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From the top of a bluff

October 4, 2010

Today I decided to go hiking with my almost four-year-old daughter. I was an avid hiker before she came along and did some hiking when she was still small enough to be carted around in a carrier, but it’s been about three years since my last hike.

And Devil’s Lake probably wasn’t the best choice for our hiking experience. But, as we scampered up and down the face of a bluff (“Hey, Mom! Let’s go (in kidspeak: RUN!) to the edge”), it also reminded me of the power of my practice of yoga.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t plan well. Here’s where I went wrong:

  1. I assumed. We went to the park’s south shore and having hiked some treacherous, rocky trails on the north shore in the past, I presumed the south shore had more kid-friendly trails. And it did, but…
  2. I failed to read the fine print. I grabbed a map, found the trail that was the shortest, and we took off. About 30 minutes and a few hundred vertical feet on the Balanced Rock trail, I looked back at the map and found a short description of the trail. It read something to the effect of “steep, difficult trail.”
  3. I forgot that what goes up must come down. Really. I don’t know, but I didn’t dawn on me until I was doubled over at the top of the bluff that there was no elevator back down to the parking lot. And anyone who has white-knuckled saplings and skidded on their seat, even once, knows that going down is a real treat.

The hike up wasn’t all that bad; my daughter is a strong, surefooted little thing who refused to stop to rest. While I held her hand for nearly two hours and watched every step she took, I was elated to share this experience with her.

Then we had to start down. The trail down wasn’t as well-marked as the trail up and was also much steeper. My daughter probably only hiked 50 feet on her own on the trek down. For the other .299 miles, I either carried her (eek!) or where it was particularly treacherous, I would climb down a few steps, reach back up to grab her, swing her down another step or two, repeat, repeat, repeat.

While each step was taken with trepidation, the old me (as in pre-yoga) would have started a mental game of blame and doubt. Curse words mixed with dear-god prayers would have hung thick in the air. Each slight imbalance, wobble down to the next step, would have sent my mind into visions of our bodies dashed on the rocks.

But today, I was just sweaty and hot. And I was really excited for the pizza I’d promised my kid.

That’s the power of yoga. Well, minus the pizza.

Through a regular yoga practice, we cultivate three things, all critical to living a life free of doubt, sorrow and unhappiness: patience, perseverance and presence.

Patience comes from learning (or relearning) how to move and be in your body and be at peace with your mind. Patience comes from noticing and honoring the gains, however small, from practice to practice. Patience comes from believing in the intangible transformative power of your practice and taking that off your mat and into the world.

Perseverance comes from nudging the edges of your ability, while honoring where you’re at. Perseverance comes from unrolling your mat, time and time again, not allowing it to collect dust in a corner. Perseverance comes from doing poses you never thought were possible, but at least giving them a try.

And then there’s presence. Presence is about noticing the experience of being in your body and breath. In Mindful Breath pranayama, my classic cue is to not “worry about the pace or depth of your breath, but notice the air moving in and how.” That’s presence. In Savasana, when I encourage you to “forget about the things you’ve done or the things you have yet to do,” to “clear your mind and sink into the mat,” that’s presence. But it’s also about going outside yourself and noticing, in a caring, aware, but non-hypervigilant way, the people in your life and your surroundings. It’s about minding your steps and taking in your life and the world, but arriving at your destination in good time.

What should have been a terrible, gut-wrenching, hand-wringing near-death hiking experience (and would have been to most people) was an absolute blast.

I’ll admit that this wasn’t the most well-thought-out excursion or even terribly safe, but my daughter said she can’t wait to do it again. Neither can I.

And I have yoga — and a lot of patience, perseverance and presence — to thank for that.


when you start a blog, how the hell do you start it?

September 8, 2010

I suppose some sort of introduction. To be cheap and easy (in words, not real life), I will steal from myself (check out my portfolio website), with some additions, subtractions, exaggerations, and other such nonsense:

“I tell people I’d be pretty good on Jeopardy … I know a little about a lot of things.”

About the writing stuff: Words have long been a passion for me and that passion is deeply rooted in the desire to learn and do more. I remember way back to the first grade when my teacher placed me in the middle-level reading group … and not liking it one bit. I remember writing journals — journals! in cursive! with words like “temperature” — in the second grade. And I vividly recall my third-grade teacher telling me I couldn’t read “Queen for a Day” because it had “chapters.”

It turned out to be a pretty good and fast read, even at the tender age of 8.

All those experiences (and plenty more) fueled my fire to become a professional writer, even before I knew people made a living of it. I began writing for my hometown newspaper while still in high school and turned to freelancing in college. I’ve worked as a niche publications editor, helmed a B2B magazine, and written countless articles for local, regional and national print and online publications. Writing, much like reading, is the perfect opportunity to learn and explore other facets of life and living. It’s a way to preserve ideas and stories in the fleeting presence of today.

It’s also a rare opportunity to match my talents with work that is meaningful and personal.

My web and print experience has spiraled down paths I never thought possible while sitting in the hot newsroom of my hometown over a decade ago. From resumes and cover letters, to indexing entire publications to designing logos and newsletter, freelancing has provided me with unique opportunities to expand my field of knowledge, learn new skills and network with amazing variety of clients, writers, editors and more. Each one has had an indelible mark on me as a person, a thinker and a doer, and for that (and those dreadful elementary school teachers, I suppose) I am grateful.

About the mothering stuff: I have a preschooler. She’s amazing and exhausting and the love of my life. That’s all you need to know. For now. Some of my best stuff comes from her.

About the yoga-ing stuff: I am a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, and the creator of Yoga for Bigger Bodies; if you’re not familiar with it, you should be. I also reach regular yoga and yogalates, which is a blend of yoga and Pilates. I’m kinda awesome at teaching yoga and yogalates. At least that’s what they tell me.

I came to yoga over 10 years ago as a way to relieve the physical, mental and spiritual burden of living with systemic lupus (SLE). I loved yoga, but mostly practiced on my own; it wasn’t until 2002 that I attended my first yoga class. After joining the working world, I took a part-time job at the YMCA in member services. In doing program registrations, I noticed members were crazy about Pilates, so I signed up, too. I was hooked, and in 2004 I completed my Pilates training through the YMCA of the USA.

Pilates and yoga are natural complements and in 2005, I took my first yoga training. That experience led to more and in 2008 I completed my 200-hour Yoga Teacher training, obtaining certification as a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). A requirement of my YTT was the completion of a 20-hour independent project; being a bigger gal myself, I chose to focus on yoga for larger-bodied individuals and how instructors can best serve these students. That 20-hour project spiraled into more than 75 hours of research, writing and experiential learning, leading to the creation of Yoga for Bigger Bodies, as well as a 40-page instructor manual.

About the nonprofit work: I work for an environmental nonprofit as a media specialist. I do lots of cool stuff, including PR, graphic design and, lately, lots of social media.

About all the other stuff: Well, I can’t give all my best stuff away in the first post.

So, what is this blog all about?

Did you not read the header? Variety (cliche alert!) is the spice of life, and Pushing the Edges is all about how I balance the unbalanced facets of my world … and love (almost) every minute of it.