The Yoga Teach Recommends: How I Spent My 4th of July Weekend

I am rarely in the city on July 4th (and yes, I am one of those painfully self-aware obnoxious New Yorkers that refers to this one tiny city as the city). Yet this summer, I had so much travel planned before and after the holiday weekend that I knew I’d need to spend this holiday weekend at home…and it was just so fabulous! Walking around New York and simply living my life minus the massive crowds in the heinous humidity and work / giving myself the abundant permission to relax…it was just what I needed. I went in with very few solidified plans. It turned out that most of my friends were in town as well and equally excited to take advantage of the manageability of this usually chaotic urbanity. Being patriotic and therefore consuming media and doing activities that encourage critical thinking and deep questioning about the country we live in can – and, I think, should – be done all year round. Take what you like from this post and do it / consume it any time of year.

This Fourth of July weekend,

I ran…

The Rise Up 5K

I’d been training for this 5K for a few months now and am so humbled by and grateful for the process of steadily improving at something with a beginner’s mind (post on why I run forthcoming). I did it with my friend E and we accomplished our one goal: to run the whole way. As we exited Corona Park, we reflected on how great it felt to run for such a good cause (the proceeds / registration fees for the Rise Up 5K go to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Immigration Law Center, the Trevor Project, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. I can only assume that they’ll continue happening across the country and cannot recommend it enough (lots of people walked the whole way as well – it’s a 5K that’ll meet you where you’re at)!

I did yoga at…

Laughing Lotus and taught yoga at Harlem Yoga Studio.

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the lovely Laughing Lotus welcome area

I lounged in…

Central Park’s Great Lawn.

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I ate at…

Community Food & Juice (for that post-run brunchy brunch) and Sweetgreen. I love the summer seasonal menus at both of these spots!

 

I listened to…

This OnBeing episode on the power of telling all of US history, especially the parts white supremacist culture has tried to hide all these years. It blew my heart and mind wide open all at once.

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image by Titus Kaphar / Jack Shainman Gallery, via OnBeing.org

The Hamilton Mixtape. Not gonna lie. I was pretty hardcore about having this playing the entire Fourth of July. The Hamilton Mixtape takes history – a complicated, convoluted, amazing, and often deeply problematic set of narratives – and breathes life and power into it so that we can use a recognition of history on our own terms to understand how to shape the future. BTW, “Helpless” by Ja Rule and Ashanti is my absolute favorite.

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Civics 101 (Podcast). This podcast is amazing! In short (10-15-minute long) episodes, Civics 101 is a podcast from NPR that explains the roles of various jobs in the White House and essentially, how our government functions (both in its intended ways and in the inadvertent roles it takes on).

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How did you spend your Fourth of July weekend? What are the ways in which you stay civically engaged? … What’s your favorite song on the Hamilton Mixtape?!

written at moss cafe while sipping my very first matcha latte

15 Ways to Re-start the Day (after it has already begun)

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I don’t know about you, but there are days that just don’t go as planned…or that just don’t go well. I find it a lot harder to do a mental re-start at, say, 3pm, than at 7am, yet the need to re-start, rejuvenate, and recharge can be just as necessary when the day is halfway through.

Okay, I’ll get less abstract here. As you all know, I went to Indiana over my spring break to spend time with my guy. The morning we were going to do our day trip to Indianapolis to go to this fantastic brunch place, I overslept…by three hours. The people who know and love me best were so proud of me when I told them this; balancing work, graduate school, and a side hustle has left me with a fairly high strung and generally early schedule that makes sleeping in a challenge. However, I did not see my morning of necessary rest in this light (heck, I didn’t even see the rest as anything resembling a necessity). Instead, I woke up totally freaked out that I wouldn’t have time to do yoga before being in a car for an hour and a half. I had an icky feeling all day, was a tad reactive to certain situations, and deeply craved a more grounded and yogic perspective. It wasn’t long before I realized what I needed to do: start my day over! So, to spread the love of the starting the day over in the middle of the day practice, I am sharing this list of ways how here.

  1. SUN SALUTATIONS – While they are meant for the morning, doing them in the middle of the day is a phenomenal way to channel that morning fresh start energy. My yoga teacher suggestion is to do five rounds of Sun Salutation A. If you’re feeling ambitious, three rounds of Sun A and three rounds of Sun B work great as well!
  2. MAKE A CUPPA coffee or tea – Allow the ritual of the beverage to re-set your brain, heart, and mind. Make it a mindfulness practice as you sip the beverage peacefully and maybe catch up on blogs, the paper, or magazines as you do so.
  3. WASH YOUR FACE – Splash cold water over your face and apply face wash and moisturizer. Breathe deeply as you massage your cheeks. This is especially good if one of the reasons you need to restart your day is because you need a bit of a wake up!
  4. SET AN INTENTION – Write down an intention for the rest of the day. How do you want to act? How do you want to perceive yourself? How do you want others to perceive you?
  5. INVERT THE BODY – Go upside down! This can be a downward facing dog, shoulderstand, headstand, or handstand (it can even be legs up the wall!).
  6. MEDITATE – Set a timer for ten minutes. Put your hands on your lap. Press your feet into the floor beneath you. Close your eyes or focus on one point in front of you. Breathe deeply. Namaste.
  7. 10 DEEP BREATHS + PRATAYAHARA – Pratayahara is one of my favorite niyamas (abstentions) of the yoga practice. It means to shut out some / most of the senses as a way of drawing inward. It can be incredibly rejuvenating, especially after a long day with a lot of external stimulation.
  8. SEX – Speaking of stimulation…with yourself or someone else sometimes it provides just the reset.
  9. 1-MINUTE DANCE PARTY – Blast some Beyonce. Turn off the lights. Rock out.
  10. PHONE A FRIEND – This 75-year-long Harvard study says it all: connection is the most important contributor to happiness. Feeling connected can be as attainable as a call to a long distance bestie.
  11. JOURNAL – Write about why you need to re-start the day, and how you can go about doing it. You might be surprised by what comes up!
  12. TAKE A NAP – Literally go asleep and wake up anew. This is something that I tell my students when they emerge from savasana: to stretch out like they’re waking up first thing in the morning…even if it’s 7pm. Start fresh!
  13. TAKE A WALK IN NATURE – Go outside and breathe in some fresh air. Fresh air, plus the lateral motion required in walking can do wonderful things to simply re-set the brain.
  14. SING IN THE SHOWER – Just do it. You’ll thank me later.
  15. STRETCH – Forward fold. Roll up vertebrae by vertebrae. Lift your arms up in the air and flex the palms like you’re doing a handstand on the ceiling. Take a big breath in. Really, it can be that simple sometimes.

Travelogue: My Week in Indiana

2017 is and will continue to be a year of travel for me! You can expect plenty more posts like these, inspired by both domestic and international travel, and can see them all in sequence by using the hashtag #travelogue2017. While this blog began as a yoga blog and you can be sure – like any daily practice – I will feature a yoga studio or two per city, I am deeply grateful for a yoga practice that seems to fit into my life naturally without dominating all my travel. There are only a few cities in the world that boast yoga as a main attraction (i.e. Portland and San Francisco). So, sit back, relax, and get ready for some well-rounded travel writing!

Oh, Indiana! The hoosier state! On a long walk to Upland Brewery with my boyf who recently moved back to his hometown of Bloomington, we talked about the people we became friends with in college, and the geographic diversity that attending a small liberal arts school in the middle of Connecticut miraculously gave us. While I grew up in Manhattan, I can count on one hand the number of New Yorkers I befriended in college. Instead, I have friends all over the country (some all over the world!) and that has opened up a myriad of opportunities for travel. That, and being in a long-distance relashe, make getting on a plane a monthly occurrence!

Without further ado, here’s what we did, and what I recommend to do, in the hoosier state!

Bloomington

Laughing Planet + Soma

Our first stop my first day in Bloomington was a familiar one. Laughing Planet is one of those quirky chains (two words that can tend to feel like oxymorons) that exist in both Bloomington, Indiana and Portland, Oregon. Their burrito bowls are innovative yet somehow simple and delish. They can also, if desired, provide a welcome break from all the (ethical and sustainable) meat eating that B-town has to offer. One of the great things about Laughing Planet is that it’s housed right above Soma – this lovely and adorable coffee shop that I so wish was in my college town.

Busman’s Holiday

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On Thursday, we went to see a local band perform. The band is composed of two brothers and some other musicians that chime in for various other songs. Both bros have great voices, though one is the lead vocalist and the other drums on a suitcase! It didn’t take long to realize that most people in the crowd knew them personally. I quickly downloaded their music on Spotify and couldn’t recommend it more!

Upland Brewery

Portland and Bloomington have more in common than Laughing Planet. Something I’ve missed from my time away from the East Coast is brew culture. Breweries have a whole ethos to them that is hard to replicate. They are relaxed, easygoing, and have prioritize quality with all that they serve. We went to Upland my second night there, and then I made us return three days later because I loved the vibe so much. The beer, too, is above par (oh, and all of their meat is locally and sustainably sourced – environment for the win!).

Know Yoga Know Peace

I went to a $5 class (those are offered once per day) at this studio tucked into a street in downtown Bloomington. I’m a sucker for the integration of yoga philosophy into the asana practice without being too over the top and I’d say that this beautiful dimly-lit studio accomplishes that. It was a welcOMe break from the more fast-paced vinyasa flow that my New Yorker self has become accustomed to, and left me feeling like I had breathed deeply which at the end of the day is the marker of a meaningful practice.

Hopscotch

The one coffee shop besides Soma that I passed through was Hopscotch (a walk away from Know Yoga Know Peace). This Café had a way more hipster-y vibe. I got a turmeric latte with espresso and was able to sit outside with a copy of the New York Times, which was lovely. Inside was a hub of laptops, working students and professionals.

Indianapolis

Milk Tooth

Usually, I tend to not feel like a foodie. Going to Milk Tooth, however, and the sheer enthusiasm I felt before, during, and after that meal, definitely made me cross over into foodie territory. We may or may not have planned this whole trip to Indianapolis to be able to go to this acclaimed restaurant on a weekday so that there wouldn’t be a weekend brunch rush. If we did…it was totally worth it. The layout of this restaurant was kind of tent-ish (there were no walls facing the outside seating area), allowing for tons of natural light to pour in on that sunny day. The silverware and napkins on each table was stored in Café Dumonde tins (way to my heart!).I ordered a blueberry buckwheat scone, chickpea frisée salad, and root vegetable latke. N ordered an escargot tartine and carrot cake waffle. We feasted!

Record Store

With full bellies and doggie bags, we walked along Mass Avenue to check out Indy. We came across a fantastic record store (that also had a cafe inside!). We perused and N even managed to find a few $3 ones to buy and play on his legit unreal custom-made speakers that we used for more than one dance party of two.

Columbus

Miller House Architectural Tour

We also took a day trip to Columbus, Indiana. Full disclosure of my New Yorker self here: I didn’t know Columbus, Indiana was a place. I am learning that the point of travel is to broaden horizons and to de-center the places we know to be home. This can only happen when bubbles get popped. It is a shame I didn’t know about Columbus, Indiana beforehand because dang, is it awesome! We went on an architectural tour of the Miller House, which is owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. From the website:

In 2000, the Miller House became the first National Historic Landmark to receive its designation while one of its designers, Dan Kiley, was still living and while still occupied by its original owners. The house showcases the work of leading 20th-century architects and designers: Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard, and Dan Kiley.

What I particularly loved about the house was the conversation pit and Finnish suite-style minimalist bedroom – common area design. I was fascinated from start to finish and could not recommend this tour more as a way to gain context for so many architectural designs we take for granted today.

Anyways, that’s the story of this New Yorker’s time in the Midwest. So grateful for this trip, and all the discoveries along the way!

How to Host Galentines

Last night, my roommates and I hosted a Galentines dinner…for ourselves.

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Leslie Knope (a.k.a. Amy Poehler on Parks & Rec) defines Galentine’s Day,

Basically, it’s like Valentine’s Day, only instead of celebrating the love you have for your significant other, you spend it with your best girlfriends, who are after all your soul mates, and therefore deserve a holiday all to themselves, too. Leslie chooses to observe the day of lady love with brunch (her other true love), but you can kick it back lady-style however you want. Since the episode aired in 2010, it’s become just as big a deal as its Valentine’s Day counterpart. Ovaries before brovaries, you know? – Bustle

It served as a truly lovely opportunity to celebrate one another, cook some delicious food, and engage in fantastic conversation. Connection is so deeply important in our world today – as is the celebration of fellow women. It’s not just important; it’s healing. So, I would love to use this blog as an opportunity to show you how to #treatyoself to a Galentines Day for you and your lady friends!

How to Host Galentines 

  1. Decide on a day + time. This is the biggest challenge. I live with three other graduate students. We all have various interests and commitments, and finding a day that worked for all of us took several tries.It doesn’t have to be the traditional February 13th; choose a day in February that works to you to reclaim February as a month of women supporting women! Once you decide on it, write it and sticker it into that beautiful planner of yours!
  2. Discuss a menuWhile watching The Bachelor last week, we discussed who was going to make what. One roommate made cocktails (rose slushies and red wine hot chocolate – haaay!), two roommates made the main course (cauliflower spinach mac and 4 cheeses and roasted asparagus), and I made dessert (candied rose and pistacio brownies). It’s important to divide up the kitchen based on when everything needs to be made.Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 8.48.11 PM.png
  3. Pick a playlist. I chose Spotify’s Bridget Jones Jams because Bridget Jones screams Galentines to me almost as much as Leslie Knope (yay to imperfectly perfect heroines!).
  4. Discuss what you want to discuss. I so appreciated the discussions leading up to Valentines Day about what we would talk about: what we can do to better the world, how we’re spreading activism in our own communities, encouraging girls to be kinder to one another; make it intentional!
  5. Dig in and enjoy the company!

written while watching the bachelor

15 Mindful Ways to Unwind After a Long Week

While this week has not been a long one by any means (I had Monday and Tuesday off for Rosh Hashanah), last week was. It was such a long week that on Saturday afternoon, after getting what I thought was a full night’s sleep the night before (hint: when you’re making up for a week’s worth of lost sleep, one eight-hour doze doesn’t cut it), I crashed, and I crashed hard. I crashed so hard that I had to call a friend to simply tell me to wash my face and brush my teeth as a way of pressing re-start at 7pm.

Which brings me to this post. Trust me – I know how to “unwind.” I have a whole repertoire of old habits that used to relax me. They involved sweets, popcorn, and binge-watching TV. But over the past eight years of seriously practicing yoga and other forms of mindfulness, I’ve realized that these aren’t actually ways to unwind. They are ways to check out. (Not that I don’t love some good TV time with popcorn and a glass of wine once in a while, but now I know that I can do this mindfully, in a planned and joyful way.)

Unwinding, however, should be part of life, not an escape from it. I am so grateful to build a repertoire of strategies that honestly allow me to unwind after a long week. I’m balancing work, grad school, and the rest of life; long weeks are just a fact sometimes. This repertoire is slowly, but surely outgrowing my old checking-out one, and here are the strategies I have to share with you.

  1. Take a Friday afternoon nap.
  2. Take a bubble bath. Lotion up after. Take in the scents.
  3. Wash your face.
  4. Brush your teeth.
  5. Go to an amazing yoga class.
  6. Do a half hour of a hOMe yoga practice.
  7. Sit on a block or cushion and meditate for five minutes.
  8. Go on a date to a nourishing restaurant.
  9. See a movie with friends. Savor the company.
  10. Do a handstand (or down dog, or child’s pose).
  11. Journal about how the week went.
  12. Have a dance party in your room, alone or in the company of others (these impromptu end-of-week dance parties are one of my favorite parts of my romantic relationship; playfulness is so important!).
  13. Check in a spin class. Let it feel like a night club on wheels.
  14. Spend time with family. Let yourself be taken care of.
  15. Organize your own tea time with a lil treat + cup of tea.

Deep breaths. Let go. Unwind.

Namaste,

Shira

 

10 Ways to Work in a Relaxed Way

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Illustration cred goes to Julia Drachman, from the book Yoga U: The College Student’s Tools for Balanced Living.

Hello from Florida, where I am taking a break from my NYC overwhelm to celebrate my grandma’s 94th birthday. That said, I came with a backpack full of work. (And the backpack is my latest obsession that I purchased last week to aid in my grad school + work + yoga triple life: a STATE bag.)

From now until June 17, it feels like I have an inordinate amount of things to accomplish (report cards, promo for my yoga workshops, graduate school summer session, the list goes on!). I wanted to use this three-day weekend to get ahead on these important tasks, or at least to feel less like I was drowning in them.

So…during my Uber ride en route to the airport, I set an intention: “I intend to use this weekend to work in a relaxed way.” This feels fairly revolutionary to me; I am used to working under deadlines, with stressed-out coworkers, in cluttered offices, all while feeling like, no matter how much I try to work, the hum and buzz of the city I love so much seems to distract me.

My intention has ended up in this list, for your enjoyment, and calm work habits. Without further ado, here are 10 ways to work in a relaxed way!

  1. Bring your laptop to the nail salon and write, write, write while your toes get polished, polished, polished.
  2. Take readings to the pool so that you can lounge back and contemplate those important texts.
  3. Use exercise as a way to contemplate your work. Go for a run with the intention of, for example, thinking up a blurb for that next workshop.
  4. Do mindless tasks that still allow you to cross a lot off that to-do list while watching TV.
  5. Chunk It Up. Make a list of small tasks you need to get done…maybe the ones you dread doing, and then, after accomplishing each one, treat yourself to doing something super fun!
  6. Listen to music while you work.
  7. Make your work fashionable. Find brands that you love to tote your work in. I personally love Poppin office supplies, and looking at them makes me excited to do my work (I judge a book by its cover!).
  8. Stay inspired. Similar to “chunk it up,” after accomplishing each task, read a piece of what I like to call “professional development literature” by people you admire to inspire you to do more.
  9. Go to a coffeeshop. Order a latte, or a drink of your choice, savor it, and get inspired by those working around you in their own relaxed ways.
  10. Pair work with another activity. In Better than Before, my favorite tip from Gretchen Rubin was to pair habits together. For example, pair coffeeshop work an exercise class, so that you know that one signals the other. This makes you feel like you have a fuller life, which in turn translates into happier work time!

FridayING: EuroTrip Edition

Believe it or not, this post is yet another part of my EuroTrip 2016 series on the blog. I have quite a few weeks to catch up on with this FridayING and, when I was in Europe, I found myself gravitating to all that was European when it comes to reading, writing, and watching. So here goes…a lot’s there because…I HEART vacation!

readING

listenING

watchING

teachING

  • At the moment, I am planning a memoir unit that I am so excited about! As a result, I am using a Rethinking Schools article for inspiration.
  • I also just wrote a paper about developing student confidence when learning to read, which I would like to think of as a reflection on my own teaching. For inspiration, I used a video from Earl Boyles.

Written from Filtered Coffee in Hamilton Heights.

Friday-ING Week of March 1

From last week’s column: About a year ago, I attempted to do a monthly “Link Love” column on the blog. It worked for a while until it got a bit too daunting. Instead, I am moving to a weekly format at Growing Up On OM to share all that I am readING, writING, listenING to, watchING, and teachING. It is my hope that this will help me document these things not only for my own reference, but as a source for constant entertainment and inspiration for all the readers of the blog. So here goes: my second FridayING post. Enjoy!

readING

listenING

  • The Romemu Now Podcast for some spiritual juice this morning.
  • Indigo Girls

watchING

  • GIRLS (So, so good! I am beyond happy that it is back on!)

teachING

  • It’s chakra / energy wheels month at Harlem Yoga Studio and I’ve been joyfully prepping for my yoga class at 5:45pm tomorrow on the first and seventh chakras!
  • Penguins via Scholastic News + global warming.

 

 

Give Every Day a Soundtrack: 5 Simple Steps

Pretend your life is a movie. (Stay with me here.) Everything, from what you wear in the morning to the restaurants you choose for dinner with friends, is chosen with intention, precision, and integrity. Now, close your eyes, open your ears, and imagine what music plays in the background for each part of your day to reflect the multiple intentions each day possesses. Done with that silent meditation? Good! Now, open up Spotify, iTunes or whatever playlist-making software you like and let’s get to business!

1. Look at the day ahead. What do you have going on? What is the “theme” of your day? Romance? Love songs. Lots of work? “Hard Day’s Night” and “Long Day” are good ones to choose from.

2. Think of the mood (in Sanskrit, this is called the bhava) you want to cultivate. Happiness? Mellow? Calm? Energized? Productive? Choose music with beats and tempos that match those moods best.

3. Who is in your day? Family? Friends? Lovers? What songs remind you of them?

4. Sequence the toons based on times of day: slower as you wake up, faster as you prepare for the day, even faster as you power through that mid-afternoon slump, and mellow before bed. But you know where your energy lies at different parts of the day best…so follow that!

5. If you’re feeling super savvy, create the playlist on Spotify and power up/pranify (energize) your practice with it for the rest of the day.