice? So hard to live that out, and so easy to forget that I’m not doing this alone. I don’t have to worry about falling. I can do all things through him who strengthens me, surrounds me, holds me, bolsters me, challenges, yes — and meets me where I am. I don’t have to panic.

This was my first handstand, but it was definitely not my last. My challenge going forward? Remembering Philippians 4:13 at all times — but especially when I’m upside-down.

I think this is going to be a good year.

Last year I was all about setting intentions for the year — I didn’t want any concrete goals, I didn’t want to feel like I had to try and meet certain expectations when I knew my life was about to change completely come April. And I think I did a pretty good job! I mainly wanted to a) not go crazy in my new life, overanalyzing every last little thing Will did and globalizing every missed nap or bad mood, and b) find a way to maintain my fitness and activity levels post-baby. And considering I ran eight miles this morning at around a 9:20 pace, I am feeling good about the latter in particular today.

But all that’s old news. It’s 2013. New Year’s Day is, I think, my favorite holiday. I love the feeling of a fresh start, and I usually try to imbue the day with some symbolism and meaning — a yoga practice, a delicious meal, doing something that sort of symbolizes how I want to approach the year to come. I actually didn’t really do much of that this year (no yoga, no run, no indulgent home-cooked meal [we had lentils and rice, virtuous but not so exciting], no symbolic purge of unneeded possessions) but hopefully I’m still set up for a good year ahead.

So 2012 was all about intentions. I think I am ready for some actual goals. I love a good goal to give me something to work toward, and this year I figured I would divide up my goals into a few different categories — spiritual, home, kitchen, wellness, and self.

spiritual: Complete the read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan I’ve been working on, by December 1, 2013.

home: Transition away from using toxic cleaners. Purge unnecessary possessions (asking myself if it’s useful or beautiful) so that we don’t feel overrun with stuff in a little house. Ruthlessly organize my bedroom. Figure out how to organize baby/toddler toys and books.

kitchen: Start cooking with dried beans rather than canned beans. Can my own tomatoes (and chicken stock, and jam without refined sugar, and chili, and pickles …). Bake bread regularly. I might even render lard!

wellness: Complete the 10 miler in March. Learn how to do a headstand. Reclaim my abdominal muscles through a combination of yoga and home strength training. Attend at least one yoga workshop.

self: Read at least ten books. Use my time wisely, mindfully and efficiently. Remember how my everyday actions will help me — or not help me — be who I want to be.

Whew! Some of these are, of course, really more intentions than goals, and they’re not very specific or measurable (how will I measure how efficiently I’m using my time?). But my overall goal, and the thing I want all of these smaller goals to work toward, is to get into a flow state. I want to feel settled. I want my house to run like a well-oiled machine, to be in a rhythm of life. A lot of the things I want to be doing — like cooking with dried beans instead of canned, getting (and keeping) myself organized, using my time wisely — require me to plan ahead more. I’ve never been great about planning ahead and I want 2013 to be the year where that stops being weird and uncomfortable. I want it to be second nature. What I ultimately I want is, as Gretchen Rubin did too, to be happier at home.

I learned in 2012 that happiness, like yoga, is both a practice and a discipline. Meeting the above goals will, I hope, bring me closer to that flow state, and help me to be happier at home, in both small ways and profound. Home, by the way, being both my actual physical house … and also my spiritual home, my physical body, my self.

And because this post hasn’t had any pictures yet …

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Will loves his new Little People Nativity!

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to 2013.

 

I can’t believe it, but all of a sudden 2012 is just about over. Just to reminisce, here are some of the highlights …

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Can you believe he was ever that small?

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It has been an amazing ride. 2012 was going to be the year of jubilee — and it really was.

Now that we’re on the other side of the shortest day of the year, the light is going to start lasting a little longer. I don’t mind the short days and the long nights, and I am sad to say goodbye to this year, but I’m looking forward to what’s to come. 2013 will, I hope, be full of more adventure, challenges, joy and growth.

In yoga, one of the most important poses is corpse pose, or savasana. Every yoga practice should end with a few minutes of relaxation to allow you to “seal in” the effects of that day’s class and prepare to take your yoga off the mat. The basic philosophy is that of balance — you’ve worked hard in your asana practice; close it out by allowing your body some rest.

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Legs-up-the-wall pose the other day. Yes, I actually took a picture of my view. Am I a real blogger now?

I have worked REALLY HARD in 2012 to pursue happiness, and for the most part my search has been a fruitful one. It’s time for savasana. I am going to take the rest of this year away from the internet — I want to reset my habits and start 2013 feeling refreshed and restored, ready for another year of jubilee.

So to all of my friends, family and readers: have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! See you in 2013!

It’s Tuesday afternoon and I woke up today with another cold. Before Will was born I was very rarely ever sick — but I think this is the third time I’ve come down with something since his arrival. I just hope he doesn’t get it. Ugh.

Anyway, I found two videos online today — one that made me laugh, and another that left me amazed. Check them out when you get a chance.

The first is my girl Julia Child, remixed by the people at PBS Digital Studios:

My favorite part is where she reminds us that we need fat in our diets, or our bodies can’t process the vitamins in our food. Preach!

The second is one that was shared on facebook by a couple of local yoga studios. It’s of a disabled veteran who was told he would never again walk unassisted — but was able to transform his body, his life, and his physical abilities through his yoga practice. It’s really amazing to watch.

That is about all that’s going on here today. I have a banana bread to bake — so I better get to work while this nap lasts. Have a good afternoon!

Last night I headed back to the Iyengar yoga studio for a much-needed instructor-led practice. I’ve been slacking on my strength training as well as my yoga, so I was really glad that the class focused a lot on core and upper body work. And my arms are still feeling it today. That’s always nice!

After class, the instructor and I were talking. We had been emailing back and forth about an erroneous charge on my account, and during the course of our conversation, the option of a work-study agreement came up. And now I find myself faced with a decision: work-study yoga? or pay my own way?


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Not so much …

A work-study plan would have me come in once a week for an hour or so and help out cleaning the studio. I could bring Will with me, and the timing would work out great with our current routine. Honestly, it sounds on paper like it would be a great fit, and it would enable me to spend some more time advancing my yoga practice without breaking the bank, while also helping out the studio owner in a tangible way.

I haven’t made a commitment yet, however, because I don’t want to jump into something that might then turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth. Purchasing a class card would cost anywhere between $165-195, depending on whether I sign up for 60-minute classes or 90-minute ones. That works out to $11-13 per class, and thus that is how much my work would “pay”. Is it more worthwhile for me to spend that hour or two a week doing other things and paying the $11-13 myself every week, or is this a good way to save money? That is what I have to figure out. Any thoughts? Am I just overthinking this?

Besides yoga-ing this week, things have been pretty quiet here at home. The kitchen is a wreck right now (and I swear it was spotless just 24 hours ago …) so I better get to work. Have a wonderful Thursday!

P.S.

I KNOW.

I finished my socks!

I’m very pleased with them.

And good thing I finished them today: I have some hats to start! Christmas is just five weeks away, and my dear heart friend Melissa just had a new baby, Caroline Rose, yesterday — and as miss Caroline lives in Colorado, clearly she needs a nice warm hat to wear as well. Good thing we are headed up to Steve’s parents’ this week. (Hopefully) plenty of knitting time awaits me. I wish I could knit in the car!

– And speaking of being in the car, Steve and I are going to finish the last Harry Potter book on our way up on Tuesday. Any suggestions for new audiobooks to listen to? I’m tempted to suggest we just start again at the beginning.

I am in search of some new blogs to read. As I learn more about nutrition, traditional foods and healthy living, I am trying to find some like-minded bloggers with knowledge to share — who also acknowledge that no one is perfect, everyone is different, and that we all have to live together in a society! Some of the blogs I’ve been checking out I have wanted to like, as they have a lot of really rich information, but the bloggers’ attitudes are a huge turn-off. I’m invested in a healthy lifestyle, but I don’t want to be told I’m doing it wrong because I haven’t switched to raw milk. Or that, like, vegans are slowly killing themselves. Or that I have done my son irreparable damage by having him vaccinated or by getting an epidural during labor. I just want to learn more about homemade body butter and how to make my own yogurt and where I can get lard. Any suggestions? So far I have found mommypotamus and mama natural, which I like, but there’s got to be at least one blogger out there who’s a bit more … relaxed. (Or will I have to be that blogger? When C.S. Lewis said we must write the books we wish to read, did he also mean blogs?)

I just got the new issue of Yoga Journal and I am very excited to read it.

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Six practices for happiness! I have not neglected my 2012 happiness project and I have some thoughts to share in a future post, but for now I am looking forward to checking out this month’s issue. My yoga practice may sort of be on life support right now, but I have a HUGE desire to be on my mat more than I have been. My home practice — how to build it, how to focus — has been on my mind a lot lately and I have been doing my best to practice more often, even if it’s just for a few minutes. It’s amazing (and also sad) how much of my flexibility and strength has waned since I set my practice aside. No more of that.

I’m making pumpkin butter tomorrow. And maybe cranberry apple butter. Or applesauce. And, eventually, some pear-cinnamon jam — maybe with some ginger? who knows. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Check out this picture of my mom.

That’s all. Have a good weekend!

I just got up off my yoga mat.

Whew! Let me take a minute to breathe in some deep, happy yogic breaths.

Doing yoga makes me feel like this, generally:

with a side of this:

so I am always really happy when I get up off my mat. Still, though — I have to make the shameful admission that I haven’t practiced in about a month. The lack of regular classes has been hard on my focus, honestly. It’s been hard to continue making yoga as much of a priority in my life as I want to when my home practice is accompanied by a low buzzing in the back of my head: dishes to wash! laundry to fold! diapers to stuff! baby to listen for! – which isn’t an excuse; if anything, it’s even more of a reason to make sure I practice regularly.

Thankfully, yoga as a practice is very forgiving — yeah, my limbs aren’t as loose as they were before my break, but even with every modification in the book, my practice as a whole isn’t hindered by my physical capabilities or limitations. (I learned this very well when I was pregnant and it continues to be true!) My issue lies more with this black-and-white idea I have that I have to devote lots and lots of time to asana practice (the physical aspect of yoga), which is both overwhelming and untrue. The 25-minute podcast I did just now was enough to refresh my heart. It gave me a quick break from the busyness of my day, and allowed me some time for spiritual rest. Obviously, spending an hour a day in asana would be awesome — but that’s not my life right now, and the great thing about yoga is that that’s okay. I can advance my practice just as much even if all I can manage is a few minutes every day. After all, yoga is a spiritual discipline even more than a physical exercise, so my heart is what matters here, not my flexibility.

All that to say: I need to let go of this perfectionist, must-always-think-of-yoga-as-a-workout mindset if I want to get anywhere in my practice. I stretched and strengthened my muscles for 25 minutes just now, but that’s really more of a bonus than anything. That wasn’t why I got on my mat to begin with. And I need to remember that.

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