ayurveda

Transition to Spring like a Champ

IMG_1850 Spring is finally here in DC!  The last blustery week felt like an icy-handed goodbye from winter.  Even in those last cold days, seeing the 10 day forecast brought up a level of mindfulness in me.  I could see that the freezing temperatures would soon change to sunny, almost-T-shirt weather.  When I hung up my heavy winter coat on Sunday, I knew it would be for the last time of the season.  I snapped the silver buttons closed and tucked it at the back of my closet.  Winter isn’t my favorite but I still felt it deserved a ceremonial goodbye.  This winter felt both long and short, equal parts disintegrating and beautiful.

It’s so rare in life that we can predict change.  People get sick and then new loves are met.  We suddenly lose our grounding and then find it in places we wouldn’t expect.  None of it feels like we thought it would.  Life is crazy random sometimes, often really, and try as we might, there is no way out of that.

How do we keep it from driving us crazy?  Well, we need to find consistency.  What is consistent within a crazy life?  Well, nature is consistent.  Sure we have freak weather days but overall nature follows a trajectory.  The sun rises, the moon wanes, the earth spins.  The unspeakable bigness of outer space looms.  There is birth then death then birth again.  We can’t negotiate our way around these cycles.  Isn’t that oddly comfortable?  We either honor them or we suffer in some way.

I find the best way to honor the seasons is to mindfully practice the transitions between them.  Yoga has taught me a lot about transitions.  In the physical practice of yoga, we use a series of movements called vinyasa to transition between poses.  It resets the body and mind and opens up new energy to move forward.

Ayurveda is very concerned with seasonal transitions.  It says that if we don’t move mindfully from one season to another then we will lose balance.  Balance is key in Ayurveda.  When we are in balance, we are like nature and move from an internal grace.  When we are out of balance, we feel stuck and sticky and flounder our lives away.

To celebrate this time of great transition, I thought I’d list my favorite ways to mindfully shift to spring (in no particular order):

1. Eat a spoonful of raw, local honey as dessert to give your immune system a boost Some say this is doubly important if you have allergies.  If you have allergies then you might also want to use a neti pot in the mornings.  I am the least-mucousy person ever so I can’t vouch for this but so many other hip, snotty people I know are obsessed with their neti pots.

2. Make salads with bitter and spicy greens like collards, kale, mustards and arugula.  My digestion isn’t fiery enough to digest cold salads in the winter but they feel great to me now.  Basically just eat whatever nature is growing right next to you and you should be fine.

3. Do a more vigorous yoga practice with lots of warrior poses, core work, twists and inversions.  Sweat a little and detox your system. Ashtanga is great this time of year if your joints can handle all those jump-back chaturangas (beware my delicate vatas--try Prana Flow instead).

4. Breath of fire! I do two rounds every morning first thing to clear out stagnation in the lungs.  Love the ego eradicator version from the Kundalini tradition.

5. Eat more cornbread.  Ayurveda tells us that effect of corn on the body is drying and slightly scraping.  This helps us to counter the dampness prevalent right now in nature and our bodies (because our bodies are part of nature!)  Polenta is yummy too.

6. Sprout a few little greens on your countertop.  Sprouts are alkalizing and thus cleansing for you system.  Also they are so inexpensive when you do them yourself.  Nature is in sprouting mode right now so follow suit.  My favorite way to eat sprouts is to mix them with mashed-up avocado, nutritional yeast and some Bragg’s liquid amino acids and then eat that mixture on rye flour crisps.

7. Try a seasonal cleanse.  I don’t believe in doing anything too dramatic but I do think having a period of abstinence twice a year (spring and fall) can help keep you healthy on a few different levels.  This year I’m going to do a week of salads, smoothies and broths.  I’ll cut out all the obvious culprits (alcohol, caffeine, and sweets) and add in more time for creativity.   I’ll emerge powerful in ways unpredicted.  Last spring I cleansed for two weeks and came out without my former addiction to cheese.  It’s never come back. Yeehaw!

8. Practice letting go.  Spring is a time of growth which easily translates to accumulation.  This may feel like need to hold onto things or maybe more like holding onto people or situations that don’t serve us.  These are patterns and it could be wise to break through them to make space for what you really want in your life.  Donate books you’ll never read.  Break a few dates that you know will make you feel like crap.  Breath in the scary, liberating space of openness.  You’re doing great.

9.  Make sure you have some good rainboots and a rain jacket that makes you feel stylish and free.  Life is too unpredictable to not have a great spring coat.  If you don’t have one then try thrifting one.  Donate a coat that you aren’t wearing.  The cycle of giving and receiving will continue and if you’re feeling good it will tip its hat at you as you saunter past.

10.  Greet the day with intention.  Say a few nice things to yourself when you are lying in bed then jump up and start your day.  Scrape your tongue, breathe deeply through your nose, love on this one body you’ve been given.  It will never feel like a perfect body as it will never feel like a perfect life.  We are all in that boat.  It sails and sails across the depths of the water.  We sense those depths but we can’t really conceptualize them.  Its ok.  I’m not sure we are supposed to do more than steer as straight as we can while the wind pushes us along.  Your intention and your self care are your lifelines. They remind you of the buoyancy of your spirit.  Let them carry you when you feel like sinking.  Marvel at it all--the mystery, the ocean of space, the loving consistency of it all.  You’re alive.

Peek into My Morning Routine

Peak Into My Morning Routine

My friend and fellow teacher Kelly recently gave me a sweet shout out in her great yoga newsletter asking if I would share my morning routine. It’s funny to me that I’m getting known for teaching people how to upgrade their mornings. When I was a kid I remember wanting to throw my pillow at my mom when she would throw open the blinds. In my past relationship I was the sleepy one who needed to be coaxed out of bed with a cup of coffee.

So how did I become a morning person? 

First, I started eating an earlier lighter dinner. This is a huge teaching in Ayurveda. Basically we have no digestive power after the sun goes down and if we cram in a bunch of latenight calories then we are going to sleep like crap and wake up feeling like our head is full of sand. This teaching made a lot of sense to me  so I decide to make dinner by 6pm a priority, which meant skip the 8pm glass of wine or ice cream for dessert.   

Suddenly a 10pm bedtime didn’t feel so hard. I began waking up earlier, ready to live another day. Also, I lost over 20lbs and my eyes got a lot brighter and I stopped feeling anxious all of the time. Eating earlier and lighter is a hard habit to ground in our dinner-friendly culture but give it a try if you want to see real results.

The second thing is that I finally started to face my FOMO. I’ve written about this in other articles but for a long time in my life I squeezed as much into my weekly schedule as possible. On some level, I thought if I said yes to everything that was offered to me I would save myself from feelings of alienation and loneliness. Guess what? It didn’t work. It only put a weird kind of plastic wrap over those feelings and the over-extension left me tired and disconnected.  

Now I spent most weekday evenings--the ones when I don’t teach--at home, hanging with Poncho and writing in my journal and reading so many good books. The feelings of loneliness show up sometimes. They tell me that I should be out and that I’m missing out on my real life. I acknowledge their presence but the more I listen to them, the less I believe. I’m alive and vital and need time to rest. So I ask the lonely feelings what kind of tea they want--chamomile or sweet rose? They choose the rose usually and settle into bed next to me. Being ferocious takes a lot of work and when offered they welcome the rest too.

With those two things cleared up, the morning part is easy. This is how it usually goes…

5:45am  My alarm goes off if I am not already awake. I stumble to the kitchen, put on a kettle of water and crawl back into bed (the best snooze button ever). Poncho is still asleep.

5:53am  Kettle whistles. I jump up to turn it out off. Then I scrape my tongue, do a forward fold, scan my email from my phone, read a page in the awesome daily reader my friend Justin gifted me for 2015. I drink hot water from a quart jar until I am ready to poop.

6:05am  I poop and appreciate that my body has learned this habit so nicely.

6:10am  Brush teeth, wash face, spritz on rose water, massage jojoba oil into my skin, snort nasaya oil.

6:15am  Meditate, feel the big and small of the universe and my place in it (in the present moment). Then breath work--alternate nostril breathing and breath of fire. Poncho is still asleep but starting to rouse himself.

6:30am  Exercise! Sometimes yoga where I fire up Spotify, start with sun salutations and then see where it takes me. Sometimes jogging with the dog and then stretching in my kitchen while I make breakfast.

7am  Light breakfast while I listen to NPR. Lately I’ve been making myself a hot chocolate with cocoa from my Guatemala trip and turmeric and cayenne and cream and maple syrup. Note, make sure you vitamix your hot chocolate if you want it to be frothy and the most delicious ever.

7:15am  Feed Poncho. He’s grateful, I think. Then shower and do a quick massage with sesame oil + whatever essential oils I’m feeling (right now it’s jasmine and vanilla). I put on something cute, blow-dry my hair, and apply a little sparkly eyeshadow.

7:30am  Get online and start my work day! I’m usually in a great mood by this point so the exclamation point is warranted.

And that’s it. But please understand this doesn’t happen every day. On Tuesdays I call my mom at 7am and take Poncho for a long walk around the Basilica. On Thursdays I meet my friend Erin for 6:30am yoga and chai tea after. On Fridays I give myself an oil massage, water all of my plants and then head to a meditation group.  

But while it’s not perfect I do have a daily and weekly structure to my mornings that gives me energy. I replicate it the best I can when I travel and modify it when I have house guests.  When I compromise it too much I notice. I begin losing my sense of control over time and start feeling like I have to prove myself to the world, which drains out more energy.

I’ve been working little by little to have a better morning routine over the past couple of years so please don’t fret if yours is more like Poncho’s or if you just want to throw a shoe at your alarm clock. You can always try eating earlier, lighter dinners for a week and notice how your mornings might get easier. Or play with a little light exercise before breakfast and check in with your mood.  Something tells me it'll be better than with no exercise.

Remember that small and consistent changes are effective. Remember that time is more elastic than we think (thanks Einstein!) and that if we take charge of it right away, the quality of our days will shift. Remember that you are worth taking care of from the moment you wake until the minute you fall asleep. If you ever doubt this then just imagine me and Poncho offering you a cup of tea, throwing open the blinds, and nodding our heads with the trueness of it all.

Where you are you stuck in your morning routine?  Maybe I can offer some advice.  Let me know!

How the Powerful Start Their Days

I know your bad morning habits. You grope for the snooze button once, then twice, then again until you finally jump out of bed already running late. No matter how sincerely you promised yourself you’d go to that early morning yoga class, your desperate need for extra sleep always wins. Since coffee is the only thing that gets you out of bed, you drink it right away, even though you feel a bit dehydrated. You check your work email before your eyes can focus and then wonder why you feel so anxious all of a sudden. I know your habits because they were mine too. Two years ago, my mornings began groggy after not enough sleep and then turned anxious with too much coffee and running late. I was stuck in a cycle of bad habits but was pretty good at justifying it to myself. I had a gone to bed too late so needed to sleep in. I would exercise later in the day (even though I rarely did). And my favorite: coffee is mostly water...right?

As a yoga teacher, I knew the answers to these questions. I could tell you why ancient yogis meditated in the still morning hours and how important it is to move our spine on a daily basis, preferably first thing in the day. But the problem with knowing something is that it doesn’t equate practice. It’s lovely to talk about a dynamic morning routine but practicing it is the only way to receive the benefit.

Two years ago, after a life-changing break-up, I made the decision to get more out of my life. I knew that in order to do this, I had to practice what I preached. I dove deeper into my study of yoga and Ayurveda and followed it’s ancient wisdom on how to cash into those early morning hours. What I discovered upgraded my energy throughout the entire day and helped me to launch a new business teaching others to do the same with wonderful results. Here are five important lessons that guided the way:

1. To have a great morning, you first need a great night...

It’s almost impossible to create a solid morning routine without discussing what happens the night before. Waking up with intention is so much easier when you have seven to nine hours of solid sleep in you system. We know this, but why doesn’t this happen? Probably because you aren’t going to bed by 10 p.m.  10 p.m.? Yup.  I know it may seem incredible early to you, because it really did for me. It made me feel unsexy and like I was missing out on everything that was ever fun. However, once I learned the many physical and energetic reasons to be asleep by 10 p.m. I know I had no choice if I wanted to take care of my body. This compelling argument is one of them:

“Typically, if you miss the 10 p.m. bedtime, it will take much longer to fall asleep. The quality of sleep will also be less refreshing and there will still be a sense of fatigue in the morning. Even adjusting your bedtime from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. will make an enormous difference in the quality of your sleep and enhance your feeling of wakefulness the following day. The reason for this is that you are taking advantage of the natural wave of neurochemistry that is already well on its way before 10 p.m. and you get the added support of the metabolic changes that occur at the 10 p.m. mark.” --Kulreet Chaudhary, MD in this awesome article on sleep and longevity

2. Soon you’ll get into a schedule...

It turns out that when I go to sleep at 10 p.m., my body loves waking up by 6 a.m. But this only works when I keep the same schedule most days. A morning person is defined as someone who wakes up at roughly the same time on the weekends as the weekdays. This means that your body knows the schedule and will cooperate by giving you healing, delicious sleep. This means no more “catching up” on sleep on the weekends (which is a myth anyway), but rather giving it to yourself every single night. Ayurveda teaches that our bodies are happiest when they are in touch with the daily and seasonal rhythms around us, like the rising and the setting of the sun. Learning that I wasn’t separate from these cycles has given me a beautiful feeling of connection to the world around me and reduced feelings of angst and overwhelm. Plus I love taking my dog jogging in my neighborhood by 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday. The normally-crowded streets are empty and I feel like a superhero, my furry sidekick at my heels, our hair flying as we breath in all that fresh morning air like it was created just for us.

 3. Which gives you higher quality “me” time...

It’s really easy to convince yourself that a nightly glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a Netflix binge is your self care. Again, I’ve been there. We all have busy days and when we are tired, zoning out seems like the best way to reset. But it doesn’t work that way. I’ve learned that true self care has to feel like self care the next day too. As delicious as they were in the moment, wine and “Orange is the New Black” made me feel fuzzy the next morning. Through some experimentation, I found that my real-deal self care is time to meditate, exercise, and cook nourishing food, in that order. The combination makes me feel great in the moment and for the rest of the day. Bingo--self care! Once I discovered real self care, the other stuff didn’t feel as good. It’s like the difference between eating the sticky margarine substitute and creamy grass fed butter. Plus practicing this routine over and over has made it a choice less habit. I don’t have to waste any mental energy deciding if I will meditate or feeling guilty because I didn’t exercise. It’s just what I do every morning--simple, consistent, effective.

4. Then you get more done, but not in a stressful way...

Remember how I said my life came into focus when I began getting up early? I went from starting the day with my to-do list breathing down my neck to a much more relaxed attitude about time. I use my daily meditation practice to center myself in self love. I tell myself that no matter what gets done, I will still be kind to myself and enjoy my time. It’s not a perfect process but it helps me to relax and this frees up an amazing amount of mental energy. The result is that I tend to get much more done with a lot less effort. My to-do list has shrunk because I am actually able to check off those boxes.

I’m not alone in this. Many powerful women, the kind that do it all and make it look easy, have figured out that the first hours of the day are when they can tap into their own power in. Laura Vanderkam, author of the e-book, “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” found that the most successful people were those who devoted chunks of time in the morning to things (or people) that they loved. Vogue editor Anna Wintour starts each day at 5:45 a.m. with an hour-long tennis match and designer Stacy Bendet wakes up before 5 a.m. to do ashtanga yoga. Others read newspapers or cuddle with their kids. Regardless of what they do, successful people have a morning routine that ensures their self care before heading out the door to inspire the rest of us.

5.  Which helps you enjoy your life more...

Does reading this inspire you but are you afraid you won’t actually do it? If so, you are probably thinking you need to change everything tomorrow. That would be great but my guess is that isn’t going to work very well. What has actually worked for me is the practice of Kaizen, a Japanese word that means “good change.” It teaches that if we keep looking for little, continual ways to improve and shift, then eventually we will reach and then surpass our goals. Slow and steady progress saves our energy to create real change without burning ourselves out and reverting to bad habits. So think about the little steps you could take. Could you trade one round of snooze for five minutes of yoga? Could you get the greens for your smoothie ready the night before? I began shifting my morning routine by meditating for 10 minutes while my then-partner walked the dog. It was a tiny investment of time but when I did it for just a few weeks I felt like I was making progress. It inspired me enough to cut back on my coffee and eventually add in 20 minutes of exercise. Each month I notice more ways to shift in the right direction. It's a life-long process that I enjoy because I see the benefits and feel fully invested in the process of my personal evolution.

So are you ready to upgrade your morning routine and see what is possible for your days? If so, I’d love to listen to you and help you brainstorm the next small step to greater energy. Schedule a free 30 minute phone chat with me and learn to experience authentic, sustainable self care that feeds you every day of your beautiful life, from start to finish.

How Imbalance & Cookie Cravings Go Together

The most essential and basic teaching of Ayurveda is that you should live in a balanced state. You can tell if you are balanced by how you feel. If you feel energetic, rested, enthusiastic and of purpose in this world, then you are probably in balance. If you are dragging, achy, anxious, heavy, or just down on yourself, then you are out of balance. I like this because it’s not terribly personally--just a matter of paying attention and collecting facts. If you are out of balance--and many of us are due to the imbalance nature of our culture--then you have a choice. You can put yourself back into balance by making healthier decisions or you can let the imbalance get worse. If it gets worse then it becomes harder and harder to treat. Finally you can reach a point where it’s untreatable and the body shuts down. I recently watched my dad go through that process and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

The tricky nature of imbalance is that when we go out of whack,  we usually begin to crave things that cause us to go further off track. Think of all your stressed out friends who say yes to one more thing. Think of your family members who are depressed and spend their time sedentary in front of the TV. If you aren’t careful the imbalance will suck you in and make things worse. This is why self awareness is so important. Witnessing ourselves and our patterns without judgement is the main tool for change as we are taught in yoga. It’s quite simple yet considering it’s been passed on for 5,000 years, I would say it’s also effective.

This conversation is important to me because I’ve been really craving baked goods this week. This isn’t too out of character for me because I’ve always liked the sugary taste. Growing up, I loved eating donuts at my dad’s house on Sunday mornings and my mom’s renowned peach cobbler during the summer months. Since cleaning up my diet in the past year, I've stopped keeping baked goods in my house and rarely buy them why I go out. I notice the intense rush of cheap sugar gives me a little acid reflux and puts my digestion out of balance.

Ayurvedically speaking, the sweet taste is grounding and something we should use when we feel disconnected in some way, in moderation. Too much will burn out our energy and drag us down into a foggy state of body and mind. I like this about Ayurveda. It never tells us that something is good or bad but rather it gives it’s qualities and then we get to decide how to use them. It’s a reminder that everything can be either a weapon or a tool, depending on how we use it.

I suppose I’ve needed to ground in these weeks after my father’s passing. As much as I can, I’m taking good care of myself. Simple, nourishing food + deep sleep + early morning meditation is a pretty good formula for me to stay balanced during a hard time. I’ve added in some healing bodywork this week and hope to do more when I travel to Guatemala at the end of the month.

But still, there is this desire for a big rush of sugar, this  need to imbalance further. I see the cookie at my favorite tea house and I want it deeply. I know enough to know that my body doesn’t really want it. When I have true bodily hunger, I crave high-nutrient vegetables and good fat. Hunger for emptier calories always comes from the more emotional parts of myself. It’s me as a seven year old eating a donut on a Sunday morning with my dad or bowl of peach cobbler as I sit tucked into my family table. It’s the feeling of being safe and connected in the world--such a primal thing.

Yet knowing this doesn’t stop the cravings from coming. As we all know, when cravings are present they’re pretty loud. My whole body starts tenses as I make this decision. It’s an option to buy the cookie and eat it in my car. This is how I eat when I don’t really want to admit what I'm doing. I barely pay attention to the taste and feel like it’s something I need to keep hidden. After I’ll get angry at myself and swear that I will never do it again (until the next time). I’ve done that plenty and know how that story goes.

I know I can use my self awareness here so I take a breath and weigh my options. Denying myself  the cookie will leave me feeling wanting and restless. This causes it’s own type of imbalance. I decide to buy the cookie, looking the sweet guy behind register directly in the eye. I put the paper-wrapped bundle in my purse and go home. I eat it after lunch--which is a baked sweet potato topped with good butter, sunflower seeds, homemade sauerkraut and sprouts. I put half of this much-considered salty oat cookie on a nice plate. I take a deep breath and a few bites. Of course it’s good but it's just a cookie. I eat it and miss my dad and feel overwhelmed. I eat it and feel like someone who is really learning how to take care of herself. I eat it and know he would be happy to see me keeping my balance.

Five Tangible Ways to Move with Grief

In the almost two weeks since my father passed, I've been wondering a lot about how to grieve. I know that it's important to feel my feelings and allow it to be a process. I've heard the road is long but lined with grace. I think it will get really hard at points. But I feel like there should be some better everyday therapies around it all. There's word that's used a lot in Ayurveda called "sneha." It means oily or unctuous. It's also described as the feeling of love and is prescribed in a time of grief. Think about it, what do all of the dry and brittle parts of grief need? Love, love and more love. One Ayurvedic prescription for grief is giving yourself a massage with good oil. It's calming to the nervous system and helps promote deep sleep. Even giving yourself a little foot rub with sesame oil before bed can help ground your emotions.

Here are a few other ideas and practices that have helped:

Dress like someone who takes care of herself : I went to visit my dad in the hospital a lot over the past year. It starting as a standing weekend date--usually on Sundays after I took Poncho running. Closer to the end I went two to four times a week. For each visit I got dressed like I was going to church. I put on a cute skirt or dress, did my make-up and walked out of the house with a nice purse and my head held high. Even though I had to cover myself with a yellow gown + gloves when I went into my dad’s room, getting dressed up made me feel stable on the inside. Feeling together helped me to play the part of someone who could be strong in stressful times, which is what I wanted my dad to see. We were both probably pretending to be stronger and more cheerful than we actually were but we needed every bit of strength we had--forced or not.

Spend some time outside: For the past few years I’ve used my Friday mornings to sit with my meditation teachers. After a cup of chai with that community, I come home and take my dog Poncho for a walk at the Arboretum. The Friday that my dad passed away, I sat with Poncho on the banks of the Anacostia River in late morning. At that point, I knew my dad wasn’t going to make it and I needed to digest what that really meant. The air was sunny fall crisp and the water ran slow and murky to my side. Birds flew across the muddy banks and Poncho lifted his handsome head, attentive to every bit of it. “This is life,” I told myself. Apart from the harsh smells of the cancer wards and my fear of empty space within my family, nature was business as usual. Life and death have never phased her much. It’s pretty much her currency.

Let it be what it needs to be: I mentioned in my last blog post that I had been doing a gentle fall cleanse of whole foods and extra sleep the week before my dad died. I'd been up early each morning, whispering prayers for my dad. I was clean and light and felt spiritually present to the process of saying goodbye. But in the moment, the cleanse went out the window. Dizzy, I drank a ginger ale while I held my dad’s hand. Later, after it all had passed, I was suddenly very, very hungry. I almost never eat in the evenings but that night I ate piece after piece of cheesy pizza while sitting on my brother’s couch. I drank the strongest beer I’ve ever tasted and watched comedy central. Earlier in the week I would have thought to spend the night meditating. In the moment, pizza and beer with my brother seemed far more appropriate.

Recognize you've gone through something traumatic: Trauma is taxing. Trauma is dehydrating. I’ve been drinking so many cups of tea, giving myself oily foot massages and going to sleep very close to 9pm. I haven't dreamt anything prolific but I wake up rested in the dark morning. I use the silence--even Poncho is still asleep--and sit. I listen and breath and feel constriction in my body. My father is there with me in strange and comforting ways. All the reality/life/death/connection lines are blurred and I like it that way. I have no craving for normal right now.

Steal grieving techniques from cultures who aren’t afraid of death: I spent last Halloween photographing a wedding in Oaxaca, Mexico during their Dia de los Muertos festival. Each home and business had a colorfully decorated altar celebrating those who had passed in their families. The dead were honored by coronas stuffed with limes and plates of their favorite foods. People spent the nights around Halloween hanging out in graveyards, lighting candles and singing songs for their relations. The vibe was way more peaceful than morbid and I was touched by the displays. The day after his passing, I made an altar for my dad. On it, I put photographs of us together, the hat he wore during chemo and a tiny rosary made out of rope. Later in the week, I added a bottle of vodka--a gift from a friend. When I miss him, I light the candle and speak to him like I’m calling him on the phone,  just like I did for so many days when he was in the hospital. The ceremony of it all makes it sad by okay to hold him so close still.

 

Why I Practice

IMG_0639 My father, Ryz Obuchowicz passed away on Friday evening after a long, draining battle with acute myeloid leukemia. I can’t write much about the specifics because it’s far too fresh for me to dive in and rise back to the surface with coherent insight. Hopefully with time I can give his passing the words it needs. For now I will say that he had made his peace with death and was surrounded by the people he loved most.

What I can write about now is the importance of practicing self care, even when we don’t always see the point. As my father’s illness progressed this fall and I launched this new business, I felt stretched to my limits. Setting boundaries has always been hard for me, but this period of time taught me to say “no” from a place of necessity. It felt good each time I cut something away so I could focus more intently on my family and my clients.

In early October, when one of my teachers urged me to participate in a group seasonal cleanse, my instinct was to say no. In fact, I did say “no.” Then my teacher asked me reconsider because she thought it would be good for me and help my students as I taught from my own experience. I try to listen to my teachers because some times they see things I don’t. Begrudgingly, I signed up and scheduled my cleanse for last week.

It was the most relaxed cleanse ever--root vegetable soup, warm lemon water, longer meditations and tons of sleep. I was in bed before 9:30pm for five nights straight. I’ve never done that before. All the sleep, stillness and good food made me feel like super woman. My head was clear and my heart was open. I knew what was important. During that week my dad was improving after a scary dip and I was resting in the small chance that maybe he could pull through this.

When his status changed, it changed really fast. By Wednesday, most of the hope was gone. Thursday I saw I had to prepare for his passing and then Friday it happened. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through yet I felt buoyed by presence. There was a deep energy coming through that eased his transition and let me be present for my family.

Who knows why we practice? We show up on the mat and do our poses with a deep resonant breath. We wake before sunrise and sit in stillness, day upon day. We choose to make our own light dinner instead of meeting friends for pizza. Why do we do it?

My thought right now is that we practice so we can be available to life when life needs us the most. We breath in uncomfortable yoga poses so we can breath through uncomfortable moments with the people we love. We sit in the shaky space of stillness so we can handle the unplanned events life will continue to toss into our laps. We practice so we can be compassionate human beings, the kind we admire.

People ask me what they can do right now and I think my answer is to do your practice. Show up, even when you can’t quite tell why, and know you are building your reserves. I hope you don’t have to use those reserves to let go of someone you love for a good long time, but the truth is that you probably will some day. It will be hard in inexplicable ways but those reserves will give you peace. It’s a peace I’m hanging out in right now, a place that feels so connected to my dad. It feels like grace and it feels like his great big spirit and it feels like it will hold me as I move forward into healing.

 

Bonus Secret for Really Great Self Care

YOU have to take the first step toward greater self care.

Over the past few weeks, you've learned my three secrets to really great self care. I want to thank you for reading and showing up for yourself. I've given you the tools to move forward as your own best caregiver. I'm so excited to see what can happen in your life.

We all have superpowers and mine is that I see promise in all people. Even though I don’t know you yet, I totally believe in your capacity to change. We can all do a little bit more to take care of ourselves and experience the immense rewards. 

I deeply care about your potential because I care about the state of our world. I believe that once we experience optimum health, and feel really good and energetic, we can then live from a deeper sense of purpose. When we live with purpose, we are of service to the world around us.

As great as my superpower is, I absolutely cannot use it to help you unless you are willing to show up for yourself. I only work with people who really want to change their lives. When you are truly committed to yourself, then I also show up 100% committed to you. Again, this comes down to small steps. The first step you can take is to sign up for a free 30 minute health consultation over the phone with me.

During this call, I’ll listen deeply to where you are at with your health--physical, mental, emotional--and together we’ll figure out the next small step you can take to move forward. It’s a $150 value but I want to give it to you for free to make it so easy for you to take the first step toward change.  

Also, I want to give it to you because I really need to understand where you are at, and if you are truly ready for change before I know if we are the right fit to work together. This call is the perfect way for both of us to figure that out.

If you are ready for the next step, take this survey. At the end of the survey, use the link to sign up for your 30 minute session. I only take a certain number of these calls per month so sign up now and begin claiming you own beautiful life of self care.

Your reading means so much to me. It gives me great joy to share what has helped me to grow and evolve in my own life. I invite you to use these secrets to help yourself and those around you to more self care.

When you are having a hard time, remember what self care isn’t for you. It’s not the bowl of ice cream! Think about the smallest ways to change your habits. Could you have some tea with honey instead of ice cream? Think about who you want to be--your evolving identity--and also who in your life supports that growth. When you sign up for a session with me, I’ll start you on your way to living your most beautiful life of self care.

Self Care Secret #3: Change your Habits, Change your Identity

My third and final secret for really great self care is to understandthat changing your habits means changing your identity.

Each of us is a person who does certain things, acts certain ways, and reacts in other ways.  Like it or not, we know ourselves as this person, and the people around us know us as this person, too. We are expected to be that person. If we start to change ourselves, our lives will also change. This can be liberating and exciting, and it can also be hard for us and our loved ones. This can result in self-sabotage, a common problem. Because this is a really important factor in why we don’t change, you need to pay attention.

The dieting cycle I developed as a child continued until I found yoga when I was studying abroad in college. I had done a little yoga, but I had never signed up for a course. It was a funny little class in the student rec center, and I didn’t even have a yoga mat. I didn’t quite feel like I was doing it right, but no matter what happened during class, I always emerged feeling better than when I started. I began to understand what it was like to really feel good and connected to my body.

In addition to yoga, I started to live from a more relaxed, playful part of myself. I spent Saturday mornings wandering through flea markets and weekday afternoons journaling in cafes. I felt creative for the first time in my life and also really happy for no apparent reason. Then a funny thing happened. I realized that I only really wanted to eat three meals a day, when I was hungry for them. I bought fresh produce and other good groceries so I could cook for myself. I didn’t eat breakfast until I was hungry in the morning and didn’t eat after dinner at night. I enjoyed my food and didn’t feel at all deprived.  It felt like the opposite of a diet!

After three months of this, I lost 15 lbs and came back home looking and feeling great.  For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a handle on my diet and my body.

But I came back to my last semester of college where I was surrounded by people who loved to eat late night pizza and go to all the happy hours around town. I was so happy to see them, and they loved having me back!  Instead of going to yoga or journaling at cafes, I met friends for chips and salsa washed down with margaritas. The old me--the person I was before I studied abroad--was a person who filled her schedule to the brim and said “yes” when my heart wanted to say “no.” While I was abroad, I was able to have healthier habits and practice real self care. Once I came home, though, my friends and family--my support system--didn’t understand this new self and expected me to be the way that I had always been. At the time I didn’t have the skills to understand that I had created a new identity and needed support to keep it up. So I just went with the flow, gained all the weight back, and began my next diet a few months later. Which, of course, didn’t work.

The thing to remember about living healthier through changing our habits is that we never get it done. We are always a work in progress. This became clear to me a few weekends ago when I was at a children’s birthday party. Before the party I had gone to yoga, and after that I had eaten a healthy, satisfying meal. I showed up at the party thinking I might just have a little dessert. I was happy to see they had a big chocolate Costco sheet cake. I love Costco sheet cakes because they have that delicious cream layer in the middle.

With my old habits, I would have eaten a big piece, enjoyed the taste but then felt guilty. With my new habits, I thought about it for a few extra minutes and decided that I would try a small piece first. I took a bite. It tasted really artificial and sugary to me. My taste buds had become much more sensitive. I decided to just eat the cream layer and then discreetly toss the rest into the trash. Even with that little bit of sugar, my body immediately felt off balance. But instead of feeling guilty about it, I looked at it as extra knowledge that will help me in forming my new habits. I’m hoping that the future me will politely decline the cake and later eat a few pieces of high quality dark chocolate to satisfy my sugar craving. Maybe the future me won’t crave sugar at all.  If so, I’m curious to meet her!

Take a moment and think about your current identity. What habits do you have?  How do the people in your life expect you to show up?

Now think about your desired future identity and her habits. Does she go to bed earlier even when the laundry isn’t folded? Does she stop eating when she’s full even though there is food left on the plate? Now think about your support system. Are you surrounded daily by people who have the habits you want? Or are you just going with the flow of what people expect from you?

These are really important questions to ask yourself because if you don’t have the support system to support the person you want to become, change is going to be really hard. We are social creatures who crave a sense of belonging. Thinking that our new self is going to be rejected by our support system creates a lot of unconscious fear. We often self-sabotage our good efforts because we are afraid that the people in our lives won’t be able to handle our healthier self with all of her new boundaries. This is why I do a lot of group coaching.  To make change, we need other people who understand exactly where we are at and also where we want to go. I create communities of women taking on habit change and evolving together.  It’s powerful!

One really easy way to begin creating support for your new identity is to invite the people in your world to make changes with you.

I have clients who are afraid that their husbands will freak out if they change dinner time to 6pm, but often their husbands are excited about the idea. One of my client’s husband, who is retired and home all day but has never cooked before, has even start making dinner so they can eat right when she gets home from work.

We may fear all the unknown variables that accompany change, but if we never try to communicate our needs, we will stay stuck in fear and never become our best, most dynamic selves. This is the self we know we are but don’t quite know how to become.

I tell people all the time about creating a life that is in sync with the daily cycles--getting up earlier, sleeping deeper, being truly nourished by food--and they ask me how to get there. I tell them about these three secrets to really great self care and that it can feel a bit unsexy at times. I’m not promising big dramatic changes that happen in 10 days. It’s all about being honest with yourself, starting small, being held accountable, and finding support. My clients actually make the changes they desire, and suddenly, the unsexy gets a little sexier because it works!

There you have it . Unsexy as they may be at times, these are my hard won lessons. They've changed everything in my life and they can for you too.  If you are deeply intrigued, then it's time for us to talk.  Take this survey to sign up for a free 30 minute phone session with me, and we'll be off and running.

Next week I'm going to give you the BONUS SECRET that ties everything together.  Make sure you read it because without it none of the other secrets will work.

Self Care Secret #2: Understand the Science of Habit Change

My second secret for really great self care is to understand the scienceof habit change. It has been shown that if we want to see really big changes in our habits, we have to focus on the little ways we live our lives.

In my first secret, I explained how I got hooked on diets early in life. Again, I just loved all that promise of a new life! Instead of actually changing the way I lived, I just fantasized about how much better it would be once I lost 30 lbs. Only it never worked! Diets don’t work. Studies have proven that any change made by using willpower alone does not work. This is because willpower is such an easily exhaustible resource.

Take a look at your own experience. How many New Year’s resolutions have you broken? How many diets have you crashed and burned? And what does it leave you? A greater belief that you don’t really know how to take care of yourself.

What diets (or any resolution based on willpower) do for us is give us a fantasy so we don’t really have to actually change anything in the present moment. But they will never take us to authentic self care or the relationship with our bodies and our lives that we crave. If I could save you one bit of pain, it would be to abandon your diet or your big great resolution right now.

So what does work? I’m so happy to announce that I have found something that is SO FREAKING effective. And it helps me understand why diets and other resolutions didn’t work for me at all. The secret is habit change.

To understand habit change, I want you to think about the many habits that make up your actions throughout the day. You have a habit of starting the coffee when you wake up and brushing your teeth before bed. You have a habit of listening to the news on your way to work and having dessert after dinner. Your habits have a momentum that pulls you through your day. This is great because you don’t have to start from scratch every morning deciding how to spend every moment of your time. That would be exhausting.

Imagine that your habits are a big moving train with a lot of cars that takes you through your days, weeks and years. This train is powered by the momentum of practicing these habits your whole life and probably your parent’s lives as well. So why doesn’t willpower work to make change? Well, asking a big moving train to slam on the brakes and move in another direction quickly is almost impossible. Even if we can get it to stop, it can lead to a big crash.

If we want to change our habits, we have to start small and be consistent.

Our work is to look for the smallest incremental change and take that small change on with commitment. One of the habits that I have worked hard to change is to eat an earlier and lighter dinner. It’s something that I focus on extensively with my clients because it’s one of the best ways to lose weight, sleep better and heal digestion issues. Simply, it’s very hard to digest food later in the evening when our body is not producing bile and we are stationary.

When I learned about this, I was eating my dinner between 7-8pm and sometimes not until 9 or 9:30pm. I now eat my dinner between 4:30-5:30pm, but that didn't happen right away. It took me over a year of moving my dinner back little by little--sometimes just by 15 minutes--until I got to that earlier hour.

As a result, I sleep much better and have really changed the way I approach my meal schedule. Without really trying, I’ve lost 25 pounds, look better, and have a much more comfortable relationship with my body. It’s proof to me that little changes can add up to some really big change. If you find yourself thinking too big, I invite you to embrace a smaller step in the right direction. Even if these changes feel too small, they are working. If you stay committed to them they will create big, big change over time.

So take a moment here and think of a change that feels really big. Look at your sleeping habits. Maybe you are exhausted and want to remember what it feels like to wake up rested? Going to bed by 10pm every night is ideal, but it’s probably not realistic if you go to bed at midnight now. So how about trying 11:30pm for two weeks? And once that works well, try for 11pm. If you keep going slowly and surely, you may get yourself to 10pm without it feeling incredibly difficult. You won’t exhaust your willpower.

The bonus is that you’ll start to build some pretty great self-esteem because all of a sudden you’ve become a person who is actually changing their habits. You’ll see results, feel much better and because it’s so slow and sustainable, you will keep going.

In my group coaching courses and my one-on-one sessions, we work on just on incorporating one new health habit a week. One habit a week! It almost feels like too little, but powerful changes can happen in a few months if you take a week to really focus on something you want to change. Maybe it’s changing your sleep habits or creating a dynamic morning routine. Maybe it's learning to enjoy food on a whole new level while letting go of guilt (and maybe even losing weight in the process).

Whatever the shift, if it's small enough and consistent enough it will change your life over the long run. Suddenly, you're this person who is capable of change. You'll look at yourself differently in the mirror and wonder about your other capabilities.

Next week,  I'll post my third secret for really great self care. Don't miss it. I'll talk you through getting to know this new you and teach you how to avoid the self-sabotage that so often sets you back. This last secret puts everything together.

PS - Where are your habits leading your life?  Tell me and together, we'll figure out how you can take the next small step to greater health. This is life-changing stuff so get ready.

Figuring Out Fomo

  This weekend I started writing a post about my recent relationship history. I outlined the nitty-gritty ten month trajectory of how I went from being with a partner to being single. I wasn't sure exactly why I was writing it all out and so I'm not surprised now that I accidentally deleted it while cleaning up my unsaved drafts. (Note, I was doing this in preparation for this blog to be transferred to my new beautiful WordPress website in this next month. Stay tuned for redirection to that site and lots of other fun changes).

For the sake of this entry, let's just start that right now - I do not have a partner for the first time in almost four years. At first this realization was a relief and then it was sadness and then it was exciting and then it was panicky and now it's mellowed to something like contentedness with a twist of possibility and the occasional venture into doubt. Overall, I feel great about my life -- better than ever. I've lived enough to know a few things about the healing process and I'm happy to report that I'm trusting life. Sometimes, when I am taking Poncho for our evening walk, I like to look up at the sky and laugh at how how utterly impossible it is to really be alone in our ecosystem of complete connection.

But sometimes it's more complicated especially when the unstructured days of the weekend roll around, this other nagging feeling sets in. My mind begins getting all worked out about any empty spaces in my schedule. Some like to call this "fomo", fear of missing out. With my fomo, the usual response is to start planning activities. Living in a city like Washington, DC the possibilities are really endless. There are so many great activities, often free, and beautiful public parks and incredible yoga classes and fun social things to do like eat delicious brunch or go see great music or just sit on someone's porch and take in the day.

My external thought on this: I'm only living this life once and I have to take advantage of as much as I can. 

This is a nice and often-true thought but there's more to it than that.

There is also a behind-the-scenes whisper more like:  If I pack it all in, then I won't have to deal with this lonely feeling residing at the back of my heart. 

I wish I could say this was a totally new single-lady pattern but truthfully, there's always been a background lonely feeling. It's been there since I can remember, has disappeared when I'm falling in love and then reappeared once I've settled into a relationship. I've worked to cover it up with a variety of substances (some kind of peanut butter ice cream treat has always been a favorite method), but I've also worked hard to push it back by saying yes to as many things as I could. More times that I care to remember, I've crammed in way too much--sometimes even consciously double-booking myself. This has made me disappoint people by having to cancel last minute or show up late, given me anxious stomach aches, and many times made me not actually enjoy the activity I'm doing because I get worried about what has to happen for me to get to the next place.

But lately a funny thing has happened now. I've spent these past 10 months really cleaning up my daily routines, diet, home space and relationships. Obviously, it's really changed me. as a result, it's much easier for me to see my purpose for being on this earth as someone who uplifts. As I feel into this purpose, I see myself as truly valuable. This feels not so egoic because as I see my value, I see others more clearly too. We are all valuable, full of possibility as human beings, non-negotiable, period--can we agree on that?

So now, when the weekend comes and with it the fear and loneliness that I will miss something vital and defining, I'm reacting differently. Jjust like always, my loneliness start to whisper scream at me that I need to plan more, do more, spend more, eat more, or else!!! Why did I miss that amazing show!?! How have I not tried out that new restaurant yet?!?

I SHOULD BE ON AN LIFE-CHANGING HIKE THROUGH THE WILDERNESS RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!

But now I'm braver.  So when all that starts, I stare down the loneliness and ask--or else what? You know, it never have any kind of answer that makes sense. Actually after all that screaming, it usually tires itself out pretty quickly and leaves. Once it's quiet inside my head, I do whatever it is I need to or want and I enjoy it more, from a very different place in myself.

Crazy huh? Honestly, I would rather not share it out loud because it feels so revealing, but I sense I'm not alone on this one. Our culture teaches us that we can buy and eat and look a certain way so we can avoid having to feel these tricky feelings. Yet despite so much ridiculous consumption, we are an under-nourished people. We are under-nourished because we have become habitually, unconsciously disconnected from what really sustains us--which are knowledge and practices that prove our own worth. When we don't know our value, we lack the strength to stare down our own fear before it causes us to make decisions which harm ourselves, others or our ecosystem.

What I love about Ayurveda is that it doesn't claim to know what is best for each of us. I've been lecturing on it a bit lately (let me know if you want me to give a talk somewhere!), and people are surprised when I don't give them a list of should and shouldn't. Instead, I ask them to start paying attention to how they feel and notice when something doesn't make them feel good. From experience, I know that we may have to feel the negative side effects quite a few times before we make a decision to change, but I trust that will come for all of us if we stay with it. I really do. The secret is consciousness, the methodology is knowing that we each deserve to feel good in our lives and the practice is sticking with it,  no matter how loud the fomo may be that day.