Monday, July 28, 2014

My New Project 365: 365 Handstands

On February 28th, 2014 I began a little project to do a handstand every day for a year. I'm up to 152 days now, and I thought it was about time to write a blog about why I decided to embark on this little journey! 
 If you have floated around on this blog at all (or are lucky enough to get it emailed to you every time I post!) then you know that this is not my first 365 project.  In 2012 I took a picture every day for an entire year (posting them all here) and it was an absolute blast, so for me this is kind of a new twist on an old favorite. That being said, here are the reasons I chose to pick up another 365 project and in particular, 365 handstands.

(1) Making Every Day Count:  I think the great thing about having one small (fun) thing to do every day is that it really forces you to be mindful each and every day of not letting the time slip through your fingers. So often we rush through life from one day to the next - they string together, day in and day out we have routine and obligations. Mondays might be particularly icky and Fridays especially freeing, but it is so easy to let the days just float on by. Giving myself one fun thing that I do every single day helps me to capture the day just the tiniest bit for myself.  It helps me to mark the passage of time in a positive way and to make sure that I don't let even one day fall through the cracks. 
(2) A Moment of Freedom:  For me, handstands are freedom. There is just something so fun about being on my hands, I can't get enough of it. As adults, we spend too much time being 'grown ups' and not enough time letting go.  Standing on my feet or sitting on my butt are often associated with obligations: work, chores, finances... (and of course sometimes candy crush!) But being on my hands is always for me. I'm not doing anything for anyone else when I'm on my hands - I'm letting go and giving myself some play time, and I LOVE that 365 handstands has given me an excuse to play a little bit every single day.
(3) An Atmosphere of Growth:  Handstands are not the end-all-be-all. As my yoga teachers often remind us, it's not going to get me into heaven, it's not going to help me help someone in need, beyond my mat it's really just a stupid human trick. But what makes it so fun and I think why it is such a great focus for so many yogis, is that it represents a challenge.  A mountain to climb.  According to the book "The Happiness Project" one of the biggest keys to happiness is to exist in an atmosphere of growth. Working on my handstands has been a super awesome and fun way to constantly be growing in a tangible way.  When I started, I could comfortably kick up into a handstand leaning on the wall, and that was it. Only 8 days into my project I experienced my first 'hang time' without touching the wall! Now I can hold it for up to 5 seconds in the middle of a room.  Today I did a tuck handstand for the first time ever and last week I did a straddle handstand for the first time ever, and it was exciting!! Working on handstands in particular (with so many variations and so many fun ways to get into and out of the pose) gives me opportunities on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, to rejoice in small victories.  And don't we all need a little more rejoicing in our daily lives?! I can't wait to see where I'll be in another 150 days!

(4) Chronicling a Journey:  Every day I do a handstand. Most days its just a couple of minutes after my regular yoga practice. Some days I spend 5 or 10 minutes working on it, lots of days I really have no time to work on it and I just pop up, snap a picture, and go about my business.  The point is that I'm not dedicating my life to this handstand business, in any given week I'm dedicating about ~7 - 28 minutes total on my handstand. But that little amount has caused me to grow leaps and bounds in my practice in just 5 months.  It is a constant reminder that in all areas in life I do not need to master anything NOW - nothing is mastered in a day.  But small, consistent steps in the direction that I am going will add up to huge results in the long run.  Doing a handstand every day has been a metaphor for showing me that discipline and consistency are the most important things I need to get anywhere in life. Not huge chunks of uninterrupted time (although those help sometimes too!) but really looking at where I want to go and making an effort to consistently take small steps in that direction will get me there. And what a great thing that is to teach yourself.
(5) An Artistic Outlet:  Taking a picture a day of all of my handstands has given me a reason to look at the world around me again (just like with my first Project 365) looking for new and fun places to do my handstand, or new angles from which to take the picture, new photo editing apps on my phone, and new shapes with my body. It is just a really fun way to exercise the left side of my brain every day - even if it's only to create an InstaGram image!
So there you have it... the reasons I do a handstand every day.  Perhaps posting pictures of myself every day on InstaGram is a little narcissistic and self indulgent... yes perhaps (but can't that argument be made for most social media activity in general!?).  And perhaps I am perpetuating some glorification of handstands instead of the ideal that all asanas are created equal or perverting my practice by making it about outward appearance of the asanas instead of the inner journey they take us on... Yes an argument can be made for all of those things.  But this is not my intent. I have no control over how other people will interpret my handstand photos, but isn't that just a fact of life. None of us have any control over how our actions or words will be interpreted. All we can do is be honest about what we put out there and stay true to ourselves.  
All I can say is that I am having a blast playing on my hands, and I intend to continue to do it for as long as I can!!
If you want to follow my handstand journey, find me on InstaGram @razzelberry!!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

40 Days to Personal Transformation: The Wrap Up

Ok Ok, I'm a little late on this one (a month late, but whose counting!), but now that I have some space from the challenge, I'm excited to report on my overall experience and the after effects:
First let me say that overall the experience was absolutely wonderful.  I have made some really positive changes in my life, yoga has become a daily practice for me, and I am feeling better than ever.  Here's a breakdown of where I've ended up in the various elements of the program:

(1) Diet:  I made a couple pretty big changes in my diet over the 40 days that I have incorporated into my life.  In general I strive to incorporate REAL food into my diet, working towards completely artificial sweeteners, anything that is labeled "low-fat" or "diet" or "light" and instead trying to buy more foods that aren't packaged and labeled at all (fruit and veggies). I'm not perfect but just shifting my focus towards trying to eat more real food is making a difference (I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - which was a really wonderful compliment to the 40 Days dietary guidelines)

Some practical changes that I made during my 40 days:
  • For the last 5 years I have had an egg sandwich (English muffin, over easy egg, slice of American cheese) basically EVERY SINGLE DAY for breakfast.  Now I have a green shake for breakfast every morning. At first I thought this was a ridiculous idea - I equated a shake with either protein powders or ice cream - neither of which I really saw as positive moves in my diet.  Baron's book focuses on incorporating whole foods into your diet, foods that look like they did when they came from the earth (fruites and veggies, unprocessed meats, etc) and so that is what I aimed to do. Typical ingredients in my daily shake: greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc), an orange, an apple, pineapples or a banana, flax seeds, chia seeds, and coconut milk. I'll also throw in whatever else we have around berries (frozen or fresh), frozen peaches, sometimes an avodaco.... It keeps me full and satisfied just as long as my egg sandwich did but now I'm actually eating fruits and veggies every single day, which is something I had been trying and failing at for almost a year, so YAY!!
  • I eliminated sandwiches from my daily diet - I still love them and will eat them on occasion, but I don't buy lunch meat anymore and it is not part of my daily routine (although I am still working on the best way to replace them, so my lunches still need a little work).  
  • I stopped snacking on dairy.  I used to eat dairy basically all day long, cheese on my sandwich at breakfast, yogurt at lunch, string cheese for a snack... all of it is pretty much out these days.  I haven't eliminated dairy all together, I still LOVE it, but I have drastically reduced my intake. (Although I did add cottage cheese into my diet - YUM!)
  • I cut back to one cup of coffee per day - although I have inched back up in the last couple of weeks, I'm rededicating myself to this change because when I drink coffee I'm not drinking water and I need more water in my life.
My diet isn't perfect, but it is much better than it was and I think these changes, made gradually over the 40 days, are here to stay.  I still need to work on building myself back up with more diverse foods and that will be my next task this spring, but so far I am pretty happy with my progress.

(2) Meditation:  After the 40 days was over, I really tried to continue to mediate on a daily basis. I cut down to 20 minutes a day for something manageable and then cut it down further to 10 minutes a day  but essentially have quite altogether in the last couple of weeks. BUT I really really do find value in it, and I really do think it had a wonderful impact on my mental well being so this is an area that plan to revisit and recommit myself to. 

(3) Journaling:  I have started a gratitude journal that I have writen in every day for over a month now. It feels really good to be journaling again and I hope to expand my daily and weekly journal writing in the coming year. 

(4) Yoga: WOW has my Yoga practice changed!??!?!?!
First of all, my physical practice has grown LEAPS and BOUNDS since the 40 Days began.  I think the biggest change was a mental shift.  I started my yoga practice as a form of exercise and as a compliment to the cross training that I was doing.  As with most (all?) of the exercise that I do / did,  I largely did it for external or goal-oriented reasons - Sure I run because it feels great (when I'm done), but mostly I run when I'm training for a race.  I loved my cross training class at the YMCA, I loved the sense of community and I especially loved the trainer, Lamar, but what got me going in the first place and the ultimate reason I went was to get in shape - to lose or maintain weight, to be strong, to look good in my jeans.... Exercise has always been like that for me, I'd find something I generally enjoy, get into a nice routine, and then I'd do it because I know that this is something I need to do in life - for my health, for my longevity, for my energy... and so no matter what form the exercise takes and no matter how much I like it, deep down it is a requirement or obligation... But yoga is completely different for me. 
Yoga is something that I do because I absolutely LOVE to do it - just for the sake of it.  I want to do it every day, more than once a day, I come home from class and I want to play some more.  I love the challenge of learning new poses, I love the reward of seeing my improvement in the poses, I love how each class pushes me mentally and physically, and I love that every yoga class feels like training for life - like with every class I go to I'm getting just a tiny bit closer to the best possible version of myself.  
The physical manifestations of yoga - the cool new poses, hand stands and splits - are fun and challenging, but the real work in yoga is completely mental.  Learning to stick with it and push through when you feel like you're at your edge, pushing yourself to try new things even when it seems scary, learning that it is OK to ask for help, because no one succeeds completely on their own and we can achieve far more together than we can all alone, disciplining yourself to do the work because there is no success, in any sense of the word without, perseverance and dedication.... practicing mindfulness, focus, compassion, non-judgement, and love. These are all things at come from a daily yoga practice - it is just icing on the cake that yoga has the added benefit of being a great workout and improving my stamina, strength, and flexibility. 

So yes I would have to say that Baron Baptiste's 40 Days to Personal Revolution were truly revelatory for me, and this is just the beginning! 

(on to the next challenge... I recently started a new Project 365: 365 Days of Handstands - Today is 26/365)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Week 5

Today is the last day of Week 5 of Baron Baptiste's 40 Days to Personal Revolution, and this week we focus on Centering. Being the end of week 5 means that there are only 5 days left of my Personal Revolution!  I can't even believe it, part of me is excited to complete the challenge and a bigger part of me is sad that it's going to be over... it really have been transformative for me, and SO MUCH FUN!  

My yoga practice has grown LEAPS and BOUNDS over the last month and not just in my physical  practice.  This past weekend I spent two whole days in a Yoga Immersion at The River learning about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and all of the mental / spiritual avenues through which to practice yoga, or to "live your yoga" and take the practice off of your mat. It turns out the physical "asana" practice is just a very small piece to this yummy yoga pie. It's some pretty neat stuff, and has made me realize that as my 40 days are ending, my yoga journey is just beginning.

I have to say week 5 has gone pretty well in most areas of the 'revolution' with the exception of meditation, which this week was supposed to be 25 minutes twice a day.  Out of 7 days, I only managed to meditate 6 times and of those 6 times, only 4 of them were for 25 minutes... bad Rachel! I am going to rededicate myself to finishing up the last week strong w/ 30 minutes twice a day... I'm REALLY going to try (but my brother is coming into town on Friday for a ski weekend... so no promises...)  BUT I am definitely going to continue daily meditation after the 40 days are over (definitely only once per day, because meditating in the evenings is just impossible for me, and probably starting w/ only 10-20 minutes a day) BUT even though this was my 'worst' week for meditation, it was also the week that the meditation component really clicked for me.  I notice it creeping into my everyday life and I really think it has been a wonderful training for my mind - helping me to be more present in my everyday life AND helping me to recognize when my mind is getting carried away with itself and redirect my thoughts to the present moment. 

This week the theme was centering and we focused on Baron Baptiste's Laws of Transformation #9 and #10... some more good stuff!!

Law 9: Don't Rush the Process - This law really reminds us that everything in life is a process and we can't skip the work and expect to see the results, any results.  It is a great thing to be reminded of at any point in life and in any aspect in life, because no matter where you are or what you are doing, you've just got to put the work in in order to get anywhere in life. As Baron says,
The principle of process is a law that our culture is constantly attempting to defy. It is a law that cannot be broken, however, so we end up braking ourselves against it instead. For many of us it's easy to accept this law when we see it in nature, but personally we want to cheat it. We want the quick fix... We cannot rush the process and still expect to be really successful at anything.
I love that. I need that reminder and I need it often! Baron quotes one of his students as saying, "I learned that I had to be willing to show up and suck until I could show up and shine." and that is what it is really all about. I've learned that a lot in yoga this last month. I try and try and try these poses and they just suck and suck until one day, I just get it! And it's wonderful! But if I had never tried and if I had never been willing to "suck" at it, I would never have been able to shine... and just like that, another lesson moves from the mat to real life, because when in life can you ever get good at something without first making mistakes?

Law 10: Be True To Yourself - As Baron describes this law he says, "Being true to yourself means looking within to discover what you know in your heart to be right and then acting on it. It does not mean following every last whim or urge you might have; that is just selfishness in disguise."

During this week, one of my yoga teachers shared this little cartoon on Facebook:
I'm not going vegan, but it's is funny because I ran into this a little bit when I went on my fruit fast (which was only four days!). Just as this cartoon depicts, in this law Baron is reminding us that following our inner compass probably will involve going against the grain, in some way, and that we should be prepared for that.  It is important to be committed to our own intuition, find our way on our own in this life, and be willing to accept the disruption to our own status quo... because "the genuine transformational experience is by its nature disruptive of the existing state of affairs."

(this is literally a split second cut from a video of my first attempt at this pose... this is DEFINITELY one of my biggest works in progress, but I'll get it one day!)
I think the biggest lesson of this week, and the one that I will have to probably work on for the rest of my life, and will likely never perfect, is maintaining grounding and presence.  And not just being present when I'm with my friends and family or really enjoying the moment when I'm out doing something fun... but being present in the minutia of every day life - do I really remember what i said to the grocery store clerk? Am I really present when I'm driving to and from my yoga studio (a drive which I could do blindfolded), or am I getting caught up in my stories and lists that run through my head. 
This is where it is really starting to come together (as I mentioned earlier) that meditation is not just a practice that is separate from my 'real' life, meditation is a practice FOR my 'real' life. Baron encourages us to 'Make everything you do a practice of meditative awareness." What a challenge that is, but really it is a chance to reclaim your life from your self, to really be here and not be lost in thought, "in your own world" and missing what is actually right in front of you. How much have I missed already!? 

still workin' on it!
Tomorrow starts my last week! It's almost over!!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Three-Day Fruit Fast

Here I am, just finishing up my final day of the three-day fruit fast that is 'prescribed' in Week 4 of Baron Baptiste's 40 Days to Personal Revolution... so how do I feel on the evening of my last day?  Pretty good, I have to say! - but definitely ready for a cup of coffee and some thing crunchy tomorrow!
According to the Mayo Clinic a fruit includes avocado, beans, peapods, corn kernels, cucumbers, grains, nuts, olives peppers, pumpkin, squash, sunflower seeds and tomatoes. Vegetables include celery (stem), lettuce (leaves), cauliflower and broccoli (buds), and beets, carrots and potatoes (roots).
I decided to stick to a pretty narrow definition of fruit (berries, bananas, oranges, apples, etc.) and also tomatoes and avocados, and I have to say... it wasn't even close to being as hard as I thought it would be. I know that there were others in my group that did struggle with it, and a lot of others who included things like squash and nuts, but I found the strict fruit fast surprisingly easy.  Although February is not the best month to attempt a fruit cleanse, I was able to stock up on some berries and a fresh pineapple yesterday to give myself some more variety and that got me through to the end. My one mistake was that I didn't properly shop prior to starting, so the first two days were VERY repetitive (I'm SICK of APPLES!).
Technically the fruit fast is supposed to be three days, but yesterday (on my third day) I randomly ended up at a customer's site without a car (silly of me) and had to go to lunch with my customers to pass the time until my ride was ready to leave. We were in Meade, Colorado, a TINY town north of Denver with not much going on and not many options, so they took me to the local BBQ joint.... not the best place to be if your on a fruit fast - they didn't even have fruit on the menu!  There was really no socially acceptable way for me to get out of lunch w/out eating, so I ordered a chicken salad and promised myself I wouldn't beat myself up over it... life happens and you have to roll with the punches sometimes. But I was disappointed because I knew I could have done it and I really wanted to do it, so later that day I decided that to make up for it by extending my fruit fast one more day - hence a 4-day fruit fast.
The hardest part of the four days was last night, because it was Nick's birthday.  Dan invited us over for dinner with Aimee and Kevin. There was pasta w/ sausage, bread (that looked amazing), Caesar salad, chicken wings, AND birthday cake.... I wanted to eat it so bad!!! But I'm proud of myself that I held strong and didn't cave to the temptation (but there is a piece of bday cake in the fridge for me that I will eat tomorrow!!)
So what did my day look like on the fruit cleanse?  For breakfast every day I had a fruit shake - fruit only, with either some coconut milk or pineapple juice.  Lunch was a fruit salad (except when it was a chicken salad!) and for dinner I had roasted tomatoes and avocado every night.  (yes as I said... my fast was a little redundant). then there was snacking throughout the day on whatever I grabbed first.  
So now that it's just about over, what are my take-aways form the fast
First: What I learned
  •  I was REALLY surprised that I wasn't famished all day long and I was REALLY surprised by how easy the fast was for me. (ok it's not really a fast, because you can eat as much as you want but it just has to be fruit) but yeah it was great to do something so easily that I thought was going to be really hard.
  • Yoga was also not as difficult as I thought it would be on the fast.  On the second day I even did YogaCross (45 minutes of cross training + 45 minutes of yoga) and felt absolutely great! Today, though, I was definitely feeling fatigued in class and had to take it easy in a couple of poses, but all in all it went pretty well.
  • I was surprised by how little I actually needed to eat to feel satiated.  Of course I was eating lots of small portions throughout the day, but it gave me the sense that I probably over eat quite a bit without realizing it - in the very least it gave me a better awareness of my eating patterns and how I might make small changes to improve my general diet.
  • The most important thing I learned was that I really love fruit, it is easy to eat, and I should always be snacking on fruit and eating fruit salads, it is wonderful!  Last fall I was almost never eating fruit, so I started to track it in an attempt to eat more... in October I ate fruit only 50% of the days... in January, I ate fruit 26 / 31 days - and in February right now I'm 6/6.... pretty good improvement if I do say so myself!
What I would do differently:
  • I would buy more varieties of fruit and not be so lazy with my dinner choices - tomatoes and avocado are great, but 4 nights in a row? That is just lazy! I probably would have benefited from diversifying my diet a bit, but for a first ever cleanse, I'm not going to beat myself up over it.
And that's about it.  I am super excited to have finished my first ever cleanse.  I also combined the fruit fast with a 7-day cleanse from Arbonne where you basically just drink their cleanse drink every day for 7 days.  It didn't cause any cramping or bathroom problems (like I had feared) and was probably the easiest cleanse I've ever heard of, so that was pretty great too. 
 I'm not sure how detoxified my body really is after all of this cleansing, I don't know if you're supposed to feel different or anything, i feel about the same (but i did lose a couple of pounds!) but it did feel pretty good to spend a week being super diligent about what I ate  (except on super bowl Sunday when I was washing down my Doritos with my Arbonne cleanse!).  Now that it's over though, I'm ready for some solid food tomorrow!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Laws of Transformation for Weeks 3-4

I am almost through with week 4 and I have to say, things are going pretty well. I'm feeling amazing and absolutely LOVING going to yoga everyday.  Today is the first day of my 3-day fruit cleanse (or "fruit feast") where I cleanse my body by eating only fruit (avocados and tomatoes count!) for three days.  At the end of day one I feel wonderful, so far so good! Today after class I was feeling so good that I spent some time practicing at home afterwards... and snapping some selfies!! haha
Still a work in progress...
So as I've mentioned before, every week of our ~6 week 40 Day Personal Revolution, we focus on 2 of Baron Baptiste's 12 Laws of Transformation (which are all in his book 40 Days to Personal Revolution). Week three focused on Laws 5 and 6:

Law 5: Shift Your Vision:  I love this one because my yoga studio has been encouraging us to #shiftyourperspective in 2014 - because "if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" and this is exactly what this law is all about. One of the great pieces of wisdom in this law is "In life we run into obstacles that upon first glance look like the fault of others, but a closer examination will often show that the obstacles can be a mirror of our own hidden barriers." Baron challenges us to focus our attention, intention, and faith in positive directions because "whatever you focus on, you fortify." And isn't that the truth!
My first #shiftyourperspective Instragram picture
Law 6: Drop What You Know: This law is essentially instructing us to stop thinking and start being.  "It means noticing your doubts and then letting them go, endlessly releasing the thoughts and internal stories that reinforce your mental status quo." Because, "We don't change by thinking, we change by being and doing with pure intent."  Baron encourages us to stay in the present moment, because "the present moment has the opportunity for a rebirth" - every breath is blessing and new opportunity to start fresh.
At first I thought, this law is especially pertinent for yoga because it is so important to be present on your mat, or you will miss the entire class. But then doesn't that just bring yoga right back to life... because if you are not present in life, you will miss that just as easily.  My yoga teacher told me last week that as we began our class in child's pose and ended in corpse pose, our time on the mat was (and always is) a metaphor for life. How we choose to react to struggle, fatigue, challenge, and even boredom on the mat directly translates to how we react to those things in life.  Our mats are a mirror into ourselves and we can use our time on the mat to practice (and indeed yoga is a practice) how want to live our lives, and it begins with dropping what we know and being fully present in every posture and then in every moment in life... As Baron says in Law 6, " lightening lasts only for a moment and ...we must be fully present and open in order to see what it illuminates."
Week 4 of our 40 Days to Personal Revolution was focused on Restoration, and went along with laws 7 & 8. 
Law 7: Relax With What Is: This law encourages us to "relax in the face of stress." This again is an area that we can REALLY practice on the mat how we want to react to stressful situations in "real life."  It is a constant part of any yoga practice to relax into intense and often times uncomfortable stretches, but we do it because, as Baron says in Law 7, "Good pain... is the threshold to a new body, a new psychology, and a new spirit. As uncomfortable as it is, it usually holds lessons and can give new direction if we stay open and relax with the discomfort just as it is."  In life, there is great value in being a person who can relax in the face of stress - at the office, in the hectic day-to-day, in situations of danger or uncertainty - because that is when you need to be most clear of mind in order to find your way out.
Law 8: Remove the Rocks: "The block of granite which was an obstacle in the path of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the path of the strong," Thomas Carlyle (by way of Baron Baptiste).  This is a beautiful law, and something that I should come back to again and again, because in this law Baron reminds us that, "Transformation comes not by adding things on, but by removing what didn't belong in the first place.... We forget that there is something perfect already within us..."  Here are some more of his words (I especially love the first line!):
The greatest power we have over ourselves is our ability to change our minds about ourselves... There is tremendous power in just knowing what is going on within us, not so that we can "work on stuff," but so that we can begin to release it...It is so important for us to get that we don't have to solve any of our problems. If we can soften our heart, give up some of our old ways of being, and reconnect to the truth, our problems will give us up. - Baron Baptiste, 40 Days to Personal Revolution, Law 8.
So yeah... these are the things that I have been trying to focus on for the last two weeks... some really great stuff, even if you aren't in to yoga (I think!).  I think everyone can benefit from some more mindfulness and presence in life and working through this book, practicing yoga, and meditating every day has definitely brought more mindfulness and presence into my life in the last 4 weeks.

I have to say I didn't really have any expectations when I started this little program, but I am really happy that I did - it has been a great means by which to center myself and focus renewed energy on becoming the best possible version of myself. AND it's an excuse to go to yoga every single day... what more could a girl ask for!? :-)

I am really thankful that this 40 Days is right at the beginning of the year and also at the beginning of a new decade in my life.  First because I am not traveling so much for work right now, so I have the opportunity to really spend the time diving into it all, but second, because I can't think of a better way to start of my 30's! I am excited about the last two weeks and even more excited to take what I've learned in these 40 days with me throughout the year and beyond. 

And now I leave you with a some new videos of some things I've been working on in my yoga practice in the last couple of weeks...

Friday, January 31, 2014

40 Days of Personal Revolution: Week 4

wait a second! I missed week 3!? Actually I did not miss week three (which focused on equanimity - "the art of meeting life calmly, without drama or fuss"), but boy was it BUSY!! Days one and two were on par with the rest of my 40 days, but starting on Friday, I was in the mountains with 14 of my closest friends skiing for three days to celebrate my 30th birthday!!!
We had three ABSOLUTELY gorgeous days on the mountain (one day at Beaver Creek and two at Vail) and it was the best 30th Birthday I could have ever asked for!!!
 5 girls in a tub for two hours...?? yes it was as amazing as it sounds!
 me and my best bunny!
(my amazing home made birthday card from Ashley!!)

After a full day of skiing on Sunday, I finally made it home at 8pm only to leave town on Monday morning for a 4-day trip to Boston - definitely was not excited about the trip, but I gots to pay those bills! 

I have to admit, it was really tough to keep up with the program with almost an entire a week away from home, but I just promised myself that I would do the best I could and not punish myself for not being perfect... and I think it went pretty well. I did manage to get yoga and meditation in on Friday (although I skipped Saturday and Sunday) and then I did all of my yoga and almost all of my meditation in Boston (including two airplane meditation sessions, one visit to a local yoga studio and a couple hotel yoga sessions)
(hotel yoga is not very glamorous or inspiring, but sometimes it's' the best you can do!)

Now that I'm back, it is time to start week 4, where the focus is on Restoration... which is EXACTLY what I need after a totally crazy week 3, so I'm super excited about how it has worked out.  This week includes a three-day fruit cleanse (which I will do on the last three days of the week, sparing myself from the futile task of trying to eat only fruit on Super Bowl Sunday!)

In week four, Baron asks us to "stay in the moment and relax in all of your activities" I have no doubt that all of this relaxing is going to take some work! A lot of mindfulness, patience with myself, and practice, but it is definitely something I need and so I'm happy to have this week as a means to focus on this part of my life. 

2013 was an absolutely INSANE year for me, I traveled 130 days, which is just crazy, and even though a lot of those trips were personal ones and were SUPER fun and amazing, it still made for a very hectic life.  At the beginning of 2014 I made somewhat of a resolution to clam down this year, reduce the number of obligations in my life (even those that are personal and fun like dinner parties and trips to the mountains) and just in general slow down a bit. But now here we are one month into the new year and already I have something planned for every weekend through to March!

So Week 4 of my 40 Days to Personal Revolution is a great time to REALLY focus on sitting still in life, relaxing in the everyday, reducing the number of things on my plate, and as Baron says, to "learn to pace myself, to learn when to retreat and escape from the daily grind and take some time to clear my head, rest my body, and restore my soul." And so that is what I plan to do this week!

I'll be back again blogging soon, because there are a lot of great things in the laws of transformation for this week and last week that I want to share with you, but for now, it's back to work for me! Till next time, Namaste!
Check out this awesome "Magic Carpet Yoga Mat" my mom got me for my birthday! It is totes cray!!! :-) Thanks Momma!!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Now that I am 13 days in to my 40-day program, I can see why we are working on Laws 3&4 in week two... because things are getting a little bit uncomfortable and this thing definitely takes commitment!

As I've gone through the week, I've tried to keep in mind this paragraph from Law 4: Commit to Growth
Are you experiencing cravings? instead of reaching out, just stay with them. Is anxiety rising? Stay. Are fear and anger out of control? Stay. Are your muscles quaking, are you running out of steam? Stay anyway. Are your hips screaming in pigeon pose? okay, but stay. We are the only ones who know and hear our internal dialogues, and we are the only ones who can make the choice to stay and unfold. Almost always, there is a breakthrough waiting for you right over the horizon.
So how am I doing?  Well, the program essentially has four components:
  1. Journaling (through weekly "excavation questions")
  2. Twice daily meditation practice
  3. Daily yoga
  4. Diet changes
I've got the journaling thing down, but that only needs to be done once per week (or maybe a couple times, if you don't do it all in one sitting).  Here is a look at how I'm faring with the rest of it (which require attention every single day!):

Yoga:  So far I am doing great with my yoga attendance. I did 8 yoga classes in the first week (taking one day completely off and doubling up twice).  BUT just a day or two into the second week I was feeling absolutely exhausted.  I decided not to double up at all this week and again completely took Sunday off.  My wrists were hurting earlier in the week (probably because I wasn't using proper form all of the time, but also because I spent a lot of time working on my hand stands) and in general I was feeling pretty exhausted.  I took yesterday off and am feeling much better today, so I'm ready to get back to class tonight, but I must admit that I was surprised that even for myself (someone who already was working out 5-7 days/week often times with much more vigorous activity than yoga), daily yoga is definitely a challenge!

Meditation:  Woof... this is also a challenge.  Working from home certainly helps, I'm rarely running late in the morning, so my first daily session is not much of a struggle for me.  I basically get out of bed, use the washroom, and immediately do my meditation.  The evening.. that is another story.  I'm tired, maybe cranky, I'd rather hang out with Nick, or maybe I just want to watch a new episode of Grey's Anatomy.... there could be 1,000 excuses not to meditate on any given night, but that is really all they are: excuses.  So far Wed / Thurs / Friday I did get in two sessions of meditation, Saturday I did just one, Sunday I didn't do any!!! (GASP!) and today I'm back on track...  so we'll see how it all goes, but this one is a bit of a chore for me.

As far as the duration, last week we did 5 minute sessions and that was absolutely a piece of cake. This week is 10 minutes and I'm meeting it with mixed feelings.  I spend a good chunk of time acknowledging that my mind has wandered and bringing it back to the present moment... and then finding that my mind has wandered again, and bringing it back... and again and again. It is certainly a practice and I am definitely a novice...  but it is a work in progress.

Diet:  This week the goals for the diet are to incorporate more whole foods into your diet. The goal is for what you eat to look as close as possible to what it looked like when it came from it's source: whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, unprocessed lean cuts of meat....  The first day I was a little overwhelmed thinking about all the places I could / should change what I eat, but thankfully Katy talked me down on Wednesday night and suggested to the group that we simply commit to making one or two substitutions in our diet for the week, like substituting cheese for a piece of whole fruit.

Her advice reminded me of what it said in the book: to listen to your body and slowly make small sustainable changes - change begets change and I need to be careful not to over do it and then sabotage the whole thing for myself... so this week I focused just on two things: reducing the amount of processed cereal grains I eat (mainly bread but also cereal which I like to eat on the weekends), and reducing the amount of processed dairy (yogurt and cheese) that I eat. There is definitely room for improvement in my diet, but I must admit that I have eaten a TON more fruits and veggies this week than last week, so I think so far this is a success.... (except for yesterday when I ate pizza for lunch and chicken wings and a sampler of fried appetizers for dinner!)

All in all things are going well, it has been a challenge, but one that I think is really good and productive for me. I absolutely love my yoga studio and I love to go there every day and see all the other transformers in the studio, so that definitely helps me to stay on track.  Now that I'm into this, I also see why it is important to go to the little meetings we have on Wednesday evenings, because this is a lot of work and the camaraderie that comes with doing it in a group is definitely a motivator.
Starting Friday I will be on the road (first on a birthday ski trip and then to Boston for work) for almost an entire week, so things are about to get tricky, but so far I'm pretty happy with how well I've stuck to the program and I'm ready to head to my next yoga class.. which starts in 25 minutes!  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Week 2 Begins

Whoop Whoop, here comes week two in my 40 Days to Personal Revolution journey! 

Week one was wonderful, I even got my first ever solo scorpion pose (albeit with a little help from the wall!) 

I am super excited about Week Two (with the theme Vitality) and this morning I completed my first 10-minute meditation and am happy to report that it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. 

One of the things that has me most excited about week two is that I was really inspired by this week's "Laws of Transformation" and I want to share some of it with you.  

The first is Law 3: Step out of Your Comfort Zone, let me share some of Baron's words with you:
The comfort zone may feel cozy and familiar, but it is like a sweet poison, silently killing off our childlike spontaneity and our vitality. When we choose our comfort zone over growth we get stuck or worse, because ultimately we are either awakening and growing or numbing out and spiraling downward. Life is never static - we either grow or we die.
If we don't step out of the known - the comfort zone - we bring yesterday's limited thinking into the present, therefore dooming the present to be just like the past. We will keep repeating and doing the same things again and again, getting the same results, and then complain, "Nothing ever changes in my life." .... We seek proof of why we can't change, and all kinds of reasons why we won't let go of our dramas, stresses, resentments, fears, or self-destructive ways of being.
That is some great stuff! But still, it can leave you thinking 'yeah that is great, I should break out of my comfort zone, but what does that really mean, how do I go about doing that.... easier said than done Baron!"

But thankfully the chapter doesn't end there, he goes on to explain that "stepping out of our comfort zone has more to do with the simplicity of forgiveness and self-honesty than it does with a grandiose breaking out of some box."  It's not about dropping everything and traveling the world, or putting yourself into uncomfortable situations, it's about being honest with yourself about where you are comfortable, how have you cornered yourself into comfortable patterns in life that aren't serving your best interests and then acknowledging those patterns, and letting go of them (like a security blanket) to make room for a better future for ourselves.  He says, "We veer away from taking that journey inward and therefore out of our comfort zone, not realizing that the way out is in."

Law 4: Commit to Growth was a great follow up, because let's face it... change is hard. It is a constant struggle to stay out of your comfort zone and commit to long term change, and once you've incorporated one small change in your life, and gotten comfortable again, to make another change and commit to that.  

So Law 4 encourages us to focus on making the decision to grow (to step out of our comfort zone) and then to remain steadfast with ourselves, our commitments, and our personal revolutions.
Never making a decision is a decision unto itself. If is a decision to stay in a personal fog. Staying in the confusion is safe, because in the fog, we never have to face the mundane that comes with committing to a path. Everyone tries to avoid the mundane path, but that is the path that makes us grow.

When we practice yoga and meditation, when we practice staying clear and conscious around food, or when we stay conscious of our reactions in all our relationships, we are strengthening our ability to be steadfast with ourselves. We are in discipleship. The word disciple comes from the same root as discipline. to be a disciple of your revolutions means to be committed fully to doing the right thing, learning the lessons, and being open to the whole range of experiences that arise along the path. 
And he encourages us to stick with it when things get hard - because "almost always there is a breakthrough waiting for you right over the horizon."

As you can see, I'm starting Week Two of my Personal Revolution off with a bang - really excited to try and focus my energy for the next 7 days on stepping out of my comfort zone and committing to growth.   

And so, as I begin my second week, I will leave you with an inspirational video I found on a fellow yogi's blog.... Yoga Rocks!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Week 1 Wrap Up

Tomorrow is my last day of week 1, so I thought it would be a good time to check back and see how week 1 of my 40-day Personal Revolution has been coming along.  
this is the wall outside my yoga studio, it says "you are beautiful"

Amazingly I have actually done everything I was supposed to do, including meditating twice a day for 5 minutes each. 

So far the meditating is going pretty well, it is not difficult at all for me to do it in the morning, a little more difficult to find time away to do it in the evening (I prefer to do it when no one else is in the apartment, so it's hard for me to motivate myself and to focus when Nick is home), but 5 minutes is really a cake-walk when it comes to meditating.  However, I can tell that this is really going to be the biggest challenge for me moving forward.  Next week is 10 minutes twice a day and the program builds to 30 minutes twice a day by the end... woof! That is a big time commitment - and I would be lying if I said I wasn't intimidated by it!

I think the thing that will help the most will be finding good guided meditation tracks because staying present, with a clear mind for 5 minutes is definitely doable - but I really don't know how I'll be able to handle 30... I guess that is why the program takes it's time building up from 5, so I am going to really try to stick with it and see if this meditation thing is all it's cracked up to be. 

As I mentioned in my last post, the theme of this week was presence, and I did work really hard to try and be more present in my daily life this week.  The biggest thing for me was to make a conscious decision to keep my phone tucked away instead of out in front of me all the time - because I think my phone and iPad are really the biggest hurdles I have to being present most of the time.  Another thing I focused on was trying to really be present during life's most mundane points, which is when I tend to check-out the most: running errands (for example, standing in line at the post office - try to be present AND not be annoyed... now that is a challenge for any zen master), sitting on my couch with Nick, trudging through emails at work... really trying not to let any moment slip by unnoticed.  It's definitely a challenge and I certainly didn't succeed in every moment in the last week, but I think even a small change in perspective and presence is a success.  I expect that being present all the time is a life-long challenge that I don't think anyone can accomplish in just 7 days. 

Whether it was just the excitement of the first 5 days, the meditation, the food diary we  are all supposed to keep, or simply the active practice of being present, I definitely notice that I am already making better food choices and being much more mindful of what I am putting into my body. I didn't make any big changes this week, but I am gearing up for the second week which focuses on incorporating more whole foods into my diet and avoiding processed foods. 
One of my "green monster" smoothies I've been drinking: spinach, an orange, and apple, pineapple, coconut milk, arbonne fiber boost, arbonne digestion plus w/ probiotics, flax seeds, and chia seeds.. YUM!

Of course, my favorite part of the whole thing is all the yoga I get to do. I took a day off on Saturday (since we are supposed to be giving ourselves one day off per week), but have still done 6 yoga classes in 5 days - I doubled up on Wednesday and Sunday.  I would pretty much spend all day doing Yoga if I could, I love it so much! Typically I ride my bike to Yoga, but it's been cold and snowy, so I've been using Denver's Car2Go to bop around the city and it is so fun and easy to use, I love it (PLUS look how freakin' cute the thing is!)

Anyway, I think week one was a success - I am still super excited about everything and am pretty proud of myself for sticking to it for 5 whole days! haha. Hopefully our weekly meetings and this blog will help me to stay committed for the next 35 - I have a feeling as time goes on it will become more and more challenging to stick to it. 

That's all for now, see you soon and Namaste! :-) 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Here I Go! (Day 1)

I'm back again after a (too) long break from blogging, but I am super excited about the beginning of 2014 (I'm about to turn the big 3-0!!!) and to share with you my "40 Day Personal Revolution."  As many of you know, I started doing yoga a couple of years ago and have been ramping up my practice ever since. In 2013 I really picked up the pace and have been practicing regularly 2-4 times a week (occasionally 5 or 6 days in a week) for over a year now. 
Remember this pic of the day from April 2012?  I have to say my form is much improved these days!
and this one from November 2012?

Back in September, one of my favorite Yoga teachers, Katy Rowe, introduced me to The River Yoga studio and I have absolutely fallen in love with the space, so when the New Year came around and they had a '40 Days to Personal Revolution' workshop I knew right away I was going to sign up. 

The program goes through Baron Baptiste's book "40 Days to Personal Revolution: A Breakthrough Program to Radically Change Your Body and Awaken the Sacred Within Your Soul."  
We will meet every Wednesday evening with Katy Rowe (who is leading the workshop) to go through the book, the intentions / goals for each week, and discuss the program. Tonight is our first meeting, but I've already started reading the book and I am so excited about it that I couldn't even wait until the meeting was over to get started writing about it. 

The theme for this week is presence - which I think is a WONDERFUL way to start the program. Particularly with our digital lives these days, I think that all of us could do with a little more presence in our daily routine (speaking of which, I saw this video today and I think it completely fits in with this week's theme)
(for some reason this video isn't showing in all browsers, here is a link:

The book has twelve laws of transformation (you focus on two each week) and this week our two laws to focus on are:

Law #1 Seek the truth - mainly seeking the truth about yourself and accepting that truth just as it is
Law #2 Be willing to come apart - this is about being willing to give up control (or the illusion of control) that we try to maintain over everything in our lives. Stop trying to fight through life forcing everything and everyone to conform to your own idea of how things should be and just letting go.

On top of that, I will be committing to yoga 6 days / week for the entire program, plus meditation twice / day, and reevaluating and transforming my diet.  It is going to be a lot of work.

I already have plans to go to yoga this evening at The River, and this morning I did my first 5 minute meditation session, which I guess was relatively successful. I think the meditation is something where I might just have to show up, trust the process, and see where it takes me. I have never really meditated before so this is something completely new to me, but I am really going to try to follow through for 40 days without judging it and I will decide at the end whether or not meditation is something I want to continue.

Finally the last component of the program is to transform your diet.  I actually started working n my diet a couple of months ago, changing things little by little - removing hormone-laden dairy, eating more organic and non-GMO food, etc. and so I'm really excited for the challenge and inspiration to take it another step further. On the flip side, I'm under no illusion that this is going to be easy and I'm more than a little apprehensive about the whole thing.  I feel like I have a generally healthy diet (for the most part) and it just takes so much darn work to think about what I'm eating instead of just mindlessly eating the same thing every day (like my egg sandwich for breakfast EVERY DAY)...  so I'm facing this portion of the program with both excitement and apprehension.

The nice thing is that the book really isn't giving you a specific diet. Instead he is encouraging you to be mindful of what you eat, listen to your body, and make small changes that are intuitive for yourself, so that is going to be my goal. Thankfully the diet portion for the first week is really more focused on mindfulness - noticing what your current eating patterns are - than about change (although we are of course encouraged to start making some small changes to balance out our diet)... so that should (hopefully) help me to ease into the whole thing.  

Ok well I guess that is all for now, I'm so excited about tonight but I need to be present in the now (and get to work)! I will leave you with another video that I found today... very fitting.
(again here is the video link if you can't see it in your browser: