I Threw Out My Skinny Jeans– And So Should You!

garbage

I’m not talking about the jeans you were wearing in October 2014 and have slightly outgrown due to holiday overeating… I’m talking about the jeans in the back of your closet- the ones that you haven’t worn in a year or years. I’m talking about the jeans that have become dusty, the jeans so teeny tiny that to fit in them once more would require a level of deprivation and overexertion that you dread but which you think you will put yourself through once you have the money/motivation/time/”discipline.”

This morning I was rooting around in my closet and came across a pair of black jeans that I haven’t been able to fit over my hips for the past couple years. I snapped them open, held them against my pelvis, and immediately went downstairs to toss them in the trash.

Here is a picture of me in the jeans:

skinnyblackpants

There is part of me that feels like I look pretty good at the weight I was when I fit the jeans. After all, I grew up watching Disney movies and reading fashion magazines and idolizing extreme thinness (like we all did).

However, today, two years later, I am 15 pounds heavier than I was in the photo, and I have never felt so good. When I feel hungry, I eat. I wake up in the morning, and I have energy. If I want to work out, it makes me feel invigorated instead of exhausted. Here is me today:

mandysukasana

Part of becoming a healthy adult woman is accepting the weight our body lands on when we are taking good care of ourselves. This doesn’t mean accepting an overweight body- it means that when our lifestyles are healthy and sustainable, we should let our bodies decide how they want to look, not our jeans.

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How to Beat Stress by Acting Like a Lioness

lion

“You don’t look very good in that top…” “That was a stupid thing to say…” “You’re so lazy…”

If someone else talked to me this way I would want to punch them in the face, but isn’t this the way I routinely talk to myself? Although some people have louder inner critics than others, we have all experienced the negative self-talk that, over time, wears on our sense of self-worth.

When we abuse ourselves too much, we don’t merely beat ourselves down but we biochemically amp ourselves up into a state of increased stress.

Excessive self-criticism leads to the Stress Response, a bodily reaction evolved to protect us from danger. The Stress Response (also known as “fight or flight”) causes the release of cortisol and adrenaline. It is a system designed to help us ward off an outside threat, but when the threat comes from inside we are both the attacker and the attacked. We are then vulnerable to all the health and mental conditions associated with stress.

If we can change self-criticism to self-compassion, we can also change the bodily reactions triggered and therefore the chemistry of the body.  The Mammalian Caregiving Response evolved as a result of mammals being born so early in our development and the need for parents to care for their young. We are biologically wired to respond positively to caregiving: soothing vocalizations, soft touches, and kindness. The Mammalian Caregiving Response releases oxytocin and opiates, and it is in this state that we are in optimal position to feel comfortable and safe enough to grow and thrive. By changing the way we speak to ourselves, we become our own caregiver, and we feel supported enough to live our best life.

Do I want to live in the Stress Response or the Mammalian Caregiving Response? Obviously, I would rather harness my body’s power to feel soothed and good. This means that I must treat myself not as an attacker but as a mother lion might treat her young cub.

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Pre-Yoga Snack

preyogasmoothie

If you’ve ever practiced yoga after a meal, you know why it’s recommended to come to class on an empty stomach! All the movement and twisting and flipping head below heart is super-uncomfortable if your belly is full.

But what if you feel scraped-out and weak before practice? What if you need a little something to hold you over?

Try this simple blend. I love it because it uses carrot peels that might otherwise have went in the trash. Yes, they are safe to eat- just make sure they’re clean!

Nom-aste. (The hunger in me sees the hunger in you.)

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32 Positive Affirmations for Self-Acceptance

thinkpositive

Affirmations are affirmative statements that, when consistently repeated, may help change negative thought patterns and beliefs.

If you’re at all like me, you will feel ridiculous talking to yourself in the bathroom, but affirmations harness the power of words and are a great way to set the tone for your day. Pick a statement you feel drawn to and write it down twice. Hang one card on your mirror and keep one in your pocket or purse. I find that it is best to say the affirmation out loud at least once in a day, but focusing and loudly saying it in your head might also be effective.

Remember that affirmations only work with repetition, so no matter how foolish you may feel, it is a practice worth at least a try. You may find that you feel better or are slowly able to believe the empowering statement:

I consciously release the past and live only in the present. That way, I can enjoy and experience life to the fullest.

I am bursting with gratitude for my wonderful life.

I am grateful for the chance to be alive today. I see all the good in my life, and I feel warm appreciation for all of it.

I am solution-minded. Any problem that comes up in my life is solvable, and I have what I need to work through it.

I release the need to please others. I need only please myself.

I refuse to punish myself when I make mistakes. I forgive myself and move on.

I love and approve of myself just the way I am.

I release resentment against myself and replace it with forgiveness and love.

I enjoy my body and all the pleasures it brings me.

I treat myself with gentle loving kindness at all times.

I trust my inner voice and my intuition to show me the way.

Each day is an opportunity to live as I want to. I choose to love and accept myself today.

I am strong and healthy, and I take good care of myself.

I forgive myself for the way I have treated myself in the past.

I can rely on my inner compass to guide me in the right direction.

I am worthy of my own love and affection, and it is easy for me to treat myself well.

I can feel a positive change in my relationship with myself.

As I melt away self-hatred, I release hatred of people and situations that used to trouble me.

I have compassion for myself. I give myself permission to experience my feelings.

I embrace my work and my accomplishments in life, and I feel proud of myself for all the good I have done.

I walk peacefully through the day, trusting that I can face anything that comes my way.

I believe in my ability to guide myself through any situation. I trust my inner wisdom.

I make smart choices that lead me to good health and happiness.

I am gentle and kind with myself, and I recover from my mistakes gracefully.

I am in touch with my inner strength, and I draw from it whenever I need to.

I choose to find hopeful and optimistic ways of looking at all situations.

I listen to my inner conflict lovingly, and I have compassion for myself.

My thoughts are my reality, so I think positive. When I notice negative thoughts, I choose to change them.

I choose to participate fully in this day. I greet everything in it with joy.

I am happy in my own skin and in my own circumstances.

I am good enough, and I get better every day.

I release criticism of myself, and I choose to think supportive thoughts.

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Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe

sugar cookies

The only thing easier than this recipe is buying pre-made dough, but why pay the extra price and consume unknown preservatives when it’s so simple to make cookies from scratch?

I have been searching for a simple Level 1 cookie recipe for awhile because I don’t have a lot of confidence in my baking abilities, and I get intimidated when there are too many ingredients or steps to follow. Also, I don’t like having to refrigerate dough for any period of time (payyyyyyyyyyyyytience).

These cookies were really successful, so good luck with your own batch– even though you won’t need it.

Ingredients:

1-1/3 cups and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 scrambled raw egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

In a different bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, then beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheet(s).

Bake 8 minutes in the preheated oven, or a little longer if you like a crunchier cookie. Let rest on cookie sheet 2 minutes before removing to cool.

(makes 24 cookies)

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How old are your yoga poses?

shouldstand

As a yoga teacher, it pains me to see the rigid bodies and anguished faces of my students when they overly focus on perfecting their poses. Many of us come to the practice having seen photos of asanas and desiring to express them correctly, sometimes at the expense of how the body wants to move and what is comfortable and safe.

How important is the performance of the pose, and how traditional should we try to be?

In my classes I use creative preparatory movement- drawing from martial arts, dance, and anatomical science to make sure the body is “warm” enough to enter a given pose. Once the pose is expressed, I try to help people create a sense of dynamic, fluid movement inside the stillness of it to prevent muscle tension and the joints from locking up. Further, I passionately believe in customizing asanas to the individual and taking advantage of modifications that are supportive of the practitioner.

This approach turns some people off. They don’t like the idea of “messing with” traditional yoga poses. Who are we to take creative license with and modify poses that are thousands of years old?

While yoga philosophy is ancient, it may surprise you to learn that the poses we practice today are not thousands of years old.

Ancient yoga texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras focus primarily on spiritual matters, cleansing techniques, behavioral dictates and philosophy, and the proper way to arrange the body for a seated meditation. No asana there– no downward-facing dog, no pigeon, not even mountain pose.

It was not until the early 1800’s that Krishnaraja Wodeyar III wrote the Sritattvanidhi, which contained 122 poses that many of us still practice some version of today. The text was influenced by Indian gymnastics and prescribed the performance of the poses as important to the physical component of individual health.

In the early 1900’s Krishnamacharya (BKS Iyengar’s brother-in-law and teacher) refined and tweaked these poses to construct a physical practice that he thought supported spiritual growth and promoted physical healing. Iyengar later brought his own ideas to those of Krishnamacharya, and so began the tradition of yoga that we see today in studios and gyms across the United States. When the yoga revival came to the states with the hippie movement of the 60’s and 70’s, yoga began to break into different styles depending on philosophical lineage and differing gurus and teachers.

I provide this information not to demystify yoga or to disenchant those of us who feel connected to an ancient art when we practice. We are connected to it, but the poses we perform with our bodies are not the prescription of the gods nor written in stone for us to mindlessly mimic. They are the creation of people for whom individual health and spiritual growth were their life’s work. We should respect what they have to teach us, but we should begin to see yoga as an alive art, one that grows and changes with the needs of its followers.

Krishnamacharya himself considered each student “absolutely unique” and thought yoga should be “taught according to [student’s] individual capacity at any given time.”

Infuse your practice with an attitude of fun and curiosity instead of worship and worry over whether you are doing it right. Modify the poses and bow to the teacher within. It is not sacrilegious to be creative and modify– it is deeply within the spirit of your holistic yoga practice.

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The Serenity Prayer and the Breath

lungs

Grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to control the weather, the stoplights, or the behavior of the people around me. Everything I encounter in life falls into two categories: things in and outside of my control, and my sense of peace depends on my ability to separate the two.

Raised in the Catholic faith, I know many prayers which I can recite from the well of memories I made between dark pews of my childhood churches. Today, I no longer identify with that religion, or any other, and I no longer find solace in those words. However, in my early twenties I learned the Serenity Prayer, and I think of it as less of an appeal to my Higher Power and more a mantra to remind me of my place in the world and soothe me in times of distress. I say the SP silently to myself and take a deep, delicious breath.

The breath stands on the cusp of what we can and cannot change– it operates outside our conscious control most of the time but can be easily pulled into conscious control. The lungs are unique in this way: it is impossible to willfully stimulate digestion or control the pace of blood through the veins, but we can decide to take an intentional breath whenever we need one.

Pranayama practice is the yogic system of disciplining the breath to extend vital life force. A formal pranayama practice may involve alternate nose breathing, breath of fire, ocean breaths, and breath retention, among many other techniques that have origins in ancient India. Pranayama is a valuable practice for those who feel drawn to it, but even those who are turned off by the time and discipline required can benefit from breathwork of another sort. The simplest, cheapest, and most accessible method of self-soothing is to take a full breath.

Breathe into your belly to expand it, then expand the rib cage, and fill the throat. You are now practicing breath control. It is possible to pause in times of agitation and to breathe, perhaps saying the Serenity Prayer to yourself. I need to always consider whether the thing causing me distress is something inside my control, and if it is not, to release it with my exhale.

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Vinyasa Yoga Playlist

vinyasayogaplaylist

Ready to sweat and get funky? This is the playlist for you.

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8 Week Yoga Workshop: The Art of Self-Acceptance

“The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are…

the second greatest is being happy with what you find.”

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Dates:  1/11/14—3/1/14

Sundays:  3:00pm-4:30pm

Member Fee:  $50

General Public Fee:  $85

(fee includes classes and a journal)

New year, new you. Right? Having goals is great, but how can we be at peace with ourselves along the journey?

Learn how to construct a yoga practice that is wholly your own: that serves you and helps to ease stress and release painful expectations of yourself and others.

Come learn asanas that fit and feel good for your body and a style of yoga that enhances your life’s practice.

Sign-ups open starting on 1/5/14 with spaces limited to the first 25 people. All levels are welcome.

Skaneateles Ymca and Community Center

97 State Street

Skaneateles, NY 13152

(315) 685-2244

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Yoga Playlist for the New Year!

new years yoga playlist

This is a one-hour playlist inspired by the film Thanks for Sharing, which got me all choked up last night. Happy New Year to all, and may your 2015 be full of beautiful mistakes and many happy moments!

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