Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On aerial yoga and stepping into my own skin.

(note: this post has been sitting in my drafts folder FOREVAH. As in, at its inception there was still multiple feet of snow on the ground. A lot has changed since I wrote it --example: I started training for a half marathon!-- but still, these words ring true so hey! let's chat about them, you know?) 

The body I live in right now is very different from the body I lived in two years ago... is very different from the body I lived in five years ago, and seven years ago, and ten years ago... and you see where I'm going here.

I recently added aerial yoga to my workout repertoire, and let me tell you-- it's kicking my Capital-B Bootay in more ways than one. I leave the studio every time with the weirdest sensation of being a bag of jelly bones + this crazy strong, zen'd-out acrobat. Also? It's forced me to face my body head-on.
note: this is not aforementioned swan pose. bummer. but do
you know how difficult it is to take selfies during class? sigh. 
In class the other week, I was struggling with swan pose-- hooking the silks over my hips and letting myself fly forward, held only on a literal wing (the pose is modeled on a swan, after all) and a prayer. I settled into a rhythm, hands clasped and hips squared, up on my tip toes, ready to fly... and I couldn't. Scratch that-- I wouldn't. The thought of taking my feet off the ground suddenly went from basic motor movement to insurmountable everest of a task. I leaned in, and felt the pressure on my hips. Nope, ease off. Took another step forward, ready to go. Nope. Whether that block was physical or mental, I don't know (though I have a sneaking suspicion it was both, as most things are). 

"Just go for it," I heard my friend call from the hammock next to mine. "It feels so much better when you just let go." I laughed and threw something like a 'nice metaphor, what are you-- writing my blog post for me?' back at her, but of course she was right.

It doesn't matter if my body looks like that tiny pixie instructor or the mama-of-three swinging in the hammock next to me-- in fact, I'd rather have neither. I'd rather show up in my own skin and see what happens. It didn't take me long to pull off a swan all by myself-- in fact, only one class later I was swinging with ease, flipping into poses I hadn't yet dreamed I could do. My ever-wise friend was right, of course-- it happened so easily when I just let go. In the meantime, I'm enjoying seeing what this body can do. Who knows what it'll be like in two months, five months, a year-- I'm only interested in the here and now, really. I only want to pull myself up against the force gravity and see what it feels like to be supported solely by myself. And fly, of course.

Monday, June 23, 2014

25 Things in my 25th Year

photo courtesy my awesome roomie. jazz hands courtesy excitement over hearing wild seals in San Francisco.

I was out for a run with a friend of mine the other day and shared my surprise that my birthday was almost here & I'd barely thought about it. This, if you know me, is unusual (oh, birthdays. I love you).  She smiled, laughed & said 'it's because things are so good right now!' And at the risk of sounding like a giant cheeseball-- I think she's right. Easily, 24 has been the best year of my life thus far. I've been thinking about everything that this year has brought me, and I just can't wipe this stupid grin off of my face. 

I began writing these birthday lists as a practical, let's-do-this approach to owning my life for the last five years, purposefully shaping the bigger picture into a story I'd be proud to tell-- and frankly, it's worked. Coming up with this list for 25 was a little difficult in the best way possible. No longer do I feel the need to write it down on paper to try something new, no extra pushes are necessary to step outside of my comfort zone. For the most part, I step outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis without the same fear that used to accompany it (except for some things-- I'm lookin at you, 'cook a whole chicken'). 

So today, on my 25th birthday, as I stare in the mirror at the bare freckled face I once had to convince myself to leave makeup-less, I'm happy. I'm genuinely proud of the life I'm living, and I'm ready to set the intention for another spectacular year on this planet. Let's do this, 25!

1. Try stand-up paddle boarding. Also try not to fall off and drown.
2. Make my own hula hoop. Become this girl.
3. Run a half marathon (!!)-- is this cheating because I've already signed up for a race and I've been training for the last two months? Oh well. More to come on this, probably, because I actually enjoy distance running. Who am I? What did I do with Mary?
4. Go berry-picking at a local farm.
5. Make cheese. Eat it. Repeat.
6. Buy a set of acrylic paints & some canvas so that I can paint at home. Where, in my tiny apartment will I find room to paint? Let's cross that bridge when we come to it.
7. Go social-media free for a week. I feel oddly zen about this. Bring it, quietude of my mind.
8. Make gluten-free fish & chips at home. This is the one food that I haven't been able to sufficiently replace since my celiac diagnosis, and I miiiiisssss it. Dangit, remnants of my London study abroad. This will also hopefully serve to conquer my intimidation of a) cooking fish other than salmon and b) deep-frying things without burning them. Fingers crossed.
9. Go zip lining. Does this exist outside of tropical rain forests? Specifically, in the upper midwest? Also, did I mention I'm moderately scared of heights? As in, not when I'm in tall buildings but yes when I'm strapped to a piece of twine with no soft place to fall. This'll be fun.
10. Do an unassisted yoga headstand.
11. Do 25 Random Acts of Kindness (RAOKs). Tally but don't blog about them because hello, defeating the purpose.
12. Try a ballet barre fitness class. Resist urge to dress in the leotard, tutu + topknot uniform from the ballet classes of my youth.
13. Write some fiction. Fun fact: when I was 10, I wrote a 200+ page fantasy novel on our family's ancient PC. My ever-loving parents humored the crap outta me and helped me print and bind it and everything. I can guarantee you it is a cringeworthy terrible Harry Potter mimic, but still. Writing fiction for fun went out the window way back in high school & I'd like to try it again, just to see. I can also one billion percent guarantee that whatever I write will never see the light of day, so this shouldn't feel as intimidating as it does. Right?
14. Go geocaching.
15. Do some financial planning. Student loans are due, man. Time to put on my big girl pants and plan for the future.
16. Visit a new city! The ultimate goal is at least one place I've never been at least once a year. Last year was San Francisco-- who knows where this year will take me!
17. Try the November Project. As a general rule, I dislike bootcamp-esque things. But this past year has been about kicking my own butt and after reading Ali's blog post & doing a little hunting for a November Project in my town, I can't not give it a try. Free and awesome and butt-kicking and local? Sign me up.
18. Drive. In. Movie. This has been on my list for millennia, apparently. It's happening this year. (done 6/27/14)
19. Drink raw liver smoothie shots consistently for a week. Oof, apparently I'm a glutton for weird food punishment. I finally put on my big girl pants and made chicken liver mousse this year and surprise surprise, I loved it. Surprise surprise, raw liver still eeks me out. Surprise surprise, pastured liver is phenomenal for you and so now I must give it a whirl and see how it makes me feel!
20. Learn how to change a flippin' tire. I skipped Life Skills 101, I guess.
22. Try canning something. Try not to let my innate desire to ignore directions and do my own thing cause a massive jam explosion in my kitchen.
23. Get my hair done at a blow-dry bar because I'm fancy and a grownup and I can.
24. Keep saying yes.
25. Give love like it grows on trees. Practice forgiveness like I'm made out of it. Let go of the rules and just enjoy. Listen to my gut. Stand with feet planted firmly in the earth & head far up in the clouds. Look for the magic, leave every person and every day better than I found them, take deep breaths. Be grateful. Be happy. :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

daily outfit: shake the dust

Well. It's been a long winter, hasn't it? 
shirt: french connection; pants: old navy; sparkle flats: kohl's 
"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." --Charles Dickens
I've had these photos sitting in my drafts folder for a few weeks because frankly, I just couldn't find the right words. Try as I might, winter always leaves me a little foggy. A bit dust-covered. I don't realize it until I find myself sitting in the sunshine, barelegged for the first time in many long long months. Then it becomes so abundantly clear just how lacking this winter has left us all.


It's so strange to think that it was only a few weeks ago, on the precipice of spring, that I had reached the point that I maybe truly definitely believed I might never feel warm again (as evidenced by my eagerness to shed my coat in these pictures. It might look warm, but it was definitely still hovering over a balmy 34 degrees). We'd all past the point of cabin fever long ago, hadn't we? And eventually, after so many mornings waking to snow covered cars and ice-tipped eyelashes, you begin to believe you're doomed to live, grumpily, in an ice-covered igloo forever and ever amen.

And then. The scales tip. The sun comes out. Just like that, my tank feels filled again, effortlessly. 

And so, thankfully, finally, it's time to shake off the winter dust. I am a sucker for a metaphor, drawn to the possibilities of a changing season like a bloom to the sun (there we go again). And so. Things are growing. New life springs forth,  and all that jazz.  Oh, spring. It's so very good to see you again. 

photos courtesy of sara bill photography!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

24 Things: the great roundup

Oh hello there! It's been a while since we've had a life list update, hasn't it? I might not have been writing about it all, but I've definitely been checking things off one by one!

Let's take a look at all the things that have happened since our last check-in:


1. Go total curly girl method for at least 30 days (done 11/13). Can I just say this was a little anti-climactic? Going sulfate-free helped my curls immensely, but I did that like, two years ago. My curls are still curlin' away, but it appears it's not going to be as simple as just co-washing to figure them out! I'll persist, mostly because I just can't quit you, curls. 

3. Host another clothing swap & donate the rest to the awesome organization where I did my clinicals (done 9/16/13) Heyo! This is still my favorite thing. Cleaning out my closet + getting new clothes for free + lady bonding time + donating heaps of quality things to worthy organizations? It's like all my favorite things in one neat little package. 

13. Host/go to a red wine tasting, learn more specific details besides just: um... I like it. (done 3/27) Guess what! Wine is good. Surprise surprise. I think there's plenty more to learn here, so this wasn't a one-and-done, but some friends and I hosted a wine pairing night at my apartment and let me tell you, it was fantastic (and thank goodness I was already home because man, two glasses of wine and I'm a goner).

16. Nail down some definitives on my N=1 experiment. (never done, of course-- but kicked into high gear in March!) Did you know that my body does not like dairy? I KNOW. Dear thyroid, quit your shenanigans, please. But the great news is I'm feeling great-- I'll report more soon if anyone is interested! 
17. Make paleo donuts (done 2/1/14). The long & short: I made them. They were tasty. Unfortunately as much as I wished it into existance, they did not taste like chemical-bomb krispy kremes. Just because I don't eat them doesn't mean I don't still dream about them, friend. But it was a fun experiment and I will definitely be trying more recipes!

15. Take a trip (done 3/7-3/10). Three of my favorite people and I packed up for a long weekend in San Francisco to celebrate our beautiful friends' beautiful wedding and it was a mush mush weekend of love and excellent food and uber rides and large golden-y, gated bridges and did I mention I love exploring new cities? Because I do. More! I want to go to all the places!

20. Pay off my credit card bill entirely. (done 3/28) This was BY FAR the greatest, most anticlimactic thing on this list. I was laying in bed one Friday morning, realized that I had the final payment ready to go and a few button-clicks on my iphone later, it was paid off. No-Spend January was a rousing success in that not only enabled my San Francisco adventure, but let me finally check this one off my list and it feels GREAT. I love knowing this isn't hanging over my head anymore, and now I feel really prepared to tackle those student loan payments looming on the horizon (only slight sarcasm here)!

hangin' out. (ask how often I make
that pun. wait, don't.)
21. Spend at least 30 minutes each day in activities that make me slooow down, gets my mind outta the way & help me connect & feel physically strong. (never fully done, but in full-on-loving-this mode since autumn). I've always loved being active, but I was so willy-nilly about it-- never scheduling anything in, doing activities that didn't feel challenging or fun, getting bored on the treadmill or heck, even on my outside runs when it was just the same monotonous thing, week after week. But since I've joined a new gym, started really learning how to strength train, do sprint workouts, hike new paths, walk to my favorite practices at my local yoga studio, challenge myself mentally + physically at aerial classes-- I just can't be bothered to be bored being active anymore. I think it's safe to say I've found my sweet spot, and I like it here. Plus hello, muscles. Hello, squat booty. Hello, kick@ss aerial flip skills. Hellooooo, sprint PRs after long days to bangin' 8tracks playlists and endorphin highs for hours. Yes, definitely. I like it here. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: Happy Belly Book

I like to think of myself as a balanced contradiction.

I'm the girl with her nails always painted who'll happily muck herself up on a camping trip if it means getting to sleep under the stars. I equal parts know all the lyrics verbatim to every James Taylor song AND every rap song that the 90s left in their wake. My love for bacon and crossfit-style squat workouts is surpassed only by my undying devotion to my home-brewed kombucha and hours spent on my yoga mat. I know. I don't get it either.

hi-lighted within an inch of its life
So I suppose it should come as no surprise that I'm not a big fan of dietary labels. While I may eat close to a certain set of guidelines, I am more of a 'learn as you go' type of girl. Something may work today, but who knows what will work tomorrow? Life is learning process, isn't it? Anyways, I have a point, promise. I was recently approached to review Happy Belly by Nadya Andreeva, a book focused on digestive health through the practical application of Ayurvedic techniques (traditional Indian medicine) in both diet and lifestyle. From the outside, one might think that Aryuveda and a real-food, omnivorous diet (cough cough paleo cough) wouldn't mesh, but I'm here to happily tell you that's not the case.

My wise yogi sister practices some aspects of Ayurveda, so I'd been familiar with it-- but frankly, it seemed a little intimidating, so I never took the plunge into learning more (cop out!). You all know I'm blatantly honest about the things I tell you about on this here blog (even if that means giving a not-favorable review), but I am happy to report that Happy Belly totally exceeded all my expectations and then some. In the last year, my health priorities have gone from more superficial goals to being focused on balance and healing-- mainly, digestive and hormonally. Happy Belly is a treasure trove of how-tos on not only healing your gut, but maintaining a balanced lifestyle that best supports health and healing overall. 

see that thumbs up? my belly is happy.
so is the rest of me, because I was headed to yoga!
hence the sloppy appearance, naturally.

While I'm not sure I'll ever fully buy into an Ayurvedic perspective (but I'll be first to admit that could change!), there are definitely things I've already implemented into my day-to-day routine that have already surprised me with their awesome results. I've been toying around with Ayurvedic recipes like this bangin' yellow lentil squash soup (adjectives are my own-- but it's really that good) or simple, easily digestible kitchari for breakfast. I've figured out my predominant dosha and have started implementing spices tailored to my own particular properties. I've been tongue-scraping (although I've technically been doing that since December-- thanks, yogi sister, for getting me hooked!) and dry-brushing regularly and as a result, have had the best oral & lymphatic health of my life. I'm scaling back a little on the dairy (sniff, sniff, I miss you cheese), particularly in combining it with anything else. Nadya's take on food combining is a fascinating and easily digestible (pun absolutely intended) approach on something that seems to me so equally foreign/complicated and vital for good gut health. If anything, this book has been an excellent primer into the next step of health and healing for me, and I can't wait to learn more. The only things I'd liked to have seen more of in the book are recipes and more concrete steps into implementing Aryuvedic practices into your life if this is your first foray into such things. Information is super awesome, but I am the type of learner who likes to hear the big-picture things and then be given the specific steps to implement those changes into my life right away. From the 'barely tip of the iceberg' that I've learned about Ayurveda thus far, I can tell it's multifaceted and likely more complicated than any one book could impart-- but I can't tell if it's a positive or a negative that reading Happy Belly has left me wanting even more! 

outtakes: yoga clothes and silly face style
If you're interested in gut health and the way it impacts overall health like I am (or are interested in taking the tenants of an anti-inflammatory diet one step further), I'd absolutely recommend checking out Happy Belly. Nadya's asked me to share that if you purchase the book before March 21st, you'll get a whole bunch of great bonuses-- a PDF toolkit, a cookbook (both of which I've gotten a chance to read and have loved! I told ya-- the specifics. I am a fan.), access to a 2-hour panel on digestive health, a self-care kit and an intro to Aryuveda e-book. Thanks again to the Happy Belly team for sharing this awesome resource with me - and I promise to report back on my little Ayurvedic experiment after a few months' time!