Friday, November 18, 2011

Conversation Skills Required

My experience with eHarmony did nothing if not help me whittle down my lists of "Must Haves" and "Can't Stands", as they call them.

Kevin was my first eHarmony date. We met at a local coffee shop, one of my favorite places to hang out on the weekends. I got there about 15 minutes early, wearing jeans, a nice tank top and a cardigan. I ordered my coffee and sat at a table for two with my Writer's Digest magazine.

We'd emailed back and forth a few times, so I knew his basics. He was a self-employed web software developer who liked to sail and loved water sports. I don't know why I was so surprised when he walked through the door looking more tanned than a Miss America contestant.

He was wearing jeans and a white, short-sleeved linen button-down shirt that only amplified his golden skin. As he approached, I stood and smiled, reaching out my hand to shake his as he leaned in to hug me. This was my first sign that we weren't on the same page.

"Nice to finally meet you in person," I said, trying to avoid any awkwardness.

"You, too," he said. "I'm just going to grab some coffee. Do you want anything?"

"Oh, I already got mine," I said, holding up my cup. The look on his face told me I should have waited so he could treat me. Since I couldn't take it back I tried to smooth things over by offering a warm smile and a quick suggestion. "The Charm City blend is my favorite."

By the time he'd ordered and returned to the table I'd put away my magazine and was fidgeting with the corner of my cup sleeve. He started the conversation by telling me he'd driven past the shop, which was why he'd been a few minutes late. I asked him about his plans for the day. "I'm heading to my parents' in Delaware. I'm going to spend the week up there," he said.

There was a pause while I waited for a reciprocal question. When it didn't come, I said, "So tell me more about your work. What exactly do you do?"

And this is how it went. I spent the entire time it took to drink my coffee asking him questions. He spent the whole time answering them. Despite several pauses in the conversation, not once did he ask me anything.

When my coffee was gone, I said I needed to get going. I gathered my stuff and told him I was parked around the corner. He'd also parked around the corner, so we made small talk as he walked with me.

"I'll give you a call when I get back from Delaware next week," he said, and gave me a hug.

It seemed he thought it went well, but I couldn't get past the fact that he walked away that day not knowing one single additional thing about me. I didn't hear from him again. I wasn't particularly surprised--or disappointed.

Must Have: Someone who can participate in an intelligent conversation. (Note: Conversations include reciprocity. Spending an entire date talking about yourself does not constitute a conversation.)

Kevin clearly didn't fit the bill.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Coasting

I'd like to believe that the moment I decided not to pursue medicine, I decided to take my life into my own hands. That's not the complete truth, though. I have this habit of stepping out, taking a chance, and then coasting.

For a long time, I let things happen to me. I wasn't very good at taking charge of my life. I went with the flow, as they say, rather than considering what I really wanted out of life. That's how I ended up finishing a pre-med program with no desire to go to medical school.

It is, at least in part, how I ended up in Baltimore. It was a friend's suggestions and coaxing that started the process, and once the ball got rolling I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I didn't wonder if it was the right choice, I just let momentum take over. I applied for jobs, I interviewed, and in the end, I found myself in Charm City.

It was my decision to go back to school and get my degree in writing, and it was my choice to change careers and move in a new direction. Then I took the first writing job that came my way and have been coasting along there for six years.

I took a chance and chose to pursue a man, and then I floated for years through a relationship that was going no where. It was comfortable and so I stayed.

It seemed there was no adventure in my bones, no fearlessness or spunk.  It was there, though, lying dormant. I just failed to recognize it, to nurture it. Now and then I would feed it with small risks and tiny tastes of audacity, but it wanted more.

And eventually it got what it wanted. Over the last 18 months I have been exploring adventure. I've been making more conscious choices, and I practice choosing every day what direction I want my life to move in. I decided to become a yoga teacher and I made it happen. Once I finished my training, I carefully chose the classes I wanted to teach. And when a new teaching opportunity comes up, I weigh my options and make the choice I think is best at the time.

I've tried new things, like ending a stagnant relationship, exploring online dating, flying an airplane, auditioning for a teaching position, and submitting essays to Big Name publications. I've learned from my mistakes and I've made some new ones. But I've done most of it consciously.

There will always be times when it's easier to let life sweep us through the motions and there's nothing wrong with coasting on occasion. I just hope that I've learned enough to recognize when it's happening so that I can either choose to be swept away or make the effort to slow the current and take a different path.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Falling Into New Goals

While most people look at fall as the beginning of the end of a year, I usually see it as an opportunity to set new goals and start new projects. Sure, it's the start of a really busy season, with holidays and travel filling up a lot of my time, but it's also the perfect time to check in with the goals I set earlier in the year. I let go of anything that no longer suits my desires and plans. Then I make adjustments to the goals that are still important to me and set new goals to take me through the end of the current year and into the beginning of the next.

2011 has been an excellent year so far. While much of what I'd planned to do this year has fallen to the wayside, new and exciting things have cropped up in my life. I've learned to be flexible in my goals and to recognize patterns of behavior that might be hindering me from getting where I want to go.

Where there were once a lot of professional writing and freelance business goals, there are now yoga teaching goals, creative writing goals, and personal life goals climbing toward the top of the list. As I've evaluated what I've been spending my time on, I've come to discover more of what is important to me.

I like to spend time with friends and family, so I've needed to make more time for being social. I've found a real passion in teaching yoga, which means I've taken on more classes than I'd originally planned to teach in my first year. I'm also in the midst of a relatively new romantic relationship, one that I never expected but am so wonderfully blessed by. And with that new long-distance relationship, I've had to learn how to navigate the waters of time zone differences and Skype dates, among other things. With a lot of changes on the horizon these days, it seems like I'm always checking in with my goals and plans to make sure I'm headed in the right direction.

It turns out that there's never a bad time to re-evaluate your goals. You don't have to make resolutions on January 1st or set a goal at the beginning of a month. You can start any time. Don't let habit or tradition stop you from setting goals right now. We're only one week into the month. Why not set a goal today to make your November positive and fulfilling? Need some ideas? Here are a few:

* Practice some form of yoga every day.
* Meditate for 10 minutes every morning.
* Take three mindful breaths before you start each meal.
* Spend time every week learning or practicing a skill.

Whatever goal you choose, set the intention to work toward it every day and don't get down on yourself if you "slip" or get off track. The point here is to keep moving forward. No beating yourself up or dwelling over perceived failures. Focus on the achievements and let everything else serve as a learning opportunity.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Slippery Inspiration

I've been thinking about my writing process lately, wondering why I can't seem to make time for more writing in my life. I worry that I'm making excuses, that I'm letting fear keep me from putting words down. I'm busy, as always, and I've been going through a number of transitions over the last year and a half. But is that really what's holding me back? Shouldn't a writer HAVE to write? I've been journaling more, writing notes about things I'd like to delve into more deeply, occasionally developing an idea into something fuller and more complete. But is that enough for now or am I fooling myself?

As a writer, I'm always finding inspiration around me. Maybe it comes from a conversation I overheard at the grocery store or a news report on TV or a book I'm reading. Sometimes it comes from something as simple as the colors of the leaves or the stars in the night sky. Finding inspiration has never been a problem for me. Ideas are all around me.

The problem with inspiration is that it's slippery. It comes and goes, and if I don't grab onto it, I lose it. If I don't take advantage of it when it strikes, I lose the fire as time passes. But I don't always have the time when inspiration strikes. I wish I could somehow figure out how to make it stick. Instead I let other obligations snuff out all my creative energy.

There isn't much I'd rather do more than writing. When I'm sitting at my desk at work, I'd almost always rather be blogging or working on my latest creative project. But at the end of a long day, I find it hard to open the laptop and put in the effort it takes to write something worth sharing. When the weekend rolls around, I'm so tired from running around and meeting my obligations that I find it hard to tap into that creative vein and let the words flow. Even now, while I sit on my couch, my dinner eaten, my yoga practice finished, the cat in my lap, and my bed time looming, I wonder if the time and energy I'm taking to write this is worth it.

And then I know it is. Even if only to remind me how it's done, that it's not as hard as I think it's going to be. Yes, it takes effort, but it also feels good to see the words on the screen, to hear the clicking of the keys, to find a rhythm as the sentences begin to flow. So when that inspiration seems to have slipped away, when I open my journal and find notes about some moment that I can't quite remember, I'll choose dig into it anyway. I'll close my eyes and try to return to that place where the creativity bubbled up inside of me. I'll open my eyes and start to write, knowing that not everything that comes out on the page will be inspired, but at least it will be mine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comparison Yoga

When I first started practicing yoga, I would spend a significant amount of time in classes comparing myself to the other students. I'd think, 'I'm not as flexible as her' or 'I'll never be able to do a back bend like that.' I'd get my body into a posture and immediately start looking around to see who was doing it better, who had it more right, who looked more serene and yogic. There was always someone. Always.

These comparisons often discouraged me from taking yoga classes altogether. In fact, they kept me from venturing into a full-fledged yoga studio for years, because that's where the REAL yogis practiced. And I clearly wasn't a real yogi if I couldn't stand on my head or contort into a pretzel, right?

It was only when I began focusing on what was happening on my own mat that I started really benefiting from yoga. At first those moments were sporadic. Maybe I'd close my eyes for a second in Warrior I and realize how strong my legs felt, or I'd find myself gazing at the floor while in Warrior III and realize I'd been balancing in the pose longer than I ever expected I could. With time, I started to link these experiences together. I spent more and more of each class present in my own body and less time worrying about what the bodies around me were (and were not) doing.

Instead of measuring myself against some outside standard, I tried to be more accepting of who and where I was each time I stepped on my mat. With that shift, instead of finding discouragement in yoga class, I started finding strength and peace.

This change in perspective gave me permission, finally, to enter a yoga studio--as a teacher trainee. I'll admit, that entrance was a bit more dramatic than it needed to be. I could have simply taken a class, after all. That doesn't really matter, though. What matters is this: By letting go of the comparisons (at least most of the time), I gave myself permission to do something that, in the past, I would have considered off limits to someone "like me" (read: someone not flexible/strong/thin/whatever enough).

Don't get me wrong. I haven't stopped comparing myself to others. I don't know if I'll ever be able to stop completely. It's a behavior as ingrained and instinctive as scratching an itch. But now that I'm aware of the part of me that finds my own worth (or lack thereof) through comparison to others, I'm able to notice how it affects me and, with a little effort, let those comparisons go.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chunky Gazpacho Recipe

A fruits and vegetable fast will drive a girl to all sorts of creativity in the kitchen. Especially when she's gone overboard at the farmers market. I've been craving soup lately for some reason, but since it's still rather warm outside, I thought a cold soup would be the best bet. I was waffling between a raw Tomato Basil Soup and gazpacho. Since I needed to use up as many vegetables as I could, I pulled out the food processor, some tomatoes, peppers, an onion, garlic, and cilantro and got to work. This soup is so easy to make, and it's absolutely delicious.

I modified a gazpacho recipe from Vegetarian Times for an easy, chunky gazpacho version.

Chunky Gazpacho
(Adapted from Vegetarian Times)


3 large ripe tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
1 large ripe tomato, finely diced
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced (finely dice about a handful and reserve)
1 green peppers, seeded and quartered (finely dice about a handful and reserve)
1/2 red pepper, seeded and halved again (finely dice about a handful and reserve)
1/2 large red onion, peeled and sliced thickly (finely dice about a handful and reserve)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 large cloves garlic
Large handful of cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Avocado, diced for garnish (optional)


Place diced tomatoes, cucumbers, green and red peppers and onion in a large bowl. Combine the remaining tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, and onion in food processor. Add olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, and cilantro. Pulse until mostly smooth, then pour into the bowl with the diced veggies and stir to mix. Serve immediately at room temperature or chill. Top with diced avocado right before serving.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Message to My Sixth Grade Self

I've been following a lot of yoga blogs of late, for obvious reasons. I came across Curvy Yoga recently, and wish I had found it five years ago, when I first started practicing yoga and was much curvier than I am now. Curvy Yoga classes, or any yoga classes tailored toward people with curves, are few and far between in my experience, and joining a yoga class or studio where everyone seems to be fitter and thinner than you can be intimidating. Trust me. Been there, done that.

But yoga is ultimately about connecting your mind, spirit AND body. It's about tuning in to what your body has to tell you, noticing it and not judging it. As a curvy gal, I've been judging my body for as long as I can remember. With years of yoga practice and other strategies, I'm getting better at the acceptance and non-judgment, but those negative thoughts still creep in on occasion. Which is why I absolutely loved a (somewhat) recent blog post on Curvy Yoga about an enthusiastic sixth-grade yoga student.

Many of the lessons Anna mentions she learned from this beautiful sixth grader are lessons I wish I'd learned by the sixth grade. In fact, most of them I'm still learning. "Fearlessness is the new black," for instance. Or, "Your body is perfect because it's yours."

With that in mind, I decided to write up my own list of messages I'd like to send my sixth grade self. Things I wished I'd known then (and maybe even wish I knew right now). I figure, my sixth grade self is still in there somewhere, still learning, right? Hopefully these lessons will help her grow up confident and strong.

Lesson #1: Trust your gut. If something feels right for you, it probably is. And if it feels "off", that's enough of a reason to walk away.

Lesson #2: You are beautiful. No matter what the magazines or TV shows say or imply. Just because your body looks different, just because you're not a size 2, doesn't mean you are any less beautiful than that model or the skinny girl in your math class.

Lesson #3: It's okay to shine. Don't spend your life hiding. Allow yourself the opportunity to stand out. Be smart. Be funny. Be brave. Enjoy your life by being exactly who you are.

What lessons would you share with your sixth-grade self?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Exhibit A: A Date with a Lawyer

Ages ago I promised to share some of my dating stories and I'm finally getting around to writing them up. I apologize for the long wait and hope anyone that was interested is still reading.

I met one of my first eHarmony dates, a lawyer, at a trendy wine bar. The walls were covered in bold paint and the patrons were all very pretty. The evening started out a little off, when The Lawyer showed up 10 minutes late and didn't even apologize. It was all downhill from there.

I should have known we weren't a good match from our online interactions. He was obviously very into weight lifting and physical appearance. In fact, his profile indicated that one of his "Must Haves" was: "I must have a partner who is extremely attractive by today's standards." He'd seen pictures of me, so I assumed I met his physical requirements. But I consider myself to be rather average looking, and the fact that I was being held up to an "extremely attractive" standard made me nervous.

He was attractive himself, and had beautiful eyes and dimples (a weakness of mine), but he was also short and balding, with a solid, stocky build. We're not exactly talking Bradley Cooper here. Still, I went into the date with an open mind. Looks aren't everything, to me, at least. Personality generally reigns when it comes to deciding whether I'd like to see a person again, so I gave him a chance. We took two stools at the bar and got down to the business of choosing our wines.

"What are you going to get?" he asked, and I decided on the Pino Grigio, trying to stick with something I knew I'd like. "That's what I was going to get," he said, and ordered for us. A good sign, I thought, that we had similar taste in wine.

Turns out that was the only good sign of the evening. I discovered quickly why he was a lawyer. Opinionated and argumentative, he had a counter-point for every single thing I said. I'm not even sure he actually disagreed with me, but he shot down every opinion I expressed. If I tried to agree with a point he was making he would immediately change his stance. Whether he was playing devil's advocate or just being an asshole, I'll never know. By the time I'd finished my first glass of wine, I was ready to go. When he ordered a second, I politely turned down another drink. He got the hint, paid the bill and walked me to my car.

When we got there, he held out his arms for a hug and I obliged, giving him an awkward pat on the back. As he pulled away, he actually had the nerve to go in for a kiss, at which point I quickly turned my head and said good night.

Thankfully, I never heard from him again.

Lessons Learned:

1. Lawyers like to argue. Be prepared to be put on the stand.
2. I'm much better at voicing my opinion after a glass of wine.
3. I actually enjoy having lively and sometimes heated discussion about a topic.
4. I do not, however, want to be with a man who doesn't respect my opinion and argues just for the sake of arguing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Making Space

I have this tendency to pack my life full of obligations, to be busy, busy, busy. All. The. Time. I'm learning, however, that this is not an effective strategy for getting things done. In fact, it seems to be working against me.

The stuff on my schedule, while generally stuff I enjoy, includes a number of things that I feel I should be doing or enjoying. So lately I've been trying to say "no" more, and only add to my schedule the things I really want to do. Surprisingly, this strategy has opened up space in my life for MORE things I love.

I've been going, going, going for so long, that I forgot how good it feels to have nothing planned, to be free to make impulsive, last-minute decisions about what I'd like to do with my time. Over the past few weekends, I've managed to relax, practice yoga and even get some chores done, not by scheduling every moment, but rather by making fewer plans and doing exactly what I wanted, when I wanted.

Here's a sampling of what I found time for:

  • Washing and drying several loads of laundry
  • Cuddling with my cat
  • Baking cookies with a friend and her son
  • Watching multiple episodes of my current TV obsessions on Netflix
  • Lounging by the pool
  • Teaching a yoga class
  • Napping in the middle of the day
  • Talking books and drinking coffee with friends
  • Taking a hot yoga class
  • Vacuuming the rugs and cleaning the kitchen
  • Seeing a movie and having lunch with friends
  • Doing a restorative yoga practice at home
  • Writing and journaling
  • Reading
  • Completing some work for clients
  • Talking with friends and loved ones on the phone and on Skype
It's amazing what we can get done when we stop doing the things we think we should be doing, and make space for the things we could be doing.

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    On Waiting

    A year ago, I was in a position where I was newly single and, frankly, a little lost. I realized in the weeks following that breakup that most of the plans I had laid out for my life were in some way tangled up in the success of the relationship I'd just ended. "Now what?", I wondered. How was I going to see those plans through as a thirty-something single woman? Was it even possible? And did I still want to see them through after all?

    I started contemplating what I wanted my future to look like. The possibilities were endless, but the one thing I knew was that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life simply waiting. I'd done enough of that. If I had to wait for my dreams to come true, it wasn't going to be a passive observer of my life. I was going to wait actively this time. No more holding on to hope without taking any action.

    Slowly but surely I started moving forward. Yes, I wanted to get married and have a family. Yes, I wanted to work for myself. And, surprisingly, yes, I wanted to become a yoga teacher. But those things wouldn't happen on their own. The first step I took was signing up for that 200-hour yoga teacher training. Then I worked out a budget and started saving more money as a cushion for when I finally take the leap into freelance. I even signed up for an online dating service so I could "get back on the horse", so to speak, and start meeting new people.

    For the first time in my life, or at least in a really long time, I felt like I was living. Rather than watching my life pass by while I waited on things to change or get better, I was actually making things happen. A year later, I can honestly say that I have had the best year of my adult life so far.

    This may sound silly, but I think somewhere along the way I'd forgotten how to really LIVE. Sure, I was breathing, eating, working, sleeping, and even playing. But I wasn't really experiencing most of it. I was too focused on all those things that I wanted so badly, all the things that were going to happen in the future. When I started choosing what I would do each day, paying closer attention to the individual moments and allowing the future to unfold as I took steps toward my goals, I saw how much I had been missing, how little I'd been participating in my own life.

    Now that I finally know how to truly participate in life, reaching and striving toward my dreams without losing sight of the present moment, I'm looking forward to many, many more years like the one I've just had. Waiting doesn't have to mean standing still. I'd rather spend that time flying.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    A Summer Feast

    It's been a while since I've written a food post, but this week's haul from the farmers market and a desire to try a little bit of everything, has me inspired and I thought I'd share my recipes.

    The first thing I made was what I thought would be a pasta sauce, but what I'm now calling Chunky Tomato and Summer Squash Sauce with Beans. I served it over couscous, but it would be great over pasta or any whole grain, or on its own with a hunk of crusty bread. Keep in mind that it's just as good at room temperature as it was warmed up, so it's a great option for a summer picnic or a quick dinner.

    Next was Raw Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing. I cut a large bunch of what I thought was kale, but once I got home realized was probably collard greens, into thin strips. I rinsed and drained it well, then put it in a large bowl. I made a batch of the dressing and drizzled about half of it over the greens, tossing it all together. The result was a tangy, nutty, raw salad. I only wished I'd had some sesame seeds to sprinkle over it. To use up the remaining dressing, I sliced three kohlrabi heads and tossed them with the dressing, making a bowl of crunchy kohlrabi matchsticks that I'll probably add to the Kale Salad at some point.

    I also cooked up some red potatoes, green beans and a couple of hard boiled eggs to make my favorite potato salad. And I bought some tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a bunch of basil for the sole purpose of having a Caprese salad.

    With all that to choose from, I couldn't possibly pick just one dish to have for dinner. So I served myself a small portion of each and made a little feast. The flavors all went well together, and I didn't have to overeat to enjoy a variety of dishes.

    In case you're interested in giving some of these recipes a try, the tomato sauce and kale salad recipes are below, and you can link to my previously posted recipe for Potato and Green Bean Salad.

    Raw Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing


    1 large bunch kale, stalks removed, cut into thin strips
    3 TBSP tahini
    1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    5 TBSP lemon juice
    1 clove garlic, pressed
    1 TBSP soy sauce
    sea salt to taste (a dash is all that's necessary)


    Place the kale strips into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients for the dressing. Drizzle about half the dressing over the kale and toss to coat well. Add more dressing to taste. Store the remaining dressing in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

    Tomato and Summer Squash Sauce with Beans


    1 TBSP olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 yellow onion, chopped

    1 medium zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
    1 medium yellow squash, halved and thinly chopped
    4 or 5 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 (15 oz) can Cannellini or Kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


    Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmery. Add onion and garlic, and cook until garlic is fragrant and onions are beginning to turn translucent, stirring often. Add the zucchini and squash, sprinkling with pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper, and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't stick. Add the tomatoes, beans and vinegar and stir to mix completely. Cook just a few minutes more, until the tomatoes and beans are heated through.

    Serve warm over pasta, couscous, rice, or any other grain. Can also be eaten as a room temperature salad, over a grain or on its own with a hunk of crusty bread.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Happiness Is Not Right Around the Corner

    If you haven't ever read Tiny Buddha, I suggest you take a few minutes to check it out. Trust me, the pearls of wisdom I've found there are well worth the time. Last week they shared an article on realizing you're complete and it struck a nerve with me.

    For much of my life I've put my energy into getting to some endpoint, all the while holding off on trying new things or taking chances until that magical point when everything would be perfectly in line to do so. I waited for the right time, the right place, the right relationship, the right number on the scale. And as those destinations continued to evade me, I let opportunities pass me by and made excuses for not working toward my goals. "Someday I'll" and "when I finally" prefaced all my plans. I don't know exactly what I was waiting for, but I knew that once I found it, once I reached that journey's end I'd finally--FINALLY--be happy.

    But I never got where I thought I was headed, and so I never seemed to find that illusive happiness. Until recently anyway. Until I stopped hanging my happiness on some achievement I might make in the future and started finding it in everyday experiences. When I began looking for happiness in each moment and stopped expecting it to magically appear when everything was just right, I found out I could be happy right now. I didn't have to wait for anything.

    There will always be something new to strive for, some goal unreached, some dream unrealized. It turns out that if I can't find happiness where I'm at, then no achievement or momentous occasion or experience or anything will ever make me truly happy. So I choose each day to do whatever I can to find happiness. That way, when I finally reach those goals and see my dreams come true, I'll be able to experience the happiness of those accomplishments even more deeply. Happiness is not right around the corner, waiting for me at some end-point. It is right here, right now.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Becoming a Yogini

    Seven months ago I started a journey that seven years ago I couldn't have possibly imagined. In the wake of my recent breakup, I wanted to do something to take my mind off the pain, to help me heal, and to prove to myself I was strong enough on my own. And I did just that.

    I walked into my first yoga teacher training session with apprehension and excitement. I didn't know what to expect exactly, but I was certain my life was going to change in big ways. A little over a month ago I finished the training portion of the program and I can say without a doubt that I was right. I've learned so much over the last seven months that it's hard to even put the lessons into words. For the sake of summary, I'm going to give it a try though.

    1. I'm stronger than I think. Whether it was making it through 108 sun salutations or getting over a failed relationship, I realized that I am physically, mentally and emotionally stronger than I've ever given myself credit for.

    2. I can do anything I put my mind to, as long as I just keep breathing. The teacher training program I chose was not easy. It was time consuming, and emotionally and physically demanding. It required a serious commitment for an extended period of time. There were the classes I had to take every week, the weekends I had to dedicate almost entirely, not to mention all the studying and reading that I had to squeeze into my already tight schedule. And yet I managed to get through it all by reminding myself to breath, focus and keep moving. I made the time for it all because it was something I wanted.

    3. It's important to have a tribe. After ending my relationship, I realized that I didn't have much of a support system in my area. Sure, I had friends and family who loved me, but most of them were out of town or state. I found myself reaching out to nearby friends more, and I discovered that they were more than happy to help me through a tough time. I also discovered a brand new group of loving and supportive friends through the teacher training. While these friendships are just beginning to bloom, I feel a deep and powerful connection to my fellow trainees and know that connection will last a lifetime.

    4. Taking chances opens doors. When I started the yoga teacher training, I didn't really know if I wanted to be a teacher. In fact, my intention was to explore yoga more deeply and "maybe teach some day". But by the time the training was over, I was already built up a small private class that met a couple times a month, and was committed to teaching two classes a week in the studio. Sometimes when we take the first step, opportunity meets us half-way.

    5. I will always be becoming. The thing that strikes me most about finishing the teacher training program is that I still don't feel like a teacher. I am not yet a yogini in my eyes. Even though I stand in front of classes of students and lead them in their practice every week, I still feel like a student myself. And I don't know if that will ever change. I've realized that even when I've finally arrived at a what I thought would be the end point, there will always be another lesson to learn. I will always be becoming a yogini.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2011

    Tales from the Dating Trenches

    It's been 11 months since I broke up with The Ex, and I haven't really written much about how I've been dealing with the end of that relationship. I've had my reasons, mainly that I've been busy processing it and growing from it. But now that I'm well over it, I'd like to start filling you in on what's been going on in my social life.

    I've never really dated, even prior to my relationship with The Ex. I was either in a relationship or I wasn't. There was no in-between for me. Not to mention that I wasn't particularly confident and didn't think guys wanted to date me anyway. With that attitude, it's needless to say the men weren't really busting down my door.

    After the breakup, though, I decided it was important to see what was out there, to experience the dating world and discover what it was I really wanted. Since I had no idea how to go about meeting men in the real world, I figured online dating was a safe bet. And it was. I signed up for an online dating site and during the first few months I went out on several dates. I met some interesting people and learned some lessons about how to open up, or not, in a dating situation. I also learned quite a bit about what I want, and don't want, in a relationship.

    My dates weren't all bad, but bad ones make the best (and funniest) stories. I'll be sharing some of them here. Being a single, thirty-something in the dating trenches ain't pretty, people. Trust me.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    Floundering to the End

    Just one more teacher training weekend, an anatomy test, a take-home exam, and a few class assists and I'll officially be a certified yoga teacher. I can't believe the end is really that near. It's sad to realize that I won't be seeing this great group of fellow trainees each month anymore, that this incredible phase of my life is coming to an end. And even though I've already started teaching the occasional private class and will soon be taking over two morning classes at the studio, it's hard to imagine my life as a yoga teacher.

    I taught my first paid private yoga class on Sunday and found myself fumbling terribly despite my preparation and previous experience with this group of students. I gave the wrong name for poses, stumbled over instructions, forgot posture benefits and didn't give a single adjustment. I thought I had the teaching thing down, thought I was getting the hang of it. Apparently, that was not the case. I laughed off my mispronunciations and stumbling instructions with a self-deprecating, "Wow, I'm a little off today." But I felt like I was completely floundering.

    Later that day, while ruminating on all the mistakes I had made, I realized that I'm always going to be learning and improving. Not just as a yoga teacher, but as a writer, a friend, a lover, a human being. Like so many times during my exploration of yoga, I began extrapolating what happened in that class to other areas of my life.

    I will never "arrive" at some magical end-point, some moment when I'm complete and perfect. I won't always give the clearest instructions, write the most lyric sentences, or be the best person I can be in this world. I will flounder through life making mistakes. And through those mistakes I will change and grow. Sometimes I will fall on my face. But I will get up, brush my knees off, and try again.

    (Photo credit: Moffet)

    This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Peace with Food

    Confession: I hate being hungry.

    I know, no one likes to be hungry. But my aversion to hunger seems to go beyond what I would consider normal. At some point early in my life, hunger became something I avoided at all costs. The sensation actually made me anxious, and I do everything I can to avoid feeling that rumbling.

    As soon as my stomach starts to feel empty I immediately seek out something to quell the sensation. In fact, I'm often thinking about what I can or will eat long before hunger even makes an appearance. Which means food has always had power over me.

    That desire to avoid emptiness eventually transferred into something more sinister, a disordered relationship with food that extended from eating at the slightest hint of hunger to eating whenever I felt emotionally empty. I know I'm not the only one. I realize that most women, and a good number of men, have some sort of strained relationship with food. But I'm pretty sure my problem crossed the line on more than one occasion from simple emotional eating to what I would have called binge eating. I never purged, but I could eat more than a thousand calories in less than an hour. This binging has subsided over the last few years, as I've discovered ways to better deal with that emotional emptiness, but that fear of hunger still remains.

    So imagine my anxiety when I found out that my yoga teacher training group would be completing a juice fast together. At first I was excited to face the challenge. I even volunteered to fast for an additional day. I was caught up in the excitement of the group, interested in experimenting with my diet in a new way. Then the fear started creeping in.

    What if I couldn't do it? What if I got really hungry? What if the cravings were too much? What if I wasn't strong enough? The self-doubt and insecurity crept in one question at a time.

    To deal with the anxiety, I started planning immediately. I weaned myself off caffeine. I decreased my sugar and white flour intake. And I bought plenty of juice--apple, pomegranate, white grape and cranberry--and vegetable broth

    After my dinner on Thursday night, a dinner which I enjoyed slowly and mindfully knowing that it would be my last meal until Sunday afternoon, I settled into the knowledge that my diet would consist only of liquids for more than 60 hours. Then something unexpected happened.

    I felt relieved.

    Friday I drank juice, water or herbal tea when I was thirsty. If I got hungry, I had a cup of broth. But I never once worried about what I would eat, where my next meal would come from, or when I could finally have solid food again. The anxiety was gone. I knew I would eat on Sunday, and in the meantime, I didn't really think about food. And I felt so alive, it was like every cell in my body was vibrating with energy.

    When teacher training started Friday evening, we had a group yoga practice and I found myself able to get more deeper into some poses than I'd ever been before. My focus was intense. My body was responding in new ways. Saturday was a bit more difficult. By the afternoon I was starting to feel a bit more lethargic and the physical hunger was becoming more intense. The anxiety never came up, though. It seemed I was moving beyond my fear of hunger and into a new phase of my relationship with food. It had no control over me anymore.

    I could trust that I would never have to eat anything unless I chose to. That would be my challenge once the fast was over. To maintain my sense of control over food. Not for the purpose of going to the other extreme and severely limiting my food intake. But for the purpose of allowing myself time and space to be hungry, to really experience meals when I did choose to eat, and to recognize the effects different foods have on my body.

    When we finally broke fast together on Sunday afternoon, every bite was like a flavor explosion in my mouth. After tasting nothing but water, diluted juices, vegetable broth and unsweetened teas, the taste of a strawberry was powerful. The saltiness of a peanut made my mouth water. The crunch of a carrot felt like a blessing.

    Almost two weeks later, I'm still having revelations about that fasting experience. Each time I find myself eating when I'm not really hungry or mindlessly munching on a snack during the day, I remember that feeling of power that came with emptiness, and I relax. I've finally found some peace with food. I have the power now, and I know how to use it.

    (Photo credit: Shermeee)

    This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Chaotic Garden

    This is a fiction piece written in response to this week's Red Writing Hood prompt from The Red Dress Club.

    Julie pulled on the gloves and sighed. The sun was already getting hot and she had a long morning ahead of her.

    The day her realtor brought her to this house, Julie was hurried and barely interested in the listing. It was smaller than she wanted, in a neighborhood she wasn't familiar with and the price was slightly above her budget. When she walked through the front door, into the open, airy living room that looked straight through the dining room and into the modern kitchen, her mood brightened.

    It wasn't perfect, though. The upstairs needed some work. The bathroom hadn't been updated, the closets were practically non-existent, and the bedrooms needed a new coat of paint. And then there was the postage-stamp sized backyard.

    It was an absolute mess, an eye-sore, really. The ivy and honeysuckle vines were taking over the fence, covering almost the entire length of it. There was a pile of broken bricks in the back corner, and an overgrown patch of what seemed like purposefully placed weeds along one side of a small, cracked patio. The chaos of it seemed to reflect the chaos of her life. All she could see, though, was the flower garden she could put in along the fence. The herb garden she could grow where the wild patch was. The bistro set she'd place on the patio so she could drink coffee and read books in the sun. It was the potential of the small backyard that sealed the deal.

    Three years later, she still hadn't tackled the project of tangled vines, weeds, broken bricks and cast-off items. It was still a mess. After the honeymoon period of painting and decorating and unpacking was over, she just hadn't found the time or energy to pull out the gardening tools and trash bags and transform the yard into something she could enjoy. She had purchased the bistro set the weekend before as an incentive. It only needed a place to go.

    The weather was getting warmer, the days were getting longer, and Julie refused to go another summer drinking her morning coffee and reading books indoors. She picked up her trimming clippers and got to work on the vines. This messy, overgrown backyard was an oasis waiting to be uncovered.

    This post was written in response to the new weekly prompt at The Red Dress Club created to help develop memoir writing skills.

    Write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly - and find the beauty in it. Word limit is 600.

    Constructive criticism is welcome.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    (De)Caffeinated Yogini

    Ask fifty adults practicing yoga whether they drink coffee, and there's a good chance at least half of them will say yes. But traditionally, yoga and any stimulant did not go well together. Many yoga teachers recommend letting go of caffeine as you become more dedicated to a yoga practice. Other well-known yoga teachers show up to class sipping coffee from a Starbucks cup.

    There's no rule that says you can't drink coffee if you're a serious yoga practitioner. Why then, did this yogini decide to let go of caffeine? Excellent question.

    I've been a near-daily coffee drinker for years now. My morning routine during the work week entails me entering the building, taking off my coat and brewing the coffee for the office. I've usually finished my first cup and am going back for my second by the time the rest of my coworkers start trickling in an hour later. I like the smell of it, the taste of it, the way it warms my body. Coffee has been my quiet-time companion for a long time. But I wasn't addicted. There were weekends when I would go completely without coffee (but not necessarily caffeine) and saw no real changes in how my body and mind functioned. No headaches, no sleepiness, nothing to indicate that I had to have coffee.

    Still, I had started getting the feeling that caffeine was weighing me down. Not literally, of course. But as much as I had convinced myself that caffeine didn't control me, I found myself drawn to that pot every morning, like a fly to honey.

    During our last teacher training weekend, we started discussing preparations for our upcoming juice fast, the topic of caffeine came up and the conversation got a bit heated. "How many of you are addicted to caffeine?" our instructor asked. About half of the group raised their hands. "And how many of you drink coffee but don't think you're addicted to caffeine?" Most of the rest of us, myself included, raised our hands. Then the instructor challenged us to explore that idea.

    Like so many things I've been doing lately, I took that challenge seriously and decided to experiment with letting go of caffeine. I truly didn't think it would be that difficult. I only drank a couple of cups of coffee most days of the week, and some days I didn't have any. How hard could it be to let that go?

    Surprisingly hard.

    I started my week with one cup of 1/3 decaf. At about 2:00 that afternoon I thought I was going to fall asleep at my desk. I got irritable and so very sleepy. At first I couldn't figure out why. Then it occurred to me that I usually had a cup of black tea or a diet caffeinated soda after lunch. Maybe I'd been drinking more caffeine than I thought.

    The next two days I stuck with my 1/3 decaf blend. Just one cup. I was miserable during the day. But I was also sleeping soundly through the night, when I would normally wake up three or four times.

    On the fourth day, I shifted to one cup of 2/3 decaf and did that for two days. On the sixth day, I had a decaf Americano. And on day seven, I went coffee-less.

    It's been almost three weeks now, and aside from the two decaf Americanos I've had, I've been caffeine and coffee free. And I feel fantastic. I'm sleeping so much better. I have more energy. I'm alert and wake during the day without the aid of any stimulants. That's not to say there aren't days when I feel like I could really use that jolt of caffeine or when I want a hot drink, but for now at least, some deep breathing, a brisk walk around the block or some herbal tea are doing the trick. I can't promise that I won't ever drink a caffeinated beverage again, but right now it feels great to be a decaffeinated yogini.

    (Photo credit: Demion)

    This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).

    Friday, March 04, 2011

    Washed Away

    This week's response to the Red Writing Hood prompt is an exploration of my (somewhat fuzzy) memory of a day during the summer after my junior year in high school.

    Early summer afternoons at the Harbor Market could be extremely boring or very busy. It was hard to predict from day to day. On this day, it wasn't particularly busy. I stood at the cash register, methodically keying the prices of a customer's grocery selections into the machine and bagging each item. I took the customer's money and quickly but carefully counted out the change.

    "Have a great afternoon," I said, smiling.

    As the customer walked away, the phone rang. "Hi honey," my mom said. "You're not alone there, are you?"

    My heart beat faster, pounding in my chest. That question never preceded good news.

    "No, Stacie's here. And Penny. What happened?"

    "There was an accident at the jump off. Tom and a friend were swimming with some girls and the water's really choppy today," she said.

    I interrupted her. "Who was the friend?"

    "I don't know his name, honey. They didn't say, but I think it was the one he's always with."

    "Marc? Was it Marc?" I asked, frantic to know the details.

    "I'm not sure."

    "What happened? Are they okay?"

    She paused for a moment, probably wondering how much detail she should give me. "Tom and the girls are fine. Shaken up, but they're okay. The undertow was really pulled the friend under. Tom tried to get him, but he lost his grip. He couldn't hold onto him. Search and Rescue is looking for him now, but the chances aren't good."

    I just listened, silent. It couldn't be. She was wrong. This was a mistake. I knew it was Marc. It had to be. But he was too young. I just saw him. They'd find him. But what if they didn't? What about Marc's brother Todd? What about his parents? How would that survive losing him?

    My mind raced with logical explanations and dozens of reasons why Marc couldn't possibly have drowned. I don't remember hanging up the phone, or even leaving the register. I found my way to the back of the store where Stacie and I held each other and cried, waiting for more news. Waiting for confirmation that Marc was gone.

    They found Marc's body, which I never saw again, along the rocky shore of the harbor. The water had claimed him, taken him violently from us. That summer our small high school, so many of whom knew Marc personally, said good-bye to a vibrant, fun-loving young man in the prime of his life. We said good-bye to our invincibility, to our innocence. The water washed them away, along with Marc's last breath.

    It was as if Marc's death came with a message: "Life is hard. The world is full of threats and danger, and we are all vulnerable."

    How could we not be when even our beautiful, peaceful lake could take our loved ones away without a second thought?

    This post was written in response to the new weekly prompt at The Red Dress Club created to help develop memoir writing skills.

    Water gives life. It also takes it away. Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements. Word maximum is 600.

    Constructive criticism is welcome.

    Friday, February 18, 2011


    I hadn't opened the drawers in that dresser for months. Not since we'd cleaned out what few of his belongings he'd deemed unnecessary enough to leave at my house while he continued to live in his own apartment. We had placed all his things in a single trash bag while I cried hot, heartbroken tears. It's fitting that we used a trash bag to pack up the things he'd left behind over the six years we dated. It felt as though I was throwing away everything by sending him away.

    Eight months later, I finally decided it was time to move my own things into the dresser I'd adopted from a friend especially for his clothes, hoping that he would feel more, what? Obligated to move in? Comfortable with the idea of cohabitation? Whatever I had been hoping for, it never happened. And so I pulled out a few of the empty drawers and began transferring socks and tee-shirts and pajamas. When those drawers were full I pulled out another and found myself staring into a pile of stuff I wasn't prepared for. A work uniform, tee-shirts, a sweatshirt.

    Sitting there on my knees in front of that drawer, I didn't cry. I didn't hold his shirt to my nose, hoping for a whiff of his scent. I didn't even consider the future I had dreamed up for us, the one that never materialized. Instead, I pulled the clothes out of the drawer and piled them in a box, making room for my own things.

    Later, when I was putting away some books, a folded piece of paper floated to the floor. Before I opened it and reread my words, I knew what it was. A letter I wrote to him on the last anniversary we celebrated together. I read it a second time, feeling not sadness or regret, but a lighthearted distance, a gratitude for my ability to love another so deeply and a hope that I'd be writing letters like that once again.

    On another day, I opened the closet in the guest room looking for wrapping paper and found a tie he must have missed when folding his suit and adding it to the trash bag. The suit I bought him so he would come with me to the wedding of a friend. I laughed at the memory of the two of us struggling with that tie in the parking lot for so long that we were almost late for the ceremony.

    The memories rarely elicit tears anymore. They are facts of my life--nothing more, nothing less. Oh, there is that DVD we watched together on one of our first dates. Here is a plate he borrowed from his mother to bring me dinner one night. A pile of greeting cards I gave him that he never took home to his apartment. A purse, a sweater, a necklace he gave me for this holiday or that celebration. The emotion I once attached to these things has dwindled. The memories have become soft around the edges. Not neutral, but not negative either, and rarely sad.

    They are leftovers, plain and simple. Like bread crumbs trailing behind me on the path of my life, they remind me of where I have been. But I leave them there for the birds. I don't need to find my way back.

    This post was written in response to the new weekly prompt at The Red Dress Club created to help develop memoir writing skills.

    Write a piece - 600 word limit - about finding a forgotten item of clothing in the back of a drawer or closet. Let us know how the item was found, what it is, and why it's so meaningful to you or your character.

    Constructive criticism is welcome.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Valentine's Day Doldrums

    I'm a day late posting this because I just couldn't bring myself to write it yesterday in the midst of all the hearts and love and flowers and cards. I honestly thought I'd take it better. I thought it would be easy to get through if I just focused on the love I do have in my life.

    But it wasn't. Especially when friends and co-workers started talking about the flowers and gifts they were receiving while I sat at my desk and wondered if I'd ever have a Valentine again.

    The thing is, this Valentine's Day didn't feel much different to me than it has the last few years, despite the fact that I'm now single. For six years I did have a Valentine, and that still wasn't enough. Even when I was in a relationship, Valentine's Day rarely brought a card or flowers or gifts. It was just another day when I would give all the love I had and would end up feeling spent and empty because he gave me so little in return.

    It was that realization, that remembering, that made me sad on Valentine's Day. Not the absence of flowers or a box of candy, not even the absence of a significant other, but the undeniable truth of how little I had settled for in my last relationship, how little I had loved and cared for myself.

    Feeling sad and lonely, I came home to find two Valentines in my mailbox. The first was from a blog friend who seems to have a knack for sending me the sweetest gifts and notes exactly when I need them (thanks, Jen!). The second was from a long-time friend who has proven herself to be a true Valentine, showing me a love that is full and complete and entirely unconditional. By the time I fell asleep last night, after reading and rereading her card, I felt buoyed by the love I do have and reminded that Valentines Day is just a day like any other day. Today, just like yesterday, is an opportunity to be someone's Valentine, to be my own Valentine, to give--and just as importantly to receive--love completely.

    (Photo Credit: seyed mostafa zamani)

    Tuesday, February 08, 2011

    Finding Strength in Yoga

    We've all heard the celebrities swear that yoga makes their bodies tight and toned. And I have to admit that when I started yoga teacher training, a rather large part of my motivation was the potential physical benefit of a regular yoga practice. As you can probably tell from my blog posts of late, it seems that I'm getting much more emotionally, mentally and spiritually from the dedicated practice of yoga than I am physically.

    That's not to say my body isn't changing. I find myself wishing I'd taken "before" photos, so that I could share my physical progress with you all. My butt is lifting, my waist is more defined, my shoulders are stronger, my biceps and triceps are actually cut and visible. I'm able to do things that I doubted I'd ever be able to do, like balance in Bakasana and lift fully into Urdhva Dhanurasana. And I'm working my way toward headstand, slowly but surely.

    One of the biggest things I'm learning about the physical practice of yoga (asana) is that it's such a small part of what yoga truly is. There are actually eight limbs of yoga, only one of which refers to the physical postures. So while I'm actively working to move more deeply into Downward Facing Dog and to practice better form in Chaturanga Dandasana, the real work is coming in other areas of my life.

    I suspected that might be the case when I signed up for the training. After all, I'd just ended a six-year relationship and was planning to submerse myself in an intensive program. I knew emotions would come up and I'd run into walls. How could I not? But here's the thing: I had no idea the extent to which yoga would open me up and reveal who I truly am.

    The lessons I'm learning on my mat through my physical practice--to keep breathing, even when I'm uncomfortable; to listen to my body; to trust in my own strength; to push myself gently, and handle myself with care--these lessons don't just end on the mat. I see myself applying them in my life when I'm in a stressful situation, starting to become irritable, and I calm myself with a few slow, deep breaths. Or when I'm feeling exhausted by a hectic schedule and treat myself to a hot bath and an early bedtime instead of forcing my body through another long day. Or when I recognize I'm making excuses instead of fully living my life and I forgive myself and then begin to carefully push myself, taking the first hesitant steps toward my future.

    Yes, yoga is giving me a fit body. But it is also strengthening my mind, my spirit. Then again, maybe yoga is just quieting the noise and clearing away the underbrush so that I can see what was there all along.

    (Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

    This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).

    Wednesday, January 05, 2011

    108 Sun Salutations: A Perfect Ending and Beginning

    I took two yoga mats home with me. Two. Because I was hoping to not only get in plenty of yoga on my own, but also practice my teaching skills on some friends and family. The mats didn't get used nearly as much as I'd planned, but what use they did get was good use.

    On Christmas Eve morning, I woke up bright and early, turned up the faux fireplace in my mom's den and unrolled my mat in front of the lit Christmas tree. I practiced for an hour in the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of that morning. It was a beautiful start to my vacation.

    I had planned to take a couple of classes at a studio in the area, but one of them ended up being canceled, and I missed the other because I took my nephew ice skating instead. Ice skating itself was a practice in patience and focus, though. I haven't been on skates in years, but it was so much fun to find my footing again and start floating across the ice like I did when I was a kid. We went to a rink that I'd gone to a lot when I was in school. As I skated around and around the ice I couldn't believe all the memories of birthday parties and hanging out with friends that came back to me. I'm pretty sure I was grinning ear-to-ear the entire time I was out there. My nephew, on the other hand, had enough after about 10 minutes and then watched me for the next 45 minutes or so. I could have stayed out there all afternoon, getting surer and surer on the thin blades. I'm not skilled enough to do turns or even skate backwards, but man was I having fun!

    Later in the week, I taught a mini yoga class to my stepsister and her girlfriend. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about my teaching style and how I can adjust it for different types of learners. One of them is a visual learner and needed a lot more demonstration, while the other was very good at following my verbal instructions, so I tried to demonstrate more of the poses as I described them, giving them both the tools they needed to benefit from the practice. I also appreciated that they asked a lot of questions. Neither of them have taken yoga before, so they asked about anatomy and benefits of different poses, challenging me to remember all that I've learned during our training weekends and in my studying.

    Before I knew it, New Year's Eve had arrived. I woke up early that morning and decided that for the last day of 2010 I wanted to do something challenging. I rolled out my mat in front of that Christmas tree again and set out to complete 108 sun salutations. The last time I completed more than 100 sun salutations was my first teacher training weekend, and it wasn't pretty. I had to take breaks often and was so sore for a week after. I didn't know if I'd be able to get through 108 straight, but I promised myself I'd do as many as I could.

    The first 25 were relatively easy. I thought, I'd gotten through almost a quarter of them so maybe 108 was doable after all. By 54, my confidence was starting to wane. My arms were getting Jello-y and I was sweating like crazy. Still, I was half-way there.

    At 72, two-thirds of the way to 108, I started to see the sun. There was no way I was quitting at that point. I pushed through to 100, where I paused for a moment at the top of my mat to catch my breath and consider how far I'd come. Just a few months ago, I wasn't able to do even 50 straight sun salutations, much less 100. And there I was, having just finished 100 sun salutations, ready to complete 8 more. For the last 8, I moved slowly, dedicating each series of poses to something different: my family, my friends, my enemies, the earth and all the creatures on it, the universe and all that it holds, my past, my present, and my future.

    When I was finished, I stood in silence, stunned by my strength, my perseverance, my dedication. I may or may not have lost count a couple of times, but I found a groove and just kept going, moving with my breath in no hurry to finish. I moved my way through doubt and exhaustion, and ended 2010 stronger than I started it.

    How's that for a perfect ending and a new beginning? Whatever 2011 holds, I know I can handle it. And if not, I can always do 108 sun salutations to make myself feel better.

    (Photo credit: kevindooley)

    This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).

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