Finding Flexibility in Inflexibility

Week 2 of my six-week stint at a newspaper is coming to a close. Four more weeks to go. It’s a blessing, as a freelancer, to have the opportunity to be a part of these projects (steady work! money! live interaction with creatures other than my dog!). But man, the corporate life wipes me out.

I get home from work about 7:30 p.m., make dinner, eat, and plop into bed by 9:00 p.m., exhausted, where I drag my laptop on my lap and spend another couple of hours swaying between vegging out and trying to keep up with my other assignments. The evening yoga class I’d planned to attend? Skipped again.

The other night during one of my zombie-like states, I was flipping through Yoga Journal magazine. The question of the month just so happened to be from a reader who wants to dedicate more time to a yoga practice but finds that work leaves little time or energy to do so.

The yogi who answered the reader question suggested three options (1) back off of a less fulfilling activity and replace it with yoga; (2) spend less time working and more time practicing (which probably means adjusting your standard of living since you’ll presumably make less money if you cut back on work); or (3) make yoga a priority in your free time.

For now I’m choosing option three — switching to a weekend yoga class instead of trying to cram a class in after work when I’m tired and hungry.

Do you have an inflexible schedule that makes practicing yoga more challenging? How do you adjust?

Downhill

I carefully set out my outfit.

Organized my purse.

Planned breakfast.

Gathered the leash to walk the dog.

And then, finally, set my alarm clock.

As a writer, I’ve been working out of the home for a couple years, but Monday morning I was due in a company’s corporate offices for a six-week, on-site editorial gig. I’m not a morning person at all, so the night before, I needed to prepare.

Food-wise, the first day went okay. I ate fruit and oatmeal for breakfast, had a tuna sandwich in the office’s cafeteria for lunch, and, back home, had enough energy left over to cook a healthy vegetable-based dinner. That was Day 1. The rest of week I watched myself slide downhill. (I’d forgotten how corporate jobs suck every second of your time away – making it hard to prepare fresh meals. Oh, and the sugar. Being Valentine’s week, the chocolate overload running through that office – Oy! I ate too much of it.) By Friday, my fridge was bare (no breakfast fruit), I was still eating tuna for lunch (hello – mercury overload?), and dinner was refined pasta at a restaurant.

My throat felt a little . . . sore. OMG, was I getting a cold? Dang it. I didn’t have a single cold in 2007, and I suspect it was because my immune system was stronger due to better eating habits.

“I haven’t eaten one vegetable today,” I said to Ron Friday night. (I’m not counting a wilted piece of lettuce and green tomato slice on my tuna sandwich as real vegetables).

Saturday morning, as my sinuses clogged and my throat felt worse, I rushed my husband out the door with a grocery list. I juiced vegetables and drank the concoction down in a few gulps. I ate an orange. For lunch, I made a homemade bean soup. I ate another orange. For dinner I made a veggie omelet.

Too late. I officially had a cold. I knew the best thing I could do for myself was rest. I cancelled all weekend plans, and I slept and drank hot tea. In bed Sunday night, I figured I’d be calling in sick the next day. But miraculously, I woke up cured. Again, I blame the vegetables for the quick recovery.

This week I’m doing better (not great, but better) managing the “office” life. Our home fridge is stocked with healthy foods to choose from in the morning, I’m packing my lunch (dark leafy green salad with cranberries, walnuts, and a little goat cheese), and dinner is mapped out (today we’re having a brown rice risotto with asparagus and a mixed greens salad).

I’ll be sure to toast to good health.

Germaphobe

The waiter walks over and sets a glass of ice-water on the table.

“Ew,” my mom says when he walks away. “I don’t like it when restaurants put lemons in your drink.”

For years she’s claimed that lemon wedges have tons of bacteria – picked up because of how much they are handled by bare human hands – and this YouTube video seems to prove she’s right, reporting that over 77% of lemon wedges in drinks tested positive for disease causing bacteria.

My husband has an issue with restaurants that place the silverware directly on the table instead of on a napkin or tablecloth. When I tell him the tables are washed, he says, “Yeah, but have you seen those ratty rags they use?”

What a bunch of germaphobes!

Except I have my issues too. I don’t like touching menus. I especially can’t stand it when a waiter places a menu down on top of my plate. I mean really, when are menus cleaned?

I’m totally of the belief that exposure to bad bacteria can build my immune system. And, logically, I know that menus are only one of many places I’m coming across a boatload of germs. But still, menus freak me out.

Do you have any quirky things you’re a germ-freak about?

Dance of the Warrior

As few weeks ago, we had a substitute teacher in yoga class. He had us do a series of poses where we moved from one warrior position to another to another then back to the first one. And so on.

The Dance of the Warrior, he called it.

The dictionary defines warrior as “one who is engaged in or experienced in battle.”

The battle in yoga, I suppose, is with the anxious, unstable, and not-so-Zen side of myself.

Can I learn to stay centered in the face of fear?
Can I find my balance when life seems to be throwing me in loops?
Can I take action with insight and compassion?

In other words, can I find the way of the peaceful warrior?

As I moved through the series, my muscles trembled, my body wobbled, and my breath labored. At least, part of the time it was like that. At other times, I was calm(er) and stead(ier) and moving in rhythm. Slowly, I’m learning the dance.

A Place to Start

I have yoga homework.

My teacher wants me to practice Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle pose) every single day. Then she wants me to lean back into Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle pose).

It’s supposed to help me relax.

The good news about Bound Angle pose is and Reclining Bound Angle pose is that I can do them anywhere – watching TV, before bed at night, as an afternoon break in my home office.

I told her how I’ve tried to establish a home practice in the past before and wound up intimidated and overwhelmed.

“Sometimes just showing up on your mat at home and pretending to practice is a practice,” she said.

Sounds like a good place to start.

Care of the Human Frame

“The doctor of the future will give no medicines, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the causes of disease.”
–Thomas Edison

Yoga. Acupuncture. Herbs. A Clean Diet..

As I learn how to take care of myself naturally, all are becoming part of my life.

It’s a slow process. And a process that needs a ton forgiveness (the other day before the going to the movies I ate a “healthy snack” so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat candy – and ended up munching on a box of Jr. Mints anyway!).

Tonight for dinner it’s chicken tacos. Organic corn tortillas, free-range organic chicken, and a variety of vegetable toppings to choose from: tomato, avocado, black beans, dark green lettuce, salsa, etc. Also, some steamed spinach on the side (sprinkle the spinach with a little apple-cider vinegar and it is delicious).

I’m not some fancy chef, but I find myself cooking, thinking, and caring about food a lot these days.

Egg Rough-Muffin

When one of my writing colleagues asked me if I had any tips for driving across the country (my husband and I made the trek 18 months ago), I told her to Google all the Whole Foods across the nation and make a point to stop at a few for decent food. Also, I suggested she keep a cooler of healthy, cleansing snacks in the car.

My husband and I didn’t do either of those things, and I was blown away by our limited meal options during our trip. Fast food, fast food, or fast food anyone?

I admit I do have a taste for a sausage mc-muffin with egg from time to time, and the car ride gave me ample opportunity to indulge. But I knew it wasn’t good for my health. The other day I had a craving, and I decided to make a wholesome, at-home version of my favorite fast food breakfast.

I toasted an organic wheat English muffin (search the health food stores for brands that don’t include sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or “enriched” flour). Then I poached an egg (break and egg into a measuring cup and slide it into simmering water to cook for 7 minutes). I placed the egg on the toasted muffin, piled on a thick slice of tomato (instead of a sausage patty), and topped it off with a tad bit of grated cheese. Finally, I broiled the “sandwich” for a few more minutes. It was quick, easy, and so good that I decided to serve it for dinner the next night. Yum.

Now I’ve just gotta figure out how to make a healthy version of a big mac. Š

Brown Rice Risotto

The other night I made brown rice risotto.

Well, kinda.

I ripped the recipe out of O magazine awhile ago and have been hanging onto it. The chef/writer, Colin Cowie, promised he was sharing a “labor-free” variation of the dish that usually requires a lot of stirring. Labor-free – now that’s my kind of meal.

Here’s what I did: I cooked 1 cup of brown rice in an organic free-range chicken broth. Meanwhile, I cooked mushrooms in a skillet for a few minutes (the recipe calls for an assortment of cremini, white jumbo, and shiitake, but we only had one type) and then I set the mushrooms aside. When the rice was ready, I mixed in the mushrooms. Then I mixed in 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese. I served it with a crisp greens salad. It was delicious. You can use other vegetables (asparagus) or ingredients (seafood) in place of mushrooms.

It’s one of those meals that will go into the “let’s make this again” category in my recipe box. Š

Basic Equipment

I enjoy the beginning of yoga class because the opening is generally “easy” – well, at least physically (the meditating part can bring up its own set of challenges).

But before we practice some of the more difficult poses, we usually we open by sitting in Sukhasana for a few minutes. And then maybe move onto our hands and knees to practice Dog Tilt and Cat Pose. It’s a place for gentle movements. A time to bring awareness to our breath.

The other day at the beginning of class, we were on our hands and knees with a neutral spine (tabletop). The teacher asked us to lift our right arm off the ground and straighten it so it pointed forward. Both of our arms were engaged. The left one pushing the floor away, and the right one reaching for the wall in front of us (in a way where we weren’t scrunching our shoulder blade up to our neck). She had us hold that position. For a long, long time. It was hard. (Don’t believe me? Try it.)

“Some poses can be deceptive,” the teacher said. “Not as easy as they seem.”

I love that about yoga. I love that I don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment or special shoes to build flexibility and strength. I just need my body, my mind, and my spirit.Š

Healthier Options

My trip to LA is winding to a close. I’d love to post a couple of healthy new recipes I tried this week, but I haven’t been cooking (unless you consider slicing apple and dipping it in natural peanut butter cooking). Instead, I’ve been eating out more than I intended. But I guess I have re-learned one lesson on this road trip: it never hurts to ask. The other day I was ordering an Ahi tuna burger from one of my favorite spots – a roadside seafood shack. I was sure they didn’t have wheat buns – I looked everywhere for the small print in the menu indicating customers had that choice and couldn’t find it. But when I asked, turns out they could serve their burgers on wheat. And the breakfast place this morning – though the menu doesn’t specify, you can request fruit on the side instead of home fries. Of course options like that aren’t always available. The Chinese place I stopped by the other night didn’t have brown rice as an option – only white. But I’m going to keep asking, cuz you just never know.