What I Learned from Doing a Handstand Every Day for a Year

365 days
365 handstands (one each day)
365 pictures of yourself in handstand
tyedye

Just over 365 days ago, I started noticing a buzzing on Facebook from several Forrest Yogis taking pictures of themselves in handstands. The Forrest Yoga Handstand 365 (#fyhandstand365) challenge was presented. Your mission if you choose to accept it: Do a handstand every day for a year and take a picture of yourself in the handstand.

This caught my attention for a few reasons. For starters, I tend to be an intensity junkie, and a very stubborn person who doesn’t like the idea of backing down when challenge is thrown down. Plus I liked the idea of committing myself to do yoga every day – even if it is only a single pose.

Now handstand has always been my nemesis. I’ve worked on this pose for years, taking handstand workshops, trying different techniques, and falling endlessly. Despite all my efforts, I still couldn’t balance for more than a few seconds by the wall, much less balancing in the center of the room. It’s been infinitely frustrating to me that even though I can do many advanced yoga poses, I can’t seem to master handstand. Did I really want to voluntarily do this pose – a pose that brings up frustration and self-deprecation – every single day? For a year? And don’t even get me started on the picture part. But I also know what Ana Forrest says : “Never waste a trigger”.

I brought up the challenge to my friend Abbie, who’d also noticed the handstand Facebook action. “I’m kinda thinking of doing it”, I said. “Me too”, she said. “Do we want to do this?”

Later that day, Abbie sent me a picture of herself in handstand. “Day 1”, read the caption. It was on. I posted my first handstand picture that night.

And 364 more of them. One every day.

I didn’t really think the challenge would be much more than practicing handstand, and hopefully balancing by the end of the year. To my surprise, the challenge went way beyond the physical challenge. I learned a tremendous number of life lessons in the process, most of them completely unexpected.

Top 10 Things I Learned from Doing a Handstand Every Day for a Year

10. I am capable of making a commitment and sticking to doing it every day.

I could list all of the things I’ve told myself I should really do every day: yoga; meditating; writing in a journal, and the list goes on of things I’ve vowed to do every day. While I’ve had spurts of consistency with these resolutions, none of them ever became long-lasting habits. The fact that I committed to and did a handstand every single day proved to myself that I am capable of being consistent with a new behavior on a daily basis.

9. How to confront self-consciousness

I hate having my picture taken especially in a yoga pose. I’ve resisted having any yoga pictures taken of me, as many yoga teachers will do. I knew they’d never look anything remotely resembling the beautiful yoga shots I’d seen of others. What I liked about yoga was how much I didn’t think of how I looked while practicing, but rather, how good it made me feel. I worried that having to see my imperfections displayed on camera would ruin that experience.

Well, taking my picture every day wasn’t easy. I was extremely self-critical, insisting that my husband take another picture, or scrutinizing my pose in the mirror first. I compared my pictures to the other people doing the challenge. I cringed at how I looked in many of them.

But you know what? It stopped being as big of a deal. It was just something I did every day and I stopped caring as much. And I actually found that I liked some of the pictures. “Wow, that’s what I look like,” I thought. I even conceded that I did some impressive stuff in many of these pictures – the results of many years of practice.

8. With 365 handstands to do, you can get pretty creative.

The fun part of the challenge was it brought out my creative side. Finding a unique variation or location, or funny pose became a new challenge. I was always on the lookout for new places for my handstand of the day, or brainstorming ideas for the future. I went through themes: putting my legs in the shape of letters, using appropriate song lyrics as picture captions, and different colors. Connecting to my creativity and having a sense of humor in the process also helped get me out of my self-consciousness over having my picture taken.

7. I have more support than I realized.

I thought posting a picture of myself in a handstand every day would result in a lot less Facebook friends. What I didn’t anticipate was how supportive my friends on Facebook would be. Every day I’d get encouraging comments on my photos. Sometimes people would add a funny remark or let me know when they particularly liked a certain picture. It brought me together virtually with a lot of people, including many I don’t get to see that often. I don’t know if I could’ve done it without their encouragement. It was their support that gave touched my heart, gave me a laugh, and motivated me to find something fun to post for the next day.

Best of all was sometimes other people got in on the action! There were many guest stars in the handstand photos, with others also doing handstand or just involved behind the camera or suggesting an idea for the day’s handstand.

6. My challenge was inspiring to others.
In social situations throughout the year, it was common to have someone come up to me and ask me how the handstands were going. I’d forget how many people would actually see these on Facebook. “Wow, it’s really impressive”, several people told me. I’d blush and thank them, but thinking to myself, “I still can’t even balance in the pose. I’m supposed to be a yoga teacher. It’s really not impressive.”

But the kicker was when someone said: “You’re really an inspiration.” Now I really had a hard time letting that one sink in. Of all the things I’d describe myself as, inspirational would not be one of them. So it was a big step for me to take in that the discipline of doing something that was challenging for me every single day was inspiring. It wasn’t the handstands themselves, but the dedication and perseverance behind them. And me, yes, awkward me, was able to be an inspiration.

5. Doing a challenge with a partner keeps you accountable.

I definitely could not have done this challenge without my friend Abbie. We relied on each other for moral – and sometimes physical-support throughout our handstand endeavors. We’d frequently text back and forth: “Wait till you see my picture from today.” “This is really getting old.” “I have an idea for a handstand we can do today.” “Why did we decide to do this again?”

I knew that Abbie wasn’t going to give up before day 365, and that helped keep me on track not to give up either. There was no way I was letting down my handstand partner.

4. Getting over being perfect
The trap of being creative was then feeling like every single day my handstand needed to be interesting and creative. I learned to make peace with myself that not every day had to be an A+, inventive handstand. It was ok to have times where my handstand was just that – a handstand, nothing exciting. I noticed myself being gentler with myself in other aspects of my life. For example, I stopped getting as down on myself when one of my classes didn’t go over as well as I’d hoped. I realized that not every yoga class I taught was going to be the most amazing class. Sometimes the energy of a class is different or I’m not feeling as effective in my teaching, but then there are those classes where everything jives well and it’s a particularly amazing experience. Just like my handstand challenge, my responsibility is to show up, do my best, and always work to improve and enhance my skills.

3. I don’t have to like something to do it every day.
Some days I felt inspired and handstands were fun. Other days it was a big drag. Some days I’d have a great idea of a handstand and it worked out well. Other days it was 10:30pm, and I grudgingly dragged myself to the wall at my house to get the day’s handstand done.

2. The year took me to a lot of interesting places.
My year of handstands ended up being a record book of sorts of my experiences throughout the year, from travel to outings with friends. Locales of my handstands included: a fountain in Poland; an elephant sanctuary in Thailand; on first base at San Francisco Giants’ stadium, and at the bottom of a volcano in Mt. Lassen.

1. Day 365 brought a huge tide of emotions.
Abbie and I decided that Day 365 needed to be epic. We headed out to a scenic vista in Berkeley, California at sunrise, along with our talented photographer friend, Scott Fin, and my husband (himself a wonderful photographer and the man behind the camera for many of my handstand pictures. Out came yoga mats, tiaras, leg warmers, tutus, and champagne. We were giddy with laughter as we posed in the cold, raised a toast, celebrating the culmination of our year of hard work. It was the most amazing high, where I vacillated from tears to absolute elation. Looking over Scott’s pictures brought such joy and gratitude to my heart. We did it – and we did it together!

 

Comedy vs Yoga Part 2: The Rematch

Sean KeaneWith a comedian for a brother, I see quite a bit of stand-up and it often reminds me of yoga teaching. As I’ve written before, yoga and comedy have a lot in common. In honor of my brother, (Sean Keane or @LLCoolS as he’s known on Twitter), and because it is his birthday, I thought it was time for another point-by-point comparison of comedy and yoga teaching.

Moving to L.A.
Comedy: At a certain point in your career, you have to move there (or New York) to move up to the next level. In fact, after Sean won his Goldie and won KQED fame, there was really no place else to go but to the city of angels. That’s where the opportunities are. That’s also where other people looking for opportunities are.
Yoga: Ok, you don’t have to move to L.A. to teach yoga, but you do have to if you want to be Madonna or Sting and Trudie’s yoga instructor. And should you want to do a Bikram Yoga training, you’ll have to at least live there temporarily and shell out around $15,000 for your certification.
Edge: Comedy

Working the room
Comedy: Right away, you have to assess the crowd, and be on your toes to draw them in and get them laughing in the time you have. Sometimes it means adjusting your material accordingly. Are they drunk enough to laugh at anything? Do you scrap the new material for an easy laugh? Or is it that “on” night where the crowd is with you the whole set?
Yoga: When you begin the class, you have to gauge the ability – and energy – levels of who is in the class. This often means throwing away any class plan you had when five newcomers and several people with major injuries show up. It might mean throwing in a new arm balance when you’ve got the bendy brigade there and eager for more. Like comedy, those “on” classes are the ones that remind you of why you keep teaching.
Edge: Draw

Physical condition of the crowd
Comedy: Varying degrees of inebriation
Yoga: Varying degrees of injuries
Edge: Comedy. Alcoholic impairment usually enhances performance and there’s less counter-indications with comedy.

Dealing with problematic venue logistics
Comedy: Sometimes it’s poor sound quality or odd lighting. Other times there’s a poorly thought out stage set-up in a venue not necessarily designed for comedy shows. You hope these happen the nights where no video is being recording and Dave Chappelle doesn’t drop by.
Yoga: Lack of climate control, lack of props, lack of cleaning, and lack of any kind of soundproofing are among the most common shortcomings. That’s when you hope people brought layers, their own mats, and good natured tolerance.
Edge: Yoga. You can always make theme of the class: “Dealing with unfortunate circumstances.”

Stuff you say every time
Comedy: Tip your bar and waitstaff! Keep it going for all the comics you’ve heard tonight!
Yoga: Breathe! Keep it going!
Edge: Comedy. It’s shockingly hard to keep your breath going.

Training
Comedy: You get better by getting up there on stage every night. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more confident you get. Good comedians go about daily life with an observational ear for what might make a new comedic bit for the stage.
Yoga: You get better by getting up there in front of the class week after week. The more you practice physical adjustments, the easier it gets. Yoga teachers go about other yoga classes with a teaching mind always looking out for new techniques and teaching approaches.
Edge: Comedy, if you’re Sean. After all, Sean’s been practicing since his early years as both actor, director, and co-producer of our living room Christmas Eve plays we put on as kids. Many years, many notebooks of jokes, and many stage appearances later, he’s come a long way. And I’m pretty damn proud of him. Happy Birthday Brother Sean!

seankeane

Life Lessons in Hair Pulling & Day 2!

Pulling-your-hair-out-girlOne early morning in Ana Forrest’s recent intensives, Ana related a story about a young girl, the daughter of a friend of hers.

The little girl was screaming and screaming while pulling her hair with her hands. She continued to cry and yell and wasn’t making the connection that she was causing her own pain by yanking on her hair. So the girl got more and more upset and increasingly frustrated, still crying out in pain.

Ana paused at this point in the story. “Yeah, there’s a life lesson.”

Where I think our yoga practice comes into the story is becoming aware that we’re pulling our hair. We may still be yelling away, but slowly we start to make the connection that we are causing our own frustration and pain.

The next part of the story? We quit pulling our hair. Maybe not right away, but we start yanking less often and let go sooner. And maybe stick our tongue out about it.

***

Day 2 of Forrest Yoga Handstand 365: Badha konasana with penguin.

day2

 

It’s On! Day One of Forrest Yoga Handstand 365 Challenge

I can’t balance in a handstand for long. That is without a wall behind me. This yoga pose has long eluded me and been an endless source of frustration. I watch people with envy as they gracefully find balance on their hands or gaze jealously at someone’s picturesque photo of their perfect handstand in some gorgeous outdoor setting.

It’s been a goal of mine this year to balance in handstand. The Grateful Yogi and I decided today to join in the Forrest Yoga Handstand 365 Challenge (#fyhandstand365). As you might guess from the name, this means doing a handstand every day (and take a picture of it), 365 days in a row for a whole year of handstands.

Besides getting in some daily practice towards my goal, this is also going to be a challenge for me to:

  • Learn how to set up a camera to take a picture of myself (after all, my hands will be a little busy)
  • Get more comfortable being photographed in yoga poses (something I almost never do)
  • Commit to a new daily habit, even when I’m feeling frustrated about the fact that I still can’t balance in handstand

You can check out some great pictures and follow the updates on the Forrest Yoga Handstand 365 Challenge blog.

Today is Day #1. For the first day, I thought I’d remind myself that while I can’t do handstand without the wall…yet…everyone can do some version of handstand.

photo

 

I’m On a Yoga Sequencing Roll!

onarollI think it must be the fact that Ana Forrest is in town that my head is going through yoga sequences!

Yes, I’ve been on a roll! I just added about eight new classes to my yoga sequences notebook. You can access the public notebook or the Google docs folder that contains a listing of different yoga classes.

Some of these sequences are classes that I created myself. Others are sequences from other teachers or from Ana. In the case where the class was from someone else, I credit the teacher who taught the class. For each class, I indicate the length of the class, class level, and the physical focus (backbends, arm balances, inversions, etc.), as well as the class theme (opening the heart, strength, delight, etc.). Most of these classes are Forrest Yoga classes, but I do try to note when the class is not Forrest Yoga or when a pose within a class is not a Forrest Yoga pose.

I like to think of these classes as the basic melody to a song. When I’m in need of inspiration, I’ll scroll through and pick a class. It’s rare that I stick to the exact melody, but the class gives me a foundation to get me started on what I want to practice or teach. From there I can riff off into different notes or re-work some of the basic melody to get the song I want to play and practice that day.

My hope is these classes can be a helpful melody for you when you’re not sure what “song” to play that day.

Want to add a class sequence to the folder? Send me an email and I will add in your sequence, crediting you.

Happy sequencing!

Top 10 Yoga Books to Check Out

book-loveThere’s a slew of yoga books out there, but there are a few standouts that have been deeply helpful or influential to my yoga practice. This is my list of yoga books that you should read and keep on your bookshelf to thumb through again and again*:
10. Living Your Yoga, Judith Hanson Lasater
I’ve written before about this great book, which was my first introduction into the deeper aspects of yoga. It’s a terrific dive into the philosophical principles behind yoga, but written in a way that’s very accessible, tying applicable examples to everyday life.
9. Bhagavad Gita (I’ve linked to the translation I have, but there are numerous translations out there).
I first read this classic text of Indian Spirituality in a college class on religious traditions and then again in my first yoga teacher training. It’s a simple, but beautiful story that is full of parables. It’s a tale you can re-read in its entirety or just a section or two, and continue to get new nuggets of wisdom.
8. Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness,Erich Schiffman
This one is a classic. Erich breaks down all aspects of yoga, from physical sequences to breathing to philosophy to what he considers the main practice: meditation. He has way of describing what can often be abstract concepts in a way that makes sense and gives you detailed practices for how you can begin with meditation and a physical practice of yoga.
7. Anatomy of Yoga, by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
Beyond just anatomical terms, this book illustrates what muscles are at work in a variety of different yoga poses, so you are able to see how these muscles engage and interact in each pose.
6. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, T. K. V. Desikachar
If you want a good overview of how different styles of yoga emerged in the West, this book explains the teachings of the author’s father and renowned yogi, Krishnamacharya, and how other elements of his teachings came to the West through other major yogis who were students of Krishnamacharya.
5. Yoga as Medicine, Timothy McCall
As an MD, McCall blends his Western medicine background with a holistic approach to health and how yoga can help with healing with a variety of conditions, from back problems to depression.
4. Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual, David Swenson
Not only is this book a fantastic introduction to ashtanga yoga, but it’s a very practical guide for learning many foundational poses in yoga. Each pose in the first and second series of ashtanga yoga is broken down to the components of its sanskrit name and instructions for each pose are illustrated with photos of the full version of each pose, as well as three modified stages of the pose. The book is spiral-bound so you can follow along from your mat as you practice.
3. Yoga for Pain Relief, Kelly McGonigal
Kelly is an amazing yoga teacher, psychologist, and Stanford University instructor. Her book is full of research about the mind/body connection with chronic pain and is full of meditation and movement exercises for relief from any kind of chronic pain.
2. Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, Claire Dederer
This is a compelling memoir of a young mother’s discovery and exploration of yoga through the challenges and issues in her own life. It’s told with a sense of humor, but also a deep respect for the power and support a yoga practice can provide.
1. Fierce Medicine, Ana Forrest
If you read no other yoga book, get this one. An inspiring, compelling story of Ana’s healing journey and her development of Forrest Yoga. It’s not just for reading though; this book is an experiential one, as Ana shares healing poses and guided processes that have helped her heal that you can use as tools in your own life.

*Note: I purposely omitted two big yoga philosophical texts: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Hatha Yoga Pradipka in favor of some books perhaps less widely known and not just philosophical in nature.

Got a favorite yoga book I missed? Add it to the comments!

What It’s Like to Teach Yoga at Juvenile Hall


“Wow, really? Isn’t that dangerous?”

That was a common reaction when I told people I was volunteer teaching yoga at juvenile hall. They’d look slightly taken aback with the unspoken message, “What’s a petite woman like you doing teaching a bunch of thugs?” Ultimately people were positive, saying, “Good for you”, but underlying their initial response were some preconceived ideas about what juvenile hall and the kids sent there are like.

Indeed, as I started teaching at SF Juvenile Hall through the Lemonade Program, I had my own preconceptions of what the experience would be like. I had no idea that what I was in for, nor did I expect that after my volunteer hours were up, I would continue teaching there every week for nearly a year and a half. The experience not only taught me a lot, touched my heart, and challenged my teaching, but it also shattered the misconceptions before I starting teaching there. Such as:

It’s not safe You are quite protected when you are teaching. There’s never less than two counselors in the room at all times. In addition, the gym and unit doors all lock from the outside. I’ve never had a kid threaten, try to intimidate, or physically lash out at me. In fact, the most violent thing I’ve seen the boys do is to razz each other and playfully push and punch at each other, not unlike what you’d see other teenage boys do.

The kids are thugs. On the contrary, they’re just, well, kids. Some are big guys, others quite small and many in that in-between stage of not being fully grown into their lanky bodies yet. They make fun of each other, whine about being tired, and sometimes ask you personal questions out of the blue. Other times they are really thoughtful and cooperative and you don’t always know which one you’re going to get. I’m fully aware that all of them did some bad things to end up in juvvie in the first place, but they aren’t that different than you’re average kid. Gang-related tattoos abound and that seems to be one of the major ways kids there have taken a wrong turn.

Preventing violence and verbal abuse will be the biggest behavior issues. These were virtually non-existent, whether it was the security that prevented it from happening or that fact that most kids aren’t really naturally violent and abusive. The huge challenge is actually keeping the kids from getting distracted and keeping them focused. Once I thought about it, the reason seemed obvious. I actually went into one of the tiny cells in one of the empty units just to get a sense of where the boys were coming from. And boy did I get it. You’d have trouble keeping anyone’s attention who spends a sizable portion of their day in this cramped locked cell.

The kids will want to do yoga because they’ll jump at the chance to get out of their cells. Doing yoga with us every week is always an optional activity, but despite the alternative of staying locked in their cell, many kids still opt-out. I realized how much yoga can be intimidating. Yoga – especially Forrest Yoga – can bring up emotions as well as physical trauma and it takes a lot of courage for anyone to handle that when it arises. I also learned that these kids struggle with a lot of depression and apathy. It’s not uncommon for kids to stay in juvenile time for months, sometimes a year, until the court makes a decision about what happens to them next. A lot of the time the options don’t seem great and in the meantime, they’re living in the day-to-day monotony of being incarcerated with a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen to them. A big challenge in teaching is creating a safe environment so the kids feel encouraged, but not forced to participate and supported and praised with the efforts they make, even if they don’t do every pose.

There won’t be the amount of injuries that you’ll find in an adult class. In most kids and teen yoga classes, you definitely make sure to keep kids safe in class, but generally kids don’t have injuries or get injured often. However, a lot of the kids at juvenile hall are injured. Some of them have major gunshot and knife wounds and a large proportion of them have experienced (often severe) physical trauma. So giving lots of beginning options and educating kids about working at a place where they aren’t experiencing pain is particularly important. It’s also key to identify poses that are likely to be triggering. In the beginning, we avoided poses like abs or bridge where students were laying on their back where students were likely to feel more vulnerable. We often had students lined up against the wall so they more secure. Gradually as we built trust with the students, we slowly introduced these type of poses.

Staff will advocate for a dedicated yoga program. I just assumed that staff at juvenile hall would be just as passionate about yoga and see the benefits of a yoga program in the jail. The reality is that while some staff were very supportive from the get-go, many staff were indifferent or downright resistant to us teaching yoga to the kids. There’s definitely the feeling from some that the kids are there to be punished and therefore, they shouldn’t be getting something enjoyable like yoga as part of their punishment. And while I don’t agree with this view, I completely understand their feeling of the kids receiving serious consequences for often very serious crimes they’ve committed. Just like building trust and rapport with the kids is a process, it’s also been a process with the counselors and staff. Lots of them have really come to understand more about why we do the yoga in the way we do with the kids and how it’s important. It was amazing to see how many even become strong champions of the program. Sometimes we even had some of the counselors participate in the class itself.

If the kids aren’t really enthusiastic and receptive to the yoga, clearly I’m not doing a good job and wasting my time. You have to be happy with small successes. There were days where nothing seems to go right: the kids were all over the place, people acting out, complaining, etc. But then you would have that one moment. Maybe it was a kid getting excited about doing a pose he’d never been able to do before. Or the kid that grumbled about everything remarked how much better his neck felt after a pose. Those moments made it all worth it. After each class, we’d share what the win was and brainstorm how we could approach the challenges we had in a different way and what different approaches and poses we could try in our teaching.

The other big thing I’ve learned from the kids at juvvie: you never know what is going to sink in. We brought a stack of old Yoga Journal magazines for the kids to have in the units. One day out of the blue, one of the boys asked about doing a pose we’d never done before and described what it looked like. I realized the only way he would’ve know the pose would be if he saw it in one of the magazines. Similarly, one day we tried chanting w/ the kids with mixed success at best. Yet we noticed after some of the classes, the boys would start humming parts of it as they rolled up their mat.

You never know what impact you’re going to have. And that’s what makes the hard work worth it.

What You Should Never Be To Busy To Do

The test of your yoga practice? When life is busy.

In less that two days, I’m flying off to Minneapolis for the week for non-yoga work. My organization puts on an annual conference and next week is the week. It promises to be a lot of fun, as I get really excited to meet up in person with so many people that I only know online. It is also is guaranteed to be many long hours of work, lots of logistics to coordinate, plus the inevitable problems that arise when you run an event.

If you’ve ever planned a big event, especially with a very small staff or group of people, you can imagine that the past few weeks have been a bit busy to say the least. It’s really been a challenge for me to keep up my yoga practice amidst work, teaching, volunteering and trying to get a decent amount of sleep in there too.

I think this is a pretty universal challenge in for our culture as a whole. Whether you’re trying to keep up an exercise routine or consistent yoga practice or anything that is important for you to prioritize in your life, it is a constant puzzle to try to piece together time to do it while also taking care of your responsibilities (work, family, etc.).

So this has been a time for me to really test how I can keep up my yoga practice in the face of a long to-do list. I’ve become more aware of the traps I can easily fall into. One is to tell myself to just work harder. I hunker down over the laptop determined to just keep cranking. Turns out, taking time to relax instead of working harder actually increases your productivity.

The other trap is sleep. Or rather, lack of it. At night, I’ll be determined to get something or other done and then suddenly realize the time. That means being more tired the next day or not getting up as early as I’d hoped, and then feeling all the more behind. You can probably see how this circle continues. When I let myself get overly tired, I have less motivation to unroll my mat and feel uninspired when it comes to planning a class to teach. Being exhausted leaves me without the energy to enjoy when I do have those periods of free time, and thus, enjoying life less.

I’ve come up with a number of ways that are helping me avoid these potential pitfalls. One is making a yoga date every week for at least one time that I am going to either go to practice with a friend or go to a yoga class. Having a wonderful buddy who I know I won’t bail on is key to keeping me to my commitment. It also gives me a fun part of my day to look forward to and that motivates me to focus and complete the work at hand.

Taking small breaks is my other new behavior. If there’s “no time” to practice that day, I try to take 15-30 minutes to do a short practice or a ten minute walk around the neighborhood. Instead of berating myself up about not getting it together enough to do a more advanced practice or longer walk,  I have to take the different approach of, “Well, what practice can I do today?”, and congratulate myself when I make time to include yoga and movement into my day, however short the time.

Another way around my traps is do let go of doing everything I want to do. I’ve accepted that my house will not be clean until after the conference. I took a break from managing any volunteer events this month. Yes, these are things that I feel like I should be able to handle along with everything else, but the reality is temporarily pulling back from activities that are not as important gives me more time and energy to devote to the things that are more of a priority.

But however busy I am, I know the one thing that I never want to be too busy to do: taking that moment to make a connection to something outside of myself. I can give a friend a call or text just to say hi. When I have a big inbox of emails to respond to, that still means I can take the extra minute to add a “thank you” or “hope you had fun skiing last weekend” to the message. When one of my cats decides to sit on top of me, effectively making it impossible for me to type, I can take that as a sign that I do have time to spend a few minutes doing some kitty cuddling.

Is there still a long way for me? Yes. Case in point: it is almost 11:30pm when I’m typing this and I really needed to be in bed sleeping already. Yet every time I side-step one of my traps, my practice gets that much stronger.

I’d love to hear from you! What pitfalls do you run into when life gets busy and how do you avoid them?

 

Small Things Make the Biggest Gifts

Today as I sit down to blog, I feel myself getting a little choked up. I’m a little overwhelmed by how much kindness I received this weekend for my birthday. Birthdays are not always the easiest occasion for me. As the day approaches, I usually start feeling old and begin listing in my head all the ways in which I haven’t accomplished enough at this point in my life and all the ways I don’t have it together yet. Then that makes me feel like I don’t want to celebrate at all and then that makes me feel old because I am the kind of person who loves an excuse to get together with people for a shin-dig.

When you’re in this state of mind about your birthday, what’s the best thing to hear from your best friend?

“We’ve reserved this day just for your birthday and we’re coming over with everything.”

And did they mean everything. My friends, Kat and Steve, came with their daughter, Tasha, along with snacks and fixings for a tasty taco dinner and made me a birthday cake. If that weren’t enough, I got a beautiful handmade knitted purse made by Kat and a card, proudly hand-drawn by Tasha.

Today I woke up to sleeping in and snuggling up with the husband to a “Top 10″ birthday email from a dear friend of mine which immediately made my day. Easter celebration with family followed today, but my mom was sure to have a birthday cake for me, the kind I always asked for growing up: angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries.

Say what you will about Facebook, but the icing on the cake (pun intended) was to read all of the “Happy Birthday” messages on my Facebook wall. Yes, I know Facebook tells you when it’s someone’s birthday. But I’m incredibly touched by people who took the time to write me a birthday message, be it old friends, work colleagues, former classmates, family, or close friends. It’s these little things that make someone feel like a million bucks on their birthday.

tashaheart

Special birthday artwork

Reflecting on all of the love I received today, I realize how lucky I am. What are accomplishments or appearance or items checked off a to-do list when it comes to people? To have lived this far and have my world full of so many people that make me happy, well, that’s quite the best measure of life.

 

2 Inspiring Yoga Blog Posts You Must Read

Every so often when I read a piece of writing, I am completely taken aback. I feel my breath catch, physically struck by the raw vulnerability and honesty of the author and inspired by the eloquence in which the writer expressed their experience.
Inspiration Point
This week that happened twice.

And I feel so honored to know both of the authors. Forrest Yoga Teacher and Pole Dance Instructor, Michelle Cordero, has a piece up in Elephant Journal that will not only strike your heart, but completely blow away any preconceived ideas you have about pole dancing. Over on A Grateful Yogi, Abbie Dutterer touches me again, this time with a deeply powerful post about the transformative power of a simple yoga prop.

Go read these posts. Do not pass go. But do be inspired. If you are moved by their writing, be sure to drop them a comment.