Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Adventure Gone Awry...Breaking My Ankle in the Alaska Wilderness

Hanging at the bowl on top of Mt. Marathon with Nikki and Jason Wynn.
Photo courtesy of Nikki and Jason Wynn
There wasn't much pain when I heard the popping noise from my ankle. It was mostly shock and disbelief. Here I was, hiking down the notorious Mt. Marathon in Seward, Alaska with my husband, Clark, and friends, Nikki and Jason Wynn (fellow fulltime travelers from Gone With the Wynns), on a drizzly evening when I took that single, fateful step. Just a few hours before we'd climbed up the mountain, along with a hundred or so others, to watch a local band, Blackwater Railroad Company, perform a little concert (it was amazing!!). It was surreal. I mean, how often can you say you hiked 2 miles, gaining 2000+ vertical feet, to party on top of mountain with a bunch of other hikers? We were surrounded by an alpine meadow full of wildflowers and a waterfall taking in the experience...great music, dancing, dogs running and playing...it was an unbelievable scene.  

That was two weeks and two days ago today and as wonderful as that experience was what transpired afterward was one of the most amazing things I've experienced in my entire life. 

Hiking up, up, up through the fireweed.
Part of the shale path.
The bowl.

Once the concert ended we'd made it about a half mile down the shale face of the trail without trouble. The trail was wet and quite slippery. I'd already seen a few people with muddy butts and knew we still had another mile and half of pretty hairy footing before we were safely on terra firma. As careful as I was it still happened...my foot slipped off a root. There were 5-6 pops. I grabbed for my right ankle and knew immediately that it was broken as my foot turned at an all too sharp angle. I sat down on the side of the trail as Clark ran toward me.

I knew not to look at it...I have a "weak" stomach and was hoping to not embarrass myself by passing out. I was already berating myself knowing I just caused my husband and friends a huge inconvenience. How on earth was I going to get off this mountain? My other thoughts were 1- How will I ever be able to trust my body again if it can break so easily? and 2- I think I'm going to poop my pants...please God don't let me poop my pants on top of everything else.

Photo credit: Nikki Wynn
But then something beautiful happened. Within minutes a man stopped to help. He identified himself as an EMT or mountain rescue (parts of the night are a blur) and immediately started to assess my injury. His dog, Lady, lay next to me, comforting me. Nikki and Jason didn't hesitate to take charge of things too, directing other hikers to a side trail to avoid walking over me, and calling 911. In the meantime, Clark was by my side making sure I wasn't freaking out and assuring me I'd not only get off the mountain but that the doctors would be able to fix me right up.

Lady was very worried when the humans started to lift me...she came over to check that I was okay.
Photo courtesy of Nikki Wynn
Then more people stopped to help. It seemed as though half the people who had gathered for the concert were either EMTs, mountain rescue, ski patrol, WFRS (Wilderness First Responders) or part of the Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corp. As great as it was to be surrounded by so many capable people I have to admit I got just a little tired of repeating what happened while they all proceeded to take my pulse at the broke ankle (ouch). One guy, Ben I believe his name to be, had been super prepared and had not just one but two splints in his backpack...as well as two wool blankets (even the other first responders were shocked...who brings splints to a concert??). While we waited for the rescue team to arrive with the stretcher I was very well taken care of by these, dare I say it...angels (even if some of them might have been a bit tipsy).

One thing's for sure, the views were amazing.
Photo credit: Nikki Wynn
Due to low clouds a helicopter was out of the question (darn it, I've never been in one of those). It took about 45 minutes for the Seward Volunteer Fire Department to arrive on scene. They were only able to drive their Jeep up the trail a mile before the rescue crew was forced to hike in. Once they arrived Amy (hero!) explained everything that would happen and how the rescue would take place. These men and women were going to painstakingly carry me off that mountain to where the Jeep waited. I was strapped onto the stretcher and prayed no one else would get hurt carrying me down to safety.

Getting strapped in with Amy looking on. Photo courtesy of Nikki Wynn.
At times the trail was so bad people fell (thankfully none were injured). At other times it became so dangerous that instead of walking the stretcher down everyone would line up on the trail, plant their feet and then pass the stretcher through until there was better footing. I later found out that some of the volunteers were actually helping to hold the other up so they didn't slide off the mountain too. As I passed through all of these hands I couldn't help but to stare into each face, offering my thanks as I tried to hold back tears of gratitude (okay, and maybe asking that they don't drop me).

So many amazing volunteers took the time to help me...it was unbelievable and unforgettable.
Photo courtesy of Nikki Wynn

Believe it or not there was a lot of joking and small talk as well. I was offered a piece of chocolate and asked about our visit to Seward and our RVing adventures. I learned about a few of my rescuers...that Amy and her boyfriend (another volunteer) were going to be visiting Southern Utah (a favorite spot for us too) in the next couple of months and that Isaac, an EMT was one of the singers in the band we had all just watched perform on top of the mountain(we tried to get him to sing...and then they tried to get me to sing, bad idea). And I saw people make true sacrifices to save me as mosquitoes feasted on their blood and tree limbs scraped against their arms. It took hours to get to the Jeep and they all worked so hard, straining muscles and wiping sweat from their brows...

We finally made it to the Jeep...only a mile or so down the trail and to the hospital.
Photo courtesy of Nikki Wynn
I made it to the Seward Emergency Room, a block from the trail head, 4 1/2 hours after the accident, arriving just after midnight. Although I had relatively no pain I was given and IV along with pain meds so they could assess my leg and take x-rays. Shortly after I was told that the damage was too severe for them to treat there and surgery would be required. The fog presented a problem as the medevac wouldn't be able to fly until sun up. At one point the ER doctor got a little rise out of me when she talked about the possibility of a Coast Guard evacuation if it was necessary to save my limb.

My first x-ray show two fractures and severe dislocation.
But it turned out I had plenty of feeling in my foot and since my pain level was low I would be able to rest somewhat comfortably until morning. My right ankle was placed into a plaster splint but no adjustments were made. I tried to sleep for the few hours I had before the plane would come for me. In the meantime, Nikki and Jason had gone to check on our pets (we had traveled by RV to Alaska and have two cats and a dog with us). Clark waited until we had some kind of game plane and then eventually went back to the RV to gather some of my personal belongings. Then he too tried to get some rest.

On the plane from Seward to Anchorage.
Some time after 9am the LifeMED arrived at the tiny airstrip in Seward. Once again Isaac, the singer/EMT, showed up to transport me via ambulance to the plane (apparently he didn't sleep much either). The amazing LifeMED Alaska crew and paramedics secured me in the back of a plane so small that not another person could have fit (I think there were 5 of us including me). They also gave me some pretty good drugs while I joked that this was some strange way for me to finally get an aerial view of Exit Glacier (not knowing that we actually would fly over it). One of the paramedics was nice enough to grab my cell phone and snap a couple of photos for me...and of course, I took a selfie in the plane. After all, it's not every day you get airlifted in an emergency situation.

Exit Glacier from the plane.
A short ambulance ride from Anchorage International Airport and I was in the ER at Providence Alaska Medical Center where I had the best care I could have hoped for. Eric, my nurse, was super supportive and told me exactly what was happening. Since Clark was having to move our RV from Seward to Anchorage all by himself he hadn't arrived yet but Eric made sure I was comfortable and pain-free when it came time for the doctor to do something called a "reduction". A reduction is basically a resetting of dislocated and fractured bones...and it happened to occur while I was awake. However, Eric administered a drug called Versed which has an amnesia affect so even if it did hurt, I don't remember any of it.

My swanky room at Providence Alaska...I somehow managed to get the whole room to myself..and had some great views. I was still awaiting surgery at this point.
By early afternoon I was in a room and awaiting surgery. Clark had arrived and then went to get something eat and take a nap. The poor guy was working on less sleep than I was and he was still having to take care of everything. A little after 8pm, 24 hours after the accident, I was wheeled into the OR and underwent surgery where I received some screws and plates to hold my ankle together. A day later I worked with a physical therapist to practice with crutches, tackle some stairs and learn a few safe exercises which consisted of leg lifts, leg extensions, side leg lifts and leg curls on my stomach. I asked if I could add in a few simple yoga poses like cobra and updog (sans feet) and got the go-ahead. Two days later I was discharged with my very own crutches and a hundred ten pound splint.

All better now.
Prior to this I had never even been inside and ambulance. I had never broken a limb either. Suffice it to say I hadn't been medevaced. A few weeks before this accident, while in McCarthy, Alaska, a tour guide had said something that stuck...people come to Alaska to face their fears or challenge themselves in some way. I probably shouldn't have taken his words so literal.

I've received an amazing outpouring of love, support and prayers from hundreds of people...some of whom I haven't even met (yet). I cannot begin to thank all of you for your care and concern. It is as humbling as it is heartwarming. Everything about this accident (aside from actually breaking my ankle) has been magical and all of the pieces have fallen into place (no pun intended). The story sounds too good to be true...an adventure of a lifetime, lessons to be learned, and faith in humanity restored all wrapped up in a crazy mountain top concert and rescue. I still pinch myself to see if it was all a dream. Alas, my aching ankle reminds me it isn't. 

I'd like to take a minute to thank our friends and fellow RVers who helped us get through the first few days of this accident. Thanks to Jeanette and Eric of JenEric Ramblings for taking care of our animals and informing other friends of the incident. Thanks to Josh and Marie of Ardent Camper for visiting me in the hospital and bringing me gifts. Thanks to Taylor and Beth Bank of The Learning Banks for the coffee, food and lovely apron for Clark...also for all of the generous offers to help us with household chores. A big thanks to Nikki and Jason Wynn of Gone With the Wynns for convincing us to go on this hike...I mean, for not only keeping your cool and calling 911 but for your help in literally carrying down that mountain, taking photos (despite the dirty looks from some of the rescuers), walking the dog and bringing me homemade lattes. Also, to my husband, who pretty much has to take care of me no matter what, I am still forever grateful for how he has unselfishly taken care of me. From buying groceries to cooking my meal, from helping me get dressed to washing dishes, and for holding me in his arms when I feel overwhelmed and sorry for myself...he has been my rock.

A man after my own heart.
Note: I'm posting this account to both my personal/yoga blog, Learning Curves, as well as my travel blog, Tales From the Mutiny. I'll be writing additional posts for Learning Curves which will include seated and chair yoga sequences I'm able to do along with progress updates. In Tales From the Mutiny I'll be posting more about our travels in Alaska, including all of the great adventures we had prior to this accident. Feel free to follow along either (or both) blogs.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Learning to Live Toxic-Free: My Favorite Products

My quest to find, or make, my own beauty and home supplies stemmed first from a desire to avoid products tested on animals. In the early days (remember, I'm 44 years old), this was no easy task. But, over the years many companies have realized that this is important to their customers. They've also seemed to jump on the "Green" bandwagon which has lead to a lot of green-washing. Unsuspecting consumers flock to expensive natural food stores looking for labels emblazoned with words like "natural", "organic", "eco-friendly", "vegan" without a clue that none of this means a) that it's true and b) that it works. Trust me, I was one of those consumers.

Over the years a few other things became important to my health and well-being. I wanted products that were truly natural, vegan, eco-friendly and not tested on animals but I also wanted them to be simple, easy to find or make, effective and free of synthetic perfumes. After suffering from some female related health issues including heavy bleeding along with severe and debilitating cramps, which lead to a procedure called endometrial ablation, I found that the cramps were not subsiding. I have a pretty high threshold for pain but these bad boys had me in bed, or seeking the ER, on more than one occasion.

Some exhausting research lead me to several websites and studies that spoke about estrogen mimicing chemicals which are found in many of our everyday products. Seriously, these things can wreak havoc on both the female and male bodies...ladies and gentlemen of the jury I give you moobs (man-boobs)...not to mention plenty of other serous health issues. You can find xenoestrogen in everything from plastic food containers to sun screen to pesticides on our foods...even makeup, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent and anything with synthetic fragrance added.

So, how did I deal with it?

I read a lot and did even more research. I experimented on myself and succeeded and failed through trial and error. I compromised in some areas, and still keep an open mind as I continue to learn about ingredients, science and my own body's reactions to things. I also cross referenced products with the Environmental Working Groups website to ensure they are truly non-toxic and eco-friendly.

Eating Right: I'm not suggesting everyone eat like I do but I do think the easiest and most effective improvements to overall health comes directly from what we put in our mouths. I eat vegan at home and allow a little wiggle room when eating out with friends and family. I will always choose plant-based but, on occasion, well-meaning family members have inadvertently added butter or maybe even eggs to a dish they prepared specially for me. It happens. But the main point is, I eat clean (for the most part...I'm no saint) and that means whole foods, mostly organic, tons of fresh veggies, grains, home-cooked beans (not canned), sweet potatoes, fruits, etc. I eat what works for my body...instead of forcing it to accept foods my mind craves but might cause issues in my gut. I avoid canned foods of any kind, pre-packaged or convenience foods, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, animal products and by-products, etc. I've learned to enjoy making many things from scratch like kombucha, almond milk, coconut milk, salad dressing, almond milk kefir, almond meal flour, salsa, peanut sauce, jaggery syrup, and lots of different home cooked meals. And, it may sound like some new-age mumbo-jumbo but cooking with intention and with a heart full of gratitude and love makes a difference. If nothing else, it helps with attitude. =)

Adding flavor to my homemade kombucha (and repurposing an old store bought bottle).

Skin Care Cleaning and Moisturizing: I've tried a lot of different products and have settled on making my own facial cleanser. It's simply a 50/50 mix of Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild (no scent) Liquid Soap and distilled water. Every so often I will add a pinch of baking soda in my hand first, which acts as a mild scrub. And when needed, a little sesame oil is my chosen moisturizer (sesame oil is the preferred oil in Ayurveda and ranks low as a non-comedogenic at a 2 out of 5). For moisturizing the body I suggest my friend Ambika's line of ayurvedic oils which you can find here. I also recommend The Seaweed Bath Company brand  which offers fragrance free lotions, body wash and shampoo. I really don't believe the hype behind the ads that suggest we need multiple products (sometimes specific to a.m. and p.m. routines) to achieve healthy skin. It starts with what we eat and doesn't need to be complicated, or expensive. Be nice to your skin...very, very nice and it will soon glow.

Skin Care Dry Brushing: I'll admit it now...I do not shower daily. For those of you who aren't aware, my husband and I live in our 32 foot RV and have been traveling the country for the past 2 1/2 years. Showers are, at times, a luxury because we often go "off-the-grid" for long periods. This means we must ration our water usage. I've found that dry brushing helps keep my skin healthy between showering. But even if you do shower every day dry brushing has some excellent health benefits. Honestly, I don't believe all of the claims (read about the how to's and why's of dry brushing here) but it does feel really good and we can all use a little more self-care in our daily routines.

Deodorant: Like you I have tried everything under the sun, crystals, baking soda, expensive natural products like Jason's, Tom's and Primal Pit Paste and none work nearly as well as the chemical laden, *possibly* cancer causing products available at Target and Walmart. But dammit...I will not be deterred and I will not give in to Proctor & Gamble any longer. I've come to terms with this dilemma and have settled on a homemade concoction. There are tons recipes available online (Google is my friend) but I tend to keep it simple... 5 TBS melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup non-aluminum baking soda, a few drops of essential oil of your choice...mix it up and store in a small jar (a baby food jar works well). Many recipes call for cornstarch and/or arrowroot powder so you might have to experiment to find the perfect balance for you. Over the course of a month of exclusively using baking soda and coconut oil my body has adapted fairly well (combined with clean eating you'll find it pretty darn effective as a deodorant).

Makeup: Truthfully, I use very little makeup these days but when I do, I tend to chose T.W.I.N.K. products (available here on Etsy) which are hand made, inexpensive and offers minimal packaging options. I use their mineral foundation and eyeliner and love them. In a pinch I will opt for certain e.l.f.. products which are available at many drug stores and even the dreaded megastore, Walmart and are very inexpensive (their studio mineral infused mascara scored a 2 on the EWG website). Boots and Physicians Formula products also rank fairly low on the EWG site (the lower the better) but are not vegan.

Hair Care: Traveling in the RV and staying in remote, wild places has many benefits...one of them being that I rarely have to "do" my hair. It lives in a ponytail...a lot. It gets washed maybe 2-3 times a week. I know, some of you may be appalled! But hey, I'm saving a ton of money in salon fees, straighteners, curling irons, magic products and rejuventation treatments I would need to combat the torture all of those things put my hair through. For you "all-natural purists",  I've never, ever been able to go poo-free. I tried, believe me...I tried. For 4 months I did the ol' baking soda and apple cider vinegar thing only to have my hair turn to straw and my head smell like a salad gone bad (or Easter eggs being dyed). It just does not work for me. After getting about 5 inches of damaged hair cut from my head I vowed to go back to "traditional" shampoo and conditioner to avoid having to shave my head completely. But I still knew there were better choices out there. After using myself as a guinea pig and spending who knows how much on this product and that product I finally found one I love...Everyone Hair Shampoos and Conditioner. I use the Nourish version personally and my scalp feels very healthy. My runner-up choices would be The Seaweed Company and Free and Clear. All are available on Amazon. Oh, the only other thing I use in my hair is argon or jojoba oil if necessary.

Hair Dye (TBD): I've been battling this issue for 2 years. Part of me wants to just let my hair grow out naturally and the other part, which is bigger, meaner and much more vain, refuses to give in too long. I'm *only* 44 yet I'd venture to say I am half grey. It seems like a lot of grey for age and I'm just not ready to come to terms with it all. However, hair dye, even at studio, can be one of the most toxic and damaging things you can do to your head. When the time comes I will be experimenting with T.W.I.N.K.S. herbal hair dyes and I promise to report back with the results.

For the T.W.I.N.K. website.
Laundry Detergent: The biggest eye-opener for me came when I switched to dye- and fragrance-free laundry detergent and eliminated the dryer sheets. Even in my late 3's I was getting breakouts, especially along my jawline, back and chest. Nothing worked...not Proactive, not acne battling body washes...nothing...until I changed my detergent. And then, like magic, my skin became clear within days. Be sure to wash everything including towels, bedding, and everything that touches your skin). I'm not joking. My mom, who is in her 60's, recently switched to fragrance- and dye-free detergent and experienced the same results. I wish I had known this trick back in my high school days! My suds of choice is now Ecover or Seventh Generation Free and Clear (depends on price and availability).

Dish Washing Soap: We don't have a dishwasher in our home (the RV)...unless you count me. I've tried many types of soaps, most of which made my hands extremely dry and itchy and some which seemed to add a greasy feel to the dishes rather than remove it. I've settled on Method brand (found at Targets across the country). While it does have fragrances added it seems to be the one that reacts less to my skin. I should probably invest in some pretty rubber gloves regardless.

General House Cleaning: I pretty much make all of my own cleaning products. Google it and you will find pages and pages of recipes to tackle all of your problem areas. I keep it pretty simple and generally clean everything with the same concoction: water, white vinegar, Dr. Bronners and sometimes a little baking soda. Adding a few drops of you favorite essential oil is a nice touch too. But by far, my very favorite thing to clean with are my Norwex Clothes. They are amazing and use only water...plain old water...for cleaning and disinfecting. You read that right...and I encourage you to do some research, watch some videos and find out for yourself how great these clothes are. They seem a little expensive up front but think of all of the money you'll save not buying 10 different cleaners at the store. And lets not forget the chemicals that you'll be avoiding! This is an added benefit for anyone with kids or pets who might get curious about what's stored under the sink. P.S. Norwex has saved my glass shower doors...they always look brand new now!

Air Fresheners: Sorry to say but all of those "plug-ins" and sprays and carpet fresheners (just save an old Parmesan cheese container or buy a nice glass one and fill with baking soda, add a few drops of essential oils for a nice scent) are polluting your home and might be messing with your hormones. They're toxic buggers that trick you into thinking their good because they smell like pumpkin pie or the beach or snickerdoodles. Do not be fooled! An easy spray freshener anyone can make is one cup of water, 1/4 vodka (it's okay to use the cheap stuff for this recipes) and 20+/- drops of essential oils of your choice in a spray bottle, voila. The vodka acts as a disinfectant and helps the water and oil blend. Another option, which I love, love , love is a diffuser. There are tons of them on the market but since I'm very new to all of this essential oil stuff I chose an inexpensive, but highly rated, diffuser and a few essential oils from a well-respected company. Since our home is only about 300 square feet in total one diffuser is perfect. Add a little water and just a couple of drops of EO and you have a fun and great smelling abode.


These are just a few changes we've made and I can honestly vouch for how well they've worked for us, including pretty much getting rid of my allergies. I encourage you all to read up how everyday, seemingly ordinary products, are screwing up our hormones and, quite possibly, causing (or at least exacerbating) issues such as depression, allergies, acne, insomnia, thinning hair, man boobs, middle-age "spread, early childhood breast development and menses, restless leg syndrome and a myriad of other problems.

Please do your own research...I'm only sharing what has worked for me. This post is not intended to offer any type of medical advise.

Further reading:

You can also read my original post on our travel blog at Tales From the Mutiny which offers additional insight into the products we feel are safe and non-toxic and that we actually use

We rely on Amazon Prime deliveries for many of our products. The product links above will take you to our affiliate page where we earn a very small commission (at no cost to you) should you make a purchase through the link. As always, we appreciate you reading our blog and we thank you in advance for using our Amazon links.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Learning to Unlearn...

I'm not a big fan of "self-help" as it is traditionally defined. In the past, the books I've read, the counseling sessions I've attended, the workbooks, journals and seminars I've participated in have all been focused on my past...looking for a cause and effect as if finding the source of my depression or anxiety would miraculously make me less depressed or anxious. There might have been some positive thinking sprinkled in there for good measure but I often felt like my "problems" were my fault because I was too weak (minded or willed) to have dealt with them as they were emerging. So, I have been living in the past for a very, very long time.

Every time a relationship failed I thought about the past...the boys I 'let' mistreat me, the approval I constantly sought from my alcoholic father, the not-so-happy marriage my parents struggled through. And every time I sat on the side lines...a wallflower of sorts...never sticking my neck out for anything (be it a cause or promotion or recognition for work well done) I thought again about the past...the competition I created with my sister who was very outgoing, the girls in my class who were called pretty, the times I felt invisible or was picked last in games and being laughed at or ridiculed when I did fail. For every shortcoming I had I was directed to look at a specific event (or person) to place the blame...leaving me (and many others) sure that if only I could receive a sincere, heartfelt apology I could become whole again...why else would we search so hard for the source?

But by always focusing on past "mistakes" or past "reasons" I was basically inviting the same results in to my present.

Every rejection and break-up solidified my self-worth. Every success was chalked up to sheer luck. The self-help books I was reading at the time felt like weights around my ankles keeping me aware of my short comings (and perhaps creating more) with no real direction to move forward other than writing letters to those who hurt me and thinking positive thoughts or looking at myself in the mirror and saying "you are beautiful" over and over. Those books also tried to make me feel better by saying I wasn't alone...constantly trying to equate my pain with others...or attempting to diminish it by saying some people have it worse.

And while I understand that there are people around the world who do have huge challenges, who are abused, or sold into slavery and starving I also know that these facts do not just take away the pain someone is feeling. We can't 'cure' ourselves by stepping on (or using) those who are also struggling. Comparison can be dangerous...being sad about a pet who died is okay, one doesn't have to "put it into perspective" and try to diminish those emotions because some else, somewhere in the world suffered a "worse" tragedy. All that it does is make us feel selfish and wrong for our feelings of sadness. And now we are back in the cycle of needing to be "fixed" because we've learned our emotions are inappropriate.

I think there is a better way...a way to reflect on our past (not live in it) and use it to change our now (and our future).

I cringe when I hear people say things like "well, nobody's perfect" and "everyone has issues". Not because it isn't true (most likely it is) but because phrases like those are often used as crutches to justify a  kind of giving up, the kind that comes from accepting our condition and allowing our minds to remain in the rut we've created.

What I mean is...when we are always accepting (and expecting) a certain outcome (or emotion) we might be creating a pathway for the same thing to keep happening "to us" over and over again. I used to get panic attacks which were often work related. It got so bad that by Sunday morning (I was off on the weekends) you could find me curled up in a dark room crying because Monday was looming over my shoulder like the Grim Reaper. It wasn't that I had some horrible task to take care of Monday morning that I was dreading...it was simply that the weekend was ending. Sure I hated my job...but not only was I unhappy at work but now I was unhappy at home because I was constantly thinking about work and evoking those horrible feelings even when things were "okay" in the present moment. Of course, by the time the work week started I would have a miserable time and the days would feel like weeks. Again, there wouldn't necessarily be any horrific 'thing' that happened but my mind created (and recreated every Sunday morning) a disaster of a week. And the week almost always lived up to my expectations.

My weekends were no longer a source of relaxation and fun...they became almost as unbearable as going to work. I would look forward to having two full days off only to then torture myself by counting down the hours until I had to go back to that hell hole. The same thing would happen on vacation. Imagine having a week off, splashing in the pool, drinking a cocktail with an umbrella in it only to break down in tears because you realized that every sunset wasn't beautiful anymore because it was really a dreadful reminder that it was now one day closer to the vacation ending. I became sullen, depressed and inconsolable. A real Debby Downer.

I've recently read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and although it is geared toward the creative process I was moved by the chapter Resistance and Healing. In it, Pressfield writes about the subculture of healing being  the belief that one needs to 'complete' his healing before he is ready to live his dream. He goes on to say:

"Resistance knows that the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tired, boring injustices of our personal lives, the less juice we have to do our work."

To me, the work can be anything from painting to writing to composing music...but most importantly it's living. Living in the here and now...not rehashing the hurtful thing some high school kid said to you 25 years ago. Not giving more power to a selfish or addicted parent who was too busy (or drunk) to have taught you about self-worth. And certainly not judging your work ethics by the actions of some asshole who thought it was impressive to fire you on the spot for asking to take a break after leading trail rides for the past 5 hours without stepping out of the saddle. Whew...I guess THAT one still stings a little.

The book I'm currently reading, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Joe Dispenza, takes things even further by explaining how we can become addicted to feelings we experience which means we continually seek out more experiences which produce those feelings. For instance, if at some point in our lives we've been called lazy or hot tempered or maybe even labeled as emotionally unstable (I was "diagnosed" as manic back in 1987 at an in-patient hospital but never since) we tend to start identifying with those things which causes us to "claim" those traits which then forms our personality. Over the course of 10 or 20 years we believe we are lazy or introverted or ugly or a binge eater or just not good at sports (regardless if these statements are even true!!) and this emotional state (our way of thinking and feeling) becomes engrained...it becomes who we are. We even begin to define ourselves as these things..."Oh, I'm just a lazy person, always have been, always will be"..."I have a hot temper and I just cannot control it".

You see, we resign ourselves to be whatever we were told (or told ourselves) in the past. And no amount of "positive thinking" (or medication) can change 20 years of proving them (or us) right. But there is a way to rewire our brain...and part of the process is through meditation.

Now that I am becoming aware I am even more convinced that we turn over far too much of our lives and well-being to other people. We get labeled by friends, school mates, parents, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, etc., and then allow those labels define who we are. We seek out experiences that "prove" those labels are correct. We let our minds wonder with thoughts of the past or even future events that haven't even happened to simulate the feelings that keep us trapped in our current state of being.

Looking back at my earlier story about the awful dread I felt on Sundays I can see now that I was using past experiences (perhaps a particularly bad day at work) and rehashing it in my mind until I felt as bad as I did the day it occurred. I was then projecting that I would continue to have this kind of bad day every day...building up the anxiety. Going to work with that amount of anxiety meant I often missed out on the good parts of work, I was tense and on edge...actually having a physical response to the chemicals my body was releasing due to my anxiety. I couldn't get out of my own way because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, certain that anything positive was an illusion rather than the scenario I kept creating in my mind and body.

Although I am not quite finished with the book, I feel a weight has lifted off of my shoulders. I'm beginning to question some of the labels I've accepted and/or placed on myself...like being an introvert, an over-planner, "mousy-brown", invisible, prone to depression, ad nauseum. I feel like I've been given "permission" to step outside of that box I created and become who I am supposed to be...someone without paralyzing fear and self-doubt...someone who doesn't finish things...someone who is often sad for 'no reason'.

Until then, here's a little video that might peak your interest in this "new" research. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Idiocracy Meets the American Diet

I'm not a nutritionist or health expert. I don't profess to be the smartest or most educated person you'll ever run across and I am certainly not infallible (there's a reason this blog is named Learning Curves). However, I do have a bit of experience with dieting. I've done Atkins, the Rice Diet, Nutrisystem, the Master Cleanse (aka Lemonade Diet) and everything in between. I've even done calorie restriction to the point of becoming anorexic. I lost weight. I gained weight. I beat myself up and placed my personal value in that magic number on the scale. I also almost died.

What did I learn from spending countless dollars on books, programs, special "diet" foods, sugar-free this and fat-free that and carb-free mystery foods? Well, what I unlearned was how to eat, what it felt like to be hungry and to trust my body's needs and abilities.
We eat because the clock says it’s time to eat. We fill our plates with too much food because the plates are large and that’s what everybody else is doing. “We confuse thirst for hunger and food for love,” May says. {excerpt from an interview with author Michelle May, a physician turned health coach}
I unlearned so much of what is supposed to be innate, the simple act of supplying my body with fuel, that I have yet to relearn it after declaring myself "diet-free" a few years ago.

My thoughts...and this in only my opinion...is that the diet industry, along with Big Ag and those genius marketers, have basically brainwashed the average consumer into thinking humans cannot survive by simply eating food when their body indicates it's hungry. We've been convinced to ignore our cravings (which can often indicate a true nutritional need) and substitute food-like products in an effort to "trick" our brain into thinking it's satisfied.

We eat low- or no-calorie "desserts" (sugar-free jello, for example) as a way to fill our ever expanding stomachs while depriving our body of actual nutrients. Which means we will have to eat even MORE lo- or no-calorie foods in an attempt to make our stomachs feel full. And if we ever go back to eating "real" foods we will have trouble feeling full on "normal" serving sizes.

We convince ourselves that bacon is "good for us" because some caveman supposedly ate a high protein diet thousands of years ago (but he didn't drive to work in a car, sit around and watch TV for hours, and play on Facebook all day). So, we bastardize a diet like Paleo to include processed meats as long as they "hold the bun". Of course, my philosophy is that we convince ourselves bacon {or insert your favorite food here}is good for us because we want to believe we will do anything to get healthy but really, we won't. It would be like eating the same foods and calories of say, Michael Phelps (who sometimes eats around 12,000 calories a day when training) but never swimming a lap...and then wondering why we don't have his physique.

Battered and then deep fried Twinkies are used for "buns" on this bacon burger...and why not...this is 'Murica!
In this country (U.S.) the "gluttonous movement" has gotten to the point of being a ridiculous (and embarrassing considering how many people across the world, and our own country, go hungry). It's as if people are trying to give a big F-you to health and purposely eating the most fattening, sugar laden abomination of "food" ever imagined. There's even a series from Thrillist called Fat Kid Friday which publishes "this week's most ridiculous eats". It showcases real menu items like Porky Cake Batter Ice Cream Sundae (cake batter ice cream topped with caramelized pork belly bites and chicharrones tossed in cinnamon and sugar, then drenched with bacon-caramel sauce) and the Breakfast All Day Burger which is a hamburger topped with fried hash browns, a fried egg, bacon and maple syrup.  

I mean, it's like we can't stop ourselves when it comes to shock-value regarding our food! People think it's funny to push the 'envelope' when what they are really doing is destroying themselves. Even Subway, whose profits soared with the Jerad campaign, has resorted to offering Frito loaded sandwiches! We think we have free will but based on the number of people I see jumping on this bandwagon I beg to differ. Can anyone tell me what exactly we are trying to accomplish?

The human body is highly adaptable, which is one of the reasons we are still here. But it also has it's limits when bombarded with garbage on a daily basis. There's pollution, the highly processed foods we eat and the chemicals/hormones/drugs/toxic bug sprays that cover our not so highly processed foods, the 'fragrances' added to our shampoos, lotions, soaps, deodorants and the toxins that get released from the plastic packaging our apples and carrots come in or Glad containers we use to store our leftovers.This accumulation now has a name...chronic inflammation...and it's been linked to a plethora of illnesses.
 Our bodies have become virtual dumping grounds for the tens of thousands of toxic compounds that invade our everyday world, setting the stage for a slow decline in health. The EPA estimates there are more than 20,000 chemicals that our bodies cannot metabolize. Unable to be excreted from the body, chemicals find their way into our liver, and then migrate to fat cells throughout the body where they are stored. Studies show that most of us have between 400 and 800 chemical residues stored in our cells. {Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine}
There's also emotional stress, something many people don't want to deal with because we think it's a sign of weakness. And some people are "happy" being prescribed drugs to mask their symptoms because it's 'easier' and deflects the feeling of responsibility. Somehow it's understandable to 'blame' the diet industry and marketing minds behind Big Ag and the conflicting research behind the USDA for our choices (I can't remember if eggs are good for us now or not) and our desire to eat like crap but it's a mark against us, as individuals, to admit that somewhere along the way we also forgot how to express our feelings, were made to feel even worse if we did so and lost our ability to cope.

So now we are really screwed. We don't know what to eat and can't get out of our own way to go back to the basics because we can't trust ourselves to do so. We've been told to trust our doctor even though she may be working off of old science (and might not be the picture of health herself). We are so conditioned to dismiss any "new" scientific research that puts the responsibility in our hands instead of the surgeon's knife or pharmacy's pill. And we will believe any new fangled diet book that comes along and revere it as if it was the word of God even if we have no idea who the author is as long as it promises us we can lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks without exercise and without giving up our favorite foods.

We also still can't seem to wrap our minds around the fact that the foods we eat can affect our emotional state and our stress levels which contributes to our chronic pain. And this often creates a vicious cycle.
I guess my point is that we can take back control of our minds. We can educate ourselves (it's really not that hard) and climb back into the driver's seat. Some people will want to do so...and some will continue to complain, whine, and seek attention by playing the perpetual victim to 'things' beyond their control. But it's within reach for all of us because we are born with the innate ability to not only survive but to thrive. There are things we need to unlearn and others we need to relearn but the path has been cleared for those willing to take that walk.

Further reading:

“Perfect Weight” and “What Are You Hungry For?” by Deepak Chopra

“Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

“Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful” by Susan Albers

"Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health", "The Thrive Diet" and "The Thrive Cookbook: 150 Plant-Based Whole Foods Recipes" by Brendan Brazier

"Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything Else" by Geneen Roth

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food by Michael Moss (full article)

"Death By Supermarket: The Fattening, Dumbing Down and Poisoning of America" by Nancy Deville

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day Gift for My Sister

circa 1975
 My sister and I have always had a strained relationship. You can call it sibling rivalry but as a kids (and into my teens) I thought she hated me. She did the normal older sister stuff...hiding under my bed to scare me at night, telling me I was adopted (I wasn't) and tricking me into saying cuss words ('Hey sis, sing Yankee Doodle but use "F" as the first letter of each word') and then telling on me. And yes, my mom believed in punishing foul language with a bar of soap in the mouth.

But I was (and still am) very sensitive so I thought she was intentionally cruel when she wouldn't let me sit next to her on the school bus and the bus driver refused to go until everyone was seated (and I was the only one standing) or when she kicked me out of the car miles from home and left me there.

One thing we did share was our disdain for the first day of school.
Even in adulthood we struggled to be friendly to each other. We could be civil but it took work and left me drained (I'm sure she was equally put out). We were polar opposites in every.single.way.

She's blonde. I'm brunette.
She's and extrovert. I'm an introvert.
She's funny. I'm reflective.
She's tall. I'm short.
She's driven. I'm laid back.
She's loud. I'm quiet.
She's beautiful and I am Mousy Brown.
She's smart. I'm smarter. (just seeing who's paying attention)

But both of us felt the need to compete with each other and our relationship always felt on the verge of collapse. With all of their faults (and who doesn't like to blame their parents for everything bad) I'm not sure what we put our parents through was "fair" in the name of sibling rivalry. My sister had on-going issues that led to her no longer being welcome in our house and I had mine...one which led to being hospitalized for 4 months. But both of us put enormous amounts of pressure on ourselves to excel at academics and sports (mainly competitive horseback riding).

There's a lot of truth in this book...it's not a means to place blame but to move forward and break the pattern.
It was the kind of pressure perfectionists place on themselves that make parents worry and drive away potential friendships. I was, in particular, very much a loner....excelling at solo ventures (be it gymnastics or debates) but had no social skills because friendships were superfluous. I couldn't relate to people my own age because I had aged myself through academic and physical discipline (and later with food restriction) not realizing that one could be social and successful. My sister took a slightly different route. Although she was(is) quite the overachiever she was also just as self-destructive with questionable relationships and "shock value" escapades.

So I think we surprised each other when somewhere in our late 20's and early 30's we found that not only were we both still alive, but we were thriving. She was forging a very successful career in the Army and I was moving up through the highly competitive, all male dominated, automotive industry. But that disconnect was still there and on the rare occasion we found ourselves together (there had only been a handful of times) it felt like we were teenagers again...bickering, competing, and feeling less than.

Our family (Japan 1972).
Our dad died in 2009 after a horrific car accident. My sister and I had a huge falling out in the week before he died and remained in a coma. At the outset, this tragedy tore at the already fragile seams of our relationship, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was right when it came to her (I judged her initial blowup as an unwarranted attack at an inappropriate time...somehow growing a spine during this intense moment in time). I had spent the entire 39 years of my life feeling inferior to my sister. She was everything I wished I could be...but I couldn't tell her that. Instead I had to pick apart her faults, rehash the past and basically make myself miserable by trying to 'out do' her.

My parent's car after being hit head on by a reckless drive.
During a second round of heated battles (tragedy brings out the best, and worst in people) my sister told me that she had felt this same way...inferior to her little sister...and no matter what she did, she could not gain the approval of our parents. And now, with our dad in a coma, dying, she would never have the chance to even ask him if was proud of her.

Marylou and our dad at Disney World.
The tables had turned and for a brief moment we were able to see into each others' pain. Four decades of struggle, four decades of pulling out all the stops looking for approval, four decades of focusing energy on a rivalry that should have never existed, four decades of competing with an illusion. She was me and I was her. This was life changing. My sister's honesty was a catalyst for the direction my life has taken since that dreadful week in October 2009.

My dad's headstone.
I just spent 6 weeks with my sister camping in the New England area this past fall. Although our entire adulthood (actually, since I was 15 years old and she was 17) has been spent living thousands of miles apart we've found ourselves at the same place emotionally. We are seeking {and finding} a peace and balance in our relationship which has spilled over into all other facets of our lives...or maybe it's the other way around.

Along the Maine Coast...looking for balance {literally}.
I feel like we've been part of a "twins separated at birth" study. Both of us, far removed from our childhood past, far removed physically from each other and still traveling down different paths in some regards (like politics). But those paths are actually parallel to each other and constantly meet and intertwine, separating briefly and meandering back together more often than not. We are both now vegetarians and aspiring yogis...spiritual and inquisitive, grounded yet still dreaming, goal oriented but much more forgiving...not only of others but of ourselves.

Marylou and me at Squaw Valley Ski Resort for my wedding.
For the first time in my life I can say, unequivocally, that my sister is also my friend. I trust her with my innermost secrets free of the feeling that I will be judged or that they will used against me one day. As a matter of fact, I know that no matter how outlandish my thoughts, feelings or confessions are, when I expose them to my sister it will only draw us closer together.

My sister and I actually goofing off and having fun...together!
Befriending my sister and accepting our similarities rather than trying to force superior airs has been one of the most liberating experiences in my life. The time we recently spent together has only strengthened our bond. We spent hours practicing yoga side by side...sometimes in below freezing weather and sometimes dripping in sweat. I really believe our connection has deepened from both the tragic death of our father and the light and love we expressed in our shared yoga space. There is comfort in the fact that I know she will always be there for me, and I for her, not just because we are sisters but because we are friends.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Finding Compassion in the Pause

Sunrise yoga for one...North Carolina.
I am trying to be a good student of yoga. I have a passion for it, not just because some of the poses are challenging and "impressive" but I really, really feel a connection deep inside. The more I practice, the more I meditate, the more I sit and look at the beauty and wonder and ever changing miracle of life around me the more connected I feel. It's a kind of peace and love and warmth that isn't just inside of me, but inside of everyone I meet (they might not all be nice at first but I can feel that there is something good in all of us).

Still though, many times during the day I catch myself being negative and judgmental. I try to use each instance as a lesson to either release the thought (recognize it as a habit of thinking, see that it serves no positive purpose and then let it go) or to find the root (am I projecting my own insecurities, am I harming someone else by speaking negatively just to boost myself). I might not be successful in eliminating these thoughts but it is important to think on them...and even more important to do so before speaking or reacting. Not something easily accomplished in our fast paced, instant gratification based society.

With the advent of social media, like Facebook or Twitter we are becoming blinded to the fact that with the simplicity of that 'share' (or retweet) button we can affect hundreds, or even thousands, of people. With barely a thought about what it is we are actually sharing (which often doesn't take into consideration the possible impact it can have on who the "share" is about) we are actually providing insight into our own character that might not be so flattering. In some instances we become a propagator of misinformation or a free mouth piece for whatever "cause" we are for or against, helping to perpetuate the division in our country, our cultures, our races or our religions. And sometimes we are hurting people...real people.

We complain about bullies and post horrendous stories (sometimes our own) of the pain and/or suicide of it's victims, and then we post a "funny" picture of a 'fat' girl in too tight shorts. The comments make us laugh and we justify our behavior because it's funny...perhaps to everyone except that girl. We 'bend the rules' to fit our lives because we think we are special. We post pictures making fun of other people but how would it feel if somehow, someone posted an unflattering image of us and that it had made it's way around the internet? Even strangers have feelings, believe it or not.

Caitlin Seida found herself "Facebook Famous" after this picture was spread across the Internet. "Why are people like her allowed to exist" was one of hundreds of negative comments about her body left on her picture. Not so funny anymore, huh? (Source)
It's nothing new really. We've always 'bent the rules' to make it work. Otherwise there wouldn't be a $20 billion weight loss industry. Allow me to simplify things here for the sake of argument...thanks to marketing, food additives and media/societal perceptions on weight and/or beauty most of us have forgotten how to eat to live. Now, we want the perfect body (or maybe not even perfect but with 80% of American women unhappy about their appearance we are striving for "better" than what we currently have) but we want to still bend the rules. We want a diet that allows us to eat bacon AND chocolate...preferably with little to no exercise. And when that doesn't work we can blame everything else except ourselves. For the majority of people there's a pretty clear cut way to lose weight, but it's not easy because we can't just eat whatever we want and as much as we want.

We do it with religion, a subject so taboo I won't delve too far into it except to say that we tend to pick and choose which principles we want to follow. A good question to ask before reacting (or posting on Facebook) is how is this going to reflect on my principles and intentions? If my religion is appealing because it is steeped in generosity and non-judgment, will posting negative remarks about another religion reflect those beliefs? Will posting a deeply spiritual sentiment about God's grace have any real meaning if it's followed up by a negative (possibly slanderous) meme about a political figure you disagree with that has no factual basis but it's sole intent is to harm (it's the same as "gossip")?

This bending of the rules (or, as I see it, thinking I'm somehow more special and therefor it's okay for me to do) is something I've become more aware of lately. I recently read a post by a young lady (and devoted Buddhist practitioner)  who says she wants to take her vows to become a Buddhist nun yet she disagrees with the requirement of shaving her head and refuses to do so. I understand the dilemma, I would look awful with a shaved head. However, I cannot imagine putting my vanity (call it a symbol of feminism as she claims but we are female without hair too) above a calling like becoming a nun. I wonder if this woman is really trying to make a stand against what she calls an "outdated ritual" or if this is an example of wanting to have our cake and eat it too? If my calling was to join the military surely that would mean wearing a uniform and abiding by the requirements about hair length even if olive green isn't my color, right?

As our world speeds up and our information stream and subsequent learning becomes more and more condensed we are facing the possible loss of our true intentions and authenticity. We want things to be 'better' but we don't want to have to be the ones to put in the effort. We want bullying to end but we still want to laugh at the People of Walmart. We want to get healthy or lose weight or get off our blood pressure meds, but we don't want to give up our favorite foods, even if we know they are bad for us (we would rather believe the food manufacturers whose sole purpose is to make a profit, not look after our health). We would rather believe lies that help justify our behavior (be it hatred and prejudices or the need to be "right"), and even spread these lies rather than do what might be uncomfortable yet rewarding beyond measure.

This blog is called Learning Curves for a reason. I am learning as I go...and as I grow. I am guilty of doing everything I just talked about but am learning to live with more compassion. I try to pause and ask how my comment or reaction or speech will be of any benefit (or harm). As cheesy as I always thought those "What Would Jesus Do" stickers were I can now see that they serve as that same pause. That's a pretty precious moment, that pause, it's there for all of us to use wisely if we so choose. It's that moment between the inhale and the exhale where we can make massive changes. Even if we don't think we have time to meditate, we can meditate upon that pause thousands of times a day by asking how our thoughts, actions and words are going to be of service before we react, speak, type or hit that 'share' button. Get to know your own pause and see if it's in line with how you want the world to see the real you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Story of a Runner Turned Yogi...

When I come to my yoga mat every morning I try to leave my expectations behind. This is a practice, a blending of breath with the flow of movement, not something to conquer or master or dominate but something to experience and embrace. It wasn't always that way and I'm not always successful at doing so. Yoga started off for me as a way to earn P.E. credits in college and later turned into a means to "force" myself to stretch when I became a runner. I sought out the more aggressive videos like power flow and later, P90X so that my yoga days would feel more like a workout than a time suck...I mean, can you really count 60 minutes of stretching to spa music as working out (especially when 5 of those minutes were laying on the ground in corpse pose doing nothing)?

My previous mentality...
 In my mid 30's I felt that I was no longer running for health benefits but more as a way to run away from life. I was disconnected from my body and mind, pushing myself into injuries and brushing it off as 'true dedication'..."See how committed I am?? I'm running with a torn hip flexor and fracture in my foot!!". After finally being forced to take 6 months off (via a cast) I found other forms of exercise to fill the void...boxing, cross fit, kettle bells, HIIT, P90X, Insanity, BodyRock, etc. before turning back to running. Yoga took a back seat again (actually, it got left behind at the rest stop). But the disconnect still persisted and I was faced with results that weren't fulfilling me mentally or physically.

I earned my orange headband completing Tough Mudder Norcal.
Crossing the finish line with my BFF Coleen at the Rock n' Roll San Diego Marathon.
 Although I do love the mental and physical aspects of the events I participated in like a full marathon and Tough Mudder, I also knew that these types of physically demanding challenges weren't something I aspired to maintain for the rest of my life (and yes, I am aware of the 100 year old man who completed the Toronto Marathon as well as the 80 year old man who has run 19 NYC Marathons). I'm no wimp, don't get me wrong...but I don't want to continue to dedicate the amount of time and effort into training for marathon after marathon for the next 40+ (God willing) years. My last marathon did a number on me...breaking down muscles and mentally challenging me during long and lonely 18+ mile training runs. While it was an overall positive experience which I am proud of, it's just not sustainable for me.

SIddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland...a turning point.
Over the past couple of years I've learned that yoga has so much more to offer than a limber body and a means to work out the kinks. A visit to an ashram in Oakland opened my eyes to the true meaning of yoga as well as the 7 other limbs to enlightenment...something I was in desperate need of at that point in my life. So, about a year ago (a little while after we officially hit the road as fulltime travelers) I stopped running and committed myself to practicing yoga almost exclusively. And this time my yoga practice would incorporate more than just asanas (although I am going to post pictures of some of these poses, because asana is one of the limbs).

Practicing pigeon pose on Glaveston Island, Texas
In that time I have felt a definite and positive shift in my health and mental well being. I've also not only maintained the muscle mass I had previously acquired but my aches and pains have diminished (specifically in my back, sciatic, hips and knees...some of which have troubled me since I was a teenager). My core has strengthened as well as my upper body and my balance has improved. But the biggest change has been more profound. I feel very connected to my body...its changes, its  needs, its sensitive areas and places of resistance.

Taking an amazing class in Contoocook New Hampshire...possibly my favorite class to date.
I also feel an interconnectedness with every thing around me...the wind, the trees, the water, the seasons...even people I encounter. Rather than jumping to harsh judgements I embrace that pause between seeing and completing a thought and instead, imagine the struggles they are going through...and even if they aren't struggling I can imagine the journey it has taken me to get to where I am physically and mentally and remember that no one can map out another person's journey nor can they force another to even embark on that journey.

Headstand in the Pocono Mountains
Yoga has provided me the peace and serenity that previously came only from a pill or the sheer exhaustion of over-training. I am not begrudging anyone who runs or boxes or finds enjoyment from intense physical activity as I still do enjoy riding my bike, hiking and kayaking when I can...I even ran a 5k distance last month and felt exhilarated. I also still have some big dreams and goals, perhaps to climb a mountain or learn to surf. But for me, yoga has provided the missing element of joining body, mind and spirit (with the side benefit of maintaining or even improving my fitness).
Morning self practice in Pennsylvania
Some days I leave my mat in tears from emotions which have been stirred from syncing my breath and movement with an open minded willingness to to just be...to just feel...to listen to my needs. Some days I leave my mat with so much energy that I ride my bike or go for a hike or clean the entire RV or even add an additional round of practice complete with arm balances and handstands. And some days I leave my mat content, even happy...a feeling that continues throughout the day and spills over onto the people around me.But I never leave my mat with regret for having taken the time to breath and connect with something deeper than myself, for having taken time for myself I have found the link to every thing around me.

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