Friday, August 23, 2013

julian's first photo shoot and self-care 101

i feel so honored to have taken these first photographs of baby julian! he's only seven days old in the photograph and already lighting up everything around him.

when i was in sixth grade, my extended family rented a lake house in maine for a week.  when i needed a break from the group, i turned to the house's little beach-reading lending library.  obviously, my first choice was a danielle steele novel about scandalous movie stars trying to make their way in the industry.  after reading that in about a day, i returned to the shelf and picked up a book called A Year of Beauty and Health by Beverly and Vidal Sasson (1976).   it contained the detailed daily, monthly and yearly routine of this 70's power couple.  dated as it was, i was fascinated by how they planned their lives.  each morning began with hot lemon water and yogic stretching in bed, they fasted for one weekend a month and changed their diets with the season.  they were exuberant about the results and urged everyone to try these practices for better health.  as an overweight, somewhat reclusive 12-year-old,  this was definitely not the way i envisioned my life.  i enjoyed frozen french fries during most afternoons of the year and specifically did not enjoy any form of exercise.  still, the book spoke to something in me and i brought it back home.  it was on my bookshelf for years and i would read through it from time to time just to get a little shiver of inspiration up my spine.
fast-forwarding 20 years, my interest in the book makes perfect sense.  the sassons were essentially describing a yogic lifestyle.  today, i drink lemon water as many mornings as i remember to buy lemons, do yogic stretching on the daily and love the ayurvedic practice of changing my food with each season.   i am still not a huge fan of fasting but i do it from time to time.  (i just decided today that i'll be doing a kitchari cleanse during the first week of september. it will be hard to eat the same thing for three days but i know i will be happy for it afterward.)  these are ancient practices for good health and i do them because they make me feel grounded, clear-headed, and full of energy.  of course, i forget to do them of the time and then start to feel like crap and drink extra coffee to compensate and suffer until i break the cycle and do something kind for myself.  always, there is such power in remembering how to do right for myself.

i'm still fascinated by self-care as a practice.  i've essentially made my career around it and bring it up often in conversation.  i love reading books and articles where people will fess up to their specific practices. in that spirit,  here are a few of the things that have been most wonderful for me of late.

1.  i get eight hours of sleep.  there is no substitute for what this does for my overall well-being.  i've learned that i can't sleep in like i used to so this means going to bed before 11pm most nights.

2.  first things out of bed:  i pee, scrape my tongue (swear by this), splash my face six times with cold water and put some nice-smelling, soothing rose water on my face.  of late, i've taking advatage of the time adam is walking poncho to light some incense on my alter and chat my mantra 108 times.  the timing usually works out perfectly that i finish my mantra just as they come back.

3.  five days or so a week, i spend 45 minutes in the later morning doing my morning pages, reading a course in miracles and meditating.  this is a powerful combination for me that diffuses negativity and reminds me how i really want to live my life. 

4.  most days i do some amount of yoga (vinyasa flow, acroyoga, or kundalini) but i must do at least one session of restorative or yin yoga a week (i love the ones on yogaglo) for the health of my nervous system.  i do this mostly on wednesday afternoons--right in a middle of a busy few days of teaching and after i feel so rebooted.

5.  this is kind of new but it seems to be working well:  unless it's a special occasion, i limit my intake to one cup of coffee and one alcoholic drink a day.  i never enjoy the second one as much as i think i will and especially with alcohol, i am starting to feel the second one the next day.

6.  caring for my dog poncho also feels like self-care.  we go for a walks around the cathedral near my house almost every day and once a week we head somewhere beautiful like rock creek park to feel the tall trees around us and breath a big sigh of relief.

of course there are other little things but those seem like the most important ones.  now i'm so curious about yours. what are they? write down your top five, follow them for a week and see how you feel.  bonus, post one in the comments section to help us all keep the inspiration going. 

(if you live in dc and are interested in learning more about self-care, come to my Self-care 101 workshop next weekend.  it's on sunday, september 1st from 2:30-4:30pm at the bloomingdale yoga district.  click here for more information. )

Friday, August 9, 2013

first batch

 this thai beauty lives at the elephant nature park, an elephant sanctuary and animal rescue 
outside of chiang mai.  it's an amazing place.
 the view from our morning yoga deck.
 sarita and i playing after our last class of the retreat.
little balinese dancer 
 this is one of the original thai massage diagrams at wat pho in bangkok.
judith and jody after a temple ceremony in bali.
balinese blessing

editing photographs after a big trip, like the one i just took to thailand and bali, always intimidates me.  in addition to the jet lag and the laundry and the emails, getting my personal photographs in order in a way that i can show the world what i experienced sits a little heavy on my to-do list.  that is, until i actually just sit down and make myself do it.  once i do, i am absorbed in the memories and really happy to see what actually surfaced through the images.  to be really honest, it took me years of studying photojournalism in college and my first year of doing this professionally to believe that i hadn't royally screwed up the photographs with each shoot.  editing always began tense and ended with a pleasant surprise and the thought "i guess i got lucky this time."  (in my defense, i saw an awesome magnum photographer speak once and he said he feels the same way after every shoot).  now i do trust myself and have some great self-talk to ease my nerves before a shoot.  more than almost everything, photography teaches me to trust the process and to trust myself.  if i show up on time and do my very best, then the results are usually pretty good.

now that i write that, "self-trust" feels like a good way to describe my trip.  i really did plan my journey in risky ways.  i bought no "lonely planets."  i didn't have a thai massage teacher when i showed up in chiang mai. although i have led yoga retreats abroad before, i have never done one so far or known how many travel issues can crop up with 11 people traveling around the world.  sarita and i had only seen photographs of our retreat center on their webpage and i had little voice in my head that would mention now and then that perhaps we were getting scammed. 

yet i went anyways.  after 35 hours of traveling,  i got giddy upon landing in chiang mai.  the surrounding hills were green and the people were kind and within three days of asking around, i found my thai massage teacher.  nha ja was experienced and jolly and taught me many things about thai massage.  but mostly she just told me that i knew what i was doing and that it was ok for me to spread thai massage around the world.  she gave me permission to trust myself.  that, along with the excellent food and a surprisingly great yoga studio, made my trip to thailand so, so worth it.

and of course that trend continued as i headed south to bali.  it was stunningly beautiful, the people were kind, and things fell began falling into place. of course there were travel issues but my students amazed me in how calmly they handled each one.  we settled into our daily schedule, waking up when it was still dark to practice ancient kundalini breathwork, followed by sweaty vinyasa flow and then finished the afternoon with meditation and journaling which brought so much to the surface.  in between we had delicious meals and took walks to the sea and got massaged.  of course, the yoga retreat center was way more beautiful than the website could express and this physical beauty paled in comparison to the lovely staff at gaia oasis.  we were taken care of so incredibly well, with a spirit that felt more like close family than business. when it came time to say goodbye to them, i only had tears and gratitude for such big things they had given us.

this spirit of giving is what i most want to take with me from this experience.   it's given me something to ponder and aspire to and what keeps surfacing for me is that in order to give with my whole heart, i really need to trust myself.  what i mean by that is that i need to trust that i am connected to the people around me, nutured by their brillance and that i have the capacity to say thank you by giving my own beauty back to them.  these are big concepts that i have understood for a long time on a mental level, but taking this trip has brought in down into my heart and shown me that the time is really here.  endevoring to trust myself this fully brings up everything--fear and shame and hope and inspiration--and it also shows me that i truly am strong enough to hold myself this way, that all my practice has led me here.

as always, it wasn't until i edited the photographs and wrote all this down that i have been able to really see what is had been for me.  i am grateful to have the strength to take the first few steps to get here, even if i must walk alongside my old friend fear, so that i get to see the results roll out in front of me.  getting to this place that feels open and clear is why i continue to show up and i'm grateful to be on this journey alongside you all.