Archive for February, 2011

So you want to be a yogi

I once had a high school teacher tell me I am tenacious. Sounds like a good thing, right? While I suppose there are scenarios in which my persistence pays off, I think this particular person was using it as a euphemism. I think it was his polite way of saying that once I get an idea or make up my mind about something, that’s the end of that. There’s no hope of deterring me — even if jumping ship would be the safe, sane option.

Well, this weekend I put my tenacity to work and embarked on a journey to find a yoga studio. I’m mentioned my love for Zumba before, and, really, I find it hard to believe there can be anything better than leaving the dance studio profusely glistening* and temporarily deaf from the potentially dangerous — but undeniably motivating — volume of the music. (*I think it was Topanga from “Boy Meets World” who said girls don’t sweat; they glisten. I like to pretend that’s true.)

Despite my love for this loud Latin workout, I’ve decided I could use a little centering and stretching in my life as well, so I decided to give yoga a try.

I spent a good portion of my three-day weekend researching local yoga studios. I found schedules for four studios and set out to investigate.

For a Zumba girl who has gotten used to neon workout gear and high-energy instructors, stepping into yoga studios was a bit of a culture shock.
At each place I visited, there were prominent signs asking that you remove your shoes upon entering. And unlike the signs at my Zumba studio that scream, “DO NOT PARK NEXT DOOR, CHICA. YOU WILL BE TOWED,” these sings seemed to whisper, “Please, look deep into your soul, respect this space and slip of your shoes.”

Although, I discovered yogis don’t limit themselves to muted jewel tones and stoic deep breathing because this is the side of one of the buildings I visited.

Initially, I was worried I had gotten my directions mixed up and arrived at a preschool, but it turns out this studio is just owned by some light-hearted practitioners. Please excuse this woman’s immodest top. This image is no way intended to endorse such things :)

At a yet another studio, though, I met an instructor who wasn’t so light-hearted. When I entered, I bounded right up to the front desk (making sure to remove my shoes first, of course). In a bubbly, energetic voice, I asked about introductory classes, explaining I’m a yoga novice. The woman behind the desk seemed almost offended by my enthusiasm and my bright blue nail polish. (Something tells me she’s not going to love the hot pink yoga mat I just bought, either. In my defense, it was the only color Target had.)

Each place I visited seemed a bit foreign. I have feeling, though, that I may come to love yoga just as much as I love Zumba precisely because they are so different. So, namste, my friends. I’ll let you know how my first class goes.

Food Find: Larabars

I’ve got a more thought-provoking piece in the works, but seeing as I mentioned my interest in healthy foods in a previous post and in my “About Me” note, I thought I’d share a little gem from the supermarket shelves today.

I think I’ve mentioned before that my culinary skills are not particularly well-developed. Part of this is due to the fact that finding the time and energy to create a “Top Chef”-worthy dish for one is no easy task.
My lack of success in the kitchen must also have something to do with the fact that I’m just me, Emily, because I somehow manage to burn microwave popcorn EVERY SINGLE TIME, and I’ve been known to spend significantly longer than 5 minutes making a box of Jell-O Instant Pudding. However, I’m certain my problems are not genetic because my mother could out-cook even Julia Child. The likes of Bengal Tiger Chicken with spiced peaches and couscous regularly appeared on my dinner plate when I was growing up.
Anyway, despite my lack of food finesse, I like to eat healthy, which can be a challenge when you’re searching for clean nutrition in boxes and wrappers.
Luckily, I recently stumbled across Larabars. Unlike all the other energy bars they’re displayed next to, these don’t contain a list of undecipherable ingredients or taste like sidewalk chalk. Check out the short and sweet ingredient list on this Banana Bread Larabar.
Three ingredients. That’s all, folks. And the great news is, they taste amazing. The not-so-great news is that these clean bars cost a bit more than a dollar each. But I’d say the peace they give a health-conscious mind and the time they save this cooking-challenged chic is worth the price. (They’re also gluten and dairy free.)
I buy mine at Whole Foods or Smiths Marketplace, but I think they’re available in most grocery stores. Give ‘em a shot, and let me know what you think.
Also, if you have favorite healthy food finds, please share!

Love, sweet love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yesterday I heard several people use the term “singles awareness day” to describe what classify as the most romantic 24 hours of the year for those who have a hand to hold, a spouse to smooch and a prince (or princess) charming to adore.

I must admit, there have been seasons in my life when I’ve been among those cursing Cupid. When you reach into a bag of Dove chocolates on a quiet Valentine’s night and find a saying like this on the inside, how can you not feel sad and, well, pathetic?
(Note to Dove’s marketing department: Consumers tend to feel guilty enough about just eating the chocolate. There’s no need to rub in the fact that they’re likely lonely, too.)
Yes, I’ve been one of those girls who watches “Pride and Prejudice” in an attempt to fill the vast void on Valentine’s Day. But not this year.
I may find time to watch a chick flick or pull a novel off the shelf, but it won’t be because I’m wallowing. This year, I say up with love. I may be single in the romantic sense, but I’m certainly not alone.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been the beneficiary of many acts of selfless service and simple, but meaningful, gestures of friendship.
I may not be receiving a bouquet of roses today, but if I could gather up the thoughtful text message from a college friend saying I am missed, the sticky note left on my desk at work by an aunt expressing support, the phone call from sweet friend just because it was Tuesday, and a Sunday evening laughing with family in Grandma’s kitchen, I’d have something just as beautiful — and far more meaningful — than a few flowers.

Though their charms are many, and I’m certainly not opposed to receiving them, roses will wilt and chocolates will quickly be consumed. This Valentine’s Day, I’m not worried about ribbons or heart-shaped boxes because I’ve been blessed with beautiful, enduring expressions of love.

Learning not to limit the definition of “love” has made the idea dedicating a day to recognizing its abundance in my life seem like a perfectly wonderful idea.

To all those who have helped me feel cared for, thank you.

Now, just in case you haven’t already seen enough, I’d like to leave you with one final look at the decor details that are singing the praises of Valentine’s Day at my house. Isn’t it lovely?

Made for sunny days

I’ve long believed that the little things make all the difference.

For example, what would a parka be without the zipper? What would a bracelet be without the clasp? What would Thanksgiving be without the cranberry sauce? And what would Tokyo Disneyland be without the signature buckets of curry and soda popcorn? (This amusement park is a blog topic in and of itself, which I’ll save for a later post, but suffice it to say that Tokyo’s version trumps America’s as the happiest place on earth.)

Scientifically speaking, the sun is no small thing. It’s much larger than a zipper and more widely appreciated than cranberry sauce (I assume), but I think we rarely acknowledge how significantly the sun’s rays influence us. The weather is the very definition of “small talk,” is it not?

Well, I’m going to make a case for sunshine today. I think it deserves more credit.

I used to take sunny skies for granted, but after spending long summers under Tokyo’s hazy smog dome and doing a fair bit of research on vitamin D, that’s no longer the case. (If you’re not taking a vitamin D supplement, I highly recommend looking into it. Of course, check with your doctor first.)

I live for sunshine. I crave it. When I wake up to find light coming through the slats of my blinds, I bound out of bed. (OK. I’m exaggerating. I still have to peel myself away from the pillow, but light makes that process a whole lot easier.)

We’ve been experiencing quite a bit of inversion around here, and honey-hued skies have been scarce. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen freeway signs warning of poor air quality and advising less driving.

Today, however, was free of fog. I decided to take a walk outside during my lunch break. The air was brisk, but when I looked up, I saw this beautiful scene.

It made me think of a song I heard recently by The Weepies. It’s called “I was Made for Sunny Days.”
Here’s the chorus:
I was made for sunny days
I made do with gray, but I didn’t stay
I was made for sunny days
And I was made for you
What little thing made a big difference for you today?