A Thai-tanic Fall From Grace

*Note: Some names have been changed to protect the innocent…and the inebriated.*

About five years ago, my husband’s aunt gifted us a four-course cooking class for the holidays.  We fancy ourselves amateur chefs (we even host fantasy drafts when new seasons of Top Chef air on Bravo), so we were especially excited that his aunt had found a cooking school that wasn’t already on our radars.  Duncan and I registered for a Thai-themed class and eagerly anticipated our spicy night out.

When we plugged the address of the cooking school into our GPS on the evening of class, we realized we were heading in the opposite direction of the city.  We drove through sleepy, suburban neighborhoods and eventually found ourselves parked in front of a single-family home.  There were no signs for a cooking school anywhere and the lights in the house appeared to be off, so we reluctantly got out of the car and rang the doorbell.  A husband and wife in their late 40s/early 50s answered the door and confirmed that they were expecting us.  As they gave us a tour of their home, we realized we were their only guests.  “Is this a private class?”  I asked squeakily, trying too hard to sound casual.  The hosts assured us that a family of six had registered for the class, adding that one of them was celebrating their 60th birthday.  Duncan and I teased that we hoped they wouldn’t mind a couple of kids crashing their party as we headed to the kitchen.  The house lent itself to entertaining large groups with a high-end, commercial grade gas range and a beautiful wooden farm table that could seat an entire baseball team.  The hosts regaled us with stories about dinner parties they had thrown as we admired their impressive record collection and swanky display case of Swarovski crystal decanters.  We grabbed aprons and got settled, waiting for the other family to arrive.

Duncan and I had eaten a light lunch and we were prepared to take down a multi-course meal from the moment we stepped through the front door.  Twenty minutes after the scheduled start time of class, there was still no sign of the family of six.  Duncan and I made polite conversation with our hosts to drown out the dull murmur of our gurgling bellies.  The doorbell eventually rang, and a young woman appeared.  She leaned across the kitchen island to help herself to a bowl of prawn crackers, and the sickly sweet waft of yeast on her breath reminded me of sticky shoeprints in a frat house the morning after a kegger.  She whispered in my ear that her family had been bar hopping since 11am to celebrate her mother-in-law’s 60th birthday.  Now it was almost 8pm.  The rest of the family began trickling into the kitchen with glassy-eyes and rosy cheeks.  Grace, the birthday girl, tottered behind them like a fawn on roller skates.  Duncan and I were amused, but we were uneasy at the prospect of these folks handling sharp knives or cooking over an open flame.  Mostly though, we were just hungry.

After Grace’s family poured another round of drinks for themselves, it was time to begin cooking.  The hosts were admirably patient as Grace drunkenly interrupted their instructions, failed to execute the simplest tasks, and splattered bright green curry sauce on their fancy equipment with each theatrical gesticulation of her wooden spatula.  Though Duncan and I initially got a kick out of Grace repeatedly mispronouncing ingredients like “galangal” as “gooleyglob”, we were bummed that the hosts had to gloss over some cooking demos in the interest of time, and it felt like we were at a special taping of Nickelodeon’s Geriatric Teen Choice Awards with Grace covering everyone in slime.

Dinner was finally served, and Duncan and I salivated in front of our plates while we waited for Grace’s gang to refresh their drinks and find seats.  Grace clumsily shuffled into the dining room, concentrating so intensely on balancing a bowl of curry and a glass of wine that she failed to notice a small lip in the doorframe.  We witnessed—almost in slow motion—as Grace launched head-first into a crystal champagne bucket, which toppled into the shelf of decanters and glassware.  We leapt to our feet in a panic as a burgundy liquid and shards of glass pooled around her body like chalk at a crime scene.  We assessed the damage and realized that much of the liquid was (fortunately) just red wine, but Grace had sliced her wrist pretty badly on a shard of glass.  Grace’s daughter reassured us that she was a nurse and went to her car to grab a first aid kit.  The rest of the family dragged Grace to the bathroom to dress the wound.  Duncan and I awkwardly cleaned up the mess in the dining room, using the bottoms of our shoes to smear decorative hand towels through the bodily fluids of a woman we had met only an hour earlier.  After the floor was free of biohazards, Duncan and I returned to the table with the rest of the family.  The tension was palpable.  The curry was congealing.  The vibes were in shambles.  Finally, Duncan mumbled, “So…can we eat…?”  We collectively agreed that it was appropriate to eat; partly because we were starving, partly because Grace’s family needed to sober up, and partly because everyone was ready to wrap up the evening as soon as possible. 

Note: This next paragraph is not a critical plot point to the story, but Duncan and I still reference this conversation and he seemed disappointed that I was not planning to mention it. 

In an effort to make small talk during dinner, Grace’s daughter-in-law announced to the table, “Did you know that restaurants serve salad as the first course because the leaves coat your stomach and expand to make you hungrier?”  I’ll admit, my tolerance to indulge her drunken pontifications had diminished by this hour of the evening.  I flatly replied, “Salad is eaten first because vegetables are high in water and fiber content, which satiates hunger and reduces the likelihood of overeating a calorically dense main course.”  The daughter-in-law shook her head.  “No, because the leaves are so thin that they don’t fill you up; they just coat the lining of your stomach and expand so you can eat more.”  Regrettably, I engaged further by replying, “But your food has already been chewed and digested by the time it reaches your stomach.”  The daughter-in-law narrowed her eyes and waved her knife at me to retort, “See, you would be right…but the leaves.”  I simply couldn’t argue with that impenetrable logic.  The corners of her lips, chapped and swollen from the Thai bird chilies, curled into to a smug little grin; she was positively delighted with herself for having made such a compelling closing argument.  To this day, when my husband and I want to de-escalate a disagreement in real time, we drop a You would be right, but the leaves” as a lighthearted way to signal that we’re feeling flooded and need space from the conversation to collect our thoughts.

But back to Grace.  Her nurse-daughter cleaned her up, cut her off, and made it back to the table in time for dessert.  As we cleared our plates from the table, the hosts asked to take a group photo for their social media page.  We huddled around the kitchen counter and Duncan grabbed my butt as we said “Cheese!”  I gave him a playful shove, and he gave me a strange look.  Thinking he was doing a bit, I rolled my eyes and said, “That must have been someone else’s hand on my butt, then.”  He asked what I was talking about.  Realizing he wasn’t in on the joke, I asked the host to see the photo he had taken.  Sure enough, Grace was standing awkwardly behind me with one hand on my ass, most likely steadying herself from toppling over.

Grace’s family headed out first as Duncan and I gathered our coats.  I waited for Dax Shepherd to round the corner with a camera crew to tell us we’d been punk’d, but life doesn’t always pan out the way it does on television.  (Though sometimes it’s as entertaining.)  As we stood in the kitchen processing the damage that had been done, one of the hosts told us, “Believe it or not, this isn’t the craziest thing that’s happened at one of our cooking classes.”   We looked at him incredulously.  “Yup,” he continued casually, rattling off a string of bizarre non-sequiturs without context.  “A fight broke out…there was a law suit…ten thousand dollars later…unfortunately, a man lost his life.”  He then gestured to a dark staircase and said, “Anyway, you like beer?  Let me give you a tour of the cellar.”  I’ve seen enough horror films to know better than to accept that invitation, and I was ready to make like Jordan Peele and Get Out.  Duncan read my facial expression, replying that it was getting late and that we had better get going.  We scuttled to our car and peeled out of the driveway, giddy with the electric buzz of relief that we’d made it through the evening unscathed.

When Duncan’s aunt asked if we enjoyed the cooking class, we didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth at first.  But in time, we’ve come to realize that gaining a story with the power to make us laugh five years later is a gift that’s sweeter than any dish we’ve prepared.


Yoganna Love This: Unsolicited Guide to Wedding Planning

Recently engaged?  Congratulations!  The future feels magnificently limitless during the countdown to “I Do”.  If you’re planning a wedding, however, you may also feel anxious about your “To Dos”.  An aspirational marriage is obviously predicated on the effort that a couple puts into their relationship rather than the effort they put into their wedding day, but it’s worth recognizing that the stress of planning an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime event presents an opportunity to set the tone for how you will navigate turbulence with your new co-pilot.

Bearing in mind that every couple’s wedding day should be a reflection of their own values and desires, here is a collection of unsolicited advice, lessons learned, and hot takes you may find useful as you plan your wedding.

  • You do not need to shed, shred, cleanse, tan, whiten, or tighten anything before your wedding.  The idea that you need to change yourself for an event was designed by marketing professionals whose life’s work is dedicated to selling you diarrhea tea.  You do not need to calculate how many minutes of cardio will “earn” you a slice of wedding cake.  You do not need to wait to buy whatever you’ll wear until you hit your goal weight.  Tailor your clothing to fit your body; do not tailor your body to fit into clothing.  When you and your spouse look back at your wedding photos decades from now, all you will see or remember is how happy you were.

  • Prioritize planning aspects of the wedding that are most meaningful to your relationship.  Decide what’s worth your time and resources so that you don’t drain your energy or budget on details to impress people who are mostly there for the open bar, anyway.  As a wedding guest, have you given a thought as to whether the buffet table linens were eggshell, alabaster, or ivory before housing your rib-eye medallion?  If not, then make sure your wedding is a representation and celebration of whatever you and your forever person care about most.

  • If you find yourself overthinking trivial decisions or feeling indecisive, ask yourself if you will care about your choice 10 days after the wedding, 10 months after the wedding, or 10 years after the wedding.  Keeping perspective about what will matter to you long after your wedding day will right size the burden of miscellaneous concerns.

  • Limit the number of guests you invite out of obligation.  Envision who you want to surround you in the most intimate moments of your wedding day.  Consider how large your extended families are and whether you have close relationships with them.  Discuss how you feel about introducing yourself or your spouse to guests you haven’t met before.  Plan your approach to talk to your parents/future in-laws about whether there is space for their friends to be invited to the wedding.

  • Be consistent and intentional about your plus-one policy to guard against a former fraternity buddy showing up with a date who wears white and gets cut-off by the bartender for dropping her glass of *vokka crambarry* on the dance floor during Hava Nagila.  Also, be prepared to decide upfront whether guests can bring their children…or be prepared to justify why your second cousin’s nine-year-old son can’t play the cello at your ceremony no matter how riveting his acoustic rendition of “Wing Beneath my Wings” may be.

  • Having parents or loved ones who are willing and able to contribute financially to your wedding is a privilege.  With that framing in mind, discuss their expectations before accepting any money from them.  Is their contribution a gift that you and your partner get to choose how to spend?  Are they buying equity into decisions such as the vendors you select, who attends, religious or family traditions performed, etc.?  If their terms make you uncomfortable, then you and your partner must either respectfully decline the money in favor of making your vision happen on your own dime, or graciously compromise to satisfy all parties.

Remember that your wedding day is an important day in your life, but it is not the most important day.  Marriage is the only the beginning of a joyful new chapter with the person whose morning breath you’ve chosen to smell daily for the rest of your life; thank goodness your best day isn’t already behind you, right? 

My Favorite 90s Sitcoms…in 2020

A COVID-19 fever dream of hypothetical plots for my favorite 90s sitcoms if they’d been set in the year 2020…


George embraces the perks of working from home by wearing his suit jacket and tie with nothing but boxers and slipper socks from the waist-down.  He forgets his webcam is on during a board meeting and takes his laptop into the bathroom to poop.  Jerry breaks up with a beautiful woman he met before lockdown because she looks at her own reflection while they Facetime.  Kramer is convinced he was served bat at a Chinese restaurant, but continues to order it on Grubhub because it was delicious.  Elaine confronts her neighbor who frequently jogs with his mask under his nose by calling out, “Hey Einstein, do you wear your underpants with your penis pulled over the waistband, too?”  Jerry’s Amazon Prime package is delivered to Newman’s apartment in error.  Newman effectively holds it hostage by insisting upon hand delivering it to Jerry in spite of physical distancing protocol.


As the downturn of the economy prompts unprecedented corporate layoffs, Chandler enlists Joey’s help in designing an eye-catching resume after reading Joey’s perfectly curated Tinder bio.  When the next LinkedIn message Chandler receives comes from a startup company that manufactures waist trainers for babies, he realizes his friends still have no idea what he does for a living.  Monica opens an Etsy shop to sell homemade cleaning products.  Later in the season, she develops a rash that WebMD diagnoses as COVID-toes…of the hands.  It turns out to be an allergic reaction to the disinfectant she’s been selling.  The hook to Phoebe’s latest song titled “Toilet Paper Tumbleweeds” goes viral on Tiktok.  Ursula creates an OnlyFans page pretending to be Phoebe to cash in on her newfound fame.  Ross and Rachel take Emma out of daycare in light of increasing infection rates and look into hiring a live-in nanny.  Their first applicant, whose name is Chloe, ends up being the woman Ross slept with while he and Rachel were on a break.  In Ross’ defense, he had no idea it was her, as he genuinely thought Chloe’s last name was “The Copy Girl.”  Joey is approached by his agent about teaching an acting class for beginners on Masterclass.  He outlines a course about the Art of Seduction instead, where he teaches students how to deliver his signature pickup line, “How you doin’?”

Sex and the City

Samantha has to self-quarantine for 14 days after having a one-night-stand with an ER doctor.  She vows to stick to sexting until there’s a vaccine.   Charlotte’s jogging club is on hiatus, so she enrolls in a virtual baking class.   After stress eating banana bread and only wearing Fabletics for six months, she is horrified to discover she’s gained 20lbs.   Harry loves her fuller figure, however, and starts calling her his thick shiksa goddess, or his “Thicksa” for short.  Miranda reluctantly schleps from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side to take Brady to the dentist after he chips a tooth playing basketball with Steve.  When Brady needs to use the bathroom after their 90-minute Subway excursion, Miranda lets him pee on the side of Trump Tower.  Carrie sums up 2020 in an article that ends with the line, “And as I shuffle out of the bar to make it home for 10:00PM curfew, I can’t help but wonder which plague is worse; Coronavirus, or my loneliness?”

The Quarantine Fifteen

The past two months have played out like an alternate reality simulation gone awry.  These days, we crave the routine of listening to a podcast while stuck in traffic, spending $22 on stale popcorn and warm beer at a crowded baseball stadium, and feeling the exhilaration of someone texting to cancel plans we wished we’d never agreed to in the first place.  We’re perpetually worried about the wellbeing of loved ones and we reflect wistfully upon the days we hugged our parents with reckless abandon.  We fear for our financial stability and wonder when the economy will recover.  And on top of it all, it’s been nearly impossible to get out of our own heads because OUTSIDE IS CLOSED.  As we prepare for phased re-openings of states, we also realize that as much as we’ve complained about being in quarantine, we’re uneasy about the consequences of rash decisions on the trajectory of the virus.

I’m reminded daily how lucky I am to be safe at home with a supportive partner, gainfully employed in a job that can be done remotely, and only a Facetime call away from checking in with family and friends.  Sure, I was bummed to have had to cancel my vacation to the Bahamas last month, but it didn’t stop me from taking a different trip to an island!  (I’m referring to my kitchen island…and let’s say I’ve been a frequent flyer.)  I’m acknowledging my tremendous good fortune so that I don’t come across completely tone deaf and out of touch with reality when I admit that one of the nagging concerns I’ve had while in quarantine is that I’ve gained a few pounds.  I feel guilty that I’ve used the pandemic as an excuse to excessively indulge in treats I wouldn’t have eaten under normal circumstances, and those feelings are compounded by not having access to gym equipment I typically use.  Even more so, I feel ashamed to have the privilege of obsessing over something so superficial while people around me grieve significant losses.  As much as I’d love for my readers to believe the brain behind this blog belongs to an intensely profound, infallible yoga goddess with a heart of gold and abs of steel…I’m only human.  Fortunately, my experience has been that humans tend to be more relatable than Instagram influencers, so if you’ve been stressed about the “Quarantine 15” too, here are a few thoughts that have reassured me in these uncertain times.

My weight is not what the world needs from me right now, or ever for that matter.

During this pandemic, not a single person has asked me what size is printed on the tag of the sweatpants I’ve been wearing like a uniform since mid-March.  All anyone cares that I’m doing is sheltering in place and not coughing near their nana.  Even without a pandemic, I feel comforted knowing that no one with a meaningful life of their own cares how much I weigh or needs me to be a particular weight.  My life’s purpose is more promising, rewarding, and interesting than achieving or maintaining an aesthetic.

My weight is not what people value about me, nor is it what I value about other people.

When I think about what I admire most in others, the characteristics that come to mind are resilience, sense of humor, wisdom, grit, humility, etc.  As I rattle off common attributes among people whom I hold in the highest regard, their weight never occurs to me.  Even in folks whom I happen to find attractive, physical traits aren’t part of what makes them worthy of love and respect.  A person’s worth is not measured in pounds.  Therefore, the time I spend slaving over the scale is time I could dedicate to cultivating practices that bring out qualities in me that I cherish in others.

I can prioritize my health, eating well, and physical activity at any weight.  

My weight is not part of my identity, nor is it an indication of my health without additional context.  Eating a balanced variety of foods and moving my body in ways that feel good have a place in my life even if I were to gain the quarantine fifteen.

How would my life change if I weighed my ideal weight right now?

I would still care about spending time with my family.  I would still choose to be in a relationship with the dude who’s stuck in an apartment with me now.  I would still work hard at my job.  I would still connect with friends who make me laugh and challenge me to grow.  I would still need to schedule time to prepare nutritious meals and stay physically active.  My values, priorities, salary, relationships, and beliefs about myself would remain largely unchanged.  Realistically, my life wouldn’t look dramatically different or happier at a lower weight.

More fits into frame with a wide-angle lens than a microscope.

I’m constantly receiving updates about the pandemic through work, in the news, and in casual conversation.  As someone who gravitates toward problem solving and peacemaking, it’s been uncomfortable to sit with feeling helpless over an issue I can’t resolve on my own.  For right or for wrong, laser-focusing on my weight in quarantine has served as a familiar channel for my anxiety that gives me a tangible, reinforceable perception of control each time I weigh myself.  The danger of adopting such a narrow, limited awareness of my surroundings is that something as relatively minor as my weight starts to feel like a big deal.  If I broaden my awareness to include not just my body, but also its sensations and emotions, I have more space to observe facets of my life that incite positivity, appreciation, and fulfillment.  I’m not suggesting that gratitude ought to be used as a distraction to suppress difficult emotions, nor should I shame myself for taking my blessings for granted; the benefit of taking a more comprehensive perspective is to find breathing room between ends of the emotional spectrum and to recognize that, much like my weight, each feeling is dynamic and fluctuating.  While my feelings may not change in the moment, observing myself through a “wide-angle lens” (settle down, I know there’s a fat joke somewhere in that analogy) helps me see my weight-related concerns as a very small piece of what I’m experiencing rather than my sole focus.  As my awareness expands further, I’m able to identify that others are likely coping with similar experiences, and that we can reassure each other that we’re not alone.


55-Minute CardiYoga Sequence: Balance Challenge

The global pandemic is a topic we’re likely all sick of reading about, but paradoxically can’t stop talking about.  Given that we’ve collectively pressed pause on our lives and cast aside nearly every aspect of our daily routines, its impact is unavoidably in the forefront of most of our minds.  Navigating a “new normal” without the familiarity and comfort of distractions we once took for granted can feel isolating or anxiety inducing at times.  To make matters worse, many of us put pressure on ourselves to turn this strange time into a spring board for some extraordinary breakthrough.  We make grand plans to write a screenplay, learn Italian, find the lids to our Tupperware containers, match our unpaired socks, and get rock hard abs without ever leaving our living rooms.  It’s not enough that we’re worried about our uncertain futures; we’re also worried that if we don’t optimize our productivity now, we’ll have failed ourselves or missed an opportunity to achieve something spectacular.

In the fitness industry specifically, the influx of on-demand virtual workouts introduced at the onset of social distancing has been as fantastic as it’s been overwhelming.  On one hand, it’s remarkable to see how quickly and innovatively fitness communities have adapted to provide their clients with seamless access to classes.  On the other hand, I recognize that the onslaught of advertisements for various workout plans, the ease of entry to participate, and the sheer volume of content that’s available can inadvertently trigger people into thinking they “should” be using their free time to exercise more.  If the idea of working out at home feels stressful given these scary and uncertain circumstances, consider taking an opportunity to embrace stillness instead.  Rather than pushing yourself to do more, reframe your mindset to acknowledge good things you’ve already done.  Explore the thoughts that arise in the absence of productivity to see if there’s any insight to be gained from your discomfort.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling stir crazy and actively seeking opportunities to fill your time and find a safe space to virtually connect with the fitness community, then yoganna love this.


45-Minute Yoga Sequence for Core Strength

Yoga gives me a sense of community. In support of communities coming together (figuratively) to stay home, I hope to bring you that feeling virtually. If you’re feeling restless, anxious, lonely, lazy, or you just need a brief respite from the news, I created a free 45-minute yoga/HIIT class for core strength you can stream any time. No subscription/membership/login required, no equipment necessary, no jumping exercises (AKA no pissing off your downstairs neighbors), no money to pay, and no expiration date…so no excuses! I apologize that the video isn’t professional quality, but I had…no budget!

In the spirit of community, feel free to share this with anyone who may be interested. If you have requests for additional yoga classes or tutorials, I’d love to hear from you. And lastly— if you are able to support your local yoga/fitness studios who are offering paid streaming services, please do!

NamastAY THE F*CK HOME, everyone!


Yoganna Love This: Guide to Staying Healthy During Flu Season and Other Good Ideas

  1. Wash your hands often.
  2. Clean all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, keyboards, remote controls, and steering wheels with disinfectant sprays or wipes.
  3. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow crease when you cough or sneeze.
  4. Make a conscious effort not to touch your face, mouth, and eyes.
  5. Iron the pile of pants you’ve had draped over your desk chair since last Tuesday that were too clean for the hamper, but too dirty for the closet.
  6. If you have a fever or don’t feel well, limit activities outside your home except to get medical care.
  7. Don’t share personal items such as drinking glasses, eating utensils, and towels.
  8. Don’t leave a clump of hair in the shower drain.
  9. Stop using “literally” as word filler, particularly in figurative statements.
  10. Wash your hands often…with soap.
  11. Use hand sanitizer to clean your hands when soap and water aren’t available.
  12. As a courtesy to others, don’t leave the toilet seat up because baptizing a booty cheek in ice cold eau de toilette at 3AM during your nightly “one-eye-closed, other-eye-squinted-so-you-don’t-wake-all-the-way-up” bathroom ritual is as startling as it is unsanitary.
  13. Avoid shaking hands with someone who has visibly soiled hands or an active cough.
  14. Avoid holding hands with slow walkers on crowded sidewalks because some of us have PLACES TO BE.
  15. Reconsider non-essential travel to areas where there’s a high incidence of illness and limited access to proper medical care.
  16. When you finish making a sandwich, put the twist tie back on the loaf of bread; don’t just twirl n’ tuck the open end of the plastic sleeve under the remaining slices before you stuff it back into the pantry.
  17. Call ahead before routine or sick visits with your healthcare provider to see if they recommend taking any precautions to prevent catching or spreading illness.
  18. Wash your hands often….and don’t neglect the backs of your hands, between your fingers, your fingernails, or your thumbs.
  19. Ask yourself when you last replaced your toothbrush. If you can’t remember, you should know I am judging you a little.
  20. Ask yourself when you last got an oil change. If you can’t remember, you should know you are in good company because, same.
  21. Consider walking in lieu of taking densely populated public transportation or using ride-sharing services for local trips to reduce your risk of exposure to respiratory droplets and other germs.
  22. When the draining board is full, put away the dry dishes rather than artfully stacking wet dishes on top of them like a high stakes Jenga game.
  23. Call your parents and tell them you were just kidding about the oil change thing.
  24. Wash your hands often…for the entire length of the “Happy Birthday” song. But sing it in your head, because awkwardly sitting through someone singing Happy Birthday to you is universally the worst.
  25. Thoroughly clean outdoor coats, hats, and gloves.
  26. Tell a friend to stop watching their ex’s Instagram stories.
  27. Walk your empty shopping cart back to the carriage return rather than rolling it across the Target parking lot like you’re bowling for pigeons.
  28. If you are at an increased risk for infection (i.e., immunosuppressed, elderly, pregnant, etc.), consider wearing a protective mask and gloves in public.
  29. If you have been advised to wear disposable face masks or gloves, safely dispose of them after a single use. Never reuse them.
  30. Always be kind to people who work in service industries.


And if all else fails, remember to wash your hands.


Click here for previous Yoganna Love This Guides!

Trains of Thought, Derailed

As a yoga teacher, I probably shouldn’t admit that I skip Savasana when I practice on my own.  While “corpse pose” is aptly named because it’s about as physically taxing as pushing daises, I find it more challenging to invite stillness into my practice than to balance on my head.  In the absence of having to concentrate on contorting into a pretzel or reciting an inspiring mantra (e.g., “please don’t fart right now”), Savasana behooves me to clear my mind and observe where my thoughts gravitate.  The mind can be a vulnerable place to explore without the convenience of distractions, especially when uncomfortable emotions or experiences are easier left avoided than processed.  Rather than relishing a moment of respite during the time allotted to Savasana, I tend to grow impatient and preoccupied by my lack of productivity.  I’ll feel the compulsion to accomplish something tangible, even convincing myself to use the time to extend my workout.  I have trouble giving myself permission to slow down when I feel I haven’t “earned the right” to rest.

Having recognized this about myself, I’m trying to spend more time riding out waves of restlessness and observing where my focus drifts.  My first few attempts at mindfulness brought to my attention that my appetite for achievement and productivity supersedes my capacity for self-compassion.  If I subjected others to the pressure I regularly apply to myself, most of my daily interactions would sound like a supercut of Gordon Ramsey’s greatest meltdowns on Hell’s Kitchen…minus the redeeming charm of his British accent.  I also noticed I tend to be more critical of myself when my schedule is particularly busy or stressful. Although I get a boost of self-esteem when I’m generous with my time and attention, sometimes I agree to things I don’t want to do or regard the needs of others more highly than my own out of an aversion to disappointing people.  When I’m spread too thinly, even voluntary activities begin to feel like obligations, and I’m often more concerned about where I’m headed next than enjoying the present.  I’ve learned that when my calendar starts to feel unmanageable, I take solace in regulating other facets of my life to reclaim a sense of control.  Usually, that manifests itself in the form of scrutinizing what I eat and categorizing my food choices as “good” or “bad”.  Assigning value to food in this way can be problematic, especially when my busy schedule inevitably prevents me from adhering to my self-imposed dietary restrictions and I reinforce the cycle of shame by berating myself for another perceived failure.

Until recently, I hadn’t connected the dots between these seemingly unrelated patterns of behavior.  Now that I’ve spent more time observing how my emotions gain momentum and influence my beliefs, I’m more readily equipped to interrupt persistent, inflexible trains of thought.  For example, if I consistently experience resentment after I agree to plans, it’s a sign that I need to work on setting boundaries around my time.  Moreover, with the understanding that old habits die hard and that consistency is more sustainable than perfection, I’d benefit from reacting less judgmentally if I slip-up and say “yes” reflexively when I wish I’d said “no” or if I commit to plans that might require me to eat outside the bounds of what I consider healthy.

Although I’m still inclined to fidget in Savasana, it’s with the newfound perspective that my instinct to fear stagnation and reject imperfection reflects how I’ve been conditioned to think, but my ability to respond to those thoughts with compassion, curiosity, and objectivity is a deeper reflection of my character.


White Knuckling

I am officially in my late 20s.  By the New York Times’ standards, I’m no longer a recent college graduate.  In the blink of an eye, there’s been a paradoxical shift in the universe where half my peers suddenly refer to pregnancy as “family planning” as opposed to “terrifying consequences”, and the other half would sooner croak than be tied down by the responsibility of watering an orchid plant twice a month.  At twenty-seven, my Facebook targeted ads are transitioning from acne creams to anti-aging creams, and my recent Google search history chronicles a budding curiosity about the old wives’ tale alleging that plucking grey hair makes it grow back in multiples of three.  (For the record, Google says plucking grey hair does NOT stimulate the growth of more greys…but speaking as an eye-witness, every grey hair my father loses on his head seems to resurface on his back, so why tempt fate?)  While I hope it’s clear I’m speaking tongue-in-cheek and I recognize I have a lot of privilege as a young, white, gainfully employed millenial, I bring all this up because lately I’ve become acutely aware of time quickly slipping through my fingers while I haven’t been fully present.

The first half of my 27th year has flown by.  I’ve filled my time with new and exciting opportunities, each one serving as the launching pad into a chapter more rewarding and fulfilling than its predecessor. Despite having so much to feel positively about, there have been times I’ve allowed the anxiety of venturing outside my comfort zone to cause me to think in terms of  “getting through it”. For example, when I decided to pursue my PMP certification, I couldn’t wait to get past the months of studying that preceded the exam.  With a pass rate lower than 50%, I put even more pressure on myself to pass the first time around so I wouldn’t have to go through it again.  As opposed to feeling relieved after I passed above target in each category, I forged ahead by immediately setting a new goal to find a better job.  Miraculously, the stars aligned and I landed my dream job after only three weeks of intensive interviews.  But the moment I received that glorious offer, I decided I needed to find a better apartment that would lessen my new commute to work.  I repeated the mantra that if I could just get through the longer commute for a few more months, then all I’d have left to do is move…oh, and get through the painstaking process of moving.*   In hindsight, I spent the better part of a year with my foot on the gas pedal speeding to reach my destination without realizing I was driving down a scenic route.

*It’s worth noting at this point how much I’m sincerely looking forward to moving because I’ll be starting a new chapter living with my boyfriend.  I can’t begin to express how grateful I am that he not only loves and supports the neurotic lunatic I am today, but that he wholeheartedly believes I’m capable of growing into the person I strive to become.  He is the North Star that guides and inspires me by way of his shining example of hard work and discipline, and someday I hope to “grow up” to be just like him—even though I’m technically three months and one day his senior.  Our relationship deserves its own recognition and celebration, even during the occasional periods I’ve felt preoccupied with “getting through” life.

Having recognized this pattern, I’m wary of propagating the idea that the degree to which I allow myself to enjoy the present is contingent upon my perceived control over the future.  If I white knuckle my way through the joy rides, someday I may look in the rearview mirror to find I blew past the most important stops.  To challenge my future-oriented tendencies, I’ve started asking myself the following questions when I start to treat life like something to “get through” rather than enjoy:

“What can I do right now?”  I tend to mentally rehearse hypothetical situations to anticipate how to prevent a worst-case scenario from occurring.  I’ve spent a lot of energy conjuring up “escape routes” to mitigate potential sources of discomfort, no matter how remote or unlikely they are.  While my meticulous plans have served me well within certain contexts, if I spent half as much time crafting analogies as I spent constructing elaborate solutions to problems that never even manifest…well, I might know where the hell I was going with this.  Worrying about the what-ifs can trigger unnecessary anxiety.  To keep myself in check, I ask what’s within my control, even if it’s as little as my reaction to whatever’s happening around me.  By focusing on what I can do, I feel less helpless about what’s out of my control and reassured that I’m capable of tackling whatever lies ahead.

“What’s going well?”  It occurred to me recently that I forfeit a lot of my power by giving attention to fleeting negativity that, when obsessively rehashed, can transform a bad moment into a bad day.  The mental energy I use to perpetuate those thoughts could be just as easily channeled into thinking about how many overwhelmingly positive reasons there are to have a good day.  No matter how persistent or severe the stressor, practicing gratitude is the most effective way I gain a clear, objective perspective of my good fortune.  I take stock of all the places I receive support, positive affirmation, and self-esteem before I complain about what’s lacking.  After I cover the full inventory of my health status, family life, relationships, career, hobbies, and financial stability, I always discover that even when I feel insecure about a couple categories, something is always going right.  I prefer to approach gratitude from a place of abundance by appreciating what I have rather than leveraging someone else’s misfortune to feel better about my circumstances, but I don’t get to police how anyone else counts their blessings.

“Where am I?” Relax; I’m not diving into existentialism here.  Maybe I’d have something more insightful to share if spent my early 20s Keeping Up with Kierkegaard instead of the Kardashians.   Asking myself, “where am I?” means checking in to see where my feet are literally planted the moment I feel anxiety beginning to brew.   More often than not, I’m in the comfort of my home or I’m in a familiar, safe place like my car or my office.  Acknowledging that I’m not in the presence of an imminent threat creates a comfortable space to sift through my thoughts.

“What am I sacrificing?”  I’m quick to ignore what I need now if I believe it will help me achieve what I want later.  As a result, I’ve sacrificed a lot of today’s peace for tomorrow’s preparedness.  It’s important for me set boundaries and make conscious choices about how I allocate my time so I don’t end up giving too much of myself to something I come to realize later I didn’t want.  There’s nothing wrong with playing the long game and learning when to compromise is an integral part of earning almost anything worth having, but it’s also important to decide at what cost I’m willing to make sacrifices.