Saturday, February 28, 2009

Take Your Shoes Off

When was the last time you paid attention to your feet? Most of us tend to ignore them, taking for granted that they will carry us around all day. They might get a bit of pedicure pampering during sandal season, but for those of us in the north that's still a few months away. Your poor, neglected feet spend most of the day hidden in boots, never seeing the light, or shoved into narrow toe-squishing pumps or smelly sneakers. Your feet need some consideration.

It's the weekend. If you are hanging out at home, take your shoes off. Stand on the floor and look down at your feet. Can you spread your toes wide? Pick your toes up and see if you can put them down one-by-one, starting with your pinkie toes. Then look straight ahead, close your eyes, and stand tall. Try to be still. Notice if you sway from side to side, or in small circles. Try to push all four corners of your feet into the ground for more stability.

After a few minutes of standing, look down at your feet again. In an attempt to stand still, did you curl your toes to hold onto the floor?

If you take the time to notice what's going on with your feet, you can learn about your energetic body. The root chakra, Muladhara, is an energy center located at the base of your spine. Grounding energy flows from the root chakra through your feet, connecting you to the earth's stabilizing force. When we are grounded, we are present, secure, focused. When the connection to the earth is blocked, we end up "with our head in the clouds", unable to focus on the mundanities of life. Likewise, we can be too grounded, unable to move forward in life, afraid to take a risk.

What happened when you just stood on your feet? Did you feel insecure and wobbly? Did focusing on your feet bring up an unexpected emotion? Did you feel heavy, like all of your weight was in your ankles? Don't judge. I've yet to meet anyone who is perfectly balanced. Just be aware.

Now, back to our five-toed friends down there. Your feet need some love. A massage is nice - even nicer if you can find someone to massage your feet for you. Give your toes a stretch. Interlace the fingers of your right hand with the toes of your left foot. See if you can work your fingers all the way down to the base of your toes. It might not happen the first time. Don't forget to do the other foot too. Step on a tennis ball, and roll it around under your foot. Try a rolling pin to make it more intense.

If your feet are tired, soak them in some warm water with a few drops of peppermint oil. If they are tight, rub them with some lavendar lotion. If your feet feel heavy, like you're just dragging them along, spend some time in Salamba Sarvangasana or Viparita Karani, letting the energy flow up your legs.

Hopefully you're looking at your feet with new appreciation. Maybe they deserve a pre-season pedicure. Just make sure that hot red nail polish is dry before you shove your toes back in your boots.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Sometimes a Monday is just a Monday. It started out okay, with a decent swim workout. Then, as I was making my way out of the YMCA, it became a Monday. The guy who mans the front desk called me over because when I checked in he noticed I have a $267 balance on my account. That makes no sense, because my monthly fees are charged to my credit card. Of course, no one is in the office at 6 a.m., so I'd have to call later.

Back at home, the morning rush was on, as usual, but the children seemed to be stuck in slow motion. I am the timekeeper. "Melanie, it's 6:45." "It's 6:53. You need to stop messing with your hair." "It's 6:57. Your hair looks fine." "It's 7:01, Melanie." Then, because the bus comes back past our house on the way out of our neighborhood, "Melanie, the bus went by once already. You'd better get out there." "The bus driver isn't going to wait for you to get your pony tail perfect. JUST GO!"

45 minutes later it starts again. "Tristan, eat your breakfast." "Tristan, time is running out. Eat your breakfast." "You are going to miss the bus if you don't finish your breakfast soon." "If you're done eating, go get dressed." "Stop dancing around in your underwear and put your clothes on." "You are going to be very cold standing at the bus stop if you aren't wearing pants." "PUT YOUR CLOTHES ON NOW!" "Why are you crying?" "I yelled because you weren't putting your clothes on." "It's 8:23. You have two minutes, so cry and put your clothes on at the same time."

Somehow they both managed to get on their buses, although Tristan was still crying and had to be carried onto the bus. It was 8:30 a.m. and I was already exhausted.

Later, I spent 30 minutes on the phone with the Y. The nice woman in the office insisted that my account wasn't even set up for monthly credit card billings, and had no idea how the monthly charges were showing up on my credit card bill. We finally got to the bottom of it. Somehow I ended up with two accounts in their system, one with my last name misspelled. My member number was associated with both accounts. The misspelled account had all the credit card charges, but the computer always brought the other account first when I scanned my membership card at the desk. My head was spinning by the end of that conversation, but hopefully it's all straightened out. I'll find out when I swim on Wednesday. Hopefully Wednesday won't be another Monday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Waxing Poetic

Never look in the mirror before a workout and tell yourself how hard it's going to be. After you've finished, tell yourself how great you did.

Never look in the mirror searching for bits you'd like to get rid of. Find the muscles that are starting to show.

Never look in the mirror in your race clothes and worry that you don't look like a triathlete. You'll look like a triathlete in your finish line photo, no matter what you're wearing.

Never look in the mirror while wearing your swim goggles!

Never look in the mirror thinking about your limitations. Focus on your strengths.

Never look in the mirror and doubt that you can do this. You CAN do this.

Never wax poetic about triathlon training. It's just silly.

This was bouncing around my head all day. I don't know where it came from, but I'm hoping that writing it down will get it out. Sorry to drag you into it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Never Trust a Groundhog

Earlier this month some poor groundhog got dragged out of bed and paraded around before a gaggle of television cameramen. A silly man in a top hat declared that the confused-looking creature had seen his shadow and, therefore, we were destined to suffer through six more weeks of winter. Now, I'm pretty sure that with all those halogen lights pointed at him from every direction there is no way that groundhog could see his shadow, or anything else for that matter. I think top hat guy was trying to pull our fuzzy wool hats with ear flaps over our eyes. Winter is going away, fast. I have evidence.

The first sign of early spring came two days after our last snowfall, and a day after we finished shoveling the accumulated snow. From the depths of the garage came the distinctive rumble of the snow blower. After messing with the engine all winter, my husband finally got it started. This all but guarantees that there will be no more snow this winter.

Last week our lizard woke up early. Those of you who are familiar with the burmation habits of bearded dragons will recognize her early rising as a clear sign that spring is coming. For those of you who have never watched a lizard sleep for six straight months, trust me that being greeted by an open-eyed lizard two weeks ahead of schedule is a very pleasant surprise. (Check out her picture. Note the open eyes. Also, note my hand, which would have had lots of tiny little teeth marks in it if I had tried to pick her up while she was still sleeping. Never wake a sleeping dragon, no matter how big it is.) We were totally unprepared for her to crawl out from under her log (she sleeps under a log - really!) and had to make an emergency trip to PetSmart for food and a new full-spectrum UV bulb for her enclosure. She is glaring at me through the glass of the enclosure right now. I think she knows I'm talking about her. Either that, or she's just realized she missed Christmas, again.

When my daughter made the high school swim team, we had to cancel our Christmas vacation plans to head north because she had practices every day. As a result, there has been no skiing for me this year, yet. Swim season is almost over and we've scheduled the first weekend in March to drive up to the lake, see my parents, and hit the slopes for an afternoon. It had been so cold and snowy up there this winter that we were sure there would still be snow when we got there. So what happens? Last week the temperatures went into the 40s and the snow melted. Winter is over.

Cloud Nine

We gave our kids some candy hearts for Valentine's Day. Our son, who is in kindergarten, likes them. We let him eat a couple after each meal, with a condition - he has to read them first. So far he has read LOVE ME, SO FINE, SWEET, and CLOUD NINE. Next year I'll have to get some printed with spelling words.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


This morning I was texting with my teenage daughter. She asked to do something. I said no. The next text from her said "fine".

At dinner tonight we were discussing how difficult it is to text the word "fine" and convey the correct meaning. Sometimes "fine" means "okay, that's perfect," and other times "fine" means exactly the opposite. Think of a teenager saying "fine". It gets dragged out, with an underlying sigh, and really means "that is NOT fine, but since I don't seem to have a choice I'll go along with you and do my best to make you miserable the rest of the day because you are forcing me to do something I don't want to do."

There ought to be some way to put "fine" in a text message to let people know when what you really mean is "I despise you and the choice you made." Perhaps it should be all in caps. FINE. Or with extra periods at the end. Fine.....

Or perhaps just knowing it is coming from a teenager is enough.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tweet, Cough, Ssssssss....

Please take a moment to notice all the new additions to the sidebar. The blank space was bothering me. While looking at other people's blogs I've come across all kinds of cool widgets that I just had to have, to fill that space. (I'm a follower. What can I say?) One thing that I found very intriguing was the Twitter widget. At first I thought Twitter was kind of silly. Who could possibly care what I'm doing right now? 24 hours later I am totally addicted. My last five tweets are in the sidebar. You can thank a fellow blogger for introducing me to Twitter. She knows who she is.

Last night the "off" feeling I've had for the past few days turned into a cough. On the bright side, the rest of me feels better. The cough was a bit annoying while trying to teach gentle yoga this morning. It's hard to sound soothing when my instructions for final relaxation went "Close your *cough, cough* eyes, let your thoughts *cough, cough, cough* drift away, focus on the *cough* sound of your *cough* breath..." Luckily my regulars know what they're doing.

Yesterday was one of those "everything is going wrong" kind of days when the kitchen floods and a box of straight pins gets dropped down the stairs, among other things. Last night the moon rose full and bright and I said, "Ah, that explains it." The full moon in February is the Storm Moon. Storms blow in fierce and chaotic, flipping and breaking and flattening whatever is in their paths. While it storms outside we hunker down, possibly feeling fear, frustration, or restlessness. This is the energy the Storm Moon brings with it.

Eventually the storm passes and we venture outside. That's when we discover the energy the storm leaves behind. Think of the day after a storm when the sky is brilliant blue and everything has been washed clean. All you look at seems brighter, transformed into something brand new.

After yesterday's catastrophes, I needed to embrace the transformational energy of the crazy Storm Moon. In my gentle yoga class this morning, we talked about snakes. Snakes symbolize transformation because they shed their skins. Wouldn't it be wonderful to just drop everything that has stuck to you over the past year and walk away with a fresh start? In addition to a few rounds of Bhujangasana, we did a meditative snake dance. Try it sometime. Sit with your legs crossed, and press your palms together at your heart. Then close your eyes and, keeping your palms together, move your hands like a snake, side to side and up and down. How you move doesn't really matter; just let your hands be a snake. Don't think about the movement. Let your mind empty and let the snake dance come from your unconscious. Notice thoughts that float into your open mind. Snakes often bring insight. Listen for a message.

This afternoon I took advantage of the unusually warm weather we are having to clean out the SUV, a job that had been put off too long. Digging out piles of fast food wrappers and pine needles, I discovered the answers to two of life's mysteries - the whereabouts of my bluetooth headset and the origin of that funky smell. (Yes, some mysteries are better unsolved.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Web Surf Down Memory Lane

I was very excited to find that the folks at AcroYoga posted video of Jenny and Jason at the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park, Colorado this past September, because I was there and saw this amazing performance live. Check it out.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Not the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything

In the middle of last night I woke my husband to tell him "fourteen". I have no idea what that means, only that "fourteen" wasn't exactly what I meant to say. In my dream I was looking at something and calling it "fourteeneth", or something like that. Bizarre.

I contemplated buying a lottery ticket, but I didn't dream enough numbers.

This is the second night in a row I've woken my husband. The night before last I was thrashing around in the bed and breathing hard. He thinks I was having a "really good" dream, but I suspect I was just getting in another workout.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Let it Snow

Today we are having the perfect snowfall. It has been snowing since early this morning, but it has just been powdery little flakes that have coated the lawns and trees but left the roads clear. After the sun set everything was black and gray and white like an Ansel Adams photograph. The world got very quiet. Driving past the park I caught site of a herd of deer in a snow-covered field, just standing enjoying the stillness as snowflakes danced around them. This snowfall couldn't be the result of a low-pressure system. This snowfall is magic.

Caught in a moment of just watching snowflakes float to the earth, we can experience the peace that is the heart of yoga. Somewhere around 500 BCE, Patanjali defined yoga in the Yoga Sutras: yogascittavrttinirodhah. Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. Just like the snow can cover a riot of color and sounds leaving nothing but a black and white scene, we can let go of the flood of thoughts that seem to always fill our minds and leave nothing but stillness. This is yoga.

Every now and then I need to be reminded that asanas are just a part of yoga. The ancient yogis practiced asanas to prepare their bodies to sit in meditation for hours, quieting their minds. "Asana" actually translates to "sitting". The asanas are great, and I love seeing what my body can do, but a quiet mind is true bliss.

Tonight the reminder came in the stillness of a snowfall.

Oak Tree, Snowstorm by Ansel Adams

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Dip in the Pool

Sticking to my triathlon training plan, I got out of bed bright and early and was in the pool at the YMCA by 6 am. This was my first "official" swim workout, and my first time in the pool in a few months. The plan called for a 12 minute swim. It should have been a piece of cake.

Not quite.

At 6:20 I dragged myself out of the pool wondering where all my upper body strength had gone. I could swim last fall. Maybe I couldn't swim great, but I wasn't near death after 6 laps. Sitting in the locker room waiting for my arms to recover enough to lift them overhead so I could put my shirt on, that nasty "I am not an athlete - why am I doing this?" thought hit me like a dump truck loaded with cinder blocks. For a brief moment I thought about giving up. Then insanity resumed control of my mind and I got dressed, came home, and started thinking about getting on the bike trainer tonight.

The biking has gotten easier. So has the running. The swimming will get easier too. Until it does, I just have to swallow my pride and try not to count how many times the old man sharing my lane passes me.

Oh, the answer to my question is "I have no idea why I'm doing this."
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