reveries at 105degrees


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Forgiveness

This one is pretty personal.  You have been warned:)

 

I am fascinated by the way people react differently to stress. For example, I’m the one who can hold things together when something big happens and everyone else falls apart, but the smallest things that shouldn’t matter (think “being unable to find a roll of tape”) throw me into fits that leave  me nearly unable to function.  I’ve stopped trying to make sense of it.

Today’s yoga class was one of those crazy classes where the realizations came at me from all directions; I hardly remember the actual postures at all.  It was 90 minutes of one revelation after another.  And I almost didn’t even try to go today (but more about that later.)

At some point during class, I realized that I almost thrive on anxiety–something I probably always realized and wished I could change, but didn’t fully understand.  If I don’t have something to feel bad about, I’ll find something.  I can’t possibly be the only person who does this.  I can’t be sure, but I think this pattern’s attractiveness is rooted in fear.  I’m starting to think that most unsettled feelings start with fear, and I’m on a (n admittedly slow) mission to banish fear from my life.

Not an easy feat.

But I’m working on it.

Last night, I realized that I’ve been freed from an immense source of stress (my car; I got a new one.)  It sounds superficial that it was causing me so much panic; I didn’t realize exactly how upset I had been about it until I worked it out.  I had approximately an hour of calm, and it was liberating.  However, something in my mind decided it needed to fill the gaping hole left by my new lack of car stress.  It started at about 2:00 this morning.  I was trying to fall asleep, but my chihuahuas started barking (and they don’t, unless someone is at the door or coming in the door).  I heard a “BANG!” sound; they immediately drowned it out with more barking.  I grabbed the nearest heavy object (a 10-pound weight) and my phone, and had the speed dial for “911” pulled up as I crept into the living room, then the kitchen, sure that someone was trying to break in.

Nothing. Sigh.

I have a weird reaction to such a scare.  I eat. So I ate more than I should have in 12 hours, much less 15 minutes.  I was angry, sickened, disappointed.  I called myself names, cried, dreaded work at 9am, dreaded yoga at 3pm, dreaded looking into a mirror for the next week (or ever).

I finally fell asleep, woke up vowing to “make up for it” (which never works, but that’s a different story) and went to work.  I had to make a judgment call at work, which made me freak out a little bit, and when it was time to leave, I was agitated and could only think of two things: EAT STUFF.  And BUY THINGS.

My addictions may be odd, but I know their patterns very well.  Since I failed to figure out a way to “make up” for last night’s imperfection, and let this morning’s small incident morph into a full-blown panic, I was now forced to fight the urge (and lose; I always lose) to say “to hell with the rest of the day” and either reinforce my ridiculous shopping addiction, or eat several pints of coconut milk ice cream and an entire bag of lentils.  If it doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn’t have to.  Just know that once the idea is in my head, it is impossible to win.  Along with the sudden “I give up” is the promise of “starting over tomorrow;” add it all together, and…well, anatomy of an addiction, right?

On my way to either mindlessly buy clothing that I would ultimately return and/or procure said pints of coconut milk ice cream, though, something weird happened.  The mall was to the right, Whole Foods straight ahead, and home to the left.  I just said “no.”  And turned left.  And went home.  And then went to yoga.

And now we are back to the point.

I might sound or seem wise or enlightened at times, but I know nothing about forgiveness.  I’ve never actually considered “forgiving myself” at any point. (The fact that I feel the need to put that in quotes is pretty telling. As if it is a concept I feel comfortable with only if I am ridiculing it.)  If I do anything that I perceive as a mess-up, I have to cause myself a lot more damage before saying, “okay, enough, start over, try again.”  There are no exceptions.  It’s perfection or nothing.  Perfection, or create an absolute disaster.  Most people don’t understand this, and I’m tired of explaining.  I, on the other hand, don’t entirely understand the concept that there exists any other way; I’m still feeling unsettled about how I reacted today, even though it was probably the “better” reaction.

The big revelation of the day, though, was that I project this on to others.  I absolutely do not know the way to forgive somebody.  Not surprising. The surprising thing was the realization of why.  It seems that when I care, when I really, truly care about somebody, I tend to view their imperfect actions as insults.  I take them personally.  And, well…that’s not really “loving” at all, now is it?

Instead of feeling worse about myself and calling myself all the names that would fit (selfish, crazy, self-centered, oblivious, etc) I am going to remember this and try to understand. I get frustrated and angry when others don’t understand, so I’m trying to do away with the double standard.  Instead of feeling insulted or hurt or anxious or worried or angry or disappointed, I’ll try to respond with compassion.  Actually typing this out makes it sound like the most obvious thing in the world, and I might be the very last person on earth to realize this.

In case I’m not, though…you’re welcome.


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Dear Saab 900 Turbo,

I first noticed your kind when I was about 9 years old. I was attracted to your unique body shape, your “different” look, your intense demeanor.  When I finally turned 16, I could only afford a used Chevy.  Still, I dreamed of you.  Each time I had to replace my car, you were “impractical,” too expensive, not available.  Finally, twelve years later,  you were mine.

I flew out to Denver to pick you up.  I cried on the way back to the hotel, and squealed with joy at the echo of your turbo engine’s growl as I made my way up the parking garage ramp.  I bought you a sticker and a crystal lotus flower to hang from your mirror. I was in love.

The relationship was rocky at first.  On the way home, you broke down in a town called Colby, Kansas.  I had to search for days for someone who could fix you.  I got back on the road, another $900 poorer, only to have you die again after about 40 miles.  Back at the shop, they told me you needed a new fuel filter as they cleaned out your old one. They told me you would need a “special diet” of 93 octane gas in order to run well.  I didn’t care. I was finally with my Saab.

When I got home, I only had you a month before someone decided to break your windows and rip out your dashboard, all in order to steal a cheap Alpine CD player.  I found you a new dashboard on eBay, paid someone $800 to re-wire everything, and never replaced the radio out of fear that someone would break your windows again.  For months, I sat in the garage at night, guarding you fiercely.

Over the years, you’ve taken me many places, broken several times, seen much abuse.  You’ve gotten a new clutch, a new brake system, a new radiator, new belts and hoses and other small parts that add up.  I’ve spent over twice as much repairing you as I did buying you. You’ve been scraped, hit, dented, nicked.  You’ve taken me to a dog funeral, my dad’s funeral, my new jobs, scary court dates.  You’ve accompanied me on quests to find old friends and new shoes.  You’ve started many conversations and have always been a source of pride.

Saab, lately you’ve been acting like you don’t feel well. I know you are old.  You are dented and dirty, and your headliner sags so badly I can’t see out the rearview mirror.  I know that your speedometer doesn’t work, so I have to be careful not to speed and get a ticket.  Your gas gauge doesn’t work, so I have to make sure I know how far I’ve driven every day; your odometer doesn’t work, so I have to map out the distance for every tiny trip I take so that I can monitor the gas tank.  You used to get about 400 miles on an 18-gallon tank.  Now, it seems that you only get about 18 miles per gallon (of 93 octane gas).  In the summer, you overheat if I don’t turn your heat on full blast. (Today, someone asked me if it was raining outside. Nope, just sweating from my hot car.)  You make a sound like an aging dinosaur, and sometimes you won’t start.

It doesn’t matter, though. I love you, Saab. I don’t care if you don’t shine, if you have dents, if you make funny noises and act a bit lazy sometimes.  It’s okay. I don’t always want to smile, I don’t always feel like getting up in the morning, and sometimes I’m unshowered, too.

But.

Today, you started dying in the road.  In the road.  On the highway.  The first time, an SUV almost rear-ended me, narrowly missing by swerving at the last minute.  When I got you moving again, I moved into the far right lane, ready to exit, ready to take side roads.  You died again, but this time, I made it on to the shoulder.  I thought we were safe.  When the 18-wheel truck sped by so closely that we rocked side-to-side and I was sure that your mirror was going to go flying, I started to cry.

Saab, I think it’s time to say goodbye.

Just think.  You will no longer have to deal with me screaming and hitting your steering wheel in traffic or in crazy parking lots.  You will no longer deal with the start-stop city drives I take almost every single day. You will never again have to feel the cold trickle of a spilled green smoothie on your upholstery, and never again have to carry around a sweaty, stinky yoga mat.  Maybe someone who loves Saabs even more than I do (and has a lot more money) will fix you up.  Maybe you will be taken apart to save other sick Saabs.

In the next few days, I’m going to do my best to find a way to get a car that will reliably take me to my jobs, will not cost more in gas than my monthly rent, that will not stall on highways nearly leading to a messy end for both of us.  Then, Saab, I will try my best to find you a new home.  A good home.

You were my Saab for five years.  I’ve never had the same car for that long.  Thank you, Saab, for those years.  It’s hard, but I think it’s time to say goodbye.


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Father’s Day (take two)

this post is a little bit late; i apologize

My yoga practice suffered last Saturday and Sunday.

I tried to blame it on irresponsible food choices, dehydration, lack of sleep…all the usual suspects.  I knew, however, that I would eventually have to face the real reason why anxiety took over and dragged me through class:  the grief and guilt I feel every single day, magnified by Father’s Day weekend.

It was only my second Father’s Day without my dad; he only died less than two years ago.  I have all the feelings/experiences I consider “normal,” such as still missing him every day, reaching for the phone to call him with good (or bad) news, wondering how he would react to all my recent life changes, worrying about him for a moment when a major storm is reported in his area. I also have an odd sense of what I can only call “guilt” that surfaces any time I am struggling or in pain.

My dad–an incredibly strong, intelligent person who taught me how to swim, ice skate, water ski, and drive a boat (among many other things)–drowned in the lake behind his home.  It didn’t make sense to me then, it still doesn’t now, and it never will.  The old joke between us was that I would be the 75-year-old woman in the tattoo parlor getting a “Dad” memorial tattoo, because his side of the family enjoyed amazing health and life spans of 95+.  (Instead, I was 32 when I got “I love you” in his handwriting tattooed on my left foot, 33 when, as a memorial on the first anniversary, I had pink apple blossoms added to my shoulders.)

Losing anybody–a relative, friend, pet, anybody–is difficult.  It seems, at least to me, that losing somebody to a scary freak accident is even more difficult.  In the days and weeks that followed, of course I cried because I missed him, because he wouldn’t see me finally get my Master’s and  someday help me move across the country again, because he wouldn’t be there the next time I had a crisis.  But I really focused on the things that he experienced: Did it hurt? Was he scared? What did he think of? Where is he now–lost, happy, not happy, just gone? I guess anybody could feel this about any death, but I wasn’t prepared for the way it got into me and wouldn’t let go.

Showering became a scary experience in which I would hold my breath until I felt dizzy. (Why not?)  I still can’t drink flat water unless it has actual ice cubes floating in it (hence my obsession with sparkling water, and my avoidance of yoga-room-temperature water).  I went to California, swearing I would run into the ocean; when the water covered my little tattooed feet, I ran back to the dry sand.  And those yoga poses where it’s difficult to breathe and/or sweat drips deep into your nose?  I panic.  I don’t mean like “crap, it’s hard to breathe, I should adjust my pose,” I mean full-fledged, guilt-ridden, freak-out panic.  And then I berate myself.  It isn’t pretty.

Father’s Day was like any other day.  I woke up, made a smoothie, went to the gym, worked on an editing project, cleaned some stuff out of the closet.  When I got to the studio, I took one of my “regular” spots and sat down to tie a blue ribbon in my hair (as I did last year on Father’s Day, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death.)  I was barely into standing head-to-knee when I realized that I wasn’t really breathing.  I was hurting.  I was taking short, shallow breaths.  I considered sitting out, but told myself, “don’t be lazy, you know, your dad can’t even ever do yoga anymore ever again, get up off your ass.” (See? Berating myself.)  Any time I feel sorry for myself (in yoga, when carrying heavy things, when burdened with work, when enduring verbal abuse) I fall back on the same thing.  At least you’re still alive to endure this. I know it isn’t healthy or helpful.  But it happens.

Somewhere during the floor series, my hair suddenly felt so tight that I had to tear the blue ribbon and rubber band out of my hair.  I hate feeling like I’m causing a scene, but the sudden pain and discomfort was extreme.  I still wasn’t breathing.  I still didn’t think I would even make it through.  I stopped to think, and decided that I should take comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only person in the room missing their dad that day.  It was a quite humbling experience for someone who has an “I can overcome anything I set my mind to” attitude.  Because I can’t.  I can’t overcome death.  And even though it feels like someday he will call me again, or next Christmas he will be at the party…he won’t. Not in the way I’m thinking.  And I wonder if that feeling will ever go away, if it will ever all seem real.

When I got home after (barely) surviving that class, I noticed that his funeral home card had “leapt” off the bulletin board where it’s been since September 2011.  This has happened maybe twice before.  I checked to see if all windows were closed, fans off, dogs in crates.  Yes, yes, and yes.  I picked up the card, put it back into its place, and thought about how sometimes, over-used sentiments can be true.  I will be sad, probably forever.  But I will try to focus on gratitude: I got lucky in the Dad department, even if it was for only 30  years instead of 80.


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Things Not to Eat Before a (Bikram) Yoga Class

Do you ever notice how you hear something interesting (or annoying, or terrifying) once, and then seem to keep hearing about it constantly for the next few days?

The other day, this post from MindBodyGreen found its way into my Facebook feed more than three times.  Later that day, as I rushed to get ready for class, I complained to a friend about how I had no “pre-yoga-appropriate” food in my apartment (as I sucked down a Vega “endurance gel.”) (Which is, quite honestly, not too bad, if you’re used to that sort of thing.  It is also delicious in the 30 minutes between back-to-back classes, but that is another story.)  The day’s locker room talk amongst newbies centered around eating before yoga.  Finally, one of my yoga friends approached me before class and mentioned that he was regretting eating so shortly before class.

I felt like the universe was trying to tell me something.

After almost ten years of consistent Bikram yoga practice, I am still learning the intricacies of pre-yoga eating.  You might think it sounds like an easy feat, but it is a very exact science, and one that is highly individual.  If you don’t eat for six hours before class, you’re likely to see black spots and “bonk” during standing bow.  However, if you eat a sandwich in the car on your way to class, it will likely make its presence very obvious after about thirty seconds of pranayama.  I’m (still) not an expert, but I have compiled a list of things that just don’t work for me (whether it’s me eating them, or the yogis practicing next to me eating them.)

1. Alcohol (or a bean burrito)

Possibly the first “Bikram joke” I ever heard in class, thanks to my very first instructor, was the one that goes something like: “there are two things you don’t want in this room…a hangover or a bean burrito.”  Humor aside, this is no joke.  Alcohol and working hard in a hot room don’t mix.  Neither do Taco Bell and bending and twisting in a hot room.  I once brought an unsuspecting coworker to class; he had no idea what to expect.  I watched him eat a microwave Wild Oats burrito in the car on the way to the studio.  He still hates  me.

2. Bananas

Every single article about eating before yoga recommends bananas.  I can’t.  Bananas are tasty, but they don’t like me at all.  They like to try to come back and say hello during standing separate-leg forehead-to-knee.  No, thank you.

3. Chicken

I already think chicken is one of the top five grossest things one can eat. (I won’t even bore you with the details here.) (Yet.)  Put it in the hot room, and you have the makings of a disaster.  I have never left the hot room.  I’ve endured nearly-exploding-bladder, waves of grief that left me almost unable to breathe, severe pain from my own bad food choices, and a sweat shower from the smelliest, BO-covered, unshowered man I have ever come across…and have not left the room.  The closest I ever came to leaving the room was when the person next to me had obviously eaten an entire deli’s worth of roast chicken in the hours (days? weeks? who knows?) before class.  Chicken smells (at least to me) like something rotting when it is cooked and on your plate. When you are simultaneously burping and farting at me, in a 105-degree room?  Let’s just say I almost had to leave and vomit.

4. A Venti Americano

One of my yogi friends used to laugh with me in the locker room, because we both came to class lugging enormous cups of coffee.  I generally do okay with caffeine before class, due to years of experience and an intimate knowledge of how my body processes the stuff.  If you aren’t super-hydrated with the caffeine tolerance of a Clydesdale, though, I’d suggest leaving the Guru Energy Drink for after class.

5. Hot’n’Spicy

People sometimes don’t believe me when I tell them that I never eat any kind of onions, garlic, sauces, or (most) spices.  It’s true.  My digestive system rejects it all, and I’d rather feel well than eat delicious veggie burgers (which I do so sorely miss.)  This avoidance means that I can smell these things a mile away. I’ve practiced next to what I like to call “a ketchup factory.”  There have been times that I’ve sworn I was doing toe stand in an Indian restaurant.  Oh, and Mr. Chicken Gas seemed to have eaten those roast chickens with about a dozen cloves of garlic.  Please don’t. Even if it doesn’t gross you out during class, it will offend someone next to you (or across the room).

6. Bodybuilder Cuisine

~12 years ago, I loved all those “female fitness competitor” magazines.  I followed those diets to a T.  (Oatmeal, egg whites, whey protein powder, cottage cheese, and tuna.  ALL THE TUNA.)  My digestive system hated me.  I also realized that the overly-muscled dude huffing sulfur on me from the next treadmill over was suffering from what I like to call “ketosis and tuna breath.”  Also, how can you not notice that the tuna smells and tastes exactly like…the can it comes in?

7. A Cuban Cigar (or any kind, for that matter)

Confession: I used to smoke.  Not cigars, but cigarettes.  And not casually–I smoked about a pack a day.  When I quit (in 2007) I realized how stinky I was in the yoga room, and was mortified.  Now, if I even visit a smoking establishment or household, I can literally smell the nasty sweating out of me during class.  I can’t even imagine how awful it was for the people practicing next to me those first few years.  I am still embarrassed, and I apologize.

Silliness aside, the whole “eating-before-yoga” topic is both overdone and underexplored.  There is no one thing that will work for (or backfire on) everybody.  It is entirely trial-and-error (as I always tell the first-timers who are huddled in a ball on the floor, face screwed up and arms wrapped around stomach, after their first class.)  It can take months or even years to figure out what works for you.

Just try to keep the really heavy experimentation out of the hot room…or at least, on the opposite side of the room.


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Why I May Never Feel Like a Real Adult

(*I’m not entirely sure what “being a real adult” entails, but I am pretty sure it’s not me.)

Let’s get this out of the way: while I may act (or even look) like a perpetual 24-year-old, I am 33.  In fact, I am now closer to 34 than 33, so things like doing laundry, calling to set up appointments, taking care of sick friends, or finishing a Master’s degree and starting a tiny business should not turn me into a shivering ball of wide-eyed, snot-leaking, paralyzed fear.  I lived alone for a long time, and sometimes I wonder how I ever survived on my own throughout most of my 20s.  I killed all the bugs, went head-to-head with a rat larger than my dog, survived a neighbor almost burning down the entire complex, deflected the advances of many Mr. Wrongs, shrugged off a pretty scary break-in/burglary, and somehow managed to not burn the place down myself.  In the past few years, I’ve had to change my life and my plans to take charge of a pretty excruciating situation, comfort my mom when her dog passed away, and give a eulogy for my dad.  Sounds kind of like…an adult, right?

Wrong.  Small things send me into convulsions of tears and leave me exhausted and afraid.  I am notoriously underprepared, which I’m pretty sure is a difficult feat for someone so obsessed with lists and datebooks.  I procrastinate on the important things (doing laundry, putting gas in the car, paying bills) and frequently need to be rescued.  (It makes me feel loved. This may be odd.  I’m not sure. I’ll save further discussion for another post.) Not being a real adult seems to get me into a lot of trouble.  Staying up late to relive first-grade ghost stories by reading Can I Get There By Candlelight? is really not a valid excuse for being late for work. The trouble, though, is often outweighed by the fun, and the laughs, and the lessons.

The other day, I got a new mattress.  Since my parents purchased my old mattress when I was a junior in high school, I figured it was time to finally replace the thing.  I got it in place, covered it with a fitted sheet, and put the comforter back on the bed.  Whenever I left the room, I took care to close the door so that little chihuahuas would not be tempted to pee on the brand-new bed.  At one point, I guess I didn’t close my door all the way.  I returned to the room to see a puddle of urine on my duvet cover (which was covering a 100% silk comforter) and a guilty-looking Ezra (Ezra is a crazy rescue chihuahua of indeterminate age.)  Angry that I would have to do laundry again, I tried to gather up the edges to contain the pee puddle, so I could rinse it out in the tub before carrying it downstairs.  I ended up making it to the hallway, where I noticed a fresh little chihuahua turd (Ezra again) in the middle of the floor. I danced around it, trying to avoid stepping on it (the sensation of stepping on a dog turd with bare feet is not my favorite) but ended up losing my balance and tripping into the bathroom, falling into the vanity.  This graceful move achieved three things: I avoided the turd, but spilled the mug of coffee I had left on the vanity that morning (right on to the snow-white blanket) and effectively showered myself with the puddle of pee as I tried to jerk the blanket away from the dripping coffee.  I wanted to cry, but I laughed.  It was just a blanket.  I could take a shower.  The bathroom floor had seen worse spills than old coffee.  At that moment, I told myself that I would probably always be a bit of a mess, always be a bit late, always be kind of eccentric…and never fully grow up.  I also told myself that I would just start to embrace it…and that if anyone else doesn’t, well, I can just stick my tongue out at them.

P.S. against the blanket tag’s advice, I put it in the washing machine.  It is just fine now.


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Vanity, Thy Name Is…

Vanity.  If you read any contemporary pieces about so-called “westernized” yoga, you’ll run into that word several times.  It does make sense, but I never really thought about it too much.  I’m no stranger to vanity, but it’s one of those things that I just accept, deal with, and move on from, so I can focus on other, bigger things in life.  Yesterday, however, I found myself challenged in a way that left me wondering if I’m not a bit more of a vanity junkie than I previously thought.

A bit of history: I grew up hating every physical part of my being.  I’m not talking about “teen angst” or puberty or the expected “UGH, I hate my [fill-in-the-blank here].”  I’m talking real depression, missed school, begging for a nose job at age 12 (and no, I never did get one), severe eating disorders, and missing out on most of my 20s due to a refusal to leave the house because I felt too absolutely disgusting in my own skin.  (I still have days like that, and I’m still not “over it all,” whatever that means.)  My first Bikram yoga class, at the age of 23, was excruciating.  Not because of the heat, not because of the postures, not because of the teacher excitedly shouting…but because of the mirror.  I was supposed to stand with my legs touching (a sensation I still despise, to this day) and watch myself the whole time?  Oh, no.  No, no, NO.

Over the years, though, I’ve come to depend on that mirror.  Like an unsatisfactory, unhealthy relationship, I both love it and hate it, crave it and avoid it.  I’m often called upon in certain postures (Eagle, I’m looking at you) to bring my eyes down (I stare up at the reflection of the box heaters where the ceiling meets the wall instead).  I look at the floor when I shouldn’t.  Some days, I look at myself and repeat under my breath, “pig, pig, pig” as I (hopefully) surreptitiously squeeze the skin on my arm or thigh until it bruises. Then I try to throw that focus into the next posture.  It’s all I know how to do, the only way I know how to deal with it and move on.  I have friends who refuse to try Bikram with me, again, not because of the heat or the skimpy outfits, but because of the mirrors.  And while I disappointedly sigh, I get it.  I hate that mirror, too.  But I love it.  And I need it.

At least, I thought I needed it.  Earlier this year, my studio announced that they were offering some informal outdoor classes, for fun and to raise money for charity.  I immediately put the down in my datebook.  Extra yoga! Extra challenge! Why would I say no? As I got ready for outdoor class yesterday, though, I began wondering exactly what the hell I signed up for.  To say that I got into my car begrudgingly is an understatement.  As I pulled up to the park, I realized my biggest reservation about the whole thing: I wanted my mirror.  I wanted to see myself, to watch.  I was suffering from vanity withdrawal.

The lack of mirrors was not the only thing grating at my nerves.  The yogis were set up on the grass; for some reason, I was expecting to practice on the concrete, next to the lake and fountains.  For those of you who consider me a nature girl…well, don’t be too fooled.  In many ways, I am, but grass=bugs and I am just not into bugs.  Also, I despise the scent of grass.

Despite all this, I unrolled my mat, thinking to myself, “well, I can leave after this is done and go do a regular class later this afternoon.”  I stood on the lumpy ground, looked around, and began.  Here’s a breakdown:

Pranayama breathing: I really hope I don’t inhale a bug.  If I do, I’m going to hawk it out and I don’t care who hears me.

Half-moon/backbend/hands-to-feet: This thing crawling on my toe looks suspiciously like a tick. *Flick it off.*  Okay.  Better.  Wait, ugh, I smell mud. It smells like tomatoes, gross. Does mud smell like tomatoes, or do tomatoes smell like mud?

Awkward: I am surprisingly balanced on this uneven ground.  And not distracted by what is either slight waviness in the mirrors or a totally asymmetrical hip alignment.

Eagle: I HATE YOU, EAGLE POSE. In fact, I am planning a blog post devoted entirely to you.

Standing head-to-knee: No mirror? I will fall. Oh, god, I will wobble and fall.  Wait. I’m doing it. My head is on my knee, no mirror at all. I can do this. This means I can compete.  I’m DOING IT!!! (Competition post coming soon.)

Standing bow: Pssh. I don’t need no stinkin’ mirrors.

Balancing stick: I see we have an audience. (A man and a little girl are watching.) The audience is growing.  Wow, the teacher practicing in front of me is cute from the front and from behind.  I realize I have only ever stood in a non-front row during my very first class (as required), and immediately migrated to the front. Hmm.

Separate-leg stretching: Holy crap the storm is coming. The sky is black. The wind starts to blow. It gets chilly. Some people leave.  I will get rained on. I will be the last yogi standing! I love storms. I am excited. 

Triangle: Oh god, my feet are on the grass and the mud.  Oh god. How many tiny dead things am I standing on?  Childhood fear of hookworms resurfaces.  Wow. My alignment feels good.  This is okay. I can do this.

Standing separate leg head-to-knee: Rain is definitely coming.  Instructor asks if we want to stay. I am staying. I don’t care if it is only me. Most people stay.

Tree/toe-stand: I want it to pour.  

Savasana/transition: Instructor announces that we will move quickly with very short savasanas.  I can barely hear. I stare at the sky. Pour, damn it.  POUR.

Spine-strengthening series: Light rain on my back. Gross, I smell the mud and grass A LOT.  Yuck.

Fixed-firm: We are now doing one set of each posture in an effort to complete the class and still beat the storm.  The rain hasn’t really started yet.  I hear the birds still singing.

Tortoise/Camel/Rabbit/Spine twist/final stretching: My mind is blank. I have arrived.

Final breathing: I survived. I still don’t like bugs and grass.  I’m not sure I’ll do this again.  Nope, next time I’ll stick to yoga indoors, and things like hiking outdoors. 

I can’t say that the experience lived up to the hype I created in my own mind. It was a far cry from the rooftop vinyasa yoga class I used to attend, one which overlooked a trendy part of the city (and was practiced on concrete–no grass there).  I can’t say that I felt like I got out of it what I usually get out of my practice.  I missed the mirror, the constant “check” of my progress, the constant reminder that I have improved, but am far from perfect.  I missed the structure of class, the feeling that even though my life is changing in big ways, one thing will remain constant.  But I did get something different.  And that, I’ve decided, is what it was all about.


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Yogurt Fail, Yoga Win

This post won’t discuss my dietary habits or the labels I assign them. I’ll save that for later.

This post will discuss a quest for more sustainable living, and how I turned a yogurt fail into a yoga win.

Since deciding to add sheep/goat yogurt back in to my daily diet, I have spent a lot of money on the stuff.  Case discount aside, I can spend anywhere between $6-12 on yogurt each day. I am extremely active (therefore hungry!) and the stuff isn’t cheap.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will always have an enormous grocery bill, but I do always try to find little ways to save money and waste less (all those plastic cartons make me cringe).  So last week, I decided to spend forty hard-earned eBay sales dollars on a yogurt maker from Amazon.

When it arrived, I excitedly ran to Whole Foods to purchase yogurt-making supplies: goat’s milk (low fat-$4.99 for 32oz, and whole-$7.99 for 64oz) a bottle of goat’s milk kefir to use as a starter culture (all yogurt starters on the market are made with cow dairy or soy, neither of which I will touch) ($6.99 for 32oz kefir) and a can of powdered goat’s milk ($11.99 for 12oz) because the recipe book that came with the yogurt maker suggested it as a thickener (and runny yogurt is just sad). The powdered milk freaked me out a little–is this even natural?  I was, however, excited about getting to eat goat’s milk yogurt again (the only commercial brand available in my area uses tapioca, which I also avoid, as a thickener).  Even more excited, I went home.

Oh, wait.  I had to purchase a meat thermometer, because apparently, milk won’t make yogurt unless you first heat it to 160-185 degrees first, then cool it down.  It made zero sense to me, since the milk is already (unfortunately) pasteurized, but I bought the damn thing anyway  ($7.99).

Attempt 1:

Get home. Unpack supplies. Measure out and heat milk.  Prepare mixture of kefir and powdered milk.  Let milk cool.  Mix milk with kefir and powder.  Slowly blend whole mess in Vitamix, pour into little glass (yay! no plastic!) jars, and lovingly place in yogurt maker. Set timer.

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(pretty!)

11 hours later, put lids on jars, refrigerate, be impatient for another 8 hours.

Finally, try yogurt.

It was…well, not thick. I had made a batch of kefir.  Wonderful probiotics.  But not the texture I wanted/needed.  Still, I consumed all ~34 ounces of it.  The taste was amazing, but I prefer to eat yogurt with a spoon…not a straw.

I turned to Google.  A basic search told me that the general consensus is that goat’s milk will always produce thin yogurt, but cow’s milk will thicken.  Well. I don’t eat cow dairy, so that was out.  A further search revealed that I could buy agar-agar, a seaweed that acts like gelatin.  I also considered that using kefir as a starter may have thinned out my yogurt, so I decided to try a cup of sheep’s milk yogurt as a starter for my second batch.

Agar-agar: $8.99.  6oz cup of sheep yogurt: $3.19.

Attempt 2:

Boil water to prepare agar-agar mixture.  While milk is heating, boil and simmer agar-agar.  Realize that it looks like snot.  Transfer it to jar for later use. Wait for milk to cool.  Notice something on counter that suspiciously resembles the stretchy glue used to attach beauty product samples to coupon cards or magazine pages.  Realize it is spilled agar-agar.  Peel it off the counter and toss it in the trash.  Realize milk is down to 112 degrees and pour in the agar/kefir/powdered milk gunk. Dump it all in the Vitamix, mix it up, pour it in the jars, set the timer, wait. Clean agar-agar from pan.

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(this is the agar-agar i peeled out of the pot I used to simmer it.)

This time, the yogurt was thick. Some cream on the top (the way I like it).  Halfway down, though, I felt like I was eating yogurt mixed with a beanie baby, or eating my microdermabrasion scrub.  I thought back to the agar-agar. It felt like plastic, and looked like glue. I was reminded of my one unfortunate attempt to eat kelp noodles (which had the exact taste and consistency of those plastic things used to attach price tags to clothing). Disappointed, I rinsed the rest of the jar down the drain. I considered my ridiculously picky digestive system and researched agar-agar.  Apparently, it is GOOD for digestion, in the same way chia seeds are good for digestion.  I cannot tolerate chia seeds.  About an hour later, I started to feel ill.  Damn plastic-y gunk.  I sadly wrote the entire thing off as a loss, went out and bought a case of Old Chatham sheep’s milk yogurt from Whole Foods, and decided to use the remaining ~24oz of goat kefir-agar bead soup to feed my dogs.  The result?

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(ezra loved it.)

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(satchel went for it.)

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(piper: what is this sh!t? DO NOT WANT.)

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(oh, wait..you mean this is all i’m going to get for dinner? okay. i will try it. oh. this is…GIVE ME MORE!)

Result of the yogurt maker experiment:

yogurt maker: $40

goat’s milk:    ~$13

powdered goat’s milk: $12

thermometer: $8

kefir/yogurt as starter: $10

agar-agar: $9

~64oz of (thin, gritty, ultimately inedible) yogurt: $92

Case of six 16-oz containers of delicious, cream-on-top, no-thickeners added sheep’s milk yogurt that requires no prep time or kitchen mess, $36 minus 10% case discount: 96oz for ~$32.50

It seemed like a good idea at the time. (Famous last words, right?) I spent a day being sad about the money I spent and the failed experiment, but after the day’s yoga class, I realized something.  Sometimes, “sustainable” and “simplicity” aren’t mutually exclusive.  In my current quest to reduce my material possessions and simplify my life, I am learning that depending on the situation, less can be more and more can be less.

I am currently trying to sell my yogurt maker, and practice the yoga of letting go.