Monday, February 27, 2012

Wanna See Where I Can Put My Leg?

Can I just take a second to brag about the fact that I can do this?

Kirby is not impressed.

I'm here to tell you, friends, that yoga is the shit. A few years ago I could barely touch my toes, and now I can fold myself in half like a damn tea towel. And so, I have decided to present to you, in list form, all the reasons you should stop spending your time however it is you spend it and start practicing yoga.

1. Yoga is whatever you want it to be. If you need to relax and ground yourself, you can do a gentle hatha class that stretches you out in a low-stress way. If you want to sweat until you think you will die, you can do an ashtanga class. Whenever my muscles are tense and painful, instead of getting a massage (I'm an actor, people, I can't afford that crap) I do some yoga. Fixes me asap.

2. It can be a killer work out. A lot of people think yoga is all about bending and stretching and feeling your feelings. Well, it is. (And that's important. Flexibility is imperative to healthy joints and injury prevention, and very few other forms of exercise practiced in the Western world work on flexibility. And feelings are, you know, feelings.) But yoga also builds some hardcore muscles. Look up picture of arm balances. Look up pictures of  utkatasana (awkward chair pose). These are very difficult poses that will leave your muscles shaking, and then sculpt them into things of beauty. Although, of course, external beauty is not the point of yoga, which brings us to...

3. Yoga (really, any kind of exercise) can give you such a great appreciation for your body. When I see my body get stronger and more flexible over time, I start to love it for what it can do, not for how it looks. Cellulite doesn't seem to matter as much when I realize that those same thighs can hold me in utkatasana for minutes at a time. I'm not gonna lie, I definitely enjoy what yoga has done for my booty's appearance, but practicing yoga has made me love my body way more than dieting, make up, and push-up bras ever could. 

4. Yoga can inspire you to eat healthier. First off, yogis tend to be a pretty health-conscious bunch, so if you hang around them enough, some of that is bound to rub off. Yoga really teaches you to be aware of your body, and listen to what it's telling you and what it needs. Once I mastered that in class, I started to listen more to what my body was telling me to eat. I already ate pretty healthily, but now I'm better at determining if my body needs protein, or veggies, or water. Instead of eating the same thing every day, I pay attention to how I feel and what my body's craving. Alternately, it's helped me to be much more conscientious about what I shouldn't eat. In the past, if I turned down junk food, it was because it was fattening. Now, I think, "If I eat four slices of pizza right now, my stomach is going to be killing me in about 30 minutes". I still eat pizza, obviously (and ice cream and beer and occasionally copious amounts of Sour Patch Kids), but my reasons for eating these things in moderation is how they will make me feel, not how they will make me look.

5. Not only does yoga bleed over into other aspects of your physical health, but it absolutely transcends the mat and moves into your psyche. Did you know that the entire point of yoga is to be able to sit in lotus pose and meditate? All the other poses are designed to limber up your body to be able to sit in that pose for hours on end. There are countless bits of wisdom that have arisen from this ancient art, but this piece is probably my favorite. When you're holding a difficult pose, the body's tendency is to tighten up, to strain against it, to fight the effort going into it. This engages more muscle, making the pose even harder, and actually blocking you from going deeper into it. Some people try to counter this by distracting themselves, thinking about anything but the discomfort they are in. Only when you acknowledge the pose with full consciousness - how difficult it is, how your muscles are burning and stretching - are you able to deepen the pose with your breath, and ease further into it (and hold it for longer) than you ever could have thought. And then, once you get out of the pose, the discomfort is almost gone. There's a lingering soreness, but within days you are stronger than you were before. And you know what? LIFE IS THE SAME FREAKING WAY! So often, when we're going through something awful, we fight with everything we can against the bad feelings we have. We do anything to avoid feeling them. Or, we pretend we aren't feeling them at all, and distract ourselves, effectually shutting ourselves off of any possibility of growth. BUT, if we allow ourselves to feel angry, sad, hurt, frightened, whatever, and force ourselves to keep on going through the pain, we come out stronger on the other side. Not only that, but by really experiencing the pain and finding a way to make it useful, we understand ourselves better, and are fully healed - and healed faster. Nothing is permanent, not even pain. 

And that is all the hippie-bullshit-psycho-babble I have for you today. To be fair, yoga isn't for everyone. If you've tried it and didn't like it, I'm not going to tie you down and om at you until you are crying in child's pose. I just think it has some really great benefits, and I think it's worth checking out. And on that note, I bid you all adieu. Namaste, bitches.

Side note: I can't really put my leg anywhere cool. I just stole that line from Shit Yogis Say. Also, I thought that title would trick more people into reading this post.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Best One Out There

I love Valentine's Day. I know people complain that it's just another Hallmark holiday, but I think it's pretty damn awesome that there's a holiday all about celebrating love. If you want to skip the commercial part, just spend time with your significant other and don't buy anything. And I've got to say, please don't be one of those Bitter Betties that hates Valentine's Day when you're single but skips around in a love-drunk haze of roses and chocolate on the years you have a beau. If you're going to hate it, at least be consistent. And if you know you only hate it because you're lonely this year, keep it to yourself and don't crap all over every happy couple's love parade.

My grandma lost her Valentine six years ago. She and my grandfather lived in neighboring apartments on Thomas Circle when they met, and got married a few months later. She was twenty, he was twenty-five. I was worried she might be missing him more than usual, so I called her up last Tuesday. We ended up talking for an hour and a half. At one point in the conversation, she mentioned a conversation with a friend about how horribly lonely it is to be the spouse left behind. Her friend asked if she would ever consider finding someone else.  She said she thought for a minute, and said, "No, because I would always be comparing. I think I really found the absolute best one out there on my first try. No one else could even come close."

After sixty years of marriage, to feel that utterly in love with someone? That's what I'm holding out for.

Friday, February 10, 2012

10 Cool Things About This Week

1. I went to Town with some delightful people. True, I met some of the bitchiest queens I've ever encountered (one guy literally face palmed my sister out of his way), but I also saw the hottest drag queen I have EVER seen. Seriously, this gal looked exactly like Beyonce. If you hadn't told me she was a dude, I never would have guessed. Also, I got to say "I'm going to Town tonight!" about 20 times.

2. The first class I took at my yoga studio back in October was an Ashtanga class, and it beat the living crap out of me. My muscles were still shaking when I got back to my apartment 30 minutes later, and I was very sore for about 4 days. I went back to Ashtanga on Sunday for the first time since then, and I was only mildly sore the next day. Progress, bitches.

3. My daddy and I had a fun afternoon of farmers markets and Korean food. Curt's a real gem.

4. I decided to become a die-hard Giants for the Superbowl. All my screaming and hollering and Patriot-hating worked because they WON.

5. The cute mechanic I pass every day asked me out. I said no, because that seems to be my knee-jerk reaction to every man that shows any interest in me these days. It made me happy, though.

6. I watched 50/50, and subsequently fell head over heels with this guy:

Great, great, great movie. One of the best I've seen in a long time. But this guy? Good grief. "I wish you were my girlfriend." WHAT?!? Get your bald, sweater-wearing self over here and make out with me asap. Lordy.

7. My newfound obsession attraction prompted me to reactivate my OkCupid account, because I realized the cancer-ridden boy of my dreams could just be floating along out there unbeknownst to me unless I carped the damn diem. (Yeah... this is probably going to be a theme. I give it a week before I decide I hate everyone and delete it again). This time around, I've decided to actually initiate interactions myself, instead of just waiting to blissfully reject every chap that comes my way. And, as it turns out, every guy I message is utterly disinterested in me. Karma, I suppose. The nice thing about this is it's caused me to ease up a bit on the guys messaging me. I still barely respond to anyone, but now I react with disdain instead of blind hatred.

8. The maintenance guy came to our apartment the other day, and upon seeing our stupid menagerie immediately informed me that he's terrified of rats and cats. Stella responded by following him all over the apartment and trying to lick his pants.

9. I went to a classy bar/restaurant with my friends Emmy and Vanessa, and had a nice girls night. Sipping wine makes me feel like a lady.

10. Banana soft serve. Look it up. Make it. You're welcome.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Wow. Well. This has been a week of some very extreme ups and downs. The ups included a bitchin' karaoke birthday party in Adams Morgan, a delicious Melting Pot dinner, reminders that I have an amazing inner circle of people who love and care about me and a night on the town that ended in me telling a shirtless stranger that he looked fantastic. The downs aren't worth mentioning.

Monday morning found me sitting in my car with a horrible, constricting weight on my chest, feeling small and alone and frightened. As I sat there, I started to think about how a belief in God is such a powerful force for people going through hard times.

I don't believe in God. Or rather, I don't believe in a personal, benevolent God. I feel like there's some order to the universe, something at play, but I think it must be so beyond human comprehension that I don't spend any time worrying about it. (To be clear, I have a hunch, but I am completely open to the idea my hunch is wrong. I'm a true agnostic - I guess how things work, but I readily admit I don't know. I certainly don't think I'm more right in my beliefs than anyone else is.) I don't feel like good is a greater force in this world than evil. I think that both need each other to exist, and your experiences and viewpoint determine which you see more of. I don't believe there is something watching over me, that has my best interests at heart, because it just doesn't seem practical to me. Out of my tragedies comes another's joy. Out of another's suffering is my gratitude that it isn't mine. It is necessary for some people to have horrible things happen to them, to have horrible lives. In the short term, this seems cruel, but in the overall scheme of things, to me, it makes sense.

However, as I sat there in my car, listening to Coldplay and trying not to cry, I remembered a time when I did believe in a God that had a plan for me, that loved me, that would make sure I was ok. In that moment, I wanted that belief back so dearly. I leaned back, imagined a gentle, comforting embrace, and pretended, just for a minute, to believe in God.

It gave me a sense of peace, but ultimately I couldn't suspend my disbelief for more than a few minutes. And so, because I have the best job on the planet, I got out of my car, walked into someone else's house, hugged a sweet and elderly dog named Sam and cried into his soft, black, curly fur.

I had a strong belief in God until I was about 19 or 20, and certainly don't feel a hole left by its presence. I believe in optimism, in love, in faith. I have a strong spiritual core, despite not believing in a personal God. I feel utterly at peace with the world and my place in it, and as I've mentioned before, I know that my life is going to be good. I have maintained most of the benefits a belief in God brings, I just draw them from different wells. This, though, for the first time in years, made me wonder if there's something about believing in a conscious higher power that you just can't achieve without that belief.

In the end it doesn't matter. I don't believe that, and can't make myself believe it just because there might be benefits to that belief. I'll just keep finding ways to get myself through hard times. I haven't failed yet.