Hey, Good Lookin’

Early on in my teenage years, I received some valuable advice. While hanging at a (guy) friend’s house, he mentioned that his older sister was obsessed with losing weight. He relayed: “My mom says it doesn’t matter what the scale says, it matters how you feel.” As an impressionable 16-year-old, I could only assume his mother’s words were true. Regardless of why this mantra has stuck with me, I am ever grateful to have had it as I entered the age [or rather, decade] of body image and weight-obsession, myself.

Easier said than done – and for better or worse – I’ve always tried to let how I feel lead me. In the realm of weight loss, it’s interesting to note that we all have days when we feel gorgeous and sexy in our favorite size 6 jeans, and others when we loathe ourselves for wearing the same pair. I’d be willing to bet that on those days when you don’t feel good enough, it’s about the number – on the scale, at the store, or in comparison to others – or a reflection of how you’re feeling in other aspects of your life – you flunked a quiz, got in a fight with your boyfriend, or got blown off by your best friend. One negative thought, or instance, breeds many. (See Discovering Your Genius(!)) And it’s easiest to take all this negativity out on ourselves. If only I were thinner, more toned, had longer hair, were a smaller size. Then maybe I’d date that guy, go to that party, or nail that interview. But on those days when you’re feeling good, when all things are going your way, and you rock that size 6 like the hottest bitch in the club…nothing can touch you. And you don’t need a size 2, or anyone else to validate that you can do and be everything you want. What does this tell us? Another mantra I like to revisit in my own journey of up’s and down’s certainly applies here: It’s already in you. When you find yourself looking outside to feel better about yourself – to other people or to the scale – remember, that high you’ve felt before is always in you and nowhere else. (Although, speaking from experience, you may go broke and crazy searching…) It’s just up to us, when the low’s come around, to resist, remind, and rekindle the positivity within ourselves. Nothing else will do. Because, it’s all already in you.

So, with this in mind, I don’t like to spend much time dwelling on weight loss. If you’re happy, at any size, that’s all that matters. I also believe that the journey of weight loss is very personal. No one can do it for you. It can’t be bottled, or put in a pill. It has to be yours and ideally, to be successful, it should be full of activities you enjoy and foods you love. (Pick your poison – What new activity will you fall in love with? Yoga, hiking, kick-boxing, running, zumba, biking – there’s no wrong way, just your way.) As for eating, I believe maintaining a healthy weight without the drama (i.e. constant up’s and down’s of dieting) requires opening your heart and head to a lifestyle change, and learning about food. We’re bombarded with conflicting messages from the media, advertisements, documentaries, and Michelle Obama, advising us on the best approach to a healthy diet. But, I’ve found, when we simply go back to basics, eating well is easy – and intuitive. (Again, it’s already in you!)

First, I suggest getting in the habit of reading the ingredients of the foods you eat. I guarantee we spend more time researching our next big purchase, which movie to see on Saturday, or something about your Fantasy Football team (…trying to be gender neutral here, but that’s all I got), than thinking about the food we put into our bodies. The food we eat is directly responsible for fueling us throughout the day and protecting us from illness, now and as we age. Food also has the power to dictate our moods, energy levels, and even how much we break out, on a daily basis. (Pimples be gone!) You don’t need to put anything back on the shelf – not yet, anyway – but just read and acquaint yourself with what you’re putting in your body. It only takes a second. As you go, you may find that the ingredients listed in certain products, by certain brands, or at certain stores, please you the most. And remember, food is love – you deserve only the best (or the more horrid homage: your body is not a garbage can), and the better you eat, the ones you love will soon follow. [Side note: I have a huge crush on Trader Joe’s, but even there – read the labels! You’ll be surprised what you’ll find.]

My other big rule for healthy living (aka feeling good!) is: learn to cook. Ahh, I can hear the groans from cyber space, but wait just a second before I’m dismissed. I didn’t grow up loving to cook, and it wasn’t a big part of my up-bringing. But when I started living on my own, and wanted to control my weight – and reduce the anxiety I felt in finding something “healthy” among the greasy pubs and food trucks of Boston (however, delicious on occasion!) – I taught myself to cook. Here’s the thing, we’re all busy. I actually, really do believe that you have no time. I feel you, completely. But, I don’t believe you would say “Under no circumstances, will I ever cook for myself.” So I suggest, and challenge you, to create your own conditions. Under what circumstances, would you like to cook. (“Like” is important here – if you don’t enjoy the process, or the results, you won’t keep doing it. It has to be fun, and delicious!) Maybe it’s easiest for you to pack a lunch and snacks for work the night before, or the morning of. Maybe you’d prefer to cook yourself a big meal every couple days and keep the leftovers for lunches. (You can always get creative and jazz them up each time. For example, grilled chicken breast = dinner yesterday, buffalo chicken salad today, and Asian rice bowl tomorrow!) Find things you like to eat that are easy “go-to’s” for when you’re tired or feeling stuck. Under what circumstances would you brown bag it tomorrow? (Maybe buying yourself a rad new lunch bag would get you inspired.) As a loyal BYOL-er for many years, I’ll tell you it’s cooler than you’d think. Impressing people with leftovers has never been easier, in the age of $5 all you eat buffets. But the point is – Food is love. And once you start learning about the food you eat and cooking (some of) your own meals, you’ll discover you’re feeling better – you have less anxiety over what to eat and what you’re eating, more energy, fewer pimples, and more confidence because – Damn, you cooked that yourself?!

I recently received the following info-graphic for “Plus-Size Yoga” and wanted to share it with all of you. No matter your pant size – now or down the road – yoga is good for you. It feeds your physical body and psychological being in ways that allow you to feel better – crave healthier foods, have more energy, lose weight and live longer. This graphic does a great job at explaining some of the scientifically proven, medical benefits of a regular yoga practice, demonstrating specific postures which have real benefits for everyone, at all sizes. (Photo Credit and a BIG “Thanks” to Aldo Baker and Alight for spreading the word!)

I’ll check back in soon with my take on “juice cleansing” as a self-proclaimed once-a-day juicer and former juice bar employee (+ my own recipe for at-home juicing!). There’s no better place to take on the craze than out here in L.A. – I look forward to sharing what I’ve found!

Rock on,
Amy

plus-size-yoga

 

Hey, Good Lookin'

Early on in my teenage years, I received some valuable advice. While hanging at a (guy) friend’s house, he mentioned that his older sister was obsessed with losing weight. He relayed: “My mom says it doesn’t matter what the scale says, it matters how you feel.” As an impressionable 16-year-old, I could only assume his mother’s words were true. Regardless of why this mantra has stuck with me, I am ever grateful to have had it as I entered the age [or rather, decade] of body image and weight-obsession, myself.

Easier said than done – and for better or worse – I’ve always tried to let how I feel lead me. In the realm of weight loss, it’s interesting to note that we all have days when we feel gorgeous and sexy in our favorite size 6 jeans, and others when we loathe ourselves for wearing the same pair. I’d be willing to bet that on those days when you don’t feel good enough, it’s about the number – on the scale, at the store, or in comparison to others – or a reflection of how you’re feeling in other aspects of your life – you flunked a quiz, got in a fight with your boyfriend, or got blown off by your best friend. One negative thought, or instance, breeds many. (See Discovering Your Genius(!)) And it’s easiest to take all this negativity out on ourselves. If only I were thinner, more toned, had longer hair, were a smaller size. Then maybe I’d date that guy, go to that party, or nail that interview. But on those days when you’re feeling good, when all things are going your way, and you rock that size 6 like the hottest bitch in the club…nothing can touch you. And you don’t need a size 2, or anyone else to validate that you can do and be everything you want. What does this tell us? Another mantra I like to revisit in my own journey of up’s and down’s certainly applies here: It’s already in you. When you find yourself looking outside to feel better about yourself – to other people or to the scale – remember, that high you’ve felt before is always in you and nowhere else. (Although, speaking from experience, you may go broke and crazy searching…) It’s just up to us, when the low’s come around, to resist, remind, and rekindle the positivity within ourselves. Nothing else will do. Because, it’s all already in you.

So, with this in mind, I don’t like to spend much time dwelling on weight loss. If you’re happy, at any size, that’s all that matters. I also believe that the journey of weight loss is very personal. No one can do it for you. It can’t be bottled, or put in a pill. It has to be yours and ideally, to be successful, it should be full of activities you enjoy and foods you love. (Pick your poison – What new activity will you fall in love with? Yoga, hiking, kick-boxing, running, zumba, biking – there’s no wrong way, just your way.) As for eating, I believe maintaining a healthy weight without the drama (i.e. constant up’s and down’s of dieting) requires opening your heart and head to a lifestyle change, and learning about food. We’re bombarded with conflicting messages from the media, advertisements, documentaries, and Michelle Obama, advising us on the best approach to a healthy diet. But, I’ve found, when we simply go back to basics, eating well is easy – and intuitive. (Again, it’s already in you!)

First, I suggest getting in the habit of reading the ingredients of the foods you eat. I guarantee we spend more time researching our next big purchase, which movie to see on Saturday, or something about your Fantasy Football team (…trying to be gender neutral here, but that’s all I got), than thinking about the food we put into our bodies. The food we eat is directly responsible for fueling us throughout the day and protecting us from illness, now and as we age. Food also has the power to dictate our moods, energy levels, and even how much we break out, on a daily basis. (Pimples be gone!) You don’t need to put anything back on the shelf – not yet, anyway – but just read and acquaint yourself with what you’re putting in your body. It only takes a second. As you go, you may find that the ingredients listed in certain products, by certain brands, or at certain stores, please you the most. And remember, food is love – you deserve only the best (or the more horrid homage: your body is not a garbage can), and the better you eat, the ones you love will soon follow. [Side note: I have a huge crush on Trader Joe’s, but even there – read the labels! You’ll be surprised what you’ll find.]

My other big rule for healthy living (aka feeling good!) is: learn to cook. Ahh, I can hear the groans from cyber space, but wait just a second before I’m dismissed. I didn’t grow up loving to cook, and it wasn’t a big part of my up-bringing. But when I started living on my own, and wanted to control my weight – and reduce the anxiety I felt in finding something “healthy” among the greasy pubs and food trucks of Boston (however, delicious on occasion!) – I taught myself to cook. Here’s the thing, we’re all busy. I actually, really do believe that you have no time. I feel you, completely. But, I don’t believe you would say “Under no circumstances, will I ever cook for myself.” So I suggest, and challenge you, to create your own conditions. Under what circumstances, would you like to cook. (“Like” is important here – if you don’t enjoy the process, or the results, you won’t keep doing it. It has to be fun, and delicious!) Maybe it’s easiest for you to pack a lunch and snacks for work the night before, or the morning of. Maybe you’d prefer to cook yourself a big meal every couple days and keep the leftovers for lunches. (You can always get creative and jazz them up each time. For example, grilled chicken breast = dinner yesterday, buffalo chicken salad today, and Asian rice bowl tomorrow!) Find things you like to eat that are easy “go-to’s” for when you’re tired or feeling stuck. Under what circumstances would you brown bag it tomorrow? (Maybe buying yourself a rad new lunch bag would get you inspired.) As a loyal BYOL-er for many years, I’ll tell you it’s cooler than you’d think. Impressing people with leftovers has never been easier, in the age of $5 all you eat buffets. But the point is – Food is love. And once you start learning about the food you eat and cooking (some of) your own meals, you’ll discover you’re feeling better – you have less anxiety over what to eat and what you’re eating, more energy, fewer pimples, and more confidence because – Damn, you cooked that yourself?!

I recently received the following info-graphic for “Plus-Size Yoga” and wanted to share it with all of you. No matter your pant size – now or down the road – yoga is good for you. It feeds your physical body and psychological being in ways that allow you to feel better – crave healthier foods, have more energy, lose weight and live longer. This graphic does a great job at explaining some of the scientifically proven, medical benefits of a regular yoga practice, demonstrating specific postures which have real benefits for everyone, at all sizes. (Photo Credit and a BIG “Thanks” to Aldo Baker and Alight for spreading the word!)

I’ll check back in soon with my take on “juice cleansing” as a self-proclaimed once-a-day juicer and former juice bar employee (+ my own recipe for at-home juicing!). There’s no better place to take on the craze than out here in L.A. – I look forward to sharing what I’ve found!

Rock on,
Amy

plus-size-yoga

 

Discovering Your Genius(!)

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius. Speak your latent [inner] conviction, and it shall be the universal sense [agreed upon by all].” 

I have the pleasure – and honor – of crafting a comparison for my Foundations of Yoga Studies midterm essay, between Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Self Reliance (introduction referenced above) and the Katha Upanishad,* one of the “principal thirteen” Upanishads which include many essays and poems written by ancient Vedic priests, and is one of the initial documented forms of yoga dating back to ~ 1st century B.C.E. I chose this topic because, remembering an experience in middle school when I was first exposed to Emerson’s Self Reliance (or more accurately, an “Ah-ha” moment), I recall telling people afterwards that it was my “favorite book” (embarrassing) – But, to tell the truth, I don’t remember a thing about it. I’ve heard of comparisons between Vedic [ancient yogic] philosophy and Transcendentalism – i.e. 19th century C.E. Thoreau (Walden) and Emerson (Nature, Self-Reliance) – so why not take the opportunity to revisit an old favorite?

A favorite verse from Self-Reliance, and one that I think aptly captures the key similarities between Transcendental and Yogic philosophy, is:

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense.”

Although I have an obvious bias – really, more of a crush on – well-crafted rhetorical persuasion as a student of politics, something about these words resonates with me on a deep and profound level. And, as Emerson states above, he would bet that this resonance has the potential to strike everyone the same way, as “is true for all men,” we’re innately and equally capable of harnessing our inner “genius” (or in yoga philosophy: your personal truth or [big-S] Self). “Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense.” I read this as a command – and think it should end with the proper exclamation(!). With Emerson toting a blue-ribboned ponytail and GW-type swag, balking back on his horse, I imagine him saying, perhaps with a megaphone: “Go forth! And be, unapologetically, you!” Trust your gut! He says. It sounds so simple, but its difficulty is revealed when we take a moment to sincerely consider how we are (what we think, do, say) on a daily basis. Going through the motions of work, school, homework, meetings and travel – it’s easy to get swept away with the current and fall into a routine. But, when you pay closer attention to your interactions and thoughts throughout the day, how many times do you say something or agree with something simply out of habit or ease? (When in truth, it may have been in opposition with your true “gut.” That’s alright, we all do it!) It’s easier, even habitual at times, to “just get through” the day. But if nothing else, it’s interesting to consider how we might be inadvertently stifling our own voice, and succumbing to negativity in this process. Emerson’s advice: Trust Thyself.  Find your genius in the genuine. Or the modern adapted version: Go forth and be fabulous!

Our thoughts are powerful. Last week, I provided some insights into the “Yoga & Neuroscience” and want to share another related concept. For every negative thought we hear or think, it takes five positive thoughts to get back to normal/neutral from the resulting mood imbalance – just like momentary depression. This is scientifically proven as an evolutionary survival reflex, and is referred to as our innate “negativity bias.” (More on negativity bias here.) I mentioned last week, that thoughts – according to neuroscientists – are actually a group of connected neurons in the brain, that together form a single thought or idea. Repetition of the same idea or thought over-and-over strengthens this connection, so the more often we think (or say) something, the more likely we are to think it again. Considering this, and considering how much – scientifically speaking – a single negative thought brings us down, it’s apparent that its advantageous for our well-being to pay attention to what’s going on in our noggin. When we start to recognize our own internal “negativity bias,” we can begin to change our thoughts from a predominantly negative to a positive spin, or worldview. And, the good news is, just as negative thoughts strengthen and recur with repetition, so do positive thoughts. (All thoughts follow this rule – What have you been thinking about a lot lately?)

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense.” 

Trust yourself (and treat yourself)! Be open to hearing yourself out and making yourself heard. Stay positive, especially when it’s difficult, because you’re creating a path to follow in the future. And seeking what’s easy is understandable, but living your truth is genius! (Just sayin’…) This is also, living in yoga.

Emerson has inspired my week, having set the intention to live by his motto: “Trust thyself.” In recalling the negative thoughts which have occupied my mind lately, it’s clear that my own doubt and fear (the antithesis of trust) are most at fault. Once we get passed this depressing duo, or overcome our negativity bias, how many more positive thoughts will we think? How happy can we be? I intend to find out. What’s your intention this week?

With love,
Amy

———–

*Katha Upanishad (pronounced in Sanskrit: “Kat-a,” like Immanuel Kant without the “n”)

In case you want more on negativity bias:

– Dr. Rick Hanson discusses the neuropsychological basis for “Confronting the Negativity Bias” as an evolutionary survival tactic, and how to overcome it.

– Check out this NY Times article which discusses the importance and benefits of overcoming your “negativity bias,” and its impact at work and in your everyday life.

^ Excerpt: “The more you’re able to move your attention to what makes you feel good, the more capacity you’ll have to manage whatever was making you feel bad in the first place. Emotions are contagious, for better or worse. It’s your choice.”

Photo Credit: Personal photo of a surf(bill)board outside a cafe in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.

Work Hard, Play Hard.

In my previous posts, I’ve talked about the importance and “beauty” of finding yoga on your mat – particularly in those moments when you find your “yoga high” and perhaps even experience a state of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses, as awareness draws inward). We treasure these moments, because they are so few, and reconcile with ourselves that they can only be fleeting. But – ah ha! – what if it were possible to live in yoga, even when you’re off the mat?

If you haven’t heard the phrase “living in yoga” before, please allow me to introduce you. Living in yoga does not mean living in a perpetual state of pratyahara, perpetually withdrawn from the outside world – though some, very traditional yogis choose this path of renunciation. Rather, it means applying basic yogic principles (revisiting the eight limbs = yoga’s “code of ethics”) and practicing yoga as “the science of the mind” on a daily basis, by carefully observing your own thoughts and choosing your words (and thoughts) with care and intention. How nice of a notion. Of course, we know that though yoga is sweet, life is not that simple. So, often times, the “living” part gets in the way.

This week, I can certainly relate to the feeling of having to surrender to life – in this case: my schedule. I love school. I love yoga. Grad school for yoga? Sign me up! But somehow in the midst of two weeks of non-stop events/classes/studying (all of my waking hours) my enthusiasm waned, and life took over. And suddenly, it wasn’t so fun anymore.

In talking to fellow classmates and checking in with friends who are building their own professional careers (from event planning, to accounting, sales and yoga!), I began to notice a theme: Surrender to our schedules – to life – in a non-stop whirlwind of meetings, parties, and events all designed to achieve balance (to some degree) and overall success. These are great goals to aspire to, even admirable. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could get there without feeling like we’ve lost control along the way, and that our lives are driving us? When do we get to stop running and just enjoy? (And don’t say: retirement. Although that should be enjoyable too!)

Living in yoga, your schedule remains the same and your obligations and deadlines are just as urgent. But, instead you commit to living more fully in everything you do and allow yourself to stop and smell the roses – today (no waiting)! This is as lovely as it is challenging, because living in yoga also means devoting greater consciousness to your daily life. By being aware and observing your own thoughts and actions throughout the day, you aspire to live in the present moment with compassion and authenticity. This means, allowing yourself to take one thing at a time. And not only do it, but enjoy it.

This also means making a concerted effort to make time for you, to do what you love – even, and especially, in the midst of chaos. (The picture above was taken this past weekend when I showed my close friend, Laura, my all-time favorite spot* during her first-ever trip to California!) There is nothing more cherished – or important – than memory-making…

As my boyfriend ran out of the house to work this morning, we reviewed our schedules for the day, both with a looming fatigue already at 8:00am. (Whenever you think you have the craziest day ahead, there is someone with one even crazier…) But together, we reached the conclusion: “Well, you can only be one place at a time.” All you can do is the best you can, where you are – and do your best to enjoy it!

In my morning meditation today, I set the intention to bring awareness to the present moment as I go forward into the weekend and coming week, so that I can relax and enjoy all that’s in front of me instead of feeling bound and overburdened. This, like anything, takes practice. But is there anything more worthy of working towards? Being present means listening actively, expressing gratitude, sharing your ideas confidently, and enjoying life – as it is, how it is, right in this very moment. This is, at its simplest, living in yoga.

There are only so many hours in the day. You can only do one thing at a time. So, just do what you can. And enjoy it!

Gives new (& better) meaning to: “Work Hard, Play Hard.” Go forth, and play!

Namaste,

Amy

*photo taken at my favorite peak on Foothill Trail in Ojai, CA