Sunday, October 31, 2010

favorites from Phipps Conservatory

This weekend I made a quick day trip to Pittsburgh to see a couple of friends from college who were here for a business trip.

We went to the Phipps Conservatory, which is a shutterbug's paradise. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pin It!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

revisiting stress management

We're nearing the end of October... which means pretty fall foliage, but it also means mid-semester work, grading, planning, writing, etc etc etc....

So... I'm trying to be proactive and help myself.

Stress management #1:

Legs-up-the-wall pose. There's just nothing like it. I don't think I need to say more...

Reclining bound angle pose, or Supta Baddha Konasana. With lots of supportive props, as pictured here.

Stress management #2:

Read one of my favorite bedside books. This author just has an uncanny way of somehow "speaking" to me, giving me just what I need at any given time.

Stress management #3:

I've been so drawn towards bread baking lately.

There's something about the mixing and kneading and punching and rolling that provides much comfort in a time of stress.... then, after the therapeutic "kitchen bodywork" is done, what happens next is an exercise in patience, waiting for the dough to rise and take its time to develop gluten and all that great stuff that makes for wonderfully crusty, yet light and airy artisan-style bread. Then the act of popping the dough into the oven and waiting for it to continue its transformation, as the scents fill my (small) apartment... then finally, taking it out of the oven, waiting enough time for it to cool -- just enough for me not to burn my fingers...(it's hard to resist the idea of warm, fresh-from-the-oven bread!) then tearing off a piece to dip in some good quality, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil or some homemade herb butter. I can't think of anything better.

So in the last week or so, I've made:
- Indian roti (no-yeast flatbread)
- regular crusty artisan bread
- pizza dough
- garlic and herb foccacia

I'm still thinking of my next bread adventure. I'm under stress again this week anyway, so might as well bake something.

And by the way, most of my baking equipment is still in storage, so I don't have my rolling pin for making pizza dough and roti. So guess what I used in its place: a wine bottle! It worked out fine.

Stress management #4:


I have a small collection of essential oils which I use for a variety of purposes. Tea tree oil and peppermint (mixed with water and regular white vinegar) for general household cleaning, eucalyptus in my vaporizer for congestion, lavender and bergamot mixed with jojoba oil or sweet almond oil for calming, after-bath body oils. Tea tree and lavender for yoga mat spray.

I love this stuff.

It's amazing what essential oils can do - from personal care to household cleaning to insect control. Of course,  I do not use it undiluted, and, if intended for the skin, I always use a carrier oil (a neutral nut or seed oil) as instructed by many books/websites on essential oils. I'm also trying to eliminate as many chemicals as I can, just through small steps. I understand that's not always possible, and if I even try to make it possible, I'll probably drive myself insane. Toxins are everywhere - from commercial personal care to BPA plastics to upholstery etc etc etc... it really CAN drive anyone insane to think about all this. But, if there are things that are within my control, then I'll do something about that.

But most of all, I really just like making things. And keeping my hands busy. It's stress relieving.

So I bought a new batch of sweet almond oil (as a carrier oil) after I recently ran out of my stash... and made pretty little bottles of body oil. Here's what I ended up with:

For a calming lavender mix:
120 ml sweet almond oil with 10 drops lavender essential oil

For a mild, citrusy, fresh-smelling mix:
50 ml sweet almond oil with 5 drops of bergamot essential oil

I think I might make a lavender-vanilla combination next. Mmmm.

What do you do for stress management? Do share --  I can only make so many breads and so many bottles of body oil at a time.

Pin It!

Friday, October 8, 2010

reflections from the mat

It's been a rough 2 weeks, hence my cyber-absence from the blog. I've been dealing with a lot of uncertainty, and I am completely aware of the fact that I. DO. NOT. deal with uncertainty very well. I completely admit to my control freak self - though I *think* I've gotten better at it, sometimes she still comes back full force. Hence the anxiety. And the emotional rollercoaster.

It's interesting how it's during those times when we need self-care the most when we neglect it the most. I had not been walking as often, had not been practicing yoga as often. Sleeping poorly. I know in my rational mind, that despite my 4 deadlines this week, I need to make time for self-care. Somehow it seems to just slip away all to easily, until finally... the crash. Does this happen to you?

So this morning, I decided to say hello to my yoga mat again. I swept the floors -- to clear the space in a physical sense -- but also symbolically, I think. Clearing the negative energy as best I could.

I practiced a vinyasa flow sequence, which I love. And to my surprise, in this time of weakness, it seemed that I was regaining the strength in my arms and shoulders with every chaturanga. It was a source of strength I had forgotten. I also recognized the feeling of uncertainty in my left leg while doing a warrior and balancing sequence on the left side -- knowing that my left leg is significantly weaker than the right. And I taught myself to be ok with it, to breathe through it, and find strength in the breath. To be ok with weakness, to be ok with uncertainty. To be ok with the fact that there are always two sides to a story. Strength and weakness.

And in my ending meditation, I felt a gentle breeze coming in through the window. As I felt it touch my arms and face, it was the most comforting sensation I have felt in the past few weeks. Because it made me realize that the world doesn't always give us gale winds, it give us gentle breezes too. Two sides to a story. Gale winds and gentle breezes. Force and gentleness. It's true in life. But I realize, that when the strong winds come, that my strength is somewhere inside of me -- it just gets buried sometimes underneath the layers and layers of worry. I just have to breathe through it. And I know that the storms will eventually slow down, and will be followed by the comfort of a gentle breeze.

I gazed at the beautiful blue sky out the window, seeing the leaves starting to turn. The thought that came to mind is "transitions." I silently said a mantra:

I let go of worry.
I let go of control.
I let go of my burdens.

I open my heart to uncertainty.
I open my heart to transitions.
I open my heart to grace and the greater good that is in store for me.

And so I felt peace. Even for just this morning. Yes, the uncertainty is there. But I am teaching and re-teaching myself to accept it. It's a lot of work. But just as I accept my feelings of uncertainty and weakness in my physical yoga practice, I am beginning to accept uncertainty with the knowledge that there is a source of strength inside me. With the knowledge that the storms come and go, but there's always a place of calm after the storm. It's grace at work. And for that, I am grateful.

Pin It!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...