Literary London Travel Guide

As you all will have recalled (because I expect you to memorize everything I write on this blog goshdarnit! — JK.), I set intentions for each leg of my travels this summer. My intention for England was to explore literature, as I was there to do a creative writing programme at the University of Cambridge. My three days in London allowed me to make the switch from writing to reading (to do a literary refuel if you will) by visiting copious amounts of bookstores and literary monuments…in other words, this is a post about why London is an English major’s heaven.

Daunt Books

Daunt Books is organized by country, which is insanely cool. I love a well-organized bookstore!

Persephone Books

Persephone Books is a publishing company with a storefront that sells books by Twentieth Century women writers. Their storefront also has an adorable section entitled “Books We Wish We Published.” (A feminist literary must!)

The NYC Summer (Sand) Bucket List

As I write this, sitting at the airport about to board a flight to Nantucket for one of many getaways this summer, I semi-ironically decided to write a post about the city I tend to leave so often these hot few months. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love New York with all my heart. I was born in Manhattan, raised in Manhattan, left to Connecticut for College, and then to Portland for AmeriCorps, and then I returned to the city that birthed me. I return, again and again, because wherever I go, I am a New Yorker through and through. I’ve been a New Yorker in Oregon, in California, in Cuba, in Florida, and all over the globe really. And while staying in NYC 24/7 is definitely unsustainable for me (hence the frequent getaways), there is so much the city that never sleeps has to offer…especially in the summer!

Here are my recommendations for what to do during a summer in NYC (all tried and true, I promise!).

Shakespeare in the Park

 

I miss the days of camping out in Central Park, getting kicked out when the park would close, and then ushered (pun intended) back into the outskirts of the Great Lawn. Shakespeare in the Park is one of my absolute favorite initiatives in NYC. Put on by the Public Theater and held at the Delacorte Theater smack dab in the middle of Central Park, the whole experience from waiting in line for hours for those FREE tickets to seeing the show itself is so, so special and worth it. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is headed into its third week!

Outdoor Yoga

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There are quite a few options for this one and I’ll list all of them below. All have rotating teachers. Click the links to find out more. Oh, and all except the Laughing Lotus one are fo free!

Smorgasburg

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Smorgasburg is this former Portlander’s dream. Series of the most gourmet and hipster food trucks line up in both Prospect Park and Williamsburg. There are plenty of picnic tables and small bites to enable trying out a wide variety of yummy-ness.

Wanderlust 108

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I ran the 5K and did the meditation + yoga in this mindful triathlon almost two years ago and it was such a highlight! Find out more by reading a former post here. It’s coming up in the beginning of September.

The Rockaways

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photo via nycgovparks.org

My mantra for beaching it up in the Rockaways is as follows: TAKE THE A TRAIN! Last summer, I seem to have forgotten that I am in fact a New Yorker and let the boyf drive and finding parking was one of the most miserable beach experiences of our lives. If you go, suck it up and take the A to the depths of Queens. Get off. Walk a few blocks to the boardwalk. Grab arepas and taro fries (a must!) at Caracas. Then, find a spot on the crowded beach and soak up the sensory overload…and the sun.

The First Day of Summer + International Day of Yoga

I started off the longest day of the year extending my waking hours even further by waking up at 5:39am to catch a flight to Indianapolis. While I was productive on my flight, I was productive with a purpose: I did the work I needed to do (and which I fully enjoy) so that I could take some time off during this vacation, and return recharged. This is only too appropriate as I intend for this to be the theme of my whole summer. I want to be disciplined Monday through Friday during the times that I am in my home city so that on weekends and during my whole month of August in Europe (Eeeeeeeee! – More on that later!), I can gallavant, rejuvenate, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Today is also International Yoga Day and I am grateful for the reminders I’ve gotten on Instagram (I’m having a wee bit of FOMO concerning not being at Yoga in Times Square, but ya can’t be everywhere at once). Those Instagram reminders are what reminded me just now to do some sun salutations, which should be my go-to after being on a plane, but somehow isn’t always. I did some sun salutations, truly felt the spirit of summer in my bones – in my joints – and am now settling down to tell you, dear readers, my summer plans.

These plans that I am about to share are not concrete ones – there will be a variety of separate blog posts for that, including transforming this site into a travel blog for the month of August! Instead, the plans I would like to share now are broad; they’re more intentions – things that I would like to do – simple pleasures to invite in – that will bring about (I hope!) the feelings of summer: joy, ease, rest, and warmth. This summer, I would like to…

  • Say YES to the beach, and more! A few years ago, I read Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (oh, hay, Scandal). At the time, I had to dismiss some of her methods; it was impossible – working two jobs and attending graduate school – to make “yes” my default answer; in fact, I had to say no more. But this summer, I want to take advantage of the opportunities that arise when saying “yes” more often, especially when those opportunities involve going to the beach!
  • Go to the Farmer’s Market weekly. I want to start shopping at the farmer’s market. I love the Union Square Green Market, and the farmer’s market near Columbia, but I’m definitely open to trying some more out.
  • Walk the city. For obvious reasons, I walk so much more in the summer than I do any other season. This summer, in the United States and when I go abroad, I want to fully embrace flaneuserie.
  • Relish in yoga clothes. Whenever I can this summer, I intend to be either in a swim suit, sun dress, or yoga clothes (I want the latter to be the majority of my summer wardrobe). I want to develop a chic yoga clothes look, and take care in my appearance, which can be hard to do in sweaty New York, but can be an invaluable way to start the day off with positive self-esteem. But most importantly, I intend to be in yoga clothes because I intend to be doing more yoga and teaching more yoga (I already have!).
  • Enjoy time with friends. Time to pop the rose with good company, y’all!

Now tell me, what are your summer plans that are more like intentions?

About Yoga U: DIY Home Yoga Practice E-Course

The following post is part of a countdown series leading up to the release of my first e-course (!!!), which comes out on Friday, July 15th. You can pre-register here with a special discount rate using the code LIVELEARNER for taking the course LIVE. This excerpt comes straight out of the syllabus!

Ultimately, a home yoga practice is about your ability to personalize something general in a way that works for you. When I start off the in-person yoga classes I teach at Harlem Yoga Studio, I begin by saying, “Everything I teach is a suggestion.” You know your body, heart, + intention best. Use that knowledge to make this course work for you.

Speaking of the framework, this course is designed in a specific way so that you can take it at your own pace if you’d like, but, if you’re anything like me and thrive on structure, you can also move through it in a manageable week-by-week way. Here is what you can expect:

  • Two lessons per week (except for Week Three, where there will be 3 lessons that all go together) that include a variety of video, audio, written, and visual content. You should be able to complete each lesson (minus the hOMework) in one sitting during the span of 30 minutes or less. For example, you might choose to complete one lesson on a Tuesday and another on a Thursday. Or, if you plan to use weekends to take this course, you might want to do one lesson on Saturday and another on Sunday.
  • Look for the hOMework at the end of each lesson for you to complete in between lessons. The hOMework will often pair a prompt for a yoga practice that you will actually do on the mat with a reflection worksheet or journaling prompt.

What are you waiting for? Register for the e-course here. The discount code for registering by July 15th is LIVELEARNER.

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!

Summer Online Yoga School: A Preview

In the midst of the sheer bummer of a month that is February (i.e. the ultimate threshold between a post-holidays winter and the newness of spring), I cannot help but feel extremely excited for summer. Recently, I decided to do something I’ve never done before (at least in recent memory). I decided to forgo overworking myself this summer. At least, I decided to not overwork myself for anyone but myself. So, I am blissfully anticipating a summer of travel, yoga, yoga teaching, graduate school, and adorable cafes.

Summer for a school teacher + yoga teacher feels like the perfect time to pursue my own projects…musings that come to me on the 1 train first thing in the morning that I jot down in a journal but forget as soon as the work day begins. There are two offerings that have been a long time brewing that I am very excited to bring to the interwebs world this summer: one for educators, and one for anyone. They both have one thing in common: YOGA.

Here are some quick elevator-pitch previews of these two courses. And that’s exactly what they are: elevator pitches. These courses haven’t been even close to finalized yet so if there’s anything YOU would like to see in either of them, please say so by commenting on this post.

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 E-Course Offering #1: Yoga U Summer School DIY Home Practice

Have you ever wanted to lead your own yoga practice…from the comfort of your own home…but just didn’t feel knowledgeable enough? Are you a bit mystified by all the knowledge your yoga teacher seems to know about how to sequence a practice that feels complete? Over 8 weeks, this course will explore through video, audio, writing, journaling, and outside resources, what your ideal and – more importantly – sustainable home practice looks like. We’ll break down the fundamentals of sequencing, anatomy, music choice, and inspiration. You’ll leave this course with oodles of resources to use over and over again, as well as with a full set of knowledge to feel comfortable practicing yoga on your own…wherever in the world you are!

 E-Course Offering #2: Yoga for Educators

Do you want to use mindfulness to create a more present classroom for you and for your students? Are you interested in learning manageable techniques for practicing self-care to help you better serve others? The Yoga for Educator e-course introduces the wide-reaching practices of yoga in ways that make sense for educators: society’s day-to-day warriors. This e-course is designed to empower educators with self-care tools for themselves and professional development tools on mindfulness in the classroom.

Like I said, I’m extremely excited for summer. These two offerings have been a long time coming, and they are still in the works. I look forward to hearing your feedback!

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.

Solstice in Times Square with Ali Cramer. Take the streamed class here!

Happy Solstice!

Namaste as Growing Up On OM officially welcomes you to summer!

Today was the Summer Solstice – the first official day of summer (although, I don’t know about you, but I feel like summer started a while ago). The first day of summer comes simultaneously as a relief (Yay! There is time still!) and a sign that it’s time to put the pressure on those intentions for new beginnings. As a yoga teacher, the Solstice – especially in NYC – feels even more salient than a national holiday; it’s the yogi’s international holiday!

The following is how I spent the longest day of the year.

Read the rest on WordPress!

Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice!

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Image via naturefriendsla.org

Namaste as Growing Up On OM officially welcomes you to summer!

Today was the Summer Solstice – the first official day of summer (although, I don’t know about you, but I feel like summer started a while ago). The first day of summer comes simultaneously as a relief (Yay! There is time still!) and a sign that it’s time to put the pressure on those intentions for new beginnings. As a yoga teacher, the Solstice – especially in NYC – feels even more salient than a national holiday; it’s the yogi’s international holiday!

The following is how I spent the longest day of the year.

6am Wake up to Sun Salutations.

8:30am Open up Harlem Yoga Studio for Solstice-celebrating yogis.

9am Teach a Vinyasa yoga class set to the tune of summer beats and reconnecting with our breath as a means of reconnecting with the body’s natural rhythms.

1pm Take a yoga class at my beloved Laughing Lotus set to the tune of French music (to celebrate the World Cup) and listen to teachers in the lobby chat about how easy it is to teach during the Solstice (a built-in theme!). I also purchased a “Pitta-pacifying” t-shirt a la Ali’s request so that I wouldn’t kindle that Times Square fiery personality while giving hands-on assists.

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6:45pm Prep and glitter everyone up in the middle of Times Square for Sri Ali Cramer’s Solstice Yoga class.

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8pm Provide hands-on assists to hundreds of bodies during the most inspiring assisting mOMent of my life.

I would like to close this longest day of the year by re-reading the quote that I read as my students transitioned out of savasana this morning, by Sara Avant-Stover, author of The Way of the Happy Woman (this was not-so-coincidentally also the book Ali had us read for Ayurveda training…and it all comes full circle):

Bare feet, watermelon, sunburns, and sipping Chardonnay on the deck under the stars: all reflect summer’s freedom, joy, and playfulness. On June 21 in the northern hemisphere (and on December 21 in the southern), the summer solstice burns brightly as the longest day of the year — so bright that in northern lands such as Alaska and Scandinavia, the sun never even sets that evening. From this point onward, the sun’s yang energy slowly wanes, as do the daylight hours, until we reach the darkest point in the yearly spectrum, the winter solstice. The impermanence of this bright day signifies the earth’s biggest inhalation of the year and reminds us to celebrate and relish all of life ’s pleasures by drinking them into every cell of our bodies.

Just as a child savors each day of her summer vacation, counting down the days until her return to school, we also must become more present and more attuned to the warmth, colorfulness, fecundity, and juiciness of this season through even the simplest of pleasures. It’s time to partake in nature ’s flourishing and to celebrate all the ways in which our lives are blossoming too.

Namaste and may your Summer flourish and bloom,

Shira