A Yoga Hike Through Central Park

I just went on a “yoga hike”.  Yup, Hiking Yoga is a thing.  A legitimate, copyrighted business started by this guy named Eric in San Fransisco. I was lucky enough to join the founder, Eric (a very pleasant, outgoing guy) on his second official Hiking Yoga trip in Central Park this morning. He is starting up a branch of this business here in NYC, training instructors to lead “yoga hikes” every Saturday and Sunday in Central Park and Prospect Park.

So what is a “yoga hike”? Well, you walk for a bit (maybe 1/2 mile) and then stop and do some “yoga poses”.  I put “yoga poses” in quotes because it felt more like stretching than yoga. There were a few poses that I did not recognize (they may have been specially designed variations to compliment the hiking) and some partner work that is not in a traditional yoga practice. It is also hard to get good alignment when you are on the grass or an uneven rock surface (in sneakers) and even harder to be fully mindful when you are watching kids doing an Easter egg hunt behind you on the grass. There are probably Hiking Yoga locations outside of New York city that are less crowded and allow for being slightly more “one with nature”.

It is, however, always amazing to exercise outside. And in NYC , it does not get better than Central Park.  I was spoiled by doing Yoga outside every day in Bali so this sounded really cool. It got me out of the house and ALL the way up to the park, which does not happen often enough. It was a beautiful day, I caught up with a friend I had not seen in while (because you can chat while “yoga hiking”), and I got in about 3 1/2 miles of walking and some stretching and pseudo-yoga.

Personally, I think I will keep my yoga and hiking separate in the future.  I love them both but would rather focus on one at a time.   I recommend Hiking Yoga to anyone who wants to mix up their workout a bit or who needs motivation to take it outside. Definitely a cool thing to try if they have it in a city near you.  (Find out here.)

Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak

There has been a request for additional information about the orphanage that touched my heart in Bali. Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak was established in 2007 to help the children living in the streets in Bali. The yayasan (the Balinese word for a non profit organization) started as a school, and over time, the founder started taking children in to live with her. Putu Etiartini now has a small staff and about 20 children living full time in the officially licensed orphanage and continues to run a school for kids not living in the orphanage as well.  (The picture above, from the website, is of the beach school for kids that do not live in the orphanage).

We only spent an hour with the kids, but they were so well behaved and sweet (and very flexible!).  Our yoga instructor was wonderful with the kids and asked a few of them to go up front and each lead the class through a sun salutation.  She tried to have them do it in English but most reverted to Balinese.  It was adorable.

During class, we were asked to help the kids with backbends. I approached a group of boys and said “who needs help?” and the sweetest little boy said “me!”  As is turns out, he can’t do backbends because he broke his arm and it was set incorrectly so he can’t straighten it, ever.  This broke my heart, but he was cheerful and had a modification our yoga instructor taught him that he could do.

The minor frustrations of my life (like my TiVo not recording the The Vampire Diaries or my knee still hurting a tiny bit from my surfing injury), are nothing compared to what these kids and so many other people in the world are dealing with on a daily basis.  I have been feeling more grateful for everything in my life since I returned.  I guess that explains part of the peace I brought back with me from Bali.

The yayasan is currently collecting money to buy the building they are renting. If any of my blog readers are interested in donating or would just like to learn more about Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak, you can visit their website here.

Back from Bali!

I am slowly emerging from my jet lag stupor so I can tell you about my amazing trip to Bali! I am not a big vacation person.  I am usually ready to leave shortly after I arrive anywhere and spend half my trip counting down the days before I can leave.  On this trip, I was sad to come home!

This was my third trip with Escape to Shape. The group was unusually small, seven in total, which was the perfect size group for me, and I loved all of my travel mates. Desa Seni, the resort where we stayed was beautiful.  We each had our own huts that were surrounded by organic gardens and rice fields. It is hard to describe the vibe and beauty of the place. I would go back to Bali, just to stay there and might not leave the grounds. The food was amazing and the staff was so friendly and sweet.

The resort has two open air yoga studios surrounded by beautiful flowers.  Needless to say, it was the most amazing place I have ever done yoga.  Our yoga teacher was fantastic.  I am a Vinyasa flow girl, but I embraced the Anusara practice and definitely benefited from a focus on my alignment. We had a class every day, and I loved it. I even worked on inversions, which scare the bejesus out of me!

It was a Bali miracle that I got to do any yoga at all since I suffered a surfing injury on the first day there!  How I managed to twist my knee falling off a surf board, I am not sure, but it only caused me pain when I walked and I took a lot of Advil.  I did manage to get up on the board before I had to quit. I was very grateful that my vacation was not ruined on day 1.

On day 2, we took a fascinating trip to the sacred Giri Putri Cave on the island of Nusa Penida (about a 1 hour boat ride from Bali).  You crawl through 70 cm hole to enter the cave but inside it is HUGE and contains 10 different temples (and a few bats, which should have been eating the mosquitoes but left a few alive that managed to find me!).  Our Balinese healer guide walked us through offerings at each temple which involved flowers and water getting splashed on you.  At one point we had buckets of water dumped on our heads, twice.  We did not get a lot of explanation for what was happening, but it was definitely authentic and there was a lot of cleansing and praying going on.  I didn’t connect spiritually to this experience (can you tell?), but it was pretty cool.

On day 3, flying across the world, fighting the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes, and running around Bali caught up to me. I made it through yoga, a beautiful lunch in Ubud, and a stroll around the Sacred Monkey Forest (there are a lot of sacred things in Bali) but then had a bit of a travel breakdown. Instead of shopping, I camped out in a cafe and re-hydrated with two large coconut waters while my hosts convinced me that I did not have Denge Fever, I was just tired and acclimating to a new climate.

On day 4, we got to hang out at “home” do Yoga and Pilates and just chill out, because it was raining.  Awesome day.

On day 5, we ventured to the another famous temple at Uluwatu and watched a traditional  (and touristy) Kecak dance. (Which I just learned from Wikipedia means Monkey dance.  I clearly didn’t ask enough questions while I was there.). We had dinner at a seafood BBQ place on the beach.  Everyone there was Balinese.  I loved that these trips include just a little bit of required touristy stuff and mostly unique/authentic experiences. Our diner started out a bit uncomfortably with a pack of local dogs copulating near our table on the beach. Luckily, it started to rain and we got to go inside.  The whole thing was pretty hilarious.  Once I got over the fact that the fish really looked like fish, and I recovered from the dog show, it was delicious.

On day 6, we visited a swank beach club for lunch (to get a feel for where many tourists stay in Bali. I preferred our eco-village) and then did a little more shopping. This time I had more energy and managed to buy a few things.

In the evening, 20 kids from a local orphanage came to do yoga with us.  Our yoga instructor had been teaching them once a week and wanted us to meet them and hopefully support the orphanage (which we all did).  They were the sweetest kids.  It was an amazing and emotional experience to spend time with them.  If nothing else on my trip gave me perspective, this experience did. (Read more about this in my post: Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak)

On Day 7, we had one last yoga class and delicious lunch and boarded our planes for the long journey home.

I didn’t have a traditional spiritual connection with Bali, but in my own way, I did. I left my comfort zone.  I overcame the obstacles of sun, heat, bugs, and boats. I had a more positive attitude than I normally do and made the most of my time there.  I was completely unplugged for a week, which I really needed.  The women I was with said I “blossomed” on the trip. I am not entirely sure what they were seeing but I do feel a little different, like there is a little more peace inside me.  If that’s not spiritual, I don’t know what is!

Bali for my Birthday

For my 43rd birthday, I am going to Bali. Why Bali?

  1. I wanted to do something exciting for my birthday
  2. Escape To Shape was going to Bali around my birthday
  3. It seems like a magical, peaceful place where I can completely separate and get a different perspective on  life
  4. It sounds really cool to tell people you are going to Bali (this is half the reason why I ever go anywhere)

I have traveled twice with Escape to Shape and it is now my favorite way to travel.  (You can read about my trip to Sicily here). Erica and Francesco plan a perfect vacation so why would I plan one myself? It is just hitting me now that I am visiting my second Eat, Pray, Love location. Not planned.

My days will be filled with yoga, Pilates, cultural tours, hanging out by the pool, and delicious food with, most likely, single women about my age who can also afford to have someone else plan their vacations for them.

I am not a fan of the sun, sunscreen, sweating, bugs, disrupting my sleep schedule, or leaving the island of Manhattan.  This trip is taking me WAY out of my comfort zone. That was the plan for 2012. Why not? Since I have spent most of this year working (in my comfort zone), I am glad I put something adventurous on my agenda, kind of.  I am also a little scared.

I will be traveling for 24 hours to get across the world.  I am a little bit nervous about this but I am borrowing a travel pillow and I heard my airline has a selection of 40 movies I can watch at my seat (score!).

I have, of course, been obsessively planning what I should bring for months. I have spent quite a bit of pre-vacation money on clothing and sun/bug protection.  To my defense, what one wears in Bali is very different than what one wears in Manhattan and this is a complicated vacation.  I need workout clothes, touring about the island clothes, and a clean, post shower evening outfit every night! I try to be flexible about re-wearing clothes, but I am expecting everything to be covered in sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray. I am a spoiled human being.  See why I need some perspective?

I did have a mini freak out on Friday when I was reminded that there will be mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes love me and they apparently carry Dengue Fever in Indonesia.  I did not need to know this. I have since acquired an environmentally friendly-ish bug spray AND backup wipes with Deet in case I need to go hard core. I also spent about $75 on the most expensive sunscreen on the market, to avoid the sun poisoning I got on spring break on college, and a travel size aloe vera, just in case.  I then obsessed over purchasing an official sun hat to backup my workout hat because, at times, need full 360 degree head coverage. It was a busy weekend.

In addition to running around acquiring things, I have been putting the many things I have acquired in my suitcase.  My largest bag is filled to the brim so I have no room for anything I might buy (gifts for my family members for example)  This is not good.  I will have to obsessively think about what I can remove for the next four days before I leave (a perk of packing in advance.)

I Just Mingled

I would like to state, for the record, that less than one week after my false start in kicking off the new me in the new year (aka my disastrous failed attempt to meet new people), I have redeemed myself.

Tonight’s event was easier because it was a NFTE event for the Young Professionals Group. Since I am on the NFTE board I automatically had a discussion topic. Since most people there were younger than me I could put on my “older and wiser” persona so I was not intimidated. I also knew two people there but they work for NFTE and had to work the crowd so I could not cling to them.

I was a tiny bit nervous, but I went and I rocked it.

I talked to to five complete strangers. None particularly interesting, and there was a lot more listening than talking, but that is something I am way better at anyway. I am an awesome listener. It is a good skill for a mingler.

Mingling is definitely an art. You have to decide who approach, know how to break in, wait for the right moment, and most important take the opportunity to break away gracefully. Then, of course there is the actual conversation. It is no coincidence that mingling and drinking usually go together!

Next week, I am attending a three day work conference where I will really get a chance to flex my mingling muscles. It’s in New Orleans so there will be drinks!

This evening, I am going to relish in my quick reversal and appreciate being back on an upswing.

Why Not?

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the movie We Bought a Zoo. I liked it. It was heartwarming, made me laugh, made me cry, and had a nice happy ending.  My key takeaway from the movie was “Why Not?”.  Matt Damon’s brother asked him why he was going to buy a zoo, and he said “Why Not?”.  At the very end of the movie (and sorry to give this away but it was really wasn’t the most awesome ending) Matt Damon was telling his kids about when he met their mother (who passed away..super sad).  He said “Why would an amazing beautiful woman talk to someone like me?” and she said “Why Not?”.  Kind of tied it all together in cheesy way.

Why not do this totally crazy thing that might change you life for the better?  Why not open yourself up to something or someone new? Sounds great, right?

I had grand plans of writing this post about being more open in 2012 with some positive play by play of this meetup I was planning to attend on Friday night to back it up. The meetup consisted of total strangers meeting at a museum bar and then touring the museum together. The new me in 2012.  I was going to head out and meet new people. Why Not?

Here’s what really happened. I procrastinated at work until I thought it was probably too late to go.  Then I decided I would not go, but felt like crap about that decision so I reversed it and headed over one hour late.  I showed up and realized I could check out the situation without anyone knowing I was there for the meetup. I looked around (like I was looking for a friend) and decided that no one looked interesting (how the heck can you decide if anyone is interesting by looking at them…you can’t). I also decided that it looked like to much of a pain the ass and I was too tired so I left.  Woo hoo!  2012 is off to a great start.

Why not attend random events where you can meet new people? Because for me, it is often tortuous and stressful.  However, as a result of bailing, I spent the rest of the weekend feeling bummed out and like a total failure.  Also torturous and stressful.

The only way to change your life is to do something differently, but change is REALLY hard. Making excuses is so easy.

Do not fear!  I am not giving up! In 2012, I am committed to being more open and fighting these annoying “fears” that keep me closed off from really cool stuff I am missing out on in the world. It will not be easy, and not every post will be “glass half full”, but I will keep trying. If slow and steady wins the race, I am right on track!

How Bowling Has Changed

For those who have not been to a fancy new bowling alley lately, here is how things have changed.

When I was in high school, we bowled during gym class.  I don’t remember bowling with my family, but apparently they were running a lot more often than I remembered so it is possible that we bowled all the time, too.

I do remember bowling in gym class. We had to do math. We had to understand how to count strikes and spares. We had to use a pencil and paper and someone was always in charge of keeping score (usually me). There were no television screens showing music videos or football, no computers, no cartoon characters advising us exactly where to aim the ball to get all the pins down or celebrating with us when knocked down all of the pins.

Today, there is no math required. Figuring out how to enter everyone’s name in to the computer is the only analytical thinking skill required to bowl today (and it is much more confusing than it should be.)  The computer keeps score for you. The teenagers I was with today had NO idea how much the strike and spare impacted their score.

It is not cheap. It costs two or three times as much to bowl for the same amount of time you would spend in a movie (at least in Times Square in NYC which is probably the most expensive place in the world to go bowling.)

I have seen the fancy computers before and the cartoon characters and the TVs.  Today, I saw two new things in the ever evolving world of bowling.

At Bowlmor in NYC, you can turn on “bumpers” for specific players.  If you use the “bumper” option, gates pop up when it is your turn, blocking off the gutters. They have cool red lights on them like Christmas lights. Its like pinball. The ball just bounces off the bumper instead of going in to the gutter. You can not fail. You will get at least one pin down every time.  Fascinating. If you are five, or a twelve year old lacking all self confidence, this is a nice feature.

They have also  made an awesome improvement in bowling balls. They have TWO sets of holes for different size hands. The same 8 lb ball has finger wholes for a small hand and a medium hand! I thought that was very innovative. It is occurring to me now that this probably messes with the physics of the whole thing and a serious bowler might NOT be OK with this. If those people still exist, I guess they have their own balls so no harm done.

Even with these new features, bowling is really boring. The only remotely enjoyable thing about bowling is the tunes (if they are good, and today they were). I don’t remember ever loving bowling.  Not sure how I keep ending up in bowling alleys. I am going to try not to let that happen again.

Powering Through

I have never been a huge exerciser.  I didn’t grow up in a sporty family.  I recall my parents jogging a bit from time time but the closest I got to exercise as a teenager was cheerleading, and my main focus was really the football players.

As an adult, I have mostly done the bare minimum to stay healthy but occasionally, I am inspired to do more. On more than one occasion, the inspiration was a cute guy at the gym.

I have run a few races with my college friends but they involve a lot of things I don’t enjoy (exercising in the morning, exercising on a schedule, running in the cold, uncertainty about restroom availability, crowds, and travel). I had checked “run a 5K, 8K, and 10K” off my list off and was not planning to revisit these activities.

My sister asked me to run an 8K with her a while back.  She caught me on a day where I was so annoyed with work, that the idea of doing anything BUT work sounded very appealing. She was completely shocked when I said yes, and I believe she asked me again to be sure she read my response correctly.

I rallied and trained so I could do my best to keep up with her on the course. The night before, I jokingly (but not really) suggested that we could just run around the neighborhood instead at a more godly hour when it had warmed up a bit, but my sister would have none of that. She has her own list of things she does not enjoy, but they are not the same as my things so I couldn’t talk her out of  it. She had barely run in months, but she was in and taking me with her!

We ran the race this weekend and I was reminded of the benefits of powering through all of the things I don’t enjoy about races:

  • It is really cool to run through the streets of a city that are shut down especially for you (and hundreds  of other people, of course)
  • There is a sense of bonding with the strangers running with you because you are in it together (I ran behind the Bisexual Turtles for Breast Cancer whom I assure you, I will never forget)
  • People cheer for you and give you free stuff if you run an official race
  • Although I was a serious cranky pants before the race, the post race endorphins were amazing
  • My workout was over by 8:30am
  • I had a great excuse for nice afternoon nap
  • You run faster because of all of the excitement (not as fast as my much younger sister – but fast for me!)
  • I got to spend quality time with my sister because no one else (including her husband) would wake up at that ungodly hour
  • People on the street are so proud of you and friendly when you walk around in a post race heat wrap thingy
  • I push myself to actually run more frequently when I commit to a race
  • Since this activity involves so many things I don’t enjoy, it is even more awesome that I actually did it, again

Although I did get back out and run today and was happy to be reunited with the endorphins (I might be addicted), I did decline the proposal to run ANOTHER 5 mile race two days from now.  Two races in one week could potentially negate some of the positives listed above.  I think I will bask in the glow of this accomplishment for while before committing to another one.

Hitting the Mat

“The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.” – Albert Einstein

So here is how this is going to work.

There will not be another blog post with a list of action items that I will reflect upon 6 months from now and then whine about when I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. Been there, done that, over it. I have action items in my head of course (it is a universal truth that nothing gets done with out them) but this obsessive list maker is not going to make a list.

The plan is to actually DO stuff, and if I feel like it, write about it.  I do like writing.  It’s therapeutic, it helps me feel connected to the world. If all goes well, you will see more posts about stuff that I actually DO.

Starting now.

Today, I left the house for my Sunday morning Yoga class.  My favorite yoga teacher in NYC  is back from maternity leave and I am SO happy to be reunited with her. Her classes are 1 1/2 hours of crazy (sometimes confusing) poses, being there for yourself, and thinking about what’s important.

If I had not gone to class today, I would not have heard this reading, which I loved.  Apparently it was inspired by a cocktail party where the author answered inane questions all night (read more about that and the author here).  I am sure I am breaking all kinds of copyright laws but including here.  If you continue on to read this, you have to agree to bail me out of copyright jail if necessary:

 “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

If I were a yoga teacher, could I just sit around and think about this stuff all day? Are yoga teachers happier than other people? Every yoga teacher I have ever met seems pretty darn happy.  Until I can figure out how to stand on my head without envisioning my neck breaking and balance in tree pose for more than 15 seconds, this is probably not in the cards for me, but I am going to do my best to hit the mat more often…as a gift to myself.

Organization Snob

This week we had a team building volunteer event at God’s Love We Deliver, my new favorite non-profit. The mission of the GLWD is to prepare and deliver healthy meals to people who are to sick to procure their own food.

The afternoon started with a great video that explains the organization, their clients, and the importance of the volunteers to add “love” to every meal (the reason they don’t have more automation and use people to prepare the meals). Awesome. Made me feel important and ready to volunteer!

We put on our hair nets, got instructions on hand washing, and headed to the kitchen. They arranged us in an assembly line and we each had a job to put a scoop of rice, veggies, meat, or gravy in a tin that we passed down the line. We did this for over an hour and filled over 100 tins (while chatting and bonding as a team – bonus!) When we finished filling racks and racks of tins, they set us up to put tops on the tins with another super organized assembly line. We were 100% utilized and felt like we were needed and productive.

I was in awe at how organized that place was. It made me happy to participate in such a well oiled machine.I was like a kid in the candy store.  Organization makes everything better.

In contrast, this non-profit I mentor through is a mess. Every event has a glitch. Every one!!! They send us to the wrong address, don’t give enough notice, never tell me how much I owe for my annual pledge (so I keep donating the minimum, out of spite,  because they make it so hard to find out the suggested full amount), and don’t give clear instructions for anything (which caused me, the most organized on top of it person I know, to miss an event this summer). I don’t think they even screen their mentors (beyond the typical back ground check, I had no interview) and we got almost no guidance on being a mentor.

The night after my fabulous experience at God’s Love We Deliver, I made a trek  to the Bronx for an opening school year dinner at my mentee’s school.  I received an invitation one week before the event saying I needed to RSVP two weeks before the event. Typical.  It was a causal dinner in the cafeteria with a long submarine sandwich and tables of students hanging out with their mentors. I kept waiting for someone to address the group, but it never happened.  Most of the people there were new mentors meeting their mentees for the first time (apparently second years don’t usually attend this event) Perhaps a word from the principal might have been appropriate? A welcome from the representative of the non profit? It was weird.

Both good causes, but if you have your act together, you get my time and money. I understand that not everyone has the skill of organization, but the person in charge of arranging stuff has got to have it! This will be my last mentee through this program. I just prefer to be involved in all things organized.  I guess that makes me an organization snob!