Monday, August 29, 2011

Try Consistency, Get in a Routine

One of my favorite things about teaching is helping people to create routine, primarily because routine is something that I need in order to feel my best, however, it is not something that I gravitate toward naturally. I tend to take a different route daily. I wish I could do the laundry just once, or take a shower and that would be that - done. Sometimes routine can feel so boring! But maintenance requires consistency, and believe me, there’s no one that is more resistant to it than myself. It's taken me a long time to understand that it is this consistency that allows my body to fall into place and feel safe. If you think about it, anything that grows responds to routine: plants require a certain amount of light and water on a regular basis, children need routines for sleeping and eating, and pets need consistent walks, water, and mealtimes. My body and my fitness routine is the one thing that I come back to consistently. Through my father's passing, my breakups, my house burning down (yup), losing jobs, even my greatest celebrations like my DVD launch party... I always come back to exercise to stabilize myself.

If we simply show up on a daily basis and practice, the body has a way of organizing itself and actually falls into place naturally. I encourage you this month to create a routine for yourself, whatever that is. We are what we do consistently. It's not the one piece of cake that we have which makes us gain weight, it's what we put into our bodies daily that really counts. So what if you have a cookie! Wake up the next morning, have a glass of warm water with lemon, meditate, take a walk, practice your yoga and have a healthy breakfast... and then get back on the loving yourself train!

On the same note, try creating your own set of rituals and watch how quickly your body responds. I actually read somewhere that they did a study of octogenarians. The one thing that they had in common was not that they lived pristine lives, but they had regular habits that they followed the same time in the same way each day. It’s about consistency and moderation. 

I can't say that I can follow a routine for my entire life, but for this week, certainly I can create my own routine and experiment with how the results feel. Then, even if I don't always follow it, I know what it feels like, and I know what works.

My routine this week:
7:00 a.m. - wake
7:30 - meditate
8:00 - walk, or some form of cardiovascular exercise
9:00 - breakfast
10:00 - yoga with clients
1:30 - lunch
2:30 - sauna 
3:30 - clients
5:00 - writing
7:00 - dinner
8:00 - relax (not in front of computer), read or recreate

Follow me on 
Twitter and Facebook for some detoxifying poses this week to add to your routine.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Self-care is the Key to Self-esteem

I am often asked what it is that I am doing with my celebrity clients. There must be some special formula that I have. Some special cocktail. My clients are very consistent with one important element: Self-care. Everyone has a body they need to take care of. It doesn't matter how famous you are, how much money you make or how in love you are. We are all on equal playing ground in that no other person can take care of your body for you.

One of the main lessons I have had to learn through being a teacher, and being the example, is how to create healthy habits and the environment for my body to fall into place. I used to think that I would feel better when... (fill in the blank), so my self-worth was wrapped up in all of these accomplishments yet to be fulfilled. Once I had reached a particular goal and didn't feel better about myself, I would simply transfer my self-worth to another outside goal. More than anything else, self-care has helped me to build self-esteem.

This body is a gift, and my job in this life is to take care of this amazing instrument. Ah, to be able to move and use my body! Isn't amazing how we take care of our cars and our pets, and we put our bodies as the lowest priority? We would never ignore a flashing red light on our dashboard, but if we have a pain in our body we tend to ignore it, thinking it will go away. Often waiting until we are ill before we realize that our our health is imperative. As a doer, I tend to put myself last, so I have learned the hard way to tend to myself. I have learned to rest when I am tired, to prepare a healthy meal when I am hungry, and to make sure I am hydrated. I move to keep my body supple and responsive. When I take care of myself, I thrive and self-care becomes a meditation on loving myself.

It seems that there are only so many hours in the day, and sometimes I wonder how it can be possible do everything I need to do. I have found several really simple things that make me feel vibrant and are easy to add into the routine.

Twice a year I give myself a tune-up. I used to think that I was undisciplined because I couldn't be super restrictive with my diet all the time. Then I realized I can do it in concentrated periods. I do some sort of detox to clean up my diet in September and also in April.

There are several options for me:

  • Clean Up Your Diet: Paleo Diet, Yeast-free diet, Go Raw or Vegan, The Zone Diet
  • Give up a vice or three. Eliminate sugar, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol. Yes, in order to make room for something new, we must restrict and create space.
  • Replace with healthy treats! Add organic fresh vegetables, avocado, nuts and unpackaged, whole foods.
  • Hydrate. Three liters of water a day is ideal. If you need to add flavor, try cucumber slices or add a splash of cranberry juice.

  • Detoxify by sweating. Try infrared sauna, hot yoga, indoor cycling.
  • Twisting yoga postures help to wring out and detoxify the internal organs.
  • Meditate and breathe.
  • Morning Pages: write out your feelings first thing in the a.m. Sometimes we need to detox our thoughts. Let it out!
  • Slow down. Once a day, take a 30-minute walk. This will slow you down and help you to become present.
  • Service. Do a good turn for someone else. It gives me self esteem to help another in need.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy is the New Rich

I spent last week in Toronto in my hotel room, watching from afar as the stock market and people's emotions went up and down respectively. With all of this financial unrest, lack of stability and security, and questions about our futures and what it means to be "downgraded", I couldn't help but think, what is it that really belongs to us?

For all of the years that we spend pouring our energy into the future that will bring us money, or love, or the perfect body... and living for the satisfaction we will feel once we have these things, I realized that the true commodity is really not the number in the bank account, the number on the scale, or the perfect relationship. It occurs to me that what we may be chasing is not any of these things, but a feeling of contentment and, if I may be so bold: happiness.

There is a word that many yogis and yoginis use: equanimity. How can I find a place of balance in the face of so much change and volatility? Being a natural born downplayer, a cup half empty type of gal from the get go, I actually NEED to counterbalance the negativity with positivity. Not just balance and equanimity, but happiness. The fears I may be facing may be slightly different than yours. Certainly discomfort is unpleasant, yet some of us may face shame or humiliation when we lose what we have worked for. This can happen in my yoga practice as well. Many times, my body has been at the height of heath, and I have pushed myself, only to incur an injury that sets me back for months, setting me up for the challenge of humility and humanity.

There have been several times in my life when I was faced with what I call " a clean sweep" from the Universe. A break-up, my finances plummeting, my body giving out, the loss of a loved one, a move... my life fell down like a line of dominos; it seemed there was no foundation to rely on. Although the natural inclination is to curse ourselves with shame or get mad at God (or anyone in front of us), the true gold is when we are no longer outwardly focused, and find a happiness anyway.

Easier said than done? True. However, I have had it the reverse as well: the guy I liked was into me, i was making tons of money in my chosen career, my body was the way I wanted it to be (too thin...) and I was terrified. Miserable that I may lose what I have. So what is this future we fear? And where does happiness come from? 

What if losing is not the worst thing in the world? Perhaps there will be an outcome beyond what you could imagine. If I were truly happy, would it matter if I were wealthy? If I were wealthy would that make me happy?

By taking a few long deep breaths, and expressing gratitude for your gifts daily, waking up, and acting as if you have all the money, all the love, and the perfect body you may just act your way into that happiness you are seeking. As the saying by Abraham Lincoln goes: "I am as happy as I decide to be". (Incidentally, he struggled with depression).

The beauty of this life is that I am in a body that takes care to maintain. It is free to exercise, to breathe, to practice yoga, to walk on the beach, to smile, to have a conversation, to read uplifting words, to feel love, to weep, to pet an animal, to lend a hand. This life is an absolute beauty. And as someone commented "another day on this beautiful earth". I am beyond grateful to share this beautiful planet in this gift of a body with all of you. Thank you for reading my blog today. And just for today, I am going to act exactly the way I think I would feel if I had it all. And for this day I do have it all.

Salute the sun!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Celebrating My Father

My dad.
August 8th is the day that marks my father's passing, seven years ago. He was 60 years old, and he left me with the greatest legacy: teaching yoga. I recall being in my first downward facing dog, following dad’s death. Although I had always resented that my dad pretty much left me on my own, without enough direction, attention or love, it struck me that my father had handed yoga down to me. Not only did that tie me directly to him, but also to a practice that was thousands of years old. He connected me to both the past, and the future. As I teach yoga and fitness, I am a conduit, while honoring my own relationship (often complex!) with my father.

Lloyd Ingber loved his body. A basic day in the life of my dad’s routine when I was a child went something like this:
4:30 a.m. - awaken
4:30-5:30 a.m. - morning meditation 
5:30 a.m. - walk barefooted on dewy grass outside
5:45-7:15 a.m. - yoga practices, pranayama (breathing exercises)
7:15 a.m. - breakfast
8-9:30 a.m. - 25 mile bike ride through the hills and up the California coast
9:30-10:30 a.m. - hit the gym (possible handball game), shower
11:00 a.m. - office (having ridden his bike there), work (yes, an attorney)
6:30 p.m. - bike ride home, swim 50-100 laps, eat an enormous salad, a bag of raisins, pass out in front of the t.v., reading
9:30-10 p.m. - bed…. wake up and start all over again.
Yes, that was my dad.

Such a stud as a Fairfax High student.
13 year old Lloyd.
15 years old. Watch your daughters!
His fitness regime began when he was just a boy, no older than 13, when he began lifting weights and building his body. He was born to orthodox Jewish parents who were rather hard on him, and his claim to fame was being able to beat up his own father at age 14. (My grandfather was 4’9”, incidentally, and a kosher butcher.) It seemed that power was very important to Lloyd Ingber, but moreover mastery of his physical body, which later lead to mastery over his own energetic body, and then over subtle aspects of himself.

An average morning spectacle in the Ingber household.
When I was age 7, he incurred several back injuries, and turned to vegetarianism, yoga and cycling to help him heal. It worked. His immersion in these newfound cures were surely fueled by the rebel in him, to revolt against all of the meat his parents had fed him throughout the years. He introduced us to books like Dr. Henry Bieler’s “Food Is Your Best Medicine”, and the then popular “Sugar Blues”. We were exposed to B.K.S. Iyengar’s “Light On Yoga” and Richard Hittleman’s yoga book and television series.
When I was 9 or 10, we became macrobiotic, and we began to see acupuncturist Master Ni Hua Ching instead of physicians. Our mother would diagnose us, and prepare the food according to the needs of the family. Books like “You Are All Sanpaku” and homemade Amazake in the oven were standard in our Los Angeles home.

As my father continued his search for personal self-mastery, he happened upon the Taoist yogas of Mantak Chia, and remained a practitioner of those teachings throughout his life. The subtler yogas,including 90-minute standing meditations and Chi Gong, replaced competitive sports. He also changed wives several times, but all the while staying connected to his quest for mastery.
Dad and fatherhood: Take 2. Age 54.
In fact, when my father contracted his cancer, Lymphoma, he was the one he who found his own tumor through self massage. He was able to identify and have a relationship to his internal organs, and even used meditation practices aiming to heal the anger and hurt he felt regarding his childhood.
Lloyd Ingber was such a great example. He changed my view of cancer in that he was never a victim. He would  actually say that he was the healthiest he had ever been, except for the cancer. What struck me most was his dedication to care for his body (mind and spirit), even with the limitations of his disease. For as long as he could move, he was constantly in a yoga pose. Mostly supta bada konasana (reclining butterfly), which gave his internal organs more space from the tumors. He could still do the splits in every direction, and never stopped his self-care practices. Even on his last day alive, although in a wheelchair and in and out of consciousness, what struck me was that he requested to be wheeled to the bathroom sink, where I watched him brush his teeth. To the very last day, his commitment to self care was awesome. This conveys to me an honest gratitude for the greatest gift we are given in life - The body!

Lloyd Ingber: Life Force Energy!
His efforts to control his body may have failed, but in the end, it was much more about the quality of the life he did have in the body he inhabited. And his ability to finally release the body...On the day he passed, just before I watched him brush his teeth, he demanded that "the man on his shoulder" be asked to leave. "I can't make him leave, dad." He then said these random words: "Tweet tweet tweet. Free free free."
I cannot express enough my gratitude to this man who was a legend in his own mind, and mine as well. And I celebrate him today by sharing as much of him as I can with you.

Tweet Tweet Tweet...

Free Free Free...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Open Your Heart!

Opening my heart is truly one of my life's goals. I am a big thinker and planner, and I try to do a lot within my own head. The truth is in my heart. When I explore ways of sharing myself, I do not always know what the outcome is. This can be challenging... to trust. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I don't like to look bad, so often times I stay shut off. Safe. Part of why we love actors so much is because they are sharing the intimacy of their hearts. We all have similar feelings, just different triggers. Opening your heart can sometimes be messy, but that is the fun of it.

Yoga presents plenty of opportunity for opening the heart. Literally focusing your mind in the center of your chest activates the heart. In Buddhism they say that the true mind is in the heart center. Try putting your awareness there. You may even try gently placing one hand on your heart and place the other gently on top. Just smile to that place in your chest and notice what or if anything happens.

Here are 3 ways to open your heart:

1. Add cardio into your practice this month, to get the heart rate up. You can get some of my great cardio playlists in my 
Music Lounge. Cardiovascular work includes spinning, dancing, rollerblading, walking, jogging. This will increase your lung capacity, endurance, and will lift your spirits.

2. Sun salutes are not only celebrating the sun, but are very much the cardio aspect to the yoga practice. The breath oxygenates the blood and the heart pumps the blood to all the extremities, giving us that endorphin rush. Watch the video below 
for my breakdown of the Sun Salute. You can also buy my 3-pack of downloadable mini routines and get a free Sun Salute instructional. 

3. Energize your practice with some stimulating Back Bends. Check the Yoga Poses of the Month and watch the following videos for some great heart-opening poses.

Although opening the heart can feel vulnerable (I often feel a creepy feeling when I do heart opening poses. Almost like a flutter in my chest), the alternative is to be stoic and rigid. Ultimately, the heart openers keep the spine supple and flexible, which the yogis and yoginis say is the key to youth.

Be like an actor this week and open your heart!