Monthly Archives: August 2010

30 Days of Vegetarianism

For the month of September, I am going to “test-drive” vegetarianism.

why is this topic full of such hatred?

As it stands now, I only eat red meat once or twice a month. This is not due to some moral superiority, but because I don’t like red meat except in two or three dishes (a cheeseburger is one). I have never liked steak, and I don’t care for much pork. Again, I’m not smug about this – if anything, I wish I liked more meat because it would help my husband be more adventurous in the kitchen. And I make up for it by eating an enormous amount of chicken.

I have never tried to be a vegetarian before, and I’m curious to see how easy or difficult it’s going to be. I realize my motivations might be completely different from other people’s, but for better or worse, these are the two reasons I would consider someday eliminating meat from my diet:

First: I am an animal lover. I know this sounds cliché and childish to many people. But to me it is a very real thing. I think about how much I love my two dogs, and then I look into the eyes of a pig at a county fair.

I’m not convinced there’s enough of a difference there to create the distinction we are all so comfortable with.

At the same time, I know that every person sees the world through a unique lens and I understand other people don’t feel this way. It’s a luxury to live in a country where you can choose not to eat meat and still survive.

The second reason: I am frustrated with the agriculture industry in this country. I don’t feel like I am educated enough to speak on this topic…which is one of my points of frustration. There are so many problems with the situation that it’s hard to know where to start and whom to listen to. I have no interest in reading a pamphlet that vilifies meat eating or scoffs at vegetarianism, because I respect everyone’s dietary choices.

interesting

This problem extends far beyond meat products, as we know from the near-constant recalls of our vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc. In the United States in 2010, people should be able to go into a grocery store and purchase groceries that will not make them ill. This is something I firmly believe, and it doesn’t sound like an outrageous expectation. The beauty of this nation is that people can pursue all sorts of careers instead of attending to the task of trying to raise their own foods. (For instance, working full-time and teaching four yoga classes this week!)

Similarly, not everyone has the money, time, or resources to attend farmer’s markets or drive out to nearby farms and buy locally-grown food. I’d be happy to explain to you why these actions are a luxury of the middle-to-upper classes.

But I’m getting off track here. The point is: people should be able to purchase food in the grocery store that doesn’t make them sick. But even the foods that don’t make us ill are suspicious. The chicken breasts are oddly large and the apples are three times as big as they were when I was a child, yet strangely have less flavor. I don’t have to read up on the subject to know something is going wrong.

Giving up meat for a month will do absolutely nothing to change any of this, and I am completely aware of that. But I do hope it makes me more mindful of what I’m eating. I hope my body talks back and tells me how it feels about the situation. I hope to learn something. Follow me on twitter if you’d like to stay in touch with my project. Who knows, maybe more food projects lie ahead: a month of gluten-free meals! A month of no dairy! A month of no chocolate (yeah right)!

If anyone has any unbiased sources information on the topic, please share. I’d also love to hear your omnivore-vegetarian-vegan-related thoughts in the comments.

Namaste,
Jamie

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Thoughts about the coming of fall, and a few words by Mary Oliver

In the blog world, people are discussing the coming of fall. Indeed, there is a refreshing chill in the air every morning, and I do love sweatshirt and jeans weather.

I feel fortunate for all of the blessings I have in my life and I treasure the idea of the seasons changing. However, watching this summer slip away has left me with a pervasive sense of melancholy. The days go by so quickly.

I have been swept up in a streak of nostalgia. I’m revisiting old music, reconnecting with old friends via email, lovingly remembering good times that are gone. It amazes me how much younger I look in photos taken just three years ago. But when I think of all that I have learned about life in the past three years…it seems fitting that those lessons left their mark in some way.

I have been contemplating the idea of my own aging in a way I never have before. Beyond wrinkles. This summer slipped through my fingers before I quite had a chance to grasp it. How many more summers will do the same? How many summers will I be blessed with in this life?

When one day closely resembles the last, it’s easy to become complacent. But when the seasons are changing right before your eyes, the passing of time is harder to ignore.

How do you feel about the coming of fall?

Namaste,
Jamie

***

It is our nature not only to see
that the world is beautiful

but to stand in the dark, under the stars,
or at noon, in the rainfall of light,

frenzied,
wringing our hands,

half-mad, saying over and over:

what does it mean that the world is beautiful–
what does it mean?

-Mary Oliver, “The Leaf and the Cloud”

Guerilla yoga: setting an intention, or crying for attention?

I love getting pictures like this. It’s a fun and kind of silly thing to do, and it makes for a good photograph.

However, this is one pose. I have never practiced yoga, outside of dedicated yoga spaces. I know a lot of people who do, and I’m not “against” the idea, I just haven’t ever done it. One of my favorite teachers loves to practice at the capitol in downtown Indianapolis, IN. People practice in airports or other busy, public locations. Fans of this type of individual “guerilla” yoga feel that cultivating awareness and finding center in these places adds a new challenge and fulfillment to their practice. The space that they claim with their mat becomes their yoga studio for a brief moment in time.

yoga in times square (timessquarenyc.org)

Along with the individual guerilla yoga trend, many cities have outdoor yoga activities. I participated in one last summer with my friend Amy in Des Moines, Iowa. Chicago has yoga every Saturday in Millennium Park. EcoYogini plans her own yoga in the park in Halifax. It feels good to practice with a sense of community, feeling the sun shining on your face. As a group, yogis transform a public space to a public yoga space, if only for an hour.

nytimes.com/2010/05/06/business/06YOGA.html

Last Saturday I was in Chicago for fly yoga. While we were walking down Michigan Ave after class, on the outskirts of Grant Park, I saw a woman about my age practicing yoga. She was by herself, on a mat, in the shade. She was in a three-legged downward facing dog. I got excited. “Look! Guerrilla yoga!” If she hadn’t looked so Zen I would have cheered “YOGA RULES!” or something else to encourage her. Here she was practicing while thousands of people from all over the world were bustling by, shopping, yelling, rushing to appointments, and hailing taxis. I felt empowered for her.

Other people around me did not feel the same way. Two young women were rolling their eyes. One of them said something, her voice dripping with sarcasm, about how Michigan Avenue was just so peaceful, that obviously it’s a great place to do yoga. The general tone was “look at the silly yoga girl, why can’t she do that in her living room? Why does she need so much attention?”

yoga in millennium park (abclocal.go.com)

It’s a good question. When we practice in public spaces, we inevitably draw attention to ourselves, our bodies, our yoga. This seems acceptable when there is a group. Just a few blocks down the street and a few hours before, hundreds of people gathered in Millennium park for yoga, and no one blinked an eye. This girl, just a few hours later, was the subject of scorn and seen as attention hungry.

Is it just because she dares to do something as an individual, which others do only as part of a group? Is she just as self-indulgent as the girls wearing 4 inch heels with lots of cleavage tottering around Rush street at 11 pm? Is she cut from the same cloth as the guy wearing the sandwich board screaming about the Bible?

Are we supposed to limit ourselves to practicing in places that are already peaceful, or can we seek to create peace in unconventional spaces?

Is doing yoga alone in a public space some sort of cry for attention or recognition? Or is it an effort to rise above all of that?

Namaste,
Jamie

Fly yoga!

That’s right, I went to Chicago with my friend Stephanie this weekend and took a fly yoga class! I know you’re all excited to hear about it, so I’ll get down to business.

We arrived at the gym early, so the guy at the front desk encouraged me to pick out a hammock. Stephanie and I went up to the studio and got to play around for a bit before class. Here are some pictures before I really knew what I was doing.

As people started showing up, I got a bit nervous! The class was full, and about half of us were newbies. The instructor, Brent, started with the stats about how safe we were. The hammocks are connected to the ceiling with climbing equipment (“it’s what rock climbers use to keep them from falling off a mountain”), and is tested to hold up to 1000 pounds. The hammocks themselves are made of the same fabric that the Cirque de Soleil silk dancers use, and also rated for 1000 pounds. Then he customized the height of everyone’s hammock. When you pull down on the bottom of it, it should just reach your hip creases, so some needed to be raised or lowered.

We began in savasana…inside the hammock. To get in it, you pull down and jump in with your butt first. We floated on our backs and tried to relax and breathe. Then we did some simple leg stretches and sat up. We started with some stretches and forward folds using the hammocks as leverage, then moved to  jumps that looked like this:

He had us jump ten times, and then hold for 5 counts. My arms were not quite up to the challenge, but it was still fun. Some of the veterans could jump up and flip over backwards!

We did a standing series with the hammock under the front knee in warriors, then we used it around our bent leg in a standing tree and pigeon. We did some gentle inversions, then he led us into a backflip from plow pose. You go into plow with the hammock, then let your feet drop back over your head, onto the floor.

At the end I did (believe it or not) my FIRST EVER handstand. There is a very precise process to get into an anti-gravity handstand, which I try to demonstrate here in the pictures:

Mainly, you have to start with bent elbows and bent knees, and straighten them both at exactly the same time. You can also do a no-hands handstand

or play around and do something silly like this

All in all, I thought fly yoga was incredible. The hand stand was my favorite part, but I also liked the warriors and the plow flip. I would have liked to take more pictures afterwards to show you what pigeon, tree, etc looked like with the hammock, but to be honest, I was exhausted after class! The room is not air conditioned and the fan was turned off, I guess so we could burn more calories, but I deeply regretted the pants and was thinking longingly of my capris. The holds in the first picture took an incredible amount of arm strength that I don’t exactly have, so my arms were really tired and felt like jelly afterwards! I got a lot of great pictures (thanks Stephanie!) and then I was ready to find air conditioning, peel off my tank top, and wash my face before we spent the day sightseeing.

This kind of class would never replace my yoga practice, but it would be a fun way to supplement it with added strength training. Unfortunately for me, this gym is the only one in the midwest that offers suspension yoga and it’s a bit far (2 1/2 hours ish) to do regularly. Not to mention, the drop in rate for the class is $24!

I hope I answered all of your questions about fly yoga! If you ever get the opportunity to take a class, I’d encourage you to go for it.

Other highlights of our trip to Chicago:

Tribune Tower at night

view from the John Hancock observatory (that's the Sears Tower in the far back)

Millennium Park at night (the bean)

view of the skyline from Lake Michigan

Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

Highlights not pictured: our hotel room on the 27th floor, two glasses of sangria and yummy pad thai at the Big Bowl, watching a drunk guy get kicked out of the Big Bowl (but not before he hit on Stephanie and me), the night life on Rush street, Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, breakfast at a cute diner in Lincoln Park, unintentionally driving the Magnificent Mile.

Namaste,
Jamie

Learning and teaching one-on-one

I had my first one-on-one session with my new client, K, on Tuesday night and we had a blast. I had never met her before, except over email, so we took the first session to just get to know each other.

Honestly, I really don’t know how to teach one-on-one. I’ve never done it before and I’ve never taken a one-on-one class. It will be a learning experience for both of us.

K claimed she was rusty and hadn’t practiced yoga for a few years, but her practice looked strong and beautiful to me. She’s going to be fun to work with, and I will be able to alter my teaching style, dropping almost all of my “beginner” cues and modifications that are second nature to me now, using them only as occasional reminders. I look forward to exploring some deeper poses with her, which I haven’t really gotten a chance to do in my other classes.

The most challenging thing about the one-on-one part will be finding a comfortable layout for the room. The sessions are at her house and she has a nice-sized space, big enough for two yoga mats facing the same direction. For our first class we practiced side-by-side. Since we were just meeting, I didn’t want to creep her out by staring her right in the face for an hour (and I won’t dream of adjusting her until we get comfortable with each other).

Teaching on my mat right next to her has two distinct advantages: 1) it’s hard for me to see her alignment without craning my neck and making it obvious I’m checking her out, 2) she can’t see me as clearly as she could if I were in front of her, so if one of my cues is confusing, it disrupts the flow of the practice for her to check out what I am doing.

In time, I’m sure I’ll find a balance between getting quick peeks out of the corner of my eye, and coming out of the pose to check her alignment. As long as I keep her comfort my top priority, it will work itself out.

I’m so grateful for this opportunity : )

Namaste,
Jamie

My crazy schedule: finding balance off the mat

My teaching life is getting very exciting these days. Maybe some of you out there are wondering: “Jamie, are you super woman? How do you teach yoga and hold down a full-time job, friends, a marriage, a house and two dogs?” Well, I will attempt to answer that here.

For the past several months I have taught my private class with 2-6 ladies here in town on Sundays and Thursdays, and at the gym on Wednesdays and the occassional Saturday. I take yoga on Mondays nights. It was a schedule that worked great, leaving me all of Tuesday night to myself.

Then I had a very exciting opportunity fall into my lap: teaching through the Bloomington Parks and Recreation department for the fall (if you’re in the area, check out the link on the right hand side). It meant a lot more exposure and came with the potential to turn long-term. Of course, I jumped on it. I set up the class on Thursdays, which would mean I’d teach twice on Thursday evenings. That was fine, but something had to go.

Realistically, I realized I had to drop the gym. Although the ladies there are lovely, I also drooled at the idea of having Wednesday night free. It’s a much-needed “break” night in the middle of the week. Also, since I have such little time to devote to teaching while I try to find a balance with working full-time, I had to look at it in black and white. The gym pays me less and gives me access to a smaller sector of people.

So my last class at the gym will be September 1. My Bloomington Parks and Rec class starts on October 7, so I gave myself a nice break, teaching only twice a week, hoping to pursue taking more classes myself in that time. Or so I thought…

Then I got an exciting email from a colleague of Andy’s requesting one-on-one private lessons every other week on Tuesdays. If she had requested weekly, I would have had to consider turning her down. I had just dropped the gym and here I was adding another class? But bi-weekly is perfect because it gives me “off weeks” that I can see myself desperately needing.

So heading into the fall, it looks like this:

Sunday: 7:30 private group class
Monday: 5:30 take yoga class
Every other Tuesday: 7:30 one-on-one class
Wednesday: break day
Thursday: 5:30 Parks and Rec class, 7:30 private group class
Friday: break
Saturday: break

I will be busy for sure, but I think I’ve found a nice balance. In my “off” month of September I hope to show my face at the only (!) studio in Bloomington-Normal. I’m ashamed to admit that I have only been there once, it was a few years ago, and the class didn’t rock my world so I never went back. I think now is the time to correct that.

How do you find balance in your hectic, busy lives?

Namaste,
Jamie

PS- stay turned, tomorrow I’ll be talking about my first one-on-one session, with my new client, K.

Eat, Pray, Love: the book, the movie, the empire

My feeling after finishing the book Eat, Pray, Love (sometime in 2008 I think?) was that it was a good story of one woman’s life, but not one that particularly resonated with me. I didn’t love it or hate it, it didn’t piss me off, it didn’t make me contemplate the grand meaning of life, nothing, nada. I just put it down and moved on to a new book.

It seems I did not have the same experience as the rest of America. Not only did the book deeply touch a lot of women, but it raised the eyebrows of a lot of keen business people. The movie release has spawned a whole line of products, including but not limited to Eat, Pray, Love perfume, and exorbitantly priced vacations to mirror Gilbert’s.

And like anything that reaches a lot of people and has wild success, there is a counterculture of people who turn their nose up at the brew-ha-ha. It’s just like Lululemon. Half of the yogi world is devoted to the brand and the other half hates it and what it stands for.

My general “eh” feeling about the book aside, I went into the movie feeling open-minded. And…I liked it! I think Liz Gilbert’s story actually seemed more suited for the big screen than for print. Her tale seemed more transformative, less self-indulgent, more universal as a movie. Julia Roberts did a brilliant job portraying the glamorous and not-so-glamorous facets of self-reinvention. Her performance was believable and genuine. It was an artistically done film, wonderfully cast, touching in all the right moments, and heartbreakingly honest. My only big complaint is that they kind of made the ex-husband look like a total moron, and hey, there are two sides to every story, right?

And how is yoga depicted in the film? Honestly, there wasn’t any asana practice in the movie. There was one line about her boyfriend being a “crunchy yogi”. Once we see Liz defeatedly unrolling her mat in Rome, then shrugging it off to go eat more pasta (and she eats a LOT of pasta). But we get to see lots and lots of meditation and padmasana, including a hilarious scene where Liz fights the monkey mind to sit for a single minute of meditation before giving up – probably my favorite part of the whole movie.

Go see the movie, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Or if you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought!

Namaste,
Jamie

PS- The most apt thing I’ve read about the Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon was this piece by Courtney at Feministing. I also enjoyed Slate’s piece on the literary perspective: “Who isn’t writing the next Eat, Pray, Love?” And since it’s so pertinent to the EPL theme, check out the How to Be Alone video, it’s gorgeous.