Not All MATS are Created Equal

When I first started practicing Bikram yoga in 2013 I used a gaiam mat that I’d been using for my hatha yoga classes. I’d place a regular beach towel on top. I think I did that for several months before realizing I needed to invest in my practice with a better mat. After some research I settled on a manduka mat, which cost $78. Manduka mats are more dense than their less expensive counterparts, making them less slippery.

The Manduka Pro-lite mat I bought now costs $80: I bought a dark red color because the reviews revealed that the lighter colors could easily be stained.

I knew I’d made a solid investment the first time I stepped on the mat and felt so much more support, but I hadn’t thought about it for awhile until one day, a few weeks ago, I forgot my manduka mat and had my old cheap mat in my car, so I decided to use it. Immediately I felt the difference. My old mat felt soft and squishy and provided almost no support.

I remember going through the whole class thinking I’d never forget my manduka mat again. And I haven’t so far! The mat still supports me after three years of use; I have, however, seen other mats that have been advertised as beneficial for hot yoga and do intend on trying them.

What’s your favorite yoga mat?


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The Politics of Body/Fat Shaming

I left my apartment this morning dressed for yoga in bike shorts and a substantial sports bra. I also wore a thin beige vest for the sole purpose of covering up my midriff. I didn’t want anyone to see it. This morning I found myself asking why my potentially bare mid-section mattered when, for a split second, the edges of the vest parted ways as a gardener approached. Thinking he might see the barest splash of visible abdominal skin I hurriedly placed my yoga bag in front of my torso.

All of that reactionary movement to cover the barest piece of bare skin. In contrast, I see “thin” women walking in my neighborhood all the time in exercise outfits that show a portion of midriff, so what makes me react to mine? You see, I know the answer. I’m not shy. I’m not a prude. I’m not showing too much skin in my yoga outfits. I’ve been conditioned to feel, to believe that this fat, this obese body needs to be and ought to be covered up.

Where did I learn this? Does that matter? Yes. I learned it and am still learning it every time I go to the mall as see stores that offer clothes in a size zero or double zero or extra extra small. At some point it seems clothing manufacturers will be designing women into non-existence.

When I go looking for clothes, I look for the plus size section or the women’s section, and it’s almost always in a smaller section of the store. Dillard’s in Scottsdale’s Fashion Plaza has one of the largest and more fashionable plus size sections that I’ve seen. Most stores and the designers send a clear message with their product placement: plus size women don’t deserve to be front and center, yet we are in the majority, just not the seemingly accepted attractive majority.

Most models, actresses, television personalities have small frames. The majority of beauty contests covet thinness. Everywhere anyone goes, tininess prevails. A skinny woman can be on the beach and be admired, but a larger one will often the victim of verbal abuse and be called “a whale”. I’ve seen this and been a victim of it more than I care to admit.

I still clearly remember my first job interview at the age of 16. I see in my mind’s eye the woman’s face as I approached her. I could see the dread as she saw my size. She didn’t see me. She saw fat. She judged me based on that. I could tell by her body language. She didn’t convey her fat prejudice with words, but her eyes told the story. They told it well.

Sometimes I’m amazed that I thrive as a social creature. Fat prejudice and Fat shaming are so predominantly accepted and glorified by so many that I find I have a distinct amount of respect for people with larger bodies who work so conscientiously to defy social “norms”.

I’d like to think in some small way that I’m working toward that too. This body that houses this soul has just as much right to inhabit this earth as any other body. I don’t always believe that though and this morning’s reaction taught me that. This brain has bought into the subliminal and not so subliminal messages that the only attractive bodies are the thin ones and that the only way larger bodies can be attractive is if they are in the process of being molded into thinner bodies.

That frame of mind does not lend itself to healthy living though because it removes me from the present and keeps me in the past or the future. And that’s no way to live. It’s time to stop body shaming myself. It’s time to stop thinking the world will end if someone sees a slice of my midriff while I’m on my way to yoga class. Because the world won’t end, and it’s entirely possible a whole new piece of my world will open up.

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Nancy’s Nutty Nut Butters

When I started decluttering, I remember reading about all the new spaces that would be created. Mental spaces. I didn’t quote know what that would look like, and I still don’t, but a few weeks ago I found myself developing a new hobby—making nut butters. I’m not quite sure where this sudden urge came from, but I honored the direction of my instincts.

I started off with cashew butter. I pulled out my mini-food processor and put in a cup of cashews and started the whirling process. Previously, I’d read enough recipes to know that I’d have to frequently scrape the sides. All the reading I’d done though didn’t warn me of the perils of a mini food processor—I had to keep my finger on the button the whole time, and when it takes a minimum of 10 minutes, well that’s a long time to hold a button.

After a few batches of a variety of nut butters I realized I’d need a better food processor or at least one that would run on its own, but I didn’t need a super-high powered processor or even an expensive one. After some research I settled on this Cuisinart:

I found the price reasonable (I paid $84.99 on sale). It’s also a relatively simple machine, which I liked. The reviews also indicated it was easy to clean. Appliances that require a great deal of care tend to gather dust in my world.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I purchased the processor, and I’ve gone absolutely nutty! Every time I look online I discover a new recipe, a new flash of inspiration.

Cake Batter happens to be one of my favorite flavors, so when I discovered a recipe I couldn’t wait to try it:

I assembled all the ingredients and then pressed the on button:

After a few minutes the nuts will stick to the sides of the food processor, so it’s necessary to stop it and scrape the sides:

After 10 – 15 minutes a ball will start to form. Stop the food processor and break up the ball:

10 minutes after that a creamy nut butter will start to form, and it’s almost finish time:

How much longer the food processor runs depends on how creamy you want the nut butter. By the time it looks like this, I’m happy.

All nuts are not created equal. Softer nuts, like pecans, don’t take much time at all in the food processor. Even the nut butters that do take time are worth it because they last a long time and they taste fresh.

Someone told me once that I needed to be careful with my new hobby, inferring that the high calories might have a fattening effect, but the truth is I don’t eat much at a time, and I thoroughly enjoy the taste, and, there’s very little sugar or sweeteners in the nut butters I make. I seek out recipes that use natural sweeteners. Many recipes don’t use any.

They also make great gifts. Cost Plus sells a variety of small jars that work perfectly for small thank you gifts.

Nuts Away!

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These Shoes WERE Made for Walking

I’m a believer in comfortable walking shoes. Sure some brands might be pricey, but if we analyze shoes on a per cost basis they actually will turn out to be pretty cheap. Last July I found a pair of Josef Seibel shoes on sale for $99. + tax. I hemmed and hawed when I first saw the price but one of my friends raved about the brand, so I bought them.

The first time I wore them out of the box I found them to be incredibly comfortable. I remember walking all over Downtown Los Angeles and my feet didn’t utter a single complaint. I continued to wear those same shoes multiple times throughout this past year, on walks long and short, without a single issue until last week when I realized they had served their purpose and were ready to move on.

I’m not sure I remember the exact moment I realized the padding had gone from the shoes but I do recall more fatigue in my legs and the lack of padding underneath the balls of my feet.

I also have a pair of Taos sandals that are ready for their next adventure. I found them at DSW a couple of years ago. They reminded me of a pair of ECCOs I once owned but these were considerably cheaper. I wore them countless times as well.

I prefer to live an active lifestyle as much as possible so prefer comfort over all other factors when it comes to shoes. I know shoes can’t always leave my feel feeling like they are walking on clouds but I like to be able to walk distances comfortably.

SOOOOOOO, last week I thanked my pair of Josef Seibels and my pair of Taos sandals and wished them best on their next incarnation. I haven’t replaced them yet but I will. I love being able to move, so I know that whatever replacement finds their way onto my feet, will fill me with a desire to go skipping in the street!

PS: there are plenty of organizations that can repurpose old shoes. Look online and find one the next time you have a pair of shoes ready for their next incarnation!

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It Happened Again

The clutter built up.   Not in my apartment, but in my car. How did it happen? One moment at a time. One day maybe I felt too tired to take a bag out of my car and it went from there. It built up. 

I didn’t actually buy a lot more stuff. Stuff just accumulated, including the dirt on my car. I decided I had enough and that the time had come to clean out the car.

I started by taking everything out. All the items that weren’t trash I piled into my living area. Then I took the car to the car wash! There’s something cleansing about having a clean car. It’s like it’s brand new all over again. 

I didn’t stop there though. I’ve worked too hard to allow clutter to infiltrate my living space again, so I spent a few hours today putting away the stuff that had accumulated while doing laundry.  

I’m telling you all this because life really is a process. Two steps forward; one step back. I can’t tell you the clutter won’t reappear but I can tell you I’m still so much better off that before. I know more of my possessions. I own them. They don’t own me. 

That’s progress. That’s hope. I’m also aware I’ll be able to declutter again. I know that when an object, a thing has served its time that I can thank it for its service and let it go. Let it go. That’s progress. 

I have more space than before and I LOVE it. It feels FREE. So many people have written books on decluttering.  Go to a bookstore and browse through some. Google for ideas. Try some. Find one or two or three methods. Create your own. Create space. Make space. 

I’ve heard it said that when we make more space in our surroundings we discover more of who we are in the spaces inside. 

I find that true. Not all the spaces bring joy but they do bring snippets of realization and that makes all the exploring worth it. 

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Clearing Away Cobwebs

A couple of days ago I found myself wandering around the beach across from Neptune’s Net in Malibu. As I stood against the railing I observed a young couple doing a selfie shoot with the picturesque ocean as their backdrop. They appeared to be in their 20’s. In the sand they had written Coming January 2017; next to that they had gently arranged a onesie with indeterminate writing on the front. With a selfie stick in hand they playfully posed.

At times the presumed father-to-be would place his hand lovingly on the young woman’s abdomen. Their playful and carefree smiles revealed untold joy. I watched them for awhile as they engaged in the give and take of the frothy waves reaching the shore. A magical enchantment embraced me.

I thought for just a moment that I wished I could go back to the carefree places of my twenties, but as soon as that thought crossed my mind, another took hold. I can be carefree in any moment I choose. Any of us can be really. What keeps me from being or feeling carefree? Assuredly it’s the mental prison of thoughts. The mind is a crazy neighborhood. Some say it’s a place to never venture alone.

I differ on that last part though. I do wish to venture into my head alone, taking a pickax with me to chase away the cobwebs that cloud my thinking. Those cobwebs aren’t real, but I think they are. I allow them to exist. I create them. Whoa! Wait? Did I just say that. Yes, I did.

I create my cobwebs. No one else. And when I sweep them away I feel so free, in ways this writing can’t describe. There’s a reason why Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now is an international best seller. People crave the idea of living free, of living now, of living in the moment.

We live in rough worlds, internally and externally, and it’s so easy to allow the negative dramas, personal and otherwise, to overtake us. Anyone who has ever cleared away spider created cobwebs knows that they come back.

That’s where people can get stuck. The cobwebs come back and they feel defeat. Sometimes I feel that way. More than I care to admit I feel that way. Being on the beach a few days ago, and watching that young couple, I also came to understand a profound truth: wallowing in an imagined misery of what isn’t doesn’t help me live the life I deserve.

The mind is a tricky place because it will try to convince you otherwise. It wants you to live in defeat. But the heart does not. The heart wants to soar free. The question then is how do we allow the heart to influence the mind?

The answer is easy: as Joseph Campbell says “follow your bliss.” What does that mean though? Simple. Do one thing each day that brings you joy, that makes you smile. The old adage is true. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I work at this by the way. Every day. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t, but I keep at it. If you’ve been with me awhile you know I’ve been decluttering, and I’ve discovered something: I LOVE the new found freedom I feel. I’ve also discovered that I still have A LOT of stuff, and that’s okay.

I have decided recently to spend a few minutes each day devoted to continuing to declutter or rearrange my belongings. In this way I know what I own and what I own doesn’t own me. Plus it makes me HAPPY. Being happy means I’m living in the NOW.

Clearing the cobwebs away and keeping them away means working at doing what makes you happy. Find ways every day to make yourself happy and the path to your bliss will reveal itself.

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Which Way Will You Go?

When I arrived home this afternoon from lunch with a friend I had a choice, I could sit down and take a nap or I could make some coconut butter. I chose the latter. There’s nothing wrong with a nap, but I’ve been doing too much of nothing these days or brooding or whatever you call it and I’ve been long wanting to try my hand at nut butters.

It really doesn’t take too much time to make nut butters, maybe 20 minutes from start to finish, including clean-up. I followed a recipe that included a bit of macadamia nuts and a pinch of salt. It tasted yummy, but Ill know for sure when others give it a taste.

After I finished making the coconut butter, I sat down for a bit and realized I had another choice: plant my self on the couch for the rest of the evening or go to yoga. I asked my friend Linda what to do and she said “Go to yoga. It always makes you feel better.” And she right. Yoga always does make me feel better.

The week has been a roller coaster of emotional triggers, which can and will be exhausting. The only way out of all these twists and turns is to walk straight through them and the way straight through them involves “radical self-care” and yoga is one way of doing that. That’s what got me to yoga earlier in the week and it’s what got me to yoga on a Friday night.

In that hot room, it’s just me. Well, sometimes thoughts do get in the way, but their intensity diminishes with the time spent going within in that room. I hope you have a hot room somewhere for those moments. That hot room can be anywhere or anything that feeds your soul needs. A place that instills peace within you. Everyone has that place. We just have to seek it.

Studies have shown that being in nature for a little bit of time can cure human ails: Nature doesn’t cost money, so there’s no excuse there. Find your sanctuary and know that you can always go there because once you’ve found it, and can harness it within, no one can take it from you.

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