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I’ve talked about before how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and try new types of yoga. While I didn’t  fall in love with Bikram Yoga, it was still a learning experience (and it answered a lot of assumptions).  Earlier this month I decided to try out another type of yoga I’ve always been curious about: Anti-gravity yoga.  Anti-gravity yoga was invented by an aerial dance artist, who took the silk hammocks that they used for dance and brought them much closer to the ground. Think Vinyasa yoga with the aid of a hammock to gently encourage your body deeper into your each stretch.

I did a week long trial at OM Factory in Manhattan, and from the first class I was hooked–I was there every single day (and it’s an hour commute!) I’m usually not a huge fan of inversions beyond shoulder stand, but the support of the hammock made inversions joyous and much more accessible. The hammocks also lent themselves perfectly to the restorative class (Baddha Konasana becomes “womb pose”, you swing gently back and forth as you relax). Even ab strengthening exercises in the “Flying Fitness” class were transformed from grueling to playful.

I don’t think I’d solely practice anti-gravity yoga, for me a practice rooted in Vinyasa flow is what  suits me best, but I would love to add a little flying into my practice every week. Anyone want to buy me a class pass or membership?

My last healthy obsession, green tea, has become a staple in our home. And now without even trying I’ve added another one: Seaweed snacks.  I occasionally catch a few minutes of Dr. Oz on weekday mornings (last winter I even attended a taping). A few weeks ago I caught a segment on the “miracle vegetable” seaweed (this article is the gist of the show segment). Dr. Oz tried to convince audience members that seaweed was tasty and not strange, and to try to include it in their diets, touting various kinds as  skin and weight loss aids. I didn’t need convincing that I would like seaweed; I love (vegetarian) sushi and seaweed salad, but I probably only have them once every few months at most. What I didn’t know was that I could get a really delicious seaweed snack at my local grocery store for $1.50, and that it would help my dry (and acne-prone) skin.

These seaweed snacks have become my new healthy obession. I could eat a package a day (although I try to pace myself a bit more than that).  Click here for Nutritional Facts.

My other new healthy is water. Everyone knows you are supposed to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day, but realistically, even the healiest among us get to busy to remember to do it. And then there’s the coffee, tea, soda, wine, beer, etc. But oddly enough I’ve changed my habits to drink tons of water a day without trying, just by getting a new cup. My fiance brought home a reusable plastic “to-go” type cup that he got for free at work (similar to the ones below), and I’m drinking from it constantly. It’s kind of like an adult sippy cup, but it works.

Just goes to show it’s easy to make small changes to improve your health that don’t have to feel like work.

It’s a slow rebuilding week for many people; work schedules are lighter and the Holiday frenzy is waning. Countless “best of” and “year in review” listicles are popping up in this slow news week.

While you don’t need a new calendar to reflect on your life or seek improvement/change, the end of the year and a stretch of cold dark months ahead does lend itself well to using this week to put 2011 to rest and prepare for 2012.

I found this Reflection Worksheet a nice way to think about everything I acchompished and everything that challenged me in 2011. Here are the questions:

2011 Reflection

  1. What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in 2011?

What did you create?
What challenges did you face with courage and strength?
What promises did you keep?
What brave choices did you make?
What are you proud of?

2. What is there to grieve about 2011?
What was disappointing?
What was scary?
What was hard?
What can you forgive yourself for?

3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?
The next step is to say out loud, “I declare 2011 complete!”
How do you feel? If you don’t feel quite right, there might be one more thing to say…

4. The final step is to consider your primary focus for the year to come. What is your primary intention or theme for 2012?
Is it the year of joy?
The year of self-care?
The year of kicking ass?
The year of ease?
“2012 is my year of ________”

That last question leads nicely into planning for 2012. While many people make New Years Resolutions (about 45% of Americans), but more than half of them don’t keep them. There is, it seems, something so innate in us that simultaneously  wants to improve ourselves while setting giving ourselves permission to stay exactly the same.

I really like the idea of having one primary focus for the year, rather than a laundry list of unrelated ideas. I’ve done this for the past couple of years: my only resolution for 2010 was “be happier” and my only resolution for 2011 was to be better about staying in touch with my family and friends. Did I falter on these? For sure.  But I think I understand now what could make me more successful on my 2012 goal (2012 is my year of trying my best): defining what my goal means, how I’ll measure/define being successful at it and what concrete things I’ll do.

A great example of this method is The Happiness Project. The author, Gretchen Rubin, has even made a downloadable version of her resolutions chart . Her overarching theme for the year was to “be happier” and from there she figured out things that would improve her happiness (getting rid of clutter, quit nagging, etc) and then devoted one month to actions that accomplished that, while keeping her overall goal in mind.

My 2012 goal of “trying my best” has a lot of meanings: not letting myself get distracted when I’m working, learning new things, being proactive, letting go of jealousy,  being a kinder, more patient person, letting myself off the hook when things go wrong, and more.  I plan to write my 2012 goal and post it on my bulletin board at my desk, so I will be reminded of it everyday.

Another great approach to New Years Resolutions is a list like this one: 30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself. Sometimes the best approach to what you want to do is a focus on what you don’t want to do anymore. Maybe a theme for 2012 could be “the year of letting go” and you could devote each month to something you need to let go of.

If, like many people, you have resolutions of “being healthier,” or “losing weight,” think about how you can approach it (taking out meat or soda from your diet a few days a week, signing up for a beginner’s yoga workshop!, going to bed a half hour earlier each night). If health and yoga are part of your 2012 plans, of course I’d love to help (contact me and we’ll work on a resolution plan!) And if you need further inspiration, check out this awesome 91 year old yoga teacher.

I’ve taught my first two kindergarten yoga classes this week and have my first preschool class coming up, I’ve also been volunteering at several different yoga classes, including one for autistic middle school kids. It has certainly given me many different perspectives on yoga. I’m still processing it all, so expect a post on it at some point in the near future.

It so easy as a yoga teacher and as a yoga student to feel like you “get it.” As a student, I’m totally guilty of cherry picking the classes on any given schedule that “sound like me,” beginners class? boring, I know all that stuff. “Boot Camp Yoga?” Sounds punishing. I gravitate towards the same sort of Vinyasa classes no matter what studio or gym I’m going to. And most of the time I enjoy it, and there’s always something to learn, especially from trying new teachers. But when I do branch out and try something totally different, even when I don’t enjoy it, is when I learn the most.

While I process all that I’m learning from all of my new teaching experiences, more opportunities are coming in! Starting next week I’ll be teaching at The Moving Studio in Downtown/Fort Greene Brooklyn every Friday morning from 8:00-9:00am. I’ll also be subbing Monday nights from 8:30-9:30pm on November 21, 28, and December 5th. The price is sooo reasonable ($10/class) and the view from the 30th floor  is amazing.  Between this and my Sunday night classes at the Brooklyn Zen Center, you have many opportunities to take affordable classes are gorgeous locations. More info on everything here.

There’s a lot in my life that I frustratingly feel like I have no control over. So much effort I put out into the world with little or no results. And especially for beginners yoga can feel that way–it takes so much time to gain strength and flexibility, to master difficult asanas (and sometimes no matter what you do or how many years you try, you’ll body will never cooperate).

Which is why having a tangible task that you can see the results of once you’ve completed it can be so deeply satisfying. I’ve found small home improvement are great for this. I live in a small rental apartment in Brooklyn, so I’m a little more limited than home owners in what I can do, but you don’t need a $10,000 kitchen renovation to feel like you’ve accomplished something.

I painted the main wall of my living room yesterday and it looks great and I feel proud and accomplished. It sounds like a small thing but, aside from having a huge impact on the room, the process felt like such a metaphor. I’ve lived in this apartment for six years, I don’t know how long before I moved in that the wall was painted (the building is over 100 years old). But I see it every day, for hours, and for the last couple of years there has been a few spots of chipped paint that irritate me. But doing something about them seemed like too much of a hassle. And besides, I’m not going to live here forever, I don’t own the place…so I lived day after day, with chipping white walls, feeling mildly irritated.

(the wall before with paint samples)

Finally, I decided to do something about it. I went to Home Depot, picked out a color, talked to the “paint expert” and got all the necessary tools. She told me to chip away at the quarter-sized areas of missing paint until the paint wouldn’t chip anymore and then just paint over it. Simple enough. But when I started chipping, the paint just kept going and going until a giant section of the wall was chipped away.

I was worried, this seemed like a much bigger issue. Back at Home Depot I was told I now needed to rent a power sander and sand the entire wall. I was near tears. Then an alternative was offered, sand the edges with sandpaper, use putty and primer then paint. I was nervous, but I did it, painted over it and the results are beautiful.

How does this relate to yoga, and to life?

There’s something small that’s always in the back of your mind bugging you, you try to ignore it and make excuses for not fixing it. Finally you force yourself to make the change and prepare with all the proper tools, but something goes wrong, you face a setback, things are now worse, you want to quit. But, you can’t, you’ve come to far (you can’t live with a giant patch of missing paint). You persevere, you finish–your results may not be perfect, and it may not be as easy as you planned, but you’re better for having tackled the problem.

I read a quote the other day:

“Habit is overcome by habit.”

 Thomas a Kempis

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately, and trying to write everyday. I’ve been trying to form new habits, but today in the pre-hurricane preparedness everything (from my normal Saturday morning yoga class to the entire MTA system) has shut down. But, even though so far everything is the same at home (it’s just a little dreary and rainy outside, but we still have power and everything), I have let this change of events serve as an excuse to take a “snow day” from all my progress and good habit building. Part of me feels guilty and lazy, another part of me feels like it’s good to let yourself take a break sometimes and just lay on the couch reading listing to the rain outside.

What do you think? What good and bad habits do you notice yourself building?