Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009 in review

January– Did an awesome job on Weight Watchers and lost 7-8 pounds over the course of the month. Took a trip to the ER that I will be paying for until 2011, thanks to my lackluster health insurance.

February– Celebrated the birth of a friend’s baby. Got really sick of Weight Watchers and went off it on Valentine’s day (10 pounds between Christmas and V-day, whoo hoo!) and Andy and I celebrated by going to Biaggi’s. Got lots of inspections done at the house.

March– Took a day trip to Springfield IL to see the Lincoln museum (very cool). Bought our first car together. Went up to IKEA and shopped all over for new furniture. Started weekly Friday night dinner with Stephanie and Brian!

April– Everything warmed up. Remembered what green looks like. My little sister turned 18. Celebrated Easter with my family. Started packing.

May– Moved into the house. My sister graduated high school. Spent a lot of time at the dentist. Spent a lot of time walking Izzy in our new quiet, shady neighborhood.

June– Adopted Rocky. Went to the lake with my extended family for a weekend. Went to IKEA (yes, again). Went to Six Flags and spent a large chunk of the day floating on the lazy river. Also discovered that I now get motion sickness on roller coasters!

July– Celebrated the rainiest Fourth of July of my life. Had a birthday. Andy threw me an awesome surprise party and friends traveled from all across the Midwest to celebrate with me. Both sets of grandparents came to visit. Decided to register for YogaFit training.

August– Celebrated one year of marriage. Took a trip to Iowa to stay with two good friends for the weekend. Ate lots of food at the Iowa state fair and did free yoga at a park by a lake. Went to too many cookouts to count.

September– Went to Chicago to see Harry Potter at the Museum of Science and Industry. Hung around in Millennium Park for a while. Went to a baby shower for my cousin’s wife.

October– Painted and re-carpeted the porch. Went to the Danville Area Yoga Retreat. Went to Level 1 YogaFit training. Had a Halloween party and dressed as Professor McGonagall. Started this blog.

November– Started teaching community service classes for yoga certification. Went to a baby shower for Andy’s cousin’s wife. Celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. My town implemented monthly curbside recycling pick-up (hooray!).

December– Went to Chicago for the day to be a tourist and do a little shopping. Had Christmas celebrations all month long. Found out that as of January 2010, my position at work would become “permanent” – now I’ll start getting benefits.

And I am so ready for 2010 :)



30 Minutes for 31 Days: a Yoga Challenge

When I wrote my goals for 2010, I decided that I would pick two months of the year to aim for 30 minutes of yoga daily. I understand that this is the bare minimum for other more dedicated yogi/nis, but for me it is a lofty goal. Between the full-time job, the dogs, the household responsibilities, and the general desire to spend at least a little bit of time with my husband each day, it’s a great week for me if I practice three times. December did bring a little bit of a slump for this yogini, but I made it to class this Monday and I feel like I’m beginning the climb out of that hole.

If there is any time of year that I need a daily practice, it’s January. Historically, late January/early February are hard months for me. The holidays are over, so the bone-chilling cold isn’t quite as romantic anymore. My brain knows that spring is just around the corner, but my body deems it impossible. During this bleak time of year, I’m boggled by the idea that I actually – less than a year ago – went outside in a tank top.

I’m going into this expecting a challenge.  It will take foresight and planning. I will have to interpret “30 minutes of yoga” loosely on some days. Some days it might mean spending my lunch hour in a conference room doing shoulder rolls and meditating, or a slow cat/cow flow, child’s pose, and savasana for the thirty minutes before bed. Some days I might be up for more, and on those days I obviously won’t limit myself to just 30 minutes.

I am gathering some tools to help me.

  • My friend Sarah loaned me this DVD with five 30-ish minute yoga workouts. They are “AM Peak Performance Yoga”, “PM Peak Performance Yoga”, “AM Yoga for Weight Loss”, “PM Yoga for Weight Loss”, and “Stress Relief Yoga”. I’ll let you know what I think.
  • Motivation. I attend my level 2 training January 30-31. Daily practice will help me feel confident and fit when I go.
  • Class at the gym. My gym membership expires January 31, so there are still four classes I can attend there if I chose.
  • Yogaglo. I plan to start my free 15-day trial membership sometime towards the middle of the month – earlier if I am lacking inspiration.
  • Fancy yoga studio in Bloomington. I plan to try at least one class, hopefully more, keeping an open mind about different approaches to practice and remembering that $12 is less than I spend on some nights I go out to dinner out with my friends.
  • I ordered this kit. I found it because I was searching for some sort of yoga pillow to take to training with me. After level 1, I ached more from the two days of sitting on a gym floor than from any exercise I did while I was there. This kit cost just a little more than a good throw pillow for the couch, and comes with a nifty timing gadget and a DVD on restorative yoga. I hope it’ll be perfect for the days that I otherwise wouldn’t want to practice. I should get it a couple of weeks into the challenge.
  • This blog. I will write periodically about how the challenge is going.

If I do only 30 minutes of yoga every day in January, I will spend 15 and 1/2 hours practicing. That sounds delicious.

Wish me luck, and happy January!


Speaking of balance

I just ordered this book from Amazon with some Christmas money:
One of my favorite things to do on Amazon is to bring up a book that I love and scroll down to the “Customers who bought this item also bought” section. Then I just follow the breadcrumb trail until I find one I must have. It usually doesn’t take long.

I had to have this book because it includes the story of Phillippe Petit and his adventure in the 70s. I had never heard of Petit until a year or so ago when I took Andy to a movie called Man on Wire. I don’t know what I expected of the movie, but I was really impressed. The documentary tells the story of the night Petit and his buddies snuck into the World Trade Center towers and shot a cable across the space between the buildings. The next morning Petit walked around – danced, actually – on the cable. No safety nets, no harness, nothing – and he didn’t just scurry across from one tower to the other. He really performed. Anyway, the story is really incredible, and you should all rent it. I will report back later on the book.

This guy would make quite the yogi. : )


Confessions of an absent yogini

I have another confession to make. I am in (*gasp*) a yoga slump.

I have hit a wall. I am frustrated. I haven’t done yoga in a long time. So long that I feel sore all over and generally antsy. Small irritations are making me murderous and I feel melancholy and insecure. I know a class would ease this anxiety, but that’s just it: what class?

My only regular class I’ve been attending is on Mondays, and for lots of holiday-related reasons, that one is not working for me right now. I just can’t seem to get there. My community service teaching ended, so I don’t have that once-or-twice weekly yoga hit I can count on anymore. I don’t want to teach myself in my house because I’m at a place right now where I need a teacher. A really good one.

There’s a fancy yoga-only studio in town, and I should go there. Actually, “in town” is gracious – it’s probably more than 30 minutes away from my front door. Plus, it’s $12 a class and seriously? That’s kind of expensive. This is not Chicago. Also, I went once and didn’t really enjoy it. That was a year ago though, so I should give it another chance, but something is stopping me. And they don’t have any more classes till the first of the year so that is not going to help me for the next two weeks.

I just feel a general nagging sensation when I think about yoga. I need to do it, but I don’t feel motivated to find the time. I know that this will pass, but I need to deal with it until it does.

It also makes me feel like a fake. I am attending Level 2 training at the end of January. I love yoga. I want to teach yoga. I write about yoga. I read what other people write about yoga. So why on earth am I not doing it? I must be an imposter.

I will let you know when I reach an upswing. Until then, I’ll try to make the most of my shoulder rolls.


101 Goals

I have never been one to make a New Year’s resolution. I know that I can’t focus on just one thing for an entire year. Too much can change within a calendar year, and what I think is important on Dec 31 will probably be different in June, and even different again next year on Dec 31. Plus, the New Year’s resolutions I’ve made in the past have been really vague and hard to measure. “I want to be a better person.” “I want to be healthier.” Yeah…okay.

So, I have been doing some soul-searching the last few weeks and I wanted to name some things I’d like to get done, next year and over my lifetime. This is kind of a combination of the 101 goals in 1001 days  phenomenon, which sets a clear time limit on all the goals, and The Aladdin Factor’s  101 Wishes  exercise, which encourages you to write down anything you wish would happen to you, even silly things, because the act of writing it makes it more likely to come true.

It was too intimidating to me to come up with 101 goals within a certain timeframe. And I didn’t want to write down things that seemed even a little bit unrealistic, because I was already anticipating the guilt I’ll feel if I don’t accomplish these things. So I kind of evaluated the two approaches and (like I do so often in yoga) tweaked them to make them work for me.

If you are feeling at all like you’re lacking direction, or just like you want to get to know yourself better, I would encourage you to try an exercise like this. It was surprisingly hard to think of 101 things I want to do!

So here you have it, some 2010 goals and some lifetime goals, on and off the mat!

On the Mat – 2010

  1. Finish YogaFit Level 1 community service requirement and receive Level 1 certification.
  2. Attend YogaFit Level 2.
  3. Attend Anatomy and Alignment.
  4. Practice some sort of yoga (30 min minimum) every day for 30 days. Do this twice.
  5. Hold a headstand for ten breaths (with or without a wall).
  6. Hold a handstand for five breaths (with or without a wall).
  7. Hold at least one arm-balancing pose for five breaths.
  8. Establish a solid yoga teaching schedule, with at least one regular class.
  9. Have a photo session for my yoga promotional materials.
  10. Write for On the Mat at least twice a week, every week.
  11. Have at least one hit daily.
  12. Find more good music for yoga class.
  13. Quit the gym.
  14. Find a good way to develop a home practice and join
  15. Get a blogroll going with other yogi/nis/interesting bloggers (anyone interested?)

Off the Mat – 2010

  1. Always have my next book picked out while I’m reading my current book.
  2. Re-read A Tale of Two Cities.
  3. Re-read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
  4. Re-read the Harry Potter series.
  5. Re-/read three David Sedaris books.
  6. Re-read The Giver.
  7. Read five books of non-fiction that aren’t memoirs.
  8. Give one genuine compliment each day for a month.
  9. Take a week off from my full-time job (guilt-free) and spend it with my husband and dogs.
  10. Spend a night in Chicago with my husband.
  11. Go an entire day without checking any email, facebook, twitter, wordpress, etc. Spend the day doing productive things on this list. Do this six times.
  12. Go to Starved Rock with my husband and dogs.
  13. Purchase a houseplant and keep it alive.
  14. Own our home.
  15. Fence in the backyard.
  16. Use the credit cards only for emergencies (and remember that shopping at Target is not an emergency).
  17. Kiss Andy good night every night.
  18. Get in a career position that affords Andy and I both full medical, dental, and vision coverage.
  19. Get pregnant (once the above is accomplished).
  20. Be a source of support and encouragement for my two oldest friends who are both getting married in June 2010.
  21. Make a new friend.
  22. Volunteer some time for those in need (and don’t cheat by donating money instead).
  23. Send Andy for his August weekend away in Indianapolis, because he deserves it.
  24. Get a massage.
  25. Get a pedicure.
  26. Watch the sun rise once.
  27. Re-evaluate the 2010 portion of my list next year and feel proud of what I accomplished. Be kind to myself if I didn’t get to it all.
  28. Give five “I saw this and thought of you” gifts.
  29. Sing Karaoke in public.
  30. Learn 3 recipes that are healthy and that I can make easily, just for me.
  31. Send someone flowers.
  32. Go ice skating.
  33. Win something.
  34. Go to a zoo.
  35. Have a body scan at the dermatologist.
  36. Have at least 6 “happy hours” with the girls.
  37. Send in a PostSecret.
  38. Treat myself to fresh flowers for the house twice.
  39. Keep the dogs caught up on flea/heartworm medicine at all times.
  40. Go see a concert.
  41. Take a guilt-free mental health day.
  42. Eat nothing fried for two weeks.
  43. Be a vegetarian for one month.
  44. Spend more quality time with my quality hubby.
  45. No overdraft fees in 2010.
  46. No speeding tickets in 2010.
  47. Clean out my Gmail inbox – save fewer than 300 conversations (over 2,100 and counting).
  48. Go to the pool at least once.
  49. Get in a hot tub!
  50. Continue limiting caffeine (1 drink per week if at all).
  51. Call my grandparents on their birthdays.
  52. Get family pictures done (me, the hubby, and the two dogs).
  53. Make Andy a homemade gift for our two-year anniversary.
  54. Be done with Christmas shopping by Dec 7, 2010 (it felt so good this year!).
  55. Send Niko home happily.
  56. Discover a new musician that I love.
  57. Sell the clarinet(s) and use the money for yoga trainings.
  58. Go rollerblading.

Lifetime goals

  1. Retrain YogaFit Level 1.
  2. Attend YogaFit Level 3.
  3. Retrain Level 2 or 3.
  4. Attend YogaFit Seniors.
  5. Attend Pre/Post-Natal.
  6. Attend YogaFit Level 4.
  7. Attend YogaFit Level 5.
  8. Once all these are complete, become a RYT-200.
  9. Get a new car.
  10. Pay off credit cards and medical debt.
  11. Purchase adequate life insurance.
  12. Pay off student loans.
  13. Have two or three children.
  14. Be a loving mother and wife.
  15. See the Indigo Girls in concert again.
  16. See Brandi Carlile in concert.
  17. See Les Miserables again.
  18. Upgrade to a King-sized bed.
  19. Travel to each region of the US (__ Northwest – __ Southwest – __ Northeast – X Southeast – X Midwest)
  20. Travel to a different continent.
  21. Learn to keep my negative thoughts to myself (the first step to not having so many negative thoughts).
  22. Turn jealousy and resentment into gratitude, one thought at a time.
  23. Practice self compassion in the place of self criticism.
  24. Accept that I am a “planning” person, and that’s okay, but that not everything in life can be planned, and that’s okay too.
  25. Remember not to take my family and friends for granted.
  26. Learn to make sugar cookies just like my grandma does.
  27. Touch my toes on my 80th birthday.
  28. Work harder at carrying yoga with me throughout my days.


The Country Mouse Goes to the City

Whenever I go to Chicago, or any big city, I like trying to figure out who lives in the city and who falls into that dreaded “tourist” category. Generally, the easiest way for me to tell is to rate the person’s level of annoyance on a scale of 1-5.

On Saturdays, especially Saturdays near Christmas, the 4s and 5s are the ones who just need to run to Walgreens to get some tampons, and have to fight 3,000 shoppers stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to apply chapstick, consult their maps, and wonder aloud how to hail a taxi.

(The 4s and 5s remind me of myself, in August, working in a college town. I’m just trying to run to Target on my lunch hour, but I end up trudging slowly through the aisles with 152 fresh-faced co-eds saying brilliant things such as “We should, like, buy a lamp.” “Yeah! Like, a lamp is an awesome idea!”)

The 1s and 2s in a big city are the excited teenage girls who shriek with delight anytime they see anything unusual to them: a Coach store, a larger-than-life Miley Cyrus poster, a street performer, a revolving door, a big building. They are oblivious to the 4s and 5s because to them, the city only exists once or twice a year when they come to visit.

The 3s are harder to determine. They could either be residents whose children somehow convinced them that they HAD to go to the American Girl store today (because children don’t understand the horror of big crowds and that you avoid them at all costs), or they could be the people from rural Indiana who know their way around and are just exhausted from pounding the pavement all day (“I’m going to Indianapolis next year”) – both display about the same level of irritation.

But in any case of people-watching, one way you can definitely tell that someone doesn’t live in the city is when they do seriously dorky things like this outside of the John Hancock building:

a tree by a tree : )


A Cult or not a Cult? Regardless, it’s creepy.

My friend, Sarah, subscribes to Glamour magazine and brought me the December issue so I could read an article called “The Scary Yoga Obsession”. It’s about an organization, Dahn Yoga, that is being sued by 27 of its ex-participants (22 women and five men). “You need to write about this on your blog!” She said. And I agreed.

This is what happened: young, impressionable men and women attended a yoga class to find some peace and focus. They liked the class so much they came back for more. Over time, they became very involved at the Dahn Yoga center. They shelled out a lot of money (a LOT) for workshops and trainings. They loved the trainings and were told that if they wanted, Dahn Yoga could be their life. They took drastic measures to make this happen, so they could become a “master” and share the Dahn Yoga lifestyle with others. One woman moved to South Korea, the home of founder Ilchi Lee. One dropped out of MIT, broke up with her boyfriend, and devoted her life to the practice. Of the process, she says “It felt like you were falling in love, only much bigger, because you weren’t just falling in love with a person, but with a community, a practice and a lifestyle, all in one. It was everything. I felt like the luckiest person in the world.”

You can probably see where this is going. Gradually, one by one, they woke up and realized that they’d given up everything they cared about for this organization. And then it got ugly.

One woman started questioning her choices when she sold a $75,000 package of sessions to one couple, while she was only making $30,000 annually. She and a group approached the management with some constructive ideas about their positions. Shortly after, it was determined she should be transferred across the country to do “construction work” and be “re-educated”. The woman who moved to South Korea claims to have been sexually assaulted by Ilchi Lee himself. When she reported it, she was told not to question the integrity of the leader. It seems a lot of women had to experience something intensely insulting in order to leave.

The group of 27 is suing the Dahn Yoga organization for lots of money to counter their emotional and financial distress ($85,000 for yoga training – yowza), and the lawsuit includes a charge of sexual assault.

"I’ve been involved in a number of cults both as a leader and a follower. You have more fun as a follower but you make more money as a leader." (photo by NBC)

I have mixed feelings about this. The Dahn Yoga website looks pretty harmless (although I’m leery of the term “brain education”). There are lots of centers in Chicago and its suburbs, so within a couple hours for me, but I had never heard of it before. This leads me to think the centers themselves are neither pure evil nor super awesome. And the Glamour article does include – tucked in at the very end of the story – some comments from people in the Dahn Yoga community who think the lawsuits are a bunch of malarkey. Dahn Yoga started a blog to counter all the negative things being publicized about their organization, which is also worth checking out.

I’m sure there are lots of people all over the country who go to Dahn Yoga centers, practice a few times a week, and then leave. But how did the women in the story get so caught up? Was it their decision, or was there something more malicious at work?

I think this story just confirms something I already knew, which is this – you have to be your own advocate in life. There are people out there who will take advantage of you, and not everyone is looking out for your best interests. Some people learn this early on, and some never learn it. I am incredibly lucky because I didn’t have to lose myself to learn this lesson, like the women in the story did. I just had to have lots of confusing and frustrating and inane conversations with boyfriends, financial aid counselors, former employers, potential employers, credit card companies, medical providers, insurance companies, loan institutions, internet service providers, landlords, etc. to learn this: If you don’t stick up for yourself every single time, no one else will.

It sounds harsher than I mean it. In reality, I have my husband, my parents, and my friends (and my dogs!) to back me up when I need them. But they won’t always be there. I am my only constant, and I have to trust myself. I have to be my own advocate, and it can be a full-time job.

So I can see how someone who doesn’t know this could get swept up in a “cult” like this Dahn Yoga group, or really any other sensational organization, or religion, or drug, or glamorous career. If you aren’t constantly asking yourself “Is this what’s best for me? Am I doing the right thing? Should I take more time to think it over?” other people around you will convince you pretty quickly that it is, you are, and you shouldn’t. You have to ask yourself the hard questions, because people around you will give you the easy answers.

That being said, I probably won’t be checking out Dahn Yoga any time soon, because it kind of gives me the creeps.