Online Resources to Master Physical Distancing

OM

Sanjay Gupta has advised using the term “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing” since that’s more accurate… we’re actually probably more social than usual with all the virtual happy hours, dance parties, web calls, etc.

Nothing about this is usual. As life around us changes, we have to find ways to move forward with our own lives and families. Hence the dramatic and sudden proliferation of excellent online content to help maintain our well-being, learn new things and explore our creative interior worlds.

I have seen so many great resources and am quickly getting overwhelmed by all the content now available and thinking other folks may be feeling the same. So I am providing yoga and running resources, as well as resources for kids for all the parents out there who are suddenly home schooling.

Check back often as I will be updating this information! Also check out my resources page for some of my all-time favorites.

YOGA FOR RUNNERS

Brand New: My Yoga for Runners Channel, I’ll be starting with very brief videos on “practices” then moving on to 30- and 45-minute yoga sessions

Sun and Moon Yoga Studio: While not specifically for runners, they have excellent online classes that are helpful for building strength, increasing flexibility, strengthening mind-body connection… all the good stuff. Plus, it’s where I got my certification so they have a special place in my heart.

How to start an at-home yoga practice: Good tips here. Remember that you do not need any special equipment, I don’t even use a mat for gentle yoga… but if you want props then there are good suggestions here.

Tara Brach: One of my favorite yogic philosophy modern-day authors, she’s offering live guided meditations and talks Wednesdays 7:30pm eastern and numerous resources

Calm app: You can sign up for a free trial, then afterwards check out the resources they are offering for free during this crisis.

Yogaville Silent Retreat April 2-5: While there is a $75 registration fee, this retreat is usually exponentially more expensive so it is a bargain, trust me. Four days of tuning out and tuning in and it will be a full schedule so be prepared for great speakers and sessions.

Yale Happiness Course: While not directly related to yoga for runners, this very popular course can help improve well-being through this stressful time

Krishna Das Every Thursday 7pm eastern discussion and chanting session – for folks who love Krishna Das and chanting, this will help you connect to yourself

 


FOR KIDS AT HOME

Academics: Khan Academy is offering free robust resources for various ages. My plan is to dive in and identify what is most appropriate for my 13-year-old because I expect she’ll probably convenient “miss” all the algebra classes

Top online museum and art tours: A curated collection of the top tours now available online

Washington Post Museum Tour: 12 Historic sites that you can visit virtually

Broadway online – 1 week of free streaming

International Spy Museum, Spy at Home Survival Guide: Lots of great resources here if your child is into this sort of thing

Lunch Doodles 1pm eastern each weekday: Offered through Kennedy Center, artist teaches doodle classes everyday (seriously, kids get to have all.the.fun.)

Joe Wicks is the nation’s PE teacher – online workouts

 

Funny commentary from sports commentator

 

Check back often as I’ll be adding to and updating this list periodically, and please leave a comment if you have found resources that you are loving!

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

Starting with OM

OM.

That’s right, OM.

I started with OM. Despite the fact that I have a blog called Start with OM, it is very rare that I actually start with OM. A centering technique to remind me to be here now. Irony. I am starting with OM. This time.

This is my practice, and this is why I have a blog called Start with OM – to remind myself to start.with.OM.

This is OM:

  • I used to want to fall in love with the man of my dreams and thought about the perfect life we would have together all the time. Now I am just happy to find a few chocolate-covered espresso beans in my hydration pack. My “falling in love” dream may have been temporarily disappointing, but my chocolate-covered espresso beans delivered true happiness and I am not disappointed in this outcome because I’ve discovered ways of finding the joy in the simplest of pleasures.
  • When I reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, they fill me in on their relationship troubles and dating woes… and I talk about what I am watching on Netflix. And this is how I know that my life is good, even if it is not always great. The path is the OM, the path is the way… no destination or goal will ever deliver like the journey and this is my practice.
  • Instead of wondering what’s playing at the movies, now I look around my house trying to figure out what I can fix with my jigsaw and I enjoy myself even more than if I had gone to the best movie I have ever seen. I have had some difficult moments learning how to use power tools but these difficult moments have given me appreciation for what I can do rather than an emphasis on what I can’t do. I’ll never figure out what I can do unless I try to do stuff. I found a note in my daughter’s room this week that said, “everything is figure-out-able” and this is a great practice.
  • When I feel frustrated at work, I remind myself that I have a job. When I am frustrated with family, I remind myself that I have a family. When I am frustrated with friends, I remind myself that I have friends. And I tell myself to be quiet and turn inward, this is my practice.
  • When crabs try to pull me into their crab pot so that they do not have to suffer alone, it is ok to gently push away and move forward without them. The act of breaking away delivers hope to them that it is possible and this is sometimes the most compassionate action available to us.

Perspective is at a premium in today’s world. I am not an expert and don’t have any answers for anyone besides myself and even then I am a BIG work in progress. But I have found that starting with OM is worth a shot.

OM. OM. OM.

 

 

 

 

Progress may be a stretch

I am a firm believer in habits, good or bad… they work. So, if we get to choose good habits and choose bad habits, we should do so carefully.

This was the theme of my January. I kicked the month of strong – Aiming to meditate just 10 minutes each day. Up to this point, I had only participated in very long meditation sessions (up to 90 minutes) but I had never had a regular meditation practice.

I quickly shifted from 10 minute sessions to 20 minute sessions because I thoroughly enjoyed the silence. But then I got sick, and everything went out the window. Then I got better and failed to find my way back to my meditation habit.

February started off strong by adding in a 10-minute yoga session each night. This lasted about a week before I got busy, got distracted, got brain numb.

Occasionally, I will meditate… and occasionally I will do 10-minutes of yoga before bed. Several times a week, I have a regular yoga practice but it’s the before bed part that I am struggling with…

Despite the minimal progress, I wanted to focus on a challenge each month to consider why it’s so hard to form habits and what can be done to turn it around because I know these habits would be life-transforming.

Here is what I have learned so far:

  • The weight of the January challenge has sufficiently convinced me to take more quiet moments during the day, and work with a mantra while I run so that it becomes a moving meditation. Lord knows I spend a lot of time running, so this has essentially become found time for meditation. And it is working as I am becoming more contemplative and better able to slow my thoughts and focus.
  • The weight of the February challenge has convinced me to connect movement to pleasure, so when I wake up in the morning I am instantly moving and stretching. (I am learning this from my dog!) While this is not what I intended, I do consider it a solid 10-minutes of am yoga. As for bed time, I am doing more long deep stretches (yin) and twists, which are excellent for improving my sleep.

If I can count lessons as progress, then I am making progress. If reaching my goal was all that mattered, then progress may be a stretch.

Perhaps most importantly – and I hope others find this valuable – what I have taken away from the process of trying to create habits is that I have become a habit-creating machine.

The discipline has moved to other areas of my life, including nutrition and hydration… I’ve made many minor changes that are paying off. I would not have this natural inclination to start up new healthy habits unless I had already been in habit-forming mode.

As I have learned from running, I am choosing to let go of my failures and shortcomings because holding on to them does not serve me. Instead, I am going to focus on the positive changes that I have made and will continue to make.

The destination isn’t the journey for me, the journey is the journey.

Jai. (Victory!)

12 Habits

The focus of the closing session at most retreats that I’ve attended is how to bring what we have learned and discussed into everyday life. This is often the challenge – not the lack of brilliance or discovery in these sessions but rather the discipline to put the lessons into practice.

Each year, I try to come up with a meaningful resolution for the new year. But long ago, I realized that I cannot change my life in one day and have it really stick. Starting with last year, I do one small thing a month. Last year, I resolved to write one meaningful post each month (and I was basically successful although I was a bit late some months!).

In 2020, I resolve to create a habit each month based on what I have learned during my personal retreats, accepting that although I am made of stardust (as we all are) I am terribly imperfect and will more than likely fail repeatedly before I am truly successful. And success will look very different than the vision in my head before I begin, but it’s all part of the learning process.

This is roughly how I want to tackle the 12 habits:

January: Meditate for 5 minutes in the morning and in the evening (this one is easy as I’m pretty close to this timeframe already… but I need to start slow here!)

February: Yoga for 10 minutes in the morning and in the evening (so important when I’m not running, so achy all over… I probably spend 5 or so minutes doing this already, but I’m going to actually time myself starting in February… yikes!)

March: Add 5 minutes of meditation mid-day and 5 minutes of yoga mid-day (now it’s getting serious)

April: Learn the Hanuman Chalisa (finally)… It has been years since I’ve been chanting right along to this one and I’m about 3/4 of the way there but this year is the year!

May: Go back to being mostly vegan, having a kid has made this difficult as I don’t like to force her to follow my eating habits.. but I want to make more of a commitment this year

June: Celibacy… this is not hard for me as I love being alone and haven’t met the right guy yet! Knowing me, this will probably be the entire year actually… So I guess this just means I get a break from forming habits in June!  (still, it counts!)

July: Increase my water intake. I’m so bad at this.. July seems like a perfect month to add this one in!

August: Catch up on all my doctor’s visits. I’m a little behind and since I work in healthcare, I don’t like our healthcare system and try to avoid doctor visits. But during the slow summer months, I’m going to catch up.

September: Pick up my paintbrushes again! I’ve taken a long break but I really miss having a creative outlet…

October: Speaking of creative outlet… I haven’t played guitar in months and when the weather starts changing, I will need some quality indoor activities

November: Less TV… boy is this one hard with a kiddo in the house. We used to play games, now she wants to watch TV all the time. I don’t watch a lot but would like to cut us both back.

December: Vacation as discipline! I have fallen off the vacation wagon big time. Mainly because I’m a freelancer and need to work even while on vacation (not so fun), but this is the year that I start to get back into the vacation swing of things.

Here’s the best part… my plan is to journal the experience so that I know what works and what doesn’t and can keep better track of where everything is falling apart. If you’d like to join me, please share your own list… maybe we can all learn from each other!

Have a wonderful holiday… and best wishes for an amazing new year.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

adventures with headstand

Full disclosure right upfront – I am terrible at headstand. Yet I love it. It’s an issue for me as a yoga teacher but there it is.

The issue is I can’t really teach it since I nearly always use a wall as a prop and flail my legs because I can get some serious stretches in while upside down. I don’t advise practicing this at home and not even sure if it’s helpful, but it feels natural and gosh darn good so I do it.

I love doing headstand at the gym most of all. Primarily because I can watch people walk by when I’m inverted. It’s highly entertaining – probably a lot like watching aliens walk on the moon. Sometimes I even wonder if the person just has a really bizarre gait or if it just looks that way since I’m upside down.

I’ve gotten used to the 3-minute timeframe, which is how long it takes for the blood to circulate throughout the entire body. And sometimes I’m even diligent enough to do fish pose afterwards for my counter-pose treat.

Now here is what I would advise for headstand if I were a teacher who could practice what I preach:

  • Wake up every morning and do headstand right away (after a few sun salutations, of course). Since you get a rush from inversions, it’s a good way to quickly get up and get going with the brightest feeling deep inside.
  • I was taught by the masters at Yogaville (check it out) who advised setting up your tripod (on forearms and upper forehead) and (with straight legs) gently moving the tip toes toward the body until they are close enough to your elbows that they float upwards with little effort. (Incidentally, if you have tight hips this may be nearly as difficult as pulling your bottom lip over the top of your head.)
  • Once in headstand, adding a lotus by moving your legs into the shape of a pretzel can further open the hips.
  • Post-headstand, staying in child’s pose for a few breaths can be helpful (I can do this!). Then fish or camel pose to loosen up any tightness that may have built up in the shoulders or upper back. Counterposes are important for restoring balance in the body, particularly after more challenging poses such as headstand (sirsasana in sanskrit).

If you do only one yoga pose, go for this one as it can change your perspective. Best done in the morning as an energizer. If you start against the wall, it will quickly get easier and intuitive to kick the legs up the wall. Over time, start to move away to work on balance. (Ok, I cheat a lot… but still enjoy a good headstand without a wall when I’m feeling balance-curious.)

Sirsasana is especially helpful for runners for faster recovery times. In fact, I’ve fantasized about doing headstand at aid stations, not sure if it would be altogether helpful but certainly sounds like a good idea worth checking out. Just need to figure out how to avoid getting dirt in my hair, not that details like that ever stopped me. Maybe handstand?!?

Seriously, try it out as it will change your perspective (obviously… you are upside down). Tune in to the energizing feeling in the body and dive in deep to all the amazing loveliness of this one.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

 

messengers

In yoga class, we often talk about “messengers.” Aches and pains in the body that provide information and call to us – or even scream at us – to pay attention to alleviate the suffering or address a small issue before it becomes a bigger issue.

It’s also called “tuning in.”

But it extends beyond the physical realm, it also applies to the people in our lives who are messengers. We don’t learn and grow solely from healthy, mature, nurturing relationships, and the biggest opportunities for growth and change are in challenges and conflict.

This is what is most exciting about yoga – you can heal the body through the mind, you can heal the mind through the body, you can heal the body through emotions, and you can heal emotions through the mind. And all of it in reverse or vice versa or whatever… you get it. It’s all connected.

And it’s a practice that you can work on and get better at over time.

When you have a niggling ache or pain in the body, don’t take pills or a shot or numb it, lock up and turn away. Ease into it and try to unravel it, figure out the source and solve it for good. Then move on.

With people, it can be more complicated.

Messengers are not intentionally trying to be helpful to us, rather they are usually attacking us or tearing us down in some way because that is their path and often has very little to do with the person they are undermining.

But they offer a valuable message. The reaction we have is filled with treasures. If we are annoyed, irritated and have a flight or fight response, we miss out on the opportunity.

Sitting with the feeling and recognizing what is really happening, these are the treasures. Recognizing that the attack may have nothing at all to do with us, and instead feeling compassion because the person is suffering. Then having compassion for ourselves by staying strong, voicing true feelings and beliefs, and understanding the dynamic is the gift we give ourselves.

Unwrapping our reaction to better understand what is inside, why we are triggered in certain ways and why someone else’s opinion may have a negative impact is the practice.

As I tell my students, negative people and bullies don’t come after you because of who you are – they go after you because of who they are. There is only one person who gets to decide who you are – YOU!

Once you know who you are, their efforts to make you feel horrible are stripped away and with practice, their efforts are futile.

I love my family and friends, but I also love the people who have kicked sand in my face and left me lying in a gutter because these people gave me messages that changed my life. These messengers led me to magnificent lessons and gifts that I now treasure.

OM Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

 

race report: Yeti 100

yeti 100 finish.jpg
Not only did I (finally!) finish a 100-miler, I fell in love with a race. Falling in love can’t be entered into lightly, which is why it took me more than 300k steps to decide that this was really it – the real thing.

Is there such a thing as a “perfect race”?? Especially one that is run from the back-of-the-pack? If there is, then I definitely ran it and will recommend this race to first-timers every chance that I get.

Race registration was smooth and seamless, and Wolf Hills Brewery captures the spirit of the race – country with a little bit of rock-n-roll and a healthy dash of old school punk rock mixed in for good measure.

We stayed at a house that was a few hundred steps from the start line. The 7am start time was so ideal, particularly since there was no drive time or confusing directions (or confused GPS) to stress me out.

The race briefing from Jason Green was seriously the best that I’ve ever heard. He put the “brief” in briefing, no messing around. It set the standard for the day – no messing around. His rallying cries for never giving up had me tearing up. I knew it was going to be a great race.

The first 15 miles or so were all downhill, even though it was very subtle compared to what I’m used to, I forced myself to maintain an 11-minute pace through Damascus.

I saw my crew for the first time in Damascus. One of the great features of this race is that the aid stations are easy to access, so easy to get some ample crew time in. I felt extremely fortunate that I had personalized service at nearly every aid station.

There were a couple of long sections (between white top and Taylor Valley and Alvarado and Abingdon) that I was expecting to get water but read the AS chart wrong, these are crossings not aid stations. So heads up, carry enough water for about 10 miles. The Alvarado to Abingdon section was a bit more exposed than the rest of the course.

AS volunteers were truly incredible, and the ASs had everything I could possibly want. The Damascus AS was a party, push yourself to keep moving and refrain from partying too hard. Couldn’t help but dance with the unicorn each time that I ran through Damascus.

By the time that I got to mile 70 or so at White Top, I told a volunteer that my right hip was no longer working and asked for advice. She looked at me and offered a hug, and when I accepted she gave me a real hug! Then she spun me around and told me to look at the sky, which was full of stars, and told me that they were all in the sky for me.

She was right – there was not much I could do about the hip – finding the magic inside would be my only hope.

I flew out of that AS but then started struggling about 10 miles down the trail. I had to stop for stretch breaks and (twice!) I had to curl up on the side of the trail in a fetal position. My pacer did a great job of keeping me distracted, but by the time I got into Damascus I felt completely mentally and physically spent.

I was convinced that I would drop at mile 84/Damascus because I had tried so hard to turn it around with no success. An angel of a volunteer met me as I walked toward the AS and asked me my name. He told me that he went through exactly what I was going through the week before. I started listening to him.

Pretty soon, there were several volunteers trying to convince me to keep going. I had learned my lesson from previous races, I stopped the head chatter and looked deeply into their eyes, trying to take in every word.

Meanwhile, my pacer went to the car to get my second pacer and told her that I was about to drop. Second pacer was not having it, I knew I was in for it. I turned my head off, as the volunteers suggested, and only listened to my pacer.

She got me back on the trail and told me what to do. Pretty soon, we were both shouting and charging forward. We made it to Alvarado and (mistakenly) were told that I’d missed the cutoff. As I was crawling into the back of the car, someone realized that it was a mistake and race organizers gave me the green light.

I jumped back on the trail and fought my way through the next few miles. The sweeper came to meet us and told me that I was in jeopardy of missing the mile 96 cutoff and spent several miles pushing me harder. I did everything he said.

When we finally approached the finish line, volunteers had formed a human bridge for me to run under and I got a big hug from Jason Green, who handed me my very first 100-mile buckle.

This race has it all – beautiful trail and countryside, amazing volunteers and race organizers, incredible aid stations, and magic, magic, magic. If you are a first-timer, believe in the magic and go get after some big miles. In the right environment with the right support, everything is possible.

#yetiarmy