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I Can Do The Upward Bow Pose: Take That 35!

3 Sep

At the end of my first Vinyasa flow class our instructor had us attempt a back bend, or what’s known as the upward bow pose in yoga. I wanted to give it a try, but I was a little scared and I couldn’t lift my head off the ground. However, since that last Tuesday I’ve been working on it. After all, yoga is 99 percent practice and 1 percent theory, right?

Well, look what I did!  The pic below is my favorite. We were all playing around in the living room and I decided to see If I could manage the position, and I did. The kids thought it was great, too. They climbed underneath me to play. Zoe said I was a nice bridge. If you look closely you can see that I’m laughing. You can also see my dog’s freaky glowing eyes. I’m so glad Peter grabbed this photo!

So the next set of photos show how I got into this pose. You should not attempt this move unless you’ve warmed up your body. Also, I’m not an instructor and I have no business teaching anyone how to do yoga. However, I’m sharing this just cause it’s fun to explain how I managed it. Pretty please don’t hurt yourself and try to use my tips as a starting point – take some classes and go from there.

First, I start out in this position pictured below. The heels of the feet should be tucked in as close to the bottom as possible. As you can see I’m actually holding on to my ankles which feels good.

From there raise the hips off the ground and slowly lift the back, vertebra by vertebra. Allow the weight of the body to rest on the feet and shoulders. Keep the neck and jaw soft.

From there place the hands by the ears with fingers pointing towards the body. The goal is to keep the elbows in. Now, slowly lift the body off the ground. Viola – upward bow pose.

You can see that I’m still working on perfecting this pose, I’m obviously a beginner. But, I’m still proud of myself! Here’s to staying young. Take that 35!

I look at this and can see a lot of changes that I need to do, like bring my hands further in towards my ears, and pull my elbows in rather than letting them splay outwards, but practice makes perfect and you’ve got to start somewhere.

I like this video, it shows you really how to find this pose:

Yoga: In Which Zumba Might Have Some Competition

31 Aug

I’ve really been sinking my teeth into my new gym membership at Oasis. The classes are knocking my socks off. The last two weeks I’ve attended classes at least once a day, sometimes even twice – especially when the classes line up back to back. (Totally want to give a huge thumbs up to the fantastic childcare Oasis offers. Such a plus!)

Last Friday I hit up my first Yoga class. The instructor was a roundish through the middle, tiny older woman, who had legs like a teenager. She walked around the class room and just chatted with us like we were her kids. At one point, I thought for sure she was going to offer me some chicken soup and ask if I married a good Jewish boy. If Dr. Ruth was a yoga instructor from Chicago … well, you get the picture.

I’ve only taken a couple of yoga classes – in my life. Twice in Jerusalem at the local YMCA, early in my pregnancy with my daughter, Zoe. And then again, when I was pregnant with my son, Noah – I bought a prenatal yoga DVD (that I loved, but didn’t do often enough).

Simply said, I’m a novice. But a little pat on the back for me, I kept up pretty well with the others in the room. Downward dog is fantastic – and my new favorite resting position: head upside down, staring right through my thighs, focusing on my breath. Dr. Chicago-Ruth-Yoga-Genius even had us attempt the Crow pose. I gave it my best shot. I got both my feet off the ground for about two milliseconds.

Crow Pose

I liked that class so much that on Saturday I took another Yoga class. This one was faster paced and we moved seamlessly from one pose to another. Our instructor was a younger woman with a lovely Spanish accent. At the end of our class, while we all laid on our mats – the music soft, the lights low – our instructor came by to each of us in the room and gently massaged our feet, our ankles and our calves.

I was so moved by this gesture. I felt a little vulnerable, too. The instructor’s presence and touch reminded me of my work as a doula. Except I was on the receiving end for a change. For some reason, at the end of that class I wanted to cry.

On Tuesday night I took my third Yoga class of the week, Vinyasa flow. Holy smokes! I had no idea what I was in for with this class. The instructor, a peaceful, short-haired, muscled woman, really had us breathing, moving our bodies, and “connecting with the Divine” she said. She asked us to center our focus on what we needed from our session and for the week. Strength? Peace? Love? She encouraged us to take it in with our breath.

Honestly, I haven’t plugged in to God like that in a long time. Vinyasa flow was compelling and moving. It brought in the physical element of worship/meditation in a way that you can’t often experience in a church sanctuary. This connection of mastering your body (of engaging your core – both physically and emotionally), while you master your breath and your mind offered me a holistic, healing, and spiritual experience.

At the end of our class, our instructor came to each one of us and gently touched us, just like the last class I attended. (Is this a Yoga thing?) This instructor massaged my shoulders and neck. Surprised with myself, I was fighting tears, again. That tenderness of a woman with a gentle spirit reaching out – breaking the social ‘no touch’ norm among strangers, and connecting with me was beautiful and soulful.

I had a doula client who told me I reminded her of her Yoga mentor. I never quite understood her connection. How could being a doula be anything like teaching Yoga? But in the moment, while I laid on my mat, at the end of an hour-long session where I pushed my body to the far reach of its abilities, in that quiet and tender space of softening my body and connecting to my breath, I understood what she meant. Suddenly, my client’s compliment made perfect sense.

All in all, folks, it looks like Zumba’s got some competition with Yoga. I liked trusting in the strength of my body – something required of you as you commit to each pose. I loved how strong my body felt after each session. I enjoyed how each instructor brought her own charm to the class. I appreciated how connected I felt to my faith while practicing something physical and demanding.

I’m not sure which one will be my new favorite six weeks from now … I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

While doing a little reading this evening (ah, I have so much more space for that now that I’m not spending time on Facebook) I came across this cool couple. He’s a musician and she’s a yoga instructor, and he plays live while she leads a class. What they’re doing is really special and hip, so check them out: Go W/The Flow

Zumba: In Which I Laugh While Shaking My Boom Boom

23 Aug

As part of project Get Joy’s groove back, I’ve picked up a membership at a ladies-only gym. The monthly fee is a little steep for us, but it’s month-to-month, there’s no sign up fee, no contract, and no hidden towel washing fee (I just made that up). Plus, the gym is a five-minute car ride away and the locker room looks like a spa. Beyond all of that, the monthly fee is (in my estimation) still cheaper than Wellbutrin.

You know how I am on this thing about exploring my soul? (Read here) Well, when I reflect back on the times when I was the most happy with myself, when my outlook about life was the brightest, it was when I was working out like a nut – at a gym.

I love how the harder my body works, and the louder my heart pounds, the cleaner my brain feels afterwards. Working out is a huge filter for my negative emotions.

There was a time when I would go straight from work to the gym every night for at least an hour or more. And. I. Loved. It. But now, as a mom of two little ones, time at the gym feels like an absolute luxury these days.  Let’s not kid ourselves, it is a luxury.

I mean, the last time I gave myself regular chunks of time to work out was when I had a trainer back in 2007. She kicked my tuckus into the best shape of my life. I had muscles that you could see, I mean really see!  (Proof: would you just look at my shoulders in this photo. Rawr!)

Toned arms: proof that it’s possible.

All of that said, last night I did it. I spent two hours at the gym and it was AWESOME (insert jazz hands and DJ Lance voice right here)! I attended two classes in a row, Cardio Sculpt and Zumba. It was fantastic, and no, I’m not being sarcastic.

I’m really into group classes. I enjoy the energy and the feel that comes from a room full of sweaty maniacs working out together. I’m also motivated by the instructor making sure I push myself – which I don’t really do that much of when I work out by myself.

Also, as someone who spends their entire day around two little kids (that I love), being in a room stuffed to the brim with fun, savvy ladies makes me feel like I’m hanging out with friends for a few hours. What’s not to love?

But seriously, can we talk about Zumba? The room is packed, blazing with energy, and pounding with thumping music. The instructor is gyrating in ways that I’ve only seen on MTV.

Here’s the cool part, she’s my age, (nothing like attending a gym class and the instructor is a so far from your reality that you lose your morale just by looking at her) she’s hilarious, and she’s bringing her awesome Zumba moves with a huge side of sexy. I’m totally inspired by my instructor, and I want her to be my friend. I’m think I’m going to leave a love note in her locker, for real.

The sad truth is with only two classes under my belt I’m so not even remotely close to knowing the Zumba routines yet. I’m that girl who is two steps behind the entire class trying to perfect my “drop, shake, and shimmy” while everyone else is already merengue-ing down the room. Yeah, okay, it’s not that sad, it’s actually hilarious (except if you’re standing next to me in class – then it’s annoying).

You know what though? Sometimes in the middle of the dance routines, I’ll just stop and laugh at myself. These days laughing this hard feels just as good as shaking my boom boom, if not more.

Honestly, I’m getting hooked.

Do you Zumba? Do you love it? Any tips for a newbie like me?

The Discipline of Exploration | A Summer Day in Chicago

21 Aug

Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain

Peter and I have lived in some pretty amazing cities throughout our lives. Chicago being just one of them. We’ve both lived in the D.C. area, Austin, and a year in Jerusalem. On our own we’ve lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Twin Cities, Baltimore, Lafayette … I could keep going, we we’re quite the roamers in our younger days.

Sadly, neither one of us gave ourselves the opportunity to really (I mean, really) explore these cities while we lived there.

After all, the task of exploration requires a lot of effort for us. Pack up the gear for the day, make sure we have plenty of cash, water and snacks, change of clothes for the kids. (For those Murphy’s law moments that always seem to happen while out.) Lift and shove the stroller, with two children sitting in it, on and off the train. Maneuver through the heavy foot traffic of the city just to find that one restaurant that we’ve been hearing about for ages. It’s a schlep.

Noah and Mommy, Buckingham Fountain.

Us, Lake Michigan

In fact, one could call exploration a discipline. The task of moving outside of our comfort zone to see what’s beyond the view right in front of us requires effort, and hope … that there is something out there that’s actually worth discovering.

I have a vivid memory. Years ago while living in Ft. Lauderdale I went for a run through my neighborhood. I needed the workout to help me process my feelings. I was really jealous. A friend of mine was in a very happy and loving relationship with a man. I felt sorry for myself. I wanted to know where my happy love affair was too.

Me, Lurie Garden

After I finished my run, I chose to stretch out by the pond near my condo. The sun was setting and the pond seemed inviting, at first. Upon closer inspection though, this body of water was teeming with gnats and smelled like rotting fish.

I stood there stretching my calves thinking about how this pond was all I could see, but I knew that not even three miles away there was a peaceful beach that offered the softest white sand swept up in turquoise waters.

It felt like a fitting metaphor for my life. In a quick act of determination, I set my heart towards hope. Just because all I could see was that ugly pond, didn’t  mean the ocean wasn’t there waiting for me. I knew that someday I would explore that part of life, if I could only find my way to it.

Zoe, Millennium Park

Today, I ask myself am I staring at the pond in front of me forgetting that there’s a beautiful beach just beyond sight? Am I stuck in my routine of daily living, forgetting that there’s an amazing city just a quick train ride away?

Am I neglecting the responsibility of nurturing my life because I’m afraid of what will happen when I leave my comfort zone? Am I reveling in my sadness because it takes too much effort to commit to the work of happiness?  These are all questions I’m exploring right now.

I must take time to search out my heart in order to move forward. Where does my sorrow come from? What’s the root? What does my joy come from? What’s the source? Exploration of the soul is not for everyone. Self-awareness is hard, because the answers we find when we are really seeking truth can be thrilling, or scary as hell, or a key to our personal growth and healing.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Elliot

Zoe and Noah, Millennium Park

On the theme of exploration, and with our year anniversary of living in Chicagoland just around the corner, Peter and I took the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful 80 degree August day with our family. We hopped on the train, and headed into our thriving and gorgeous city, Chicago. (As you can see, I threw in some pictures of our day for good measure.)

So, here’s to exploration, both the tangible and intangible. Sometimes you’ve got to take your eyes off the pond, and head towards the beach. Even when it’s hard to get there.

Ever exploring,


Read “The Discipline of Hope | Facebook Sucks Your Life Out” by clicking here.

Chicago Skyscraper

Zoe playing at Millennium Park

Always exploring…

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