Words and Intentions for 2014

Three weeks into January and my resolutions are still going strong (I know, I know, anyone can do anything for three weeks) I will admit, I have yet to see a nutria, and I’m taking some creative licensing with what defines a salad…

While I was sitting down typing out my resolutions it seems like everyone else was out there picking a few key words and intentions they wanted to focus on in 2014. Resolutions are out, intentions are in, and though I try not to be a jump-on-the-bandwagon type of person,  I do kind of like this idea.

As a writer, words are a pretty big part of my life, and I like the idea of choosing a few words help to define my intentions for this year. This also got me thinking about words I might use to describe myself, and words that people I know might use to describe me… its funny how you can have what you think is a 100% clear view of yourself, and then you ask others to describe you and they see something completely different.

Sometimes it is fun to try on other people’s view of you, to try and see what they see, and it can be really empowering and uplifting… other times it just makes you feel  totally mis-understood, and like you have failed at building  your own brand (or at least failed at  communicating it…) but a lot of that depends on how well people know you, and the context of relationships.  I know that I am an introvert, and at times I can be quiet and reserved… but I also know that my inner dialog is pretty quick witted, very sarcastic, and sometimes snarky… Therefore, I perceive myself as vibrant, confident, and secure person… but I’m pretty sure a lot of people view me as this quiet, demure, ball of awkwardness….  In reality, I’m probably somewhere in-between.  (and I’m pretty ok with that.)

As I began to make a short list of words I wanted to focus on this year, I started to think a little bit about my own personal brand.  What are some key words that I want people to use to describe me? What are some of my assets that go un-noticed? How can I adjust my focus this year to  help myself stand out for the right reasons? How can I start to  “re-brand “myself so that what I see, and what other people see are the same thing?  I’m not trying to be self-involved here… I’m a little nervous is it going to come off that way… I’m 100% confident with who I am, and I am not the type of person who goes around fretting about what other people think of me… truly.  This is not me saying that I’m trying to change for other people, or that I want to change who I am… more so just that I’m figuring out some characteristics that I already have that I’m ready to take off the back burner.  I think a little energy, and a little intention can go a long way, and when you are taking the time and investing in yourself, its only a matter of time before other people notice that shift in energy.  I like to call it the “je ne sais quoi” factor… and I’m excited to head into the next 11 months with an open mind and a whole lot of intention.

 

Words for 2014

Words for 2014

 

My words for 2014

 

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Welcoming 2014 with open arms and a few goals

Happy New Year from Us to You.

Happy New Year from Us to You.

Le sigh…. I spent a good 90 minutes typing up a blog post two days ago with the intention of having time to edit it and post it fresh for the new year…. Turns out my computer hates me and randomly closed the window without saving it…. Grumble grumble piece of turd computer.

The gist of it was this: I usually kinda sorta hate the idea of New Years Resolutions, and yet seem to always make them anyway. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t, but mostly that is ok, because sometimes you just need a moment to re-focus your energy, even if it is only for the first month and a half of the year. This year, I have every intention of sticking with my resolutions, but if for some reason, life happens, and things get in the way, I’m not going to let myself feel bad about it.

Basically I’ve been feeling a little stagnant over the past few months… my motivation seems to be shot, and I’ve been letting myself just sort of glide by… no real projects, no real goals… which is fine for a brief  time, but I’m finally getting restless and feeling like I’m ready to head into 2014 with a super charged sense of motivation. In short, I’m not 100% fulfilled by my job, but on the bright side I am 110% passionate about where I work, so even though my hours have been cut back, and my day to day isn’t as meaningful as it could be, I’m perfectly content to stay where I am, at a place that I love, and am planning on filling the extra hours of my day with more meaningful projects. If I’m not working full time there is no reason why my free time shouldn’t be filled with things that make me tick…. Of course, I’ve crossed paths with that feeling of utter panic when people start to ask you where you see yourself in five years.  If you say you don’t know, it makes you sound totally unmotivated, but then you start to think about where you are and what you are doing and realize that this isn’t going to cut it five years from now, and you are trapped somewhere in between knowing you want more, but not having a clue about what to do about it, and instead of actually addressing these angst producing issues, you just repress everything, and ignore your future , and try to make the stress go away by curling up in a corner and chewing on your hair…. (side note: I don’t actually chew on my hair… but I think the image conjures up the correct amount of anxiety.)   Anyway… I’m not ready to quit my job and do something drastic in the pursuit of passion… I’m much to practical, and my credit card bill is too high. But I am indeed ready to buckle down, find my motivation and utilize my free time to it’s fullest potential. I’m vowing that 2014 will be the year that I spend trying to figure out exactly what my passion is, and hopefully a few other fun things along the way. For example, I’m going to start teaching barre classes this year. I don’t exactly know when, or where for that matter (I’ve been promised there is a studio on its way!) I’ve never really thought that being a fitness instructor was in my future/ even something that I was passionate about, but as it turns out, I really really love taking barre classes, and I think that teaching them will actually be a lot of fun… here is to 2014 and trying new things…

As far as resolutions go, I think its best to put them out there in the open. I know some people write them down, stick them in a safe place, and then return to them a year later, half forgetting what was written down… I’m all for tradition, but for me, Resolutions are a little bit about intention, and a lot about accountability. Putting something out into the universe is swell, but putting something out into the universe and then asking people to keep you on track is even better.

 2014 “projects”/ “Resolutions”/ “goals”/ whatever you want to call them.

—     Putting myself out there.  This is something I majorly need to work on. The fact of the matter is that I’m an introvert. Classic IMFJ personality here, and though I really like being social, I’m not always the best at meeting new people.  There was an article this year in the Huffington Post that was all about introverts, and as I was reading it all I could think was “I need to keep a copy of this to give to future employers and suitors” because I often worry that my introverted personality is misunderstood… I tend to just sit on the sidelines and watch people interact, and to be perfectly honest, I find it so informative. I know some people probably think that I’m totally uninterested, and socially awkward (which sometimes I might be) but mostly, I’m observing relationships, watching interactions, forming opinions etc. etc… also, I work in a fast paced, customer service driven job, and so most of my work day is spend being “on”. At the end of the day all I want is to be home, glass of wine in hand re-charging…. I think this is one of the reasons why the idea of dating is so daunting. I like meeting new people, I really do… but really, I’d much rather just skip all the small talk and be in a comfortable relationship where we can curl up in our sweats and watch Mad Men and eat take out. I realize this is kind of putting the cart before the horse, and also this is not how the world works.  I know that I have to suck it up, put on my happy face, and get to know new people. I need to actually work at it, and get out of my comfort zone. I need to put myself out there in 2014. Wish me luck (I’m totally going speed dating.)

—     Blogging once a week. This is going to be tough, I know it already. I can feel the excuses starting to creep up (was this one of my resolutions last year? It feels familiar, but I’m too scared/ lazy to look up posts from last year… perhaps I failed…)  But, the bottom line is that I have the time, I just have to actually make the time… and ask any writer ever, and they pretty much all say that if you are going to write, you need to be writing often and much, even if it is terrible. Sometimes you just have to keep writing, and keep writing, and keep writing through the bad stuff until a little tiny nugget of something that doesn’t suck comes out, and then you hold onto that, and nurture it, and tweak it, and maybe, just maybe it turns into an idea, a train of thought, a glimmering of something… so really, the least I can do is make myself sit down, and write/ put something out there once a week. I don’t have a writing group, so you all get to be my peers. It might be jumbled some days, and others it might just be pictures of my bulldog… but I’m going to try, and see what comes of it.

—      Writing more letters/ keeping an address book. I absolutely suck at keeping track of addresses. Every time I send out a holiday card, or need to send someone a birthday card or invitation, I have to send out massive text messages, or chain emails, begging and pleading for people to send me their addresses.  I can practically feel the eye rolls that are accompanied by the “I STILL live at…”  Don’t get me wrong, I could drive to most of these houses blindfolded, but when it comes to addressing an envelope… I’m half tempted to just write things like “Abe & Jason, the apartment above the Starbucks on 23rd & Overton, the one with the mint on the balcony.” (I think it would totally get there…)  Anyway, I actually purchased an address book (ok its just a notebook that I’m going to keep addresses in, because all the address books at my local book store were sort of dull) and I have collected everyone from my Christmas card list, and am vowing here and now to keep track of addresses, and also send more notes in the mail.

The Art Deco notebook on top is my new address book.

The Art Deco notebook on top is my new address book.

—     Eat a salad every day. I am pretty good at this normally… but also I work at a restaurant where sometimes all I want to eat is gluten free cheese pizza with duck confit and peach chutney.  And gluten free pizza with duck confit and peach chutney almost always sounds better than a salad…. But I’m pretty good with tangible goals… and I’m also pretty excited to see how many different salad combinations I can come up with. I of course reserve the right to not eat salads on days that I’m doing a juice cleanse (and I also reserve the right to maybe sometimes eat salads on the days that I’m doing a juice cleanse).

—     Speaking of Juice… Use my juicer so many times! I actually already use it quite a bit, but I want to make sure I use it enough to justify the investment. Viva la juice. The next cleanse starts on January 6th. Be on the lookout for lots and lots of juice photos.

Juicing my way into 2014

Juicing my way into 2014

—     Paint my fingernails more often (ok wait… I know this was actually a resolution from last year, spoken or not… (I did ok, but I could have done better) Mostly, I’m a jeans and tee shirts kind of gal, but there is just something about having my nails painted that makes me feel like I absolutely have my life together and am a fancy lady. It’s complete bullshit, but sometimes you just need that little extra boost of fancy! Of course with my job, one hour in the dish pit, and any manicure will be totally ruined, but a girl can still attempt to be polished every now and then!

—     See a Nutria in real life: Remember in 2009 when there was that story on Wait Wait Don’t Tell me about a woman suing Walmart because she was attacked by a Nutria? (if you don’t, you should listen to it now… it was clearly quite memorable. Its on May 16th, 2009 in the “Bluff the Listener” section. Also,  you should just Google Norman the Nutria, you know, for fun.) Ever since then, I’ve had a mild fascination with them… and have yet to see one in real life! My parents see them all the time on their morning walks…(do you know how many early morning texts I’ve gotten with pictures of baby Nutria? At least two…) I was discussing this very thing with my friend Janet the other day, and she decided that I should make 2014 the year I see a Nutria. The good news is that I know where to find some real life Nutria in their wild habitat, so if I don’t happen to stumble across one on my morning run, or while shopping for toilet paper at some big box store, I will know where to go looking for them next December when my deadline is approaching, and I’m starting to think of new resolutions.

—     No beer in January:  Full disclosure, I’ve gained a little weight over the past month. It doesn’t bother me, but it also doesn’t delight me. And I like beer, but I don’t LOVE beer, and I think that If I’m going to be pumping my body full of empty calories, I would rather pump it full of wine or hot chocolate, or gumdrops. So I’m cutting out beer for a bit, and seeing what happens. I blame the 24 year old boys that I work with who drink beer after beer every night, and who subconsciously peer pressure me into drinking with them… like I said, beer is ok, but its not something that I ever really crave, so this month I’m going to do without it.

I’m also going to work on keeping my house clean and organized, spending more time reading, and work on seeing the glass as half full.   (ARE YOU F’ING KIDDING ME….. I just found the blog post I thought was lost forever… it essentially says all the same things I say here… maybe I will just post them both and you can judge for yourself.)  Of course there are other things I plan on doing this year… but as we head into 2014, I think its good to start with a small list (and I think these are all totally attainable and maintainable things) and go from there. Wishing all of you a marvelous year, and the best of luck with your intentions, goals, resolutions etc.

Mini-life detox.

Here is the thing about blogging: Its so much easier to write things in your head. I might be slightly biased, but I write some amazing mental drafts of things. I then finally find a few hours to sit down at my computer, and what comes out on the screen is usually a little bit more like verbal diarrhea. Sometimes I edit it, sometimes I delete it, but mostly I just post it, hope for the best, and move on to the next thing.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m wordy. I go where my mind takes me, and I realize for other’s it might not be the easiest to follow… But at the end of the day this is an exercise. It is getting thoughts into words, and it is exposing my jugular by putting them out there for other people to read. You might relate, you might not, you might think its funny, or terrible, you might only read it because you feel slightly obligated, or like my parents, you are looking for some more insights into my life. (love you guys). Whatever your reasons, thanks for reading.

 

I had a doozy of a weekend. The kind that makes you take a step back and decide I need a mini-life detox.  Which is exactly what I’ve done this week.

Backstory: Saturday night I had a fight with my ex-boyfriend. Mostly I was calmly saying “can we just talk about this like rational human beings?” as he yelled obscenity’s over the phone about how crazy and unstable I was, that I was too immature and that I needed to seek professional help for all of my issues etc.  (all I’m going to say about that, is that I was not the one yelling at my ex over the phone at 2AM… but I’m the immature unstable one, right?)  The fight was probably a good thing, it really helped me process some things, and see the situation a little more clearly, and overall I walked away feeling like “well, I sure dodged a bullet”. But it also left me feeling really sad.  I know that everyone has baggage and issues, and life is never simple, but arguing with him made my heart hurt, just seeing the reality that he lives in thinking that everyone and everything is against him. I know we all have defensive mechanisms, it’s a form of self preservation, but its really hard knowing that he decided a very long time ago that his life was too messy for anyone else to handle (which isn’t true, but he thinks its true) and so he just pushes people past their breaking point each and every time they get close.  It’s a self fulfilling circle… It’s hard to see yourself through someone else’s eyes, especially when you know that your heart and your intentions are come from this genuine and true place, and that someone else has twisted them into something completely malicious and negative.  Knowing that there is this version of you out there somewhere, even if it only exists in someone else’s mind is a little unsettling.  But overall, I’m just trying to let that go. As I writer this is something that I deal with a lot as well. Putting things out there and not having any control about how people interpret them is a really scary, and sometimes frustrating thing.  (I am constantly thinking, “But that’s not how I meant it! If someone took it that way does it mean that I’m not being very clear? Am I not able to get my point across? Do I basically suck at this?”) And then I let it go, because at some point you just can’t worry about it any more.

 

And at some point on Saturday I decided that I just can’t worry about him anymore. And it’s hard, because there are his kids to consider, and though I do worry about them every day, I have finally come to terms with the fact that he can no longer be in my life in any way shape or form. (12 hours after I decided this he was still texting me verbally abusive things about how what a crazy bitch I was… and saying that I was the one who kept bugging him etc… No communication seems like a no brainer).  I’m not trying to bad-mouth him, and I do really want what is best for him and his family. He is damaged and I knew that going in, and I hope he finds what he is looking for, but I also know that it doesn’t involve me in anyway, and that I need to focus on my own happiness.

 

I’m also going through a transition at my job right now. Over all it’s a really good thing, but I’m no longer Managing, and I went through a few days of mental battles with this. I love having more free time, and it’s a bit of a relief to not be in charge of people, to be able to clock in and out and leave things at the door.  I’m not exactly passionate about washing dishes, waiting tables etc. but I am passionate about the place that I work, which is at least something. I had a few fleeting moments of  “I have a liberal arts degree, I’m 28. All of my friends have careers and THIS is my life?”  but I have let go of that thinking. I’m thrilled to have a job that pays the rent and puts food on the table, and for the first time since I’ve been out of school I’m not married to my job. This is wonderful and also terrifying. I’ve been able to hide behind my job for so long… (I am fine being single 100%. However when every other person on the planet tends to repeatedly ask you a million times why you aren’t dating someone, its nice to be able to say things like “well I work  a lot, and not a lot of available men are frequenting the lavender farm these days” or “I barely have time to walk the dog most days, do you think I have time to go out and meet men?”) But all this to say, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do with my life, I don’t have a 5 year plan, and every time someone brings this up, I get a little panicky. Had you asked me this a year ago, I could have told you with unwavering certainty exactly what I wanted with my life.  (move to Portland, Marry this guy, go to graduate school, be a part time step mom, teach yoga. Things change. It happens. I haven’t picked a new dream yet… but I’m giving myself some time to work on that… and hopefully now that I do have more free time I’ll be able to follow some more passions. )

 

ANYWAY, long backstory per usual, but Sunday morning left me feeling like I was kind of hit by a bus… well actually more like my face was stung by like 10 bees. I was sad, and puffy, and emotionally belittled and I decided right then and there I was going to do a 5 day mini-life detox.

 

Mostly this just consisted of a few key things. 1) exercise daily. 2) make healthy choices. 3) surround myself with positive and uplifting people. 4) drink a whole lot of juice. 5) be joyful.  Mission accomplished.

True, I’ve eaten some junk food, and rolled my eyes a few times this week.  But I’ve also gotten up every day and made the decision to be happy. I’ve frolicked in the amazing fall weather, I’ve seen and talked to some great friends, I’ve been moving my person, and focusing on the good things. And you know what? Life is pretty delightful.

 

Here are some other things I’ve done recently to detox my life and work towards being a better me.

 

3 day Juice Cleanse from Portland Juice Press:

AKA the best thing ever. I had such a great time doing this juice cleanse, and Portland Juice Press was amazing to work with. They offered us a group rate, even delivered it all the way out to wine country, the juices were interesting and delicious, and it was such a great way to jump start some healthy habits. I cannot recommend it enough.

Post Juice cleanse I kind of jumped on the juicing wagon. I got a hand me down juicer from a good friend, and started juicing up a storm. After juicing at least once a day for a month, I thought it was time to invest, so this week when I was feeling a little down, and maybe a little impulsive (though if I was really feeling impulsive I would have bought the $300 Frye boots… instead I got a juicer… which is really just investing in my life) The new juicer is amazing, and I’m juicing just about everything in sight. Yesterday I put fennel bulb in there! And you know what, it was delicious.  Some of my other favorite things to add to juice, Cilantro, Collard Greens,  and red peppers.  But the fennel was like blow your mind good.

Starting tomorrow I’m doing a 21 day “Get Your Juice on” challenge. Its free, and simple. 1 juice a day for 21 days. It’s not a cleanse, its not a diet plan, its just “add this juice to whatever you are already doing, and see what happens” experiment. Last time I checked there were over 150 people signed up for it, and it should hopefully be a fun way to share recipes and stories. It starts tomorrow, so its not to late to join! http://getyourjuiceonchallenge.com

 

I also signed up for this 10 day whole life cleanse. My Good Friend Amanda over at The Savoury Soul is putting it together, and I’m looking forward to not only supporting her as she launches her first program, but also digging in and finding some ways to let go of some of my own baggage.

 

And I’m also listening to more Country Music. Um what? Since when did my Montanian roots catch up with me? Its not for everyone, and some songs are way too redneck, my cheated heart, or my mama taught me themed for my liking. But a lot of it is just happy… and lately it kind of makes me happy. Go figure. (Maybe its a phase?)  Feel free to groan and eye roll, and then listen to some Keith Urban or Darius Rucker.

 

 

 Some Pictures from this week.

Frolicking in the Fall Leaves

Frolicking in the Fall Leaves

Arebequina Olives. Its almost Olive Harvest time in Oregon!

Arebequina Olives. Its almost Olive Harvest time in Oregon!

 

My trusted steed.

My trusted steed.

 

 

 

September is for meditating, booty shaking, and fighting the fall funk.

The time has come, the walrus said…. Not that I’m comparing myself to a walrus or anything. September is here, and with it comes a lot of things. Mostly a little bit of restlessness. I’ve come to expect this every year, and sometimes even crave it along with the cooler days, the occasional rain, the change of leaves and the start of harvest. I’ve said it before (probably in a blog post from around this time, oh every year since I’ve been blogging) but I think we are programed from a young age to expect change every year. September brings the start of school, a new season, and from the time we are little September brings around change. So its sometimes a harsh reality when we reach adulthood, and realize that jobs don’t change every year, nor do living situations (well I mean they can….) and part of growing up is often settling into that stability, and yes sometimes stagnant routine.

I feel it this time of year especially, because this is when things start to slow down a little bit with work, my two best friends start to travel extensively for their jobs, and as the days become cozier I tend to become a little more introverted.  Well this year, I’m getting a jump on the stagnant feeling, I’m combatting the lonely, and trying to fill my days with manageable change.

Let me just clarify, I’m not bored. I wish I had enough time to be bored… but every waking moment is pretty much jam packed of things to do… but I can tell already that I’m heading for my fall rut, and might actually be prematurely there due to my broken toe/ the collapse of my summer project and goal of running a half marathon.  I became a bit of a slug the last six weeks, and though I’ve still been practicing yoga, I haven’t been motivated to do much else as far as moving my person.

So I’m re-focusing my energies this month, and am being proactive about doing things that are good for me mentally as well as physically, and I’m making small adjustments to my day-to-day routine to make sure that I am living a life that feels fulfilled and meaningful. My friend Amanda over at The Savoury Soul is encouraging people to build their best life. I wrote a guest post for her  blog this week, and am trying to refocus my energy and remind myself that I need to be my own champion, figure out what I need, and take little steps on a daily basis to make my life a little bit happier and healthier.  Amanda has really inspired me lately, and here are  a few of the things I’m going to do/ focus on this month to try and build my best life.

1)   I’m going to be awesome at my job. Not that I’m not already trying to be a successful and productive employee, but  I know there are days when I get overwhelmed, frustrated, and sometimes defeated. I’m going to approach each day with a positive attitude , I’m going to learn from each experience, and everyday I’m going to try to be better and more efficient. I’m going to be filled with gratitude that I have a wonderful job, understanding bosses, and co-workers who are (mostly) supportive. I’m going to be thankful that I have a happy and healthy work environment, and I’m going to focus on the positive, and let go of the negative.

2)   I’m actually going to start meditating again. Whenever life feels out of balance, I think this is a good place to start. Even if it is just a few moments a day, I’m going to make a conscious effort to take a little time to turn inward.

3)   Kick my butt into high gear. I’ve been off my feet for too long, and out of my exercise routine, and I’m feeling a little doughy. I recently purchased a package at Barre 3, and plan on finding new and fun ways to move my person. (barre 3 can get a little spendy, but there is a great deal for new students, also they recently had a deal on living social…its right up my alley with a cross between ballet, yoga and pilaties. Yes please. Also I know its probably not true, but after one class I swear my cellulite is less noticeable… for reals)  I’ve already gotten my hula hoop out of the garage (mom, bring it back!) and in another week or two I’m going to get back into running. Baby steps.

4)   I’m doing a 3 day juice cleanse next week. This I’m actually really excited about. It will probably be hard, and I will probably get grouchy somewhere around, oh the first 2 hours, but I think it will be a healthy way to detox my body, and jump start some healthy habits.  (I’m giving up caffeine and gluten tomorrow, and probably dairy the day after that to ease my body into it… so lets be realistic, I will be grouchy tomorrow… but I’ll try to compensate) I’m going to be doing this with 6 other women, so hopefully we can all support each other (and not kill each other) and it will actually be a fun bonding experience. We are going with Portland Juice Press… I’ve heard good things, and they are willing to deliver all the way to Dundee. I’ll let you know how it goes.

5)   I’m going to be better about corresponding with friends, through the mail. I love getting snail mail, and it takes literally two minutes and like forty something cents (I actually don’t know how much postage is these days, I always buy forever stamps…) and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that someone is going to open up their mail box and have a surprise note. God knows I’ve been collecting fun greeting cards and stationary since I was 12, and have moved all of it with me about a zillion times… might as well lighten the load, work on my penmanship, and start writing some letters.

6)   I renewed my passport today. I always thought I was the kind of girl who kept her passport at the ready in case an exciting adventure called me away at a moment’s notice. So when I pulled out my passport earlier this summer, I was pretty disappointed to find out it expired in February. Good thing I haven’t needed to flee the country.  Realistically I haven’t left in the country in oh, 6 years, but I like to think that my next foreign adventure is right around the corner (Pfeff I am 100% seriously looking into tickets for Paris…I’m just putting that out there)

7)   I’m going to watch less tv. It’s a noble goal. I have a lot of books I want to read, and though I do enjoy being able to mindlessly unwind when I get home from a late night at the restaurant, I’m pretty sure my life will be a little bit more balanced with a little less CSI NY. I’ve started to find myself wondering what sort of forensic evidence I’m leaving in my wake at every single place I visit… if I crime ever happens at the yoga studio, I’m totally going to be a suspect. Especially since I took toby to class this week, and he was probably shedding, and even though I swept I’m sure there is some lingering pet hair, and that will definitely link anything back to me even if I’m not involved in a crime in any way. I’m just saying… THIS IS WHY I’M CUTTING BACK ON TV.

8)   I’m taking a yoga sabbatical. After working 60+ hours a week, I needed to step back a little bit, and recharge. I’m still going to be teaching one class a week, but being responsible for teaching two classes on my “day off” was beginning to be more of a burden than a joy. I adore my students, but needed to respect my own limits, and give myself a change to re-coup.  I think as a result I will come back in a few months as a better teacher.

What steps can you take this month to make your life a little bit better? How are you fighting the Fall Funk?

Hello Hamstrings: a basic intro to Supta Padangusthasana

I have really tight hamstrings… me and every other person in America (or so it seems). As a yoga teacher one of the things I hear about the most is tight hamstrings… which is why one of my favorite poses to do in class is Supta Padangusthasana ( or reclining big toe pose). If you have ever taken a class from me there is a very good chance this pose was visited… I do not preach in my classes (at least I don’t think I do) but I know I have told pretty much every one of my students that life would be better if we practiced this particular stretch in our daily lives.

Of course I have been saying this for years… and thus far I have never managed to get into a routine of doing this stretch at home… but I do teach it at least twice a week (if not more). But here I am, virtually unemployed, with a plethora of free time, and a lot of motivation, so I’m pledging to do this stretch every day for one week, and see if it actually makes a difference in my life. Who is with me? I’ll do a follow up post after a week of consistent stretching, and I’d love to have your comments & personal feedback (feel free to comment here or on the facebook page).

I’m not expecting any profound epiphanies, but I do know that since I have been running more this year, my hamstrings are even tighter than normal, and though this is certainly not the only good hamstring stretch (and maybe not even the absolute best one) it is by far my favorite.

There are a ton of other great benefits about this pose as well. It’s great for lower back pain, it stretches the calves and inner thighs, helps strengthen the core, it can help with sciatica, it can even help you reduce stress.  Denise Benitez says in an article for the Yoga Journal that “You may never become a model for the loose hamstring calendar, but the benefits of Supta Padangusthasana will enrich your life in many ways. Your pelvis will enjoy more of its full movement through space (great for Latin dancing!), all your yoga poses will benefit, and your spirit will be soothed by the gentle release of the often overworked muscles on the back side of your body.”

Do I really need to keep listing reasons why almost everyone would benefit from a daily dose of this pose?  Hamstrings can be tricky, and stretching them takes time (I’ve heard 20-30 minutes a day of un-loaded stretching) And we might not all have that kind of time to devote to opening these key muscles, but even two minutes a day is better than none.

This stretch is usually done with a  yoga strap, but if you are trying it at home a belt or long sleeved tee-shirt should do the trick.

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Bulldog is optional. =)  but he does add a little complexity to the pose when he starts nibbling on your ears/ face.

Start by lying on your back (supine) with knees bent. Place the strap (or whatever prop you are using) over the ball of the right foot and begin to extend the right leg up towards the sky. (keeping a slight bend in the knee is a-ok. First and foremost, listen to your body).  Starting out I’d recommend keeping the left knee bent with the foot on the floor, but if you are feeling a little more open, and don’t have any lower back considerations, you might want to extend the left leg out onto the floor, keeping a strong flex to both feet.

Trying to pull evenly through both sides of the strap, invite your shoulders to relax. (you might even anchor your elbows on the floor so you encourage the arms to relax). I like to engage my core while in this pose, by simply drawing my belly button in and up… offering support to the lower back.

You might gently let the right leg rock back and forth in this pose, getting a little bit of movement in the hip joint (because motion is lotion).

After spending at least 1 minute with the leg up towards the sky, transfer both sides of the strap/prop into the right hand. Invite you left hand to help anchor your left hip to the ground. (if you left knee is still bent, you can slightly let the knee open towards the left to act as a counter balance, which will help keep the hip rooted down). Very slowly, perhaps to the count of 10, invite your right leg open to the right side. Keeping the flex in the foot, you might even encourage the toes to inch a little bit in the direction of your right shoulder.  This is usually about the time I have to remind myself about what my core is doing, (keep zipping up!). Holding here for several breaths (or several minutes, you know your body best), then slowly begin to engage the secondary muscles in your right leg. Trying to use the strength of the leg rather than the pull on the strap to slowly (SLOWLY! Work through the resistance, you’ll gain more benefits if you help strengthen while you stretch! It’s not just about momentum!) lift your leg back up towards the sky. Hold here for a few more breaths before slowly releasing the strap, and lowering your leg.

Take a moment, and notice if you feel a difference between your right and left leg (right leg might feel just a little bit longer! Progress!).  As you are ready, bend both knees, and get ready to stretch out the left leg!

Helpful hints:

Try to stretch for the same amount of time on each side. How you track is up to you, you might just be able to “feel” when you are even. But you might count the breaths spent in each part of the pose, listen to a set amount of songs, or maybe even set a timer.

I love stretching in the morning, but you might try this stretch at the end of the day, and see if you notice a difference in flexibility from morning to evening. We tend to be a little more warmed up at the end of the day because we have been up and moving around a bit and your hamstrings might be a little less resistant.

You might also experiment with trying this stretch at the beginning/ end of a yoga practice, and see if you notice a difference. This stretch is a great way to warm up for a variety of standing poses, but it’s also a great way to end a practice after your muscles are already warm and have been working a little bit.

* I should probably put a disclaimer in here that yes, I am an RYT, but stretching/ exercising at home can have risks. PLEASE BE CAREFUL! For further and more detailed instructions, you might visit the Yoga Journal website

New Year, New site

Dear Readers,

Please be patient with me as I start to transition my blog… I figured, what better time to get a blog makeover than the start of the year when I still have two weeks of vacation? Of course, I’m struggling with the formatting and the site a little bit, but hopefully I’ll get the kinks worked out soon without causing myself too much anxiety.  Please check out my last 3 years of blogging here.

I’m also starting the year with some resolutions. Yes, I created my own manifesto for 2013, but on top of that I’m also doing some daily things, that will hopefully help get me out of this funk I’ve been in. Again, what better time to take on some resolutions? I’m in a post-break-up semi-wallow, and am needing some extra projects to get myself a little more emotionally and mentally balanced.

I am going to make my bed everyday: I know, super grown up of me… but as a single, twenty-something who spends very little time in my bedroom, its easy to overlook. Not in 2013!

I am going to wear everything in my closet at least once (even the sparkly mini-skirt) otherwise its going to Goodwill: I am stuck in a bit of a fashion rut… I can’t help it, I’m a jeans and tee shirt kinda gal, and when I’m not wearing that I’m pretty much a yoga pants kinda gal… I’m trying to break that pattern, for personal and professional reasons. I have a plethora of cute clothes, and I’m not going to let the fact that I work at an olive farm/ nursery get in the way of my inner fashionista. I’m not saying I’m going to start wearing heels to work, but maybe more skirts and dresses.

Drink water like its going out of style: Typically I’m drinking coffee like it is going out of style… so again, as it is every year, one of my resolutions is to drink more water. At least twice as much water as I drink coffee, but hopefully more.

Be more polished: This sort of fits in with the above fashion rut… but just overall… I’m going to start painting my nails, wear more jewelry, more lipstick, accessorize, and overall make an attempt to not dress like a yoga clown. I’m going to put thought into my outfits, iron occasionally, and get my fashion sense together.

Teach Toby to skateboard: Self explanatory.