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OK, for everyone out there not currently on spring break, my lord, was this week s-l-o-w or what?! Maybe it’s just because I have a super-fun weekend mapped out (drumming! dancing!) and am anticipating the excitement, but every day this week has felt like a ho-hum Tuesday.

But finally! Here we go. It’s Friday, it’s the 13th, and I have a hodge-podge list of five things that have peppered my (interminable!) week with some color and life.

(1) As if a nod to my I Am Woman post from a few weeks ago, my Old Lady Friend™ Carrol sent me the link to this video, 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art.

It’s a hypnotic 3-minute compilation of female art subjects through the centuries, edited artfully itself so that each image morphs into the next. To me, it’s visual art presented in a dance-like manner. It’s also just fun to see the painting styles and female figures transition as the years go by.

(2) Next isn’t a video but a blog that I am excited to add to my Google Reader: Dancemeditation.

The blog is maintained by Dunya Dianne McPherson, whose book, Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh, is currently on my nightstand. It’s been on my Amazon wishlist ever since I purchased Gabrielle Roth’s Sweat Your Prayers (which has essentially become my bible) and it popped up on my “You Might Like…” list.

Dunya is a former professional ballerina who turned to Sufism and now teaches her brainchild Dancemeditation™, “a unique, integrated movement meditation system for self-discovery, healing, and evolution.”

The way she writes about the human body is utterly fascinating and captivating, and it is hard not to roll my spine and rock my pelvis along to her words. They are the words of someone so at home with her body, so familiar with every tendon, vein, and cell within; some chapters have such a deep and sensual feel that they read more like erotic literature, a kind of “kinesthetic pornography,” perhaps.

This post on simple side-to-side rolling will get you moving.

(3) Switching gears, we now move to Main Street, U.S.A. for some Disney dancing!

Posted on Disney Parks’ official blog, this video features Barbara, a Walt Disney World cast member who has taken her role as Main Street hostess to a new level by just doin’ her thang during the daily parades. If I knew there was an opportunity out there for me to both (a) work in Disney World, and (b) dance my heart out every afternoon, then Barbara would be out of a job. … OK, so I’m a bit jealous, but I love Barbara for bringing dance and Disney together in the upbeat way she does. 🙂

(4) The last two items go hand in hand. First is the 2011 Emmy-winning choreography “This Bitter Earth” from Mia Michaels, which appeared on Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance.

I’m going through a bit of a SYTYCD drought here (still more than a month to go before Season 9 starts!), so I’ve been filling the holes by watching clips of past seasons on YouTube. This particular dance about aging is just so powerful, poignant, and kind of sad. It’s a hit-you-in-the-gut piece, no doubt why it was nominated for and won the Emmy. The three variations of a simple rocking motion at 1:14 are just beautiful.

(5) Staying on that theme of aging is the video that’s been going viral all over Facebook, “Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era.”

As a dancer, music has such a profound role in my life, and it is so comforting to know that the brain has the ability to store the passionate, joy-filled memories associated with a particular tune. This man, described as “inert and unresponsive,” comes ALIVE when exposed to music from his younger years. His reactions at 4:00 and 5:15 are a bit Awakenings…but so hopeful and smile-inducing. And I love that there’s a whole movement behind this kind of therapy: http://www.musicandmemory.org!

Now this has me wondering…what music from “my era” would make me come alive 50+ years from now? Hmm…

Comment with an online video/website/photo that’s been stirring your soul lately!

I don’t go on Facebook often because I hate getting sucked into the Facebook time warp, you know, when you go to look at one person’s profile and suddenly three hours have gone by and you’re 11 friends removed from the original person you were searching for, staring at wedding photos of a complete stranger. When you finally come to, it’s like waking up from an eating binge, except instead of being surrounded by discarded food wrappers and empty cookie tins, you’re plagued by the semi-pornographic images and inane wall posts of Jerry and Chris and Freida and Helen and Robert and Steve and Sue and that guy with the weird tattoo and pet chameleon. What the…? Where am I? Who the hell are these people, and why did I spend nearly all of my free evening with them?

However, this past Friday night I learned that YouTube has the same time-suck qualities. It started innocently, with me browsing Tokyo Disney’s website (a normal activity for a Friday night, right?) and seeing that the park’s Enchanted Tiki Room features Stitch. I love Stitch, so I went to YouTube to find a video of the attraction.

I found one, but then out of nowhere I thought, “Hell, I’m on YouTube now; let me search for a video of Southwest’s Shamu plane taking off!” (Like you do.)


And I did. Two and a half hours later, these were the things I had watched on YouTube:

• Southwest’s Shamu One landing and taking off at various U.S. airports.
• A plane landing during a snowstorm in Montana.
• Various videos of planes landing in a crosswind (woah).
• An airplane getting struck by lightning.
• Various videos of approaches and take-offs on difficult/unique runways (e.g., Kai Tak in Hong Kong, Tegucigalpa Honduras Toncontin, Gibraltar, St. Barts, St. Maarten [about 8 separate videos for St. Maarten, because it’s INSANE]).
• Cockpit-cam videos of take-offs and landings.
• The Boeing Dreamlifter taking off and landing.
• Giant-ass planes (e.g., UPS cargo jets, 747s, A380s) taking off and landing.
• Various children dressed as Wall•E for Halloween (+ one dressed as an Axiom hover chair).
• The real-life talking/walking Wall•E at various events.
• Several videos of the before-it-broke Yeti on Expedition Everest (it used to move; now it’s just illuminated with a strobe light).
• A complete POV ride-through of Expedition Everest (even though I have physically been on the ride myself like, 20-something times).
• Spaceship Earth ride-through…with a night-cam!!
• Ride-through of Tokyo DisneySea’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (awesome!).
• Don’t forget the ride-through of Tokyo’s Tower of Terror!
• And Tokyo’s Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek!
• Ride-through of Indiana Jones at Disneyland (half night-cam; half with the attraction’s lights on).
• Behind-the-scenes videos of both the T-Rex and velociraptor from Jurassic Park.
• Video of some dumb kid jumping into the landing zone of the Jurassic Park ride at Islands of Adventure to grab his hat.

I finally broke free from the YouTube bubble slightly past midnight–not good for a girl who was eager to catch up on sleep. I felt disgusted with myself, spending an entire Friday night sitting in an IKEA Poang chair, hunched over a laptop, clicking on links that read “Expedition Everest Yeti Up Close Pics!” and “These Are Some Damn Good Airline Pilots 2!”

The morning after was not as bad…only a few minutes watching cats riding on Roombas, Roombas bumping into sleeping dogs, and a baby riding a Roomba (inspired by watching the “DJ Roomba” episode of Parks and Recreation the previous night).

Now I’m ever-so-curious…What embarrassing/geeky/guilty-pleasure videos have you sought out on YouTube??

This past week has been a little dizzying, and Bryan and I have been trying to ho-ho-ha-ha-ha our way through a testy George Foreman Grill, a cracked kitchen sink and the installation of a new one (shout-out to my dad, who spent about 2.5 hours squeezed into the bowels of our kitchen cabinetry), and the demise of Bryan’s 10-year-old Hyundai and subsequent purchase of a new (used) car, complete with test-driving vehicles on a windy, rainy Wednesday night in rush-hour traffic.

Whee!

As such, I’ve neglected to pay tribute to the honest-to-gosh things that have recently put a smile on my face. Of note:

Late-Season Tomatoes

As usual, our tomato plants showed promise at the beginning of the season, produced a few good ones (the rest were devoured by squirrels and rabbits), and then withered into nothingness somewhere around late August. We went on vacation in early September, completely neglecting the plants and never once looking back. Yet abandonment makes the vines grow stronger (or perhaps it was the 279 gallons of rain we got this summer), because earlier this month these guys made an appearance on the sagging, droopy plants:

And they were amazing! Firm, red, with very few seeds, and not the least bit watery. Bonus: We got to them before those darn squirrels.

Toddler Time

As I’ve already mentioned, I am in love with my friends Emma and Peter’s daughter, Bella. She is a one-person show, and she is so entertaining that I could see people paying to witness her side-splitting expressions, silly dances, and toddler babble. I recently got to hang out with her all afternoon during her 2nd birthday party, which featured almost zen-like gift unwrapping (surely to turn into monster shreddage-unwrapping by next year), train rides on Thomas the Tank Engine, and the requisite cake time!

(Not pictured: Bella’s grandfather leaning a little too far back in his chair and falling to the garage floor in slow-mo. We all held our breath…and then busted up laughing as he gave the thumbs-up from the ground.) 🙂

Our gift to Bella was Disney related, of course: a baby doll version of Ariel. I brainwashed Bella into acknowledging that it was her most favorite present of the bunch, and it was a success.

Two-year-olds don't quite grasp the concept of "Say Cheese!"

My impression of Bella

She played with the doll all evening, much better than the time as a newborn she broke out into tears when her momma placed the Mickey Mouse plush I purchased in her arms.

She even crafted a seasonally appropriate thank-you card for us:

Indian Summer

The same weekend as Bella’s birthday, Bryan and I went down the shore for the day. The forecast called for temps in the mid-80s at home, so we took the opportunity to experience Ocean City in October. It was surprisingly warm (what ocean breeze?!), so much that Bryan had to buy a pair of shorts on the boardwalk and ditch his jeans.

I was excited to walk on the sand without a beach tag and, since lifeguard season is over, pose contemplatively on the algae-covered jetty.

We intentionally parked several blocks away from the main boardwalk so we could get in plenty of walking time, making us feel a little less guilty for indulging in super-huge slices of pizza and frozen desserts. (It also balanced out all the time we spent sitting in traffic on the drive home, since the rest of the world had the same idea about going to the shore.)

Where one slice is enough!

We played a round of miniature golf and took note of all the migrating monarch butterflies fluttering over the boardwalk wildflowers. I wish I had a picture of the butterflies—they were all over the place!

Ego Boosters

I don’t toot my own horn much, but two personal accomplishments last week really made me beam: (a) I found out that I passed a super-hard exam I took last month that officially makes me an Editor in the Life Sciences (complete with credentials that no one but our little circle of nerdy editors will understand), and (b) a triathlon coach at my gym praised my swimming skills. I told her that I was interested in taking her freestyle swim lessons (intended to improve your technique), and she looked at me and said, “Nah, you don’t need that.” I went on to explain that other than childhood lessons at the Y, I’ve had no other training and was looking to improve my form. Again, she said, “I’ve seen you swim. You’re fine.” Maybe it’s because I feel like my hip slows me down and that it compromises my kick, but few times when I swim do I feel confident about how I’m putting it all (kick, arms, breathing) together. My little pseuo-panic attack back in June wasn’t really boosting my self-esteem either.

But apparently I’m just a smidge above OK when it comes to editing and swimming. It feels awkward, but I guess I’ll give my ego horn a little ::toot toot::

Nature Walks

Every morning during my walks through the park, I see the changing leaves, curious deer, and sometimes even a wild turkey or four. This will be a separate post to come, though. Too much excitement to cover in this already overloaded post!

Today marked my first-ever guest post (ever!) on this World Wide Web thingeroo. I typed it all up in my own WordPress account and then scratched my head and thought, “Hmm, now how do I get this to the hosting blog??” Clearly, I am a novice. 🙂

Appropriately, the post is over at the Healthy Disney site, which combines my two passions: Disney and health! (Many thanks to Pete for letting me know about its existence!) In my first guest post, I write about my experience swimming laps in our pool at the Wilderness Lodge.

Read the post here!

Sleepy swimmer

Happy October!

Jack-o-lantern heralding Halloween, Kripalu, Oct 2006

As if on cue, the first full month of fall has started on a cool and crisp note; after days of humid, muggy weather, today it’s breezy and only going up to 65. And thus begins the season of pumpkin spice lattes and me actually having to put on a jacket after swimming at the gym, rather than just throwing some shorts over my bathing suit and driving home in a wet Speedo.

September was a busy month, between going to Disney World, taking a fancy editing test for work, struggling with my health issues before getting a hypothyroidism diagnosis, and two other big events–

The Phillies:

and So You Think You Can Dance live!

The Phillies game was a make-up from a rained-out game we were supposed to attend back in August. It was re-scheduled for a Tuesday afternoon, so I actually had to take off from work to go to a baseball game. Once again, it rained consistently all morning but luckily cleared out right before game time. Citizens Bank Park, normally sold out and jammed packed, was pretty empty. It was weird to see so many blue seats rather than the usual red sea of Phillies t-shirts.

It was only my second time at Citizens Bank Park, and all I wanted was for someone to get a home run so I could see the Liberty Bell swing and gong. The previous game I attended last season (against the Nationals) was awful, and I left without my Liberty Bell wish being fulfilled. The Phillies ended up losing this game (coincidentally, also against the Nats), but Raul (“Ra-oooooollll!”) Ibanez did get a home run, and thus the Liberty Bell rang gloriously throughout the stadium.

Still shot of the bell; I was too excited and in the moment to photograph the bell during its actual ringing.

Some people find baseball too long and boring, but I find it kind of meditative. Those few moments of holding your breath as the ball flies toward the hitter or after the crack of the bat keep me in suspense and on the edge of my seat. Of course, I’m speaking as someone whose home team has had quite the victorious record these past couple of seasons; I don’t know if I’d be so into it if my team was at the bottom of the barrel.

To close September, last night Bryan and I went to Atlantic City for the So You Think You Can Dance tour. I’m a huge fan of the show and watched it diligently all summer long; seeing winner Melanie so close up gave me the goosebumps. I didn’t take any photos during the show because I just wanted to watch the dancers and not worry about getting the right shot. I’ve watched the routines on television and on YouTube, but seeing them live with the pulsing music, flashing lights, and being able to see the dancers’ expressions so close up is so much fun! I felt my body moving along with theirs; during the finale, the dancers encouraged everyone to stand up and move. It was like being in a giant night club, and everyone had a little bounce to their step as we filtered out of the arena.

The evening didn’t start so wonderfully, though. Due to heavy flooding and random road closures, we got stuck in awful traffic on the way there. We sat in 30 minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic just a few minutes from our house and–once we thought we reached the end of it–the road was closed, and everyone was basically forced to make a circle and go back the way we.just.came. There may have been tears and cursing. Had Bryan not taken a “risky ninja” move and cut through some back roads, we would have been nearly 45 minutes late to the show. Instead, we arrived only about 10-15 minutes late. I nearly lost it again when when one of the event staff members pulled a prank on us during intermission. I guess my hand wasn’t stamped properly when I left the arena, so when I came back in, she couldn’t find it on my skin. “Can’t let you in,” she said. I pulled out my tickets for proof, and she still shook her head. “Sorry, you can’t go back in.” I must’ve looked like I was going to burst into tears, and Bryan must have looked ready to punch someone, so she finally broke into laughter and said, “I’m just messing with y’all. We need to have some fun, too!”

I normally like the glitz, glamor, and gaudiness of Atlantic City, but I was not having any of it last night. The awful drive there, the intermission scare, and then not being able to eat dinner until 10 p.m. amidst a smoky casino…I was so ready to go home. And we did…in the pouring rain. My friends, I was not very yogic last night, and it’s times like those I feel like a fraud. I may be able to do 10 minutes of alternate nostril breathing in the morning, but stick me in traffic with the threat of being very late to an expensive event that I was really looking forward to… goodbye, any notion of yoga.

So let’s say goodbye to September and, on this first of October, wish a happy birthday to my two favorite things:

My husband!

and Walt Disney World!

WDW, opened October 1, 1971

I haven’t blogged in a while but it’s not because I’ve been living in a vacuum. Stuff has happened, thoughts and ponderings have crossed my mind, but the truth is that I’ve just chosen to censor myself and make y’all believe that I’m living some crazy-awesome-busy life and just don’t have the time to document it.

It’s not really fair for myself or for those who read my blog to write only about the good things in life, the times where I have triumphed, learned a lesson, and moved on with clarity and newfound wisdom. Because, for real, that’s only half of the picture. My husband and I recently started Netflixing Twin Peaks, and what we’re learning is that there’s more to one person than what meets the eye. Not that I have any Laura Palmer-type secrets lying around, but I do have days that I don’t do yoga, don’t dance, act cranky, and forget to breathe. I have days that I mentally scold someone for starting every morning with a complaint and then I come home to my husband and complain about all the complaining. Sometimes I just don’t want to blog, tweet, or decipher the cryptogram that is now Facebook. There are times that I start the day blasting LMFAO in the living room and dancing circles around my husband and then shun him for the rest of the afternoon for no good reason (i.e., today).

One of the take-home lessons I learned during my experience at Kripalu was to acknowledge both the light as well as the shadows. Kripalu is a popular yoga and wellness retreat center now, but several years ago it suffered a PR nightmare when the resident guru was accused of performing unyogic acts with his disciples. Instead of keeping this “secret” under rug swept, my YTT teachers were open about the scandal; they were acknowledging the darker side–the shadows–of the institution. Expanding this philosophy to a personal level, it means to sit not only in your prouder moments but to face your darker ones as well. When the sun is shining and your heart is singing, breathe it all in. When the clouds are black and your heart hurts, breathe it all in.

Light!

Shadows.

One of my shadows of late has been my complete and utter lack of energy. It started last month when I could barely finish a 5Rhythms class. Even with being mindful of my movement and using the wall and floor for support at times, I kept sneaking glances at the clock, wondering why on earth this 2-hour class felt like 5. I felt like I was running on fumes, and instead of floating home in a state of post-dance bliss, I kind of just trudged my way into bed. Swimming, my second favorite activity next to dancing, also became a labor of love. Suddenly my normal 30-minute workout sessions were no longer achievable, and I’d call time after 20, 25 if I had coffee beforehand.

Even Disney World, my happiest and the happiest place on earth, couldn’t snap me from my stupor. I know it’s natural to wear yourself out after a day in the parks, but a seasoned Disney World fan girl shouldn’t be caught looking like this in the middle of the day.

Waiting for the bus, Hollywood Studios.

After a month of this nonsense as well as some other health-related issues, I finally went to my doctor. A lot of my symptoms were pointing directly at the thyroid as the culprit, and my bloodwork sealed the deal. When I got my thyroid levels tested 2 years ago, they were right on the cusp of hypothyroidism; now, they are most definitely in that territory. I know there is all kinds of controversy out there about what the “correct” reference range is for TSH levels, but mine exceed anything I’ve found online and would certainly explain the uncharacteristic feelings of blah I’ve been experiencing.

Because hypothyroidism affects mood and mental focus as well, perhaps that can explain my mini-mental breakdown last week, when I was left completely incapable of making the decision whether or not to accompany my husband to Philly for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon expo. The day before I was all “Yeah! This will be fun! Philly! Athletic gear! Lunch in the city!” Saturday morning, however, was a different story. I knew I needed to study for a work-related exam I was taking the next day, and I was afraid going to Philly would cut into my cram time. Instead of deciding (a) OK, I should really stay home to study; or (b) I can go to Philly, study on the train, and at home when we return, my brain went like this: &**&^&%^$&#$%%&*(*&*!!!!! It was like PMS from hell, complete with crying, sobbing, and throwing of clothes (and punches…in the air). The thing was, I didn’t have PMS; it was a perfectly neutral part of the month. I had checked my calendar just to make sure and was even more upset when I knew I couldn’t blame womanly hormones for my hot mess of a breakdown. It felt like the decision-making part of my brain just shut off, and I was faced with two options that both seemed great and terrible at the same time. And I’m not talking about the latte-versus-frappuccino indecision you face on a 60-degree day in March, but rather a complete numbness of the ability to say yes or no and accept that decision.

(In case you’re wondering, after much consolation from my husband, a shower, and me “working it out” through about 30 minutes of tears, I finally decided to go to Philly and then studied at home that night.)

On a lighter note (meaning, I’m not going to blame my thyroid for this), one of my other recent shadows has been my reaction to the news of Disney planning to open an AVATAR land in the Animal Kingdom park. If it were April, I would have totally thought this was some kind of April Fools joke, but this is for real! I’ve never seen Avatar, but even if it’s super-awesome, does it really require an entire land? At first I was upset that they agreed to partner with a non-Disney movie, but then people brought up Star Wars and Indiana Jones and The Muppets, and OK, I get it, but the key difference here is attraction versus LAND. Also, Animal Kingdom is such a pure park; if Disney is really pushing for this Avatar nonsense, it should build it in Hollywood Studios and reserve any extra space in Animal Kingdom for a future Australia. I cried to Bryan that after him and dancing, Disney is my passion and that any news about a potentially disastrous business decision affects me to the core. I eased up a bit after reading this relatively positive outlook of the Avatar endeavor but then fell back into my sinkhole of misery after reading this one.

Whatever happens, I just hope Animal Kingdom doesn’t face this fate come 2016 or 2018 or whenever everyone has forgotten about Avatar:

You'll get this after looking at it closely for a few seconds.

OK, I just exposed my shadows. Anything you need to come clean about?

So it’s been about one week since I left my happy place.

Not gonna lie…it hasn’t been easy. Despite this being my 12th trip to Walt Disney World (and 13th Disney trip, if you count last year’s Disneyland), I still come home with a bad case of PDD (post-Disney depression) that leaves me unable to watch Disney commercials or listen to Disney music for a solid month without immediately tearing up. Coming home from vacation is hard enough, but when you’re going from a land of pixie dust and parades and nightly fireworks to, well, New Jersey, it’s slightly more difficult than just returning from a week down the shore.

Leftover caramel-glazed apple pie for breakfast

Instead of getting "the finger" on your morning commute, you get "the hand."

9 a.m. meetings are replaced with morning photo shoots

This is your home for a week

The view from the pool during your morning swim

International amigos

Outpouring of love

Where monsters aren't scary

On the set of a fairy tale

Unlimited milkshakes

Dance-offs with dogs

The only time you're actually happy to see a mouse in the house

Because it’s geographically and financially unfeasible to visit my #1 happy place on a regular basis, I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out where my closer-to-home happy places are, places that don’t require airline tickets and a week off from work. They may not include all the bells and whistles (and parades and fireworks) of Disney World, but they make me smile and are my go-to places when I need some everyday magic.

Happy Place #1: My Living Room Floor

Although I absolutely loved our rustic-feeling hotel room at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, it was very tight on space and I had little room to do my morning/evening stretches and wake-up routine. Sun salutations took place in the narrow entrance way between the bathroom and the closet, and to do viparita karani (legs on the wall) at night (a necessity after days of walking anywhere from 8 to 16 miles), I had to squeeze myself between the TV cabinet and table, the only wall space available.

At home, the living room floor is my stretching oasis, the place I go to every morning to twist and stretch and rock and roll. I can do downdogs and warriors without banging my hands into the wall or on the ceiling lamp, and I can lie on the floor in cobra without being skeeved out about who (or what) was on the carpet before me.

Morning routine: Pee, brush teeth, roll

In addition, my living room allows me the space to DANCE! 🙂

Happy Place #2: Poang Chairs

When I’m not dancing or rolling around in my living room, I’m seated comfortably in one of our IKEA Poang chairs, in front of the TV.

Shhh...it's a pack of Poangs!

I’m not particularly a fan of the boob-tube, but I do love our Netflix subscription that allows us to watch streaming shows and movies via our Nintendo Wii system.

Instead of watching TV shows in real-time, Bryan and I have instead been plowing through entire series of shows through Netflix streaming. That way we don’t have to wait weeks in-between episodes or feel like we lost 6 years of our life if a show ends badly (::coughcoughLOSTcoughcough::). Most recently, we completed the 202 episodes of 24, a series that had us glued to the Poangs for months. I became very attached to the characters and screamed, shouted, and cried along with them. It was a very emotional ending, almost as heart-wrenching as leaving Disney World! Mickey Mouse, Jack Bauer…I love you both!

Netflix is also my source for rare, hard-to-find movies and documentaries. Sure, I’ll watch Tangled the week I return from the World (gotta catch up on my Disney princess knowledge), but this same week I’ve also watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Christmas is less than 100 days away…juicer, please?!), half of the PBS special Doctors’ Diaries, and–OMG, the cutest movie in the world–Gotta Dance.

PHOTO: Gotta Dance & NBA Entertainment

Remember that documentary a few years ago, Young @ Heart, the one about the group of seniors who sing contemporary music? Well, this is the same thing…but with DANCE. The movie documents the inaugural season of the NETsationals dance team, a group of 13 seniors ages 59 to 83 who dance hip hip for the New Jersey Nets (in the photo above, their jersey numbers indicate their age). A few had amateur dancing experience (ballroom, tap), some had danced recreationally, and none had ever done hip hop before. These folks are living proof that age is just a number and old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Heartwarming, uplifting, inspirational…this movie a shot of the warm and fuzzy feel-goods without the overly sappy chicken noodle soup for the soul. I stood on my feet and applauded the TV during their first live performance! I could watch this again and again–and probably will.

Happy Place #3: Red Bank Battlefield

I am fortunate to live near several parks (all very nice, too!), but my favorite by far is Red Bank. It’s a national park, so it’s well kept and clean; it attracts a lot of cute older couples (I once witnessed an older husband and wife unwrap a particularly challenging Werther’s Original candy together); and, being directly across the Delaware River from the Philly airport, there are PLANES! Lots of them! As I’ve written again and again, I am obsessed with plane watching. I will say I don’t care, but then I’ll hear the roar of a jet engine, and immediately my eyes go to the sky. I’m particularly fond of Southwest jets (one, they represent our transportation to Florida; two, they are the most colorful of the liveries), cargo jets (HUUUUGE!), and planes that are taking off in my direction.

Sometimes I’ll go to the park before work (quiet and peaceful), other times after work (more traffic but interesting characters), and sometimes on the weekend with Bryan for reading-under-a-tree time. A loop around the park is a little over a mile, and nowadays you can almost always spot a deer or three, which have become acclimated to human beings and don’t even bat an eyelash when you’re walking their way. The other morning I walked past six deer (including two males with giant antlers), one only inches from me!

It’s a good thing I appreciate the solitude of the park in the morning, because soon that’s the only time I’ll be able to go; the park closes at sunset, and as I much as I pray that it won’t happen, there will come a time this year that I leave work and it’s dark out. Where to go when my Disney World closes at dusk?!

So those are my non-Disney World happy places, accessible within minutes. If I’m willing to drive a little longer and pack a few more things, next on the list are (a) my gym, for a solo swimming session; (b) the yoga studio, for a 5Rhythms class; and (c) the Jersey shore!

What places do you return to when you need some magic?

I’m in Disney World right now, but as I mentioned in this post, I wanted to share with you the yamas of a yoga practice and how they can be applied to all of life’s experiences, even a weeklong trip to the Mouse House. Read on for a breakdown of the final three!

Yama #3: Asteya

“Asteya, or ‘not stealing,’ refers to the stealing that grows from believing we cannot create what we need. We steal because we misperceive the universe as lacking abundance or we think that there is not enough for everyone and that we will not receive in proportion to our giving.”

Even though you want Stitch all to yourself at the Club 626 dance party, remember to share him with the kiddies.

Chip and Dale need a lesson in asteya: It’s not very nice to steal your fellow chipmunk’s gal.

Although it is flattering to be part of this disagreement!

Fun fact: Stitch is WDW’s the biggest asteya offender. Watch all loose objects; Stitch WILL steal!

Yama #4: Brahmacharya

This is a tough one to grasp, so I’m posting a slightly longer explanation: “Brahmacharya reminds us that our life force is both limited and precious, and sexual activity is one of the quickest ways to deplete it…. We can teach brahmacharya by helping our students learn to use the minimum energy to achieve the maximum result. Teach them not to use small muscles to do the work of large muscles, and to bring their minds into the poses so that their bodies do not become fatigued.”

The concept of brahmacharya is sexually rooted, but, as noted above, it can also mean not letting your body loose control in an effort to enjoy something.

Ever go on a roller coaster and scream your brains out just to be silly? With all that yelling, waving, hooting, and hollering, you may lose out on the true experience of the ride, and it will all go by in a flash.

Stay in the moment and feel the experience of loosing control, while keeping your mind and senses engaged. Enjoy every second of that lift up the hill and breathe in the joy of the final descent.

Yama #5: Aparigraha

“Aparigraha means not coveting what isn’t ours. It is different from asteya, which asks us to avoid stealing that is motivated by a greed springing from a perceived lack of abundance. Aparigraha is the greed that is rooted in jealousy…. Rather than finding who we are, we look at someone else and say, ‘I want to be that.’ Aparigraha, in its essence, helps us discover our own selves so that we no longer feel the need to covet what someone else has, or be what someone else is.”

Don’t compare yourself to others, even if you think Walt Disney should have picked a lobster for his sidekick instead of a freakin’ mouse.

"Man, that darn mouse has it ALL..."

Remember to enjoy the entertainment at Disney World, rather than dwell on the fact that you will never, ever be a Disney dancer, despite your lifelong dream of wanting to be THAT girl.

Remember your own accomplishments instead of trying to stand in someone else’s shoes.

Note: I had every intention of writing up a similar post on the five niyamas before I left, but then I forgot that I needed a proper rain jacket for what looks to be a mildly damp week in Florida, so my jaunt out to L.L. Bean totally sucked up my blogging time!

On that note, I have to remember the niyama of samtosha (contentment) and accept that I’ve done all that I can physically do before heading out. Namaste!

Contentment.

Free Yoga Classes and Event during National Yoga Month September.

I’m in Disney World right now, but I was sure to pack my yamas. (It’s cool, the TSA allows a maximum of five.)

As I wrote about in my previous post, it’s very possible to practice yoga without stepping on a mat. The physical form of yoga we all know and love–asana–is just one limb of eight that comprise the complete practice. Yamas is one of those other limbs, and it refers to measures of  self-restraint. As Aadil Palkhivala states in his wonderfully written article, “the five yamas–kindness, truthfulness, abundance, continence, and self-reliance–are oriented toward our public behavior and allow us to coexist harmoniously with others.” Paired with the niyamas (another limb that includes five elements), the yamas are very much like a Ten Commandments for the yoga world.

Palkhivala’s article (which I’ll quote throughout this post) is very well written for those who are curious how to incorporate the yamas into their physical practice and puts these esoteric Sanskrit terms into everyday context. But how does one appreciate and practice the yamas while standing in line for 30 minutes to ride Space Mountain, like I’m doing now?

Yama #1: Ahimsa

“Ahimsa traditionally meant ‘do not kill or hurt people.’ This can be extrapolated to mean that we should not be violent in feelings, thoughts, words, or actions. At root, ahimsa means maintaining compassion towards yourself and others. It means being kind and treating all things with care.”

Ahimsa means keeping your cool, even when this kid throws a temper tantrum for 45 minutes straight while waiting for the afternoon parade to begin at Hollywood Studios. Ahimsa is what keeps us from flipping out on the parents, who look the other way and laugh as their boy wails loud enough to be heard over at Epcot.

Thou shalt not kill.

Forcing your spouse into drinking the “Beverly” soft drink over at Epcot’s Coca-Cola Club Cool strays from ahimsa. We all know it tastes like sh*t, and it’s not very nice to torture each other for the sake of a funny photo.

On a more serious note, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at Disney World and want to cram everything into the day. When the body asks for some rest, accept it. Besides, that’s what the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, railroad, monorail, and the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch are for.

Take a break!

Lastly, no matter how much fun a ride is, don’t overdo it. Remember self-compassion–ahimsa–and stick to no more than three consecutive rides on the teacups. Two if you’ve just eaten.

Yama #2: Satya

“Satya means ‘truth,’ or ‘not lying.’ Practicing satya means being truthful in our feelings, thoughts, and words, and deeds. It means being honest with ourselves and with others.”

Satya means withholding from telling your mate that the Beverly drink tastes “Awesome! You gotta try it!” (see above).

Satya means it’s OK to not really like the Hall of Presidents, to think Mission: Space is eh, or ::gasp:: to admit that the Carousel of Progress should be next on the chopping block. (The latter was really hard to write, but that’s the point of satya–be true to your feelings, despite the discomfort it may cause.)

Satya: Don't lie. It's OK to admit that Mission: Space doesn't really do anything for you. (And yes, I go on the orange side!)

Satya is being truthful about one’s obsession with Stitch and never playing down her love of the big blue alien, despite being a grown-up.

Don't lie and deny your most rewarding pleasures!

There are three more yamas that should be in your carry-on before any vacation, but you’ll have to wait until Thursday for the full Disney-fied breakdown. Stay tuned, and see ya real soon!

Free Yoga Classes and Event during National Yoga Month September.

Ahhh, September. The start of National Yoga Month. Yet as all my fellow downward dawgs unfurl their mats to begin a month of celebration, contemplation, and meditation, I’m leaving my asana behind in New Jersey and heading to a land of not one but FOUR mountain poses: Space, Big Thunder, Splash, and Everest.

As the old saying goes, “I’m going to Disney World!”

Although I’ll still do a few hotel room sun salutations in the morning and most likely prop my achy legs up into Viparita Karani after a long day walking around World Showcase, the truth is that–for me–this first week of National Yoga Month will probably include very little yoga.

Well…let me rephrase that. It will probably include very little PHYSICAL yoga.

Unless you’re a yoga teacher, long-time student, or someone very devoted to the tenets of yoga philosophy, your vision of yoga is most likely the ol’ headstand-in-the-middle-of-the-room, foot-behind-the-head variety. The vision of yoga that makes you say, “I’m not flexible; I can’t do yoga.” The kind of yoga that requires a sticky mat, some kind of Lycra wardrobe, and either an instructional DVD or a gym membership.

But here’s the thing: That kind of yoga is only 1/8 of the practice.

The physical postures of yoga that we’re all most familiar with–termed asana in Sanskrit–is just one serving of a multiple-course meal. I didn’t know this myself until I had been taking yoga classes for about a year and was interested enough to pick up an issue of Yoga Journal, but it made sense. What had started as me taking some classes at my gym to improve my balance and flexibility gradually turned into something bigger. I felt kinder toward others after doing yoga. I developed a deeper appreciation of my body after doing yoga. I felt compelled to sit in silence and meditate and breathe after doing yoga.

Asana was the key into this wide world of yoga, a practice of not only physical postures but seven other “limbs”:

Yamas (ethical restraints).

Niyamas (personal observances).

Pranayama (breath control).

Pratyahara (sense withdrawal/control).

Dharana (concentration/inner perceptual awareness).

Dhyana (devotion, meditation).

Samadhi (union with the divine).

So, as you can see, asana is just a sliver of lunchmeat in this extra-long hoagie we call yoga, which means it is very possible to still do yoga while walking the dog, doing the dishes, grocery shopping, or traveling.

I’ll never forget the way yoga became my best friend during my 3-week trip to China and Tibet in 2006. I didn’t touch a yoga mat for 21 days and never once had the floor space to even get into Downdog, but the emotional aspect of yoga, pranayama, and lovingkindness meditation completely enriched the adventure. There were so many times I could’ve gone ape sh*t, cried hysterically, or lost it completely, but I’m certain that the mental clarity and focus I cultivated from my then 2 years of asana yoga practice got me through it all and let me go with the flow–even our three days on the pirate ship garbage barge Chinese cruise ship, where stowaways, cockroaches, and the residue of an uncleaned communal squat toilet punctuated our sweaty 72 hours out on the Yangtze.

Stowaways in the hall

Will I be doing Bakasana in the middle of Main Street, USA next week? Probably not. (Although man, that would make an awesome photo…!) Will I be doing yoga? You bet! In fact, I’m pretty sure I can apply all of the 10 yamas and niyamas to life inside the Magic Kingdom, and, as part of YIOM’s observance of National Yoga Month, I hope to blog about it. See what others have to say about the 8 limbs of yoga here…and then go out on a limb and see how you can incorporate a little slice of yoga lunchmeat into your life. 🙂

Free Yoga Classes and Event during National Yoga Month September.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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