The Grass is Always Greener

I know most of you are probably staring out the window at piles of snow, but I thought a bit of green might chase away a bit of the winter blahs. The other day Andy and I went out for a wee little hike, just about 30 minutes away from us in Issaquah. We had wanted to go further afield, but up just a bit higher in elevation it was snowing like crazy. It was dry at the bottom of the mountain we hiked at, but the higher we got the foggier, and eventually rainier, it got. The amount of greenery here still amazes me. I like to think it looks like what the Earth looked like when dinosaurs walked around.
Seriously, the whole concept of dinosaurs is CRAZY. It just blows my mind! Have you ever watched Walking with Dinosaurs (or it's equally-amazing counterparts, Walking with Monsters or Walking with Beasts)? That is some good entertainment (and learning!), I tell ya.
It felt good to get out. I haven't been out on a hike or done anything very physical besides yoga in...months. I am woefully out of shape, but getting out was a good start. I think we might head out for a snowshoeing day this weekend. Gotta keep the momentum going!



New Books for a New You

Have you stopped writing 2013 on everything yet? I sure haven't. The other day at work I realized I had been doing it all day. Oops. Well, while that "New Year" feeling is still fresh, I thought I'd harness that energy and share a couple of awesome yoga books that have come my way recently. If getting healthy, finding balance, or making more time for "you" this year are part of your 2014 intentions, then I highly recommend both of these books to kick off your year.

The first is Plus One: Finding God on the Yoga Mat, an inspirational memoir by Cori Martinez. Cori owns and teaches at Asha Yoga, a studio in Sacramento that I had the pleasure of taking class at often when we lived in the area. Her studio is truly one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever practiced in, and it immediately felt like "home" to me. I first got to know her writing through her blog, where she wrote very personal and deeply moving entries about her life, including a miscarriage and the subsequent birth of her daughter. She has taken some of those blog writings and turned them into this book, where she threads together the events of her life with the grace and strength she found on the mat--and ultimately-- with the force that she came to recognize as God in her life. It's a quick read, the kind that you can't put down and are engrossed in for a weekend.

When you finish that and you're feeling all inspired to check out a yoga class, the next book will help you turn that inspiration into a reality. Pick Your Yoga Practice by Meagan McCrary is the perfect book if you are newer to yoga and don't really know where to begin. The world of yoga (especially in the West) has really exploded in the last 20 years, with a new studio and style popping up around nearly every corner. All yoga is not created equal, and there are as many types of yoga as there are personalities in this world. The key to success is finding the right one for you, and that is exactly the intention of this book. It can be really overwhelming to know where to start, but Meagan helps you shortcut all of that and does a great job covering many of the major styles you're likely to come across and what you can expect in a class. One of my favorite things in this book are the first 50 pages, where she explains what yoga is exactly, what it can mean for you, the philosophy and origins of the yoga system, and how yoga has changed and evolved in the West. It took me several years of picking up tidbits here and there plus teacher training to learn all of the awesome context and background information that Meagan provides in this section of the book.

Definitely check out one or both of these books to keep your healthy intentions rolling!

photos courtesy of the authors



What a Wonderful Word

I know I'm a little late to the game, but I've recently come up with a word, er, more like concept that I'd like to incorporate into 2014. Actually, it snuck up on me way back in good ol' 2013, about a month ago in a yoga class. The theme of the class was brahmacharya, which is most classically defined as sexual celibacy or restraint in order to save those energies to unite with the Divine. This teacher, however, echoed the same (more liberal) interpretation that I had learned in my teacher training: it is also about living a life of moderation and restraint in all of the senses.* For me, it is the idea of making good choices for yourself in your diet, your activities, and all of your habits, in moderation. I am a terrible all-or-nothing-er in that I don't like to be told that I can NEVER have certain things. However, I think that I've gotten a little lazy about saying no to those same things: Desert everyday, that second (or third!) glass of wine, the impulse buy on the sale rack, or Starbucks whenever the mood strikes. I realized that when you are always saying YES to all of those little "extras" in life, it starts to take the specialness away from them. They're no longer treats anymore, they're the norm. I want to get back to making the things I love "special," because I think it's really nice to have them to look forward to, or as a reward for a job well done. I think I've just fallen into a pattern of, "well, I'm bored, so...I deserve to stop at Starbucks!" or, "It's raining, so...I should sleep in...AGAIN," which of course, are not very good reasons at all. It's about saying no, so that I can say yes at a later time when I know I will truly appreciate and savor whatever it is I've been waiting for.

For many years, the theater I worked for had (and still has) an annual production of A Christmas Carol. One of my very favorite lines from that show is said by Mrs. Cratchit as they sit down to what appears to be a very modest Christmas dinner. Mr. Cratchit remarks that it will be enough, and Mrs. Cratchit repsonds, "Enough. What a wonderful word: Enough." Without fail, every time I hear that line, I tear up. I don't drive a fancy car or have designer clothes in my closet, but I live in a world of such abundance that it is easy to forget what "enough" really means. That's why I making it my "word" for 2014, one to remind me of what I already have and the gratitude for the riches already in my life. And when I forget, and feel myself tempted to reach for another cookie, I hope it serves to remind me of brahmacharya and of making things special again.

Did you choose a word or set an intention for 2014?

* Footnote: Now, if you want to get all technical, this is a very loose interpretation of the concept of brahmacharya. In fact, when I saw down to start typing this post, I came across a bit of (deserved) controversy that Lululemon got itself into recently when they used it as part of a recent marketing campaign. There is a lot of back info I could go into here about the Yoga Sutras, the yamas, etc., but I actually don't think it really matters too much, except to acknowledge that this interpretation is an extraction of an abstraction of an idea and concept that was applied to a world very different from the one we inhabit today. What I love about yoga is that there are a jillion ways to make it work for you and your life, and I in particular, adhere to a belief system that allows for softness and imperfection in my practice both on and off the mat. Is also allows for room in our understanding of teachings that are over 5,000 years old, and finding the ways that they make sense in our modern lives.



She Used to Wear Her Hair Like You

And just like that, here I am, on the other side of the holidays, on the other side of the country, and on the other side of a New Year. We got home on Friday night after three days of speeding across the frozen North, with a brief pit stop for dinner and drinks with a friend in Bozeman, Montana.

It is nice to be home, nice to be here with my cats, with my blankets and cozy slippers, and my favorite things all around me. The first thing I did yesterday after getting some things cleaned up was to make a huge pot of minestrone soup. After weeks of all of the rich and heavy holiday comfort food, I was craving a big pot of something warm and vegetable-full. This morning we headed to Lake Washington to soak up some sunshine and stretch our legs. Seeing the mountains and the sparkly water really made it feel like we'd come home, with Mt. Rainier peeking over the low hanging clouds to greet us.

Today is quiet and feeling a bit reflective. I've been listening to Leonard Cohen and poking around idly on the internet, just catching up with things here and there. I don't go back to work until Wednesday, and then only for three days before another 4 days off. I'm so grateful for the gentle transition back to reality, after a very busy visit home for the holidays.

It was COLD while we were in Minnesota: below 0F (-18C) most days for some or all of the day, and tomorrow it's supposed to be -25F (-32C). I know I lived there for most of my life, but good god, I don't think I'd voluntarily go back to that kind of winter. There is certainly a kind of beauty in that kind of extremely cold climate, but the day to day living in it I think I'll pass on. I hear it's freakishly cold all over the country right now. Is it cold where you are? 

Top: North Dakota Prairie as seen from the car // Below: Lake Washington, this morning