• Spirulina & Sea Salt Detox Bath

    This is a great bath to do when you are starting to do any sort of cleanse or need to detoxify the body.  If you wake up with a wee hangover, or have overindulged in unhealthy food, soaking in this bath can help you eliminate toxins and put you in the right frame of mind to begin doing good things for yourself in order to mentally and physically right any damage.  I like taking this bath early in the morning on weekends when I’m trying to “turn over a new leaf.”

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    Spirulina is a blue-green algae.  It’s full of minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and amino acids.  Bathing in spirulina helps revitalize, nourish and soften the skin.  It is thought to usher along detoxification by flushing fluids from the cells and replacing them with all this good stuff in spirulina.  For that reason, it can also help with muscle aches and fatigue like if you feel like you are coming down with a flu or have built up lactic acid in your muscles from overuse (or from too much getting low on the dance floor while you slopped around Champagne at a wedding).

    The addition of the sea salt (or Epsom salt) adds additional minerals like I discussed in this post.  It’s a great purifier and increases circulation for a healthy glow.  Like the spirulina, salt helps promotes physical pain relief in the muscles or from arthritis.

    Add the following to a warm bath:

    • ½ cup spirulina, mixed in a pitcher of warm water
    • ½ cup sea salt
    • 5 drops essential oil (I like to use a mixture of lime, bergamot and grapefruit).  If you don’t have essential oils, you could also squeeze in some lime, lemon or orange juice
    • Fresh flowers to float (optional for a pampering spa-like feel)

    Spirulina can be found in the supplements section of any natural grocery store.  I like to buy sea salt in bulk and keep it in a glass jar by my bath.  I have been absolutely obsessed with baths lately and I love this one for its relaxing and restorative properties.

     

  • Bitchy Resting Face

    Chief and I were sitting at West Alabama Ice House the other evening having a post-work Friday beer.  It’s a casual place full of a crowd that ranges from biker groups to white collar professionals.  You can bring in your own food, or grab something from the taco truck parked in the lot.  I love icehouses because kids can come along to play basketball and dogs are welcome.  Other icehouses have games like horseshoes or the beanbag toss.  Anyway, the icehouse doesn’t have a whole lot to do with this post, but it was a nice relaxing Friday afternoon and I started to flip through Facebook.  One of my friends had posted a YouTube video called “Bitchy Resting Face.” I clicked on it out of curiosity and the video made me burst out laughing.  Chief was wondering what was so funny so I showed it to him and he had the same reaction.  The link to the video is here.

    The concept of the video is a parody of women who suffer from a condition called Bitchy Resting Face.  That is, when their face is in a relaxed position, they have kind of a bitchy look to it.  I had never really stopped to think about what kind of effect this might have on a person’s life.  They were doing all kinds of funny skits in the clip, like a man proposing and then running away when the look on the woman’s face was “bitchy.”  Toward the end, they introduced the concept of the Asshole Resting Face  (for men), which was equally funny.

    But this video really got us thinking.  Not only about how the natural look on a person’s face could actually alter their destiny, but also how if a person is having an off day walking around looking sad or mad how it might affect them.  It’s like a feedback loop.

    It can work the opposite way too.  There are days I come bounding in the door telling Chief that everyone has been being so nice to me.  It seems to happen on days that I got a good night’s sleep and/or I’m not in a hurry and just out enjoying my day.  When you are out cruising around with a relaxed and happy face, people tend to smile at you.  And then smiles are contagious so you smile back.  And then other people see you’re smiling and assume you’re a nice person and start smiling at you and engaging you.

    People with Bitchy Resting Face might feel like they just can’t get a break, and become the Eeyore’s of the world.  Maybe they had a tough day or year (or maybe they just have a face that is naturally an unfortunate Bitchy Resting Face). People that see them interpret them to be negative and because of that, they don’t smile at them or engage them or may be rude to them.  This, in turn, makes the person feel more unloved and less supported which further enforces their negative look.

    This can happen with couples too and reinforce arguments.  For example, a man might be feeling upset because he feels like his partner is not attentive to how he is feeling.  The woman walks in on him and sees him with kind of a mean look on his face.  Because he looks unapproachable, she walks out of the room and doesn’t ask him what’s wrong and figures maybe it should be a girls’ night out to give him some space.  When she doesn’t even ask him what’s wrong and heads out for the night, it further enforces that she doesn’t care about him or what’s going on with him.  You can imagine the thousands of permutations of the way this could play out.

    So I think it’s an interesting thing to note.  What kind of look do you have on your face?  Might you have misinterpreted another person’s looks and considered them to be a bad person because of how they were holding their face?  If you’re having a bad day, could watching or listening to something that makes you turn your frown upside down positively affect your day because of how others will react to you?  It reminds me of the concept Gretchen Rubin talks about in her book The Happiness Project.  She says to act the way you want to feel.  Smiling may serve the purpose of making you look happy which makes others around you respond in a positive way.

  • Fun with Fermentation – Sauerkraut Recipe

    We have so much fun with fermentation! Chief and I figure that instead of battling with bacteria, we’ll take a more pacifist approach.  We decided that if we can’t beat them, we’ll join them!  So we now live happily in harmony with the wonderful bacteria that inhabit our kitchen and our guts.  We’ll take any satisfaction we can from doing little experiments in our kitchen anyway!

    I have posted before about various types and states of fermentation in my posts on kombucha and vinegar and today I wanted to talk about fermentation of vegetables, cabbage specifically.  I have included an introduction to augment the sauerkraut recipe below since I have a passion for talking about the health benefits of fermentation.  I also wanted the sauerkraut how-to available ahead of an Oktoberfest meal idea I’ll post soon.

    Sauerkraut is an example of a fermented food that has defined and helped nurture a particular culture – German in this case.  Nearly all ancient cultures have some sort of fermented product they used to help preserve fresh food before the advent of pasteurization or refrigeration.  For example, Koreans have kimchi, French have cheese and wine, Japanese have miso and soy, Indians consume soured creams and milks in many of their dishes, and maybe your grandmother or mother made fruit preserves or relishes or pickled vegetables.

    In preserving foods using the natural process of fermentation, these cultures were able to not only maintain the incredible health benefits of the fresh products but also to amplify particular effects.  While modern day processes can denature food, the ancient methods can increase vitamin levels and make nutrients in the food more available.  This occurs in two ways.  One is that the constituents of the food are “pre-digested” by bacteria and thereby easier to absorb through the intestines.  The other way it does it is by allowing beneficial bacteria to be introduced in the intestinal tract, improving digestion efficacy where they help to break down food and improve overall nourishment and biodiversity.  I actually just read an interesting article on how taking the bacteria from the guts of thin mice and putting them in obese mice made the fat mice thinner.

    Fermentation works by bacteria breaking down sugar and starches in food and transforming them into beneficial acids such as lactic acid and acetic acid (and occasionally alcohol in certain stages of fermentation).  These acids are beneficial to our bodies and also prevent food from spoiling.  Unlike some modern day processes, which nuke good and bad bacteria alike and sometimes dull the original nutritional content, fermentation preserves the nutrients that were originally in the food and can actually increase vitamin levels (including vitamin B vitamins like folic acid, niacin, and biotin and vitamin C).  In fact, Captian Cook took advantage of sauerkraut’s ability to be preserved and brought in journeys over a year long.  Having it on board also helped prevent scurvy! (this tidbit I found in Nourishing Traditions, attributed to Claude Aubert Les Aliments Fermentes Traditionnels).

    Our society is so scared of bacteria these days that we often end up killing or not consuming the bad along with the good.  Consuming food that contains microorganisms that have probiotic properties is a way to essentially increase the diversity of biota in our body.  This helps to boost our immune system and allows us to live connected with everything that is around us, instead of avoiding it and becoming hypersensitive to it.  And as Sandor Ellix Katz mentions in his book Wild on Fermentation, the microflora in fermented foods actually help teach our immune system how to function.

    I have seen lots of different methods for making sauerkraut, but I will include the simplest one here because I know it works and I like the lack of fuss associated with it.  I also appreciate that it is a small-batch recipe.  We once tried making a giant crock of sauerkraut (our first attempt) and besides the fact that we vastly over-salted it, it was just kind of intimidating.  This recipe below is the one I have taken from the Nourishing Traditions book that I talk about in this post.

    Ingredients

    • 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
    • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
    • 1 tablespoon sea salt
    • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an extra tablespoon salt)

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    Try to use an organic cabbage and be sure to use sea salt, as it has additional vitamins and minerals and has not been processed like table salt.  I love the addition of caraway seeds in this recipe.  I have always had a thing for them since I was a kid.

    In a bowl, mix the cabbage, caraway seeds, salt and whey.  We happened to have whey that we had frozen because it was leftover from a cheese-making adventure we tried (and succeeded at!) but you may not have any on hand, which is no problem.  In this large bowl, pound  ingredients with a meat hammer for about 10 minutes.  This is a great opportunity to get older kids with too much energy or an appetite for destruction to help with.  I think men really like this job in general, too!

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    After ten minutes, the juices will be released.  Place it in a quart-size mason jar and press down firmly so the juice comes up over the top of the cabbage.  There should be at least an inch below the top of the jar.  I have had good luck with finding mason jars in the US at Sur le Table.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days before transferring to “cold” storage.  A refrigerator will work but try and put it on the top shelf or wherever it’s warmest.  The best place for it would be somewhere that is similar to cellar or cave temperature (about 56 degrees F or 13 degrees C).  We usually cover ours with a clean swatch of organic fabric held in place with a rubberband to keep flies, etc. out while it’s on the counter and then cover it with a lid once it’s in the refrigerator.

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    The sauerkraut can be eaten right away but really improves with age.  In summary, the salt (and/or whey) helps to inhibit the putrefying bacteria in those first few days.  That is, the bacteria that is usually associated with spoilage.  After the product has had a few days to ferment, enough lactic acid producing bacteria is created (lactobacilli) to begin preserving the food with lactic acid.

    Green cabbage is the most common ingredient in sauerkraut, but you could also use red cabbage to create a pink color or shred in any other cruciferous vegetable like Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy or use grated carrots, etc. to make it a little more colorful.

    Happy fermenting.  Cheers to your health and happy taste buds!

  • My Evolving Thoughts on Food

    Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.  ~Hippocrates, ~400 BC

    Only eat things that nourish your body and make you feel wholesome – you are what you eat.  That is my latest and hopefully forever philosophy about food.  But it’s hard when there is so much confusion about what is actually good for my body.   Since I put a number of recipes on here and talk about food a lot, I wanted a post about how I feel about food to help frame where I’m coming from.  My thoughts on nutrition have always been evolving, as I document in this post.  I like to think I have landed at a place I will no longer waver since I am now using what I feel is common sense, but I’m not naïve enough to think I have figured it all out.

    My thoughts on food have pretty followed much the same path as American society over the last 30 years.  I’m lucky not to have any allergies or digestive problems.  I have never yo-yo dieted.  In fact, I find it pretty ridiculous to follow a “diet” with the objective to lose weight because what happens when you go off the diet?  Why not just commit to eating better food as a way of life?  I have tried things for the occasional month, just to gather empirical data.  I am a scientist by nature and profession so I’m often curious to see what happens to my body and psyche by adding or eliminating certain foods.  I remember my seventh grade science project involving cholesterol tracking of my best friend and I.  I read a lot of books on the science of nutrition, both the hyped stuff and the tried and true stuff.  The book that best matches my own thoughts is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which I highly recommend.

    The origin of my food journey was Fargo, ND in the eighties.  It was a good place to ease in to the whole food thing.  My childhood was meat and potatoes-centric.  One of my absolute favorite meals was mashed potatoes and Jennie-O “turkeyloaf.”  To this day, I’m not really sure what turkeyloaf is and I think I am better off not knowing the details.  Generally, the questions to answer about dinner were 1) which meat, 2) which potato, 3) which type of bread, 4) what type of boiled vegetable and 5) which type of Jell-O or Jell-O pudding for dessert?  Some nights all these things were combined in to one in a “hotdish” or “casserole” (minus the Jell-O!).  Tater Tot Hotdish was one of the best!  On a lucky night, I might get my favorite – Orange Fluff.  If there was a salad, it was either Ranch or French dressing  from the bottle on iceberg lettuce.  It was a very typical Midwestern diet and my family was great about putting dinner on the table and catering to my favorites and trying to feed me a well-balanced diet.

    As I graduated high school and began college, I decided to do an experimental cleanse/fast.  It was the infamous Cabbage Soup Diet.  By the fourth day of it, I was sweating this interesting vegetable smell and felt like I was on a high.  This high was more than likely due to dizziness as a result of starvation, but I deduced that it was from the elimination of meat for four days so after the cleanse, I swore off meat.  That lasted for about four years and I have dabbled in different forms of vegetarianism since.

    Those four years occurred during the height of the low-fat phase. I shudder to think I ever thought there was some sort of scientific evidence to back this!  The idea was that eating fat of any kind made you fat.  I remember dutifully scanning the nutrition information on the back of packages and filling up my backpack with boxes of macaroni and cheese and non-fat sugary yogurt, and low-fat cheese with bread, bagels and fat-free cream cheese, and Popsicles.  I didn’t have a car so had to fit all my low-fat selections in to a backpack I could bike with.  This phase culminated with a bang.  Literally.  Explosive farts and anal leakage caused by Olestra in fat-free Dorito’s.  I began to re-think whether or not fat-free was good for one’s body.

    It was about this same time that I met my former husband who introduced me to a whole new world that a girl from Fargo had never experienced…Indian food, shellfish with shells on them, and sauces made with ingredients that didn’t come from a can.  We ate absolutely everything that tasted good to us and I slowly began to add meat back in to my diet.  Peppered with the occasional healthy meals were copious amounts of Ruby Red Squirt, Tostito’s nacho cheese sauce (which we thoughtfully added fresh jalapenos and tomatoes to), marinara with Italian sausage, jars of Alfredo sauce poured over noodles, and pizza (also with fresh jalapenos), biscuits and gravy.

    The chubbies happened slowly enough not to notice the transformation.   I was in grad school at the time and writing a thesis all night and showing up to crush rocks in a lab didn’t really require tailored clothes.  Upon moving to Houston, I realized we were looking a little pudgy.  The timing of this realization was coincident with the discovery of gourmet health food stores in the big city.  We slowly began transforming our eating style focusing on fairly lean meats and, following the carb phase that everyone was going through, began to limit our carbs and got back to a less puffy weight.

    I don’t still follow a “low carb” diet but am very conscious of the proportion of carbs I eat relative to the rest of my diet and am quite choosy about which ones I eat.  I resisted the movement that began to happen which starred gluten as the devil as well as the paleo-type diet.  I felt that perhaps our bodies should have learned to evolve with the crops we had learned to grow.  It seemed counter-intuitive to me that our smart species was destined to remain listless wanderers, killing mammoths and plucking fruit and seeds off trees forever.

    I have reconsidered my thoughts on gluten and eating more of a paleo type diet as of late and think it’s a great philosophy though it’s hard for me to adhere to it at all times.  Really, I think any type of special way of eating is hard because it often makes social gatherings where food is consumed feel odd.  You don’t want to feel high maintenance or left out.

    I started to reconsider based on a book I read recently called Wheat Belly, which had quite an impact on me.  The idea is that wheat has been completely bastardized since the original crop.  Back in the 1960’s a new variety of wheat was invented to help combat the problem of world hunger.  This wheat was basically a Frankenstein wheat that was more of a dwarf plant bred to increase yield.  Because of its heartiness for harvesting, nearly all our planet’s wheat that is being grown has been transformed to this type.  Its effects on humans were never tested though.  It has lately been accused of producing very detrimental effects due to inflammation and interactions it has on brain chemistry and is being blamed for everything from heart disease to arthritis to high cholesterol to diabetes.  And then, of course, the ADA’s recommendation to all people with these conditions is to eat more “healthy whole grains” which most of the population consumes in the form of wheat, so this further exacerbates the problem.

    I hate to be a conspiracy theorist worried about what the government is allowing in regards to the food we eat.  But there is a lot of information available regarding how many of these people are in bed with the large pharmaceutical companies and government nutrition agencies.  It’s hard to trust that there is no self-serving relationships among all these organizations and companies.

    Along these same lines we now have GMO’s or Genetically Modified Organisms and the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, etc. (non-organic food) to deal with.  This is such a huge problem in our society and I can’t even begin to express how worried it makes me here.  I find it very scary though that we really have no control over this food, that it is not regulated and that we all may be consuming it inadvertently.  I feel it has the potential to have a seriously bad impact on the health of our people and our planet and the biodiversity it supports.  It bothers me that so much of our population is either unaware of these issues or can’t afford to eat organic food.  It just doesn’t seem right this food is not regulated or not available to everyone.

    I have also had major struggles with how I feel about the consumption of animal products.  I consider myself an animal lover but have tried vegan and I feel like I am doing something negative to my body.  I don’t feel or look healthy and I don’t feel balanced.  It’s also difficult socially.  So I try to be very choosy about which animal products I eat.  It’s important to me that I know where it came from and I try to really limit my meat consumption.  I don’t eat factory-farmed meat and I am trying to be very careful about the type of dairy I consume as well.  I’ll put in some posts later about local family farms I visit to find meat and animal products.  In a perfect world, I’d raise all my own animals or a friend would hunt meat for me.

    I also think westerners are just deluded about how much meat we need.  I think a little bit of meat once or twice a week is quite sufficient and a great way to reduce our impact on the globe and to allow for better animal welfare.  I don’t think we need to be killing 10 billion animals per year to feed our population of 300 million.  When each of us feels it’s necessary to consume up to a pound of meat every single day, there is no chance for reforming the welfare of these exploited beasts because of the sheer number that must be slaughtered to support this unhealthy habit.  I actually shed tears at times thinking about these animals.

    So in all this wandering, this subscribing to new philosophies and discarding others, I feel like many of us are back where we started, as we are in so many things in life.  I’m going back to the way of my great-grandparents.   I try to eat a well-balanced diet with no refining, processing, extra sugar, or artificial additives.  I try not to eat too much of any one food group (except vegetables).  I eat limited amounts meat from ethical and sustainable sources and try to use all the parts in stocks, etc. I try not to eat anything that has been altered or produced in a factory from ingredients that aren’t food.  I consume mostly organic and local, when possible (I know I’m spoiled for living in a place where fresh food is grown all year round).  If I’m going to indulge in something like milk, cheese, etc. I go for the full fat satisfying stuff instead of the stuff that has been altered and processed.

    So, that’s where I’m at.  I know this is a long post but I wanted my philosophies somewhere on this blog.  Chief feels the same way I do, though he is much more of a meat eater but I think my habits rub off on him a little.  As his do on mine – he is even better about avoiding anything “convenience” or packaged.  We want our family growing up appreciating the culinary tradition, understanding where food comes from and how to cook it.  We recognize humans preparing and sharing food together is one of the greatest and most ancient pleasures and where a sense of community evolves.  Feeding a family healthfully is a way of showing love.  So I hope all our recipes and experiments in here continue to adhere to these philosophies.

  • Tropical Vanilla Hydrating Sugar Scrub

    I love doing scrubs on days I have a little bit of extra time when getting ready or before an event.  Scrubs smooth and deeply moisturize the skin and impart a healthy glow.  It baffles me why anyone would go out and pay $65 for scrubs sold in beauty stores when we can make better ones with organic ingredients and no preservatives for under $1 in our own kitchens.  Scrubs can be applied to wet or dry skin (for deeper exfoliation).  You could also apply the scrub before sinking in to the bath and then let the components dissipate in to the bath water.  Ingredients are as follows:

    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • ¼ cup coconut oil (almond oil could work too)
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 3 drops bergamot essential oil (or sweet orange or tangerine)
    • 3 drops vanilla essential oil (usually in a jojoba oil carrier)

    Sugar is a great gentle exfoliator.  Just be sure to use somewhat finely ground stuff.  If you have really sensitive skin, brown sugar works well too.  Really any oil (jojoba, almond, olive, grapeseed) would work in this recipe but the coconut oil gives a really nice scent and has the added benefits of being naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Coconut oil is one of the products I always recommend having on hand for kitchen beautician recipes anyway.  The bergamot and vanilla mixed together give this scrub sort of a creamsicle smell and make you instantly feel like you have been transported to someplace tropical.  If you don’t have essential oils, don’t worry about it.  You could also try putting in a teaspoon of orange juice.

    If you do this scrub in the shower, take care because the oil can make the shower floor a little bit slippery.  This recipe should make enough scrub for about three uses.

  • Summer Farewell

    As twilight beckons
    she begs our star one last warm
    and needy embrace.
    She pines clueless her sun kissed
    smell has already spawned life.

     

    a tanka, by Emily Ness

  • Life Lessons From Yoga – Introduction

    I am dedicating the month of August to all the life philosophies I have learned from yoga.  I began practicing for fitness more than anything when I moved to Houston around 2005.  Since that time, my appreciation and understanding of yoga has grown considerably and I’m to the point I would like to share many of the wonderful things the practice has taught me about how to live.

    Like most people, I started yoga for the physical health benefits and, for that reason, I expected it to have only physical results.  What I didn’t realize is how profound of an effect yoga would have on my emotional and mental health as well.  It ushered forth realizations and helped me learn to be strong, tenacious and confident when those realizations brought me stress, pain, anxiety, or healthy fear.

    I also didn’t realize that yoga is a way to develop spiritually.  The asanas, or poses, subtly affect the body and allow transformations to occur, new ways of seeing things and growing.

    Read more

  • Life Lessons from Yoga #10

    Abandon your ego.

    Part of my August series on life philosophies learned from yoga.

    One of the hardest things to get used to in yoga is that, unlike other physical activities, it’s not about coming to win, or to get the best time, or to stand out among the other students.  When we are on our mats, we are trying to look within, to focus our gaze, or drishti, on ourselves and improve from the inside out.  Sometimes the studio has mirrors to help you with your alignment but we aren’t using these mirrors to see how good we look (or don’t look) or how the other students are doing.  In fact, often times we’re instructed to focus only on ourselves and to respect the privacy of others.

    In some ways, it reminds of a concept in the historical fiction book, Shogun by James Clavell.  In that book (which is one of my favorite fiction books of all time), European sailors are shipwrecked in Japan around 1600.  They go through all kinds of transitions adjusting to the culture there and one of the things they have to get used are the thin rice paper walls and how the Japanese do not allow themselves to listen to the conversations they can audibly hear.  Learning to turn attention elsewhere like this brings great power of focus (it’s great for ADHD) and teaches us humility.

    Part of the reason we focus so hard on not focusing on anything in yoga is that the real work is going on inside of us.  As I mentioned in the other posts, you are learning to strengthen your weak parts and you are transforming yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It’s not a competition because we can’t always see or measure the million little ways in which we might be setting ourselves up for success.

    The other important thing about abandoning the ego is that no pose should ever hurt, as I mention in the previous post on listening to your body.  Injuries can occur when people become irresponsible by ignoring their body’s messages because they don’t want to appear like a weakling.

    Learning to abandon your ego can be a humbling experience in life.  Are there times you kept fighting in an argument even once you realized you were in the wrong because you didn’t want to lose face?  Are there things you could apologize for that your pride didn’t allow you to?  Or how many times have you hurt yourself or hurt others because you were trying to prove something?

    Every day, every breath could simply be bringing us to a better place.  We don’t need to do something medal-worthy to find this success.  We can prove it by way of the fluidity and lightness that honoring ourselves and respecting others brings us.

    Namaste

  • Life Lessons from Yoga: #9

    Listen to your body.

    Part of my August series on life philosophies learned from yoga.

    In yoga we want to push ourselves every time we show up but we never want to do it to the point of pain.  There are a lot of poses you might see other people doing that look easy enough.  But if you try to twist right in to them, you risk damaging your body.  The people that are able to get in to those poses have probably been doing them for years, trying to perfect it day after day.  Chances are the first time they tried it, it wasn’t as easy as they’re making it look now.

    As I talked about before, yoga requires a combination of strength, flexibility, and balance of both the body and mind.  Sometimes the poses, or asanas, can be deceiving in that the things that look like they require flexibility actually require balance.  Or those that look like they require strength of the body actually require strength of the mind.  It takes a long time to summon what exactly the body needs to do to accommodate these poses.

    If you are taking your first yoga class, the instructor should tell you not to do anything that hurts.  Yes, sometimes we tremble trying to hold a pose ten seconds longer than is comfortable.  Sometimes we approach our edge and these are the ways that we grow mentally tenacious and strengthen whichever muscle we’re working, but that is different from overt pain.

    It is like this in life too.  There are so many times we don’t listen to our body, when we try to prove to ourselves or to the world how hardcore we are and we ignore our body’s message that we are pushing too far before we were ready.

    How may times have you ignored the crawly feeling a particular person gives you only to be hurt or disappointed by them later?  How often have you said yes to something, even knowing you were biting off more than you could chew?  How many times have you tried to prove how strong you were by staying up late to get everything done and look like a superstar only to find yourself absolutely exhausted the next day or completely burned out?  How many times have you tolerated a situation or lifestyle that gave you anxiety and ignored the warning signals when the life you want has started to veer off its tracks?

    Yoga has taught me that our body sends us messages and we shouldn’t ignore them.  Sometimes getting everything right takes years of interpreting just how to coordinate strength, flexibility and balance of body and mind to get everything how we want it.

    Namaste

     

  • Life Lessons from Yoga #8

    You might not know the story of others.

    Part of my August series on life philosophies learned from yoga.

    In yoga, our goal is to be free of judgment, both of our selves and of others.  You might feel a particular way when you walk in to a yoga class but you have no idea what kind of day, week or life all the other yogis around you have had.

    Some people might have tight hamstrings and others might have über strong arms.  You might feel like you aren’t good enough because the yogi next to you is able to launch in to a handstand and hold it for twenty seconds while you are afraid to even kick up.  But maybe that person has been practicing handstand every day for 10 years, or maybe she was a gymnast in college.  Your tendency might look down on something who isn’t even trying, but maybe she just found out she’s pregnant.

    If you see someone overweight and unable to touch his toes, you might be witnessing the first part of their journey of transformation.  Maybe he has wanted to try yoga for years but was too intimidated to show up to class.  Or maybe he is recovering from an injury that benched him for months.

    Perhaps the person on the mat next to you is there for the first time since they experienced deep grief over a death or are coming to do yoga after a recent diagnosis that they or a loved one needs to begin treatment for cancer.

    We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses, and maybe one particular one is being highlighted at any one time.  Some days everything aligns and we might feel like the star of the class and sometimes we might look like the lazy or weak one if we’re recovering, having a bad day, or the class isn’t highlighting our strengths.

    Yoga reminds me that when we deal with people, sometimes it’s easy to forget in what context we might be intersecting their life.  Often times we just project our own way of assessing the world during a particular day and time on someone else.

    Can you think about this when a person honks and speeds around you in traffic?  How about the rude people you encounter on the phone after holding for 20 minutes?  Then there is the unfocused co-worker who has not been pulling his weight.  What about the insistent salesperson, the unyielding teacher, or the irritable mother?  What is their story and can you cut them some slack in case you found them on a bad day or bad year?  We might not understand the reasons they might be for acting the way they are.

    It’s a reminder to me to have some empathy for others, to give them the benefit of the doubt.  You never know when the day will come when you might need some support and understanding, some gentleness in judgment.

    Namaste