Pandemic Poundage and the Mystery of Self-Care

I’ve joined Noom, the diet app that changes our relationship with food. For the uninitiated, Noom is an online health and wellness coaching app focused on weight loss. It includes all the typical elements of a healthy eating plan: tracking food and weighing in. But it also includes daily lessons that teach me about my triggers, how to maintain motivation and the benefits of positive reinforcement. Noom also provides an online coach who checks in daily. I’ve yet to determine whether my coach Jessye is a real human or a bot but given the specificity of our conversations I’m leaning toward human. 

For the past two years my body has been gently expanding and the pandemic has accelerated this loathsome process. Given that I’m at the beginning of life’s ‘chapter three’ I know that in order to enjoy the rest of my life story I need to be the best version of me I can muster. What’s the best version of me? The best version of me is:

  • an advocate for her yoga students and coaching clients
  • a woman who demonstrates compassion and caring
  • someone who is not afraid to laugh with gusto at bad jokes and loves fearlessly
  • a person who takes time to nurture the parts of her that makes the heart sing: writing, creating and simple stillness

If I want those visions of who I am to shine, then the best version of me must also be this: 

A strong and healthy woman.

And so, a day after my 62nd birthday and two days before the start of the American Food Fest that we call the ‘holiday season’ I joined Noom. Timing is not my strong suit.

It’s too early to tell if I’ll shift my Pandemic Poundage and while that’s a priority it’s not the priority. The priority for me is not shifting the weight, it’s shifting my attitude about how I choose to take care of myself. 

What is Self-Care?

The concept of self-care has always been, for me, a bit of a mystery. Is it a quick mani/pedi or a long soak in the bathtub? Maybe it’s a glass of Pinot at the end of a long, hard day or a new pair of shoes worn once and then donated to charity. In the Before Times self-care fell under the category of ‘unnecessary gift’ – a small and perhaps selfish indulgence to soothe a bad day. I didn’t see the connection between self-care and good health. 

But during a coaching session a few weeks ago my client arrived at an awareness that is changing both our lives:

My body is my friend. Would I treat a friend the same way I treat my body?

When I heard that simple truth and all the best versions of me that I envision aligned. They challenged me to reflect on my somewhat debauched pandemic behavior and re-affirmed the importance of self-care.

Self-care, it turns out, is more than a new pair of blue suede shoes. Self-care is a deliberate act of nurturing that supports our mental, emotional and physical health. A good self-care practice improves our outlook on life. It reduces anxiety. It improves our relationships. Placing a priority on self-care is like putting the oxygen mask on first. Once we can breathe we can help others to do the same.

What Does My Self-Care Practice Look Like?

  • It has it’s own rhythm and flow that moves with my needs and instincts
  • At the same time, it’s a practice that needs to be planned
  • A self-care plan adds and subtracts: I might add more exercise and subtract my habit of checking emails first thing in the morning. I’ll add cut flowers to my environment and put my phone in another room at dinner.
  • My self-care practice includes Noom, which is reminding me to make good (not perfect) nutritional choices.
  • It also includes good sleep hygiene. Like Ben Franklin, I’m early to bed and early to rise. While it might make me healthy, there’s no guarantee it will make me wealthy or wise. One can always hope, I suppose.
  • A self-care plan includes movement. When life pressed ‘pause’ in March I began a walking program that, until a nasty fall, had transitioned to jogging. I’ve now settled on brisk walking. My walks – typically an hour – bring clarity and focus. Even at a brisk pace they relax and unwind me.
  • Most importantly, my self-care plan includes spending quality time with the man I love. With the pandemic keeping us working from home you would think that would be easy. It’s not. Ben and I make certain to eat at least one meal together and to take longs walks together on the weekends. 

Self-care plans are as unique as the individual.

What does your self-care plan look like? What habits no longer serve you? What new habit will bring you closer to the best version of you?


Is Gratitude over-rated?

I’ll be honest. The word ‘gratitude’ annoys me. Feeling grateful is wonderful, of course. I felt grateful this past Friday morning when I was awake early enough to see the brilliant sunrise in all her glory. But gratitude? It’s a trending buzzword and after awhile trending buzzwords relinquish their impact to the next buzzword that comes along. There’s plenty of joy to be found, however, in feeling grateful.

Studies suggest that remembering what brings us joy and recording those moments of gratitude in a journal benefits our mental and physical health. The deliberate act of shifting our energy toward the positive rather than nurturing our habit of catastrophizing the difficulties we encounter builds our emotional resilience and reminds us that living is a group experience. In other words, reflecting on the shared experience of Friday’s sunrise is healthier than reflecting on the shared experience of the pandemic.

Another reason why the word ‘gratitude’ annoys me is this: sometimes the concept just feels too big. It’s difficult for me to winnow down all the moments in my day for which I might be grateful. Am I grateful for the morning cup of fresh-pressed coffee my partner Ben brought to me while I stayed in bed? Sure. Am I grateful for the purrs of contentment my cat Bruce shares when we cuddle? Of course. Am I grateful for the roof over my head? Without a doubt. But while the simple act of opening a journal and creating a daily gratitude list of well-meaning gestures, happy accidents and unexpected outcomes might remind me of the good in life, it fails to satisfy the yearning I feel in my heart to understand how acknowledging these moments feeds my soul.

How can we add depth to the act of recognizing the positive in life? 

In yogic philosophy we study Patanjali’s Sutras. In the Sutras, Patanjali describes five Yamas and five Niyamas. The Yamas describe restraints to practice: non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation and freedom from grasping. The Niyamas are a collection of five virtues: cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender. Anchoring the contemplation of gratitude in the fourth Niyama self-study (‘svadhyaya’ in Sanskrit) encourages us to explore the nature of gratitude. It supports our understanding of how we express our gratitude as we walk through life. With that understanding we can more fully embrace those moments for which we are grateful. 

If we want to add a deeper dimension to our gratitude practice we can turn to Naikan – the Japanese practice of introspection. When we practice Naikan we ask three simple questions:

  • What have I received?
  • What have I given?
  • What difficulties have I caused?

The questions might focus on a relationship, a situation, an individual or even an event. For example, if I choose to practice Naikan with my focus on Ben then the questions I ask are:

  • What have I received from Ben?
  • What have I given to Ben?
  • What difficulties have I caused Ben?

The obvious fourth question, “What difficulties has Ben caused me?” is ignored. It is human nature to shine a spotlight on that question. It is, however, through the examination of our answers to the first three questions that we discover aspects of ourselves we didn’t know existed. We learn more about our relationship to gratitude. We move toward enlightenment.

When we open our journal tonight, how will self-study or a Naikan practice influence how we consider gratitude? What would happen if we chose to frame a Naikan practice around those things in our life that cause pain? 


Election Day

Four years ago I didn’t realize how much I needed to see a woman in the White House until it didn’t happen.  And when it didn’t happen I was bereft. I was also afraid for the future of our country. I had taken the election for granted and was too ill-informed to understand how it could have possibly happened that we elected our current President. I remember feeling dazed and finally falling asleep, well past midnight, on the couch of the house where I happened to be cat sitting.

The following morning I headed to Samyama Yoga Center to teach my 8:15 AM class.  I wasn’t convinced that, under the circumstances, anyone would arrive ready to unroll their mat. But they did. Shell-shocked and slack jawed, their eyes swollen from crying too much the night before. 

I hope that tomorrow, when I open my Zoom class, that we are all crying again. This time for joy.

We are so close. So close. But I still have some left over sorrow from 2016 so I’m not going to raise my hopes. I’m going to be patient. And whether it takes a day or a week or a month I’ll be ready to celebrate and ready to thank all the women who came before me. The women who fought for the right to vote and the women who fought – and still fight – for equality.

Today is a very big deal and I’m trying my best to stay calm.

Cooking keeps me calm. I’ve been cooking. Alot.

On Sunday morning I filled the refrigerator with food for the week: rice and lentils, quinoa salad with toasted hazelnuts, congee and sweet potato chili. I filled the freezer, too. On Sunday afternoon I finally took a chance with the ‘yogurt’ button on my Instant Pot Duo and made the cottage cheese we ate with slices of fresh off the vine tomatoes we nurtured on our porch through the summer. Yesterday I made yogurt. This morning I spooned its creamy whiteness into cheesecloth bags and set them up to drain through the day. By this afternoon it will be labneh thick and ready to spoon over berries or baked potatoes. Right now, not even 9:00 AM, I’m caramelizing onions in my cast iron pan. I can freeze some to use later but I have a feeling they won’t last long enough. Most of them are going to grace the caramelized onion and mushroom pizza I’m making for dinner tonight.

Most of my typical Tuesday schedule has been canceled. Peer coaches I had arranged to meet pressed pause for the day and my mentor canceled class today in order to fight the good electoral fight on the streets of New York. I’m teaching a class this afternoon for the pain group in San Mateo and have a meeting with my trauma study group at about the same time as Brian, Rachel, Nicole and Joy begin to report early results. After that you’ll find me eating pizza and streaming MSNBC.

The onions are, at last, caramelized (it took an hour!) and now I’m headed out for a very, very long walk. I might head down to Shoreline but it’s more likely that I’ll speed walk my way around the neighborhood. 

What are you doing today?


The Joy of Small Comforts

So. How’re you doing? It’s been awhile.

We’ve a big couple of weeks ahead of us. You holding up? Yeah. I thought so.

Let me ask you this: what brings you comfort? And you don’t have to say your yoga practice. What brings you to a place where the sharp edges soften and you can feel your jaw unclench?

It depends, doesn’t it? This week for me it seems to be copious amounts of carbohydrates delivered by way of fettuccini. And wine. Lots and lots of wine. Admittedly not the two best choices.

Bruce finding joy in the comfort of recyclable packaging paper.

Thankfully I also find comfort in my morning shuffles. If I start early enough I see Venus in the East and Mars setting in the West. Lately, in the evening, Jupiter and Saturn have been dancing around the moon. I take comfort from the display because these celestial events remind me that I am an infinitesimally small speck spinning through space.The upheavals we endure on our ‘big blue marble’ mean nothing compared to the beauty of the universe.

Ben and I grew container tomatoes and herbs this year and we both find comfort in our small but delicious harvest. There’s something miraculous about dropping a seed into soil and watching it sprout and grow. Even though our ‘garden’ is a slab of cement three floors up it is still a place where we can both connect with the earth.

Bruce the Cat’s demands bring me comfort, too. His bossy meows distract me. They slowly bend my laser focus away from whatever task has me obsessed until he’s on my lap and content to transform his demands into purrs. Other cat people will agree, there is nothing so comforting as a purring cat.

When Ben and I decided to get Bruce a cat tree so that he could gaze out the window and watch the world go by, we made certain there was something for him to look at by installing a bird feeder. Little did we know Bruce had very little interest in ornithology. He could care less there’s a gaggle of birds celebrating the mother lode of seed available at our door all day. But Ben and I find comfort in watching them. And I know my yoga zoom community loves to hear them sing when we’re in practice.

The road ahead is going to stay bumpy a little while longer. Embrace the comfort found in small joys. But take it easy with the fettuccini and wine.


A Bitter Pill

What will I tell them? Ten years from now, maybe twenty – what will I tell them – the grandchildren Ben and I might have – about all of this? Will I tell them at first I didn’t know? That in the thirty minutes it took for me to walk from my home to the pain clinic where I worked the world shut down? How is that possible I didn’t know? When the clinic sent me home as soon as I arrived they offered no reason – only that our clients had left for the day. I didn’t mind that they hadn’t called to tell me. It was a beautiful day and I was happy to have a relaxing afternoon to myself. 

So I began my walk home at two in the afternoon, past the crowds at Trader Joe’s with shopping carts overflowing, down the bike path to Channing Street where the cars queued for the light at Alma to turn green with what felt like more than a little impatience. I walked past an empty Peers Park. I walked all the way home and still didn’t know.

Is that what I’ll tell them? Will I tell them that even though the air was filled with the same strange energy a person might feel after an earthquake – the same strange energy that makes everyone your friend – that I didn’t know?

I don’t remember how I found out – whether I turned on the news when I returned home or if I bumped into someone on the street. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that when I found out everything changed. I crossed the street to Mollie Stone’s and wandered through the crowds among the rapidly emptying shelves until I found something Ben and I might need. Toilet paper.

What will I tell them? Ten years from now, maybe twenty. Will I tell them how our dear cat Bruce, a ginger memory by the time this year is decades in the past, woke me at 3 AM on a Sunday morning. How was it that the wind didn’t wake me first? And then the lightening came and it was both beautiful and tragic. One night a few days later I kept the window by my desk open and when I woke the next morning it was covered with the ash of other people’s lives. Will I tell them we were far away from the flames and still couldn’t breathe? Will I tell them the sky turned orange and the sun disappeared? And on that day everything was illuminated in a way that was both foreign and frightening? 

I wonder if I will tell them a man named George died with a knee on his neck? Or that a woman named Breonna was shot dead in her home. And that their deaths changed everything. Except I don’t know if that is true just yet. I hope it is. 

I wonder if I will tell them about a notorious grandmother named Ruth, and that when she died we lit candles on the steps of the Supreme Court and little girls wore lacy white collars. 

I might mention that it felt like a game at first. That we laughed at people hoarding even the things they did not need. But then we began to miss one another.  

We were angry when there were no more masks for the people trying to save our lives. And we cried when there were no more respirators for the people dying. I wonder if I’ll tell them that?

I don’t think I’ll tell them how scared I was sometimes. And worried. And so anxious that I drank too much wine and even when I told myself that I knew all the tools I could use to not be anxious none of them worked and that finally a doctor gave me some bitter pills.  

I don’t think I’ll tell them that.

Our current Guided Autobiography cohort went rogue and created their own theme and their own sensitizing questions. We wanted to capture this year – what 2020 has done to our lives, our health, our relationships. Wanna go rogue with me? A new 6-week GAB workshop begins on Thursday, October 14th from 4-5:30 PM.

Class size is limited to six. If you’re interested but want to know more you can leave a message at the bottom of this post. You can register for the class here.


what next.

We had two days of blue skies in my little patch of Northern California. The giddiness was palpable. Even the birds around the feeder on our porch seemed happier. But when the news broke at 5:00 PM on Friday, September 18th all that was over. We were found out. Whatever parallel universe we had encroached upon for the previous forty-eight hours had discovered our tenuous joy and decided to boot us right back to the other, uglier parallel universe from whence we came.

A quiet Rosh Hashanah dinner for two with a nice salad, grilled salmon and a little wine (in the nice glasses!) turned into leftovers seasoned with our sorrow and a little too much wine.

I scrolled through social media to read the reactions of my friends and found a reply to my simple post of ‘No.’ My friend, like all of us, was seeking comfort – a nice quote to quiet our panic, simple words of wisdom from anyone to use as a balm on our heart. But I had nothing.

I still have nothing. When I woke this morning, for a quick little moment I didn’t remember. But then, as I boiled the kettle and put three scoops of French Roast in the cafetière, the dark morning settled on me. It may be a feeble attempt to find a spark of strength but I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone.

At the risk of tempting fate – what next? As I write at 6:00 AM on Saturday, September 19th there are one hundred and four days left to this horrid year. This is the year that began with my mother passing. When she died there was a part of me that thought the one hard knock of the year had happened and it was clear(ish) sailing for the remaining eleven months. 

But the hits keep coming and now I’m at my desk, with MSNBC’s Velshi breaking my heart with scenes of people, candles lit and singing Imagine in front of the Supreme Court.

We are remarkable. My tribe – a tribe that values integrity, that puts people and our planet over politics and knows that we are a heartbeat away from losing it all – is remarkable. We have been through so much these past four years. And now we’ve lost the most amazing woman. On Rosh Hashanah no less.

What should we do with the loss we feel?

It’s time to push back with something more. Reposting messages of indignant outrage on social medial might help me feel better but these are facile gesture. I know the rule of law does not serve all citizens equally. I recognize lies when I hear them and I know our government is using one untruth after another to gaslight every single one of us. 

What are we going to do? 

Please vote.  


Fell Down. Went Boom. Got Up.

Why does time slow down when disaster strikes? In the split second between the moment my toe caught the edge of the cracked sidewalk and I slid to a stop I thought the following:

  • oh crap
  • this is gonna hurt
  • it won’t be that bad
  • should I walk home
  • ouch this really hurts
  • I knew this was a bad idea

The first thing I did after the dust settled and before assessing the damage was to ascertain whether or not there were any witnesses to my awkward fall from grace. Nope. The walking heart attack at the bus stop I’d just run past – the guy with the stained teeshirt stretched over his burger belly was still staring at his phone. No judgement. At least he was still vertical.

The damage: one knee with a rapidly swelling bruise, one road-rashed kneecap, one scraped elbow and two sprained thumbs. Ok. I’d survive. But now what was I going to do? I was less than a mile into what I’d hoped would be a nice five mile shuffle. I could turn around and walk home or defiantly continue toward my goal. While images of Mary Decker Slaney and Zola Budd’s infamous 1984 collision flickered like a Wide World of Sports video in my brain (you have to be a certain age) I chose to compromise. I was too annoyed with myself to turn around but in too much pain to run. I kept moving forward, one step and then another.

That’s all we’re trying to do. Move forward. This is a time of collective, chaotic trauma and we are all figuring out how to navigate our present set of circumstances. But isn’t that what life is? Navigating the circumstances handed to us? Navigating the unknown? Still, the uncertainty of how this tragic blip in history will end has heightened anxiety and anger, fear and despair, loneliness and sorrow. 

Having journeyed through the other five, I find myself on the sorrow end of the spectrum these past few weeks. And running helps lift the sorrow from my shoulders. It’s how I self-medicate…along with my morning 300mg of generic Wellbutrin, a schedule so packed it leaves no room for process and an evening glass of Pinot. (Yes, I’m a flawed, sometimes depressed and happily medicated yoga teacher who enjoys a sip of wine at the end of her day. I’m human.)

But there’s a part of me who, after my little tumble, has become afraid to run. I’m trying to decide if it’s because falling hurts or because I’ve become older and believe it’s time to set aside the things I loved when I was younger.

I know that’s silly. Running gives me more than a tumble could ever take away. Running at dawn is just the best. The sound of my feet hitting pavement and finding rhythm with my breath is like meditation. Knowing that my bones and muscles will complain and then slip into gentle compliance is pure and joyful medicine for my soul.

Why would I ever stop? 

During this extraordinary time some of us are baking sourdough bread. Some of us are Marie Kondo-ing their lives and ridding themselves of things that don’t ‘spark joy’. Others are taking up new creative hobbies while still more are becoming creative thinkers as they chart a new course for their lives.

What are you doing?

I’m running.


Practically Twisted

5F257BA5-57C4-4C13-85AB-0570EB5B7E2E_1_100_oWhen I decided to create Practically Twisted it was because I wanted to present yoga and yoga therapy as a practical solution to health and wellness issues.

In the fifteen or so years since my first post I’ve continued my education and have grown as a student and teacher of yoga. I’ve grown as an artist and a writer. I’ve completed a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology, a diploma in yoga therapy and have become a SoulCollage® and Guided Autobiography facilitator. 

In 2020 I’ll complete a sixteen-month course of study in coaching and will begin David Emerson’s eight-month trauma sensitive yoga certification. 

I’ve changed. My teaching has changed. My attitudes have changed. In fifteen years my body, my yoga, my life has changed.

In these extraordinary times, everything has changed.

Practically Twisted is changing, too. This is who I am now:

“Mimm is a yoga therapist and transformational life coach with a passion for supporting personal journeys toward a more creative engagement with life through self-discovery, movement, writing and contemplative craft. She weaves a gentle and relaxed approach to both yoga and coaching with good humor and joy.”

Yep. That’s me. In addition to community zoom yoga classes and one-to-one sessions of yoga and therapeutic yoga, I’m now happy to offer transformational life coaching, Guided Autobiography for groups and individuals as well as SoulCollage for groups and individuals. Online contemplative craft classes will be coming soon.

Click on the appropriate page to find out more about coaching, SoulCollage®, GAB and contemplative craft. And join me in the morning for yoga.

Community Yoga Classes

Morning Flow

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 – 9 AM

Brighten your morning with joy and good humor. This class is great for beginners and continuing beginners. Our practice includes deep, sustained stretches and a strong standing flow. Work at your own pace in your own space. Classes are donation based.

Zoom Meeting ID: 889 0996 9020   Passcode: yoga

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Movement & Breath: Gentle Yoga

Mondays from 9:30-10:15 AM

This forty-five minute class is designed for people with limited mobility or those recovering from illness or injury. A combination of chair and standing work, this slow paced class is about embodiment, awareness of sensations and breath.

Zoom Meeting ID: 853 3057 0467   Passcode: yoga

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If you are interested in working one-to-one please email.

I’m happy to arrange a free 30-minute phone or Zoom consultation.


Zoom Zoom Zoom

By the time we’re allowed to resume our ‘old normal’ we’ll be so efficient and comfortable with online gatherings that we may not want to. That being said, my technological prowess is, at times, limited. Hence the Great Zoom Snafu this week. To avoid it happening again (and if you weren’t there you didn’t miss too much) I’ve created a new meeting ID and passcode for Morning Flow, our Monday, Wednesday and Friday class that meets at 8:00 AM PST:

Morning Flow_ Yoga with Mimm

I’ve had several requests to add a more gentle class that meets a little later in the morning. My new class, Movement & Breath, begins on Monday, August 3rd at 9:30 AM PST. This class is a good choice for anyone who has limited mobility, has chronic pain or is recovering from illness or injury. Modifications and variations of poses will always be offered to keep everyone comfortable and safe:

New Class!

 

All of my classes are donation based – please feel free to join any class I offer no matter your current situation.

 


6 cups of coffee in baddakonasana

I love how Anonymous Sadhaka writes about yoga. I’ve noticed, and many of my students have noticed, how our practices have changed. Not enough to drink 6 cups of coffee in baddakonasana though…

anonymous sadhaka

There used to be a time I was proud of my ability to sit in a baddakonasana, padmasana etc.. I had pride too, in the ability to go to sleep in supta virasana. Those were the days I was running long distance and these asanas were part of my everyday. Naturally, the body adapted and the flexibility improved. But, I was also attached to what I thought was good looking poses. 🙂

Then (2016)

Now, a few years and more than a few knocks later, I am relearning these asanas, cautiously. The sweet spot lies somewhere between fear and aggression. Doing, observing, pushing through or retreating- all of these while questioning myself if the actions spring from attachment or detachment, from pride or a spirit of enquiry.

And Now

It took me a while to come back to the mat with the regularity I have now. It also took…

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