Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

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Posted by on in Health

I had already rolled out my yoga mat this morning, but when I looked at the clock and saw that I only had fifteen minutes before the chaos of my family's morning routine began I thought, "What's the use? There's not enough time to get a full practice in anyway!"
 
My body was craving yoga though, so I went for it before I could change my mind. I started quickly, rushing from one pose to the next. But it didn't feel right, didn't feel as satisfying as it usually does. I slumped down into child's pose in an I-told-you-so kind of pout. After a minute of child's pose pouting, I pressed up into down dog and lingered for a bit, unsure what to do next. I sighed out a few deep breaths and started wiggling around, and pretty soon I was enjoying the playful feeling of being upside-down. Ah.....the breath, the slowing down, the un-rushing. I was in!

It was the hook to something bigger and this down dog moment reminded me that it didn't matter how many asanas I practiced, what mattered was how and why I did them. I gave up my daydream of a 'full' practice filled with dozens of standing poses and luxurious restorative variations. Instead, I set more humble goals: I wanted to take some time to breathe, move, and reconnect. That's it.
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With new goals in mind, my practice was different than usual. I did fewer poses, but worked on being more fully present in them as I held and breathed. Revolved lunge was the freedom my spine craved, Lizard was the love my hips needed. As much as I was practicing asana, the real work this morning was enjoying the poses I could do while being okay with not having the time to also go into all my old favorites: warrior II, triangle, side angle, half moon, revolved triangle, and so on. It was a practice of acceptance of that fact I just can't do everything.

It seems like a logical concept and one I should have learned by now, but I've really been struggling with this lately. I want to do it all, and do it well, so when I fall short of that I feel resentful and frustrated. Whether in my work at the studio, my role as a mother and wife, on the mat, or in the writing process, I want to give 100% to everything all the time, which simply isn't possible, not even for Superwoman.

This morning's yoga practice hit home that sacrifices are required, both of my to-do list and my expectations. I acknowledged that for busy people, quality always loses out to quantity. As I practiced, I came up with my new mantra:

I can't do it all, so in this moment I will do one thing well.

On the mat that means being okay with a truncated practice, rather than trying to cram 20 poses into 15 minutes. It's committing 100% to down dog when I'm in down dog instead of longing for the laundry list of other poses that I wish I had the time for. It's embodying santosha, contentment, instead of grasping for the poses that were necessarily left out of the sequence, being present with what's happening breath to breath instead of watching the clock in fear.

Off the mat it means asking for help with projects I've taken on but shouldn't have. It means giving new ideas the time they need to develop instead of trying to accomplish five things simultaneously. It means being more fully present for my kids when I come home from work rather than trying to catch up on a few emails while distractedly tending to them at the same time.

Being here right now is enough. All the thoughts about what I'm not getting done or where I'm falling short are not real, they're just constructs of my mind, and destructive ones at that. So instead I'll head back to my mat tomorrow, for 5 minutes or 50 minutes, and keep working on slowing down and practicing contentment. I'll say it to myself over and over again to drown out the Superwoman Syndrome messaging. I'll say it until I wholeheartedly believe it: It's enough to do one thing well.

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Posted by on in Yoga

The cookies are made, the presents are wrapped, the holiday parties are in full swing. Now I've decided to give myself the best gift this season: the gift of being present.

It happens every year - I get so preoccupied with the stuff that's associated with the holidays (shopping, baking, wrapping, etc) that I forget to just breathe and enjoy what the holidays are about. For me, the holidays are a time to be with my family and to step out of my normal work mode and our family routines. It's a suspended time, where we have full permission to stop. Businesses close, the kids are out of school, email slows down; it's a built-in vacation at the end of each year. So why don't we feel recharged after the holidays?


If we don't pay attention, the holidays become just another form of busyness, just another of our routines. It helps to worry less about the presents and more about presence. I am here, at this holiday party. I am looking friends and family members in the eyes, I am connecting, I am letting go of all the hustle and bustle it took to get me here. Think of it as an extension of your yoga practice; all that time you spend coming back to your breath, letting go of distracting thoughts, and observing yourself in the moment has prepared you to be right here to have a genuine conversation with the person in front of you.

It's really the best present we could give ourselves and the ones we love. Be present and make it a wonderful holiday!

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Posted by on in Health


It's starting already: the holiday busyness, obligations piling up one on top of another, so many fun things to do that it makes me want to curl up in a heap and go to sleep. There's the CTA holiday train, the Lincoln Square Christkindl Market, the Waters School Artisan Fair, and that's just a short list of the things happening this weekend! For all the merriment and joy this season is meant to invoke, it often just feels like too much of a good thing.


We have a children's book at home by Todd Parr called It's Okay to be Different. I love this book for many reasons. It's fun, inclusive, honest, warm, and silly. In the book, Todd shares wise, simple thoughts that are reminders for all of us:

"It's okay to need some help."
"It's okay to come in last."
"It's okay to do something nice for yourself."
"It's okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub."
(Can you really disagree with that last one?)

Lately as I've been feeling the pressures of the many holiday party invitations that are already circulating and the thought of having to get my shopping list in order, I've been coming back to one line in particular from this book: "It's okay to say NO to bad things." The page shows a picture of two fish with bulging eyes, staring at a hook that's waiting to snag them (definitely a bad thing for them).

In the context of the holiday season, though, I've been thinking about this sentiment from the opposite perspective. I picture the two fish with an unlimited supply of their favorite fishy foods easily within reach, several schools of fish friends waiting for them to come play, and a whole bunch of neat fish castles for them to swim in and out of. Despite all these seemingly good things I imagine them surrounded by, I still picture them with eyes bulging, overwhelmed by it all. And I want to say to them, "It's okay to say NO to good things, too."

I've really embraced the idea of saying NO as a way of balancing out my tendency to pack lots of activities and projects and fun into each day. The seed of this idea was first planted when I attended Lisa Sandquist's Restful Yoga to Reduce Holiday Stress workshop at Bloom last year. Lisa offered up a very simple but profound suggestion for us as we headed into the busy holiday season: when you're feeling overextended, it's okay to say no to parties and other obligations, even if they sound fun and your favorite people in the world will be there. Seems simple, but consider how many times you have accepted an invitation because you thought you should or you had to, even though you felt like one more outing might put you over the edge.

Over the past year, I've practiced giving myself permission to say no to even the very good and very fun things that come my way if I know that they will push me into exhaustion mode. When you feel your eyes bulging, give that NO a try, even if the invitation is one you would like to accept. It feels so good, and as Todd Parr likes to say, it's okay!

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Growing up my mom used to joke that while some people aspired to greatness, her father's motto was 'It's good enough.' She said it like it was a bad thing, like it meant he wasn't aiming high enough. It always made me laugh and struck me as yet another example of my family's self-deprecating humor. But now as a business owner and parent, I have a completely different take on things. Though I have less 'free time' today than at any other point in my life, I'm happier and more productive than I've ever been. I've reclaimed my old family motto and turned it on its head. 'It's good enough' now gives me permission to put work out into the world, rather than perpetually waiting for a few hours extra hours to make it perfect. It empowers me with the knowledge that small chunks of time spent well can lead to something big. Reclaiming 'It's good enough' has been a liberating paradigm shift. Below are 10 ways this philosophy can help you love your life and get more done, no matter how busy you are!



  1. Take on passion projects you aren't fully convinced you have time for (i.e. parenthood, volunteer work, creative pursuits, etc).
  2. Work your tail off because you love the things you're doing and the people with whom you're doing them.
  3. Let go of perfectionism, do your best, and adopt the 'Good Enough' mantra (see Good Enough is the New Perfect, co-written by Lincoln Square resident Becky Gillespie).
  4. Refuse to apologize (to yourself, to others) for things that don't matter; you are living to the fullest, you are accomplishing things that make a real difference in the world, so don't put yourself down with a flippant 'This isn't quite done' or 'I'm glad you could come even though my house is a total mess.'
  5. Give up bad TV and commit to spending more time in the real world and less in the virtual world.
  6. Make time to eat well and exercise regularly; both these things take a little thought and planning, but you'll be rewarded with extra energy to put towards the people and projects that matter most to you.
  7. Think for yourself and don't be afraid to disagree with group consensus if that allows you to stay true to what you believe is important.
  8. Spend time with people who inspire you and mirror the qualities you identify with your best self or the person you would like to become; we tend to rise (or sink) to the level of those around, so be wise about the company you keep.
  9. Make time on a consistent basis for an activity that brings you back to your essential self; for me, it's yoga practice, for some it's going fishing or taking long walks or sitting for meditation or something else. All that matters is that the activity provides a sense of grounding and reconnection.
  10. Be grateful for what you have and remind yourself that the day-to-day stuff is all there is; this life is your one chance to connect with great people and do great things, so you might as well make the most of it!


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A couple of years ago I wrote a Thinking Yogi post about an unwanted visitor in our home in the hopes that confronting her head-on would help banish her from my life for good. This visitor's name is Mean Mommy. You may know her, or someone like her (she is in cahoots with Mean Spouse and Mean Friend). She was back in my home for the better part of today, and let me just say that you do NOT want to mess with her.

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 I know why she comes, I know what it takes to get her to leave, but sometimes she just lingers. Mean Mommy only shows up when life gets busy and I'm not taking enough time for myself. Whenever she's around, my perception of daily life is distorted so that what would normally seem like one of life's little hiccups becomes a catastrophic event. For example, one might expect that a sane mother of two wonderful children would patiently redirect their squabbles over library books rather than barking at them, running down the hall towards their room, and telling them how crazy they were making her. Mean Mommy thinks patient redirection is overrated, she thinks it will feel good to vent all that anger at young children who are on summer vacation, waiting around for something to do. She is, in short, a tyrant, and not someone I have much respect for.

My husband has unfortunately gotten to know Mean Mommy quite well over the past five years and he usually knows just what to say to send her packing. He starts with a gentle inquiry, something along the lines of, 'Are you okay?' Mean Mommy twitches to hear someone taking an interest, caring. Then he suggests that he might take the kids for a while and as the three of them walk out the door, Mean Mommy all but goes into the 'I'm melting...." speech from Wizard of Oz.

Today my wonderful husband did all of those things and I did a quick emergency yoga practice, which usually does the trick, but when he and the kids returned Mt. Mean Mommy still threatened to erupt for most of the day. I wondered why it wasn't working, why I couldn't get rid of her. Then my daughter politely asked for a glass of water and when I heard the cold hardness in my reply I realized I was just holding on to the meanness out of habit. I needed to take responsibility, decide to shift gears, quit frowning and slouching, and just make a change. So, I dragged my sorry self outside to play with the kids, we went to hear some music at Welles Park with friends that evening, and as I was racing down the block with my son on the way home, I knew we would come back to a blissfully empty apartment.

Mean Mommy or one of her associates visits all of us on occasion, so when she brings an extra large suitcase and wants to get her name added to your lease, just remember that eviction is a two step process. First, take time for yourself. Second, decide to let go of the meanness, the pettiness, the taking-it-all-for-grantedness, and just be nice and enjoy the people around you.

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