Yogi: I Say “Bear” and You Say “Namaste”

When life is chaotic and non-stop, we all need a moment to sit and relax.  My mind is always going, even when I get that opportunity.  I’m in total envy of those people who can sit and meditate or just focus on one’s breath.  My mind just jumps from one thing to another.  And although my Evernote app has taken a fair share of constant “to do” lists out of constant rotation in my brain, I can’t get the wheels to stop spinning.

Groupon had a great deal on a set of ten yoga classes at a studio near my house; such a great deal that it would be like paying for three regular priced classes.  Who doesn’t need an hour to just sit on the floor and zone out?  I always liked the idea of yoga as a hobby, because I’m realistic to know that I’m not the kind of girl who could become a true yogi and live that naturally peaceful lifestyle on a day to day basis.  As appealing as it would be, I’d be kidding myself to think that was likely.  But I did like the idea of keeping my mat in the car and wearing my cute yoga pants to class here and there, and getting a nice and exaggerated session of stretching to calming music.

I aspire to practice a regular activity that calms me rather than burdens me.

I was given three months to use these 10 classes.  Guess who used half my classes and has a little less than two weeks left to keep going?  This gal.  I truly think I psyche myself out when it comes to yoga.  The fact that I can’t get my mind to relax and focus on the ultimate goal of yoga is so frustrating for me.  Though I am usually proud that I’m more flexible than I thought, I’m also a klutz.  I also don’t follow verbal directions well since I’m a visual learner.  That being said, I always get an outgoing teacher who wants to try some new and complex activity during a beginner class, which causes me to strain my neck to focus on where my body parts should be.  Oh yeah, and meanwhile I can’t forget to focus on my breathing.  Before you know it, I’m slightly stressed, my hands are slippery and I can barely stay in the downward facing dog without panicking that I’ll face plant into my mat.

This is not relaxing.

There is a meditation class option coming up.  I think this could be a possibility.  The less focus on movement and the more focus on easing the mind there is, the better off I will be.  I respect what yoga is and the practice, I think maybe it’s not my thing.  My biggest takeaway from my last class what getting the instrutor to give me the artists on her playlist, because it had been driving me crazy the entire session. Maybe I could just go back to listening to a peaceful album with headphones on to mentally drift, like I could in high school.  I’ll even throw in a stretch once or twice to make it a little healthier.

Image courtesy of yogaworkouthq.com

Women like Audrey and Diana

Did you ever think about how the most iconic and fascinating women are usually the most insecure?  Of course this is something we learn post-mortem usually.  But looking back, the signs are usually so blatantly obvious.

As I looked through some biographies on my bookshelf, I thought about two iconic females represented there; Audrey Hepburn and Princess Diana.  Two women that I had admiration for; Audrey I discovered in my late teens after she’d already been gone for years and Princess Diana who fascinated me from childhood and most of the world from the very start.  Two generous and stylish women, who more often than not, played by their own rules.

Audrey

“If you want to get psychological, you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority.  I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive.  I found the only way to get the better of them was by putting my foot down, by adopting a forceful and concentrated drive.”  – Audrey Hepburn

They individually gave so much to the world, through charity and hands-on efforts in previously disregarded regions that needed a spotlight from a respected figure.  Both battled eating disorders, depression and unfulfilling relationships; often waging a war with an inferiority complex and constant outside pressure.  Both finding solice in children and humanitarianism.  I wonder if it takes such a sensitive and genuine character to produce such admirable gifts, to be so altruistic.  Could an egotistical and self-assured woman be so generous?

They say so much of who we are stems from our childhood.  Both of these women came from broken homes and found in their youth, comfort in solitude.   They eventually went from unknown young ladies to instant celebrities, with constant criticism and a yearning for normalcy.  I think it takes a special kind of woman to face the world in such a public way and despite personal battles, finding happiness in the people they can trust and in the causes they can fight for.

A young Diana Spencer

“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.”    Princess Diana

 

Reference:  “How to be Lovely” by Melissa Hellstern

Tea Time Vs. Coffee Dash

Courtesy of AboutChamomile.com

The Boston Tea Party was a little different from the one I had this afternoon with my Aunt.  Tea Rooms celebrate a time long gone and tend to shy away from encouraging any hostility towards the British.  As a matter of fact, English Breakfast tea remains one of the most popular black tea options on any tea menu, no matter where you are seeking your (insert overcompensating English accent here) “spot o’ tea”.  These establishments are typically Victorian in nature and somewhat gaudy, but in a way that isn’t worthy of an eye roll, but instead a “This is adorable” response.

Tea really could have been an American thing too.  We could have stopped work at 3pm in the afternoon and enjoyed a little tea time ourselves, had American Colonists remained satisfied with bowing down and paying taxes to British Royalty.  Instead, we began to import coffee.  In our American live to work society today, coffee time could be considered the mad rush to wait in line or drive-thru at a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts to get a cream and sugar coffee concoction and guzzle on the way to the office.  Not quite a break at all, now is it?

Americans spend somewhere around 18 million dollars in coffee sales each year, as opposed to the approximately 7 million we spend on tea.  We do enjoy our caffeine, but both of these also present health benefits if, like everything else, used in moderation.

The list of tea’s health benefits seem to grow regularly and include the following:

  • Aid in a healthier immune system
  • Fights free radicals with antioxidants
  • Assists in fresher breath and cleaner teeth
  • Calorie-free (until you add your sugar, cream and/or honey of course)
  • Herbal varieties tout specific health benefits from stomach issues to lower cholesterol
    • Example: peppermint tea for an upset stomach
  • Less caffeine than coffee but its theanine increases mental alertness
  • Flavonoids protect the heart and may reduce certain cancers

Coffee is not without its own health benefits, though the news makes it difficult to maintain a good read on whether or not it does more harm or good.  Either way, this is what coffee is said to be responsible for the possible prevention of:

  • Type 2 diabetes (Found in both regular and decaf varieties)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Certain Cancers
  • Heart problems
  • Strokes
  • Liver disease

Whatever option you choose, recycle your Styrofoam cup and give yourself the opportunity to enjoy an elegant cup of something to warm yourself this winter.  After all, the relaxation alone could lead to the biggest health benefit you could use right about now, mental stability.

References:

10 Simple Goals. Drum Roll Please…

 

One of the many things that deserve more attention.

This is no simple list or is it a list of  New Year’s resolutions.  I could’ve slapped one of those together in no time, without really thinking about the end result.  I didn’t even plan on making goals because resolutions seem so silly.  In reality, I realized that I need to handle my life like I do my daily chores, on sticky notes.  Without making my list and seeing what has to be done laid out in front of me, it’ll never get done.

Well life, here are some things that I think will make me feel happier, healthier and less regret or embarrassment on a regular basis.  It may even do some good in other peoples’ lives too, and really, that’s one of the most important things.

Ten Simple Goals – In no specific order.

1.     Send a handwritten note once a week. To someone who deserves more than a text or a wall post. It can be simple, but will guarantee a smile on the recipient’s face. It’ll keep my Catholic School cursive on the straight and narrow and help the US Post Office stay in business, one little stamp at a time.

2.     Shop locally. A local farm for eggs or a local pharmacy – it’s like putting money back in your neighborhoods pocket and usually comes with more personal service.  Plus, I can meet all kinds of interesting people who are literally invested in their work and won’t treat me like a number on a corporate pie chart.

3.     Share knowledge. Be considerate enough to inform people about news or details that can potentially affect them. I don’t plan to post any billboards on the Interstate anytime soon, but I can be more generous with knowledge that can benefit the people I care about. Speaking of sharing, please note that #1 is about to get more expensive as a stamp increases to 45 cents on January 22, 2012. This list is working already.

4.     Exercise. AHAHA. Yes, this usually makes the top of everyone’s New Year’s goal sheet. It’s so typical, I’m really questioning why I put it on here at all, but it really is important. Maybe by not limiting myself to something I know I’ll never do, it may work? Run an hour a day? No, I’ll never do it, plus it’s bad on the knees. Walk? That sounds better, but maybe I’ll take more of those yoga classes I signed up for or dust off my Wii Fit board. To be perfectly honest, I’m scared of my Mii avatar criticizing me for how long it’s been since I logged on. Last year, when I gained 5 pounds, it mocked me and made my avatar chubby.  Listen Shannon Mii, you’re not encouraging, your mockery has turned me off, but I will give you another shot.

5.     Take better care of my dog. He really is my favorite little guy, but he doesn’t get all the care he deserves. He is incredibly spoiled emotionally, as every pug yearns for, but he deserves more. His breath is awful but he threw my back out the last time I tried to brush his teeth. His nails grow so fast that I can’t keep them short enough regularly. Trifecta…ready? I will walk him more, which helps #5 and #4 AND if we walk to the family owned dog groomer, maybe I can find some fancy option to sparkle up those little chompers, successfully satisfying #2.

6.     Wake up earlier.  Inevitably my morning begins with the following:  “Damn it!”, as my eyes shoot open and I look at the clock and realize I’ll be running for the door again.  Either I get up earlier or I prepare pretty much everything but my face the night before.  I’d say get more sleep, but really, then I’d have time issues getting everything else done.  Don’t be silly.

7.     Save energy? No, I do that.  Recycle?  Kind of OCD about that too.  Hmm.  What if I strive to finish projects?  I snicker as I write this because I need to come up with three more goals to finish this list and now I think I’ll tackle my little side projects too?  Well Blog, if you’re going to hold me to it, I have to.  I have that yarn that I started crocheting.  I keep buying picture frames for my 75% completed photo wall, so that’s a possibility.  The antiques still need some minor repairs and those hollowed out eggs my Grandmom gave me to make ornaments never saw the lights of Christmas.  I hear you inner voice.  What you’re saying is that I can focus on one at a time and get these accomplished? Interesting.

8.     Share more of my time.  You may ask, “Well Shannon, if you have all these time consuming goals, how can you possibly have any time left?”  The answer is easy; I have no idea.  But I will find it.  There is family I always want to spend more time with, friends I promised I’d see, you know, once the holidays are over, and before long, months have passed.  To be honest, I have become accustomed to being by myself so often, that I’m selfish with my space and my alone time.  It is self-centered and I’m lucky to have people who want to spend time with me.

9.     Learn to converse.  I’m so awkward.  My mouth doesn’t move as fast as my mind or vice versa.  Either way, I walk away from random banter and deep conversations feeling like a moron.  “I can’t believe I just said that”.  There is a book I bought about how to hold conversation and I am going to read it.  Maybe that can be a “project” I can work on.  It’s really a skill that doesn’t get very much credit.  I think I’m fairly interesting but my conversations truly lack anything stimulating, causing me to get flustered and tongue-tied.  Whenever I end up referencing the temperature, I think of another good Oscar Wilde quote; “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Eek.

10.     Define my character.  I will always be myself, but how do I want to be portrayed?  It can consist of many superficial things; how I dress, a signature perfume and include my general demeanor, my handshake and verbage choices.  This is for starters.  I can live up to who I know I am, by keeping promises and not overcommitting myself to things that are unlikely to be possible.  That said, this list of 10 things will take major commitment, but it’s not impossible and worth the time to the people I care about and for the betterment of being a good, honest and healthy individual.

Grandmom had it right

Here in 2011, we are a paranoid society.  We also tend to be gullible and believe every new study and every statistic the news tells us.  Being a news junkie, it is hard to decipher sometimes what information can be taken with a grain of salt.  Then I wonder, should it be sea salt?  But what if I don’t get enough iodine?  It’s all too much.

My Great-Grandmom passed away a couple of years ago, at the age of 97.  I learned so much from her, not necessarily through our conversations but by observing her habits.  Obviously, by the time I came along, her life had a routine to it and the news blips about nutrition were most likely not going to sway her longstanding habits.  To be perfectly honest though, growing up in an anti-bacterial obsessed society, every now and then I got a little worried, secretly of course.

The woman never refrigerated her ketchup, butter or mayonnaise.  Expiration dates were nothing to be concerned with and fruit didn’t need to be washed.  Depending on how many visitors filtered through her guest stash, my Pepsi can could reflect a Christmas theme from the year before.  But Grandmom would never lead us astray.  She ate what she wanted, when she wanted, but in moderation.  Stroehmann white bread was truly a staple, served with most suppers.  No whole wheat here.  She sprinkled sugar on her corn flakes (real sugar) and enjoyed bacon or scrapple with fried eggs regularly, when the mood struck, and always with a morning cup of coffee.  She loved to nibble on sweets too.

Grandmom was to me, the epitome of moderation and hardworking character.  She didn’t go out of her way to do anything that the news obsessed over.  She never got a flu shot even.  She did leg lifts every morning before she rose.  She lived out in the world as long as her knees would allow her to roam.  She enjoyed the little things that made her happy, all the while not dwelling on the million little rules we’ve let consume our lives, even when it came to age.  That’s probably why no one believed her when they heard she was nearing 100.

Her habits and self-sufficient ways of life are part of the inspiration behind this blog…coming soon, my attempt to can my own jam.  She’d be so proud.