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May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

This was the quote I drew from a bowl full of folded pieces of paper that sat in the center of a circle of women gathered for the Embodied Meditation program I took last month at Kripalu. The quote, from Rainer Maria Rilke, brought a smile to my lips—here I am, author of Flowtation Devices, randomly selecting a verse about allowing my essence to flow.

I re-discovered this piece of paper this weekend, tucked inside of my wallet. It was good timing—it was my birthday weekend (today’s my actual birthday!), and it reminded me about all the flowing and growing I’ve done this past year.

When I started dancing 5Rhythms two and a half years ago, I never imagined it would become a life practice. It’s a little bit like what happened with yoga—I started taking classes because I danced and thought it would help with my flexibility, and soon I was trying to learn Sanskrit on my own and reading about the yamas and niyamas. With the 5Rhythms, I was looking for a cardiovascular workout that wouldn’t further damage my aching hip, and now I use the dance as therapy, a practice in interpersonal communication, and as a means of fostering connection with not only the people I dance with but the world around me.

I was so thrilled to take a pre-birthday 5Rhythms class this past Friday, a class during which my dance really felt like a 31-year-old transitioning into her 32nd year. I had strong eye contact with others. I laughed. I was spontaneous in my movement with others. These things were once so hard for me, because back in the day I just wanted to dance; I didn’t quite grasp the connection bit yet.

At one point, I partnered up with a female classmate who usually keeps to herself. I can see she always feels the music very deeply, but it is rare for her to engage. However, during Friday’s class, something opened up between us. It was a Lyrical song, and we were both still feeling the vibrations from Chaos. The dance that emerged was new for the both of us—a very sensual, feminine, sometimes intertwined-arms partnership, our eyes locked, our sweaty hair matted on our cheeks. It felt like a motion picture version of the Visions of Arcadia art exhibit. I wasn’t trying to force this connection, but I began the dance with an intention to be radically open—to let what I do flow from me like a river—and the result was quite rewarding.

Off the dance floor, I try to move in the same manner. For instance, every morning I go walking around my neighborhood before work. I frequently pass a woman who keeps her eyes straight ahead and never gives me so much as a half-nod when I pass her and say “Good morning.” But every morning, I keep trying. “Good morning!” ::silence:: It was tempting to just give up and greet her with the same muteness, but something clicked late last week—I got a return “Good morning!” Granted, it was rather mumbled and void of much emotion, but it was connection! (And I may have given myself a little victory fist-pump after I passed her.) 🙂

My greater commitment to conscious dancing this past year (attending more classes, classes in other areas, workshops) has been so helpful in getting the real me to emerge. Sometimes I say that the dancing has changed me, but I think it has just taken what has always been inside of me and transformed it into action.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking around with my iPod in and just wanted to break out of my stride and DANCE when a particularly powerful piece of music came on. Well, the other week, I did. I dance walked! Around the creek, with joggers and cyclists and dog walkers. I can’t tell you how awesome it felt to be outdoors, saying Yes! to dance when my body craved it so much. Instead of thinking, “Ooooh, how I love this song. It stirs my heart. Wish I could dance. Wish I could dance. Wish I could dance,” I just did it. I danced!

And then Saturday afternoon, there came a beautiful sun shower; well, a sun downpour, really. I stood in my upstairs hallway, hypnotized by the combination of brilliant sun and driving rain, soaking the tree leaves outside the window, falling on the roof. I had a sudden desire to run outside, naked, arms outstretched, and take it all in, the way characters in European avant garde movies do. The impulse was so strong that I ran to my dresser, pulled out my bathing suit (it was the closest I could get to naked without having the cops called on me), and dashed outside. Who is that girl in the Speedo, standing on her front walkway, arms outstretched? Me, and it felt amazing. Not just the sensation of standing in a downpour with the sun shining on me but the sensation of listening to the voice inside of me that craved so desperately to fully take in this meteorological display.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ikhlasul Amal

I have no reservations on my birthday today about “getting older.” With age comes practice, experience, and wisdom…and a few wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes as humble indicators of the ever-unfolding journey.

As I wrote about late last year, for me, “waking up” is more of an event than a simple act of getting out of bed with the alarm clock.

I had one hell of a routine when I last wrote, and—as usual—things have changed a bit. What is good for me in October isn’t necessarily going to do the same for me in May, so I’m becoming more comfortable adapting to the weather, my passions at the moment, what my body is asking for.

Morning is a very sacred time for me, and as difficult as it is some days to adhere to my alarm’s 5:15 call, I really do appreciate and value witnessing the world in its early-morning quiet and stillness, before the car engines fire, the school buses groan, and the chaos of the morning commute drowns out the underlying hum of the earth.

When my alarm goes off at 5:15, I head downstairs, turn on our living room lamp at its lowest setting (bright light first thing in the morning is too harsh!), use the bathroom, and brush my teeth, the buzz of my electric toothbrush rather loud in an otherwise quiet room. My next stop is the kitchen, where I fill a glass with warm water, squeeze into it a slice of lemon, and take long gulps while peering out the kitchen window, observing how quickly or slowly the tree branches and leaves are dancing (to gauge the wind), the color of the sky and the phase of the moon, and—when I hear the familiar roar coming from the east—the make and model of the airplanes that fly over our roof on their way into Philadelphia.

I move to the living room floor, allowing my sacrum the freedom to pop into place as I roll around on the carpet like a cat, pressing my muscles into my foam roller and relieving the tension built up from either swimming, dancing, or walking the night before. The spine gets attention first, my thoracic region releasing into the dense foam, my heart pressing toward the ceiling. Next I focus on the gluteal muscles, the iliotibial band, and finally my calves, which bear the brunt of all my dancing and prancing.

Time for some physical therapy exercises for my hip, usually pelvis drops (pressing my lower back into the ground as though squashing a grape) and the quadruped (on hands and knees, extending opposite arm and leg).

The next area of focus is the neck. Ever since reading this article from the Annals of Internal Medicine about how daily home exercises are more effective than medication for neck pain, I’ve been using the study’s home exercise protocol as a guide for my morning routine (available for free in the Supplement section). I’ve never had debilitating neck pain, but I am prone to stiffness and soreness whenever stress kicks in (who isn’t?). I’ve found that doing these exercises every morning has dramatically reduced such tension.

The neck exercises don’t take long, and from there I move down to my spine, doing the seated spinal exercises I described in this post.

Once my spinal column is open and ready for business, I’m ready to let in some oxygen. Still seated, I do a few rounds of alternate-nostril breathing. This particular pranayama is so soothing, and doing it consistently makes for an easy segue into meditation. After my last exhale, I breathe regularly, focusing on my third eye. Meditation begins. It never really extends beyond five minutes, but that’s enough for now. It gives me a sense of peace.

After sitting for some time, I now gently rise to my feet, staying bent over in a rag-doll forward bend, maybe doing a relaxed downdog, gradually rising vertebra by vertebra. Standing. Ahhhhhh.

Onto some quick standing exercises before practicing the tai chi moves learned from my 10-week series. I usually do the form (the portion I know, anyway) twice before challenging my brain and repeating it in the opposite direction (starting by stepping out to the right rather than the left).

At this point comes the fork in the road. I am feeling rather centered, balanced, and open. Do I take this feeling outdoors for a walk and share it with the trees, the sidewalk, the chirping birds, or do I contain it and use it for artistic expression, putting on some music and dancing myself into complete wakefulness?

If I walk, I never take my iPod. The natural soundtrack of the early morning is too entrancing to mask it with music or a podcast. In the winter, it is absolute silence, a dark contemplative quiet where the snap of a twig under my foot sounds like a firecracker and a lone FedEx cargo jet flying overhead sounds like the Space Shuttle preparing to land on the moon. At this time of year, spring, there are more sounds (birds chirping, mostly), but at the 6 a.m. hour not yet “noise.” Walking at this time of the day is like watching a painter apply the first brushstrokes to a canvas, a stroke here, a color there, still creating, still imagining, still in development. It is the beginning of a piece of art, and soon the canvas will fill up with intensity, but for now it is mostly white space with so much room for expansion.

If I choose instead to dance, I try to follow a 5Rhythms Wave, starting with flowing music and gradually increasing speed and tempo. Great things emerge when I start slowly, and even if I have the energy to immediately bust out into Chaos, the Chaos that develops after it has time to simmer in Flowing and Staccato is always richer (and less harsh on my body). One time I danced two songs as part of Flowing and then returned to those same songs later—after Staccato and Chaos—for Lyrical and Stillness. I danced them in an entirely new way, my body fully awake to their melodies and meanings. Dancing like this in the morning can be just as refreshing—if not more—as a vigorous walk outside among the rising sun, chirping birds, and cool breeze.

At this point, I am feeling juicy, alert, alive. With the help of some coffee, a shower, and a dose of reality (listening to NPR), I think I am finally done “waking up.”

Wake up time = 5:15. Out the door for work = 8:10 a.m.
Anyone out there have a morning routine longer than 3 hours?!

When I left work today around ten after 5, the early evening bestowed two wonderful gifts on me: daylight and mild weather.

I work in a cubicle and rarely catch a glimpse of the outside world. For the past few months I’ve gotten used to popping my head up over my cube wall at 5 o’something and seeing nothing but black on the other side of the window.

Today there was still orange in the sky, and it was mild enough that I decided to take a 3-mile stroll around the 55+ housing development across the street from my office. I have taken post-work walks there during colder/darker times, but let me tell you, you are way less threatening walking around a senior housing development in a lightweight jacket and khakis in daylight than walking around the same development at the same time in a knee-length thick winter coat, hat, mouth-and-nose-masking scarf, and, oh, it’s pitch black out.

During the former scenario, I’m a healthy gal who likes to stretch her legs after a long day at the office; in the latter scenario, I’m a creepy darkly dressed voyeur staking out people’s homes. It was nice for once to walk around the complex after work and not have every motion sensor light flood me in white and to innocently glance at people’s houses without Lou and Edna thinking I’m peeping in their windows to see what kind of valuables they own.

The semi-lit evening got me really excited because it means eventually I’ll be able to return to Red Bank Battlefield Park for post-work walks. The park is an official national park and has strict hours–open at dawn, close at dusk, locked gates and everything. Because of the early sunsets, I haven’t been to the park in forever, and I look forward to once again visiting my planes, deer, and red-tailed hawks.

As thankful as I am for today’s springlike weather, I know we still have a long way to go before I permanently trade my Land’s End sleeping bag coat for a hoodie. I mean, (as I write this) it’s technically not even February yet! I give you Exhibit A, a blog post I had written last year on February 22:

Winter made me cry this morning. Partially due to PMS but mostly just plain ol’ hating the cold, I broke out in tears at approximately 8 a.m. as I was attempting to clean the snow off my car. Just 4 days ago we were basking in 70-degree sunlight, and now I was standing in my driveway, fingers going painfully numb, trying to clear 4 inches of snow off my Ford Focus. I accidentally closed my car door on my ice scraper, it snapped apart, and then I snapped along with it. Bryan finished the job as I wimpered inside, hands jammed under my armpits in an attempt to regain feeling.

Bottom line: Enjoy it while it lasts!!

Thanks to a sleet/snow/sleet storm on early Saturday morning, “long walks outside” have temporarily been suspended as a potential exercise option. The weekend is usually my time to bundle up, fire up my podcast-stuffed iPod, and head out for a long walk, but Mother Nature dumped just enough crap on the streets and sidewalks that any “walk” would be more of a waddle as I try to stay upright on an uneven surface of leftover crusty ice.

Day 1, Saturday, was bearable. I spent most of the morning/early afternoon taking down Christmas decorations and cleaning the downstairs and went swimming at the gym an hour before closing. Actually getting myself to the pool was a feat straight out of my previous post, having to drive down slushy streets and tip-toe over a parking lot of black ice before stripping down to barely nothing and jumping in a large body of water.

I don’t like swimming on consecutive days, so Sunday I woke up with a challenge. How to earn those endorphins?

With that, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the most desperate workout in history: Living room walking!

Materials needed: (a) a long living room, clear of furniture; (b) a 10-pound weighted vest, to increase the chances of actually sweating and getting a workout; (c) an optional set of stairs, to add some glute/quad action; and–the most critical element–(d) a TV, to kill the time that will seem to drag on forever and ever…and ever.

I walked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth for 2.93 miles. For people who run, that number is nothing. For people who living room walk, that’s a freakin’ marathon.

It could not have been done without support from one of my favorite people of the moment:

I’m looking at you, Felicity. And Noel, Ben, Julie, and Elena. A Netflix subscription with wifi streaming makes living room walking soooo much more bearable. Felicity is one of my latest Netflix guilty pleasures. I don’t know why I’m so into it. I watched it in college (her school years coincided with mine), but I stopped watching it after Season 2. And now, at age 31, I’m totally hooked. It’s so cheesy! Ben, Noel, Ben, Noel. Ugh, just make up your mind, girl!

I don’t know if my other current guilty pleasure is better or worse:

Only Netflix would introduce me to an Australian teen drama that’s essentially a TV version of Center Stage. Sure, there’s some legitimate dancing involved, but for the most part this show is about unrequited love, schoolgirl crushes, prima donna ballerina snobs, and rough-and-tough boys who are ashamed to admit they love ballet. I’m hooked. And–100% totally true confession–I used the show as inspiration to get myself to the pool on Saturday, pretending I was a serious student at the “Swim Academy” and had to get to practice. Just swap a leotard for a Speedo, pointe shoes for flippers…same difference.

So, there you have it. Living room walking with Felicity and Australian teen drama-inspired swim workout. I just need to add a Golden Girls squat-and-lunge routine, and I’m on my way to becoming the triathlete of geekdom.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I came home from work last Wednesday utterly drained and so blah-diddy-blah, I was actually in the throes of PMS. Once a month, usually a few days before my period arrives, there is “Tired Day,” usually in the middle of “Rage [I Hate Everyone] Day” and “Hungry [Eat All the Things!] Day.” No matter how much coffee I consume or how many hours of sleep I get, if it’s Tired Day, I will be on zombie mode.

My first instinct when I came home that day was to immediately put on my pajamas and go to bed. Screw dinner. After all, Hungry Day wouldn’t arrive for another 12 hours! But something inside of me persisted, urged me to at least try to do something physical. I knew better than to push it, and I had no intention of even lifting a dumbbell or holding myself in a chaturanga. Then I remembered the CD I had purchased at Rudy Peirce’s yoga workshop last month, an 80-minute beginner-friendly gentle yoga class. I had yet to try it out, waiting for the perfect moment when such a practice would be appropriate.

That moment had arrived.

The practice is s-l-o-w. Circa-2004 Jennifer would probably hate the CD and throw it out the window in favor of a hot and sweaty ashtanga class. The postures are nothing new, nothing crazy. There are many moments of stillness to allow for integration. We bend to the right. We hold. We breathe. We release. Repeat on the left.

I don’t know if it’s because I know Rudy from Kripalu, whether it’s because I swear his voice alters your brainwaves into a meditative state, or (shocker!) maybe I just needed this type of practice, but man, I felt goood throughout the entire CD, like I was giving myself some kind of yogic massage. Each breath, each stretch, each hold seemed to release a “stickiness” in me, sometimes a physical stickiness in the back or shoulders or an emotional stickiness. The more I followed Rudy, the clearer my foggy head felt, as though each posture were plucking a cotton ball from my brain.

How could it be that I came into this practice so tired, and yet the more I moved the more full of energy I felt? Not an “I’m-gonna-dance-all-night energy,” but just a “Wow, I-feel-alive!” kind of energy? I was moving from zombie to human with each asana, and I loved the feeling so much that when the first 40-minute segment ended (my original self-imposed endpoint), I let the CD keep spinning and continued into the next 40 minutes to complete the entire practice. I even sat in meditation for a few minutes after the CD slowed to stillness, compelled to work with this newfound energy for as long as I could.

Slowing down is difficult for me, and most of my life I always feel like I’m running late to something. For example, last night I went into Philly with my friend to see a show. The second we got off the train in the city, I began booking it to the theater. Now, give me some credit, it was mighty chilly outside and walking fast helped keep me warm, but for some reason I felt like we were running late to the show. The performance started at 7; we walked through the theater doors at 5:58. The box office hadn’t even opened yet. Oops!

I just have a tendency to want to be fast. I drove past a girl running through the park yesterday morning, and for a split-second I really, really missed running. It was cold outside, and the girl was dressed in her black running tights, an Under Armor mock turtleneck, and her winter running hat. I recalled running in the cold-weather months, how I loved that feeling of warming up by running fast on a chilly December morning. Man, to be fast again, I thought.

However, as much as it sucks to have hip issues, maybe not running is some kind of life lesson for me, an invitation to just slow down. Maybe my walking practice is supposed to be the Rudy Peirce version of running, a meditative practice in enjoying the breaths between each step.

Actually, were it not for my long walks, I would never have the time to listen to some of my favorite iPod selections. Through walking, I am given the opportunity to listen to Christmas carols as I stroll through neighborhoods lit up for the holidays and some of the most intriguing/hilarious/inspiring podcasts. Right now, I’m addicted to NPR’s Radiolab, where each episode covers some mind-blowing aspect of science that leaves your jaw on the floor. For instance, the other day I listened to a story on the origin of AIDS and its spillover into the human race, a frightening account of a woman with transient global amnesia who couldn’t form new memories beyond 90 seconds, and a poignant story of a young man named Kohn whose voice was significantly altered after a childhood accident.

Coincidentally, the title of that last episode?


Maybe it’s because Bryan and I have been watching 24 for months on end and I have a secret desire to be Jack (Jackie?) Bauer, or maybe it’s just because I needed to spice up my workouts, but, as I mentioned previously, I went out and got myself a weighted vest from Reebok. I’m not sure how I appear to strangers; I suppose I look like (a) either a very dedicated aerobic walker or (b) a 30-something girl training for the FBI and taking my new Kevlar vest for a spin around the parks of South Jersey.

To be honest, although I am harboring a secret desire to be Jack Bauer’s next female sidekick, I was also looking for a way to add some oomph to my walking workouts. There are only so many things you can do to jazz up walking, and I’ve done most of them: add speed intervals, stick to hilly routes, go out for looooong walks (5-6 miles), trek around the park with invisible skis (a.k.a., Nordic walking poles), or climb a steep set of steps every 3 minutes (thanks to the path at Red Bank Battlefield Park).

I used to make the mistake of carrying small hand weights or even strapping ankle weights onto my legs, but afterward my joints would always feel awful. No wonder! More and more sports articles are pointing out the injuries caused by use of such weights while walking or running. Swinging weights back and forth totally throws the body off center, and I can’t even imagine the damage I was doing to my poor hip trying to walk with weights strapped to my feet. I already have enough problems with uneven hips and one leg that’s slightly shorter than the other, and I’m sure adding a weighted pendulum motion to my walk wasn’t helping!

Enter the weighted vest, a way of getting your body to exert a little more energy while walking without compromising your form. This particular one from Reebok has four pockets (2 in the front, 2 in the back) that can hold up to 10 1-pound sandbags. Drawstrings on the side allow you to cinch the vest close to your chest so it’s not flapping in the wind, and it hugs you right at the core so your arms and legs can swing freely. (The Velcro pockets are also perfect for stashing your keys or cash, for those days when you’re otherwise pocket-less.) The most weight I’ve used so far has only been 4 pounds, and–let me tell you–that’s perfectly enough for now! I feel it after a 3- or 4-mile walk, and if I ever bump up the weight, my walk will definitely not be as long. Or at least not in mid-July. 🙂

Of course, one of the downsides to the weighted vest is the dork factor. I’m a little white girl with glasses, not some beefy linebacker who needs to bulk up in time for football season. Also, because it really does kind of look like a bulletproof vest, I think some people get nervous that there’s a sting operation going down or that I’m tracking some kind of terrorist activity (which is why choosing the park right across the river from the international airport to wear the vest was probably not the best idea).

For those reasons, I think my vest and I will stick to Cooper River, the Ellis Island of exercisers (“We’ll take your tired, your poor, your weighted vests and sweatsuits in mid-summer…”). One of the things I love about Cooper River, aside from its spaciousness and terrific view of the Philly skyline, is the people. There are so many shapes, colors, faces, and ability levels trekking around that river that no one ever really looks silly or stupid. At Cooper River, ankle weights, wrist weights, dumbbells…all welcome. I’ve seen dudes walk around the river carrying 10-pound weights in each hand, some while wearing weighted vests too. Some hard-core guys wear those vinyl trashbag-like sweat suits in the summer sun. The cyclists wear their sleek shirts and oh-so-tight shorts, some ladies wear giant fanny packs with dangly keychains. One morning I saw an older woman use a short, thick tree branch as a weighted bar, lifting it overhead as she walked. Another woman carried two frozen water bottles, pumping them as weights. Older men do tortoise-paced jogs around the river, and some woman think flip-flops are sensible walking shoes. I once saw an Asian women do tai chi on the grass, and sometimes there is a guy who does some other form of slow-motion Asian martial arts, complete with a boombox playing windchime music and informational brochures on display. In short, anything goes at Cooper River.

What out-of-the-ordinary things do you do at the park or while working out? Like, for example, do you pretend you’re an airplane?

More on this craziness to come...

I don’t know about everyone else, but I always feel like I do a bajillion more things in the summer than I ever do any other time of year. In the winter, my calendar will experience weeks of nothingness; on the contrary, ever since Independence Day, my weekends have been full of here-there-and-everywhere, punctuated by a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

I already wrote about the emotional afternoon I spent saying farewell to my family’s Philly rowhome; well, right before I danced in the living room, I was actually dancing across the city in West Philadelphia, at an afternoon 5Rhythms class.

Dancing the 5 Rhythms right before embarking on an emotionally taxing adventure was a good decision. It got me past the junky layer of my mind to a place of stillness and mindfulness. I really needed that, especially because I had to drive across the city to get to my aunt’s place. I am not the most experienced out-of-state driver and get really nervous when I have to take new and unfamiliar roads. That afternoon I had to take three of my most dreaded highways; it was the great Nervous Driving Trifecta. Thankfully, 2.5 hours of 5Rhythms beforehand stripped away my outer terror, and I made it just fine.

That same evening, I met up with my former coworker Sara for a summer evening dinner of Cuban food at Casona. I was touched when she agreed to order a guacamole appetizer whose cilantro status was uncertain. Sara hates cilantro but loves guac, and she totally put her taste buds on the line. It was such a bold move! Our entrees were both awesome, as was the milky cake dessert (tres leches) we shared afterward.

Sara's just happy the iffy cilantro experience is over.

Vegetable paella, which I managed to split into four separate meals.

We strolled the main drag for a while and ended up having to stop at my parents’ house to use the bathroom. Weird! Then Sara gave me some corn from her family farm because she knows I love corn.

Saluting a corn statue in the Magic Kingdom

As everyone else headed to the beach for the holiday, Bryan and I spent July 3 at our fake shore, Red Bank Battlefield Park, which borders the Delaware River. Not exactly the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s relaxing, peaceful, and a place where shellfish don’t feel threatened.

On Independence Day, Bryan pretended he didn’t know me during joined me for a walk around Cooper River. I was wearing my new weighted vest from Reebok, which pretty much looks like a bulletproof Kevlar vest. It looks silly, but Cooper River Park is home to work-out weirdos. A weighted vest is nothing next to a 200-pound dude walking around on a 90-degree day in one those trashbag-like sweatsuits.

Of course, the evening ended with fireworks. It was a ridiculously long show of nearly 30 minutes, but it was nice to see a fireworks display that didn’t reduce me to tears like Wishes at the Magic Kingdom does.

Post-Wishes "I'm-so-sad-it's-over" face

Speaking of pyrotechnics, one of the games I like to play during the summer is the “Thunder or Fireworks?” game (and actually, with our house being so close to the airport, some nights it’s the “Thunder, Fireworks, or Descending Airplane?” game). Well, this past Friday night, it was definitely THUNDER. I usually like summer t-storms, but Friday’s felt like the apocalypse, and it wreaked havoc on the area. The onslaught of rain closed down my only two routes home from work, and I ended up being stuck at the office until 7:30.

By the time Saturday rolled around, (aside from tree limbs scattered all over the neighborhood) you’d never know there was a problem. I set out on a long and sweaty walk to the farmer’s market and was blasted with sun and humidity. And then I took the long way home, because I get overambitious like that.

That’s why when Bryan and I hit the road to go down to Atlantic City for the night, Starbucks was one of our first stops on the boardwalk. We had tickets for a 9 p.m. comedy show, and there was no way I could stay awake without the help of the green siren.

Caffeine queen!

We don’t gamble or anything, but I love the energetic atmosphere of Atlantic City. I am oddly fascinated with casinos and the people within, everyone from the gray-haired grandmas in velour tracksuits to, well, young adult hipsters in their velour tracksuits. Greasy, grimy, glamorous, glitzy … AC has it all!

Dolled up weirdo in orthopedic walking sandals, because I respect my feet!

Sculpture of couple playing tag on beach that looks like dancers at the right angle

Mr. and Mrs. Shades

After admiring the ocean for a while, we drove over to the marina area of the city. We were seeing Jim Gaffigan (of Hot Pockets fame) at the Borgata. We were hoping he’d resurrect his manatee bit, but his new sea creature to ridicule was the whale. But at least he ended with a Hot Pockets extended remix.

When we set out to go home, I couldn’t help staring with fascination at the sparkling city behind us. I think it’s so cool that the casinos are always “on”! It’s like a whole separate universe just an hour away from home.

Not my picture, but you get the point. Photo credit:

Sunday was all about the walking. I walked about a mile to a local coffee shop to meet up with Old Lady Friend Carrol, then walked 4 miles two towns over for an arts and crafts festival, then walked another 2 miles around the actual show. It was in the 90s, and I was hot, but I like when I can combine outdoor activity and exercise. You don’t get to see guys like this at the gym:

Tater the happy pug

At the festival, I was excited to see that the vendor (At-the-Beach America) from whom Bryan and I bought matching lobster t-shirts last year was now selling the same print on tank tops, and in black. When Bryan saw that I had bought a new color, he insisted on getting the black version, too. 🙂

Wearing our original shirts at a Phillies game. The Kanji symbol means "Happiness."

The weekend wrapped up with a stop at Sprinkles Kiwi, a self-serve frozen yogurt joint. Bryan and I call it “Sprinkles” because that was its original name when it opened, but due to copyright issues it later changed to “Kiwi.” Whatever. For us, it will always and forever be Sprinkles. Our tradition is to take our dessert around the corner and sit on the bench outside Cranky’s handbag boutique. It has become “our” bench, and only a handful of times it has already been taken (which totally throws us off). See those buildings in the reflection? When we first started our Sprinkles visits, those buildings weren’t even there! (And how appropriate that I’m sitting right under the Cranky’s logo? ‘Cause usually that’s what I am before being placated by the sweetness of Sprinkles.)

Bryan's base flavor: cookies 'n' cream; Mine: vanilla & peanut butter. Favorite toppings: Reese's Pieces, mochi (me), sprinkles (duh!)

More to come this summer, including kayaking, more 5Rhythms and yoga, another drum circle of two, and a kundalini workshop!

There is no better time for early-morning walks than this time of year. Each morning the sun rises a smidgen sooner, and there is something so satisfying about standing in the bathroom at 5:20 a.m., brushing my teeth in the faint glow of the sky starting to illuminate without the need to flip on the light. The sun is my beacon, and as soon as it starts to rise, I feel like an anxious kid who needs to get outside an plaaaaay already.

I have been sleeping past my normal wake time this week and thus haven’t had a chance to fit in a walk with all of my other morning prep rituals, but yesterday (and today) I was up in time. However, once I was up and stretching and preparing my lunch and stirring the coconut milk creamer in my coffee, I decided to switch things up and leave the house for work 30 minutes early and stop at a nearby park, to do my walk immediately before going into the office. That way, instead of going right from sitting in my car to sitting at my desk, I could come into the office fresh from a sunny walk!

Yesterday morning was just the epitome of a beautiful spring day. Temps in the low 60s, white puffy clouds among a bright blue sky, birds chirping, planes descending into the nearby airport, and cows (regular one, not those punkish Scottish Highland ones) from the adjacent farm mooing. A quick 20-minute walk in surroundings like that–plus my coffee and a bowl of Kashi Go Lean with fresh strawberries at my desk–was a great way to start the work day. (Note: I did the same routine today but it was overcast and not as Disney-esque. And I needed a jacket.)

Speaking of walking, I recently realized that I am obsessed with watching other people walk. Like, really watch them walk. I don’t know if it’s the dancer in me, the fact that I practice yoga and understand the art of good posture, or that I have so many issues myself with my feet and hips, but when I’m walking around the mall or downtown or behind someone at work on their way to the bathroom, my eyes immediately zone into their feet, hips, and back, and not in a “Wowee-wow-wow, look at those Shakira hips!” way but in a “Wow, those high heels are making your ankles collapse in, and your shoulders are all hunched up by your ears! You’re going to be in so much pain when you get older!” way (says the wise, knowledgeable 30-year-old).

Maybe in my former lifetime I was a salesperson at a specialty running store and watched people’s gaits for a living and determined whether they were pronators, supinators, or neutrals. But seriously, I love looking at feet. (I recently declared to my husband that I should have been a podiatrist…to which I responded, “Ahh, nevermind. Then I’d have to clip old people’s toenails.”)

I was horrified last weekend when we were walking through town and I noticed a woman in front of us wearing those damn Shape-Ups. With each step she took, the woman’s ankles were completely rolling in. It was so significant that even my husband, who doesn’t care in the least about other people’s biomechanics, noticed. Just another reason why I think Shape-Ups are the Devil’s sneakers.

All the time, I see people running with the most awkward strides and foot motions, and I feel the need to comment (to myself, of course. Or my husband). One time we passed a guy with a knee  jutting out, his foot all floppy, and his torso all loosey-goosey. “How is it that he’s not in physical therapy every day?!” I asked incredulously. “Just wait!”

On the flip side, my heart flutters when I see someone with perfect posture and balance. Take the famous yoga teacher Angela Farmer:

She was a presenter when I was at Kripalu; I didn’t take any of her classes, but just passing her in the hallway was satisfying enough for me. Angela was as poised as a Greek goddess, her body practically floating down the corridors. Even the way she lifted her hands at the cafeteria buffet was a dance, each finger curling and extending with the most graceful act of mindfulness. It wasn’t pretentious either—not the least bit of “holier than thou” attitude. It was pure elegance and total body awareness. I never once spoke with her, but man, I totally want to be like Angela when I grow up!

I try hard to maintain a steady posture and stance when walking (forget sitting…I turn into a slumped sack of potatoes when proofreading),

Slumped over like a pug with poor posture

to the point where several people have asked me “Are you a dancer?” in non-dance settings, including on the weight floor at the gym and in a pizza shop when I was 13.   I had always taken pride in being asked that, even as recently as last year, when I wasn’t taking technique classes anymore but I guess still maintained that “look.” So I was devastated when, after I first busted my hip last year, my yoga teacher watched me walk across the room and told me I have a limp. ?!&$*&@&!! Now *I* was the one with the goofy-looking gait! And then, during my physical therapy sessions, my PT noticed that I tended to walk with my hips shifted to one side. Who am I?!?!?

It is reassuring, then, that one of my coworkers in the marketing department, who works specifically with PT textbooks and several on gait analysis, told me that no one has a perfect gait (except maybe Angela Farmer). There are a million factors that contribute to gait (toes, ankles, knees, hips, core, shoulders, so on and so forth) and when just one is “off,” there goes the picture-perfect anatomical model who walks with everything in line. What that means is that even in my dancing heyday I was never perfect, I’m not perfect now, and I never will be. Even so, that won’t stop me from being overly curious and fascinated with other people’s bodies and the way they carry them. And I’ll never stop hating Shape-Ups.

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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