You Only Live Once; The Big Shift

This week, it happened.

I have had a green juice every morning this week.

Going Green!
Going Green!

I followed that juice with a no sugar added chia pudding if still hungry.

Chia pudding, pecans, almond butter, and strawberries
Chia pudding, pecans, almond butter, and strawberries

Each lunch and dinner was made by me, in my kitchen, so I knew exactly what was in each delicious bite.

I slept blissfully well on a new mattress that was delivered on Tuesday. (This is the first NEW mattress I can remember having … in many, many years. Why go for this now? Because I’m worth it. And sleep is SUPER important).

My body is sore from re-entering the world of yoga, and I am feeling more light and happy from running more consistently.

A view of the Steel from this morning's run.
A view of the Steel Bridge from this morning’s run.

I have made an ENORMOUS shift.

The past two and a half months have been a time of … introspection. Without the ability to get out and run and walk around my neighborhood (putting in miles just for the sake of wandering), I was consequently being rather sedentary and feeling the effects of food more acutely, as well as (to be perfectly honest) seeing them on my form.

And then it hit me.

While I know I have the power to make the choices that are best for Me, I was still ignoring all of the self-awareness and knowledge I have gained in the past year. 

Somehow, I felt that because I could not follow my regular work-out routine, I could let my usual “how I eat well” go by the wayside, as well. Sure, I knew when I was eating that gluten-free ice cream sandwich that I would experience physical consequences later that day… or the next… And yet… Acknowledging when your choices are bad does not make you feel better. 

Some may argue: But you only live once!

And I have to say, I agree. Wholeheartedly. 

We only have ONE life to live. ONE body to nourish and move with in this life.  ONE Chance to make a difference in the world in which we live.

SO I ask you one question:

Why the heck is “YOLO” a Reason, a Rationality (a JUSTIFICATION!!!) to do things that will CAUSE HARM to our one and ONLY vessel allowing us to be here on Earth?

Granted, eating Ice Cream is certainly not the end of the world, but for me, sugar is a known adversary, and after the amount of reading I have done about substances that your body does not digest well, learning that they can get into the blood stream, and quite literally beat up your veins on the inside, WHY do I still choose to eat the things that cause me unfathomable damage?

So I started this week with a new intention: “You Only Live ONCE”.

I am feeding myself with vegetables and fruits that will help sustain and heal my body rather than simple sugars that can beat me down. I want to be (and feel) my Best, as much of each day as is possible. This week has been remarkable emotionally and physically, and I want that good feeling to continue. What does that mean for me?

I am giving up processed sugars. 

I am happy to say that although I have not been 100% this week (more like 90% – the evening dessert craving has bewitched me a time or two, and even the dairy-free ice cream was not consequence-free), I know I make this change pretty easily (must do more baking with fruit). Of course, there are always times to make an exception: for example, Grandma’s house for the Holiday dinner because you don’t want to offend family. For my own cooking,  there will be no sugar added. Last night I successfully baked an apple crisp without any added sugar (just banana for the crumble!).  Such a wonderful discovery (and triumph!).

I am giving up alcohol.

I know. This one is tough for most people to understand. I admit, I enjoy a nice cool drink from time to time on a hot summer’s day, but to give you a little perspective: I purchased a few bottles of alcohol – a couple of years ago (um… more like 4 years) and they still remain unopened in my cabinet. Whenever I buy a bottle of wine, I’ll open it for a glass and forget it is in my refrigerator. Plus, there’s the fact that I cannot get myself out of bed in the morning to run after having just ONE drink. (That is probably the most important part). I am perfectly happy having a glass of soda water with lime, or a hot latte. Friends, please do not be upset with me for not joining in the consumption of alcohol, this is for my health (and sanity – running is super important to my emotional state. Also, I have some bottles of liquor to give away…).

Both of these things mean consuming MUCH MORE whole foods, less abrasive vein-invaders, and overall, feeling …

Pretty much like a million bucks.
(And who doesn’t want to feel good?)

Now I put the question to you: what does “You only live once” mean in your life?
Is it an excuse to try whatever you want because you’re young and your body can “take it”?
Is it your motivation to keep working toward that PR?
Or is it just a silly phrase the kids are using these days?

I always love hearing how you’re working through your own personal battles, so leave a comment and help to start a conversation below.

Thanks for reading, and have a happy, healthy, fun and free weekend!

with Joy,
~Alaina

The End of an Adventure; Beginning a New Practice

Portland Sunrise

Last Thursday, I completed my Yoga Teacher Training by teaching a 60 minute yoga class.  We stretched, stood strong, balanced, and I led the class back to the floor for our final resting pose; after dimming the lights and allowing time for some silence, I sang to the room of resting yogis.  My relief for completing the training, delight at how well this class went (despite my sleepless night, music hiccups, and nervousness), and gratitude for all the great teachers, classmates, and wonderful people I met on this journey brought so much emotion, that tears fell from my eyes as I bowed my head with the word Namaste”. 

A week and a half later, I am still unsure if I will use this knowledge to teach full classes at a studio or gym.  I am now a certified yoga instructor, yet the debate swirls in my mind; knowing that my intention for this journey was to find some personal growth – and I certainly have – I find I have learned so much, acquiring a new sense of appreciation for all things Yoga, and feel a sense of need or responsibility to somehow share this new-found knowledge.

My body has not felt this strong in many years.  And I can release stress with so much ease; a simple inhale through the nose and exhale open mouth does the trick.  (This is not necessarily recommended at one’s corporate job while in a meeting because you may draw unwanted attention to yourself, but is entirely acceptable at one’s desk).

I find myself at a kind of impasse.  The road forward is more clear now, and I know many of the steps I need to take to get where I need to be (more details to come soon), yet I know that there are a few personal tasks I must accomplish before I can ever be successful starting these new adventures.

For many years, I have had the desire to have a morning practice.  When training for running races, especially the 50k, I felt pretty good about getting outside to run before work as my practice, but it was only 4-5 times per week. This desire to take time for myself to exercise, focus, and be present to start the day has morphed into a need through this yoga journey, and yet I am still avoiding just beginning.  I think that I fear the changes that will come when I allow myself to truly be present – to get comfortable in my own skin, in my home, in my mind, right NOW – because (more!) changes will be needed.

Despite this angst, change is not something I fear, and this change, adding a daily practice (spiritual and physical), does not take a great deal of time nor does it change who I am.  So I wonder now: why do I fear taking one step closer to who I really am and what my heart desires?

Perhaps I am simply afraid to learn what I have been missing for the past thirty-two years. No … I do not believe that is not the reason.  I am afraid that starting these practices will draw my attention inward.  Away from friends, family, and a life outside myself because I have so much to explore. 

I recognize that much of my 32 years on Earth has been spent doing what was expected of me. Doing what I could to fit in as best as I could.  Making myself available to please friends.  And finally, what I need to do is discover myself, find out what makes me tick, what feels right as my place in this world.  And it is a little scary taking those steps toward understanding.

So here on this page, I make a promise to myself, and state it out loud to you all to help hold myself accountable.  December 1st, 2014, I am beginning a Daily Practice.  I will start with 20 min of asana practice, 5 minutes of Pranayama ( Ujjayi breath), and starting small, explore 5 minutes of meditation – unfamiliar territory – and study how these practices affect me.  My intention is also to add running back into my life (oh, how I have missed this view of the city!), which is a little frustrating because I know I must begin slowly after taking a couple of months away from pounding the pavement (the 6 miles I ran yesterday has left my legs quite sore).  I am interested to see what this new practice reveals to me, and how it might affect my mood and the unfolding of each day.

Tell me:
Do you have a daily practice?
How does your practice serve you in your day?

As always, I encourage you to find joy in all that you do.
~Alaina

Soaking in Stillness: the Effect of a Power Outage on Best-Laid Plans

This week for our Yoga Teacher Training, we have been reading about Pratyahara and Dharana in The 8 Limbs of Yoga: Pathway to Liberation by Bhava Ram.  In fact I was reading this book, at lunch (by myself) as below:

photo-14

At the very beginning of the chapter on Pratyahara, Bava talks about our to-do lists and how they never end and we keep adding to them…

We have forgotten how to be Human Beings and instead have become Human Doings.

I was reading on a short break between checking things off my to-do list (while waiting for my lunch), with the to-do list laying directly under the text telling me to be more present.

Convenient to have such a clear message in front of me.  (I am still carrying around that list… and adding to it).  Have I learned anything?

Tonight as I got home from class, I had planned the next few hours: cook dinner, bake some bread, maybe even a sweet treat as well for the rest of the week.  After pouring quinoa into a pan, preparing to rinse, my apartment went dark.  The power went out, and the electric company had no idea why, and I had no idea when I would be able to turn on a burner to heat the water to do any cooking.

And something else – on that list of tasks to accomplish were the words “take a bath”. Yes, my life has become so full of things to accomplish, that I had to plan to do something so simple. And the truth is, I have been putting off a simple, pleasurable, self-care bath for over a month.  So tonight when the power went out, I sliced an apple, ate it with almond butter and a slice of fiber-rich, gluten-free bread, scrubbed the tub and took a candlelight bath.

And it was so nice.  I sat in silence for a while, then started singing some Bonnie Raitt.  Totally cathartic.

Tonight’s power outage was a lesson in being present – enjoying what I have available to me in the moment, soaking in the stillness (and silence of no electronics!), and taking care of myself.  I am learning slowly, one step at a time.

When was the last time you did something for yourself?
Do you have a practice of self-care, and spending time in stillness?

As always, I would love to hear your story.

with love and light,
Alaina

The One Month Feat; and Noticeably Different Feet

A couple of days ago I glanced down, looking at my feet.

And it was like I was gazing down at a stranger’s.  They looked… grown up.  Strong.  Beautiful.  …And yet, so alien.

I have arches.

IMG_2284
Look at the lift at the inside of those feet!
IMG_1478
Flat-footed pre-Yoga Teacher Training (and dirty speckled, post Siskiyou Outback 50K race)

Throughout my entire life, I have had the flattest feet of anyone I have ever known.  And now, after completing five weeks of nearly daily physical yoga practice, my feet are strong! It’s incredible how quickly the body adapts to the changing physical demands we ask it to accept and work through.

I used to think that running strengthened my core quite a bit – breathing is hard work when you are running 20 miles over the course of three and a half hours.  Certainly it takes some strength to accomplish this task!  Yet, now, not only is my core tremendously stronger, and I feel shy saying this, …I actually have some definition in my abs…!

Part of the changes I am noticing is due to the fact that I did a cleanse (no sugar/starch) for nearly one month.  AMAZING transformations happen when you eliminate sugar and anything with more than 5 ingredients or containing any preservatives or unpronounceable compounds.  I have never felt so good.

But.  (Did you know that was coming?)
Everything is not all hunky-dory.  Nope.

About two weeks ago, my thighs started going numb.

Weird, right?  The tops of my thighs, and the skin covering them, all going numb.  This is something I have noticed for years if I found myself laying on my back when waking up in the morning.  I would just roll to my side and all would be well, feeling returning to my upper legs.

Now, I found myself in a lunge pose in a yoga class – and the top of my back leg went numb.

A couple of days later, at a standing meeting around a desk at work, both legs went numb on the thigh.  And over the past week, it has become a daily occurrence of sleeping/waking legs.  So frustrating. I finally went for some body work – and apparently I had some tight muscles, and even after releasing the fascia from the muscle tissue and detaching things that had adhered together and become stuck, I am still experiencing the same darn numbness.  At this point, I am pretty sure the cause is a ligament in my hip crease area stretching over a nerve and cutting off feeling.  Now, I simply need to locate the point and figure out how to bring more flexibility and release the tension on this ligament so it stops pressing on the nerve…

I knew this yoga journey would teach me new things about myself, stamina, strength, and health of the mind, body, and soul.  I did not think I would be given incentive to learn about nerve paths in the body.  A somewhat uncomfortable, and totally interesting experience.  (My legs are feeling numb less often, now; I am paying close attention to any changes, please do not worry about me!)

This journey is helping me to look at my life – practices, choices, ways of living and consuming in this world – and make conscious decisions about how I choose to live.  I had no idea that my mind would be challenged to change.  Nor did I know that my body would change so much – my feet starting to look like a yogi’s.

This will be an interesting journey, indeed.  

Have you ever started a new activity to be faced with unforeseen challenges?  Was it something totally off your radar?
How did you approach that roadblock?

I would love to hear your story!

as always, with joy,
~Alaina

Uncertainty: The Long Road to Joy

jungle
photo credit: Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post

I was uncertain, but kept going. 

Never have I been sure of where “my place” is in society.  What my job will be.  Who I may meet.  What kind of affect my presence in this world will have on other human beings. If any.  On animals.  On plants.

I was uncertain, and put one foot in front of the other…

College changed my thoughts of my desires measurably.  From science to art, I found myself conflicted yet full of conviction.  What did I want?  Did it matter?  I needed simply to finish.

Through uncertainty, I made choices.

Graduation came, and my only desire was to live on my own in the city I knew, yet was unacquainted with the reality of city-life.  I moved with a light heart and an open mind.  I chose to go left, rather than right.  Chose to eat cheesy pasta.  To dance until the wee hours of dawn when even the city sleeps.  To nap on my lunch break.  To see the good in every man.  To not have a car.  Someday, I would find my calling.  For now, I had my city.

Through uncertainty, I searched for things to feel better.

Finally finding a career, I settled into routine.  Over time, realizing a feeling that I has set upon an aimless path.  A growing sense of panic within my chest.  I chose to move.  Find a better home.  Go for a promotion.  Get a new computer.

Feeling lost, I searched for clarity.

I sought mentors.  Joined groups.  I sang, chanted, did deep, personal work.  Hired a coach.  I found myself writing.  Finally followed my heart and started a blog.  I yearned for connection.

Now, seeking myself, the path is clearing.

I spend less time with social media.  I shop less.  I practice yoga.  Cook delicious, colorful, healthy meals for myself.  I practice gratitude.  I am happier, lighter, and finally feel a connection.

To me. 

Seeking that which is outside for comfort and happiness, only draws us further from our true selves.
When we look within, we come to know happiness.

I continue on, uncertain of my direction, and finally sure of myself.

May each of you find your heart this day, and share a little more joy with yourself and with all those you touch. 

with love and light,
~Alaina

(Inspired by The Daily Post Writing Prompt – Build your own)

A New P.O.V.: Bliss and Gratitude

IMG_1033

For a week and a half, I have been experimenting with eliminating sugar, starch, dairy, soy, all non-fibrous grains, beans…  Pretty much everything except for protein and vegetables in order to sort out some digestive conundrums.  And truthfully, this has made running more difficult – the source of nutrition my body once found to convert quickly to energy is not available, and I have only run twice in the last week!  I have however, chosen to create an intentional practice of yoga while my body is learning how to move again with a different energy source.

And somewhat astonishingly, throughout this giant change of diet, I have not been lacking – I definitely do not miss sugar (although occasionally I crave a dessert or some fruit at breakfast).  I have been preparing and cooking Every Single Meal for myself.  This is a big change for me (I like to go out and socialize with friends at places where they make food for you), and I am finding such great pleasure in spending this time – doing something good for Me.  I do believe this two and a half week change is going to make a lasting impression on the way I eat for the rest of my life.  This will be a change to better my health, and a shift to buying products with a higher consciousness of the food I choose to support and the effect my purchases have on people, animals, and the planet.

The parking lot - late evening at work (a.k.a. Everyone else already went home).
The parking lot – late evening empty parking lot at work.(a.k.a. Everyone else already went home).

Over the last few hot, beautiful sunny days I have found myself in a very different state of mind.  I feel mildly euphoric and incredibly grateful for the life I am living at this moment – regardless of whether or not I worked exceptionally late that day.  I find myself running into genuinely happy people of all walks of life, and enjoying my life in the city more each day (this includes the grey, bearded, homeless men smoking on the sidewalk early in the morning who politely apologized for their colorful conversation as I ran by.  They were lovely gentlemen).

This shift is awesome.

I am lighter, happier, more productive with my days, and sleeping incredibly well at night – and waking before my alarm every single day.

Isn’t it amazing how a small change of habit can dramatically change your perspective and the entirety of your surroundings?

What are you doing each day to feel good in your own skin?
How has this changed how your day-to-day activities?

~ with love, light, and delight ~
Alaina

Fitness Quest Part 1 (2 for 20 for 22) Complete!

I did it.  I’m done…

For the first time in my life, I can proudly state that I have started a fitness program, of my own design, for myself, and met my goal.  For no other reason than wanting to do something good for myself, which, I have to admit is a pretty darned good reason.  In my recent past, I have signed up with trainers, signed myself up for races and relays, yet never have I been so committed to training or working out as I have been these past 22 days.  Something within me has switched.

Of course, my goal was certainly designed with S.M.A.R.T. criteria, not intentionally, but I wanted to be able to finish this first step and get myself back on track, running with some real, quantifiable frequency.  It was a Specific, simple goal: 2 miles, everyday, Measured easily by completion.  Certainly for me, this goal of two miles was Attainable, as I have stretched my body to 8, 10, and 13 miles previously.  Running two miles does not tax my mind too much, although the body took some time to become accustomed to the rhythm and motion of running after such a long break.  I knew this was Relevant to my overall fitness intentions, and 22 days gave it a trackable Time frame.  S.M.A.R.T. and complete!

I will now move into “Part 2” of fitness training.  Realistically, I plan to do fewer runs per week, giving my body time to repair between workouts, but I intend to increase mileage.  A wise person suggested adding hills and speed workouts, which I know to be typical training methods for distance runners, and I am considering this type of workout regimen.  Speed has always been grueling trial for me; especially overcoming the mental fatigue associated with self-doubt.  I would like to tackle that hurdle, but I do not know if I’m prepared to face those demons alone just yet.

About a year ago, I was running with a group of friends every Saturday.  They continue to this day, out and backs of 8-12 miles each weekend, and I would love to run with them again, but I’m still afraid of attempting that distance, as I haven’t yet built up my stamina.  My primary goal is to increase my distance to achieve 8 mile runs, so I can run with my companions again.

I have a new goal!  I’ll supplement longer runs with some speed training on the track, and hills, and … yep!  I think I have the base of my next phase mapped.  Now, to decide upon a time-frame…

But first things first!  Tomorrow, Saturday, July 7th, No Run!  After 22 days running, with no rest day, I will take tomorrow, also known as the 23rd day, off (although, I may go to yoga, extra stretching is highly advised for runners who might need help relaxing tight muscles).

Thank you all, for your support and feedback.  I’ll let you know my plan for Phase 2 training, soon!

Happy Running, everybody!

Top of the hill mid-way, run #22. . The view, and Me eyes.  🙂