Fitness, Goals, Personal, Yoga

Getting it Together

One day near the end of August I woke up with my knee throbbing.

I decided to stay home and rest. I grabbed some ice and propped my knee up and watched terrible daytime television and cried.

By 2 pm, I was bored. So I got up and drove myself to Crocheron Park, where I sat by the pond and finished reading Daring Greatly.

Then I walked over to the Bayside Marina and kept walking. And walking. Until I stood underneath the approach to the Throgs Neck Bridge. Then I turned around and walked back.

My knee still hurt. But not as much as it had when I first woke up. And I realized: I had tried to protect myself from the knee pain by being as sedentary as possible. What I’d done, instead, was pack on an extra five pounds, which my knee definitely couldn’t take. I know five pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but I am just over five feet tall, and, at the time, weighed more than I had ever weighed before– over 147 pounds.

In the eight weeks since I took that walk along Little Neck Bay, I’ve shed 11.4 pounds. I resolved to move my body in some way, at least six days a week. I began tracking my food intake with an application on my iPhone (Lose It!), and I dug up the Polar Heart Rate Monitor my sister gave me last Christmas to track my calories burned with every work out. And so I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine. Mondays and Wednesdays, I work out at home. I do one of my Jillian Michaels DVDs (usually No More Trouble Zones because it is ROUGH), then follow up with an hour of incline walking on the treadmill I bought three years ago (which has only been used sporadically up until now). Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do cardio at the gym  (typically a StairMaster/elliptical combo since I have the treadmill at home. I do at least 30 minutes, but usually closer to an hour), then go to my regular 90-minute Hot Vinyasa Flow class. Fridays, I go to the gym for my favorite, leg day. Saturday is whatever I feel like doing– most of the time I’ll walk around my neighborhood, or do my Butt Bible dvd plus a yoga class.  This is the most consistent I’ve been about working out since I was still in law school, and routinely shirked my study duties by spending hours at the gym. My consistency has paid off.

My knee feels so much better now. Without the extra weight, there’s less pressure on the joint. And all the strength-building I’ve been doing has helped stabilize my patella so it doesn’t slide all over the place and get compressed when I bend the knee.  I spent 30 minutes on the StairMaster yesterday and my knee feels totally normal. So it occurred to me– why can’t I run?

I want to run again. I miss it terribly.  I never thought I’d miss it, but I do. As always, I don’t want to hurt myself again. So I will wait until I am under 130 pounds, and then I will start the Couch to 5k program. When I weighed myself yesterday, I was 135.8. My 31st birthday is in three weeks. My goal is to do the first day of the program the weekend after my birthday. It’s time.

And now I’m off to the gym!

Fitness, Food, Personal, Yoga

Things They Said

Yankee girls are all fat because they eat too much. You’re solid. That’s why you’re so fat, because all you do is eat and read. Don’t bend over like that, we can all see your breasts. Why are your boobs so big when the rest of you is so small? You’re short and you can’t afford to gain much weight; you’ll look like a house. Did you eat all the ice cream? You wear a size 5 because you’re a MOO MOO MOO. Well, yeah, you could stand to lose a few pounds. You’re overweight, ma. Come here and give me a hug, looking like a Coca-Cola bottle. Put your tits away, slut. No way, you can’t weigh more than me. I don’t know why you’re always complaining, we’re the same size. You have a beautiful shape. You didn’t get those breasts from your mother. You’re too young for your stomach to be that round. You should work out. You’re fat. Your waist is so small; when we get you down a few pounds your body will be crazy. You’re a little neurotic about food. I think you should eat a bit more than salad. Were you planning to stop losing weight any time soon? You’re looking a little thin. You’re all boobs and hair, there is no fat on you. Your body is perfect. You’re more fit than you give yourself credit for. You’re a strong little thing. You’re starting to get track thighs. What happened to you? You’re just so thick. Your ass got bigger, but that’s a good thing. How do you carry those jugs around all day? You’re so tiny, but you have the body of a grown woman. You’ve ballooned back up. Aren’t you gonna go to the gym? Will yoga help you lose weight? Your waist was so tiny. Don’t overindulge in food. You must remain nice and slim. Your belly is too round. Do some sit-ups. You see how slim you were? You’re not fat though; I’ve seen worse.

movies, Yoga

Top That!

Still recovering from a cold that knocked me over last week. Despite my sore lungs, I managed to drag myself to Pure East for a very special workshop this past Saturday.

photo (17)

That’s Mandy Ingber with her arm around my shoulders.  Yes, that Mandy Ingber, who played Polly in Teen Witch and now teaches yoga to the stars.  I TOOK A CLASS WITH POLLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Have you all forgotten how much I love Teen Witch? Well, you can refresh your memory here.  The class was fun, her signature hybrid of yoga with strength-building moves. I love that she introduced herself to everyone who set foot in the room and asked if we had any issues or injuries she should know about before we began our practice.  I can tell that she’s used to working with private clients because her general class cues were sometimes vague and full of what Laurie calls “throw-away” words. For example, she’d say  “We’re gonna shift into plank” rather than the more direct “Shift into plank.”  HOWEVER, she assisted everyone in the room several times and when she offered individual instruction,  her cues were much more specific and helpful.  She was really sweet and quite hilarious. I would definitely recommend that you catch a class with her in your city if you can!  I’m currently reading her new book, Yogalosophy (which she autographed for me!!!!!!!!!!!!), and I’m thinking about buying one of her dvds.

Decor, Personal, Yoga

Home Decor Obsessions and Root Chakra Clearing

At the very moment I type this, I have a West Elm shibori duvet and matching shams in my shopping cart. I am trying to convince myself not to buy them. One part of my brain is saying:  “You don’t need them. Save your money. Who cares if they’re on sale?” The other part is shouting, “But they’re so beautiful. And you may not need them now, but you will definitely need them later. What if they’re no longer available then? You’ll be sad you didn’t buy them when you had the chance.”

It is no coincidence that I had a pretty awful day at work yesterday.  I like to buy myself nice things when I get stressed out. Especially when the stress is job-related.  I tell myself that I deserve to spend the money I earn on something that will make me smile.  I hardly buy clothes or shoes anymore because a) I like to travel, so I save for two trips per year, three if I can get the time off; and b) if I do shop, I usually buy things for my home. I’m slowly amassing a collection of home decor items to take with me when I finally move.  My most outrageous purchase yet was a set of end tables from World Market.  When they were delivered to the house, Marvs said, “You can’t buy furniture. That’s just crazy. This isn’t a storage unit. This is my house!”   That exact thought actually crossed my mind when I hit the checkout button, but I ignored it because I’d been drooling over the tables for at least a year and they were finally on sale for HALF of their original price.  World Market had already discontinued the coordinating coffee table, so I thought it would be my last chance to get them.  They’re in their boxes in the sunroom now and I check on them once a week. It sounds absurd because it is.

I recently found myself enamored by this Tretchikoff pillow.  Laurie overheard me talking about it with Tiff and asked me the same question I have asked myself many times: “Why do you keep buying all these things when you have no use for them now?” I had no real explanation other than: “Because I want to?”

Her assessment: my root chakra needs some clearing.  Located at the bottom of the spine/groin area, the root chakra is associated with survival . Self-preservation.  Individuality. Security. Symptoms of a low-energy root chakra include lack of confidence,  anxiousness about finances, job, or home, weight issues, and feeling lost. All things I’ve experienced intermittently in the last several years.  Laurie thinks my need to collect all these pretty things allows me some semblance of control.  Sounds like she and my old therapist (still on the hunt for a new one) are on the same page.

So, I’m probably not going to buy the duvet and the shams, even though I really, really want them.

And now I need to figure out how to heal my root chakra. A quick search yielded this Mind Body Green article. I think I’ll start by practicing barefoot in the backyard to ground myself. And maybe I’ll try out all the reds in my nail polish stash.

My yogi friends, do you have any other suggestions?


Asana on Demand

So this kid who attends my “home” studio kind of annoys me.

[sidenote: He’s like 23 and it is very scary to me that I am old enough to think of him as a kid. But he sometimes behaves like an overgrown 8-year-old. So I do.]

Upon my return to LY, he said, “Oh Keisha! You just finished teacher training, right? You need to practice in the front row so I can check out your skills!”

We’ve already established that I have zero tact.  I just ignored him and set my mat in my usual corner in the back row.

After class, a student who was relatively new to the studio overheard him lamenting the fact that the teacher hadn’t done Bird of Paradise.  She asked him what the pose looked like.  I was, again, in the corner, minding my business, just trying to let the effects of the practice sink into my bones.  The kid turned to me and said, “You can do Bird of Paradise, right? Can you show us?”

Without looking at him, I began to pack my things and said, “I have to get home.  But since you wanted to do it in class so badly, why don’t you do it?”

I’m not sure if he caught the annoyance in my voice, because he clapped his hands and said, “You’re right!” Then he proceeded to demonstrate the pose as I sidestepped his puddles of sweat on the bamboo floor, trying to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, before he could make any more ludicrous requests of me.

It took me a little while to figure out why I was so annoyed, and why I’ve since avoided taking classes with him.  But here it is:

I’m not a show pony.

I didn’t go through teacher training to become some superstar yogini.

I took the course because I wanted to learn how to teach yoga.

The fact of the matter is, although I have a fairly regular physical practice, there are just certain poses that my body, at this point, is unable to do.  I don’t necessarily have the lightness and fearlessness required for arm balances and inversions. I also have tight hips, tight quads, tight hamstrings. Pretty much the only part of my body where I’m not tight is my shoulders. So the arms in Gomukhasana  are no problem…but that’s not particularly impressive. I’m working on increasing my flexibility— I’ve even begun a yin practice. But that takes time. I have learned not to push myself. Pushing myself (training for the 10k that never was) is how I ended up with this bum knee. And I certainly won’t push myself for some overzealous student’s entertainment.

I can do Bird of Paradise, for the most part. My hamstrings do not allow me to extend my leg all the way. I’m okay with that.  Some days, my leg can straighten nearly all the way. Other days, I just chill in Utthita Parsvakonasana with my arms bound,  and I don’t bother with Bird of Paradise. Honestly…the fact that I can even bind facing my right is a physical triumph for me. I have scoliosis; my spine hooks to the left (which I exacerbate, much to my mother’s exasperation, by carrying my very heavy purse on my left shoulder), so twisting to the right can be downright painful for me. Regardless of my issues with the pose, it bothered me that this kid just assumed that I would perform for him.

I don’t go to class to show off. I go because it makes me feel good.  Compliments about the “impressive” poses  I can do make me slightly uncomfortable. Is it nice to be able to do beautiful things with my body? Absolutely. But the satisfaction of those poses comes from the hard work it takes to learn them, to make them work for my body. And one thing I learned throughout my teacher training—the physical practice is the least important part of this yoga journey for me.  Asana, though challenging, is not the reason why I show up to my mat every day.

When I attend classes, I try my best not to pay attention to the yogis around me. My practice is my practice. It doesn’t serve me to steal glances at another woman’s Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and wonder why she can get her back leg so high in the air and float there like magic, while I struggle to lift off for even just a few seconds.  So the idea of this kid watching me to see my “skills” made my skin crawl. It made me want to say to him: “Are you here to practice yoga? Or do you want to do gymnastics? Because there are gyms for that.”

But his practice is his practice.  Everyone does yoga for different reasons.

I will just keep ignoring him, and keep working on my Bird of Paradise until I can straighten that leg all the way.

And don’t expect me to just bust out a forearm stand or Eka Pada Galavasana for shits and giggles. It’s not gonna happen.

Goals, Yoga

I Did It!




back row, L-R: Johnny, Olga, Dana, Tiffany, me
bottom row, L-R: Veronica, Talya, Kelly


Y’all get a li’l  bonus post this week. I just got home from my practicum.  I did exactly what I wanted to do. I used the theme I wanted to use, I played the music I wanted to play.  And when I was done, Laurie said, “Wow. I mean…just…wow.”  After it was over, two of my classmates came over and said how good my class had been.

Yup, I did that.

Congratulations to my fellow TTs. We’re yoga teachers now!

Music, Yoga

Finding My Voice

My practicum is on Sunday, March 17th. Early yesterday morning,  I wrote Laurie a frantic e-mail, asking a half dozen questions about the sequence she assigned to me, then spent the better part of the day worrying because she hadn’t yet responded.  Her response, when it finally arrived, some 28 hours later?

You are so funny, Keisha. You are definitely over-thinking this.
The seated twist in the manual is fine, just remember to mirror the cues. You
can keep it simple for getting out of ankle to knee and your transition from
vira[bhadrasana] I into triangle forward bend is perfection.

You have this down. You will ace the practicum, I have NO doubt.

Perhaps I am over-thinking this. In fact, I know I am. But now that I have the answers to my questions, I can focus on the fun stuff– the MUSIC.

I feel like I don’t know anyone who isn’t a music-lover. We may not all  like the same kind of music, but most of us love the way music makes us feel. When Laurie told us we could play music during the practicum if we wanted, I immediately became excited. What would I play???  I came up with a brief playlist– the sequence is only 30 minutes long– and it includes songs by DJ Drez, Fela Kuti, Bonobo, Nosaj Thing, Liquideep, and J Dilla.

When it came to Dilla, I chose “So Far to Go,” but I was torn… I didn’t know if I should use the original, instrumental version, or the version with Common rhyming and D’Angelo’s vocals?  I happen to love the second version, and there’s nothing vulgar about it– it’s pretty much a love song.  But I was hesitant. Some people just don’t like rap.  I didn’t want to play anything that would offend anyone.

Then I remembered this recent post by my favorite Twitter yogini, Jessica Lesley.

Part of yoga is finding your truth and trusting your own voice. Finding my voice as a teacher meant letting go of what I think a yoga teacher is “supposed” to be. For me that means making sure the person leading the class is the same person that you run into at the grocery store. I don’t whisper in my normal conversations, so I do not whisper when I teach (no breathy “innnhaaale now exhhaaale” either). If you get in my car you won’t hear chanting or sitar music (well maybe once in a while), so I don’t really play that in my classes. I refuse to feel like I’m leading a double life.

So, I’d say that about clears it up, no?

I listen to rap. I also listen to a ton of soca– I thought about adding it to the list but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t too uptempo– and all sorts of random electronic dance music, jazz, bossa nova, Haitian zouk and konpa, reggaeton, some dancehall, and let’s not forget that I love me some Beyonce and Rihanna.  I’m fairly certain that songs of all these genres will find their way into my classes. And let’s be real. If you’re focused on the music playing, then you’re really not paying attention to what you should be doing– which is practicing yoga!

Guys…I’m so nervous I could scream!

p.s. I know I’m about eight hours late with this post. My bad. I usually write my posts the weekend before and schedule them to publish at 1 pm the following Tuesday. But last weekend I was studying for and taking my YTT final exam (which I’m pretty sure I knocked out of the park, BTW), so it just didn’t happen. And last night I started removing  my Senegalese twists because I want my hair to be wild and free during the practicum. Forgive me!


Crunch Time


found on Pinterest, via The Alchemy of Life

My final exam for yoga teacher training  is THIS Saturday, March 9th, and the practicum in March 16th.  I have been studying and practice teaching and trying not to freak out!  I don’t know how much it’s working.  I have to teach– and mirror– ankle-to-knee pose. Which I hate. My hips are tight, so it’s really uncomfortable.  I just want to get through this so that I can go to Spain and eat a lot of yummy food and drink a lot of delicious wine.

Please forgive me–  I just don’t have the energy for a real post this week. So I hope you enjoy this lovely rendering of the chakras I came across on my favorite social media site.  I’m glad I found it because it’s helped me to memorize the order of the chakras:  Mulandhara (the root chakra), Svadhisthana (the sacral chakra), Manipura (the solar plexus chakra), Anahata (the heart chakra), Visshudha (the throat chakra), Ajna (the third eye chakra), Sahasrara (the crown chakra).  I bought a few bottles of orange nail polish   (Orly Melt Your Popsicle and CND Electric Orange) as a reminder that I need to work on clearing out my Svadhisthana chakra.  I think I’m going to wear an indigo polish for the exam (I’ll search my stash for it, I know I must have one), and blue for the practicum.

Ugh, I’m queasy just thinking about it.

Send me love, guys! I need it.  I really want to do well!


Notes on YTT

Note: this is pretty long and includes a rant. My apologies.  It’s close to the end of my training and I’m getting slightly anxious.  Feel free to skim!

  • Since my last similarly-titled post, I have finished all 20 classes with Laurie. I’ve also completed 13 observations, so I only have two left. And I’ve taken two classes with Jennie, so I have 6 classes left to take with her or other Prana Shakti Flow teachers.  I’ve finished all but two short essays for the homework.  Our last practice teaching session was a smashing success. I definitely know the cues for  Surya A and B by heart.  Laurie said I commanded the room.  It was awesome. So I’m getting closer to fulfilling all of the requirements.  We can get an extension after the practicum on March 17th, but I don’t want one.  I want to be done with everything by then so all I have to do is wait for my registration from the Yoga Alliance to come in the mail.
  • On Sunday we had the Advanced Asana Lab.  It was hard. Fun, but hard.  I did Eka Pada Koundinyasana II  for the first time.  I also did forearm stand for the first time, though it was only at the wall.  I managed to lift myself off the ground in Bhujapidasana, but I couldn’t quite get my ankles crossed.  Arm balances and inversions teach me a lot about myself: I’m an undercover perfectionist, and I’m easily frustrated when things don’t work out the way I want them to, even on my first try. I have to wonder though…would these “flight” poses be easier if I weren’t quite so heavy?  Literally and figuratively.  Literally, because I weighed myself last week and discovered that I am back up to 144 lbs. And figuratively, because I haven’t been to therapy since August. I’m trying to find a new therapist and I haven’t had much success.  I feel like this could be another post, so I’ll stop here.
  • I need your opinion.  In case you haven’t noticed, I am very serious about completing all of my requirements by the end of the program.  A large part of my focus comes from the fact that I just like to do well in school, so I am treating yoga teacher training as if I am back in school.  Some of my fellow trainees have not been as diligent as I have.  I am not bragging; this  is just the truth.  So, two weeks ago, one woman said that she was going to both observe and take Laurie’s Saturday class.  Another trainee overheard her and told her that wouldn’t work; she explained that you have to fill out a form for the observation and it’s impossible to do so while simultaneously practicing. The woman shows up this past weekend saying that she meant to come early to take Jennie’s class so she could observe Laurie’s class (which is what I had done). She sees me sitting there with my notes and asks if I’m going to observe the class. I tell her yes. She says, “Oh okay, good.”  Then after class, she asks me if she can see my notes. I again tell her yes, mostly because I am irritated and, although I’m 30, I have not yet learned how to mask my irritation. I have no poker face and I cannot be tactful when I’m angry. If I’d said no and explained exactly WHY I was saying no, I would not have said it very nicely.  Or at least, maybe the words coming out of my mouth would have looked nice on paper,  but my tone would have said very clearly, “NAWL! DO YOUR OWN WORK!”  The whole scenario really just annoyed the living daylights out of me. For the last month, I’ve been at Bonda Yoga no less than four times a week– I observe class on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  On Saturdays I practice first, then observe, then sit through 7+ hours of lectures/asana labs.  I’m doing what the hell I’m supposed to do. So why can’t you???  Her excuse is that she has to work. Guess what! We all have full-time jobs.  I go straight to Bonda from work. I sit in the studio, still wearing my work clothes, and take notes on those classes. Then I come home and type them up.  It’s really not that difficult; inconvenient, maybe, but difficult? No. She complained that she always wants to take the class she’s observing. Well, guess what! SO DO I! It hasn’t been easy to sit there and just watch when Laurie’s teaching side crane and handstand and eka pada galavasana  and a bunch of other cool poses. If I had it my way, I would’ve taken every single class that I observed.  But we are required to do the observations, so I’ve done them.  I don’t like the idea that this woman is basically mooching off of me, pretending that she’s observed the class when she really hasn’t. So the next time she asks for my notes, I’m going to tell her no.  But how do I explain?  Because I know myself and I know that whatever comes out of my mouth will probably be along the lines of, “NO, YOU CAN’T HAVE MY NOTES!  IF YOU WANT NOTES FOR AN OBSERVATION, SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND OBSERVE A CLASS LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO, TRICK!” And that would not be very yogic of me. Le sigh.
  • Laurie had us do a yin-yang meditation. She asked me how it went and I told her– I’d envisioned the yang traveling up the back of my spine in purple, and the yin traveling down the front of my spine in orange. Where they met– at the tip of my tongue, and at the base of my spine, they were yellow. I told her that I’d felt a heaviness settle over my forehead.  She interpreted this in relation to the chakras.  Purple (my favorite color) reflects the seventh, crown chakra, Sahasrara; she said that I find comfort in knowledge, spiritual development, enlightenment.  I am acutely aware of a higher consciousness.  Orange represents  the second chakra, Svadhisthana, which is located between the navel and the genitals, and is the center of sexuality, emotions, pleasure, and movement.  Yellow represents the third chakra, Manipura, which is located at the solar plexus; it relates to personal power, will, and assertiveness.  Laurie said that I don’t trust myself, my creativity, or my sexuality.  The pressure I felt in my forehead was in my sixth chakra, Ajna, located at the third eye center; I don’t trust my intuition, either.   This all makes a lot of sense to me. I have so much work to do. (For further reading on the chakras, I highly recommend Chakra Therapy, by Keith Sherwood and Wheels of Life, by Anodea Judith, Ph.D.)

I hate to say it, but I’m almost ready for this to be over.