Year: 2013

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 to 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 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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