A rReview Of Lisa Jacobs’ Movers & Makers Summit in Charleston, SC

I’m fresh off the island where Lisa Jacobs hosted her first annual retreat for creatives, dubbed the Movers & Makers Summit. Not only did I get a chance to look at Carte Blanche in a fresh light, I met amazing women–women who had won the Project Runway of knitting… women who create beautiful art… women who are so talented, they are getting noticed by big box stores. While still riding the high of the weekend, I thought I’d give a review of the retreat for those of you who are considering signing up in future years. Or, maybe you decided not to come and you’re wondering what you missed. Here was our itinerary, designed by Bonnie Christine:

As my Uber dropped me off at the Comfort Suites where everyone else was staying, I kind of limped in like a sad dog. After all, I had missed all the networking + social opportunities to engage with the group the night before. My energy immediately picked up when I started talking with the girls in the group. And one of them was pregnant, so of course I was excited to talk with her. An articulate, attractive guy rounded us up a few minutes before 9, and I couldn’t believe how well-organized this thing already was. I’ve never had a cab driver who was so professional and caring! (Cab guy turned out to be April’s husband, an attorney! They find me everywhere…) April’s husband, Chris, pulled up to the huge house and we all ran in like a bunch of brides at a sample sale. The place was beautiful, it looked like it belonged in a Diane Keaton movie with all the dramatic white elements and the waves right outside. Maxie, Bonnie Christine’s mom, had set up a breakfast arrangement that was nothing short of first class. It took everything I had to maintain my composure– I struggled not to writhe around on the floor after finally living my dream of living in a Pottery Barn ad. Outrageous behavioral urges aside, I’m going to cover what each presenter talked about, what I took away from them, and how I’m making their words actionable in my life now or in the near future.

Lisa kicked off the morning with a speech that kicked-ass, took names and got my butt into high gear. The theme of her speech was “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” From my notes, three highlights of her speech were as follows:

• 95% of entrepreneurs fail to accomplish what they want to do, and that 95% won’t even look at what needs to change in their life.

• When you reach a goal, don’t forget to set new ones.

• Put workday task complaints on paper so they are actionable.

Lisa’s talk covered everything from the stages of entrepreneurial development (novice, amateur and professional) and talked about why people get stuck in certain stages, and more importantly, how to rise above the pitfalls of development to pro and stay there.

What I’m Implementing at Carte Blanche as a Result of Lisa’s Talk:

This year, I’ll be publishing my first book as a result of Lisa’s question “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?” The book is about helping yoga instructors after they achieve certification. I’ll cover the ins-and-outs of marketing yourself, developing your brand and selling your service. I’m in development with a graphic artist who is designing the cover, and the book will be available for pre-sale as soon as the cover is nailed down.

Bonnie Christine: There’s Room for You

Bonnie is the 21st century version of Martha Stewart. Actually, that’s not even fair. She’s better than Martha Stewart. She is everything I aspire to be- a do-it-all-yourselfer-mom with an eye for incredible beauty. Officially, she is a surface pattern designer (you know those beautiful backgrounds on computers, bags, shower curtains and wallpaper?… it’s that.) She also runs Going Home to Roost, a blog that makes me a better, happier person and contains so much cute you just might cry. Bonnie opened up about how she got started working for herself, gave us some quick design tips and finished us off with a bit of excellent business advice. So what did we learn? Here’s the big three:

• Bonnie spent 6 months creating 100+ patterns before she had a collection that she was proud of, and felt represented her style.

•Story, story, story! Stories are so important when you’re building your business. Whether it’s meta-storytelling (think your ‘About’ page) or micro-stories, like the ones Bonnie creates for each of her fabric collections. For example, her “Hello, Bear” fabric collection, named after her son Bear, has an adorable story to tell the tale of the fabrics she created for little boy’s clothing.

• Do it every day. Do one thing that grows your business every single day. For Bonnie, in the early days, it meant taking an Illustrator class every single day as she learned her craft. Even though she wasn’t selling anything yet, she was still doing something every day that got her to where she is today.

What I’m Implementing at Carte Blanche as a Result of Bonnie’s Talk:

Really, it’s a lifestyle shift. Bonnie doesn’t know it, but she gave me permission to have beautiful things in my life just for the sake of having beautiful things. This means I put my food in a bowl before I eat it in order to appreciate the way I’m about to nourish my body. It means I take time and care and put it into whatever I’m doing. Instead of having 20+ windows open on my computer while texting and listening to music, I open a new window and clear the work space around me. I stop surfing the internet to text a friend back.

Before I met Bonnie, I didn’t know so much was possible from one person. I mean, she made her own Christmas wrapping paper and gift tags. She makes her son things just for the fun of it. She has plants around her workspace and it doesn’t look like a jungle. Her level of functioning elevates me and motivates me to craft, to learn and to play, all activities I am neglecting now because I thought those were things ‘other’ people did, people with more time on their hands.

Kerry Burki: Self-Care for Creatives

Kerry is a fellow yoga teacher who also runs the blog Handmade Success, a blog dedicated to supporting creatives in everything from business problems to self-care. In fact, the latter is what she taught us our first day in Charleston in between four conscious business design exercises. Here’s my top three from Kerry:

• It’s okay to give yourself a back rub in the middle of the day. In fact, it’s encouraged.

• Finding the tasks that you enjoy in your business are just as important as finding the tasks you dislike about running your business. Regardless of your feelings towards a task, make a task work for you.

• Break goals down, then break them down some more, then some more, then more and more and more. Then complete those itsy bitsy goals, because they’ll get you back to that big goal.

What I’m Implementing at Carte Blanche as a Result of Kerry’s Talk:

Kerry had some really cute printables she passed out to everyone and went through with us in between bouts of self-love and massage. Not only will I be putting the (very personal) information I wrote down on the printables to good use, I will also be more conscious of the way I am treating myself and my business throughout each day.

April Bowles-Olin: Creating Your Own Success

What’s stronger than espresso? April, of Blacksburg Belle. It’s clear to see why this girl is an internet celeb. Sure she’s got personality, presence and charisma, but what really stood out to me during April’s talk is her incredible knack for business. She’s put her foot down in ways that I didn’t think you could when you’re the little guy just starting out. April’s talk was not about boundaries, but more than anything else, this is what I got from it. Why? Read on:

• April has set an incredible standard for her business to deliver to her clients and refuses to budge. She shared the story of teaching her first Creative Live course. When she arrived in California, the manuals she created for the course had been printed in black and white. She had spent time and consideration crafting the manuals in color, and wanted her students to experience them in color because that’s what they expected from her. At this early stage in a budding career and coming to a big venue, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to do what she did because I would be so glassy-eyed at the opportunity to teach on such a large platform. But the manuals were re-printed and all went well. As April told this story, I had a lightbulb moment… “I can do this to! I want to set boundaries like this!” So that’s what I’m doing.

• Which leads me into the second thing I learned from April. I’m not even sure she talked about this explicitly, but it was very clear from her talk that you don’t get anything without asking for it. April clearly has some guts and a killer dose of confidence. She pitched and had published 18 guest blog posts in one month. She’s launched course after course with great success. You don’t get ahead without asking others for help, asking others to believe in you, asking others to trust in you when you sell them a product.

• Saying yes means saying no. These are April’s exact words during her talk. My whole life, I’ve perpetually over committed myself to say yes (ahem…boundaries again!) and by doing so, I’ve spent a lot of time being resentful as I poured over a job I wasn’t interested in, relationships that weren’t helping me reach my highest potential and tasks that were better left for others. When you say yes to taking on anything- a task, a job, a volunteer opportunity, a business event- you are saying no to lots of other things you could be doing during that time period.

What I’m Implementing at Carte Blanche as a Result of April’s Talk:

I’m developing boundaries. Boundaries for myself, for others, and my business. I won’t settle for anything that doesn’t bring my clients what I want them to have, and I won’t sacrifice my time on things that don’t propel the business or myself forward in a positive direction.

Paige French: Photography for Your Small Business

From the moment you see Paige it is clear she is an artist. Her photography is indeed sold as art as of a few months ago. She has an ethereal look, right down to her hair and clothing. Paige gave us the last talk of the weekend, graciously delving out tips and tricks of photography. Here’s the big three:

• To take good photography, you must become familiar with the ‘exposure triangle.’

• Find your own style. This may mean abstaining from Instagram and Pinterest for awhile.

• It’s never too late or too hard to start doing your own thing. A mere six years ago, Paige started shooting professionally. She is self-taught and came to the career accidentally. Prior to becoming a photographer, Paige designed and created clothing sold on Etsy. She needed to take great photos of the clothing in order to sell it. So, she picked up a camera and started to learn. A necessity became a passion and a passion became her career. If you enjoy doing something, just start doing it! Paige wasn’t taking pictures professionally or even full-time when she started. She didn’t go to any classes, get any certifications and didn’t wait for others to tell her how great her work was. She got in there, got dirty and developed a style that helps her shoot for top retailers and publications today.

What I’m Implementing at Carte Blanche as a Result of Paige’s Talk:

Actually, I’ll be implementing two things: (1) I loved Paige’s camera. I would love to learn how to shoot on a camera like that and take really cute photos for this blog and beyond. I’ll be taking more photos and posting them everywhere- here, instagram, everywhere. (2) I’ll consider hiring a stylist for future professional photo shoots.

Conclusion

Words on a blog cannot convey the energy and enthusiasm an event like this brings into your life. If you are on the fence about going to one of Lisa’s events, her Luminaries club or anything else she does, this is my testimonial that she has an eye for what works. Even though this was Year 1 for her M&M Summit, everything was pulled off without a hitch- I never would have known Lisa’s never done anything like this before. I wish her and all the ladies attending and teaching at the summit great success because everyone there deserves it. If you have any questions or comments about what transpired at the M&M Summit, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.…

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Part ii Of Great Skin: What You Put Into Your Body

For the next few weeks, I’m returning to the final four components of great skin care. The original post is here. What follows below are merely general guidelines, and only you will know which ones you should adopt and which ones aren’t working for you. I am not a nutritionist, dermatologist, ayurvedic specialist, etc. However, I am self-admittedly obsessed with researching anything I’m putting into or onto my body. These are observations I’ve made, tips I’ve gained through trial and error, and eating patterns that have worked for me. So here we go:

the second component of awesome skin has to do with the things you choose to put into your body.

Quite simply, this can be broken down into three categories:

1. Liquids
2. Solids
3. Gases

1. Liquids

These are the essential liquids you want to include in your diet for great skin:

Water

  • At least 32 ounces every day
  • Mineral/Spring water is best, but just make sure the water you consume is not fluoridated (that includes the water in your pasta, rice, tea, coffee, etc.!)

Green Tea

Tip: decaffeinate it naturally by steeping it once and using that water on your plants. Re-steep for decaffeinated tea.

Green Juices/ Smoothies

Step away from the sugary fruit juices unless you absolutely cannot tolerate the green stuff
Avoid kale juice if it is contraindicated for you based on your test results from Great Skin: Part I. A common contraindication for kale (and other cruciferous veggies, at least when they are consumed raw) is Hashimoto’s, a common autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid.

Coffee

Whaaa? Yeah, I drink coffee, I love it, and I have great skin. I recommend drinking only organic and filtered coffee from a percolator or other non-plastic brewing device. I like to mix decaf and regular coffee.

Read: Espresso Machines Buying Guide

2. Solids

Fats

Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut Oil is a great addition to any diet in my non-medical, smooth-skinned opinion. I like the Lifeway brand oil.

Butter. The organic, grass-fed kind. Animals store their toxins in fat, so don’t skimp. The extra cost is worth it for great skin and the possibility of a long, healthy life.

Extra virgin cold-pressed organic olive oil (non-heated). You have to be careful with EVOO because it undergoes a chemical reaction at low temps and turns into a trans fat. I sprinkle EVOO (okay more like vigorously pour it) on spinach with a pinch of salt for a tasty, fast side dish at dinner.

Experiment with other oils, particularly those from nuts (flax, walnut, non-GMO safflower…) Make sure they are cold-pressed (rather than expeller… the former doesn’t use any chemicals). Additionally, if the oil comes from a genetically modified crop avoid it unless it is labeled Non-GMO. You can find a list here of GM crops. The two most common culprits that turn into oil are soybeans and corn. And those oils aren’t even that great for you anyway. So take that Monsanto.

Protein

I think humans are like bears- we’re not meant to have a meat-based diet but rather we are opportunistic carnivores, benefiting from the consumption of meat products that are as raised as close to nature as is possible.

Eggs from chickens who are cage free & humanely raised. There aren’t any standards on what this means, so you may want to research sources of eggs ahead of time. Or go to Whole Foods. They’re pretty good about not paying mean farmers. Pretty good, not perfect.

Meat, especially grass-fed AND finished beef and ‘Step 4+’/non-caged pork. Animals raised in more natural settings have more Omega-3 in their fat, which is great for your skin.

Fish. Don’t skimp here. Buy the best. The younger the fish species tend to live, the less mercury it will contain.
Aim for wild salmon. Tilapia is cheap, but still a healthy option. So is Catfish, if you’re like me down here in the South and that’s an option for ‘yall.

Vegetables

Garlic (and onions). Garlic is pretty much the vascular wonder-child, it can do no wrong.

Organic. Always better. You knew that. Organics are kind of like yearly physicals. You pay more upfront to avoid bigger problems down the road. Consider it an investment.

In-Season. Ayurvedic medicine holds that these vegetables are more easily digestible and better at balancing our individual constitution(s).

Frozen. Avoid canned vegetables– the liner more often than not contains BPA. Frozen vegetables are my favorite to maximize nutritional value and taste. The texture is sometimes off, but I also just throw frozen vegetables into a wok with butter and salt, then use the “wait and see” cooking method. I don’t recommend cooking like this.

Sugars and Carbs

What? I think these are delicious. And totally necessary on your birthday.

Cupcakes. I have a rule- I have to make them myself. This ensures I use only good ingredients and keep the junk out (i.e. the preservatives, trans fats, etc.) It also ensures I don’t eat cupcakes every day (sadly, there was a period in my life when this was the norm.)

Vitamins and Minerals

Anything you are deficient in… As I talked about in Part I, it is important to have good baseline knowledge of where you stand, deficiency-wise, and work with a doctor to balance that out.

Vitamin B12. Shots or sublingual tablets/liquids are nearly always a good boost to your diet- many people have problems absorbing this vitamin from food and oral vitamin sources.

Magnesium from Epsom salt. I am a huge proponent of bathing for 15-20 minutes 1-3 times per week in Epsom salts.

Tip: The San Francisco Salt Company sells a huge bag (20 lbs!) of USP Grade Epsom salt, with free shipping!

4. Gases

Admittedly, it is a bit tricky to control the air we touch and breath. One remedy is to rinse your nose and body everyday, even if you don’t use soap (you can always use oil instead to pull the particulates off.)

Clean Air. Limit your exposure to exhaust while driving by making sure the recirculate feature is on in your car and keeping your windows closed in high-traffic areas. I’m a huge proponent of getting out of the city at least once a week. The beach or mountains are the best places left on this planet to find clean air. Avoid outdoor aggravations such as pollen, chem-trails and environmental pollutants by staying inside when these particles are heavy.

BONUS CATEGORY:

Thoughts and Images. What you put into your body is not limited to the physical components of our life. Be mindful of what you choose to think about or expose yourself to, because these affect who we are. Will you have terrible skin if you watch an entire season of Housewives in one weekend? No. Probably not. But you will find yourself thinking differently after viewing that content. Are you open to this new way of thinking? If so, watch away! If not, there are lots of other things to do with your time. Like get a facial ☺

“health is a by-product of enlightenment.”
-Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Ayurvedic Physician…

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Bringing Abundance Into Your Life This Fall

We all have things in our life that make us feel tiny. One of the challenges in life is finding those things or people and removing them. This year, I bought seven impatiens plants for six pots. The extra plant was to be used just in case one died. The pots were little but cute. Just the thing for a front porch that looked like a Pottery Barn ad! I was promised the impatiens would bloom to beautiful heights no matter what. Confident in the shopkeeper’s promise, I tossed the seventh impatiens onto the ground beside the pots without a second thought. The six potted plants are weird looking and didn’t bloom much. The seventh? Flourishing.

Right now, my life is filled with abundance and love. But it wasn’t always this way. A few years ago, I was in a compressive, dark space. We’re talking a hermit cave that even the hermits vacated because it was too squished. That small. The worst part? I didn’t even realize it! I just knew I felt bad. What I didn’t realize at the time is that it’s really hard to see for yourself how bad it is when you feel this little. Especially when well-intentioned friends and family are encouraging you to embrace the things that are making you feel tiny, the pretty pots that look so great in the Pottery Barn ad.

Want to know a secret about Pottery Barn ads? They’re fake. They use fake food, fake plants, fake stuff to create an illusion of beauty and perfection. But when we remove the real plants from the container and let them find their own roots– their own happiness– the plants thrive.

You have a choice- staying in a beautiful, but tiny, container, or boundless, imperfect abundance in a wild world.

The decision you make is the right one for you. And if (when) it changes, that will be what’s right for you in that moment too.

Where I’m finding abundance right now:
I had the opportunity to spend time in and out of the studio with my mentor Annie (yep, that’s us in the picture.) I’m getting my certification to teach prenatal yoga soon from Mama Tree, a school (and teacher) I feel so lucky to be able to study with (love you Jane!) I’ve been invited (and accepted) an opportunity to regularly contribute to Forefront magazine. And best of all, my life is filled with people who I love and who love me.

Everyone has the ability to create abundance in their life. I would love to know where you are finding abundance this fall.…

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Five Steps To Perfect Skin

What you’re about to read isn’t an ‘overnight guide to great skin.’ I wish I could tell you how that could happen. No, this is about a lifestyle shift. For some, the change (should you choose to accept it) will be more drastic than others. (And I’m betting they will be the ones who see the biggest difference in their skin!!)

What is the perfect skin? Perfect skin to me means having the skin I don’t have to worry about. The skin I can place makeup over, or not. Perfect skin to me means choices. Confidence. A true reflection of my inner light.

In order to have perfect skin, you must pay attention to the five essential components of great skin:

1. what you’re not putting into your body
2. what you put into your body
3. what you keep out of your body
4. what you put onto your body
5. what you take off your body

This week, the discussion will center around #1- What are you not getting enough of? You should definitely read these recumbent bike reviews to get a sense of what you have been missing.

Originally, one of the other discussion points followed that hallowed #1 slot. But this is the most important, and most remediable, an aspect of great skin. It is the one I am the most excited about.

Now, I say this is the most remediable step, but it is decidedly not the easiest. Because here is your task, should you accept it: Go See (a) Doctor(s). Maybe more than one.

Every year, I pay a visit to a great PA named Lisa who checks me all over for melanoma. This is the most basic skincare maintenance you could practice. Having untreated melanoma on your body because you choose not to get a checkup is pretty not-sexy. Then, at least twice a year I visit my general practitioner, Dr. Taz Bhatia. There are a few other doctors I see, but this is my short list for maintaining fab skin. {BTW- if you are in Atlanta, feel free to steal my doctors!}

Visiting Dr. Taz is the most essential part of my skincare routine. Say what?! A doctor? Yes. So long as you are deficient in vitamins, minerals, or other necessary compounds, you will never have the skin you deserve. For my readers who don’t live in Atlanta, I recommend setting aside some time to find an MD/ND (medical doctor + naturopath). Sometimes these doctors are referred to as “Integrative” practitioners. Even if you can’t find an integrative doctor, you can request certain tests, the results of which could improve your skin. I recommend the following annually (based purely on my experience, albeit as a non-medical professional):

1. Thyroid Testing.

Due to many chemicals and toxins, we are exposed to in our 21st-century lives, many of us will find our thyroids are out of whack. In my opinion, as a hypothyroid sufferer, I’ve found Iodoral works way better than Synthroid. This was a treatment Dr. Taz tipped me off too when the pharmaceuticals were doing nil. This is a blood test.

2. Adrenal Gland Testing.

The results may surprise you. Adrenal function is tied in with your thyroid function. This is a saliva test.

3.Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency Testing.

No excuses, this one should be covered by your health insurance. However, if you want to go the extra mile, I recommend the NutrEval test from Genova Diagnostics. This is a blood and urine test. Even if you don’t get tested, in my opinion, everyone should be supplementing magnesium and B vitamins. For more on how to maximize absorption of these notoriously hard-to-assimilate vitamins, read on here.

4. Yeast Culture.

Newsflash: Candida overgrowth is way too common. For more information about yeast overgrowth, check out this great article. This is a stool test.

5. Heavy Metal Testing.

Because “You look like the tin man” has never been a compliment.

So those are my recommendations. It is a lot to take in, but don’t let it overwhelm you incorporate this information into your day little by little. Maybe today you make a long list of doctors for research. Tomorrow you come up with a short list. The next day, you could call to make an appointment. Then, write down a list of your concerns (for real, you will forget if you don’t!) or print out your checklist for an even easier trip to the doctor.…

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Finding Your Focus

The other day, I met an entrepreneurial little boy.  He looked to be about five years old and was sitting in the back of an old pickup parked on the side of a road that leads to some beautiful, wooded trails. As I approached him, he made a tempting offer: for only five quarters, he would give me a dollar bill. I didn’t have five quarters, so I just gave him a high five and chuckled as I walked on. The exchange, while playful and lighthearted, got me to thinking…

what are you forfeiting right now in exchange for something that would be worth more to you in the long run?

An obvious example in my own life is my forfeiture of stability and predictability for a career that is unpredictable but fulfilling. My job as a lawyer was like that beautiful, crisp green bill.  Like a diploma, it’s easy to frame and show off.  It feels more valuable.  It has more substance to it.  There’s something very satisfying about running a few dollars through your hands as you count them off. Paper money is regal and is the ultimate status symbol.  Alas, a dollar bill is only worth $1, not $1.25.  To me, that extra 25¢ is worth the effort.  Coins are loose… more difficult to keep tabs on.  They are chaotic and heavy to carry around. Their diminutive nature and our flippant use of them makes coins feel less valuable.  Nevertheless, the construction of best inversion tables is sturdy and enduring.  It may be easily lost but not destroyed.

This week, before the week gets busy and our intentions are crowded out by our obligations, take a moment to remember what your true vocation is.  Are you honoring that vocation? Or is something else– something that is safe or pretty or instantly satisfying– taking precedence over your long-term calling?  Which path would you feel better on? How can you get there?…

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Yoga Makes You Skinny

While science has only begun to validate what yoga and Ayurvedic practitioners have known for 1000s of years, one thing is blatantly obvious: a regular yoga practice reduces your weight.

The amazing thing? It doesn’t even have to be an intense, vigorous, 1000 chaturangas in an hour yoga practice. Gentle yoga (even restorative yoga!) if done consistently, is enough to reduce your weight.

How?

As Matthew Sanford said, “Yoga isn’t about putting your leg behind your head…it’s about bringing awareness to your movements, noticing what feels good, and living fully in your own body— whatever body that may be.”

By doing yoga, you gain two weight-busting advantages with no extra effort:

First, as Sanford notes, you gain a better understanding of your body. Your awareness of sensation in your body is heightened. Bye bye cravings- you’ll see them coming a mile away and you’ll be better prepared. You’ll start to see patterns emerge… such as when you’re thirsty, you crave sweets. More amazingly, when you love your body you crave foods that nourish your body. Hint: sugary, fattening foods (ahem, cupcakes) are not nourishing. And when you do crave a cupcake once every blue moon, you won’t feel bad indulging because with your heightened awareness, you’ll enjoy every bite that. much. more.

Second, yoga reduces stress. Duh. When you’re stressed, a nice little hormone called cortisol comes out to play with the fat on your tummy. So what happens when you stress less? Less cortisol= less belly fat. A study by the National Institutes of Health found women who consistently practiced yoga burned nearly 2 ½ times more body fat than the control group (these Zen ladies were only doing restoratives!)

The most important thing if you want to lose weight? Get best treadmills for home. For fifteen minutes. For two hours. As long as you’re there, you’re blasting fat.

To learn more about losing weight through yoga, connect by filling out an Application today.…

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Five Tips To Improve Your Health Today

Recently, Will Lenzen of FounderHealth.co interviewed me about my entrepreneurial endeavor (CB!) and my health habits as a yoga instructor.  As part of the podcast, Will always ask the same question to all interviewees: What is one thing founders can do this week to improve their health?

While the podcast episode won’t be out until August, it got me thinking about how else I wanted to answer that question.  You’ll have to wait until August to hear my answer, but here’s five for the road, folks:

1. Wear a non-chemical sunscreen every day.  I like this one made by Josie Maran.  Physical blockers (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) don’t contain any endocrine disruptors.  Happy face, happy hormones.

2. Buy fresh flowers at least once a month.  A luxury? Maybe.  A mood booster? Definitely.  If fresh flowers are too expensive, consider a potted plant.  Snake plants, Easter Lilies and many others boast improved air quality.  Orchids are beautiful and cheap (helllooo Trader Joes! tip: buy a grow light if you can handle the hue- your orchid will bloom forever!).

3. Find somewhere to walk to once a day.  Maybe it’s to the store.  Maybe it’s on the treadmill. Maybe it’s around the block.  Wherever you go, make it a fun experience- wear comfortable shoes, charge up your iPod or grab your FitBit and feel even more accomplished.  It doesn’t matter how far you go- really.  If you make it a pleasurable experience, you’ll find yourself getting out and around more often, and that’s when you’ll start to see the real health benefits. Bonus: Walking outside balances melatonin, improving your circadian rhythm (read: better sleep quality!).

4. All water is not created equal. Drink LOTS of clean, non-fluoridated water.  Make it easy.  Have a water provider deliver a dispenser and a few five gallon jugs.  Set your account  on auto-pay.  Go out and buy some pretty tea bags in delicious non-caffeinated flavors.  Stock up on stevia, monk fruit or honey.  In no time at all, you’ll watch your appetite disappear and energy improve.

5. Smile. It’s the fastest way to feel happy, get calm and look gorgeous.…

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Practicing Through An Injury

Things are getting personal this week.

In the middle of the night on November 1, I woke up seized by pain in my right wrist and hand. After taking some Aleve and NyQuil, I was able to drift back to sleep. The pain was still there when I woke up, and it hasn’t gone away in the seven months since I first experienced it.

Since August, I had been practicing at least two hours a day for 5-7 days per week and my practice time was only going to increase as I entered into an intensive Ashtanga teacher training.  Determined not to let this injury interfere with my plans, I pushed on and practiced harder with a  brace.  I was reluctant to let anyone know about my mystery injury that appeared out of nowhere, until the pain became unbearable.  I lasted a week on my own before others started noticing.  Many teachers and trusted yogis poked and prodded and manipulated my hand, and each person had a different diagnosis. After much encouragement and cajoling, I went to go see a doctor.  On a Friday afternoon, I didn’t have many options so I headed to an Emergency care clinic.  Two hours, a splint and three x-rays later, the doctor had not made a diagnosis and encouraged me to visit an orthopedic specialist.

The pain had only become stronger and more intense, and I was forced to modify my practice- downdog became dolphin, updog became cobra and chaturanga became forearm plank.  Frustrated, I went to an orthopedic hand specialist.  Dr. Viralkumar Patel walked into the room, 20 minutes late and obviously still rushing to make up for missed time.

“This is a carpal boss.  Only 2-3% of doctors would even find this, it is a rare diagnosis because everyone thinks these things are cysts.”

Staring with my mouth agape, all I could think is, “Wow, this guy is arrogant, he spent three seconds with me and didn’t even look at my x-rays and he thinks he knows what’s going on?”  Dr. Patel then went on…

“You must stop doing yoga. This is very bad, you have a lot of inflammation and you are destroying this joint.”

I started crying.  Dr. Patel looked at me like I had just poured vinegar in a wine glass and offered it to him as a $400 glass of champagne.

“Why are you crying? I just told you we can fix this.”

“But, you, you…you told me I can’t do [wahhhhh] yoga.”

“I don’t see what the problem is, it’s only yoga.  You have to get better.”

Clearly frustrated (and uncomfortable) by my continued sobbing during his already late schedule, Dr. Patel said he would send a nurse in with his treatment recommendation.  He put me on a heavy duty prescription NSAID, Voltarol (which sounds a lot more like a superhero than a drug) and sent me on my way.  Disgruntled, I drove directly to another orthopedic surgeon’s office.

Orthopedic surgeon #2, “Kyle,” was young, athletic and right out of med school.  He was not confident in his diagnosis, and things only got worse when I caved and told him about my morning with Dr. Patel.  To make a long story short, several visits and MRIs with Kyle cost about $9k+ and his final diagnosis: carpal bossing on my third carpal/metacarpal.  In summary:

Dr. Patel: $100 or less after insurance and generic Voltarol and a diagnosis in less than three minutes

Kyle: $1-2k out of pocket and a diagnosis in three months

After I stopped (read: greatly reduced) my yoga practice and took a course of Voltarol, my hand was better but still aching. Any extra pressure on my hands caused the inflammation and pain to flare up. Clearly handstands (my favorite) and arm balances were out of the question. This would be my new yoga practice, I decided. I would have to learn how to enjoy the finer aspects of yoga, and admire those who were born with perfect hands that hadn’t failed them as they soared through their arm balances and took my beloved handstands for granted.  (Still a little bitter? I think so… working on it Y’all…)

I’d come to peace with this decision, until I went to Annie Carpenter’s teacher training.  The first week was fine, I felt the pain, but pushed through it.  Bad idea. By the end of the second week, my hand ached all the time.  My modifications were back in full force and I felt so conflicted- ashamed that I was dishonoring my body by pushing through the pain and proud of myself for at least modifying and not just trying to get into the full expressions of the postures. With a tear in my eye, I approached Annie on the second to last day.  With kindness and compassion, she asked me what my options were and what the prognosis of those options were.  She took her time to talk to me about the surgery I was considering and why it might be a good idea, given the relatively low risks and a surgeon I trusted.

In the coming weeks, I will detail my surgery, recovery and return to yoga.  In the meantime, I want you to

Reflect on:

1. The things you are putting off

2. What you gain by putting these things off

3. What you lose by putting these things off

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Are You Being Shoved?

Recently, I began studying with a new yoga teacher.  This teacher is compassionate but pushes me hard.  She makes it difficult to attain my goals.  New goals that I did not have before I met her.  Contrast this with a prior teacher, who wanted to be compassionate but was not.  This former teacher made it impossible to achieve my goals but still told me to try anyway because by trying, I’d be better off than I was.  My new teacher is a pusher.  She’s the girl lending a hand down to help me climb up the stairs so I can enjoy the slide on the playground.  My old teacher was a shover.  This is the person shoving you off the stairs when you reach the top just to see if you can climb up again.

Being pushed can elevate us; it can take us to higher levels of understanding and appreciation of a situation.  The push creates space in us, to be filled with love, compassion, drive, or any number of positive emotions.  Being pushed is a great thing for three reasons: (1) it creates a clear goal we are striving to attain; (2) we gain the support of the pusher, be it a person or motivation; and (3) we are held accountable for reaching the goal by the pusher.

Being shoved only denigrates us; we are pushed back into the muck and the mud- often with little tools or support to help find our way out.  While this develops a resilience to adversity within us, it is not helpful for gaining the strong sense of self and support we crave– a sense of self we need if we are going to be elevated and elevate others.

If you are in a situation that is uncomfortable, be it a relationship or a yoga pose, ask yourself:

Am I being pushed or shoved?

If you are being pushed, how lucky for you! You clearly have someone who loves you or love for yourself that is capable of fostering a healthy sense of development towards your goal.

If you are being shoved, begin seeking ways to get out of this situation- it does not serve you and you will be hurt, physically or mentally.  For me, the breaking point was a physical injury with my former teacher.  Encouraged to continue a practice in the face of a severe hand injury, I realized this person was not pushing me from a place of compassion- they were shoving me to fit in the box they had created and couldn’t figure out what to do when I didn’t fit.

If you come to the realization that you are in an unhealthy relationship or situation and don’t want to be shoved anymore, take solace in the fact that there are better things headed your way.  When I left my former teacher, I was very confused, angry and worried.  I felt abandoned by the person I trusted and scared that I would never find another teacher to support me.  What happened instead is that I found a teacher I felt more confident in, more trusting of, and as a result, I am becoming a stronger student, a better teacher and a more compassionate person.

It seems so simple but if you are being shoved, try to treat yourself kindly and know that this is a great experience to learn from.  There will be richer opportunities in your near future.…

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