The Gift of Yoga

What’s the gutsiest move I’ve ever made and how does it inspire my life and work today? That would have to be deciding to extend the gift of yoga to my students what is now over five years ago. This decision is significant because it signifies my stepping into what I’m truly passionate about. I’m passionate about helping people take care of themselves and I deeply believe that yoga is probably one of the best tools out there to do just that.

I work with low income, first generation, underrepresented students and help prepare them for graduate school, so when I had this idea, I immediately thought people would think … what does yoga have to do with getting into graduate school? I judge myself enough as it is, but I forecasted people judging this decision even more. I envisioned people thinking I’m taking away from the focus of the program. I envisioned people thinking that I’m wasting resources. I envisioned people thinking this kind of activity to be entirely too woo woo. And for that matter, I risked people thinking that I was a little off my rocker! Crazy girl!

I did it anyways and never looked back.

I had scholars talk about never feeling *as alive* as they did after that first session (think: senses on fire!) and I had scholars think they were being coerced into giving up their religion. I’ve had scholars puke (just once). I’ve had scholars get profound relief from back pain and mental anguish (all the same). I’ve had scholars joke around during classes and I’ve had scholars take the opportunity uber-seriously.

Perhaps I should note that we never *force* our scholars to do yoga. That would certainly be un-yoga-like now wouldn’t it? We *might* strongly encourage, role model, even incentivize them during the summer, but never force. Thank goodness, huh?

This is the thing. Yoga opened the door to having a conversation about how to take care of ourselves so that we can do awesome things in our lives on a daily basis. We’ve all got some goals and plans for our lives. We want to feel good while we are striving to achieve them (I’m assuming here). That pretty much means we need to figure out a way to keep ourselves in tip-top-shape (body, mind, spirit anyone?) so that we are in full-operational mode as much as we can.

So there’s the trick.

It’s not so easy to do that on a regular basis, is it? We might start off in a nice groove, say at the beginning of a new semester (great time to set our intentions), packing a healthy lunch when we’re on the go, getting that workout in before class, making sure to get to sleep at a decent hour. Then the semester *really starts to happen* and those plans sail right out the window.

It sucks! And I understand why.

It’s the daily pressures of all of our responsibilities that we’ve chosen to take on (key word being *chosen* as in *we choose* what is on our plates). It’s the pressure of making enough money to live while we go after our dreams (really thinking about my students here). It’s the pressures of wanting and having to do well in order to achieve our goals. It’s the pressures of all those other “little nuggets of life” that can surface in the most in opportune times and make our heads spin.

So getting back to yoga. I think yoga is one of the best tools for self-care because it gives us an opportunity to slow down, completely pause even, in our busy lives. It allows us to go inward and focus on our bodies and on ourselves in a way that we don’t really do that often. The physical postures in yoga make us feel good. We stretch and we strengthen.

But I would argue that yoga is so much more than that.

It’s the work that we do with our breath and our minds. It’s focusing on our breath and just listening, instead of having our minds constantly be in “doing-mode” and stressing about all of the things we still need to get done. It’s taking some time for ourselves (doesn’t have to be a ton of time either) and slowing down enough to get a read on how we’re really doing. Of course, there’s much much more to it, but I think this encapsulates why yoga can be so good for our students and good for everyone.

scholaryoga

McNair scholars unwinding with some summer yoga.

I think back to that first yoga session quite often and I smile. I think about how far we’ve come since then. We’ve definitely “upped” things by incorporating other wellness-oriented workshops + activities through the years, but in my mind, it still comes down to yoga. I love to give the gift of yoga, and by that, I mean inviting others to explore how yoga might create small, even huge, shifts in their lives for the better. It’s about having an open mind, creating the time + space to doing something special for yourself, it’s about experimenting with all different kinds of tools to see what really works for you.

 

 

Riding the waves

I composed this blog post as I ran four miles last night. I love when inspiration hits and so I’m going with it. My run started out pretty normal; I’m generally a slow runner (and that’s okay), but the late afternoon sun hitting remnants of color in the trees would carry me through, I was certain. I started out with my usual play list, jamming along, repeating several of my faves, especially as I climbed the long hill by one of the huge Amish farms near our house.

I love this part of my run, as the landscape appears almost hilly, undulating between forest and farm. The Amish have these beautiful horses pasturing in the field, the sky took on hazy blue tones and started to mix with the light purples and pinks. I imagined a full moon rising, which recently it did, and savored every moment as I trotted on by.

moon over farm

Here’s a pic of my view. I took this during the last full moon, which is why I could so clearly envision it on my Sunday evening run!

On the down hill, I began to hit a rhythm (arguably easier with gravity on my side). I noticed my legs feeling stronger (courtesy of those CrossFit Worthy squats, I’m sure!) and I easily kept focused ahead. At one point, as I was jamming and keeping time with Melissa Etheridge, I looked to my right and caught the ah-mazing colors of the sunset streaking across the fields. You know when you have those moments that just seem surreal?

Clearly, I was having one of them, hitting a groove that felt awesome!

Then Donny Osmond + Susan Boyle came on my iPod with their heartfelt rendition of All I Ask of You from Phantom of the Opera (yes, I have Donny on my iPod). I had this song in my playlist because I only recently saw the production for the first time last spring with our McNair scholars. I couldn’t stop singing this song! One of the main reasons we take our students to see these awesome performances is so that they can experience and feel the exuberance and passion of the performance. That song just goes right through you and last night was no exception.

wide-eyed fear

This is what I felt like as I sang along with Donny and Susan.

Despite my usual timidness, I allowed myself to sing aloud (if just a bit, here and there, and really only the horses and cows might hear) and pretty soon I was trying to hit the high notes + hand gesturing as all get out. I just searched for an image of a person running with their arms extended forward (you know, as if they were singing for JOY) and this is what I came up with (see left). I admit, this might be over the top, but I’m willing to bring in the cheese factor ten-fold so that I can really nail down my point here. Besides, it’s all about the passion really. That’s what I’m really talking about here.

I started thinking about how I felt sitting in the audience and watching the Phantom performers belt out this song. I could *feel* the energy coming from Donny and Susan. It prompted me to let out a little bit of my own energy + excitement + passion. Right now I’m passionate about my students and creating a new grad student support program for them. I’m nervous about this idea but I’m taking small steps to keep moving forward regardless. Each time I do, I feel amazing. I’m letting my passion inspire action and it’s starting to build. I can feel it.

I’m letting my passion inspire action and it’s starting to build.

So here’s the thing. We all have something different that we’re a little bit (or a lot!) excited about. I think the real key is allowing ourselves to feel and really experience that passion. Even if it feels a little “new” or “different” or “scary” at first. Or you might only get a glimpse of it at first. Take these small ideas or nuggets and run with them.

We need to allow ourselves to get all wrapped up in the nuances of our own discoveries about this passion, this interest, this intrigue. And I think the more we do that, the more we can grab hold of our true talents + abilities. Our abilities begin to surface when we begin to trust ourselves enough and embrace what’s really inspiring our fancy at this particular moment in time.

I’m often perplexed talking with students, our current students and prospective ones. I think one of my primary jobs is to help students brainstorm options for their future. It’s often the case, however, that they haven’t got a clue! And they feel stressed and worried about this. I can definitely understand why too.

I don’t think it’s something you can force or rush, but rather, just keep investigating … by taking different classes, talking to professors, doing Google searches on career paths, reading up on topics that grab your attention. You’ve got to be open + proactive when it comes to the exploration process. But then once something “tickles your fancy” you’ve got to run with it.

You’ve got to trust yourself in the process.

By “run with it” I mean start expressing yourself in relation to your passion. Talk about it with friends, asks questions if you are taking a class in the subject, write about it (formally + informally), look for opportunities to get further ingrained in what it is you’re interested in (think internships, shadowing, volunteering, whatever it takes).

I also think that it’s okay (and very common) to have multiple passions. Having an array of things that really “float your boat” can help feed the different areas of your life. That’s how I feel about my yoga practice, running and CrossFit. I’m really “into” those things and I’m finding the energy + growth that emerges as a result fuels my work, me being a good mom and more.

running shoes

Nothing better than a fall run to clear your head + get yourself jazzed up!

I encourage you to dive deep with your interests. Let your passion go where it needs to go. Try letting your passions fuel each other. Allow yourself to be surprised. You never know where you’ll end up. And that’s the true beauty of it.

lmc xo

I’m doing it.

I’m becoming a Desire Map licensee. And I’m ecstatic! The move feels right and good and so I’m going for it. Two years ago now I hosted my first workshop leading participants through the Desire Mapping process as created by the most awesome Danielle LaPorte. I had two participants (kind souls that they are!) and my friend, Kamar, who I drafted in last minute. I learned a lot from that experience and I’m taking it as a sign that I’m meant to grab onto this opportunity and run with it.

I believe in the Desire Map process. In short, it’s a whole new way of approaching goal setting in your life. Instead of shooting for the tangible outcomes, you set your goals and intentions based on how you want to feel along the way. How you want to feel.

I know. Revolutionary.

LynnCoreDesiredFeelings

my core desired feelings.

It’s easy and it’s not so easy. When’s the last time you really thought about how you want to feel and then actually did stuff that allowed you to feel that way? If you haven’t tried it, you ought to. It’s a fun way to think about your life and your daily flow. It’s a great mindset to start cultivating.

Stay tuned for the first official Desire Map event hosted by >>> yours truly! 

<3

Alight

I don’t know about you but I’m way more productive and happy when I care less about things. It’s not like I don’t give two shits about whatever might be at hand, but when I start trying to achieve a certain outcome or begin second-guessing my actions, that’s when I get stuck in the muck.

And I don’t know about you, but I much rather be free floating and jamming it at the same time. In the zone, if you will. It’s like that inner confidence swells and I just am. I’m being who I am. I’m being who I want to be. I’m being what comes most natural. And it feels f*cking awesome.

I feel myself slipping into this mode more and more, if even for small segments of time. The more I do it though, the easier it seems to be. It’s like I’m one of those beautiful metallic blue damselflies that float from reed to reed along the rivers of summertime. They’re touching down and releasing their magic but then they’re off to the next spot in the next glance.

damselfly
the beautiful damselfly. one of the best things about summer.

So I’m going to be my own way these days and float from place to place and person to person – touching down with sincere connection but not thinking too long or too hard about it. These days I’m intuiting my way.

I Only Bring Love to the Drop-off

I said this in a text message to my friends half-jokingly, but the more I think about it, the more these words have helped me to “rise above” the drama that is our elementary school drop-off. It started when a fellow parent mentioned that “people” were talking about me on Facebook. I was like, what? They didn’t mention me by name – on the PTO Facebook page – but referrals to the “woman who gets out of the car and opens her trunk in the drop-off line” definitely pointed to me. I do it everyday dammit. And I’m proud of it. What I have to admit, however, is that I started to not feel proud in my actions and I even began to question my judgment. My friend did too as she succumbed to the advice – park in a parking spot and walk your kids across the moving traffic if you intend to exit your car. Bullshit.

It’s kinda funny (but not really) – this is our fourth year at this school and I don’t recall there being such an “issue” with the drop-off. Of course no set-up would ever be perfect and you always have to be careful with kids when in any kind of “parking and moving cars” situation. They even did some “improvements” to the set-up a few years back and it helped. Still, even with piles of snow stealing many of the usual suspect parking spots (not to mention the “illegal” ones being harder to access with snow), I honestly don’t recall there being such a hoopla. Don’t ask if I ever got a ticket for parking in one of those illegal spots!

I classify myself as being pretty efficient, so it really never occurred to me that my “exiting my car each morning to hand out back-packs, etc. to my kids as they each exited the car” (pretty efficiently, I might add) pissed some folks off. My first reaction to the parent who mentioned “the talk” on Facebook was like f-that. I’m going to continue to get out of my damn car, there’s no way I’m going to have the kids pile multiple bags on the floor (on top of their feet) in our four-door sedan. Yeah, that would make getting out of the car that much better. Not.

It’s been entertaining to see this situation evolve. Rather lengthy descriptions of the “how-to” of the drop-off regularly appear in the weekly newsletter – last week we even had a drawing – even more helpful in my opinion. My “geographer husband” pointed out how the illustration could have been drawn more “true to scale,” or something like that – you know, from the guy who makes maps for a living. His “grand scheme solution” (echoed by several other parents I’ve commiserated with on the subject) is to “switch” the bus/teacher parking lot with the drop-off parking lot. Everybody’s got an opinion. And maybe that’s the problem?

IMG_20140215_201410

I think this is a pretty good drawing!

While I didn’t actually “request to be added” to the PTO Facebook page, I did rely upon several of my “close confidantes” (each of whom probably spent more than an hour reading through the comments and such) to confirm that I probably “didn’t want to go there.” So I didn’t.

Instead, I ponied up some of my “yogic wisdom” and attempted to not attach to the drama of the drop-off.

The clincher part of this story is that I did attach. I started to feel bad about my “routine” of handing out bags to my kids while in the drop-off line. I became “self-conscious” each day as I zoomed in at exactly 8:41 (bell rings at 8:45) and slowly inched up among the long line of cars. For the record, I also don’t recall there being that many people dropping off in the morning, cars have never snaked that far back before. But then again, I could be wrong since in past years, I was tending to “zoom in” at 8:44. Don’t ask if I’ve received any “excessive tardy” letters either. I’m much improved this year – with a typical five-minute cushion. Except when the drop-off line eats up several of those minutes. Dammit. But I digress.

Seriously, I even started feeling a little stressed as I approached the drop-off. Unlike my friend who, after consulting someone “in the know” when it comes to the finer details of the drop-off procedure, decided that since “optimally” they want parents to “stay buckled” in the drop-off line, she would follow suite by parking and walking the kiddos across the moving lanes of traffic. Great idea, huh? So, I’m one of those “rule bender” parents who does NOT stay buckled, but instead, carries on with the “handing out of the bags” scenario described above.

These days, the drop-off is even more entertaining now that teachers are directing traffic (the good souls they are – I give them credit for trying). It’s kind of cute, seeing the principal waving cars to move up along the line, which really, in my opinion is the biggest problem associated with the drop-off. Folks not pulling ahead so that the entire line is filled, but instead, stopping right in front of the doors. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect, so I think the best solution here is a combination of paying attention to the “general flow” the principal and teachers are trying to achieve, while at the same time, doing what’s right for your own situation. Doing what’s best for you and your kids.

At least that’s what I’m doing. And despite only jokingly mentioning to my friends that “I only bring LOVE to the drop-off,” I’m finding this mantra to be quite helpful.

I’ve continued to exit my car to help my kids, even doing so in full view of the principal (I thought, here’s her chance to set me straight, if she’s gonna do it) and it’s all been good. I’ve payed extra attention to whether “other parents” exit their cars in the line, and while most “stay buckled,” a good portion do get out to help the little ones and to help with a bag or two. The point here is that we’re all doing what feels best to us and our individual situations.

If we all approach the drop-off with a little love and an extra dose of patience, things might actually improve. Which I do think is happening. For me personally, I’m not thinking about what other people might be thinking about me. I’m saying hi to my “friendly fellow parent peeps” as I usually do and I’m refraining from “talking smack” about the drop-off. It’s just not worth my time and energy. And it’s not worth yours.

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let us all bring a little more love to the drop-off. It just might make it an uplifting and pleasant situation for everyone.

P.S. My “rule follower” friend recently texted me and said, “Done with the damn parking lot. Kids almost got run over.” So, she’s coming over to “my side” as a “rule bending” parent who exits her car because that just happens to be the best thing that works for her every morning at exactly 8:41 a.m.

Good or Bad.

I read a great post the other day from Jina Schaefer of the Healthy Happy Truth – I love her tag line – not your typical wellness guru. Love that! She boils all the complexities of food down to one simple concept – it’s either gonna help you – or – hurt you. Period. Done. That’s all folks! Brilliant.

Jina extrapolates the concept to pretty much anything in life – your relationships (with yourself and others), choices you make about your body, what you choose to spend time on, how you treat your kids, how you respond to annoying situations – you name it!

Right now I’m thinking back to my “Little Debbie saga” in December and how this mantra could have helped snap me back into reality even quicker. Every night when I was eating my Little Debbie’s I should have been asking myself – is this helping or hurting me? Is it good or bad for me? It might have been “helping” by allowing me to burrow in to my nasty little habit that felt comforting (and delicious?) at that moment. In the long-run though, it was definitely “hurting” my health (on so many levels) and making me look like I was preggo (which I most certainly am not)!

Our McNair program assistant – Kim Whitney (who knows me well!) – sent me this HILARIOUS picture that pretty much sums up the Little Debbie debacle.

littledebbie

Now I’m not sure if it’s really this “little bitch” making me fat or me choosing to put shit in my body that’s making me fat. It’s the latter, but of course! And wouldn’t you know it, but you barely turn around after the Christmas season and they’ve already stocked up for Valentine’s Day. AND, they’re on sale! Now that’s convenient!

vdaylittledebbies

Valentine Little Debbies! Just what you need for the special “holiday.”

So I “technically” might be off of my Little Debbie habit these days, that’s not to say that I’m not perpetuating certain habits that are clearly in the “bad” and “hurt me” categories. For me, my triggers definitely come during that time between when the kids go to sleep and when I go to sleep. For some reason, I think since “I’ve made it through the day” that I’m “entitled” to eat a little sweet treat or sometimes it doesn’t even have to be sweet – maybe some cheese + crackers + wine? That sounds good, doesn’t it? All while kicking back to a “relaxing” episode of Frontline on PBS.

I’m going to start using this mode of thinking more often – even beyond the food choices I am making. I’m going to think about the things I choose to spend my time on, how I might respond to a certain situation – I’m going to ask myself – is this going to help or hurt me? Will this be good or bad for me? And with this simple pause, I just might start reversing some of my not-so-good behaviors.

Jina wrote another recent post talking about how if there are things that you absolutely love to do, but just might not be the best for you, that you shouldn’t try to totally stop doing those things. Just do them in moderation, and maybe, just maybe, do a little less each time you do.

So what this might translate into for me:

  • not filling my glass of wine to the top
  • having a few M&M’s instead of 20
  • maybe even having a cup of tea instead of those M&M’s?
  • watching one episode of Project Runway and vedging out on the weekend instead of two or three or….
  • spending quality time with my kids playing games or reading together, or just listening to them – really listening to them and being present with them – instead allowing my mind to be going in a million different directions when I’m with them
  • spending quality time with my husband even though hitting the pillow is very enticing after a busy day – being mindful and giving him some of my time and energy is important to keep our relationship growing instead of stalling out during this crazy time of child-rearing and just trying to “hold it together” on a daily basis

Help or hurt. Good or bad. Let those thoughts pop into your mind the next time you are doing something that might be a little “questionable.” Even if you go ahead and do “the thing” – you’re going find yourself becoming a little more mindful the next time you do.

Little Debbie – Friend or Foe?

xmastrees

Where it all started.

Pure and simple: sugar is evil. On December 5, I cracked. I bought a box (note: just one box) of Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. See my Facebook status for proof. A little background here – I’m a sugar fiend and have been for a very long time. I typically indulge (the most) right before going to bed (probably the worst time, I know). Through the years I’ve gone between double-stuff Oreos (four at a time, cracked open, filling sides eaten first, plus a cold glass of milk), pop tarts (toasted, two, plus milk, I was especially fond of pop tarts when I was pregnant), peanut M&M’s (I’ve been known to take the whole bag into bed with me, I eat at least 20 at a time) and the clincher—Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls.

Now, I should provide more context when it comes to Little Debbie’s. Back in the day, Mum was the master of stretching the budget (thanks Mum!). I practically grew up on generic brands, except when it came to Little Debbie’s. Given these delectable treats are also pretty economical, they typically frequented our back hall closet (the special place reserved for board games, cereal, snacks of all sorts, oh and shoes and coats).

Through the years I recall the following Little Debbie’s as a mainstay: Swiss Cake Rolls (by far, my favorite), Fudge Brownies, Star Crunches, Pecan Spinwheels, Nutty Bars, as well as the myriad “holiday” cake-type options that would appear from time to time, including the now infamous (at least during this past month for me) Christmas Tree Cakes. It’s funny, in doing a little research for this piece, I didn’t quite realize the extent of Little Debbie offerings. The editors at HuffPost Taste found themselves exploring the lesser-known varieties in this humorous piece.

Suffice it to say Little Debbie’s have been a staple throughout my life. We all know that too many Little Debbie’s is not a good thing. But just how many is too many? Well, that depends upon the person. My husband Ken can easily chomp just a few M&M’s and be wholly satisfied. I mentioned my 20 minimum above, so it’s probably no surprise when I explain how it’s never just been “one Little Debbie” for me. At minimum, I’m a two-pack in one-sitting kinda gal. Since in most cases that means four actual Little Debbie’s – that can add up quick – especially at about 200 calories EACH a pop!

When it comes to the Christmas Tree Cakes – in either the red velvet or plain variety – I started (like most people do) with that first scrumptious bite. I’ve been off of my Little Debbie habit for some time (actually it’s been several years now) and so that first bite was especially grand. Too bad it quickly escalates and then goes down hill from there! So, there’s five in a box. I started with one box. And I started with one Christmas Tree Cake.

The next night I had two – because I couldn’t just have one. When I initially bought my “one box” at Meijer, I thought – one box won’t hurt. Well. The next week I was at Ric’s and noticed the Little Debbie’s on sale two for five bucks. A sweet deal (literally)! So I bought a couple more. Then Meijer had an even better sale (lucky for me?) – THREE for five bucks that following week. And it grew from there.

The week before our holiday break, I came home with what was probably ten or so boxes (assorted). Ken saw the stash and said, “Stocking up are you?” I guess that’s what you could call it. The kids knew that “my” Little Debbie’s were off limits (just let Mommy eat the BAD sugar), although I did share with them a red velvet tree or two between December 5 and December 30 – the day I squashed the rest. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

So for about a month straight, I would eat at least two Christmas Tree Cakes every night, sometimes more. You might find it especially amusing that while eating my xmas cakes, I was reading a book called, Spark, which is all about the benefits of exercise. Funny, I know. While I knew my growing habit is not good, in fact, it’s HORRIBLE – I justified it to myself by saying – oh, I’ll stop by Christmas day.

Christmas day came and went and I realized that my Little Debbie habit had really started to impact my life. All that extra sugar was causing me to feel fidgety, compulsive and my stomach pretty much doubled in size (typically my “problem” area). It was affecting my sleep too – I wasn’t sleeping well at night and then I would find myself falling into sugar-induced naps mid-afternoon during our break (that’s when I started eating them in the afternoon too). Something radical had to be done.

So I’m starting over with my love-hate relationship with those pesky Little Debbie’s that jump out and say “hello” each time I walk down the bread aisle at Meijer (they command a good third of the aisle mind you). While the kids watched in disbelief, I took out the remaining Little Debbie’s and STOMPED them flat. They were like – “Why did you do THAT, Mommy?” Actually, I felt pretty good about it – they see me donning some pretty questionable excessive sugar habits, but they also see me reeling things in, making a change, moving toward more of an “all in moderation” mindset.

Of course they know that lots of sugar isn’t good for them and as far as we can tell, at least one kid (Milah) isn’t going to be a sugar fiend like her Mommy (thank goodness). Still, I think it’s important to be straight up with the kids and let them know that this is something that Mommy struggles with. It’s a bad habit period. I explained to them why I stomped on my Little Debbie’s and they get it. Our informer, Maeve, told Daddy the second he woke up, “Mommy stepped on all the xmas trees!”

I explained to them why I stomped on my Little Debbie’s and they get it.

littledebbies

My Little Debbie saga.

Hallelujah, I did! And I’m already feeling better – it’s been three days since my “last” xmas cake. Amazing just how much a bad sugar habit affects your sleep! I hit up the gym yesterday and I’m thinking about my EAT SLEEP MOVE Challenge for the New Year. Making small changes in each of these categories – means moving toward a stronger whole overall! One of my scholars, Andy Derry, recently started a blog called Whole Life Living and writes about this very topic. His tips include: finding an “accountability partner,” setting modest goals (aka making small changes), getting right back into it (without judgement) if you falter and taking things one day at a time. Great advice!

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Hitting up the Lunch Crunch at Seung-Ni Fit Club – great camaraderie and great energy!

Do you happen to have a “Little Debbie” habit – or a habit just like it? If so, consider signing on to the EAT SLEEP MOVE Challenge with me! Click HERE for the details – it’s a great way to kickstart the New Year. Here’s to less Little Debbie’s and more choices (aka small changes) that will lead to feeling good and strong in 2014 and beyond.

Happy New Year!