She's coming! Flowmotion in Seattle

Remember Sarah Tomson Beyer? She of the flowy blond hair, uber abs and crazy bendy moves? She'll be in Seattle in May! Along with her yoga clothing line, mesheeky! According to mesheeky.com, the clothes take you from the studio to the street. Tomson Beyer is the Chief Executive Sheekynista. I did not make that up.
Photo credit: MeSheeky

MeSheeky sells mostly skirts, and there's a mention of covering up your "sheekycheeks" on the Web site. I won't be sheeking my sheekycheeks in their skirts any time soon.

Despite all the mesheekyness, if I can work out my teaching schedule, I'd really like to take Tomson Beyer's workshop on May 15 at Shakti Vinyasa East. As yoga evolves, I believe her creative dance-like flowmotion is the direction vinyasa flow is headed. She's inspired by teachers including Shiva Rea. Superstar Shiva doesn't rank among my favorite master teachers who have come through Seattle -- Bryan Kest easily wins that prize -- but I admire her creativity, and many of my favorite local teachers have been influenced by her. Shiva will be back in the Pacific Northwest for a weekend teacher training in April, and I'm considering taking the plunge.

It'd be awesome if Tomson Beyer did a training here, but since she hasn't reached Shiva star status yet,  it may take a couple more years. In the meantime, I'll leave you with another Tomson Beyer video.


Bowing down to Alton Brown

On the last night of the fruit cleanse, Alton Brown seems like an appropriate topic. The host of Food Networks' "Good Eats" -- also a host on "Iron Chef" but "Good Eats" is way cooler to a nerd like me -- recently lost 50 pounds and he laid out exactly how in an episode titled "Live and Let Diet."

He refuses to call what he did a diet, but instead walks viewers through a practical guide to how he lost the weight. Food is fuel and instead of choosing fuel that is devoid of nutrition, like donuts, he ate nutrient-rich fruits or nuts, he says. In many ways, his menu is similar to what the "clean" days of the fruit cleanse call for: whole grains, leafy vegetables and fruits and nuts. To my delight, he also advocates oily fish like sardines. I love sardines, and I hereby apologize to anyone at work who has ever been there when I heated up sardine pasta at work.

Alton's list of once-a-week foods addresses red meat, desserts, alcohol and pasta. It's not really surprising, and on the last day of the fruit fast, it makes more sense than ever. I have felt energized since I started the cleanse and realized how much food I was mindlessly eating every day. Yes, cookies, you. I'm not overly concerned about my love of pasta and pizza and like occasional rich meals at restaurants, but the cookies have to stop. I'm a healthy eater, but the cleanse has confirmed I'm a slave to my sugar cravings. So I have resolved to adopt Alton's once-a-week rule, eat fruit whenever I want cookies or chocolate, and see if it sticks. But this is a big resolution that calls for a higher power. Magic 8 Ball, can I really do this? Absolutely! (Yes!)

I have Alton on TiVo but if you need more convincing, see for yourself. 


And so the fruit cleanse begins

The fruit cleanse hadn't even started and I was already dumbstruck. All it took was one meal of brown rice, steamed chicken and rainbow chard for me to realize I eat like crap. I'm not sailing through the drive-through at Mickey D's, but I have not been leading the healthiest lifestyle. Seconds on cake, Chinese fried chicken, Korean barbecue? Instead of intentional eating, it was more like intentionally indulging all the time.

The first day of clean eating was hard when all I saw was cookies or SweetTarts and all I thought about was how I couldn't eat them, but I was better prepared with food on the second day and it was pretty easy. The three-day fruit cleanse started today and instead of being anxious, I'm now excited and happy about it. I can't even believe I'm saying this, but I'm not interested in the cookies.

The cleanse focuses on fruit because of the high-water content, which is much easier for the body to digest and gives the digestive system a break. Today's menu includes bananas, pineapple, coconut water, a blueberry smoothie, guacamole, cucumber chips, a tomato and avocado salad, and possibly more bananas and an apple. My refrigerator is a cornucopia of fruit, and I'm still contemplating picking up more.

 I also am learning so much about fruit. I apparently knew zilch about the fruit family. You probably know tomatoes are a fruit, but did you know zucchini, jalapenos, cucumbers, peas and avocados are all fruit? If you did, you're smarter than me. Those additional choices make for a rather delicious weekend. Since I love avocados, it'll be pretty easy to go raw all weekend, although there are recipes out there for zucchini spaghetti with tomato sauce. I'll pass.


Doing half moon like you're Johnny Weir

The Olympics are awesome. If it wasn't for early yoga classes, I'd be up late every night. Ice skating is particularly awesome. I had a not-so-glorious run as a competitive ice skater as a child -- I quit when I was 13, drill team or no drill team -- but I still have a deep attachment to the sport. My friends claim they can see my ice skating roots when I am in half moon. Today, I told my yoga class to imagine themselves performing on ice while holding half moon. I hope they envisioned themselves clad in a furry, Johnny Weir-ish costume as they soared around the ice. Why isn't there more (faux) fur in yoga?

Photo credit: Elaine Thompson, AP

But I have a general Olympics fever that extends to snowboard cross, cross-country skiing and almost anything NBC airs except for ski jumping. Ski jumping is incredibly boring, fyi.

In my Olympics mania, I also stumbled across this story about snowboarder Shaun White. I think of Shaun White as a superhuman Carrot Top. It's the only explanation for why a man would grow his red curly hair to such lengths and also hurl himself down a half-pipe and do tricks my mind can't comprehend.

But the coolest part of the story was learning White and other snowboarders feel fear. I always innately knew they must get scared, but I reasoned that Olympic-caliber athletes weren't totally normal and thus not nearly as scared as the rest of us. They are. Snowboarder Louie Vito: "You know you're scared, but you use that fear to drive you. You just have to put your head around it and go for it. You tell yourself that, no matter what, you're going to do it. Because, if you don't commit, that's when the big accidents really happen."

Take out the possibility of broken bones or concussions and a few other exceptions like writing about terrorists, and I agree with that philosophy. My yoga teachers say fear is just a feeling. The rational side of me nods yes. The irrational side clings to it. It's easier to be afraid and do nothing than it is to go for something that seems scary. I'd even say that big accidents happen, figuratively of course, when fear is the driving force. What will really happen if you have that talk with a friend or loved one, you ask your boss for a raise or you step in front of a room full of yoga students? It never is as bad as envisioned and often is something we needed to do. As Jacky Kornfield would say, identifying the fear is the first step to letting it go.


Preparing for the fruit cleanse with a pre-cleanse

The fruit cleanse has begun, or it feels that way. I don't start the fruit-only menu until Friday, but I have made lots of lists about fruit, bought fruit and made more lists about the "clean" food I'll be eating pre- and post-cleanse. The verdict so far: cleansing is exhausting.

I'm relying on Baron Baptiste's "Journey Into the Power," which has a loose guide to cleansing. He recommends eating "clean" two days before and two days after the cleanse, eliminating rich meats, dairy and sugar and instead eating steamed or baked lean proteins, lots of greens and whole grains. My schedule is harried this week, so I started early and made my favorite vegetable soup on Sunday. It's a basic Italian white bean soup, built on a base of onions, carrots and tomatoes and hearty with wheatberries and kale. Dried morels add an earthy, savory touch.

 Cleanse-approved vegetable soup

I ate the soup for lunch, then that night went to a wedding and ate prime rib, coconut shrimp and pink champagne cake.

For good measure, I threw in a rich meal of Shanghai noodles, salt and pepper crispy chicken and dry-cooked green beans tonight at one of my favorite restaurants, Chiang's Gourmet. Now that my body is officially oversaturated, cleansing can commence.

I often go veg when I have overindulged on rich foods so I'm happy about the "clean days" when I plan to eat a meal of steamed chicken thighs (I'm cheating a little, but thighs taste better), rainbow chard and brown rice and one night of tomatoes cooked with corn and tofu and quinoa. Fruit feels a little harder. But I have a game plan of sorts, which I'll lay out later this week.

In the meantime, because I'm a word nerd, I want to start sharing new yoga words here. I spend a lot of time in class listening for new ways to describe where I want a pose to go. With a new "word of the week" I hope more of these words sink in and emerge from my mouth. This week's word: channel. As in channel your breath, channel your energy, channel your thoughts to the present.

Or, channel your thoughts to vegetable soup. For anyone looking for a great, hearty vegetarian soup, I highly recommend this one.
Farro Soup
Modified from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian."
1/4 c. virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 tbl. minced garlic
1 c. dried white beans, preferably soaked overnight
1 c. farro, spelt, wheatberries or rye berries
2 c. chopped canned tomato, including liquid
Handful dried morels, soaked in 1 c. hot water, chopped, preserving liquid
6 c. water or vegetable stock
Handful fresh parsley or basil

Put oil in a large, deep stockpot over medium heat. When hot, add onion, carrots, salt and pepper. Cook until the onions have softened, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir, add farro, beans, tomato, morels, soaking liquid and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour until farro and beans are tender, adding stock or water as necessary. Stir in chopped parsley or basil. Optional: serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan.


Conquering musical anxiety one playlist at a time

Up until this morning, I wanted to write about my musical anxiety, which has not eased up. I've been suffering from extreme bouts of despair about music in class. Ever since I received feedback on music, I have been obsessively fiddling with playlists, hijacking other teachers' ipods to look at their lists (how do they all have dozens of lists?) and feeling a little panicky.

But then I read a quote from San Francisco teacher Janet Stone, whom I adore. She told Yoga Journal that a song doesn't have to be uplifting or happy. "It just has to be moving." I totally dig that idea. I'm not really confident about ramping up the tempo of class with music yet. I also teach mostly at the crack of dawn or intro classes, and a driving beat doesn't make sense. I am settling into the idea that even songs with depressing lyrics can work if the tone and energy of the music is right.

So I changed my approach and this week created a new playlist with artists I had previously rejected for sad lyrics: Ray LaMontagne, Roddy Woomble, The Reindeer Section and Sufjan Stevens. And call me crazy, but I had the best class yet this morning. I subbed for another teacher at 6:15 a.m. and the class of 17 included students who were new to me. I accidentally omitted all balancing poses, so added deeper hip work, and the mellow music seemed to blend perfectly with the early morning mood. Something worked wonders because I got more positive comments today than I ever have, including "excellent class" and regulars asking when else I teach. *Blush.* People, we have progress! It is all kinds of awesome to hear that people actually want more of something I already love to do. Current mood? Happy.

The playlist:
Hold You In My Arms, Ray LaMontagne
Every Line of a Long Moment, Roddy Woomble
Cartwheels, The Reindeer Section
To Be Alone With You, Sufjan Stevens
White Daisy Passing, Rocky Votolato
Heartbeats, Jose Gonzalez
Breathe, Alexi Murdoch


I picked skiing over the Super Bowl

UPDATE: Some skiing and *cough cough* cake-eating photos added below.

First, a confession, a caramel-y, moistly cakey confession.
A stroop waffle cupcake, Trophy Cupcakes, Bellevue

Yes, that's a cupcake. Yes, I ate it. Yes, I'm losing the sugar war.

On to other topics, like cross-country skiing. Today is Maria's birthday (Happy Birthday Maria!) and on Sunday, we went on a birthday ski. Want to know the best time to have the ski trails to yourself? Super Bowl Sunday.

Some forms of exercise are boring to me, like running. I can make myself run, but while I'm doing it, I'm fixated on how hard it is. Runners tell me the solution is to run more, but why run when I can do yoga? Take that, runners. Skate skiing is hard, but it's never boring. Part of it is survival -- if I don't focus, I will fall. But I never tire of the stillness and quiet in the woods and crisp, fresh air. When I'm out there, I wonder why I convince myself the hour drive to Cabin Creek, east of Snoqualmie Pass, is too far. It's worth it.

Our ski party on the go.

Being in the woods draws me into the present. The physical act of leaving the city turns off the chatter in my head, and cross-county skiing has a meditative quality that combines the sound of skis against snow, breath and physical sensation. Our ski was a mix of intense sprints up hills and breaks at the top talking. We followed up the ski gathered at Maria's place, eating homemade fontina, prosciutto, mushroom and arugula pizza and chocolate-chocolate cake, a Maria specialty. It was a perfect birthday weekend.

Airplane is harder on skis.

Followed up with a little (or a lot) of chocolate chocolate cake.


Cupcakes, Salvadorean bakeries and a cleanse

I have a mild, but persistent sweet tooth. For example, I rarely go on the hunt for a cupcake, but I will never refuse one. I don't like sweets for breakfast, but I always eat chocolate after dinner. Last week, I couldn't pass up a stop at an amazing Salvadorean bakery while driving to a dinner party nearby. I pulled over and picked up some dulce de leche cookies, a custard fruit tart and an eclair with a crunchy, caramel glaze.  Delicious is an understatement.

This picture makes me hungry. Cookies courtesy of hostess Pam.

The sugar cravings peak at work. I am helpless in the face of the homemade cookies one coworker sells to us from her "Cookie Corner" for $1 each. Caramel cashew chew and chocolate malt sandwich cookies, you are so delightful. The night shift lulled me into a stupor that required trips to the vending machine for peanut M&Ms. I know where all the candy jars are hidden and have befriended their owners.

But with the fruit cleanse upon me in two weeks, I decided it was a good idea to try to wean myself off refined sugar. My new rule? I'm only allowed to eat chocolate. Theoretically, this was a good plan. (Stop laughing.) Good chocolate is delicious and good for you! This story says I can save the world by eating chocolate! I bought a couple of bars of locally made Theo hazelnut crunch bars, and thought that would be enough. But then during the day, I found myself at the payroll administrator's candy jar, pulling out mini-Three Musketeers and Twix. My definition of chocolate is clearly very broad. There also was the homemade chocolate cupcake. With vanilla icing and sprinkles. You have no idea how much I love sprinkles.

Like caffeine, I know I can kick the worst of the sugar cravings and take it down to just chocolate after dinner. I'm not a total masochist. I hope the cleanse and the "clean eating" that comes before and after the fruit cleanse, with just fish, chicken, whole grains and greens, will help my body kick that rollercoaster sugar habit. But it also would be helpful if those candy jars stayed empty, the Cookie Corner shut down and people stopped baking cupcakes. For good.


The wanting mind and lululemon

Sometimes I have a lot of  restraint when it comes to shopping, and sometimes I don't. Lately I have not had much. My most recent excuse was a two-week stint on the night shift at work that left me with a lot of time on my hands during the day. When my willpower is low, online I go.

I listened to a meditation CD last night that talked about the "wanting" mind. The "if only" mind. We think if we get something we want, we'll be satisfied. My recent train of thought has been: "If only I have new shoes, then I'll be happy." The problem with this line of thinking is that once you get what you want, the wanting mind comes up with something new to covet, Jack Kornfield says. My closet is full of previous "if onlys."

Lululemon has more than once been the subject of my "wanting" self. But the trendy upscale pusher of all things yoga was on the brain recently not because of a fixation on new yoga tights, but because I taught there Sunday. My studio was studio of the month, so teachers have been rotating through for the free weekly yoga class. I'm sure the classes are part of a branding effort, but I genuinely appreciate any efforts to make yoga more accessible, even if the clothes are not. Here's the early arrivals for my Sunday class, which rounded out at 15.

There was a big wall in the middle of my class.

Free classes aside, lulu also has been the subject of some debate among people I know. Some are anti-lulu and argue their clothes are outrageously expensive. There are plenty of more affordable clothes that work just as well, and they are done with the craze. I get what they're saying, but I still succumb. I'm in yoga clothes all the time. Out of all the brands I've tried, lululemon clothes fit well, handle twisty poses the best, last the longest and, let's face it, are really cute. And yeah, I always want more. Dammit Jack, do you always have to be right?

But on Sunday, despite temptation on every wall, my focus was solely on class. I have a soft spot for beginners, and I had quite a few, including a guy who tried, earnestly, to practice in shoes, his hands on his mat and his sneakers on the floor in downward dog. I always hope the class is one of the first steps toward a life-long love affair with yoga. Afterward, I was happy to get a free top as payment, but the "wanting more" side was thinking more about teaching. In this case, I'd argue the "wanting" mind is a good thing. "If only" I can teach more classes, life will be more fulfilling, sane and happy. Yes!
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr