On speeding up, slowing down, and what the flu has to do with it

Isn't it funny how, when life's moving full-speed ahead and we're struggling to keep up, our bodies will force us to slow down?

This past month, I've been struggling to balance work, school, preparation for the launch of my health coaching business, and spending time with family and friends. Add to that mix: attempting to cook healthy meals from scratch nearly every night and maintaining my near-daily regimen of yoga and/or running.

I hope this doesn't sound like a complaint, because the fact is...I love it all. I love working at lululemon, surrounded by amazing co-workers and a vibrant company culture. I eagerly soak up the knowledge of food and nutrition in my IIN studies. I am ecstatic about my budding health coaching career, and am over-the-moon excited to launch my practice. Spending time with Jason (and Basil) is, without fail, the highlight of my day. And, of course, preparing nutritious homemade meals and moving my body fuels my energy for all of the above.

I recognize how lucky I am to be overwhelmed by these many passions. (In fact, sometimes I've overwhelmed by that fact alone.)

And yet, the body knows when it needs a break.

I woke up yesterday with a fever, muscle aches, chills, and a sore throat. Forgive me the overused hyperbole, but my first coherent thought was I feel like I've been hit by a truck, closely followed by that other cliché, I CANNOT afford to get sick right now.

Have you ever noticed how it's always those times that we "can't afford" to get sick that we do? This is not just some unfortunate coincidence. When we're stressed, our bodies respond, first by polite request. Perhaps some mild fatigue, a headache, or other not-too-serious symptoms, many of which we either ignore or suppress with a pill, at which point our bodies become more insistent. It's then that we're forced to rest, by, for example, waking up with the flu as I did yesterday.

I used to feel terribly guilty about taking a sick day, always wondering if I should chug some Dayquil and "power through." I now wonder: What could possibly be shameful about recognizing my body's need for rest?

In that spirit, I'm honoring my need for rest today. You'll find me on the couch, huddled beneath a pile of blankets, a dachshund on my lap, a Nook in one hand and mug of tea in the other. 

Thank goodness for the body's wisdom. 


Book Review: Poser

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Part memoir, part meditation, Poser is the witty and moving tale of one woman's journey through marriage and motherhood, distilled through the prism of yoga. Faced with the hyper-political correctness of her ultra-hip late-90's "liberal enclave" neighborhood in North Seattle (a place where "people don't have BEWARE OF DOG signs...they have PLEASE BE MINDFUL OF DOG" signs), Claire Dederer pursues yuppie virtue with a vengeance: breast-feeding, cooking organic meals from scratch, eschewing plastic toys, volunteering at the childcare co-op, working full-time, and arranging date nights with her husband. Physically and emotionally burnt out, Claire turns to the practice of yoga, a practice she begins with vague notions about stress relief, but which becomes increasingly a therapeutic refuge from that idealized version of womanhood to which she had so desperately aspired. 

Each chapter of the book is anchored by a yoga pose, the asana providing a metaphor for her musings on a particular aspect of her life (Child's Pose for recalling salient pieces of her own childhood and so on). Through yoga, Claire eventually comes to better understand both her own neuroses and the sub-cultural forces that had whipped her and an entire generation of her peers into the frenzied pursuit of perfection.

Some critics have compared Poser to Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, but aside from the obvious parallels of being female autobiographies that employ yoga-as-metaphor-for-life to varying degrees, the two are, in fact, very different stories. While Gilbert finds salve in the external--her travels illuminating key revelations about herself and her failed marriage--Claire ultimately rejects the trappings of the external world, instead turning inward to discover that the "reality" she'd unquestioningly accepted her whole life is, in fact, an illusion.

Yogis especially will appreciate Claire's encounters with the various styles of yoga (vinyasa, restorative, etc.), with humorously observed descriptions of each, but non-yogis will just as strongly relate to the universality of Claire's journey. In fact, a large part of the book's appeal was in recognizing pieces of myself in Claire and the ensuring catharsis of commiserating with her anxieties (many of which mirror my own) and then laughing with her (and by extension, at myself) as she so aptly dissects those same worries and fears.

Bottom line? Poser is an engaging reminder of the counterintuitive beauty that happens when we stop trying to be good--at yoga or in life--and instead allow ourselves to just be.

Have any of you read it?  If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Why food doesn't fill us up: an update on my IIN classes

A couple months into my IIN program, I am even more excited about my new chosen career path than when I first began.  I have been learning so much about food and nutrition, and the more I learn, the more knowledge I crave.  The guest lectures on the various dietary theories fascinate me.  David Wolfe on the benefits of raw foods.  Andrea Beaman and Lawrence Kushi on macrobiotics.  Joshua Rosenthal (IIN's founder) on all the varying modes of vegetarianism.  Walter Willett on the (many) shortcomings of the USDA food pyramid and Marion Nestle on the politics that enable the perpetuation of the Standard American Diet (SAD).  I absorb their words eagerly, mentally weaving threads from each viewpoint into my own philosophy toward food and my approach toward counseling.  

While I'm enthralled by the nutrition facts and dietary theories, I'm especially affected by the program's emphasis, at every step, that food is, in fact, not our primary food.  What actually feeds us is the quality of our relationships.  Our level of spiritual fulfillment.  Our level of satisfaction with our career.  Our physical activity.  The strength of our connection to our community. 

These are the things that truly fulfill and sustain us, and part of the reason our culture is so screwed up about food is that we believe, mistakenly, that it has the power to fill that deeper void we might feel in other areas of our life.  

True wellness is not only about adopting a healthier diet and hitting the gym more often (though these things are good and would undoubtedly yield benefits for much of the population).  Rather, it's recognizing that every aspect of our lives - relationships, spirituality, career, physical activity, community, etc. - has the potential to fill us up or to starve us to death.  

The quality of our diets is hugely important to our physical health, but the food itself is only part of the equation, and to change our relationship with food, we must first examine any imbalances we're experiencing in other parts of our life.

I love being a student again.  I especially love being a student of wellness, which, as I'm learning, is really about improving the quality of our lives, and the potential we have in doing so, to change the way we experience the world.

Image via IIN.


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