Things that will make you feel better

What up, yogis. Tomorrow, for the first time in a looooong time, I’m heading to a yoga class in an actual studio. To save some cash, I’ve been relying on the genius of Tara Stiles and Kathryn Budig. These ladies rock. I love having them as my private yoga instructors, but I’m very excited to get out of my house tomorrow and roll out my mat on somebody else’s floor. Yes.

On another note, I have become acutely aware of the exact things that pull me out of moments of body scrutiny, future-tripping, and self-doubt. One of them is Iggy Azalea. I have formed an intense, all-consuming love for her. Talk about a woman who loves her body. This chick is hot. And she kicks ass. Listen to her music. Watch her videos. She feels so at home in her body. She is unafraid to get loud and provocative. She is unafraid to love her curves. Do what the cool people do and dance in your room to the following:

You will sweat. You will feel better. You will feel sexy.

Something else that helps me shift gears from body drama to body peace, or from future-tripping to living in the present, is forcing peaceful, loving thoughts into my brain. That sounds kind of violent, but sometimes, you just gotta make yourself do stuff in order to feel better. The lovely Jen Saunders of Wild Sister wrote an article called Stop Being So Damn Hard on Yourself. Read this. It will comfort you so much. Here are a few comforting snippets:

You’re doing awesomely.

Everything you’re doing is getting you closer to where you want to be.

Congrats, you’ve got this.

Just remember to take some time to appreciate where you are, too.

Count your blessings.

You have tons, and they’re all waiting for you to notice them.

If you’re wondering if you have what it takes.

Yes, you do.

If you’re wondering if you can do it.

Yes, you can.

Beautiful, right? Read this every morning. It will bring you peace, if even for a moment. And when you do stuff to give yourself those peaceful moments on a regular basis, things really do get better.

How to survive finals

It’s that time of the semester, college kid yogis. Seminar papers loom. Reading assignments feel arduous and unfair. We cram as many To Do list entries into our schedules. Fear and anxiety whisper to us every moment.

Fear not, fellow college students. I have a solution, a way to mitigate the emotional and physical effects of this semester overwhelm. Check it:

The College Kid Yoga End-of-Semester Overwhelm Remedy:

1. Change mindset:

By changing our mindset, I refer not to positive self-talk, a technique that often feels exhausting and results in only fleeting moments of peace. Rather, I espouse an entire reformation of the way we think about schoolwork. Since returning to school, I’ve been hyper-aware of how students, myself included, discuss classes, assignments, and other academic obligations as things to “get through,” to complete before we can take a break and actually live life. Our constant complaining and the negative thoughts we attach schoolwork actually creates our reality of sleepless nights, un-intuitive eating, lowered immune system, and general sucky-ness when finals hit.

What if we had fun with our schoolwork instead? What if we found a way to make studying enjoyable, to feel peaceful throughout the day while putting a serious dent in our To Do list? When I felt myself buying into the traditional paradigm of school as something to endure, I thought to myself, “there has GOT to be a way to complete these assignments without feeling anxious, sleep-deprived, and tempted to numb out with food (or whatever your drug of choice is). I chose this; I might as well enjoy it.”

As I enter the last full month of the fall semester, I’ve decided to have as much fun as I can with studying, paper-writing, research, and reading. For example, I create a realistic list of the assignments to tackle or paper topics to research, and allot a certain amount of time for each. After I work on one item on my list, I take a short break (10-15 mins), dance to a heart-thumping song, read a cool blog, call a friend/my family, etc. I try to move my body as much as possible during this time.

To have fun and feel calm WHILE I work, I draw inspiration from Nisha Moodley. Nisha recommends using a Feminine (or masculine) Focus Object during intense work periods. Choose something that you love to look at, that brings you comfort or joy. Place it on your desk, and look at it whenever you pause in your work. This helps us avoid getting distracted by the web, our phones, etc. My Feminine Focus Object is my pretty, cute pot of lip gloss. I place it on my laptop and glance at it while I work, which helps me avoid wasting time by checking Facebook or staring off into space.

My lip gloss be poppin.’

2. Yoga. Duh, of course my remedy includes yoga. I’ve said it before and I say it again: yoga gets us out of our heads and into our bodies. When we shift our focus from our whirring, anxiety-laden thoughts onto a visceral, physical experience, we begin to distinguish what’s real (how our bodies feel) and what’s an illusion (stress, fear, overwhelm). When we identify those negative thoughts as illusions, as not real, we detach from them and can proceed with studying, reading, writing, etc in a calm state of mind.

So do the yoga. For 10 mins. Every morning. And before you go to bed (ha!).

Tara Stiles can help! Check it:

We’ve got this, college kids.

Feel more, think less

Tonight I experienced one of the most rigorous and sweaty classes I’ve attended in a long time. Also, I came THISCLOSE to another yogasm. Increased mindfulness of my mula bhanda is in order. Yeah, I’m on a mission here.

I particularly enjoyed this class because the instructor took us through several fun, unpredictable sequences and poses. Like this one:

Wild Thing

This pose confused me at first, as it involved positioning my various limbs in different ways. My instructor acknowledged the awkwardness of this pose, but encouraged us to just get into it. Once we’re in it, she said, we can let our minds catch up with our bodies and figure out how we’ve positioned ourselves. A good lesson in feeling more and thinking less, I say.

We college kids rely on our minds to help us complete work and make decisions. But all of those whirring, rational thoughts often cause stress, anxiety, and intense feelings of inadequacy. Yoga teaches us to shift our focus from our thoughts on to our bodies. The sensations we feel in our bodies are concrete and real, while the thoughts our brain feeds us are abstract and untrue. So the body has much knowledge.

Let the body do its thing, then the mind can catch up.

Feel the urge

Good morning, fellow yogis and soon-to-be yogis. I have nothing particularly yoga/food-related to discuss at the moment; I just wanted to post something in the few minutes I have before leaving for a 9:30 Balletone class (taught by my favorite yoga instructor EVER). After an hour of ballet-esque moves, my thighs will ache like crazy-perhaps that isn’t the best way to sell this kind of class to you, but Balletone is a great, whole-body workout. In fact, it complements yoga in that many of the moves look similar to yoga poses, and some require balance.

Off to unleash my inner Black Swan.

This pose is so fly

Happy Friday, fellow yogis and soon-to-be yogis. I dedicate this post to rhapsodizing about  my all-time favorite yoga pose, Half Moon.

I love Half Moon because it requires from students an intense, yet relaxed concentration. And a willingness to fall. To me, Half Moon captures what yoga is all about: connecting deeply with ourselves and the earth, a sometimes risky, uncomfortable journey. 

This pose asks us to really ground our standing foot into the floor, rest our bottom hand or fingertips on the floor (so that you don’t put all of your body weight onto your wrist), and open our hips so that our top leg raises parallel to the floor.  Basically, we balance all of our weight on one side of our body, an unnerving notion, yet very fun in practice. What’s more fun than balancing on one foot and kicking the other one high into the air? 

To explain this pose, one of my instructors asked us to imagine being pressed between two panes of glass. That metaphor may sound painful or uncomfortable, but it truly captures the essence and purpose of Half Moon. In this pose, we grow up (toward the sky), rather than out, so it sort of feels like we’re leaning against something as we stretch our top arm and continue to open our hips. The glass visual reminds us to keep twisting our torso and hips open and to keep lifting our top arm. Plus, the glass comparison helps us (it helps me, at least) actually balance and feel safe in this pose because it gives me something tangible to think about instead of the fact that I’m balancing my body weight on one leg.

Now go fly like the boss yogis that you are and take Half Moon!

Sweet. Chewy. Refreshing.

My desire to nurture loved ones with food and my obsession with How Sweet it Is persists. After a 9:30 yoga class yesterday morning with my favorite instructor EVER, and after the surprisingly tedious process of sending my transcripts to grad schools, I immersed myself in the world of lemons. The Chewy Lemon Cookies recipe calls for fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon extract, delightful ingredients that really pack a punch.

Like the batter for the Strawberry Cupcakes I whipped up last week, the lemon cookie batter took on a lovely color and an invigorating scent. Who needs Bath and Body’s Lemongrass body lotion when you can just smear this stuff all over yourself?

Admittedly, I only included 1 egg in the batter, instead of the 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk that the recipe listed, so perhaps my batter was drier than intended. While juggling a bag of lemons and searching for lemon extract, I forgot to buy more eggs.

And I’m pretty sure I used too much batter to scoop each cookie, as they took well over the 10-12 minutes they were supposed to take to bake, or even brown.

I promise I know how to follow a recipe-I just feel so passionate in the kitchen that I sometimes divert (accidentally, of course) from ingredient lists and preparation instructions. Also, dancing to Britney and Pitbull while trying to read a recipe on my laptop adds to my blissed-out oblivion while baking.

But the cookies turned out beautifully. My friends loved their sweet, refreshing taste. I didn’t even have to tell them that I overlooked a few parts of the recipe.

Can I help it if I love making food for others SO much that a haze of culinary passion envelops me and ever so slightly impairs my attention to detail?

Yogi Back in the House

This morning, I celebrated a momentous occasion. I actually attended a yoga class after days and days of enduring searing pain in my swollen chipmunk mouth. Today marks a turning point in my wisdom teeth recovery (I still contend that the extraction of wisdom teeth is a barbaric procedure). I awoke with minor jawline bruising, a shrinking mouth ulcer, and increased energy. While the numbness in part of my chin and lower lip persists, and in fact, infuriates me, I consider today’s facial/oral status a significant sign of healing.

Which means that I can resume my regular life, my routine…aside from masticating solid foods at a normal pace. Part of my routine, naturally, includes regular yoga classes with my favorite instructor EVER. At 9:30am, we reunited.

My body reveled in being worked and nurtured. It responded to the the entire 60 minutes of vinyasa with gratitude and relief. I noticed that I could deepen and advance in several of the poses, a surprising observation due to my sedentary lifestyle of late. By the end of class, as we laid in savasana, my heart overflowed with love for my instructor and for the healing properties inherent in yoga.

I salivate at the thought of my next yoga class, or just the thought of doing yoga in my living room with Tara Stiles. In the words of Liz Lemon, I’m back nerds!