Everything Matters

You matter. What you do makes a difference. Everything you think, every word you speak, every task you complete and those you don’t. Everything matters. It’s a gift to be alive even when it’s hard.

During a recent workout led by my Ironman, Businessman, Great Man brother-in-law, a pack of athlete ambassadors planked, lunged, bear-crawled, sprinted, stretched and fist pumped knowing the mantra is true. Give purpose to everything you do, it all matters.

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Ponder this.

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Thanks, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Winning Poet, Mary Oliver for the ask.

The journey. The destination. Make it all count.

Ponder away but don’t forget Socrates’ wisdom:

To do is to be.

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This guy was smitten with the message.

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I hope you are too.

Go. Do. Be.

Runners:  It’s an honor lace up your shoes even more when it’s hot or cold or you hurt (but aren’t injured) or you don’t want to.

Yogi’s: That mat is your salvation, unfurl it, salute the sun even in the rain. Before you know it, you’ll be standing on your head resolving all your issues.

Tri-athletes: How awesome is it to move our body over crazy long miles in water, on a bike, on your legs? When it gets hard and you are suffering you thank God that you can. Your highs and your lows – all of it matters.

All people: It is not what you do when you chase your dreams but who you have become while you are in the process of achieving them.

And never, ever give up.

 

Something I am embarrassed about

I am a classically trained dancer with a ferocious love of good bass. I am a health and wellness writer and yoga teacher from the Iyengar lineage. I have practiced Ashtanga yoga in the Mysore tradition and am a self-professed seeker. A purist, a tattoo-contemplator, a hot-dog sneakin’-vegan and a little righteous about pulling yourself out of the abyss and here are some things I’ll admit:

In 2009, I survived my first marathon in 5+ hours. (3 more followed. much better time – I do have some pride.)

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I love a good back.

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I never go anywhere without this:

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I ALWAYS blame farts on other people.

I love these two:

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Here’s what I am embarrassed about:

My name is Clair and I LOVE BIKRAM YOGA.

My rock star yoga friends who worship at the table of the un-hot room may not ever speak to me again but I am who I am. When I travel I find a Bikram studio in most cities I visit. Like Starbuck’s, I know what to expect and it’s the same everywhere. Every. Single. Time. I need that. I like the focus the mental tenacity the endurance required to stay in a room heated to 107 degrees for 90 minutes. I like it when the instructor says ‘nice work Clair’ when I do this:

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To some, hot yoga is cheating, cheesy, impure, a fad and some of the gurus are sex maniacs. But that’s not my experience. Mine supports my affinity for endurance sports.

Jennifer Aniston swears by it.

I’ll still keep this little secret quiet when I visit or teach where Bikram is a bad word.

But I won’t lie. Ask me if I like Bikram and I’ll say:

“I love the yoga.”

“But, I did not fart.” (I have my limits.)

 

5 Ways to Stay Focused

Life is hard.  Life is busy and if you are like me you have about 590 things going on in your mind at once. This trait makes Yoga my perfect mate and hardest endeavor which is probably why I love it so.  Stillness is almost extinct in this day and age where multi-tasking is revered and doing more means we ARE MORE.  And yet I am convinced that in stillness we finally truly begin to live.  Savasana or Corpse Pose CAN BE the HARDEST YOGA POSE there is.

Doesn’t that look exhausting?  I once had a panic attack during Savasana – never mind that the room was 107 degrees.  There is so much vitality in ‘dead body’ pose, never mind the oxymoron.  Indira Gandhi said:

Indira-Gandhi-Quotes-2[1]

And there you have it.  In the frenzy of modern life, stillness is the key to vitality.  In the repose of corpse pose we are vibrantly alive.  BUT HOW THE HELL DO WE GET THERE?

How do we become still and focused?

1.  Practice a crap load of yoga!

It is said that yoga is about peeling back the layers and finding the simple truth.  Your authenticity.  The place you are aligned and happy and not distracted and pulled in a thousand directions which is my usual state of mind.  Anything other than the truth is a lie.  So all the unrealistic expectations you have for yourself and the way-too-dense to-do list are lies.  So get back to your truth and your mat and maybe Savasana won’t feel so flippin’ hard.  It can be luscious.  We can remember the peace of the stillness and bring it to the great activity that is the truth of our lives.  Indira says it’s possible.

2.  Clean up your diet!

Get rid of crap you don’t need.

  • Your body will like it.
  • Your digestive processes can operate with efficiency and precision.
  • It is proven that some foods help brain function.

In Carol Sorgen’s article:   Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain.  It is said that if we add these ‘superfoods’ to your daily diet, you will increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life.

  • Blueberries
  • Wild Salmon
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Whole Grains
  • Avocadoes

blueberry

Dear God!  I think I just died and went to good-food-choices heaven.  I love all of these.  If they can help me focus and live better.  huge, huge SCORE!

They say eating a green pizza bigger than your head works too.

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3.  Find a ‘Focus Mantra’

This idea may sound a little vague and a lot woo-woo but hang with me.  Focus,  Dang it!

A mantra is:  any sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration and embodying some aspect of spiritual power.  (Dictionary)  My personal one for personal reasons is:

Fight.  Finish.  Faith.

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Find something that grounds you.  It can be as simple as one word like ‘believe’.  It can be a little more lengthy like Indira’s quote above.  (Don’t say I never gave you anything.  You have your very own Focus Mantra now.)

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4.  De-clutter everything.

I am very very sentimental but I do not keep things I don’t need, love, or use.  Just because Great Aunt Ethel (whom you never met and passed on in 1965) touched a soup ladle (and you don’t even like soup) doesn’t mean you have to keep said ladle.  You are NOT are a sinner if you give it to Goodwill.  Others I am very close to probably disagree.

And keep your living and workspace clear of crap you don’t need, love, or use.  Clean lines and open spaces invite good thinking and calm minds.  Not like this:

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This is my current workspace.  It is an example of what NOT to do.  Because of a recent profound loss, I am giving my entire life a haircut.  No more dead-ends that take up space and serve no purpose.  This means my home, my calendar, my relationships, my to-do list and my commitments.  Lean and open is the new approach to everything including my body and mindspace.  Here we go!!!

5.  Be still

To cultivate stillness and focus you have to practice.  Do some of this:

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That is all.

I am in this quest with you.  I am still me.  I am still certifiably an adult with ADD.  I have:

  • 45 hobbies
  • 100 areas of interest
  • 755 goals for the year

And 1 life (as far as I know) with 24 hours in each of a finite number of days.  This is not easy for me but anything worthwhile never is.  There is magic and vitality in the stillness. I will focus on finding focus and perhaps Savasana won’t make me an actual corpse.

Do you have trouble focusing?

See above.

How to you right yourself in the waves of distraction?

See above.

Do you a saver or a purger?

Purger all the way!!

 

 

 

5 Favorite Things and My Weekend at an Ashram

The Ashram Experience – Yogaville

I am still in la-la land over my weekend with 10 powerhouse beauties at Yoga Camp – This term we coined to describe dorm life of the Om genre.  Complete with covert happy hours, coffee contraband and making fun of the die-hards we experienced:

“A little bit of weird and a whole lot of wonderful.” Jessica, Publisher of Natural Awakenings and Yoga Camper

Tucked away in rural Central Virginia, Yogaville is a retreat space for main-streamers and a monastic opportunity for folks desiring total withdrawal from ‘real life’.  The two mix in this austere setting seeking oneness with The One and to raise the loving vibration of the planet.  This is a little ‘woo-woo’ for many – our group included, educators, managers, mom’s, sports marketers, extreme adventure athletes, master gardeners, professional body builders, business owners, physical therapists, yoga teachers, writers, marketing specialists and publishers.  A mixed bag of real people from real walks of life.  The bond we hold is the light inside seeking spiritual expansion and a damn good time.  Each was attained in varying degrees.  Moment to moment.  We giggled and gasped for air at times (pranayama exercises anyone??) had gas (good Lord the food! – any more roughage and the yoga classes would NOT be silent.

Sinners and derelicts that we are, we escaped left willingly to find pizza and beer on night #2.  So fun.  I felt so Bad, in A Good Way.

Many programs can be found here.  Also renown facilitators and teachers from all over the world use the Yogaville space to hold their rich workshops.  Our program was for real ashram beginners.  Called the ‘Welcome Weekend’ the offerings showed the broad range of opportunities.  The result was kind of vanilla.  Unremarkable, except of course the head scratching concept of raising my family here.  Couldn’t do it.  Would I go back???  Perhaps for another more focused/intense program in a while after I’ve recovered from the little bit of weird and remember only the whole lot of wonderful.  I have not missed the little gnome that walks the halls at 5:00 AM ringing a bell and chanting:  Hari Om!  I prefer my own alarm clock.

The intention of the space is awesome and amazing and so worth a look.  Especially on a Groupon.  What a deal!!  $85 for all the vegan gas.  Yes!!

5 Favorite Things

1.  mag cover

This publication is an old love that has come back into my life with a vengeance.  Natural Awakenings is in 90 markets across the county – if you are lucky, in one near you.  It promotes a healthy life and healthy planet with real world opportunity to live as such with local resources within kickass and cool community and the most diverse and interesting advertising supporters around.  Check it out  or email me and I’ll send you a copy.

2.  Gaiam purse

My new purse from Gaiam.  I have never ordered from their catalog and I took a chance and purchased a cute dress, this purse and a hade made Fair Wage necklace all for 103.00 with free shipping.  This purse is perfect for my daily shenanigans.  Yoga, meetings, and all the jank.  I love the steel gray color too.

3. 

These ginger snaps.  I gave up sweets for Lent and I am  cheating with these.  Ginger is a spice, not sugar.  So there!!  Delicious, extra crunchy but not hard or gummy.  Love.

4. 

My yoga students and I love love love this fragrance both before and after class.  A little pricey ($30) but it lasts a very long time.  Your family will be nicer and more organized if you spray your home with it.

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5.  Back bending against the wall.  Spring is coming.  Can’t wait to unleash the beast in the spine.

The view from my ledge

Spoiler alert:  it’s not this:

More like this lately:

Note the tether.  Things have not deteriorated too much.

I  am so tired of the pain in my foot, I want to explode.  Don’t click to the next email, please.  I need you.  Hear me out.  You’ve seen this quote:

“Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt.
Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.” — Mark Twain

I might add:  Write like nobody’s reading.  Which could be true.  In case I have your attention (Beth, Maureen, Megan, Kathleen, Amy, perhaps – Larry, and Maureen thank you!) please be patient. I’ll be brief with the crap.

The Crap

I am experiencing a few existential issues at the moment and I think all that chatter is manifesting itself in my fartin’ foot.  Surely you’ve heard about my (perhaps) dumbass move to run 15 of 26.2 mile in sharp pain on Feb. 2.  The good news is (I think) I did finish.  Proof:

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Besides the medal, my goody bag included a heel from hell.  I know I can be a bit dramatic but dear God, each and every stop of those fartin’ 15 hurt like a beeyatch.  I have not run a step in one month and one day but who’s counting?  I saw a sports medicine doctor who took a first course diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, which I knew.  I love this guy and I want to believe it is nothing more.  But, though my logic is a bit illogical (I did not see the PT as he suggested, figured I could ice and stretch to beat band and I didn’t prioritize my own health, which is illogical) I feel the need for validation that PF it is.  I hope so.  And I will, I promise, go see Keith who is my PT and doesn’t know it yet.  BUT – this crap has gotten worse.  I can hardly put any weight on it without soreness that makes me dread the long as hell walk to the commode.  Every.  Single.  Time.  No matter time of day.  Still PF?  I hope so.

To many pain is a state of mind.  My yogi self believes our entire existence is such.  But right now I am unable to disconnect from this omnipresent sensation lurking in my heel.  Here’s my thinking of late:

  • Because 2 out my 3 full marathons have kicked my ass, I suck.

(Because I have some pride I must mention I also have 9 half marathons under my belt.  Sue me).

  • I am not a runner.
  • I am a fool and a fraud and I am bull headed for not opening up to the message from The Universe:  STOP RUNNING

Unless:

  • I have opportunity to improve my training and nutrition.
  • My ego is being softened – whittled to nothing – and perhaps I need it.
  • I have grit and mettle like I never knew.  Preparing me for even bigger things.

Stepping back from my ledge:

Here’s what I have learned so far from this:

  • I love to swim and have a clean and strong stroke (TWSS – sorry, couldn’t resist.)
  • My yoga is always there.  Always.
  • The people I live with are super patient with the skush skush of my limp – and my whining.

That includes them:

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And him.  Not her (she’s a mess):

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For a number of reasons I spiraled into a state that has rendered me a bit frozen.  Immobile.  The D-word, depressed.  I miss people.  I feel incompetent.  I am blessed beyond belief but biologically can’t feel it.  I considered medication for this feeling, a lethargic existence.  But, I am holding out.  Here is my pill to pull out of my funk:

67  pills pages in and I am pulling out.  I can do this.

Nothing a little of this:

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or this

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Can’t cure.

Yogaville, here I come.

How do you get off your ledge?

My gourmet 20-miler

For real?!!  Yesterday was my 7th 20 mile run and it was by far the most hype.

It included:

  • 2 heated bathroom breaks with no line on clean commodes with toilet paper
  • a shot of wheatgrass and fresh juice at mile-14
  • an offer of fresh peppers dipped in humus
  • a suggestion to stop at 7-11 for orange juice and peanuts.

I’m surprised we didn’t get mani’s and pedi’s or maybe some waxing along the way.  Why not?  YOLO.

I think I could actually get fat from this kind of long running. Yesterday I was royalty on a run.  My sister, brother-in-law, and I bagged our second 20-miler for the ING Miami Marathon.  I am a spoiled brat and never want another primitive minimalist run.  

Here’s where we got the wheatgrass and fresh juice.

Ellwood Thompson Organic Market in Richmond, Va

My feet were killing me, I had no mental acuity and almost fell into a gentleman at the checkout while I was waiting for my fabulous fuel.  Instead of thinking me cool and fit and fun like I falsely believe of myself at times, he gave me a dirty look.  He insinuated with his eyes that I was rude with  no self-control.  Clearly, we had not met.

This is the juice concoction:

Shaka smart, shaka, vcu basketball, vcu, virginia commonwealth university, richmond, va

HAVOC, baby.  It was delicious and energizing.  Check out those ingredients.  I was havoc on the pavement afterwards.  At least in my mind.

My sister and I think we need to hire our own juicer to accompany us to Miami.  THAT would be nice.

Today I taught a Hatha Yoga class where we did Heron’s Pose:

 

Source: http://www.sarawhitney.net

And now, I taper.  Heaven.

Next up:  Interview with an Ironman – SHUT UP AND RUN!

How to get past mile 15 and 5 Holiday Yoga Poses

It’s 6:20 a.m. Christmas Eve.  I am preparing to go on a 5 mile quickie.  I entered the Virginia pre dawn chill to retrieve the paper atop my driveway and thought of those 3 wise men traversing the mountains for days to meet the Man of All Time (he was a baby then).  What did they talk about?  Did they know each other before the journey?  Was anybody funny?  How did they get past mile 15, 19, and 31?

I know a little about getting past mile 19.  (Plant someone on the course who isn’t afraid to call you a p*ssy.  It works.)

You’ll have to ask her about mile 31.  She is my ultra hero; my extremely tenacious and downright determined friend.  

Mile 15?  Let the wise man lead.

Saturday I  had a 18 mile training run.  Flying solo, armed with my ipod and poorly placed water plants (I’ll never do that again), I was moving along pretty good until mile 14.  Here’s my mental audio at that point:

4 stupid miles, Clair.  4 stupid little miles.  You can do this.

And I decided to:

At mile 15, it happened.  My angel flew down scooped me up in the soft little wing and carried me to the end.  Actually, my friend Larry – a fellow marathoner, husband to my sister-by-another-mother and pseudo mayor of our little town, took me home.  3 miles of cussing.  Sorry, Larry.  He just laughed and said:

Larry, looks good in a dress, non?

I made it.  I thanked him.  The end.  I have 20 miles to kick out on Saturday.  I wonder what Larry’s up to.

Here are 5 must do yoga poses for the holidays:

1.  Sukasana (with our without full lotus as shown below) for meditation and quiet.

2.  Gentle spinal twist helps restore balance to your body and mind.

3.  Seated forward bend helps release emotion.

seated forward bend

4.  Tree pose for balance

5.  Extended Side Angle Pose keeps your digestion on tract.  Enough said.

extended side angle pose

Yoga can be your Larry angel.  Make time for yourself.

See you on the other side of 20.