What I’m Loving: The In-Between Week

Two weeks ago, I moved back to NYC. Today, I’ll informally start my new job. My official start date is next Monday and next Tuesday, I’m scheduled to move into my new apartment. In the meantime, I’m basking in a lovely sort of limbo: staying at home, shopping for clothes I won’t be wearing until work starts, catching up with friends I haven’t seen in months…

A part of me wishes I started this column in Portland, where there was so much that I did – and still do – truly love. But I know that I’ll be back to visit Portland, with the idea that this will be a weekly column that will travel along with me.

So here’s the deal:

Each week, I will post 5 things I’m loving with a 3-sentence description of what it is and why I’m loving it (in case you couldn’t tell based on previous posts, brevity can be a challenge for me and concision is a skill I’d like to hone). This column is inspired by The College Prepster’s On My Radar and Gala Darling’s gratitude posts…but with my own spin. These “things” will be a wide variety of passions: places, books, podcasts, yoga studios, teachers, etc. to convey what it is that’s fueling my inspiration to keep growing on OM. Here goes…

This week, I’m loving

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Close friends have been recommending this book to me all summer long and I’m so grateful to finally be reading it. It is an extraordinarily well-written take on what it means to come to America from Nigeria, and discover what race means to a country fraught with its battles. The protagonist, Ifemelu, is also so genuine and likable that it’s made for the best subway read a girl could ask for, and one that keeps me thinking well after the 5 train arrives at my stop.

Laughing Lotus

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Baby, I’m back! When I arrived back in the city, I felt overwhelmed by the largeness of it all. Returning for class after class at Laughing Lotus, being hugged by my favorite teachers out there, getting lost in Lotus Flow sequencing, and running into people I’ve done trainings with over and over again has been one of the things that’s made me feel truly at hOMe.

Hu Chocolate

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Me, my mom, and my sister have gotten hooked on Hu chocolate. The three of us try to stay away from refined sugar and Hu, from a paleo eatery downtown (but they sell the bars at Fairway!) contains none of it; it’s sweetened with the wonderfully low-glycemic coconut sugar. The bar that we’re loving is their dark chocolate almond butter quinoa bar. Pro tip: eat a piece or two with a glass of red wine and bliss the eff out.

Elena Brower Summer School for Yoga Teachers

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A fellow teacher at HYS suggested this 3-day-long surge of inspiration to all yoga teacher colleagues and Facebook. These calls, which I listened to the recordings to via teach.yoga, were just the inspiration I needed to validate how much I love being a student, and how that dedication to studentship is what drives my desire to teach. Each call focused on different elements of what it means to be an independent-contracting (which most are) yoga teacher.

Poppin

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I am thrilled to be tasked with decorating a new office (which doubles as a supply room). I’ve been seeing Poppin office supplies pop up (pun intended) on some of my fave blogs and during my second back-to-school (this time as a teacher) trip to Staples, I snagged myself some gigantic post-it-like memo pads and adorable stylish pushpins. I still really want their gold pencil case…putting it, along with other items on the Pinterest wish list.

written from devachan hair salon, while wearing one of their fabulous gold robes

Those Summer Reads: The Reprise

Taken out of context, I must seem so strange. – Ani DiFranco

It’s been almost a year since I published Those Summer Reads as one of my inaugural posts on Growing Up On OM. I find myself touched by and resonating with what I wrote last September, even though so much has changed in these eleven and a half months. Here is my reprise of an introduction to this rather lengthy post:

While this is not true in life, when reading, I find myself again and again returning to my first love: young adult fiction. In many ways, this blog is about me learning what it means to be a full-blown grown-up, having been out of teenage-hood for over four years at this point. Yet why do I find myself returning, again and again, to books that leave permanent, gorgeous, wrenching imprints on my heart? 

Because there are parts of being a teenager that are timeless, the age itself encompasses a liminality that I find myself drawn to, especially during a time like this when I embody the space of my own many transitions. The words of Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars; see below) both haunt and inspire me: “our own little infinity.” At 22, I find myself grateful for having experienced many infinities, that leaping into the unknown. 

And so this summer fiction-wise, I read a relatively even blend of literature about people younger and literature about people older than me. It is almost as if, in order to get into the present moment, I return to the past and gaze into the future and try to mediate the practical and figuring-out muck of adulthood with the drifting-away innocence of what it means to slowly grow up with meaning.

Now, to get au courant, the books I am sharing below I’ve read since April ended. April was the most stressful month of my professional life. I was consumed by work. Once it ended and May began, it was like my brain professed its hunger for what makes me…me: a deep and abiding interests in the books I unabashedly love. This year, there seems to be a geographic theme: European royalty (both historical and based on totally fake nations). There are few things better than being captivated in a book, missing bus stops in a flood of fictional emotions and crying on MAX (the subway-like trains in Portland) because your favorite characters die or fall in love or both. These books have done that to me, and I am thrilled to share them with you.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

This book is based on something tragic and within that something tragic all these sweet moments are found. When I began reading this book, I had no idea what it would be about. From the first chapter, the first few pages, I thought it would be about London, glamour, sex, lust, careers, intrigue…you get it.

I was wrong.

Jojo drew the reader in with the same unexpectedness of tragedy that tragedy itself entails. It is a story about totally different traumas that unexpectedly intertwine. The result is a breathtaking portrayal of the complexity of love and life, and the loving that makes life on life’s terms worth it.

Me being me is exactly as insane as you being you.

Royal Wedding: Princess Diaries Book 11 by Meg Cabot 

The anticipation for Royal Wedding was super, super intense for me. I think I discovered that M.C. was publishing her first adult Princess Diaries book about a year ago. I was eager with a need to read the amazing protagonist voice of Mia Thermopolis since then. She so, so did not disappoint.

We want endings that leave us with a sense of hope, possibly because the world we’re living in seems to be falling apart right now.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

From the author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series came a very different kind of read. The Here and Now, a futuristic take on YA dystopias took me about two days to read. I highly recommend it as a beach read – definitely to be taken less seriously than the Sisterhood books, but I’d say it’s a worthwhile library rental.

Paper Towns by John Green

When I teach literature – in my future classroom of dedicated learners and writers – I want to teach its intertextuality, not teaching only the core text but all the texts that surround and influence it, showing how books, like people, are so interconnected and interdependent. In Paper Towns, John Green did just that for his readers. He wove traditional poetry into a mystery of his own creation. If you don’t compare Paper Towns to The Fault in Our Stars (I made that mistake when I first started reading it and those expectations thoroughly dampened my experience), it is an artful coming of age novel by a man who puts the literature in the genre of YA Lit.

But a poem can’t do its work if you only read snippets of it.

Talking to a drunk person was like talking to an extremely happy, severely brain-damaged three-year-old.

It is so hard to leave–until you leave. And then it is the easiest god-damned thing in the world.

Forever is composed of nows.

The King’s Grace by Anne Easter Smith

I am fiercely obsessed with Tudor England. When I finished reading almost all of Philippa Gregory’s novels, I moved on to Anne Easter Smith, who writes gorgeous works of historical fiction on the Cousins Wars (the generation, which preceded the Tudors). This novel, told from the point of view of King Edward’s “illegitimate” daughter, Grace, displays the intricacies of historical mystery in the vivid ways Smith is known for. What I loved most about this novel was its connection to A Rose for the Crown, the first – and best – book I read by Anne Easter Smith. I loved seeing some of those old and familiar characters pop up in new ways in this iteration.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks + Jessica Morgan

Oh, my goodness gracious, I cannot recommend this book enough. Reading it was like eating a really fantastic bar of dark chocolate. I totally adore Bex, the protagonist – a Cornellian who studies abroad at Oxford only to befriend – and then date – the prince of Wales. What was so great about this novel was that it was most definitely NOT a fairytale. It shone a light on the difficulties of having a life that is constantly judged and surrounded by unforgiving press. The love and lust these two authors portrayed, though, was fantastically written…and so FUN to read. I laughed out loud repeatedly at the smart wit of the writing that felt as if it was coming straight out of the lovable first person protagonist’s mouth. While I read it, I highlighted the places in London this book made me want to visit. I just can’t even begin to describe how fun this book was to read. Definitely a summer read that should be brought everywhere…including the beach (though I finished this one on my plane back to the east coast).

I told myself to carry this moment as a talisman of a time in my life when I was both truly content and lucky enough to realize it.

The breath right before you kiss your beloved is the sweetest one of all, because you realize you’re about to get exactly what you want.

Boxed wine–the official drink of emotionally confused women on a budget.

I’d never been the sort of girl who willingly took a seat on the bench without fighting for a starting spot.

Book Review: Restorative Yoga Therapy The Yapana Way to Self-Care and Well-Being

After all, yoga (yug = to yolk, unite) is trying to teach us that its practice is not just about “me” (the ego) or what I’m trying to achieve (the pose, breathing practice, life skill, etc.). It is about joining the two in a way that is mindful, is meaningful, and extends well beyond the yoga mat. – Leeann Carey, Founder of Yapana Yoga

On Sunday, I attended my first Laughing Lotus class since I moved back to New York. During the opening announcements, the teacher, Victor Colletti – a true teacher’s teacher – said to us all, “Every vinyasa teacher should have restorative yoga in their repertoire of tools.”

This piece of advice resonated with me. My mom started practicing yoga regularly two years after I did. While Beginner Yogi Shira gravitated towards hot power as a jumping off point, my mom began with restorative. She continues with it today, but there’s even one hot power class in her “repertoire of tools.” Seeing the transformative effects of restorative yoga on her body, and then going to some classes with her and seeing the practice’s effects on my own, I do not doubt for one second the potency of slowness, and the deep knowledge of what it means to stay in and with a given pose. Plus, after a year with an injury, restorative yoga saved my a$$. It allowed me to practice in a therapeutic way at the soonest possible opportunity. Restorative yoga…and yoga therapy, which I discovered at unfold, meet us where they are. I often say in the classes I teach that one of the things that makes the yoga practice so special is that it is one of the few forms of physical activity that is not aspirational; it is accepting of and conducive to where we are at the moment. Restorative Yoga Therapy, I learned through this Yapana Way to Self-Care and Well-Being is a specific combination of practices that is emblematic of that fact of yoga.

In Restorative Yoga Therapy: The Yapana Way to Self-Care and Well-Being, author and founder of Yapana Yoga Leeann Carey writes,

This practice meets people where they are. It is designed to encourage self-inquiry, reflection, and change, not perfection — the universe has already taken care of that part. 

Restorative Yoga Therapy is a comprehensive guide. Carey is upfront at the beginning of her book, revealing that yoga is more than just asana – the physical postures – but that for the sake of simplicity (a quality she values – and it shows in the clarifying structure of her book!), she uses asana, as so many do, as the doorway to so much more. One of my first yoga teachers used to say, as she transitioned us into Supta Baddha Konasana, “We are human beings, not human doings.” Appropriately and synchronously, Carey provides instructions for what looks like a blissfully propped up Supta Baddha Konasana in the “Being” section of her book. The asanas are separated into two sections: “Being” and “Still.” I honestly had no idea how many variations of savasana there could be until I read the “Still” section of her book, and I plan to incorporate many of them into my teaching.

Yapana, an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “the support and extension of life,” inspired Carey so much that she created her own unique combination of therapeutic and restorative practice to live up to the name. She defines Yoga Therapy, an emerging discipline in this wide-reaching field, as

address[ing] the needs of of the practitioners. Yoga therapy is not solely about practicing a relaxing yoga poses. It is about rightness: using the right pose at the right time, in the right way, for the right purpose. It fulfills an intention, a purpose, and a direction. And it is a process and a road map for discovering what works for you while giving you the tools to integrate a vigilant understanding of how you do life on and off the mat.

Wow.

You might ask who the intended audience of this book is. As a yoga teacher, I air on the side of hesitance to recommend asana books to my students. I know how vulnerable to injury we all are without proper instruction, alignment and even physical adjustments. But, I think that the fact that Carey includes a whole chapter dedicated to how and why to use yoga props lends a credibility that makes this book a good one for the novice, as well as the professional. However, as a yoga teacher, I would like to recommend this book to my colleagues in this field. There are an abundance of resources as to how to teach a class brimming with students. Four years into teaching yoga, nine trainings later, and being forced into physical therapy myself, I am only now beginning to discover and uncover resources for teaching to individuals. With practices that Carey somehow personalizes to a wide variety of ailments (low back pain, stress, stiff shoulders) and physical conditions that mirror the cycle of life (pregnancy, PMS, menopause), this is a great resource to start with.

The Yoga + Coffee Guide to Portland

One of my most favorite pairings in the world is that of yoga + coffee. Caffeine takes on its ultimate effect after that natural buzz of a great yoga class. Portland – the home of Stumptown Roasters – is a city that is definitely known for its coffee culture. With the creation of YogiNation and the gentrification of all neighborhoods into yoga studio pods, Portland is also a haven + hub for the asana practice. One week away from transitioning out of Portland and back into New York City, I am starting to deem it time to finally publish the post that lingered in my mind eleven months ago, when I first moved here and started benefiting from incorporating my favorite pairing into my day to day. So, without further adieu, here is your yoga + coffee guide to this awesome city of roses. Oh, and this list is actually totally geographically based (a rarity for this directionally-challenged blogger), ranging from Southeast to Northwest Portland.

Yoga Union + Good Coffee

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Yoga Union

  • Location: 50th + Lincoln
  • Vibe: Hard-Core (The fact that they have Paleo snacks upfront was of no surprise to me when I did my first new student special there last August.)
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Chris Calarco + Annie Adamson
  • Asana Style: strength-building + muscle definition
  • Intention: Advancing the practice.

Good Coffee

  • Location: 48th + Division
  • Vibe: Uber Friendly + Young (A barista helps me carry a separate mini carafe of almond milk to my table.)
  • Style: Berlin-esque (The furniture is very un-American; think sloping leather chairs and geometric tables.)
  • Brew: extra strong
  • Intention: Kill ’em Keep them coming back with kindness.

People’s Yoga + Common Grounds

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People’s Yoga

  • Location: 44th + Belmont
  • Vibe: Dedicated + Full
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Jessica Garay + Audra Carmine
  • Asana Style: vinyasa with heart
  • Intention: Feel a sense of complete spiritual flow + fullness while practicing in a room filled to the brim with like-minded people.

Common Grounds

  • Location: 43rd + Hawthorne
  • Vibe: 80s Anonymous Hippie
  • Style: Living Room Cozy / Eclectic
  • Brew: cheap, but decent
  • Intention: Coffee and print media for the masses!

unfold + St. Honore

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  • Location: 33rd + Division
  • Vibe: Slow + Steady
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Leigh Drake + Tony Roberts
  • Asana Style: yoga therapy
  • Intention: Unconditionally welcoming.

St. Honore

  • Location: 33rd + Division
  • Vibe: French Patisserie
  • Style: High-Quality European
  • Brew: strong (to be tempered with a delicate pastry)
  • Intention: Provide a large space for people to do with what they wish, be it mingle with one another, take their kids when they wake up too early on Saturday, have work meetings / first dates, or get work done.

Grinning Yogi + Dapper & Wise Coffee Roasters

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The Grinning Yogi

  • Location: 30th + Division
  • Vibe: Fierce + Kickasana
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Chase Connolly + Tori Greising
  • Asana Style: lotus flow
  • Intention: Provide a dance-like flow that allows students to lose themselves in movement + the themes it’s paired with.

Dapper & Wise

  • Location: 31st + Division
  • Vibe: Up-and-Coming Relaxed Freelancer
  • Style: get sh*t done + relax while doing it
  • Brew: strong + chocolatey
  • Intention: Provide high-quality straight-up coffee in this roasting company’s first cafe, in a neighborhood that lacks straight-up artisanal coffee.

Bhaktishop + Little T Bakers

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Bhaktishop

  • Location: 26th + Division
  • Vibe: Ooey Gooey Devotional
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Lisa Mae Osborn + Monicka Koneski
  • Asana Style: lunar vinyasa
  • Intention: From their website – a “celebration of the gifts of this deep, dynamic and divine tradition that is yoga to a wider community through integrated, intelligent practices, grounded and authentic spiritual study, therapeutic principles and in general, a deeper way to go about living life.

Little T Bakers

  • Location: 26th + Division
  • Vibe: Yummy
  • Style: educated + filling
  • Brew: medium roast
  • Intention: Eat delicious food on your way to work in the morning!

Art of Movement + Ford Food + Drink

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Art of Movement

  • Location: 12th + Division
  • Vibe: Weird
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Nick Mattos
  • Asana Style: grungey Ashtanga with a twist
  • Intention: Provide something for every counter-culture yogi.

Ford Food + Drink

  • Location: 12th + Division
  • Vibe: Spacious Freelancers
  • Style: passing time + working grind
  • Brew: medium roast
  • Intention: Get stuff done in good + anonymous company.

Yoga Bhoga + Water Avenue Coffee

Yoga Bhoga

  • Location: Water Avenue
  • Vibe: Holistic
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Emily Light + Kris Olson
  • Asana Style: vinyasa meets physical therapy
  • Intention: Care for body + soul with intention and attention to anatomy.

Water Avenue Coffee

  • Location: Water Ave (same building as YogaBhoga)
  • Vibe: Quick Coffee
  • Style: read a good book
  • Brew: Water Avenue Coffee Roasters
  • Intention: Pass the time in a place that smells deliciously of coffee.

Yoga Pearl + Prasad

Yoga Pearl

  • Location: 9th + NW Davis
  • Vibe: Fancy
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Chris Calarco + Sarah Lakey
  • Asana Style: power vinyasa
  • Intention: Get a holistic yoga experience with an intense amount of ambition on top!

Prasad

  • Location: inside Yoga Pearl
  • Vibe: up-scale hippie
  • Style: holistic yoga food + drink
  • Brew: unsure (they’re more known for their tea + smoothies, which I can attest to as being ah-mazing)
  • Intention: Do your own thang while having a bowl of sheer deliciousness or cookies made of agave + nut butters that will fuel your yoga practice.

YoYoYogi + Barista

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 YoYoYogi

  • Location: 13th + NW Hoyt
  • Vibe: Sheer Awesomeness
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Alex + Kristi Cole (yes, they’re a father-daughter pair)
  • Asana Style: joyful flowing cathartic vinyasa flow (yes, I am being redundant on purpose – it’s just that good!)
  • Intention: Move so fast and with such flow that you forget what you’re feeling when you walk in the door and walk out with those feelings processed + feeling good!

Barista

  • Location: Same building as YoYoYogi (the smell of coffee wafts into those classes)
  • Vibe: a bar for coffee
  • Style: chill + efficient
  • Brew: strong
  • Intention: Get your work done or meet up with someone in their outdoor seating; equal measure take-to-go and stay and enjoy.