Big Things

Big things are happening over here.

I have waved a tearful goodbye to my early twenties. My youth. But those years treated me well. I rang in my twentieth birthday in Tampa at Gasparilla (our Mardi Gras but with pirates), my big twenty first in Copenhagen which my dad flew in for, my twenty second in NYC with some besties, my twenty third in DC with a night out on the town, and my twenty fourth again in DC with good friends, bf, and family. And in between those celebrations in my early twenties,  I lived in San Francisco with my grandmother, became a pescatarian (note the correlation), lived in NYC with some of my best friends, spent five life changing months living in Denmark, visited over eleven countries while living aborad, ran my first half marathon, impacted my health dramatically by partaking in Mardi Gras, graduated from four amazing years at UVa, traveled to South America, moved to a new city, lived within a block of my brother, started my first job, ran a marathon, sauntered around Paris, became a yoga teacher, and……taught my first paid yoga class.

I think that was a fortuitous note to begin my mid-twenties (shutter) on.

 

The other weekend, during my jaunt home to Florida and in between walks in 70 degree weather with my dog and visits to my favorite restaurants, I poured over my scrawled class notes and prepared my perfect playlist. I was nervous. Reading the cues aloud as I paced around the living room helped to mitigate my turning stomach. The range of students I was expecting to teach put me at nerve–it’s hard to deliver the kick-your-butt class I prepared when there were going to be little fledgling yogis in the room. I didn’t want to scare anyone off or injure them.

 

This past Sunday, I went for a long run to settle my nerves–by body relaxed, my breath calmed, and I was ready to teach. I taught in the Avant-Garden room at the Salvador Dali Museum with views of the waterfront framed by the geodesic glass. My students began to pour in, one by one setting up their mats and props, including the supportive, Vanaynay (Hiii Vanessa!!). In Sukhasana position looking across at my twenty-three students, with one breath we began.

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I adapted. Adapted my class, adapted to the environment, adapted to audio issues. I toned down the “Grace Under Fire” (which my instructors had referred to my teaching style as) and taught to what the class needed at that moment on that Sunday. I became more familiar with each student’s ability through every assist and cue I encouraged.

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Time was impalpable. And in an hour and a half rather than shaking with nerves, I was receiving hugs and sincere thank yous from the visitors that day. Very fitting to experience the surreal moment of the teacher becoming the student, while doing so at a surrealist museum. Thank you, Mom, Dad, Laura, Henri, Ma, Richard, Flow Yoga, dear friends, all my TTs, and roomies for being so patient and encouraging during my five months of dedicated weekends.

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What was your first yoga class like?

From This to That

Last week’s cold temperatures brought mumblings of winter storms. The seven degree wind chill and falling snowflakes did not come until this morning. I was quite surprised to find DC a winter wonderland as I headed to spin class before work.

This:

Salted sidewalks in  preparation

Salted sidewalks in preparation

BUNDLED

BUNDLED

That:

Fresh snow

Fresh snow

Copenhagen style

Copenhagen style

 

I’ve brought back my morning juice. As of recent, I have been making a concerted effort to either leave time for prep, juicing, cleaning, and packing in the mornings or to make the concoction the night before. My new project team is all a bunch of health nut guys funnily enough, so they love my juices of the day. I tend to stick to a variance of kale, celery, carrot, parsley, lemon, apple or orange. But yesterday, (dun dun dun) I added a huge beet.  Don’t get me wrong, I love beets but the beet flavor was a little too predominant for my morning imbibing, though the color was nice.

This:

WSJ musings

WSJ musings

That:

BEEETiful

BEEETiful

From student to seat of the teacher, all in blue. Wonderful moment
This:
Class time

Class time

That:

Post-teaching....peer reviews

Post-teaching...Peer reviews
Pardon the tears

 

Brace yourselves. Grocery stores are no longer selling canned pumpkin. This anguish is not to be taken lightly. Luckily enough, I had a spare can from my protein pancake addiction, and I got to baking for my Teacher Training graduation. Every celebration needs Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies right? Here’s my PRIZED recipe–you’ll make a lot of friends with this one, I promise

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe source Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper. Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

This:

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Oh, yes

Oh, yes

That:
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Pumpkin fest Pumpkin fest

 

A perfect complement to yoga certificates, food, and meditative states–the construction of our vision boards. For those of you who are reading this puzzled, it’s a photo collage to inspire, drive, and remind you of your goals.

This:

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We like magazines

We like magazines

That:

Finished.

Finished.

Tell me a this to that?

Days on Days on Days

These past couple days have been something else. It’s been the kind of week when I have a thousand things on my mind—lists and lists racing around a mile a minute. I’ve yet to even have time to organize my thoughts, tasks, and to-dos in my moleskin, or yet BUY a new one (2013 cough cough). The horrorrrrrrrr.

My entire weekend was filled with Teacher Training—long days, riveting discussions, and lots of time practicing assists. We even taught at Lululemon Georgetown; the energy, music, and huge space at the store made this Sunday incredibly special. I missed these girls so much. It was good to be at home in Flow once again. Immediately following a weekend full of chaturangas and chantings, I began my first full week consulting on my new project. So the whirlwind of a new team, onboardings, long drives, different dynamics, and the adjustment of my snacking schedule has preoccupied my mind, time, and energy.

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practicing prenatal yoga with pillows in our shirts

practicing prenatal yoga with pillows in our shirts

eka pada koundinyasana-- babyyyy

eka pada koundinyasana– babyyyy

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Lulu Sundays

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Given that my TT graduation is this weekend (eeeeeeeeeek), I’ve had to draw upon what time and energy I have left in order to prepare. I can already anticipate how palpably emotional this weekend will be for me. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will include our teaching to the class, reviews from each peer, our anatomy exam, and the end of a milestone. Our introductions in September feel like just yesterday. I’ll end here before this post develops into a sappy soap opera.

Unfortunately, I’m one of the few DCers who does not have Monday/Martin Luther King Day/Inauguration Day off. And as luck has it, my brother offered me a ticket to the Inauguration near the stage for Monday. The combative work and yoga elements in my life came into play once again, as I am already taking Friday off for a mandatory TT day. I drew on many trusted opinions to come to the conclusion that I couldn’t take the second day of consecutive time off. I am incredibly torn about missing this momentous opportunity to first hand witness the 2012 Inauguratioin, but I worked hard to get on this specific project and I want to set a positive precedent as a new analyst. Given the implied asterisk from my manager and less than a week at the office, I have to take my career by the reigns for the ownership and responsibility that I anticipate.

My beloved little German Shepard, Ginger, went into surgery today. I wish I was back in Florida to be with her as she wakes up, but I’m happy my dad was there to take her to the vet before anything fatal set in. She is surrounded by love…and dog treats, and I’m grateful for that.

Oh.Life.

And as I write this, my thoughts settle immensely. It’s nice to have good problems this week, which serve as reminders of how precious and blessed every day is. Take a moment to close your eyes and take focus of your breath—the simplicity, the calm, and the light of each inhale and exhale. It will put things in perspective for you again.

 

Tell me about your Thursday.

This Day

Bear with me as I try to piece together and articulate my innumerable  thoughts over the last few days. Given the events that happened in Connecticut, I along with most of the world, hold an immensely heavy heart and pained mind. My heart aches for the families and victims of Friday’s unfathomable tragedy and the inconsolable pain they are and will always be holding.

I spent my Saturday and Sunday at teacher training with a supportive, warming group of people. The positive elements of this environment almost compounded my anger, sadness, and disbelief. How can we sit in a room while horrific things are occurring? Why did is this happening? What can I do?

The enormity of this horror seemed so much bigger than our little room of yogic concepts and philosophy. We bridged the topic of the shooting a few times during our Sutra chapters and closing chanting. These increases in violence are lessons for humanity, teaching us compassion, and we are witnessing these messages of the necessity of love become more expounded. Our challenge is to be friendly towards the happy, be compassionate towards the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard the wicked. And on my journey as a yoga teacher, I can be a healer–instilling light, compassion, and positivity in my students and the world. That is what I can immediately do.

And yoga? It allows us to cope. We can breath through these calamities, settling the mind and its chaotic thoughts. It brings peace to our sympathetic nervous system. It allows us to overcome obstacles of the mind and the accompaniments of despair, distress, trembling, etc. Yoga fosters our authenticity, so that we can act and think according to our purpose. Leaving the world with our work each day, however we were meant to do that.

In the wake of this hate and sadness, give this day all of  your sincerity, peace, generosity, and love. We can use every bit of it.

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“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

-Howard Thurman

S.w.a.m.p.e.d.

A little thing called work–final deliverables, the end of my project, aggressive deadlines, millions of dollars in contracts–got in the way of my posting. Some nerve. But it’s that time of the year, I guess. Work, Christmas parties, and work interspersed for four weeks.

I’ve needed plenty of yoga, good talks, and chocolate to get through it. Forgive me?

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This wasn’t my kind of stress release, but I was so proud that my body allowed me to access this posture for the first time…and in two different classes. Not sure what the name is…some kind of anjaneyasana backbend with a foot grab.

backbend

The weekend was a whirlwind as well. Back to 8 hour days of Yoga Teacher Training but loving it. I was antsy to be back in the studio with my TT group. It’s such a beautiful environment–the palpably positive energy, comforting hearts,  and dynamic/fascinating yogis that I already feel attached to. It’s hard to describe, but I feel so at home with the people, concepts, learning, and dedication. The kind of people and theories that I’m ecstatic to be integrating into my life.

We spent the entire weekend reviewing the intricacies of anatomy. Yoga 101 basically covered every musculature, body system, and injury imaginable…and there’s a lot. I definitely have more homework and studying to do on my own. The good news is I spend this weekend with my little yogis again! Merry Christmas to me. It’s hard to fathom that we only have two weekends left in January before graduation…..better get working. If you’d like a willing, patient, and practiced private teacher, you know who to contact 🙂 But really.

In between teacher training sessions, I was able to fit in a holiday run with the boyfriend. The Jingle Bell 8k was a great distance and as you can imagine a very entertaining crowd–jingle bells, santa suits, reindeer apparel, a nativity scene (yes, baby being pushed in tow). A lot of energy and holiday spirit waited in the rain for the race along Pennsylvania and the National Mall. We were festive and speedy. With the exception of someone’s knee pain and my own ankle trouble (darn new pink shoes!!), it was a nice first jaunt together. Thanks for being a good sport, Richard.

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Needless to say, the pink shoes were returned. Let’s see if these babies work out.

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Have you ever tried Saucony’s?

Any chocolate in your life this week?

Practicing: Gratitude

Since beginning my Sadhana in October, I’ve been reflecting on my blessings and setting an intention for the day while I brush my teeth every morning. Two minutes of gratitude and clean teeth. I find that this keeps me accountable and present everyday rather than being consumed by the stress of the day. We all have so much to be grateful for each day, and it helps to practice our gratitude so that the beauty of our day doesn’t pass us by.

Given that Thanksgiving is approaching, I was inspired by a New York Times author’s list of some conventional and not-so-conventional gratitudes. So here I go…

“I’m thankful for my health, friends who make me laugh, and the colors of sunsets. I’m thankful for the smell of lavender and the feel of clean sheets. I’m thankful for the Shazam app and the ability to have any song at my finger tips. For memories. For spontaneous decisions. For the magic of mascara. I’m thankful for the relief that a good cry can bring. I’m thankful for those Sunday mornings with my family, for the Sunday funnies and banana pancakes we enjoyed together. For books that leave you speechless. For white goat cheddar. I’m thankful that I can’t read peoples’ minds, as much as I want to. I’m thankful middle school nights with AIM. I’m thankful my life is not like a Real Housewives of DC episode. I’m thankful for quiet morning runs, the warmth of cooking with others, and the zeal of advent calendars. For Whole Foods hot bar. For my long legs. I’m thankful for memories and the future.”

What are you grateful for today?

Sunday Funday

There’s just something about Sundays…

Peaceful, buoyant, and uplifting. Or at least that’s how my Sunday was today. Usually Sundays are filled with the dread of school, looming homework, or an ominous work week. Today was an aberration but hopefully not in the subsequent weeks. Yesterday I set an intention of Positivity for the day and that is just what happened. I went into the day with a specific mindset, cultivating that intent in every action, thought, and word of mine. I’m a believer in the process of “like attracts like” in our lives; a corresponding frequency results from how we think and feel. The Law of Attraction makes sense to me but that’s just me. We can all use a little more positivity in our lives, so why not try it?

My Sunday began as most do:

12:45AM- Being kicked out of my boyfriend’s party by the police due to a noise complaint. Are we 18 or 23? I think the Georgetown police thought the former. No big deal–I got to head home to sleep after an eight hour day of Yoga TT

7AM: Feeling like I should get up. Nope. Daylight savings 🙂 Time to catch up on some sleep debt

9AM: Refreshed and rejuvenated. Ready for my Sunday

10:15AM: Wonderful Rocket Yoga class. I go to this teacher often but today she had a certain gleam of happiness and spirit. Her music was on cue, her instructions were engaging, and her assists were purposeful. I also applied some techniques I learned the day prior

Our teacher training on Saturday was amazing, and sometimes instructions resonate and the slightest adjustments can completely alter a pose for you. By firmly pressing down my forefingers while in downdog, I released an immense amount of pressure from my wrists and shoulders. Downdog felt good again. And then hearing the instruction to place our hands three inches in front before launching into chaturanga was game changing for me

11:45AM: Peek next door to see if the running store carries my shoes. It’s been a year since my last pair. Bad Grace. They had my Asics in hot pink…yes please

12PM: Stroll through the Dupont farmer’s market, enjoying the cold temperatures, lively ambiance, and many familiar faces. Must.restrain.from.purchasing.going.out.of.town.

1PM: Juice up everything that lay fresh and idle in my fridge. Perfect way to use up produce before going out of town

2PM: Yoga TT. There are days when I can’t fathom sitting on the floor for eight hours, inside for my entire day. But what makes Sundays like these great are the days when I cannot wait to reconvene with my friends, discussing topics we are passionately united by. It’s the aura of learning that I really love–the structured curriculum, peers, studying, tests, and quest for knowledge. We can discuss a concept for the majority of the day’s training session, and I can still leave with unanswered questions, seeking a more lucid understanding like my teachers have. There’s an air of excitement and love when we convene each week–definitely the energy and people  I want to be surrounding myself with

4:45PM: Say goodbyes and plan to meet with some other yogis while in NYC next weekend

4:55PM: Whole Foods pitstop before my work trip Monday. Stockpile bars and trailmix. Learned the hard way a few weeks ago traveling for work at 5AM and not being able to break from my team for food until 4PM. Hungry, irritable Grace is not a sight to be seen. Crisis averted this week

5:15PM: Cram cold weather, business casual into carry-on and hope that I haven’t forgotten anything. Sad sight when 1/4 of my suitcase is filled with a hodgepodge of snacks

6PM: Wait for boyfriend to come over to visit

6:25PM: Continue waiting

6:55PM: Receive text that he’s leaving in three minutes

7:40PM: Receive another text that he’s on his way. Practice being a very patient girlfriend 🙂

9:50PM: Bedtime for early risers. 7AM flight. Zzzzzzzzzz

As Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Beautiful thought. Small acts with ardent intent . We have no control over the universe but we do have authority over our thoughts and emotions. Our mindful intentions mean everything.

We have the ability to make all our Sunday great

Practicing: Hot Water & Lemon

The biting temperatures are beginning to set in. Thanks a lot Sandy…and November, I guess. Oh yes, leg warmers, leggings, and Patagonia sweaters are frequently making appearances on moi.

Don’t judge the leg warmers–they go very nicely over my yoga leggings.

I digress.

It’s only natural as the temperature drops that my affinity for a hot cup of tea has been rekindled.  I’m  tea toating. Not teetotaling. I’ve been starting my mornings not with hot tea but hot water and lemon. This little combination was introduced to me during our TT discussion of routines/Sadhanas. Many of my teachers begin their days with this soothing, Ayurvedic concoction for its various mind and body benefits:

  • Citric acid detoxes your body, cleansing your entire system. Lemons are highly alkaline and help restore balance to your pH levels.
  • It improves digestion, as the vitamins and minerals in lemon juice aid in flushing out bacteria. The warm water stimulates the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis
  •  The Vitamin C rejuvenates your skin–leaving you with a fresh face and breath
  • Lemon water is a natural energy drink and provides a healthier energy boost than artificially, caffeinated beverages
  • Keeps the lymph system hydrated, preventing adrenal fatigue and toxin buildup
  •  Pectin fiber helps fight hunger cravings

If these weren’t reasons enough to love lemon water, read more about the benefits at:  Natural News , Livestrong , MindBodyGreen

What’s your morning routine?

Something Beautiful

The first beauty of the my Saturday has been a morning run along the National Mall. A year ago when I was doing my training runs, most of the Mall was under renovation, which made running alongside tractors and cement a very different experience. DC is now teeming with history, tourists, and Fall. What a beautiful morning to be resident in the District

Farmer’s Markets. Everywhere the eye can see. I love to stroll through them on the weekend–soaking up the season, community, and lively spirit exuding from each stall. There’s nothing like knowing who grows your food and the soil it comes from.

As I zip off to Yoga TT for the next eight hours and then proceed to throw on a Pocahontas costume for a Halloween party tonight, I will leave you will a beautiful thought…

“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.
To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior. We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resentment, bitterness, righteous indignation—harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, a sense of inspiration.

Every day we could think about the aggression in the world, in New York, Los Angeles, Halifax, Taiwan, Beirut, Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq, everywhere. All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, “Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?” Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?'”

-Pema Chodron

What’s beautiful about your Saturday?

Practicing: Non-Judgment

It’s a difficult feat to not harbor judgment, and to many that’s a very general and overly expansive statement. Since beginning TT (teacher training), I’ve tried to keep this concept of judgment in my thoughts during every element of my day. Almost the very first assertion from my teacher was regarding the importance of allowing yourself to listen to others—without immediate judgments and critiques flooding your mind.  Tapas (patience) and Svadhyaya (mindfulness) are personal behaviors I try to remind myself of on and off of my mat.

Most people in a yoga class have witnessed someone prior to class going into Scorpion or jumping into a handstand, so rather than harboring resentment or envy (or mumbling “showoff”), allow for each individual to have their own practice. This individual may just rely on these poses to warm up his lower back, and in contrast you may need to rest in child’s pose in preparation for class. Allow yourself and others this time….without judgment.

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Trust me it takes practice, a lot of practice. Unfortunately, I am a very impatient person, and I immediately blame my Type A personality; however, then I wouldn’t be holding myself accountable now would I? This week I walked into one of my favorite evening classes at Flow Yoga Center, I was prepared for the fluid breathing and fast flow of the class. Basically I wanted my butt kicked. My teacher informed us that we would spend the beginning of the class on the floor, tapering our energy as we near the New Moon. I went through the motions, but not fully accepting my breath or the direction of the class. It was difficult to concentrate on the present, as I reflected on the usual sequences we were sadly not moving through.

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Needless to say, I was judging my teacher’s sequences and second guessing my decision to come to class. I did not have the Saucha (clarity) to focus on the movements and energy we were cultivating for the Waning Moon, and thus was astonished as the pose intensity and my breathing increased. The opening movements that I had been frustrated with had cultivated a palpable prana and flow of sweat. Lying on my mat exhausted, I was fully appreciative of the hybrid of asanas I had just experienced. With mindfulness of my thoughts, I concentrated on going into my next class this morning with complete non-judgment. Open to all possibilities from the Universe