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.

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