Monday, December 30, 2013

This made me laugh, the most hipster things that have ever happened 

Favorite snacks of the best writers, I love Emily Dickinson's

Charlotte Church's voice is the most soothing sound in the world to me

I plan to try the New York City Ballet workout at some point this week

Important and fascinating read about the brain-gut connection 

Two new favorite Ted Talks: a stroke of insight and a life-changing game

Recently tried this Vetri restaurant and was not disappointed

How ridiculously cool are these stingray booties?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dad waxing nostalgic about the colored lights on Pop-pop's tree
Crazy gorgeous Christmas sky-on-fire sunset
A newly adopted Christmas tradition: watching the Sound of Music
My attitude in general towards the holiday season... meh

Hope yours was merry merry
xx, the Grinch

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How to Breathe

My first yoga class was 8 years ago, in a small, sweltering 90 degree room next to a busy train station where sweat clung from the walls like morning dew. Men in speedos and women in sports bras and spandex shorts (with little else) filled the room, standing on multicolored mats as we all stared into the steamy mirrors at our own reflections. I felt awkward and out of place in my cotton tee shirt and gym shorts. I was hot, nervous, uncomfortable and could feel the warmth in my skin rising to the surface trying to escape. I wanted nothing more than to run out of the room and drink in the cool air of the lobby, but I was determined to make it through the entire length of the class, even if I had to – at the advice of the instructor – fold into child’s pose several times. My former lacrosse coach had just recently opened a Bikram yoga studio near my house and offered me and my high school teammates a free trial week of classes. My friend and I decided to do it together and what ensued was one of the most deeply influential experiences of my life and began a lifelong love of yoga. Despite my almost constant discomfort and awkwardness I left the class that night feeling widened – more aware of the crisp November air, and refreshed in a new way, as though I had been deeply cleansed.

The very first thing we learned in that class was, very simply, how to breathe. It sounds so artless, doesn't it? Breathing, like many other functions of the body (such as the heart pumping blood into the veins) is something that we unconsciously do without any mental effort at all. We just breathe. However, unlike the heart, breathing is something that we can also consciously control. When we focus our mind energy on breathing and where the breath physically is moving in the body, the result can be spiritually, mentally, energetically and emotionally transformative.

The breathing exercise that we did was called “pranayama.” Prana is the Sanskrit word for breath or life energy while yama means control; therefore, pranayama means breath control. Having suffered from rather severe asthma throughout my life, conscious breathing (in conjunction with the simple stretches around the neck/upper back/lung and shoulder area) felt like I was truly breathing for the first time.  Since that class I have been on a path to pay closer attention to my internal awareness of my body. I have studied Bikram, Hatha, and Classical yoga as well as various forms of meditation and without fail, they consistently lead me back to my breath practice and to conscious breathing techniques. Throughout my studying and my journey into my own breath, the single most important thing I have learned is this: begin with the body. In order to breath consciously, you must first become aware of your body in space and its posture or asana. Let’s take for example how you are sitting as you read this right now. Without changing anything, just notice what I call the “three H’s” – heels, hips, heart. Where are your heels and feet? Where are your hips and sits-bones? Where is your heart and chest? Where are all of these in relation to one another? Next, where is the breath? Is it in your stomach, upper chest, nose? Where do you feel it?

If you are sitting in a chair, first place your feet evenly on the ground. Feel all parts of your feet resting. Now, pay attention to your hips and sits-bones (they are the bones underneath your tush!) Is your upper body leaning forward over your hips, or leaning back against something behind you? Try to feel both sits-bones resting evenly on the chair or floor beneath you. Then try to “hover” or  balance your upper body on top of your hips. Automatically your heart and chest area should “lift” a few inches, expanding your rib cage and opening your whole stomach area. Can you feel how those small changes in awareness create more space in your body for the breath to move?  If so, great. If not, great. The point is to start being aware of your body in space and to start inhabiting it from the inside out, instead of the outside in.

There are many different ways to focus on your breathing, but a nice place to start is with the "three part breath.” Start by feeling the breath fill the belly like you are inflating a balloon, then move the breath up into to the lower lungs which will lightly expand the rib cage in all directions and finally lead the breath up into the upper lungs, clavicle or upper chest region. Be kind to yourself and try not to breath in too much or too little at once – be aware of whatever amount is right for you at this moment. When you exhale, release the breath gently from the clavicle and upper chest regions, the upper lungs, lower lungs and belly, lightly pulling the belly button back into the spine and engaging the teeny-tiny muscles below the belly. Another nice technique is to try and make the inhale and exhale “equal” which simply means making both the inhale and exhale last the same amount of time, roughly 5-8 seconds when you are first starting and eventually longer with more practice.

Breathing slowly and consciously has an immediately relaxing effect on the body and mind. In yoga they call the breath the “bridge” from the body to the mind because it connects the often disparate entities of our thinking brain and our sensory body into one whole being. When you deepen, still and slow the breathing, you are calming and massaging all of the thousands of nerve endings that reside in the intestines, the lungs and the tissues of the heart and chest. You might even notice that like a domino effect, the thinking mind starts to relax its grip as well, and you may notice the thoughts that usually race through the mind begin to slow down. The thoughts do not and will not “disappear” because that is the mind’s job (to think!), but the space between thoughts might expand. You might notice, perhaps, that there is more (so much more!) to you than your thinking mind and mental thoughts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

1. For your fabulously talented interior design mom who could find something cool to do with these hand-painted winter laurels 

2. For your history-loving-Abraham-Lincoln-worshiping dad, a framed glicee print of "The Peacemakers" by George Healy for his office 

3. For your beautiful sister whose bravery and exquisite taste never cease to inspire you, a leather envelope clutch and a date for dinner and fun downtown - just you two 

4. For your sweet brother who will watch animated movies with you, listen to you when you are sad, and who doesn't complain when you use his razor, his very own Harry's Winston shave set 

5. For your whole family, a personalized calendar filled with pictures from your latest vacation

(post inspired by Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo)

Monday, December 16, 2013

This, That, These, Those

This is one of my better photographs (taken with Camera+)
That is perhaps the most ideal reading nook I've ever seen
These two colors (gold and blue) look beautiful on her
Those words are true (from my favorite book too!)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lovely Links

Nelson Mandela, may he rest in the peace he provided

I hope you know, I feel this way too

What a year in pictures can make

This dress and this dress and this dress  - oh my

The global soap project that was inspired by a hotel in Philadelphia

Two Dutch guys feel what it is like to give birth (well, sort of)

Moving through grief to gratitude

Is creativity the birth-child of limitation?

A song for the weekend: no diggity remix


A poem inspired by Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown: Detroit

They say in Pompeii the ruins are of stone people
caught in their misery, preserved for eternity.
But here in a city of moldering slag, the ruins return
in ghost gardens that bloom in abandoned neighborhoods,
overgrown fire lilies and amaryllis that sway
in cadence in places where houses once stood.

He takes me driving through the wreckage, to see
what can be saved and when there is nothing we
escape down the necks of these smooth, glass bottles
into the sweet yeast, the carbonation burning my esophagus,
all the way down to the cracked sidewalks of neglected
city intestines, where green things still grow.

Alone I eat steamed buns with collards milled in pork fat
as a woman in a tall chef's hat serves me what is left
of this nation of nothing's diluted kindness.
From her yard I watch as children bicycle without feet
on pedals, balancing their bodies on thin frames, then
I remember this is where you were raised. You,

former janitor with milk-blue eyes, your voice
strong as fibroin silk. True hero in workman's clothes.
Here, they burn homes to keep sickness at bay,
to purge the decay which turns to mold anyway.
They come in with hoses and this is the dance that keeps them sane
from fire to water to life back to fire to set these wet ashes aflame.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I call that: one peel clementine art. 
 Favorite flowers (Persian buttercup ranunculus) in my kitchen
My dream bed . My dream man (Buddy Holly!)

This book. That outfit.
These girls. Those eyes.