Yoga Joy in July

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photo taken by the lovely A last year in Portland, OR with a book that inspired much

Tell me, O quickly! dream of aliveness, the flaming source of your bright breath. ~ Langston Hughes

Happy July, everyone! I hope this new month is off to a lovely start for all of you, wherever in the world you are when you read this. I am writing you from the gorgeous Aspen, Colorado, where I am soaking up the annual and oh-so-inspiring Aspen Ideas Festival. Today is the third day of the festival, and more and more, I am reminded of the transformative power of ideas, and all they are capable of when put into action.

I think I am beginning to realize that ideas, when they aren’t put into practice and shared with the world, are dreams. Dreams are wonderful because ideas can be challenging to carry out, especially when we have many of them. Yet, there is something potent in what separates the ideas that make it up to the stage at this festival, such as Bryan Stevenson’s idea that children have a right to be children, regardless of crimes committed, or the ideas that Emily Bazelon espouses in the Slate Political Gabfest. These are dreams that people have transported into reality.

Speaking of, I would love to use this blog post to put some of my ideas into action. I am thrilled to share that I have spent many, many hours working on an online course for creating a yoga practice (a massive extension of the workshop you received emails about just a week ago, and one you can do anywhere).

But, before we launch into the e-course fabulousness (this email is chock-full of details!), expect some local yoga happenings this month in NYC! I’m teaching a Community Yoga class at Harlem Yoga Studio (i.e. donation-based! no excuses!) this Sunday, July 3rd, from 3:30-4:30pm. Because I’m having a summer full of travel, I will be mainly subbing so stay tuned on my website, as well as on social media, for additional sub dates as they come up!

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If you take the course LIVE with me starting on July 15th (and you can sign up anytime until then), you will receive a full 20% OFF with the code LIVELEARNER.
Yoga U Summer School is my online course that’s been in the making for years! Through taking this course, you will learn a plethora of strategies for starting + sustaining hOMe yoga practices that will blow your minds + keep you coming back to your mats!

Over four weeks, you’ll enjoy: 

  • a detailed syllabus that will lay out exactly how to create your hOMe practice in a manageable, step-by-step fashion
  • 9 detailed + fully developed lessons in total, which you can do at your own pace (unless you love structure like me and want to do it syllabus-style)
  • plenty of video content to bring the practice to life
  • a ton of encouragement, resources, essays, hOMework, visual cues + diagrams to make your yoga practice the best that it can be
  • unlimited email contact with me + a private Facebook group so that you can get answers to all your questions!

Curriculum Preview

  • WEEK ONE: SUSTAINABILITY
    • About Me + Your Syllabus, Top 5 Tips, Journaling Prompts
  • WEEK TWO: AMBIANCE
    • Checklists for both what you need + what you might want, a tour of my own yoga room, creating a mood, + how to make a yoga playlist that fits your practice perfectly
  • WEEK THREE: ASANA
    • Finding Your Sun Salutation, videos + PDFs of practice structures, hip opening + hip closing, peak poses
  • WEEK FOUR: MOVING ON
    • Using props effectively, meditation, service, intentions

Remember, if you sign up before July 15th, the price of this course will decrease dramatically…and the content will never go away! You’ll have full access to the wide variety of lessons + home practices to do at your own pace, whenever you want!

I hope to see you on the mat or online soon!

It’s Been a Year

As I write this, I am sitting on the 1 train crying (what else is new?). These tears that are welling up in my eyes but not actually making their way down my face are tears of knowing I don’t actually have to cry so much today. One year ago today, I was hit by a car while biking home from work. My aunt emailed me yesterday – a belated Thanksgiving email – to tell me she was grateful I made it through. My ex-roommate’s ex-boyfriend Facebook messaged me to say one year later he was thinking of me and I seem happy. And I made it through today, teaching four third grade classes and forgetting and remembering and then commuting and remembering again that one time I didn’t make it home.

It’s been a year.

It hasn’t been a bad year. It definitely wasn’t a good year. It was a year that doesn’t subscribe to dualistic or simplistic adjectives in my mind. Today, I told a third grader to find a more descriptive word than “nice” when picking the characteristics for his own personal loving-kindness meditation. I think that when I think back to that swathe of time between the gurney and now, I’ll always be searching for the right words to sum it up.

To the reader still injured, this too shall pass. Making it out on the other side is a shape-shifting experience, a process of becoming, and that process gets recognized in moments – jumping up and down while teaching kids yoga; taking a particularly challenging yoga class; crossing the street with a regular, even, steady heartbeat.

Talk about growing up on OM! I’ve had more life experiences in this year than I’ve probably had in ten years of my life combined. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I remember writing a blog post just ten days out of surgery. I was in my bed and my leg was propped up on four pillows and I was a little high on pain medication but still, I wrote of the overwhelming gratitude I felt…and what I was learning. Well, folks, what I learned then doesn’t even make a dent into all I’ve learned since and all, I am sure, that I have left to learn.

Here is what I’ve learned between December Firsts (i.e. what a one-year-out me wants to say to late 2014 me and all those who are working through injuries):

  • You will heal, even though, in the deepest darkest places inside,  you don’t think you will.
  • Family is everywhere. The school I did my AmeriCorps service at continues to make my heart swell with how much they cared for and about me last year.
  • True friends are the ones who don’t leave the trauma ward when they put the bones back into your body. Instead, they tell you to call your parents before you go under. Even though that’s the last thing you want to do. Even though – and because – you’re terrified.
  • True friends are the ones who don’t leave the hospital room when you’re getting a catheter put in. Even though you ask them to. Even though – and because – you’re terrified.
  • True friends hold your hands while the anaesthesia seeps in.
  • Those who’ve been injured before, been ill, will understand things others just can’t, and it’s important to keep them around…because they will bring you something – a book, poetry, yarn and needles, some homeopathic plants – for the pain. Oh, and the people who’ve been through something along that injury-illness spectrum? They will be the ones who will treat you as if you are not injured; they are the ones who will make you remember that you’re still you.
  • Moms can fly across the country so fast that it’s like they’ve personally strapped on wings and skyrocketed through the air, never mind that they usually have to pop a few Xanax before takeoff.
  • Doctors are amazing workers of magic. So are nurses. And physical therapists? They are resurrecturs of spirit.
  • That surgical boot? It’s the fucking sexiest thing you’ve ever put on your leg. If you don’t believe that, shit’s just gonna be really hard to deal with for a little bit.
  • The next time you think that person is going to save you in some way, remember that at the end of the day, it was your helmet and a whole team of healers that did. If that isn’t a hushing of codependent thoughts, I don’t know what is.
  • Oh honey, oh honey, oh honey, be gentle. The physical gentleness will happen organically; it’s sink or swim in the land of the injured, healing and casted. But the gentleness of the head and the heart? That won’t. So you’re going to have to make the extra effort for radical gentleness.
  • Getting all sorts of help that included mind, body, spirit was the cocktail that saved my life.
  • You need more nourishment, of every single sort. Your body is working in ways it never has before. It’s rebuilding itself.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither are bones.
  • You can’t go from zero to hero overnight. Service to others during a time like this will blissfully get you out of your own head, but take it slow.
  • Sisters rise up to the occasion.
  • You are your own best advocate. No one else will know that you need a blanket underneath a scarred knee in yoga class. Your stepmom won’t know when an uphill walk is too challenging for you. This is the ultimate test of that thing you say or hear teachers say, “You know your body best.” Even when it changes so radically, even when it breaks, even when it betrays you – especially when it betrays you – that is truth incarnate.
  • Celebrate the small milestones. Because if you don’t, no one will. Because if you don’t mark progress like a child who gets sharpie on the wall when their height is measured, growth is too minute, too important, to see.
  • This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.

Namaste,

Shira

Wanderlust 108

Leave it to me, now that there are actual readers of this blog, to take a hiatus. It’s been back-to-school season (i.e. back-to-work season for teachers) and on top of everything, I’m teaching at a new school so…I hope you, dear readers I now (think) I’ve acquired, will understand!

But I, as usual, digress. What I really want to write about is this thing I did about ten days ago that I meant to write about nine days ago, but that now has added days of reflection and perspective to fuel this post. Ten days ago, I did something I never thought I would do – or would want to do. I did something that, just six months ago, would have made me laugh in your face – or cry out of frustration – if you told a recovering-from-a-broken-leg me I would do it.

Last Sunday, I ran a 5k.

And I did it in true yoga teacher style: as part of a “mindful triathlon” where I ran an untimed, noncompetitive 5k, took two yoga classes and meditated. I am excited to share the details of each part in this post.

I arrived in Prospect Park at 10am. While I am infamous amongst friends for having claimed that “I’m not outdoorsy enough for Brooklyn” (living in the PNW probably changed that), I had zero trouble finding my way to the event. Beginning in Manhattan, I was joined on the subway by hordes of yoga-mat-toting and sneaker-wearing participants. All I had to do was follow. It felt good to feel like one of many; this sensation was the general vibe of the day: rejoicing in multitudes doing their own thing, but together.

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The 5k itself was…hard, but great. I went at my own pace and made it feel as normal as possible. I’d been consciously training on a beginner’s training plan for six weeks. My physical therapist suggested I run to a metronome so I put on my Urban Ears just like I did when practicing on the Reservoir and Riverbank State Park and blasted Spotify Running. I also, it turned out, underestimated how long this 5k was (whoops…). Around the time I hit 3 miles, I walked for a minute…and I was in good company. I’m OK with that and that – that lack of perfectionism and an ability to be proud of effort – is major progress for me.

A dear friend met up with me as I rounded the bandshell. We took some time to explore the Wanderlust “Uncommons” together. A few summers ago, I was a volunteer at a full Wanderlust event at Squaw Valley. The fact that the Wanderlust team/corporation (I don’t mean that meanly, but they, I feel, are basically spokespeople for yogic consumerism) could make a one-day event in a park feel just as full and rich as their four-day events at ski lodges is seriously impressive. A few free tote bags, temporary tattoos and coupons later, I headed over to MC Yogi’s class on the lawn, which was followed by Dharma Mittra’s precise asana teaching.

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There is a saying that I love: “Don’t quit before the miracle.” Often, the miracle is the grounding of physical practices in meditation. This is to the masses that left once the yoga classes ended: DON’T QUIT BEFORE MEDITATION, PEOPLE. Sage Rountree, a fitness and life coach, flew to New York to teach us Metta – lovingkindness – meditation. It so happens to be my favorite kind of meditation. Running on a plethora of endorphins, practicing this kind of meditation amongst hundreds of people rather than on my own cushions, moved me deeply and offered up a different perspective on what is probably the only practice I don’t get a ton of professional guidance with. The whole day was like banging a tiny hammer on a glass. Cracks were made with each nudge. The meditation, I think, cracked me wide open.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that this year has been one heck of a journey – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I suffered two open fractures and major surgery in December, I seriously started to doubt my physical capabilities for the future. I had a physical therapist (who I emailed on the train back from Brooklyn that Sunday) who believed in me. Six months after my surgery, she put me on a “Return to Running” plan to eliminate my last bit of atrophy – atrophy which was once so intense I could barely look at my leg without crying. The joke at the PT office when she put me on that plan was as follows.

PT: We’re going to put you on a Return to Running plan.

ME: Um…what am I returning to?

My sister reminded me that when she flew out to Portland to take care of a post-surgery immobile me, I was so frustrated with my inability to exercise that I told her I was going to run every day after “it was all over.” I likely said that without fully believing that day would come. She reminded me of that while I was training. One day, over frozen yogurt on the Upper East Side, she asked me, “What do you think of while you’re running?”

I think, “I can RUN!” I told her. Crack. That realization always made my eyes well up just a bit.

However, on my way out of Prospect Park, my eyes welled up quite a bit. Well, let’s face it, I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying until, like, I was halfway back to Harlem on the 2 train. My tears were a concoction of endorphins, gratitude, and relief.

So…thanks, Wanderlust 108, for making me cry a much-needed cry, and for creating the most chill event ever for my first 5k.

written from jivamuktea cafe with sheer glee after discovering the top secret spicy tempeh recipe

June Link Love: Presidential Possibilities, Privates + Practical Self-Care

Introduction to the monthly Link Love column: One of my favorite blogs (and a total blogger role model of mine) is Gala Darling. Every month, Gala Darling publishes a link roundup in a narrative form of what she’s been reading. Lounging in bed on lazy Friday mornings (when I was in college) or Sunday mornings (now that I’m a working lady), I open up the links Gala posts like presents on Chanukah evenings. I want to create a similar experience for my readers…with the added bonus of documenting these reading gems so I no longer have 17 tabs open on Google Chrome. So, without further adieu, thank you Gala for the inspiration. Here is a delightful (Central Park) link carousel of my own.

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June was filled with early mornings and late nights out and about. I filled myself up this month with smoothies, heaps of yoga at YoYoYogi in Northwest Portland, time with friends and long walks in this sweltering heat Portland’s been getting. I started a fiction-writing class at The Attic Institute and returned to my NaNoWriMo novel. As a result, this Link Love is shorter than usual…because I’ve also been busy writing and doing the things we write about in the first place. Enjoy!

Gala Darling shares these really amazing, tangible, and do-it-now goal-setting tips she learned from her dad.

HerCampus shares 15 things you should know how to do before you turn 25 (I’d say I have a year and a half and 10 things on that list left to do!).

A dear student of mine is profiled in SONIMA, on how is brain injury led him to his truest self. It is vital to remember that we all come to the mat for different reasons, some of them critical and chronic and deep experiences of healing and expansion of life.

I just don’t know who to vote for in the primary! In an effort to show that I haven’t been basing my personal political preferences on binge-watching The West Wing, I’ve done some research on Bernie and Hillary Clinton’s 20-something campaign workers had just as hard a time as I did finding an affordable apartment in New York. Here’s Hillary Clinton on the issues…and here’s Bernie Sanders. (#conflicted)

This month, I discovered the amazing-ness of Tommy Rosen and his thoughts on recovery.

My own personal authorial guru on most things, Meg Cabot, shares 12 ways to improve your love life and if I’m going to take advice on any of that from anyone, it’d be from her.

Well + Good shares low-sugar cocktail recipes!

Watch Obama’s eulogy. Let the feelings flow through you.

The Examiner profiles Heather Shrock on the intersection of nutrition and mental health – a necessary and innovative examination.

I am so excited to check out these bar specials near Columbia when I move to the area!

Apparently, the right dose of exercise for a longer life will surprise us.

The Abundant Yogi has some great teachings on lifestyle design!

Teachasana helped me out big time this month by sharing pricing strategies for yoga privates.

A nutritionist from The Chalkboard shares her thoughts and concrete tips on self-care. There are some serious gems in this piece:

Self-care is prioritizing and engaging in things that help us function well in our lives; things that make us feel balanced and allow us meet the inevitable stressors of daily life with energy and (ideally) perspective.

Self-care is not just the occasional pedicure or afterwork cocktail. It’s about identifying your own needs and building a repertoire of habits that make you feel grounded and like your best self.

For more super concrete (can you tell how much I love the practical?!) tips from The Chalkboard, check out this Ayurveda article on balancing Kapha. Proud to be drinking a cardamom latte while reading this one!

written from my bed

A Guide to Portland Healers

Welcome to The Guide series of Growing Up on OM. This new monthly column supplements the Link Love column for when the natural ideas aren’t flowing as much. These guides will range from guides to cities to guides of yoga studios to guides of healers of all different sorts (today I will start us on the latter). if there are any guides that you know you would particularly like to see please let me know in the comments!

As you have been made well aware of on this blog, I am healing from a broken leg, an injury I came to by way of trauma. Through years of yoga and attempts to heal from non-physical injuries (breakups, moving, typical woes). One aspect of my injury and healing process that continues to fascinate me is that it happened when I was still new to Portland. As a result, much of my experience of this new city is through the lens of the healing process. I am so grateful for all the people, businesses and institutions I have met along the way. Here is a glimpse.

New Heights Physical Therapy

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I can’t say enough positive things about this place so I’ll keep it short. I’ve a lot of time these past few months at this PT practice. Not only is my PT beyond, beyond, beyond amazing (I don’t know what I would do without her), the whole space beams of a welcoming, caring, efficient and intelligent atmosphere. There’s music playing, the reception staff is fantastic and more than anything, I feel like everyone there – especially my PT – wants me to not just get better, but to aggressively get better.

Integrative Trauma Treatment Center

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I go here for EMDR therapy and some Reiki on the side, but this center in Northwest Portland in a gorgeous office that looks like it taken straight out of an Anthropologie catalogue, also offers acupuncture and massage.

Unfold Yoga Therapy Studio

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When I was on the hospital bed about to go into surgery, my roommates told me that is was a good thing I became affiliated with Unfold when I did…because this studio’s slogan/mantra is “unconditionally welcoming” and that applies wholeheartedly to doing the practice with an injury. It’s been a great way to ease back into the asana practice.

Yoga Shala Acupuncture

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I started seeing Fumi at Yoga Shala for acupuncture around my incisions and…wow. Also, the location of Yoga Shala on North Williams in a lovely complex is hard to beat.

Nourish Northwest

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When I first stepped into Nourish Northwest, located on 44th and Hawthorne (next to a Kure Juice Bar!), I felt immediately at home and inspired to live my best self. The decor and the staff were just so gentle. They made my heart swell and encouraged me to eat in a way that fuels Strength + an Abundant life.

This Is Ayurveda

Society paints this picture where you have to have the longest hair and the thinnest body and you can’t help but want to be that beautiful person you see on that picture. But then you have to start asking yourself the question — Is that realistic for you? I began to ask myself those questions: Who am I working out for? Who am I looking good for? When I look in the mirror who do I want to please? Do I want to please people or do I want to please Mary first? So I began to want to please myself first. I can’t please everybody. I can’t be the slimmest girl. Be the best you that you can be. — Mary J. Blige



photo courtesy of kanvas

I read this in Gala Darling‘s “Darling Dispatch,” her weekly newsletter (I know, adorable name, right?). The first thing that came to mind, to the tune of Mary J. Blige’s soulful voice, were the words I use to editorialize every single Ayurveda workshop and training I’ve done.

To find out what Ayurveda is, check out my Desserts + Doshas article (more to come, I’m sure, after this weekend’s session), but for a brief explanation, Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. Ayurveda is a holistic science for balancing our bodies, minds and hearts. It consists of three primary categories (doshas) and a plethora of sub-doshas and combinations and permutations of the three. While doshas are categories, they translate to “imbalance.” But in Ayurveda – unlike in Western science – “imbalance” is not a negative; it is a natural state of being. Ayurveda suggests that we become the most balanced form of our imbalance.

That explanation was not meant to make sense…that is why we need Mary J. Blige. Hang in there, please!

The first Ayurveda workshop I took part in was during a particularly imbalanced summer at the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco. The woman who I would later take a 50-hour advanced Ayurveda training with was visiting and, due to low attendance at the workshop (always a blessing in disguise) we really got into a discussion on what this ancient science means within the context of our modern lives. One woman in the workshop, who was also Kapha-Pitta (see here) – although I have a hunch I am Pitta-Kapha, who knows? – said that she feels that Pitta is more valued in our society and Kapha is devalued. Go figure, seeing as Kapha is the “curvy” dosha and I have long wanted to write an article on how we discuss Ayurveda in the context of body love for every single size. Pitta, meanwhile, is the driven dosha, the medium build, the socially acceptable type under present-day norms.

When Mary J. Blige says “be the best that you can be,” I yoga nerd out and think of the doshas. Ayurveda does not tell us we have to be all three or that if we’re Kapha we have to be more Pitta or if we’re Pitta we have to be more Vata. No, it does not tell us to change our baseline constitutions. It tells us to be the best versions of our imbalances. To be our best selves means to celebrate what makes us unique and to take on the optimal forms of that uniqueness. So if you’re Pitta, be ambitious. Get things done. Rock that red hair and freckles. But do it with grace and kindness. If you’re Kapha, embrace that softness and use it to be of greater service to yourself and to the world. Rock those curves. Fuel the softness (the sukha) with strength (sthira). If you’re Vata, channel the whirling mind into boundless creativity…just keep both feet on the ground while you do that.

Now, for the reader who has no idea what all that even means, be you. Rock you. Celebrate you.

Namaste.

January Link Love: Selma, Style + Safe Sex

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Introduction to the monthly Link Love column: One of my favorite blogs (and a total blogger role model of mine) is Gala Darling. Every month, Gala Darling publishes a link roundup in a narrative form of what she’s been reading. Lounging in bed on lazy Friday mornings (when I was in college) or Sunday mornings (now that I’m a working lady), I open up the links Gala posts like presents on Chanukah evenings. I want to create a similar experience for my readers…with the added bonus of documenting these reading gems so I no longer have 17 tabs open on Google Chrome. So, without further adieu, thank you Gala for the inspiration. Here is a delightful (Central Park) link carousel of my own.

January has been another month of lots of reading…but this time, mostly reading on the go, which has been a pleasant change from December’s broken-legged stationary ways. Reading on the go has been aided largely by my (relatively new…at least in terms of use) Twitter account, Pinterest and The Skimm, my daily news email. The above image, created (also on the go) with the app Kanvas, has to do with a large fraction of the articles I mention in this Link Love column: articles from the New York Times Styles section, which I devoured like the ritual devouring the New York Times is when paired with tea and a couch one Saturday afternoon. Taking the time and spaciousness to read large portions of a newspaper…even on an iPad…has the potential to be a profound act of ritualizing life, something all us busy souls could use a bit more of in our days, weeks + months.

Well…here goes!

* Last weekend, I saw Selma, which broke my heart in dozens of ways. Here is what Common Dreams says you should know about the historical event…that feels all too current.

* Which made me think about Solutions Journalism and the importance of all of us – especially writers – to never stop imagining political possibilities (in fact, possibilities should be inherent in the word political).

* Glamour Magazine shares 7 ways to be happier right now and 5 signs of happy, healthy relationships.

* Now that I live in Portland, I really, really want to go to the World Domination Summit!

* The Left Brain Buddha shares 40 ways to bring mindfulness into your life!

* From my entire afternoon of devouring the NYT:

Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.

It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.

But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.

I’ve begun to think love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be.

We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.

Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

* Thank goodness Glamour recapped the Golden Globes because I was too busy watching the GIRLS premiere.

* Forbes’ 30 Under 30 came out…lovin the young people power. These young entrepreneurs started businesses like Bloglovin + The Toast.

* Remember when I wrote a novel in a month? NaNoWriMo calls what comes after the Now What months and here’s how to bump up that manuscript.

* My dear, dear friend and former roommate EmK is truly gifted at making GIFs of our most beloved president.

* Yes, January was the start of the New Year, but it was also the 15th anniversary of The Princess Diaries! And at this point, the Link Love column has got to know how much I adore Mia Thermopolis as a fabulous role model of a three-dimensional female character.

* Gala Darling’s Blogcademy went online!!! And I’ve been devouring the free videos on bettering blogs with style!

* Peppermint Mag interviewed Gala Darling on being a business babe + radical self-love.

* I really need to re-read this. Fellow Lotus Flow teacher, based in Austin, wrote this article about finding your focus as a yoga teacher.

* Speaking of Austin, they’re having a TV festival!

* My high school writing mentor and her hubby who’s also a YA author (if that wasn’t cute enough, they got married on the roof of Scholastic HQ) started a podcast: Writing in Real Life.

* This Is What A Yogi Looks Like tees!!! Can you say Wish List ten times fast?

* Right now, what a yogi looks like for me is being broken-legged and attending yoga classes anyway. That means I have to pay particular attention to my alignment and integrate physical therapy into my asana practice.

* Be You Media Group asks a yoga and Ayurveda teacher some intelligent questions.

* The Guardian brilliantly does an expose on exploitation in the wellness industry. A must-read for wellness professionals.

* BUST Magazine bows down to the last-living women of the 1800s. BUST has also been busy reviewing Tina Fey’s new Netflix show starring Ellie Kemper of The Mindy Project. BUST also interviewed the GIRLS girls on life, love + that amazing show of theirs.

* In looking to revive my thesis, I’m loving HuffPo’s thesis project.

* Brene Brown was interviewed on NPR’s On Being podcast on (you guessed it!) vulnerability.

* The monthly newsletter The Balance has a list of new PDX healthy food companies.

* Yet again, fellow FGSS major Ella rocked it with writing about writing the Other Love and safe sex in hookup culture and erotica.

* As an avid journaler, I am grateful to the NYT blog Well for advocating writing as a path to happiness.

* Gretchen Rubin explains happiness using the best literary example ever…Little Women!

It’s Meg’s wedding day, and she and Laurie start talking about drinking wine. Laurie explains, “I don’t care for it; but when a pretty girl offers it, one doesn’t like to refuse, you see.”

Meg answers, “But you will, for the sake of others, if not for your own. Come, Laurie, promise, and give me one more reason to call this the happiest day of my life.”

The Tapas of Radical Self-Care

This month at Unfold, the yoga therapy studio I teach at here in Portland our theme is tapas. Tapas is Sanskrit for the trifecta of heat, discipline and passion. When I think of tapas now, I think specifically about the tapas of self-care. For me, right now, tapas looks a lot different than it looked a few months ago. Now, tapas looks a lot less like one hundred chatarangas and a lot more like prioritizing physical therapy and doctor’s appointments above all else.

Self-care in and of itself is radical because it forces us to pause. Pausing is against most social norms (especially if you’re a born-and-raised New Yorker) and it holds us accountable for how we are of service to others. My excuse for not taking care of myself in the past was that I had to be of greater service – show up for other people before I could show up for myself. Going to PT first thing in the morning and bearing witness to students that tend to their yoga practice at sunrise during the 7:30am classes I teach reinforces a deep-down knowledge that too few of us access: self-care enables us to be of service, not the other way around. And if we do it right and truly gauge the kind and amount of discipline or heat we need in any given moment the tapas of self-care sets us up to be radical givers of care in the rest of our day.

The Injury

I did not think I would blog about this. When I think of myself on the internet, versus myself in reality, I tend to reserve the internet for expressing the broad positives of my life, as they would apply to others. I am wary of narcissism while blogging, of thinking that my life ultimately applies to everyone else’s. I am also an intensely private person…which is odd at times seeing as I am selectively private as well, sharing liberally about that which I deem can be public knowledge.

But enough jargon or preface. This post is about the decision I am making to share with you some private information.

Last Monday, I got hit by a car while biking home from the elementary school I am doing my AmeriCorps service at. I took a bike route I do not normally take and while I stayed in the bike lane the whole time, there was a dangerous intersection involved and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground in the middle of the street, police officers on one side, the fire department on the other and an ambulance pulling up within sight.

photo courtesy of saint amy, my roommate

photo courtesy of saint amy, my roommate

When I came to, I was a whole lot of emotions (as my sister and I say, all of the feels), but the sentiment that overwhelms me the most while going through a complicated trauma with an outcome that is challenging, but by far the best one possible is this:

I AM GRATEFUL.

I am grateful for years of chataranga. My recovery involves a lot of physical therapy. A lot of moving around on one leg on a walker and lifting my whole body up through isolating muscles. The doctors at the hospital assured me that I would’ve been there a whole lot longer had my arms – specifically my triceps – not been as strong. When I inform my physical and occupational therapists hat I am a yoga teacher, understanding dawns on their faces and I am grateful for the ways in which learning to move my able body has prepared me for these moments when my body is less able.

I am grateful for friends and housemates and the families we choose. This is an understatement. No matter how I write this gratitude, it will always be an understatement. I currently live with my best friend from college; we decided to move to Portland together to pursue our passions (me in education and her in architecture). She is my rock, my North Star, the person who reminds me of who I was the last four years, a touchstone for who I am now, in a new city, across the country, without the stability of a college identity and with all the adventure to forge an identity of my own. She is also my emergency contact and the person the police called as the paramedics wheeled me into the ambulance and shot me up with pain medicine. She was at the hospital before I arrived there, withstood the gore of my dislocated leg more than I did, and did not leave until our other housemate – another AmeriCorps member – arrived with a packed hospital bag and stayed the night. Both got less than three hours of sleep that night. Both were there the following morning as the surgical team prepped me for the operating room, holding each of my hands, as I braced myself (pun intended) to have a metal rod inserted inside my bone). When you live in a new city and the closest family is three hours away minimum, the families we choose become hOMe, the ones that are there for us in the most unconditional way possible. All these gratitudes lead me back to them, to you J and A. Thank you.

saints j & a keeping me company in the hospital

saints j & a keeping me company in the hospital

I am grateful for that packed hospital bag. Speaking of the amazing-ness of my housemates (my dad now prefaces their names with “Saint” every time I tell them a new act of kindness they perform), the hospital bag that A made for me included the following:

  • my spiritual gangster yoga top – In order to leave the hospital, I had to pass lots of “tests” for my physical and occupational therapists, to show that I could take care of my basic needs without putting weight on the injured leg. The first test was my “dressing test;” could I dress myself? A packed my Spiritual Gangster tank top, which made me feel at once sexy and strong. Putting that on after wearing a hospital gown for four days that made me feel anything but was nothing short of a sheer miracle. I felt the blood rush to my face again. I felt like myself. Empowered. Like I could do thisThis being recover from a traumatic incident, provide space and loving time and patience for my body to heal. It takes strength – it takes being a spiritual gangster – to ask for help, sometimes.
  • snacks – Not gonna lie, I was in a great Level One Trauma Center hospital where the food was actually delicious. But there is nothing like one’s own food…especially during a time when pain medicines are high and cravings are particular. She packed my favorites: Bear Naked granola protein packs. a NuGo Dark bar, roasted seaweed and much more goodness all in my Craft Coffee box from the subscription service’s last delivery, a good reminder of how much I love coffee during a time when the narcotics outweighed any desire for extra stimulants or depressants.
  • magazines
  • a book – Word to the wise: there is no better book to read while lying in a hospital bed than Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. First off, holding that book in my hands as I lay horizontal reminded me to say “yes, please” to the nurses repeatedly; when in pain, it can be all-too-easy to forget simple manners and positive etiquette, but never is there a more crucial time than when so many people team up on your behalf. I felt like myself when I was polite with my recovery team and like an unfamiliar person when my pain overshadowed my ability to be so. It also does not hurt to read a book by one of the best comedians and empowering feminists while lying in a hospital bed after surviving a trauma.

It was perfect.

I am also grateful for my family of originWhile my family I choose was there for me pre-op, my aunt and mother (from different sides of a divorced family, which, for some reason, makes my heart swell even more at the anesthetized memory) were there wiping my forehead and handing me water. They were there each time I woke up during a day of confused recurrent sleep. My mom was on the first flight out of New York City and my aunt started driving to PDX from Seattle at five in the morning.

I am grateful for nurses. I am also grateful for my surgical team, but it is easier to be grateful for the faces I saw often, the faces who comforted me and told me that everything was healing on the right timeline, the faces who had unbounded patience in the face of my impatience.

I am grateful for my job and life in Portland, for all the people I’ve met these short few months. Outside of my families of choice and origin, my supervisors were the first to visit me after surgery (literally the night after I was operated on). The amount of care and thoughtfulness and appreciation that my AmeriCorps service has offered me is truly amazing. I am beginning to think that they – my supervisors, my fellow AmeriCorps members, the parents and students I work with at the elementary school – are part of my families of choice as well.

I am grateful my broken leg and for my helmet. Thank you for breaking my fall. Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for giving me the chance to heal fully. Thank you for protecting my back and neck. Thank you thank you thank you.

When it comes down to it, I know that injuries are great teachers. I know that I am lucky. Years ago, before yoga, before embracing a lifestyle rich with spirituality, I would have reacted by getting caught up in my own victimization. Instead, as the I woke up from the anesthesia and loved ones came in one by one, I cried out of gratitude for my life. I am sure that this recovery process will be long and challenging. So I wanted to write this post as a reminder when I am still in the thick of the drama of it. A reminder to myself and to all those who have helped and are helping, thank you.