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One of the things that drives me crazy while food shopping (minus the kid carts the size of tractor trailers and the fact that at Wegmans yogurt is spread out between 45948 locations) is the way some cashiers handle your food.

I don’t know if some grocery stores have contests to see who can make the quickest transactions or if perhaps there is a corporate policy about squeezing in so many customers in a certain time frame, but the past few times we’ve been to Wegmans, the cashiers have been just plain rough with our food purchases.

Cereal boxes, yogurt cartons, fresh produce, bread … they just gruffly push it down and slide it across the scanner, and then–because we bring our own bags–they toss it on the counter behind them. Ker-thunk. Ker-thunk. Plop. Thwack.

Now, it’s nothing so bad that a carton of eggs is going to break–it’s just the manner in which the cashiers handle the products we are paying good money for and will eventually end up in our mouths. This isn’t a blister pack of batteries we’re talking about; it’s a carton of strawberries, a bunch of bananas, my beloved Flat-Out wraps that will eventually swaddle my garlic hummus, spinach, and cheese. Please don’t manhandle my dinner.

The one place that always respects the food is Whole Foods. I will never forget the one cashier I had years ago who scanned each item as though it were a piece of 24-karat gold. It was so zen to watch, so hypnotic the way she picked up each item with intention and gently glided it across the scanner. She even commented here and there on certain things: “This is a great brand of yogurt. So creamy! You’ll love this new flavor. I haven’t seen this yet; have you eaten it before?”

I was so touched by her yogic scanning technique that I let her know how much it meant to me. “You’ve made it an art!” I exclaimed.

So when our frequent grocery shopping excursions at Wegmans turned into the complete opposite experience, I got irritated. Last week’s cashier was so staccato with our food that I vowed to Bryan I would write a letter to customer service. (I didn’t, because I tend to forget these things if I don’t do it right away.)

Yesterday at Wegmans, I assumed my position at the opposite end of the conveyor belt with trepidation, bracing for the torpedo of food coming my way. But we seemed to have selected the right lane, because the cashier had clearly read my mind. I think he was new and perhaps a bit flummoxed by some of the barcodes and produce codes, but his self-consciousness led him to be the kindest, most gentle cashier we’ve had to date at Wegmans. The way he cradled each individual Chobani yogurt container and then placed them on the counter behind him took my breath away. I glanced up in disbelief at Bryan, who was smirking and nodding his head. He knew. His husband radar had totally picked up on my neurosis and my bubbling excitement about our cashier’s smooth scanning skills.

Of course, I made a point to praise the cashier before we left. I told him about our previous experiences and how much I appreciated the way he handled each piece of food with respect. I hope he got my point and didn’t write me off as a trippy-dippy hippie.

It doesn’t matter what store you shop at or whether you eat deli lunchmeat or free-range chicken breast–everyone should respect food!

Handle with care!

Even though spring officially begins in March and we’re now more than 40 days past that starting point, I still feel like May is when the REAL spring begins. At this point, there’s absolutely no threat of snow, our trees and lawn are unquestionably green, the depressing rain/wind cycles of April have blown by us, and the temperatures are holding steady near the 70-degree mark. People just truly love May! So it’s appropriate then, that with this psychological start of spring—with all the blooming and colors and new life forming around us (it’s baby goose season!!)–that I plant my own new harvest—participation in the YIOM network!

 YIOM

YIOM (“Why I Om”) debuted last month as Yogis Inspiring Oneness Month, a sort of challenge for yoga bloggers to post regularly, if not daily, for one month about all things asana, pranayama, ashtanga, so on and so forth in an effort to form a vast collection of yoga posts from across the country. YIOM’s founder, The VeganAsana, was so successful at corralling this group that she didn’t want to see all of her efforts end after April 30, and thus formed YIOM II—Yoga Inspired Online Movement, an ever-growing network of yogis who blog. I wasn’t part of the original YIOM (I had just started my blog the month before and didn’t know if I could keep up with the challenge), but now that I’m feeling comfortable out here holding onto my precious “Flowtation Device,” I’m excited to join this group and wear the YIOM badge with pride.

To tell you the truth, I had been seeking a network like this for a long time. Before I hurt my hip and had a consistent running regimen, I was all about the fitness blogs, reading about how people fueled for long runs, what their training plans looked like, and what workouts they did on their cross-training days. After the hip went stupid and I had to stop running, these blogs simply depressed me! I no longer wanted to see the photos of their awesome early-morning runs around Central Park at sunrise or read their mile-by-mile race recaps. I had a few food-focused blogs in my Google Reader, but looking at pictures of the step-by-step process of making an omelet (chopping onions! slicing ham! whisking eggs!) or baking muffins (pouring batter in the pan! watching muffins rise through the oven window!) just wasn’t cutting it. I was thirsty for healthy living or holistic blogs, but whenever I searched for something to that effect, all I got were diet, food, workout, and green-living blogs. Not that those things are great—I just wanted something a little more stimulating, posts from people who were inspired by movement in general—not just running—breathing, meditating, appreciating the small wonders around them, learning how to connect more deeply to their soul. A big part of my life had just been eliminated, and I needed to refresh my Google Reader with blogs that were more than just fartleks and foodstuffs. I wanted feeling, depth, stories from people who are also suffering and adapting, simple metaphors about yoga and everyday living that make each day on this earth a little easier to comprehend, posts from yogis who challenge the status quo.

And that’s where YIOM comes in. I haven’t even digested all of the participating blogs yet, but the bloggers whose posts I have read thus far are feeding me. There’s substance here, and their posts make me hungry for more. And I totally want to be a part of it all too! It feels good to be part of a community that gets my posts about yoga. I used to write about my yoga experiences—struggles with the yamas, niyamas, yoga injuries, prana flow—in a restricted-access blog mainly composed of my real-life friends, and I always felt guilty writing about these things because I feared no one would read it or get it, and that it was simply a waste of time. On YIOM, it’s a bit like that beloved show-and-tell from elementary school: We pass around our treasures, and everyone gets a chance to ooh and ahh over our words, wisdom, and stories.

So hooray for May, for new beginnings, for Lorin for planting this little vrksasana sapling and getting it to grow!

P.S. How embarrassing is it that I’m the only blogger without a Twitter account?! (I just don’t like being captive to so many technology outlets.) Whatev, it makes me unique–I totally stand out (like a sore thumb). 😛

I was so excited to see the sun today. After a mostly miserable/dreary morning and afternoon yesterday that had my husband and I in our pajamas until 3 p.m. trudging around the house like those depressed little wind-up dolls from the Pristiq commercial,

a 70-degree morning with sun blazing through the blinds and lighting up my beautiful carnations was enough to get me giddy.

I made an ambitious to-do list of everything that needs to be done before I leave for my parents’ house for Easter dinner, started sipping on my coffee, and felt the caffeine fly through my system. My body was buzzing with excitement over the weather–I wanted to frolic outside!–but I had other things to do first: throw in a load of laundry, wrap an Easter present for my mother-in-law, do my PT exercises…oh, and meditate. So there I was, attempting to do the most “still” thing ever, and it felt like I was tumbling around in a clothes dryer, my mile-a-minute brain thunking against everything thought it came in contact with. So although I was sitting there, hands on my lap, meditating…was I really doing it, or was I lost in some abyss of ungroundedness?

This mental frenzy reminded me of an analogy my 5Rhythms teacher used last week to explain the entire concept of 5Rhythms; specifically, a “Wave,” the term used to describe a linear completion of the five rhythms: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. The analogy, not surprisingly, was surfing.

My high school friend Wendy, now a Hawaii resident!

Surfing, my teacher explained, isn’t just “getting swept away” by the waves. Although it looks like the surfer is totally just going with the flow, allowing the ocean to do the work and the person just happily cruising along, there is a very strong connection between the person, the board, and the water. A surfer doesn’t just quickly pop up from kneeling to standing without some kind of intention, without some kind of relationship (kinetic, energetic, etc.) with the board and the swelling waters around her. When the surfer stands, she is grounded. There is connection with that board, a connection running from her eyes to her arms, to her torso, legs, feet, nerves, blood, muscles, and beyond. But to the naked eye, it’s just a big ol’ wave with a teeny tiny person going along for the ride.

Dancing the 5Rhythms is so very similar. If a newcomer stepped into a studio and found a group of people sweeping around the floor in Flowing, it would be so easy to assume that these people are caught up in some kind of mystical flow, moving around like directionless kites on a breezy day. And during Chaos? Clearly, everyone is out of their minds, possessed.

But just as I’m sure surfers would say their sport is mix of being grounded and letting go, so is dancing. Even during the most wild, sweaty, head-tossing, feet-flying Chaos, we are still in connection with something. Maybe it’s not the physical ground (especially if you’re leaping and jumping), but it’s spirit, Self, god, an intention, universal connection, so on and so forth. We are only able to let loose by staying close to something. In yoga terms, rising into an inversion or bakasana is like taking that brave step up on the surfboard, but even then during flight the yogi is connected to the ground, hands firmly pressed into the mat, core engaged, breath and mind in sync.

A very literal expression of this was done in my last 5Rhythms class. During the start of Chaos, the teacher gathered everyone in a circle, holding hands. The music was frenetic, deep drum beats, and we were instructed to let everything go, move the body, shake the feet and legs, toss the head–but to keep our hands connected. It was one of most powerful moments of Chaos I have ever experienced, even though I wasn’t flailing around the room, corner to corner, wall to wall. Here I was, confined to this space between the person on my left and the person on my right, my arms only able to move so much without snapping mine or my partners’ out of the sockets, but I was letting go, being swept away, dancing outside of my brain. The connection was what had made it so intense, being supported by those other dancers’ hands, being part of this circle in which everyone was holding on tight but simultaneously letting go.

I have a few more things on my to-do list to check off before I head out to dinner. I’m going to try my best to surf my way through them all!

CHAOS was the start of my Friday night. I had planned to leave work early, go to the gym, and be home at a decent hour for dinner with my husband. Instead, I hung around the office much later than anticipated, getting sucked into the world of blogs, Facebook, and all things technological. By the time I finally disconnected, it was too late for the gym and I was very bent out of shape about my time management and ability to balance computer and off-screen time, which, by the time I came home, spiraled into a complete meltdown about how I suck at life and don’t have time to even read a book or fold and put away the laundry sitting in the basket upstairs, whereas VeganAsana somehow manages to be a college dean, professor, mother of several children, yoga teacher in training, and regular blogger, Twitterer, and social media contributor. (Oh Lorin, how I envy your life management!) After much of the tell-tale signs of CHAOS (crying, sobbing, waving fist in the air), my husband finally talked me down into LYRICAL, encouraging me to go for a walk outside with him. A side-by-side walk with Bryan is always therapeutic (especially when he cracks me up by describing a certain flower’s odor as “a cross between urine and fish”), and by the time we reached the creek at the far end of our neighborhood, I was finally approaching STILLNESS.

(Side note: As a result of the meltdown, I took Erin’s advice and signed up for the Chopra Center’s 21-Day Spring Meditation Challenge to try and soothe my nerves. In addition, I’m also seriously considering enrolling in one of those Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs. As much as I totally GET mindfulness and its importance, sometimes I just really stink at implementing it!)

FLOWING was my Saturday afternoon, spent on the rowing (flowing?) machine at the gym, followed by strength training. As long as my hip isn’t bothering me, the erg is one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment; actually, one of the only machines I feel comfortable using (elliptical, StairMaster, and recumbent bikes are out; treadmill is iffy; stationary bike is OK). It’s easy to get into a “flowing” kind of groove on the rowing machine, and it seriously works nearly every muscle! Also, I find strength training to be very mind-centering, especially if I’m listening to inspiring music. Sometimes I leave the weight floor as focused as I am after a yoga class!

Saturday evening was very much CHAOS, starting with an overnight train fire that completely threw off our plans to get into Philly for karaoke that night. (Just to clarify: We weren’t on that train; the fire occurred the night before.) Timetables were helter skelter, our friends’ station was completely shut down, and then once we finally got into the city, the escalator underground halted to a standstill and freaked everyone out. To make matters even more chaotic, it was POURING BUCKETS, like, some of worst rain our area has gotten in years. We had umbrellas, but after walking the 8 blocks to our destination through flooded intersections, we were soaked! CHAOS!

However, once we were settled in our little private karaoke room for six, the evening was more STACCATO than anything. Exchange of good food (except for the gizzards and hearts) and drinks, having fun with friends, and holding up the microphone with confidence. My hits of the night were Ludacris (“My Chick Bad”), Tiffany (“I Think We’re Alone Now”), half of Sir Mix-a-Lot (“Baby Got Back”), some of Lady Gaga (“Alejandro”), and Black Eyed Peas (“Boom Boom Pow”).

Belting out “I Think We’re Alone Now” by my childhood idol, Tiffany!

Bryan and Sara duet to “Love Shack.”

Trying to sing Sir Mix-a-Lot with Sara’s “back” in my face!

Sara and Amanda go all out with “Thriller.”

After two hours of STACCATO, it was back to the CHAOS outside again, this time with lightning! Back at our house, we settled into a nice LYRICAL atmosphere, with pizza, dry clothes, and cartoons.

Sunday afternoon was my actual 5Rhythms class: 2 hours of Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness! My kinda new, found-through-social-networking friend Susan is warming up to the 5Rhythms, so she joined me for the 45-minute drive to class, which was a nice FLOWING experience. We have a lot in common, so we talked non-stop to and from. Sunday afternoon classes are somewhat difficult for me (I always feel sleepy?), but one of my favorite moments was during CHAOS, when I started doing really wild, jarring movements on the dance studio barre, tendus and degages that were out of control, as if saying, “Take that, ballet!” I also had a great STACCATO “duet” with one of the other students, Phil, whose moves are as wacky and out-there as mine; we look like pantomime actors engaged in some kind of dance dialogue.

After class I reluctantly headed over to the supermarket, usually a practice in CHAOS. However, this time I brought my iPod and listened to some trancey drumming music the whole time, and it totally helped keep me in a state of FLOWING. My surroundings were still CHAOS (especially that dreaded deli section!), but by focusing on the music and my own specific actions, the experience became almost a practice in meditation.

In the summer of 2006, my husband Bryan and I went on a nearly 3-week trip to China and Tibet with a group led by a geography professor from our alma mater. As I mentioned in this post, the trip was certainly life changing, and coming home introduced a whole new set of feelings about my lifestyle, along with a very deep appreciation for my yoga practice. Below is a journal entry I wrote shortly after returning to the States.

Achingly hollow. That’s how I feel right now.

For the past three weeks, I’ve woken up to a day full of new experiences: visual, emotional, and spiritual. Even though some mornings we had to be up at 4:30 or some nights we slept on a 1.5-inch mattress over plywood over eight stools, the days never failed to stimulate, amaze, and captivate my mind, body, and spirit.


For 19 days, we stuck together in our group of 15, becoming closer each day, despite our differences. By the final day, we felt like family. But last night at 8:30 as our families arrived, picked us up, and drove us away in separate vehicles, it felt like everything had dissolved. My family treated Bryan and me to a late-night meal at the diner and we ate like beasts; at home, Bryan and I melted into our uber-soft mattress and slept for 14 hours; this morning, I was able to shower without flip-flops for the first time since June 20th, but none of these coming-home experiences compare to the dirty, grueling, tiring, sweaty, wonderful, enlightening moments I had in China.

I think back to the day we landed in Beijing and, on our measly 3 hours of sleep, were suddenly thrown into a cramped bus decorated with hanging plastic fruit, flew around the crowded roads, and were greeted with steaming pots of beef, lamb, chicken, tofu, and cabbage in a tiny, smoky restaurant where no one spoke English. I struggled with my chopsticks, could hardly get anything into my mouth, and wanted to cry.


Why did I come here? I thought. Why did I leave behind my perfect daily routine of healthy food, the gym, smoke-free buildings, and a normal sleep schedule for this? Why did I have to come all the way to China for a wordly experience? Why not England? Or even Canada, for crying out loud? I’ve never been to Canada, a mere day’s drive from New Jersey, and yet I leave all the comforts of home behind for a weird country all the way around the world?!?!?!

But yesterday, as our plane landed on the Newark runway, Bryan jokingly said, “And now it’s going to turn around and take off again for China.” And I said, “That’s fine with me.” I’m back in my so-called “comfort zone” — a soft bed, clean shower, organic foods, my gym bag, the internet, the daily newspaper on our doorstep — but none of it feels right. My house feels like a movie set, a perfect little playworld where nothing is real and it’s all just for show.

What I do know is this: Yoga helped me greatly through this trip. I didn’t touch a yoga mat for 3 weeks and never once had the floor space to even get into Down dog, but the emotional aspect of yoga, pranayama, and lovingkindness meditation completely enriched the adventure. There were so many times I could’ve gone ape shit, cried hysterically, or lost it completely, but I’m certain that the mental clarity and focus I have cultivated from my last 2 years of asana yoga practice got me through it all and let me go with the flow. Even our 3 days on the pirate ship.

Yes, a pirate ship. OK, it was actually a garbage barge with stowaways sleeping in the hallways, a cockroach infestation, dirty communal squat toilets with no toilet paper, inedible food, minimal air conditioning, half-naked Chinese men who spat on the cigarette-butt littered carpets, and meat locker showers, but we lived like filthy pirates for 3 days, so, therefore, we call it a pirate ship. Yar.

What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. I had to repeat that several times throughout this trip, but yeah, it’s true. And Starbucks always helps.

The other day on The VeganAsana’s post about rising above fear (specifically about the fear of venturing beyond your “comfortable” poses and attempting “hard” ones), I commented that she had inspired me to fly up into forearm balance during my next yoga class. The instructor always leaves the last few minutes of class for “yogi’s choice” inversions, and I typically choose headstand, sometimes handstand (against the wall–I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do unsupported headstand in this lifetime). I used to be able to do forearm balance and scorpion, no problem, years ago, but after I shifted from ashtanga classes to more Kripalu/gentle varieties, the opportunity for such inversions rarely arose.

Physically, I was so ready for the pose. We have been practicing dolphin pose and forearm prep for months now in class, and I can totally feel the difference from Day 1 through now. My shoulders are so much stronger, and every time we go into dolphin, I walk my feet toward my hands, stand on my tippy toes, and feel the entire body engage. It wants to invert. It’s ready. But then every time inversion time comes, I chicken out and float into headstand instead.

After I made the comment on The VeganAsana’s blog, I knew I was committed. Even though VeganAsana nor any of her followers were in my yoga class tonight, I felt like I signed up for the challenge and there was no backing out. Yet right before inversion time, while chilling out in shoulderstand, I kept running excuses through my head. I’m tired. I’m bloated. I’m more hot than usual. My arms are too sweaty.

The thoughts of my blog comment lingered, though, as I pulled my mat up to the wall after fish pose. Hands to elbows. Elbows under shoulders. Hands straight out. Legs in downdog. Walk closer to the hands. Closer. Engage the core! Long exhale….inhale and UP! Up went my left leg, then the right, and in 2 seconds I was in forearm balance. I totally surprised myself and hovered off the wall for a few moments, feeling shockingly stable. I lowered myself back to the mat to let it all sink in and not to overdo it in euphoria. I went up again, this time bending the knees to slowly lower into scorpion. Not anywhere close to touching my feet to my head, but it was a start. 🙂

This past weekend included some metaphorical forearm balances. Actually, probably more like metaphorical downward dogs, because the real-life fears I had were so small compared to other big, scary, real-world fears. Challenging yourself to leave an unfulfilling job is a forearm balance…signing up to pay your credit card bills online is a freakin’ child’s pose.

Yes, for real. I am 30 years old and just signed up to pay my credit card bills online. Up until now, I was doing it the old-fashioned way, with checkbooks and stamps and pens. And then last month, for the first time ever, I was late on a payment. I was devastated. I had had a credit card since I was 17, and I paid my bills in full, on time, year after year. Once my streak was ruined, though, I decided to give the hairy scary Internet a try. I imagined a time-consuming process of entering my life history online, needing to get permission from my bank, perhaps having to mail my credit card company some kind of documentation. Instead, I entered my bank routing number, my checking account number, and BOOM. Insta-pay. I went from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Judy Jetson in 3 minutes, and it felt pretty darn good!

Another big accomplishment of the weekend was learning how to drive into the city. This weekend’s event (learning how to and being comfortable driving into West Philly) is akin to learning shoulderstand, because there are certainly bigger inversions to eventually learn, say, driving to our friend’s place in Tacony (headstand), driving to my sister’s apartment in Northern Liberties (forearm balance), and maybe one day driving into Center City (AHHH, HANDSTAND WITH NO WALL WITH SPIDERS CRAWLING ALL OVER THE FLOOR!!!).

Yes, for real. I am 30 years old, live 15 minutes from the city, and am afraid to drive there. If an event is taking place outside walking distance of any of the Speedline stops, forget it. I have a completely irrational fear of driving in the city, followed closely by an intense resistance to using Septa. But there’s an event coming up this weekend, a movement modality from Europe called Biodanza, taking place at an awesome yoga/dance studio in West Philly. I have wanted to go to this studio forever (weekly 5Rhythms classes!), but The Fear held me back (I’ll just stick to my twice monthly classes in Jersey). But I really, really want to go to this Biodanza class, and it was the perfect “deadline” for me to get my butt over the bridge.

So this past weekend, my husband sat in the passenger seat as I went for a test drive into West Philly. Fortunately, the studio is fairly easy to get to, and there’s no driving through the heart of University City (another headstand!). The parking situation freaked me out a bit; I am still scarred from the last time I tried to parallel park (in Haddonfield, of all places) and totally scraped my car against the very sturdy bumper of an SUV.

My husband has trouble understanding why city driving freaks me out so much, and I explained to him that it’s all GO-GO-GO! I’m from the suburbs; I’m used to being able to pull into someone’s driveway to turn around, turning down a side street without panicking that it’s a one-way, or stopping at a Wawa, a bank, a McDonald’s parking lot if I’m lost and need to regroup. You can’t do that in the city. There’s no stopping, there are no driveways or parking lots, cyclists are inches away from your car, WTF trolleys!?!?!?!, and there is always someone on your ass. To put it in yoga terms, there is absolutely no time for child’s pose while driving in the city. It’s constant vinyasas—chaturanga, updog, downdog, plank, chaturanga, updog, downdog, so on and so forth.

So today marked a real forearm balance, this past weekend marked a metaphorical forearm balance, and this Saturday will be my attempt to do the metaphorical forearm balance off the wall. This is big! Must breathe.

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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