Posts Tagged ‘physique 57’

The following is what is becoming my annual post about seasonal affective disorder, written from my new platform at Eat to Love. Previous posts on the topic can be found here, here, and here. I’ll be following up with a recipe for my favorite anti-depressant stew and some more thoughts on nutrition for depression.


Feeling S.A.D.? You’re Not Alone. Here Are 6 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Feel Better

The holidays are upon us, there’s an invigorating chill in the air, celebrations to enjoy, but you’re feeling anything but festive? Does your body feel heavy and leaden, your mind sluggish and unclear? When you wake up in the morning, do you look forward to the moment you can get back into bed? I know I do.

If this sounds familiar, you might have seasonal affective disorder. S.A.D. is a type of depression that hits about the same time each year. The exact cause of S.A.D. is not 100% clear but it is likely a combination of seasonal changes in your circadian rhythm and your body’s levels of melatonin and serotonin. Women, people who suffer from depression, and those who have a family history of S.A.D. and/or depression are at the greatest risk for S.A.D.

I have struggled with S.A.D. since I was a child, yet every November I’m surprised by it. I feel like the tin man on my yoga mat, my eyes sit at half-mast, and if I open an email from the Humane Society, I am reduced to a sobbing puddle for 20 minutes. After the initial shock and indignation wears off (it usually takes me about 3 days to say “It’s happening again…”), I put on my big girl panties and deal with it. The following is a list of the things I have found most helpful in managing S.A.D. [Continue reading]

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P1000078On December 28th of 2012, I was laid off from my job as a medical writer at a biotechnology company. I was with that company much longer than anticipated since the job, at the time I got it, was an escape hatch from the disastrous job I started right after I quit drinking. I planned to be at the biotech company only a year at most while I collected myself and began to understand what life was like sober. One year became four years and, during that time, I had what looked like a promising career with a handful of successes and a solid salary. But I knew there was something else waiting for me.

As the 28th of December approached, I was facing a world of uncertainty when “the perfect job” landed in my inbox. But after a whirlwind interview process, I didn’t get it. I remember getting the call. It was nighttime in Sicily. I walked out of my boyfriend’s parents’ house into the backyard to find a little bit more cellular reception and looked out across the Mediterranean as I heard the words “we decided to go with the other finalist.” But as I walked back into the house and told everyone my news with just a shake of my head, I knew that this was the right thing.

Working one job or another since I was 12 years old, I now had an opportunity to explore my own wants and needs without an obligation to an employer. Between the safety net of severance and savings and, more importantly, a supportive family and partner, I decided not to do what I thought I “should.” Instead I left myself open to the possibilities. And in the last year, those possibilities have included:

  • Traveling back to Sicily and Paris and exotic Upstate New York
  • Taking continuing education classes, attending conferences, and completing a free “How to start a small business” course in New York City
  • Networking, opening up to people, making new friends, and reinvigorating old friendships
  • Visiting friends and family near and far
  • Formalizing my commitment to Buddhism
  • Translating/interpreting a children’s book from Italian to English
  • Taking care of myself physically and mentally, attending ballet barre and yoga classes, going for acupuncture and therapy
  • Volunteering with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger
  • Cooking, sleeping, watching trashy TV, and cuddling with my boyfriend and our fur children, Rufus and Darwin
  • Writing a book based on the Drinking to Distraction blog [Stay Tuned!]

And deciding to start my own nutrition counseling business. Some of you already know that my education and early job experience was in nutrition and that I have long wanted to get back to that field. Given the time and space I was fortunate enough to have during the last year, I came to see starting my own business as a risk worth taking. And about two weeks ago, I launched my mindful nutrition business, Eat to Love, which integrates meditation, therapeutic approaches to addiction, and Intuitive Eating.

Besides taking an inventory of what the hell I’ve been doing for the last 11 months, I’m writing this post to acknowledge that none of the things I have done in the last year would have been possible if I had not quit drinking nearly six years ago. That was the first step out of my own cocoon, my coming out of hiding. A process that was furthered by beginning to meditate, by beginning to write about my experience here, by not trying to keep making all the “right” moves in my life or to please everyone else. Starting this business is taking the next step.

Gradually I will begin to spend more time on this new venture, which opens up new possibilities for the Drinking to Distraction blog. I always viewed the blog as a shared space where readers could post their own stories about drinking, mindfulness, meditation, and coming out of the cocoon. Now, more directly I invite you to submit your story, to experience the therapeutic release of writing your own narrative, and to help others by letting them know they are not alone.

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Last week I was in yet another hip-opening yin yoga class. I was seated on the floor with my legs out in front of me and I was folding forward, resisting the urge to yank on my feet to give the illusion of flexibility. I looked down at myself and saw the soft rolls of my belly and the sides of my upper legs splayed out against the floor. Immediately I thought, How ugly, fat, flabby, out of shape, big, unfeminine, and unattractive, too much chocolate, not enough calories burned. The thoughts were uncomfortable and I wished to distract my mind with something else. So I thought about the lunch I was going to have after I left class.

A few minutes later we were doing another pose that was challenging for me. My left leg was folded over the right. We were meant to fold forward over our bent legs, but this was not happening for me. I came into the pose and quickly reached the edge past which I could not comfortably go. As seemingly everyone else was folded over, going deeper into the pose, I sat up and noticed my right knee and upper leg. Automatically I thought, Too big, unacceptable, abnormal.

This time, I stayed with those thoughts a little longer. I realized they were habitual, as was my tendency to compare myself unfavorably with others. I noticed that as real as these thoughts felt, they were a matter of perception. I wondered, what if I looked at this same leg and saw pure and utter beauty.

During the remainder of the class, I played with this new attitude, an unconditional friendliness toward my imperfect body every time I found myself hardening, judging, and rejecting. After all, what was there to lose? Was I in danger of deluding myself, going easy on myself, letting myself off the hook? Or perhaps this is part of practicing imperfection.

Reaching down to touch misshapen feet, I thought, how beautiful.

Big, strong, muscular legs, Gorgeous.

Interesting. I felt light and more spacious.

Leaving class, I took my new attitude with me. Broken out, dry, and fine-lined skin, How lovely. All my physical insecurities, Wonderful, yes.

Widening the circle, I recognized my doubts about my intelligence, uncertainty about my professional and personal future, fears about whether I’m living my life well, and I thought, These are just as they should be.

Each time I found myself criticizing, doubting, or judging, I roused a sense of friendliness and love for this person struggling so, this person who is just fine right now. Applying the same warm welcome I would for anyone coming to my home, I think, How can I care for you? What can I do to show you my love? You are welcome here.

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Part of what has always attracted me to Buddhism is the concept that every experience – every moment – presents an opportunity to meet the present, to wake up rather than grasp or repel and go to sleep. There are no throwaway moments!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about what I have to work with. In it, I realized that the very problems I would love to trade for someone else’s will allow me to either wake up or go to sleep.

Recently I began taking a Yin yoga class at my beloved Physique 57 studio. The class, taught by Debra Downs, seems like yoga as it was meant to be – not a competitive sport or a sweaty workout. Debra weaves together aspects of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy with her extensive yoga, anatomy, and psychology knowledge, connecting the how and the why of each pose and changing the experience altogether.

Debra guides the class to pay attention to thoughts, how they change from moment to moment, and how we judge ourselves, often harshly. Along with a sense of relaxation and release, I always take some piece of wisdom from her class. Last week, that nugget was to pay particular attention to my responses to my perceived limitations and how this might provide insight into how I deal with struggle on a larger scale.

I have always had tight hips. When I was 8 or 9 and taking jazz class with Miss Rose at the Oceanside Dance Conservatory, my splits were right angles compared with everyone else’s beautiful 180 degrees. Since becoming aware of this limitation, my tight hips have accumulated a complex set of feelings: shame, embarrassment, inability, and stunted growth; like there is something very wrong with my body at the most basic level.

Whenever I attend a yoga class that focuses on hip opening, I think:

Oh great, I’m not going to get anything out of this!

Why do we have to focus on something I’m so bad at?

What’s wrong with me???

Last week in class, I realized that this is very related to how I handle problems outside my body:

Why is this happening to me?

This is so unfair!

What’s wrong with me???

Enter the practice of noticing, releasing judgment, and meeting things as they are. Tight hips are something I have to work with. And working with them gets better when I don’t judge them – love them even – and start from that place.

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Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort. ~Peter McWilliams

For my 37th birthday last December, I took myself to my first Physique 57 class. For those not familiar with Physique, it is a type of ballet barre method with studios in New York City, LA, and the Hamptons. Physique also produces DVDs with hundreds of thousands of devotees. The class moves rapidly from arms, shoulders, and back to thighs, seat, and abdominals so that after 57 minutes, not only have you worked out your entire body, but you’re not quite sure what just hit you.

The Physique formula is efficient and effective – fatigue each set of muscles and then stretch them. And when I say fatigue, I mean FATIGUE. The instructors uniformly encourage you to “go toward the burn,” a concept that initially brought some complex emotions for me.

I don’t know about you, but I have a little voice in my head that steers me toward comfortable experiences and away from uncomfortable ones. For example, Ben and Jerry’s while watching Sex and the City reruns – comfortable, good, yes; running – uncomfortable, bad, pass the Chunky Monkey. But a few years ago, running actually changed my relationship to discomfort. Since then, I have made personal study of exploring my ability to tolerate discomfort and see what benefit might lurk in that space.

I remember my first Physique 57 class, during which I very nearly vomited. As we worked our thigh muscles through a series of lunges and squats, I didn’t believe it was possible to do what was being asked of me. The burning sensations were too powerful to tolerate and I had to back off, take a break and then rejoin the group when I regained control of my legs.

The pleasure-seeker in me might have campaigned for leaving the building and never turning back, but something had piqued my interest. In addition to the motivating music, the fit and encouraging instructors, and the 20 or so other people challenging themselves, the idea of leaning into the discomfort appealed to me.

Since December I’ve taken about 2 or 3 Physique classes per week and in that time I have practiced going toward the burn much like I practice staying with the breath in meditation. Without lamenting perceived failures or anticipating future challenges, I can experiment with just how much discomfort I can stand.

When I take a Physique class now, my muscles still burn but, rather than stopping to get the relief I intuitively crave, I become curious about that discomfort. I linger there, and even lean into it. By doing so I notice it is not constant. There are in fact moment-to-moment variations in the quality of the discomfort: one moment, red hot streaks down the quadriceps muscles; the next moment, a powerful surge of ability; the next moment, a pulsating warmth that encircles my thighs, and so on.

The sensations are different every time, but by resting in that space, I learn more about my body, it’s limits and abilities. And I have gotten stronger, physically and mentally.

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