My “Group” of Anti Social Friends

Aside from a couple of years in grade school, I’ve never had a “group” of friends. Not to say I didn’t have friends but I had friends from all different groups and whom didn’t know each other.

I can safely say that this hasn’t changed. 

I love throwing the occasional gathering at my apartment or on my roof because I get to bring all of my friends together, many of whom I don’t see regularly. As an added plus, my friends all get to meet each other (sometimes again).

A handful of my friends also happen to be extremely anti social. Which is totally fine. No one wants a friend who needs them all the time, right? Sometimes I think I might be developing anti social habits, too. And that’s okay. But because everyone is always “busy,” (though usually by choice) and we feel so pressured to also appear this way. But I’ve stopped caring about how I appear and feel free to say, “Nope, I’d rather relax at home with my cat tonight and cook.” I’d rather go for a run by myself. I’d rather sit and meditate by myself. I’d rather go to yoga by myself. 

One of my very dear friends came over last week to help me change my guitar strings (and he also changed and then promptly broke my high E string, sigh). I asked him what he’d been up to lately and he said, “Just working. And avoiding social interaction whenever possible.” It was so refreshing to hear someone say it as non-apologetically as that. Zero fucks given. My reaction was something like, “Go you, but are you depressed? Are you still seeing your therapist?” I think this is a normal reaction but let’s stop making this our go-to when someone chooses not to participate in social activities, okay? 

I used to be extremely extroverted but I think that was more just to get attention than actually liking being around people all the time. Maybe it’ll change again and I’ll go back to being more extroverted, but for right now, I’m happy where I am. 

Last Week’s Workouts

I was going to start a completely separate blog to write about this stuff, but I decided against it because I don’t want to have 7 million blogs on the internet. So, click the “read more” link to hold me accountable and see how I did.

My plan was:

Monday: Ashtanga/Iyengar Yoga
Tuesday: Running + sit ups
Wednesday: Running + sit ups + Ashtanga/Iyengar yoga
Thursday: Running + sit ups
Friday: Rest?
Saturday: Vinyasa
Sunday: Rest or Run?

It turned out like this:

Monday: Ashtanga/Iyengar Yoga (75 minutes)
Tuesday: Running (22 minutes) + abs + hand weights
Wednesday: Running (20 minutes)
Thursday: Pilates (60 minutes) + abs
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Vinyasa (95 minutes)
Sunday: Running (20 minutes or 2 miles) – this killed because we started with running up a hill. 

I’ve been doing pretty good with eating. I’m really trying to limit my snack and eat as many vegetables as possible. I realized that eating chopped veggies and guac instead of tortilla chips leaves me feeling a lot better. Duh. 

How were your workouts last week?

Last Wednesday night I was invited to see Small Mouth Sounds by playwright Bess Wohl at the Pershing Square Signature Center on 42nd Street. I’d been unable to attend the first “buzzmaker” event so I was super stoked to have another opportunity to see it. I mean, after all, could it be more perfect for me? A play about a silent meditation retreat? I think not. I brought J with me because he’s been getting a little more into meditation recently and enjoys seeing a play every now and then. 

The participants of the retreat are your basic stereotypes – obnoxious dedicated yogi, trainwreck white female, the couple who’s having issues, the grieving father, etc. We only hear the guru over the PA system (until the very end) and he’s not a very good guru because he sounds like he’s basically reading from a script. 

In yoga and meditation classes i’ve taken, we’re always told to be very mindful of what we discover in the silence between our breaths, the poses, etc, so a lot of what was being discovered onstage was ringing true to me. It’s always when we’re quietest that we learn the most (this is basically true in any situation in life). 

There are breakthroughs and deceptions, sexual encounters and realizations, and moments of comedy, too. Towards the end of the play, the guru begs his students to “PLEASE CHANGE” out of frustration at their lack of spiritual progress. Ironically, this leads to the most change that any of the characters experience throughout the entire week. 

The characters leave a little bit more woken up than when they arrived, but still basically the same. And so does the audience. I’d highly recommend Small Mouth Sounds, which is playing through October 8th.

For more information, check out this write up in Vanity Fair

Week 1 (or What My Exercise Schedule Actually Looked Like)

I wrote last week about mixing up my work out schedule and including a rest day or two because those might actually be important. Here’s what I’d anticipated it might look like:

Monday: Ashtanga/Iyengar Yoga
Tuesday: Running + sit ups
Wednesday: Running + sit ups + Ashtanga/Iyengar yoga
Thursday: Running + sit ups
Friday: Rest?
Saturday: Vinyasa
Sunday: Rest or Run?

But here’s what it actually ended up looking like:

Monday: Yoga (85 minutes)
Tuesday: 50 sit-ups, running (22 minutes)
Wednesday: 50 sit-ups, arm weight exercises, yoga (85 minutes)
Thursday: Running (20 minutes)
Friday: Yoga (65 minutes)
Saturday: Unintentional rest day
Sunday: Yoga (30 minutes)

With trips out to Long Island and Westchester this weekend, I ate tons of food so now I’m going to try to get back to health eating. Today I think I’m going to yoga and then I’m going to also run. Now where’s my Inspiralized cookbook…

Working out too much or just the wrong way?

I’ve been thinking lately that there’s a possibility that I’ve been working out too much. Or working out the wrong way. When I lost a whole bunch of weight from 2011-2012, I was mainly doing yoga and running (a mile here, a mile there). 

Now I’ve added the elliptical and weights. Then I did shit ton of sit ups for a while. My torso looked great.

With primarily yoga (half vinyasa, half ashtanga/iyengar), very minimal hand weights, and the elliptical, I’m not sure I’m such a fan of how I’m looking, or rather, how I’m feeling.

I decided to run on the treadmill on Friday night instead of doing the elliptical because I wanted to run and it was too hot to run outside. I ran for about 24 minutes; a little over 2 miles. I felt great afterward. Running on the treadmill is the worst but I watched a very old episode of SVU, so I was kept entertained. On Saturday morning I went to my hardest vinyasa class and lost half my body weight in sweat. It was awesome.

Which brings me now to the topic of yoga: I used to do primarily vinyasa classes, which I only do once a week now. I could do them more but they seem so boring (save for my Saturday morning class with one of my favorite teachers). I’m rediscovering my love for ashtanga and iyengar, and not just going for updog as fast as possible, and as many times as possible.

And lastly, I’ve read about working out too much and how important rest days are. As far as I’ve been concerned, at least in the past, rest days are for the weak. But maybe now I’m coming to terms with the cold hard fact that they aren’t. I need a rest day, or two. I’m thinking this could be my potential schedule:

Monday: Ashtanga/Iyengar Yoga
Tuesday: Running + sit ups
Wednesday: Running + sit ups + Ashtanga/Iyengar yoga
Thursday: Running + sit ups
Friday: Rest?
Saturday: Vinyasa 
Sunday: Rest or Run?

I’ll try it out this week and see how it works. 

Rolfing Virgin No More

While I was away on the yoga retreat, my teacher Chrissy recommended that I go see a person name Maya Ray to help with the muscles in my neck and back, as well as my 24/7 cracking of my neck. She told me she was a Rolfer and I was all, “Huh?” Rolfing is basically like a chiropractor session for my muscles, as opposed to your bones. Chrissy noticed that while lying in shavasana, my collarbones looked uneven, perhaps contributing to my neck pain.

I made an appointment right after I returned from Catskills for a consultation. Maya was incredibly knowledgable and looked at me and said she thought she could help. I had the means and the time, and nothing to lose, so I made an appointment for last Wednesday. I knew it would hurt and be a little uncomfortable, but it actually wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating (cue Christian Grey: the pain is in your mind).

I had to wear a bra and boy shorts for the session so she could get a good look at my alignment. I’d told her that I’d fractured two ribs as a child and she thought this might be the reason for my very slightly misaligned collarbones, since you can’t really set your ribs to heal how you want them to when you fracture or break them.

She worked on my back, neck, the muscles on top of my rib cage, and my hips. Why my hips? All this stuff is connected and if my hips are tight, it could make my back tight (which she said my entire back was tight, 100%). 

She also noticed how I breathe could be the culprit. I grew up taking voice lessons where we learned to breathe through our diaphragms and the correct way to breathe, apparently, is into all four sides of our body. People usually breathe only into the top part of our lungs, which isn’t good for our necks either.

So, her prescription was this: use therapy balls to loosen up the muscles in my back now and then, pay attention to how I’m breathing, and call her in two weeks. Rolfers usually require 10 sessions to see any improvement but for whatever reason, she’s not strict like that (probably because it’s cost prohibitive). 

It was like a more intense and painful massage that included mild movement. It was an awesome 75 minutes. I’ll likely go back for one or two sessions more as I’ve noticed some slight improvement since going last week.

I haven’t used the therapy balls as much as I should have so I have to get better about that. They’re so painful but so useful as far as tight muscles go. Have any of you tried rolfing? 

Giving It All Away

I’ve been reading my second book on de-cluttering, The Joy of Less and I was KonMari’ing again last weekend and gave a bunch of stuff away. It felt really good to give my stuff to people who would give it a new life. These are inanimate objects, but humor me. 

Although my couch was old and kind of crappy (I bought it from IKEA in 2008), it was still totally usable and I really wanted it to get a new home and not go to a landfill. After little success on Facebook and with my IRL friends, I asked the intern at my office if she could post an ad on the Columbia University Marketplace on Facebook. I live quite close to Columbia and I knew I had a pretty good chance of finding a new home for my couch if I got the ad in front of Columbia students. Minutes after she posted it, I received three emails and narrowed it down to one after revealing when I could move furniture in and out of my building (there are very strict rules – M-F only). Three roomies came for the couch the day after I got my new one and thanked me profusely via text message after. I never met them but I’m glad some students who are paying high tuition have a free couch. And I’m very happy my couch has a new home.

Next on the chopping block were two yoga bolsters. I had three in my apartment but let’s be real, how many can I use at once? Answer: One, but I actually don’t even use that one all that often. So, instead of hiding the extra two under a chair, like I had been for months, I advertised on my Facebook wall that I had these two extra hardly-used bolsters and won’t someone please come take them from me? They were gone in a day. Yay!

After that I decided to purge my shoe collection. The floor of my small walk-in closet was covered and I touched about 4 pairs of shoes regularly. I did a Marie Kondo and put all of my shoes on the floor of my living room and picked through them. At the end I kept about dozen pairs – enough to be hung in the shoe holder on the back of my bedroom door and tossed a big bag after. Well, not tossed, donated. I also donated a small bag of clothing that had been sitting on a chair in my bedroom for a while.

I tackled the contents of my coffee table and ottoman, too. I was keeping far too many magazines – Time Out New Yorks – that I would ever look at again. So I kept about 10 issues that I especially liked and recycled the rest.

My bookshelves also got swept. When I was boxing up books, I decided to get rid of a few dozen plays that I’ll never read again, and some books that I read, enjoyed, and will never read again. And let’s not forget about books that I never read and probably never will. I’m taking these over to Book Culture on Saturday.

Previously I’d cleaned out my kitchen island and my tupperware (because as long as there is takeaway, there will be plastic containers, sadly).

It’s a privilege to be able to give stuff away and I’m fully aware. 

I’m not done yet, but it’s nice to start the process of streamlining. And please don’t worry, I’m not killing myself. No, no. I just got a new couch and cleaned out some junk – more than ever, now is the time to enjoy my apartment. (That sounds ridiculous, but you get what I mean.)

And: Retreat

I’d never gone on a yoga retreat before last weekend. I remember a few years ago I was debating on coming up to the same farm for a similar yoga retreat with one of my favorite teachers at the time and I decided that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, spend the money. This time around I’m a little better off and it was pretty cheap as far as weekend yoga retreats go (they’re sometimes thousands of dollars???) so I signed up as I found out that one of my current favorite teachers, Chrissy Carter, was teaching up at a spot called Heathen Hill over the last weekend in the Catskills.

I’ve never been much of a nature person (the one time I tried camping I was bit by a deer tick and got limes disease) but I was willing to give this a shot because I wouldn’t necessarily have to be out in nature. I wouldn’t have to hike or go in a canoe. I could read and journal in between yoga classes and have that be that.

There’s also incredibly limited cell reception up there. You have to walk to the top of a hill about 8 minutes away to get, at best, spotty service. I was nervous about that but Justin was watching the catch for one night and then my mom wanted to hang out in the city, so she took over the second night. Still. No cell service?! AH.

I carpooled it up there with three lovely women – two of whom were yoga teachers themselves – and we had a fun time, despite getting lost in northern Jersey and the traffic heading up there that made us miss the Friday evening class. It was what it was. We were able to relax into our rooms and walk amongst the chickens instead.

The food was farm fresh, mostly vegan, but all at least was vegetarian. The only time we had meat was at brunch on Sunday. There was even cauliflower flatbread. We all freaked out over it. There were also the farm fresh snap peas and homemade dill dip which was to die for. And the homemade ice cream? And the homemade asian coleslaw? Dead. 

Chrissy kept talking reiterating during her dharma talks in class about creating space in our lives for stillness and that we all had space that weekend to do whatever we wanted. There was no internet or cell phone service, or work commitments that we had to take care of. We were here for self-care purposes. She talked about not having to rush from one thing to another because there was no place to be. We had permission to stop pretending to be busy. She said we could stop and truly find out what we needed at that moment, and maybe in our lives going forward.

She told us that one thing she wanted us to take away from this weekend was the ability to create that space for ourselves even when we were back in the city again with a million things to do when it seems like we have no time (from that bad habit we Americans have of having to make ourselves appear busy when we never really are). 

It was incredibly liberating to have nothing to do, as well as incredibly frustrating. I have all of this time and nothing to do.. oh my goodness. I could read, or write, or take a walk, or go hang out with my fellow yogis, or meditate, or try to pick up one of the chickens, or pet the owner’s cats. 

What did I end up doing? I read Elie Wiesle’s Night. I journaled a lot. I spent about 5 minutes down by the watering hole before deciding that the bugs were just not for me. I watched the sunrise on both days. I meditated. I met a lot of awesome people. I made s’mores by the campfire. I ate delicious food fresh from the farm, and I slept really well. I also drank some wine. 

I really felt like not talking during the weekend. I started wishing it was a silent retreat on the first day. I balanced out my alone time with the time that I spent with my fellow yogis. Also: no one talked about politics. Score.

There were several women – in their late 30′s and 40′s – who also wanted nothing to do with having kids. Oh, what’s that? You have a completely fulfilling life without having to devote it to raising human larve? You’re my heros. #vindication

I never did catch a chicken, but my new friends did place a chickens in my arms not just once, but twice. Those guys are so cute!

By the time Sunday brunch was finished, I was ready to head back to the city. Fresh and clear-minded this time. I’d had my fill of nature for now.

i’ll definitely do this again. I’m not sure when but sometime soon. 

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All About That Quiet

Last night I attended my very first Big Quiet gathering in Central Park’s Summerstage venue. I’d met Jesse Israel, the founder of The Big Quiet and MediClub, but I had yet to attend one of the actual events. Part of me hates the idea of paying more than $10 to meditate (because meditation is free, goddamnit) but then I remember how great the experience of group meditation is and I asked my friend to grab me a ticket when she was buying a few weeks back.

Note to self: Bring a yoga block to sit on next time. We arrived 30 minutes or so before showtime and put down our towels before indulging in samples from sweetgreen and a vegan cookie company (they were oatmeal and thus just OK). I saw a couple of people that I knew and eventually the lights on the main stage went down and my friends and I sat on our towels. 

We were all lead in a vocal exercise to get us revved up for the meditation by an incredible voice manipulative/beat boxer/whatever and the organizers of The Big Quiet and MediClub came onstage after to tell us more about their organization.

Jen Kluckowski lead the actual meditation. I never reached a truly relaxed state, sadly. Probably because I was uncomfortable, first sitting on my knees and then switching to a seated cross-legged position. It was nice to hear the wind and the birds though. I wished it was more guided, or at least that there were more moments of, ‘when your mind has wandered…’

I’m glad I went because like I said before, group meditation is great, and sometimes better than solo meditation. My next move is to grit my teeth and pay for ClubMedi the next time they host a sitting. Because in a world with so much noise, we need that quiet so much more. 

Check them out here on Facebook for information on the next gathering. 

Bait & Switch (& Switched Again)

I’m doing a free two-week pass at Yoga Shanti (the studio across the street from my office) and I went to a class that was listed as “Open” last week. I was expecting it to be Iyengar/Ashtanga with different levels of difficulty for each pose. But then I got to the class and the teacher exclaimed, “it’s restorative day!” 

And so I altered my expectations from getting a mild workout to getting no work out at all, but relaxing. I was disappointed at first, but then I reframed and thought, “you know, I had a colposcopy yesterday so maybe this is for the best!” and got excited. 

Then… it turned out to not be so restorative. Or at least not the kind of restorative class I was expecting when I hear something described as “restorative.” There were lots of inversions, which I know are restorative, but for me, they’re not really relaxing. We did the kinds where my neck is hanging in midair and makes me really stress out. 

Not exactly the kind of restorative that I was hoping for. 

But then that’s what happens when you walk into a situation with expectations.