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I miss Living Yoga.  (this picture was taken there. follow me on Instagram!)

Living Yoga was the first place I practiced yoga outside of my mother’s basement.  I walked in one Monday morning, over two years ago, and I kept going. I fell in love with yoga, but most importantly, I fell in love with yoga there. I adored Living Yoga’s atmosphere, the sense of peace I got whenever I walked in.  It smells of incense, and it’s always warm. Cozy.  Rei made space for me there.  I’ve made friends there.  It feels like home.

Since I’ve been in my yoga teacher training, I have not had much time to get to LY.   I have to practice with Laurie and her teachers at Bonda, which I understand.  And Laurie’s also been understanding– she  explained that she doesn’t mean to steal us away from our home studios.  But  in order to fully absorb the methods she is teaching us, we need to attend her classes  to see and feel how they work. It makes sense. Early on she explained that the deeper into training we get, the more confused we’ll be taking classes elsewhere.  I didn’t get at the time, but now I do.

Laurie’s big on energy.  How do you feel during a class? How do you feel afterward?  She maintains that each class we teach should follow a bell curve of energy, starting off slowly to warm up, beginning to build heat in the body as we lead our students to a peak pose, then bringing them back down as we allow them to release some of that heat, letting go of the things that no longer serve them.

She also has very stringent ideas of the ways that  postures affect our anatomical structure. Moving between certain poses compromises the stability of the body’s joints, which we never want to happen to our students.  Our responsibility is to carry them safely through the class so that they can gain a greater understanding of themselves, of their bodies.

Not everybody teaches with the mindfulness that Laurie has instilled in us. This doesn’t mean they are bad teachers–maybe they just never learned what we have learned.  But what I find interesting lately is that, on the rare occasion that I attend a class with a teacher who is not Laurie (or one of her trainees), I can tell the difference.

The picture above was taken by one of my favorite teachers prior to the last class of hers that I attended. I love her to pieces. She is so creative, and so energetic. But during that class, my body felt the distinctions that Laurie pointed out to us.  The class was fun, but when I got home that evening, my energy was scattered.  My mind was relaxed, but my body felt anxious. I realized it was because of the rollercoaster nature of the class I’d just taken. We began on the floor with restorative, yin-like poses, then did a variation on Surya Namaskar B, then went to the floor again, then did some backbending, etc. It was exhausting.

Then there were things that she said; I heard them and thought, “No. I’m not doing that. That’s dangerous.” For example, she cued us to Janu Sirsasana  and said that we should flex our feet so much that our heels lifted off the floor.  But I now know doing this causes the knees to hyper-extend, which is not good– especially for me, with my bum knee. So I didn’t do it that way. Throughout the entire two-hour class, I did what found to be safe for me and my practice.

Since that class, I’ve been thinking about the idea of “home.” What does it mean, to have a home studio?  I know what I thought it meant:  Living Yoga was the only place where I’d practiced with any regularity.  It was the only place I knew, and I loved it. I still do.

But that doesn’t mean it’s my home.

I’m learning: when it comes to this practice, I carry it with me, wherever I go.  I love LY,and I will continue to practice there.  I’ll probably continue to practice at Bonda, even when my teacher training ends.  But I’ve practiced on my own– at home, trying to teach myself inversions.  I do several rounds of Surya Namaskar A when I wake up in the morning, if I feel I need it, wherever I am– in Trinidad, in South Africa.  I sit at my desk at work and practice pranayama.  My practice is with me.

 I am my home.

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General

Gratitude, Parte Dos

These flowers have nothing to do with Thanksgiving. I just think they’re pretty and felt like sharing. Found at Bright Bold & Beautiful, via Pinterest.

Not long after I wrote my first post about gratitude, I downloaded the Gratitude Journal app on my iPhone. It is set to open every morning at 6:30  so I can scribble down a few things that put a smile on my face. This year, I am grateful, as always for my family. My crazy mama, Marvs, and my brilliant doctor sister. My absentminded Aries dad, my power-hungry political machine aunt, and both my uncles. My also brilliant doctor cousin and her brand new baby who I can’t wait to meet. I don’t have a  huge family, but I love them and they are mine.

I’m also grateful for soca, which gets me through my days and reminds me to dance and smile my way through life. (Check out my latest favorite by Terri Lyons here).

I’m grateful for yoga, because through the practice of yoga I have learned to love myself in ways I didn’t know were possible.

I’m grateful for hot bowls of  soup on cold, rainy days.

I’m grateful for the sun when it appears, sliding  through my blinds in the morning.

I’m grateful for kale in all its delicious forms– sauteed with garlic, in crunchy salads with grapefruit and pecans, in sturdy stews of butternut squash and chickpeas, in omelets with feta and mushrooms. Yum! I love kale.

I’m grateful for my old car, still chugging along faithfully, getting me where I need to go, after 98,000 miles.

I’m also grateful for Hermes Kelly Caleche just because I smell so sweet right now.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

ETA:

Was it serendipity that caused me to post the picture of flowers above, just for the sake of their beauty? Then to find this lovely TED Talk, Louie Schwartzberg on Nature, Beauty, and Gratitude? I don’t know, but I’m grateful either way. Enjoy!

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Personal

30

I’ve been 30 for seven days now.

I’m still not over the fact that “thirty” sounds OLD.

I know, as a rational, intelligent human being, that I am not old.

It just sounds old.

I feel a lot of responsibility. Which, obviously, I’ve always had. Because I’m an adult. I have been for a while.

It just reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from “Giovanni’s Room,” by James Baldwin:

“Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford and you are not that young anymore.”

I’m 30. Thirty is young. But not that young.

I’m afraid of what that means.  If I can no longer afford the luxury of confusion, what are those things that I must do to create the life I want to live?

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advice

Learning How to Be Selfish

I have a dear friend, and she has a serious problem:  she has no clue how to put herself first!

For a myriad of reasons, which I won’t disclose here, she has spent most of her life taking care of everyone around her.  At a fairly young age, she took on responsibilities that a lot of adults couldn’t even handle.  Through it all, she’s found a way to make herself a success—but at a cost to her personal health and general wellbeing.

When she came to me for help, my first thought was that she needed to learn how to tell everyone to fuck off. Well, not exactly in those words.  But as a friend, I’ve listened to her complaints over the years and—I’m just being honest here—a lot of her problems begin with the fact that people take advantage of her kindness.  They take more from her than they ever give.  And should she ever dare to stand up for herself, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly she’s a bad friend, or a horrible daughter.  My answer to that? Simple. Go to hell.

If you know anything about me, it’s that I’m pretty darn selfish.  I’m not selfish with my belongings. You can have some of whatever I’m eating, you can borrow my shoes (just try not to stretch them out. I have baby feet.), you can even have some cash if you need it and I have it to spare.  However.  I am extremely selfish with my time.  I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I operate according to my own schedule, and I have little patience for people who cause me to deviate from that schedule.  This usually means that I carve out a lot of time to do the things that bring me joy: practicing yoga, reading, writing.

A lot of this attitude stems from my childhood. I was blessed with parents who really indulged me and gave me quite a bit of freedom to explore what interested me.  They exposed me to a lot and allowed me to continue learning what appealed most to me. I loved dance, but hated tennis. So they cut the tennis lessons and enrolled me in extra ballet classes.  I loved books, but detested dolls (don’t ask, they freak me out).  So they took me on weekly trips to the library, and ordered books for me on a monthly basis.  They let me just be myself.  They taught me what it was like to truly enjoy my time, so it became precious to me.  I guard it ferociously. This is why I don’t generally do OT at work, but that’s an entirely different story.

Anyway.  I have no problems figuring out what I need and getting rid of anyone who does anything, anything at all, to disturb the delicate balance I’ve created for myself.  Thus, I’m super happy that Jo came to me. I’m no expert, but I’m the perfect person for this job.

 

Step One

 

Believe, wholeheartedly, that you deserve to be put first.

It starts with the belief.

You have to believe that you deserve good things. You deserve to be taken care of properly. You deserve to feel good about yourself and your body. You deserve to get the rest you need.  You deserve to be pampered and loved.

Remind yourself of this every day.

 

Step Two

 

Determine what you need and what you desire.  Then make fulfilling your needs and desires your first priority.

So you know how when you’re on an airplane awaiting takeoff, and the flight attendants come out and pantomime what actions to take in the hopefully unlikely event of an emergency?  What do they always say?

 “If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your oxygen mask on first, and then assist the other person.”

Why do they say this? BECAUSE YOU ARE OF NO USE TO ANYONE (yourself included) IF YOU ARE DEAD.

You have to take care of yourself FIRST before you can take care of anyone else.  There is no other way to put this.

Figure out what you want in your life. Figure out what you need. Then go out there and make those things happen.  Exercise self-care. Make time for the things that soothe you.  Allow into your life only the people who show you how much they care.  People who truly love you will help you to do this. Because if they love you, they will want you to be happy and healthy.

 

Step Three

 

Learn how to say NO.

For someone like my friend, who is helpful to every human being, animal, and alien she meets, this is crucial.  (Are you listening, Johara???)

If you don’t want to do something that someone asks of you, don’t do it.  Don’t agonize about doing it. Don’t do it grudgingly and get mad at yourself for wasting your time doing something that you never wanted to do in the first place.

Just say no.

Practice it.

Seriously.

Just say it. “No.”  Feel the word in your mouth. It probably feels strange.  You’re not accustomed to saying it, I know.  Now say it again.  Say it loudly this time. Say it so that you feel its vibration through your ribcage. Say it so that anyone who hears you understands, “She just told me no.”

Also.  When you tell someone no, and they are not used to hearing that from you, they may be shocked into silence. This is good. They may also try to reason with you. Don’t let them. Look at them and say calmly, “I already told you no. This discussion is over.”

 

Step Four

 

Don’t feel bad for saying NO.

Remember why you said no in the first place. You didn’t want to be involved with whatever it was they asked.  Complying with the request would have seriously inconvenienced you, or worse, placed a significant strain on your health.  Whatever the reason, it was your decision. You said no because you were taking care of yourself.  Do not ever feel bad for putting yourself, your needs, and your desires first.

Furthermore, you are not responsible for coddling adults who have the capability to care for themselves.  Do not let anyone lay a guilt trip on you.

 

 

This is all I can think of for now, but I think I hit the important things.

Do you guys have anything else to add?

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Personal

Tears

I cry a lot. About big things, about little things.

I cried when I broke the zipper on my new-to-me vintage leather pencil skirt, rendering it useless.

I cried when that fool in the Ford Escape sideswiped me on the entrance ramp to the Major Deegan Expressway, almost taking my side mirror with him, leaving my wheel-well crumpled in his wake.

I cried when I accidentally sliced my fingertip open while peeling and chopping a butternut squash for a stew I was cooking. (it hurt!)

I cried when a client called me a stupid bitch as I exited my workplace.  I sat in my car, shaking, until I decided to do some ujjayi to calm myself down.

I cried when I heard him say, “How are you doing, beautiful? You smell so good.” And he wasn’t talking to me.

I cry whenever I can’t find something I need in the abyss of my overcrowded bedroom, whether it is a book or a pair of gym socks or my tan sweater with poofy sleeves from H&M  that I haven’t seen in over a year.

I cry every time Elise tells David, “I’m coming with you.”

I even cry while watching “Say Yes to the Dress.”  When a bride says yes, my eyes get foggy.

I like to think that I cry freely, but I don’t.

I cry frequently, I’ll admit.  But I’m usually annoyed with myself for crying.  In my head, my mother’s words echo: “Is yuh mudda dead? Is yuh fadda dead? No? So what yuh crying for? Doh mek me give yuh something to cry about.” (Translation: Is your mother dead? Is your father dead? So why are you crying? Don’t make me give you something to cry about!)

So I punish myself for my tears. I call myself names.

Silly girl, stop crying.

You’re so stupid. Stop crying.

Immature crybaby. Stop crying.

The other day, I read an excerpt of  Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond on Brain Pickings (where else? Maria Popova is the ish!).  An explanation of why human beings cry:

As an adult, you cry much less than when young, and your crying is more often subdued, teary weeping than the demonstrative, vocal sobbing of childhood. . . [T]he trauma that causes your crying is now more often emotional than physical. However, whether intentional or not, as adult or child, you cry to solicit assistance, whether physical aid or emotional solace. Paradoxically, your adult cry for help is more private than the noisy, promiscuous pronouncement of childhood, often occurring at home, where it finds a select audience.

My tears…are a cry for assistance.

I think I need to go back to therapy.

And just because I’m in a funky mood.

I miss Amy.

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Personal, Writing

Seven

One

It is summer time.  It is beautiful.  Every day, the skies are bright, the air is clear.  Every day, you arrive late to class.  Stacy usually has breakfast, or at least coffee, waiting for you.  She jokes that you will never make it on time.  You fall asleep during the lectures, or spend significant chunks of time perusing facebook, or your still fairly active xanga site, or myspace. You check your email a half a dozen times by the first break.  You imagine yourself lying on the beach. One day you leave after the second break, and actually go to the beach. On another day, you go straight from bar review to the Bronx for a Yankees game. You get drunk with your cop friend and somehow wind up in Harlem at your sister’s apartment, drinking Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and talking shit.  When you wake up the next morning, it is already 10 am.  Your sheets smell like stale beer.  The night before the exam you receive four voicemails.  All the guys you like, or who like you.  They all say good luck, you’ll do great.  You know you won’t.

Two

It is winter. You have a tutor. You are the site director this time, since Stacy, of course, passed on her first try, and has since moved into a tiny studio on the Upper East Side and begun her fancy big-firm job.  You are glad you don’t have to pay for the course again, but the students annoy you.  One student is a guy who graduated from SJU the semester after you.  He is older and seems like he must have been a construction worker in his past life.  He is foul-mouthed and has rough hands that he slams down on his desk whenever he gets frustrated. He yells at you as if it is your fault, somehow, that he does not understand the material. You practice essays and realize you know absolutely nothing. You order a pizza and eat the whole thing in one sitting, then throw it up; not on purpose, but just because you feel gross for having eaten the entire pizza. You stay up until 5 o’clock every morning, sleep until noon, then head to school to read before preparing for class. You try to study on weekends but the words are unintelligible.  You have a crush on the Israeli kid who stands outside and smokes during every break. You don’t like smokers but he has eyes the color of fresh grass and he smiles at you all the time, rubs your shoulder when he thanks you for letting him take out a DVD.  He is all you remember when you sit down during that first morning. He will pass, you know it.

Three

Summer again.  You are working.  You like your job.  You attend a re-taker course at BarBri headquarters in Times Square. Every Sunday you sit in that small space with other people like you, people who have failed. You listen to their insipid conversations.  They are inconsiderate. They spread their belongings all across the narrow tables, refuse to move them even when more students enter the room, searching for somewhere to sit.  The guy behind you kicks your chair, repeatedly. You turn to look at him. He isn’t even tall. You think of Ellen, who sat behind you in homeroom and was at least 5’11. She kicked your chair a lot but she didn’t mean to, and she apologized.  This guy refuses to make eye contact with you. And keeps kicking your chair.  You don’t belong there. On breaks you go down to Sephora. Before the end of July, you have three new bottles of perfume. Hermes Kelly Caleche is your favorite.

Four

Another winter. You take the full bar review course. From 9 am until noon, you are in class. From 2 pm until 10 pm, you are at work. You are tired. You begin to wonder what the fuck you are doing.  The rest is blurry.

Five

Another winter.  Your tutor insists you will pass this time. “You’re so close,” she says. But she says this every time.  You do what she tells you.  You can’t afford to pay another $3,000 for bar review, so she gets you a copy of the paced program to do on your own. You do some of it, but not most of it.  You don’t want to. You are tired.  On Valentine’s Day, you sit alone in your mother’s kitchen and take a simulated MBE.  You get 60 questions correct. Out of 200.  You throw your study materials on the floor. They stay there for two days.  When you are not studying, you are shopping online.  You buy two pairs of Levis.  Ten bottles of nail polish.  A Rachel Rachel Roy dress that you never wore and cannot find. A Rory Beca dress that you also have not worn—but you’ve rocked the belt with other dresses.  Then there is the painterly dress from ModCloth that is slightly tight around the hips.  You haven’t worn that one either, but only because when you try it on, it looks like sausage casing. You don’t send it back because you are convinced it will fit one day.  During that winter, you gain ten pounds.  Still, even with the extra weight, your new boots and leggings are comfy and sexy during the exam.

Six

Preparation. What preparation? On the morning of the second day, you run into Helena, who you had met during a previous attempt. She says you look hot, like you’ve lost some weight. You have, because you’d purchased a treadmill and got on it three times a week to get rid of last winter’s ten pounds.  The cute security guard notices how hot you are, too, because he asks for your number.  For a moment, you hesitate. He is a security guard. He is light-skinned. He is tall. Then you remember you’ve failed the bar exam five times.  Your only boyfriend was about the same complexion. And you can’t help that tall guys find you adorable. You give him your number.  He calls a few days after the exam, and takes you to see The Adjustment Bureau. You cry in the movie theater and wipe your tears quickly, glad that you wore waterproof mascara. By the time the scores are released, you’ve already deleted his number from your phone.  He texts to check on you, but you don’t answer.

Seven

Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points. Sixteen points.

This is all that stands between you and the e-mail that says, “Congratulations. We are writing to inform you that you have passed the New York State bar examination,” or whatever the fuck it says.  You don’t want to take it again. Your mother gives you a speech. Your aunt calls from Trinidad. She also gives you a speech. You don’t want to take it again.  But they cajole you into it with their caring voices and soft pleading.  You agree to take it. You transfer the last $3,000 out of your savings account into your checking so you can pay BarBri, again. You book a flight to Trinidad and stay with your aunt for a week and a half.  In the mornings you get on your mat and do some sun salutations before her fiance offers you breakfast.  You eat quickly as he hovers.  When you’re done, you drag your books up to the studio apartment in her backyard.  All morning, from 9 am until noon, you study. Then you take a break to eat the lunch that Michael sets out for you. This life is so simple.  You get an hour break, then head back up to finish studying.  You usually spend another five hours up there. You get a lot done.  You finish all of the MBE questions in the book. You’ve never done that before.  Michael’s church family raises their hands to bless you.  “Don’t worry. You will conquer that exam.” You spend one day at the beach in Pigeon Point.  You can feel the melanin percolating in your skin. Under that sky, over that sand, you promise yourself you will not come back to this country unless you are there to enjoy it.

On the first day of the exam you want to cry.  Why is this your  life?  It has been over five years since you graduated from law school.  You are surrounded, again, by these strangers, who argue over the statute of limitations for medical malpractice.  When anyone asks you a question, you reply, “I don’t know.”  Because you don’t. You are tired. You don’t care anymore. You don’t want to be there.  You’d rather be at Pigeon Point, eating curry crab and dumpling.  These people, you are not like them.  You don’t care.  You cry as you walk back to 8th Avenue to catch the E train home.  Then the Asian lady offers you her seat, thinking you are pregnant.  You laugh.  It is the icing on the cake of your miserable day.

The second day isn’t much better, but you are wearing a pretty blue dress and an expensive statement necklace, so you feel good. Afterwards, you meet a friend and she makes you shrimp scampi and gets you tipsy.  “This is it,” you tell her.

This is it.

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Personal, Yoga

Divine Love and My Ever-Shifting Energy

Last Thursday, I attended Laurie’s Vinyasa and Meditation classes. As promised, during meditation, Laurie talked with us to figure out which Sanskrit mantra we most needed; then she used her training as a Reiki healer to read our energy.

The mantra we decided on was “Aham Prema,” translated as “I am divine love.”  This simple mantra means that I am what I seek.  If God is love, and God is in my heart, then that love encompasses my entire being.  By acknowledging this as fact, I can share that love others, and it will naturally flow back to me.  We chose this particular mantra because I was feeling a distinct lack of love– from others, from myself.  It is beautiful and makes me smile whenever I say it. You can listen to Deva Premal’s version of it here.

Laurie guided us into meditation on our mantras. And while we laid on our mats in the dark, eyes closed, she read our energy, one by one. I could feel when she was close to me despite being fairly deep in meditation.  I felt sparks of electricity shooting from my face, and my cheeks moved of their own volition.

After she was done, she told me that my energy had presented itself to her as a spiral, flowing in even circles up and down my sushumna nadi– from my root chakra at the base of my spine, to my crown chakra.  She said it flowed evenly, without interruption. I was surprised to hear this, as I thought my energy would be chugging and heaving its way throughout my body.  She said that, although my mind was obviously heavy, my energy wasn’t. “Something that you’re doing is working.  So keep it up.”

She did warn us, however,  that our energy would not always look the way it looked that night, that it changes and shifts depending on what’s going on in our lives.

I know what’s working is the yoga.

I don’t know if my energy has shifted just yet.

I know I feel anxiety in my emotional body.  Bar results will be released tomorrow.  Which means I’ll probably wake up tomorrow morning with the e-mail waiting for me.

I know I shouldn’t be anxious. What’s done is done.  I was planning to chill tonight– catch up on Y&R and go to bed early. I think I will practice instead.

Aham Prema.

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