I’ve been living the broke but happy life for a little over a year now. Since giving up legal pursuits for yoga ones, I’ve been scraping by, but have not had nearly enough money to travel. When my long-time Instagram friend Pat Baily (aka Pat Russo, aka @patbailey) invited me to go on a retreat with her Hell Yes Agency in Sayulita, Mexico, I had to seriously pause before I considered it. This was the first time I’d had the money for a retreat in my bank account, but that would also mean nearly draining all my financial resources in the process. The fact that on my list of 32 things to do before I turn 32 renew and use my passport was something that weighed in on my decision-making process. I chose to drain my bank account and go relying on promises of some freelance work I had coming in in the few weeks after I returned.Now that I’m back and have secured my finances for the next month or two, I had the time to pause and reflect on the retreat. There was a lot I really enjoyed, some I could have done without, and a few lessons learned.
When I arrived in Sayulita at the Amor Boutique Hotel (more pictures on my travel page), I was instantly greeted with hugs and smiles. All the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. Most spoke enough English that I could use my broken Spanglish back, and we got things figured out. I really didn’t have any communication problems. The rooms were beautiful, there was a spa, pool, yoga villa, private beach, restaurant, free bikes, free surf boards, free yoga lessons, free paddle boards, massages, etc. My villa had two other people staying it. We had a balcony, a pool, a kitchen, fresh water, two suits and one bedroom with a separate bathroom, and my room had its own entrance and exit. The loner in me was really happy with that last one. Town was only a short walk away down the road or beach (maybe ten minutes), and fairly safe.
The town of Sayulita itself is a mixture of native Mexican people and foreigners (A LOT from Los Angeles) who moved to town to surf, fish, and/or teach yoga or open another business. Most places had someone around that spoke English if needed, and everywhere I went took credit cards if you didn’t have pesos. A lot also took US dollars. Not the street vendors though! I had a fun time haggling over pesos with them.
Back to the retreat. The thing I really disliked about the retreat was actually two things that sound contradictory. The retreat was both over, and under organized. We didn’t get our schedules, for example, until after we arrived. That meant I WAY overpacked because I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. And when we got our schedules, we only had about a combined 5 hours of free time per day and the rest was scheduled between 7 am and 10 pm. It was pretty exhausting. I opted to avoid a lot of the workshops (not yoga ones) to spend some time alone strolling through town or peeking in tide pools.
What I really liked was the location and the yoga instructor. Kudos to Pat for choosing an amazing establishment. The hotel was perfectly situated at the end of the beach so we were far enough from town to avoid all the noise, and we were right on the ocean (I mean the beach under us disappeared at high tide, right on the ocean!). Seriously, I loved my stay there and everyone who worked there that I interacted with. Major kudos to Janalyn who is the retreat organizer at the hotel (Instagram @janalyn.rose). She taught us daily yoga and met up with us for all meals. She also tried to teach us to stand up paddleboard yoga, but most of us were epic failures at that. Janalyn organized a lot of cool things for us like meeting other local business owners, taking salsa lessons, and a ladies’ Valentine’s dinner with chocolates. She even went out of her way to make sure that the place we met to have our meals could accommodate my gluten allergy. They were wonderful. The place is called Tierra Viva if you are ever looking for a restaurant with good food (really good) and fresh ingredients who can cater to any dietary restriction. They were very careful for me and I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t see Janylyn as much as I saw Pat, because she was mostly meeting us off property. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the schedule, the events I missed tended to be the ones she hosted like vision boarding or heart mapping. However, she always raised interesting and deep topics of conversation at meals to keep us all talking and bonding, so I imagine her workshops were great. Her yoga classes were a great mix of static and dynamic movements and were flows that deviated from the traditional vinyasa style which I really liked. I also learned more about paddle boarding from her in 15 minutes than I have from anyone in my whole life. She really knows her stuff about anything ocean related. Oh, and she’s also a photographer.
So, what did I learn? I learned that the next retreat I go on will be one with a more fluid schedule. I also prefer activities that get me out into the town or onto the ocean instead of hanging in the hotel. While I think vision boarding, for example, is a wonderful workshop, I would have preferred if it was on the beach instead of indoors. Same for the sister circle or ukulele and yin yoga. I love nature and I love the outdoors. If I’m traveling to somewhere I can be outside all the time, I want to be outside as much as possible. If I’m given the options of ukulele and yin indoors versus sitting by the ocean and night and looking at the stars, I’m going to choose the later. If the two were combined, it would have been perfect. Note to self for future retreat hosting.
I also learned I much prefer activities with a fitness aspect or some element of excitement. Rather than touring the shops of town, I’d rather explore the hidden caves along the beaches 20 miles away. Rather than going to a famous churro stand, I would prefer to hike to a waterfall. So now I know that if I go on another retreat that I would be happier with a yoga and adventure retreat. One of the reasons I didn’t bond with my fellow retreaters as much as I could have been because I was off exploring so much on my own. Maybe that’s because I’m an introvert, maybe it’s because I get anxious when I have to follow a tight schedule that requires a lot of bouncing from place to place. Maybe it’s because I just wanted to do my own thing. Who knows. That’s a topic for another blog post. I do know for sure that I will never do another retreat without the schedule upfront, but I would travel with Pat or Janalyn again, and for sure go back to Sayulita and the Amor Boutique Hotel. Maybe I'll plan my own retreat there. I will definitely be going back to Sayulita soon; there's a certain magic about that pltownace.
Check out my travel page for more pictures of Sayulita as well as my instagram accounts: @cherylandhercamera and @cherylfyoga. xoxo!
I’m not big on celebrating my birthday anymore. In truth, I really only mark the occasion out of a feeling of obligation. I don’t think the fact that I lived 365 days deserves celebration, other than thanking my parents for creating me I mean, it is nice to be acknowledged and get a little bit of attention for no particular reason. It is nice to hear from people I don’t speak with regularly. But if I’m being completely honest, I could skip the day all together and it would not be that big of a deal. It was always a big to-do for me when I was younger, and I always made a fuss. My theory was that I could celebrate for the day before and the day after, as well. Unfortunately, having a birthday on December 6, and going to college proved futile for my birthday partying ways. From college through law school, my birthday was always right before finals week, making celebrations difficult. Instead of big parties, I switched to dinner with friends. After law school, I worked more, and went out less. I was splitting time between legal work and the food service industry, making a consistent social life somewhat difficult. Instead of massive celebrations, I switched to a small gathering of friends at a bar, drinking, dancing, and freezing our butts off in the Vermont winter. The last two years, however, that changed into going out with one or two friends the night before my birthday, toasting at midnight, and then getting beyond hammered. This resulted in sleeping through my actual birthday, too hung over to do anything but spoon my dog and whine. Productive, right? Probably not the best idea for an ex drug addict, either.
This year, being in between my apartment in Los Angeles and moving in with my boyfriend in New Jersey, I’m staying with my parents in northern California. No friends here, no desire to go out and get hammered, no real urge to do anything to mark the occasion except eat the brownies my boyfriend mailed me and get a decent gluten free meal with my parents. When asked by a few of my Instagram followers how I was planning on celebrating turning 31, I had to think for a few minutes. I wasn’t really doing anything to celebrate. I wasn’t expecting any gifts because I had not asked for anything, and I wasn’t expecting my parents to make a fuss because I didn’t ask them to do anything. I decided instead of making a big fuss about myself, I would make a big fuss for myself. I’m giving myself a present this year. I came up with the idea to make a list of 32 things to do or change about myself before I turn 32 on December 6, 2017. I will be blogging and posting on Instagram about my experiences as I check things off.
I really hope my list inspires you to go out and give yourself something for your birthday. Not a present you can buy off the shelves, but one that pushes you to try and learn new things and grow as a person. Enjoy!!
32 by 32
Best Street Art Walls in the Arts District
You've seen the pictures all over social media: beautiful murals and brightly colored walls with bloggers, yogis, and photo fanatics posing all around. There are soooooooooooooooooo (enough o's for you, because I don't know if that's enough to get my point across, lol) many murals and graffiti hot spots all over LA that it would be impossible to see them all in the time I have lived here. I mean even the city electrical boxes are artfully painted! Some of this street art changes constantly, such is the nature of painting on privately owned buildings. However, some of this art has become like an institution in Los Angeles, especially in the Art's District of Downtown.
I was fortunate to spend the last year living a short distance from the Arts District; one of the major hotbeds of street art in the city, and one of the places with some of the most iconic art. The scenery around here is constantly changing with new tags, new artists, and photographers and videoagraphers wandering all around. After all, it's an artsy place with lots of creative types and there are a limited number of walls and fences and abandoned vehicles around town. A lot of the art you will see once and come back and find covered over by something entirely new. However, the ten places below are some of those iconic Arts District photographable places that don't change (or at least not in the year that I've been going to them), and therefore guarantee you a consistently beautiful experience each time.
So where are these walls I and so many others are fond of photographing? I've mapped them out for you, and included the link in this post, but here's a written description with photos as well. Sorry guys, I haven't been able to take yoga pictures at all of them just yet. Even though I wish it was the case, every moment can't always be a yoga pose moment (pout). Also, under each of the write ups following the pictures/galleries, there is a link directly to the artist's website or social media account if the artist is known (and has an online presence). Enjoy!
1. Corner of Los Angeles and Winston Streets
One of a few very large Audrey Hepburn murals created by Free Humanity. The mural is 15 x 50 feet in size and shows a lovely Ms. Hepburn surrounded by a field of hearts. It reads "It's that wonderful old fashioned idea that others come first and you come second."
I love this wall because of Audrey, obviously. But the other great thing about it is the background. The hearts and love are truly beautiful and fit right in with the artist's mission statement: "Taking back the Humanity stolen from our minds by social manipulation and planting the seed of positivity through art and consciousness." Also, I'm a sucker for heart walls. www.freehumanity.la
2. Angel City Brewery, 216 Alameda Street
The Angel City Brewery is known for it's beer and it's art walls. The red brick features one of many of the the Heart of Los Angeles walls designed by artist Tiphanie Brooke, a.k.a. antigirl, and her partner Mike Polson. http://antigirl.la/
You probably know the brewery most, however, for it's wall featuring an installation of The Global Wings Project by Colette Miller, which has a second location in the Arts District and several others around LA. Ms. Miller founded this project in 2012 "to remind humanity that we are the angels of this earth." http://colettemiller.com/angelwings
3. EightyTwo, 707 E. 4th Place
This place is actually a really cool bar and arcade during the evening and night. During the daytime it's an awesome place to stop and take pictures! The building was done as an untitled collaborative piece between Vyal (aka Vyal One) and RISK. Vyal is a native of East LA and is known for using dark, rich colors and his signature eyes and bubbles. You've probably seen his work around town in a few places. http://www.vyalone.com/
RISK was one of the first Southern California graffiti artists to paint freight trains, helping to spark that trend which he later took to art galleries for installation work. He has another collaborative piece in Santa Monica which is instantly recognizable from a similar color scheme and painting style as the one pictured here. www.riskrock.com
4. South Hewitt Street (in between E. 4th Place and Traction)
This tiny little spot wedged in between much bigger murals is home to the very first ever installation of the Global Wings Project. It is in this spot that Colette Miller launched her world wide project. www.colettemiller.com
5. Art Share Building, 801 E. 4th Place
This building is one of my favorite spots because of all the beautiful colors. The building itself is "creative environment for [artists] to reside, develop, perform and exhibit". www.artsharela.org. Painted black with waves of teal and yellow and pink, red, and more, the building is quite lovely, and very dynamic. The artist who painted the outside of the building is an international street artist named INSA from the United Kingdom. www.insaland.com
6. Paddy's Pub, Corner of Mateo and Palmetto Streets.
So if you haven't seen It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you will have no idea what Paddy's Pub is. If you have, sweet, we're on the same page! This is actually not a decorated building in the traditional street art sense, but if you are following my walls in order from the top to the bottom of this page (by that I mean walking around looking at them), you will pass this building. This building is used for everything from pop-up sample sales, to Chase Bank commercials (I accidentally interrupted filming taking pictures outside once....ooops), to hit TV series. What I love about it is the three big brick archways with green painted doors behind them. Each door in a different state of paint disrepair and each has its own wood patterning. It's not graffiti, but it is a really cool building with a lot of screen time, and definitely worth checking out.
7. Blue (and yellow, and teal, and red...the colors change) Color Block Wall, Villains Tavern parking lot at the intersection of S. Santa Fe Avenue and Willow Street.
And literally, that's all the information I have and/or could find on this location except that the colors change relatively often, and this place is frequently used for various forms of videos and photo shoots.
8. Polka Dot Wall, The Springs, 608 Mateo St., DTLA Arts District
I don't know much about this piece of work. It's created by The Most Famous Artist, aka Matty Mo. He is a conceptual artist whose works appear all over Los Angeles. His works answer the epitome of the millennial quandary: how does one make street art into ultimate selfie backdrop or Instagram shot? He is well known in the LA street art (and Instagram and blogging crowds) for exploring how social media (and influencers) can be used to promote [street] art and business. www.themostfamousartist.com
9. Heart Wall, Broke LA, 695 S Santa Fe. Street
I stumbled upon this wall by accident. I wasn't looking for it, actually I had gone too far past the entrance to the Los Angeles River and found these hearts. I wasn't able to find much information about the place online at all, which is unfortunate. There aren't a lot of pictures on social media for this place either which makes it much more of a hidden gem (yay). My favorite thing about this place is the way the hearts spill out onto the side walk and cover all the surrounding walls. It's an explosion of hearts and colors and love.
10. Kim West Mural - 'Ode to Bohemia', 7th & Mill Streets
This work appears all over Instagram, but rarely in it's complete form. Bloggers and yogis love the lilies and irises, but I love this walking by shot of one of the walls this mural covers. It actually wraps around two sides of this building. www.kimwest.com
Bonus Find!!! Los Angeles River Access
If you've seen an action movie filmed in LA, you've seen the LA River. Specifically, you've seen this section of the LA river under where the 6th street bridge used to be. This spot has been featured in movies like: 'The Italian Job', 'Last Action Hero', 'Grease', 'Terminator 2', and more. It's also been in commercials, TV shows, and music videos. I happened to find the entrance along S. Santa Fe Avenue while walking towards the heart wall above. It is at Santa Fe and 6th Street and looks like a sketchy underpass covered in graffiti. It's often closed off for filming, photo shoots, or construction (the bridge is being rebuilt), so you may not gain access. If you do, however, it's worth the visit.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that lately I’ve been very open about the fact that I’ve been spiraling into a depressive episode. This is nothing new for me. I’ve been dealing with a major depressive disorder since I was diagnosed with anorexia during high school.. Although today, almost fifteen years since my diagnosis, I know the signs, symptoms, and what to expect, the difficulty of the situation remains the same. What does help me is what I am about to share with you. While I lack professional experience in mental health fields, I have ample personal experience and over time have found certain specifics that aid me when I am hitting a low point. While I cannot promise you that these techniques will work for you, I can share with you what assists me when this issue arises..
When I know I’m about to fall into a depressive state, there are certain things I do to try and mitigate the symptoms. Sometimes I can head off the full on depression, sometimes I can’t. Either way, I refuse to let it wash over me and engulf me completely because that makes it worse. I have to hold onto my will to fight, for whatever reason, or I will sink completely. I’ve been to some very dark places in my life (mentally), and I know I’m lucky to have pulled myself out. Now, I do everything I can to fight from falling that deeply again. Sometimes it works, sometimes it takes every ounce of strength just to walk my dog in the morning. But at the end of the day, I know I fought a little bit for myself and that makes a huge difference.
So, what if you’re spiraling?
If you’re familiar with your depression, by now you already know the warning signs for an impending depressive episode. If you aren’t, here’s what happens to me.
I get really, really hard on myself. I’ll be sitting at my desk paying bills or thinking about upcoming work projects, and I will start to think about all the money I could have made by now as an attorney. Or I’ll think about all the things I need in order to repair my car and all the money I need for my upcoming move to New Jersey, and how I don’t think I’ll ever make ends meet. “Why am I doing this to myself? Why did I give up on years of education and schooling to choose this path? Being broke is hard. All this stress...why am I constantly adding more pressure to myself when a corporate job would be so much easier? I have the experience. Hell, I could probably make more money going back to bartending than teaching yoga at the moment. What am I doing with my life?! I’m thirty years old for fuck’s sake!!!!!”
Usually something along those lines. And then it keeps going and I cycle through all the problems in my life. Real or imagined, miniscule or magnified. This process could take hours, especially because I naturally dwell on things that bother me. And every time I think about one of the things that triggered that cycle, it starts all over again.
I also get very irritable. I will snap at anyone who looks at me strangely, or start crying at the drop of a hat. It’s 50/50 but I’m an angry crier anyways (by which I mean I tend to cry when I am mad). Usually it’s a combination of the two, with irritability winning in public, and crying taking over when I get home. Just ask anyone who has ever dated me when I go through these episodes. Tread lightly or you will get snapped at. Sorry exes (and current boyfriend)!I will cry for no reason. None at all. I could be brushing my teeth. I could be walking my dog. I could have just gotten an “I love you” text from my sister. I will bawl my eyes out and it will only stop when I have no more moisture left in my body.
I will feel guilty and apologize for everything. This goes back to me being hard on myself (and maybe a little of the Jewish guilt I inherited from my ancestors, who knows). I will apologize for things I did in high school (did I mention I’m thirty?). I will apologize for things I said in anger four years ago that others probably don't remember. I will apologize for any and everything that could cause me some level of guilt. Honestly, it’s because I feel like a lousy person and these apologies feel like something I need to do. I feel as though I don’t deserve those people in my life because of my actions. I know it’s mostly in my head, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling that way.
How do I deal with this?
First, I tell my loved ones. My mother also has depression. I love her for the fact that she never tries to fix me, she just tries to be there for me. I have friends like that too. It’s really important to have people like this around because you are not broken; there is nothing to fix even if it feels like it. That, and what works for others (especially those who don't actually have clinical depression) may not work for you. My boyfriend, as much as I love him, struggles with this. In all fairness, it is very new to him. I didn’t used to tell him what was going with me, and my depressive episodes (thank goodness) don’t happen all too often. I understand why he wants to make suggestions to improve my situation. It’s normal to want to try and help the ones you love. I have that same tendency too. However, that doesn’t actually help me. What it does is make me angry and guilty and sad and frustrated and overall, makes me feel worse about my situation for not being able to “fix” myself. I am not broken, I just feel deeply and differently. So while I will tell the fixers what is going on, it’s the people who just offer their support and love that I rely on. I need some safe space to voice what’s going on, or if I can’t, then to simply feel loved. Often I don’t feel anything inside, and the love from others eases that pain.
Next, I get outside. Aside from the proven healing benefits of sunlight, nature just helps me. The unfettered beauty, the purity of it all. I really don’t know what it is, but something about trees and mountains and waterfalls, makes everything I’m going through seem much less significant. Maybe it’s because I’m reminded that no matter what, life will go on. Maybe it’s the reminder that most of the world is much bigger than me and my struggles. Maybe it’s seeing a blade of grass break through some concrete just to survive. I really can't pinpoint it, but I can tell you that it helps me.
My pets play a huge role in my psychological recovery. My dog will snuggle with me for hours, and whenever I cry, my cat will jump in my lap and purr. She knows I need her and will sit with me to comfort me as best as kitties can. Petting her really helps me get into a meditative calm mindset where I’m not thinking about anything else but that moment. Being responsible for two living beings helps me retain my sense of personal responsibility and keeps me getting up in the morning.
I force myself to be active. Even if it’s only for ten minutes at a time. I hike with my dog or take her to the dog park just to see the smile on her goofy face. I’ll do some yoga intermittently, or go to the gym and lift weights for abit. Mostly i do things that I can do from home because getting motivated is hard. But I know from experience that exercise helps. Scientifically it stimulates the neurotransmitters in your brain that induce feelings of happiness. Personally, it makes me feel like I accomplished something and did something to better myself. And most importantly, given my eating disordered history, it helps me keep from feeling negative about my body.
Last, I always, always force myself to do something I’ve been putting off. Whether it’s paying my bills, or putting away my laundry, or even just showering, I make myself do it. It’s easy with depression to get lost in the sadness and wallow in the dark places. The only way I can get out of it is to take responsibility for myself and my life. It starts with the little things. The sense of accomplishment from doing one little thing I’ve been dreading or avoiding helps me carry on with my day to day life and helps me remember that I can accomplish things if I try.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s experience with depression is different, and you have to find what works for you. But you have to be the one to do it. I am depressed, but I also have anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (and a history with drug addiction and eating disorders), so my experiences might be very different from yours. In my times in between depressive episodes I have been proactive about making choices that will foster happiness in my life. It is my (and your) personal responsibility to deal with this depression. So try different things and see what works for you. What we all have in common is that hiding behind our depression or wallowing in it makes it worse. Sharing what you are going through is hard; personally, over time I’ve realized that it helps me heal. What I hope for all of you is that you can find what works for you as well. Your depression may never go away. I’m fifteen years down this path and I don’t necessarily think it will suddenly be fine in the future. But I have set up a system that works for me to help me cope with what I’m going through as well as keeping people that are close to me updated on my situation. Please remember, it’s ok to not be okay. We’re all just doing the best we can in this world, taking it one day at a time.
I had an encounter with a social media account in the past few days that really got me thinking about body image in the media and what the body positive movement is missing in its message. What happened is that recently a swimwear brand that I followed on social media posted an image that I found absolutely deplorable. The image was a girl’s chest and abs with Snapchat writing across that read “don’t get fat, you’ll get stretch marks and die”. I literally stopped in my tracks and took a screenshot of the image to look at later and make sure I hadn’t misread anything. A brand that markets swimwear blatantly fat shaming their tens of thousands of followers? I had to be wrong. Unfortunately, I was not. That image was there, and it is burned into my mind. I mentioned how deplorable I found the post, and how disappointed i was with the brand on my personal Instagram account which has less than 300 followers (significantly less than my yoga one). Instead of responding in any meaningful manner, the brand blocked me. This is coming on the heels of me reading an article about a Playboy Bunny who Snapchatted a picture of a naked woman at the gym in order to fat shame her. My initial reaction: “What is wrong with people?!” And then I started thinking about why certain people (I often call them mean girls) lash out through social media when they didn’t need to post anything at all. Even if lashing out is passive aggressive like the swimwear brand instead of blatant like the Playboy Bunny. Why do these mean girls do this? After ruminating on the matter for some time, I reached a conclusion-the recent popularity of the body positive movement has brought more figures of all different shapes and sizes to the forefront. This is amazing, but it also makes people who haven't accepted themselves starkly aware of that fact. These people are the ones who fat shame and tell the super skinny girl to go eat a burger. They haven’t accepted themselves, so they lash out at others. The journey to self acceptance is a topic I plan on tackling in depth at a later date. For now, I’d like to ask a question about the body positive moment to all of you and hopefully get some good feedback.
Body image in the media has always been tricky. The images that are portrayed follow what society’s beauty trends of the moments are. Back in the 90s, the epitome of beauty was the waif like model. In the later part of the 2000s, it became all about the booty. Now, it’s all about being body positive. So what we see nowadays are women everywhere embracing their curves and being confident in who they are, as they are. I think that’s amazing that the media is embracing women of all kinds. But often when we become highly polarized in one direction, we foster groups that become highly polarized in the other direction, such as the mean girls I mentioned above. It’s wonderful that models come in real sizes and women no longer only aspire to be thin to be beautiful. But this all begs the question, “why is blind body acceptance the goal?”
For me and my body, self acceptance has been a long road. I’m medium boned by build, and have a very small torso so changes in weight show very quickly in my upper body. I spent years fighting my genetics and trying to starve myself into the skinny I thought was beautiful. Lots of self work and self love later, I’ve changed how I approach self acceptance. I don’t fixate on the image in the mirror, and pick out my flaws, or weigh myself daily. I ask myself not if I’m thin enough, but rather if I’m healthy enough. And that’s my biggest problem with the body positive movement of today. Rather than encouraging health, it encourages embracing the physical form ignoring not only the mind-body connection that humans naturally have, and ignoring that while all people are beautiful, not all bodies are healthy. We need to move away from seeing the form of the body as the standard for beauty and move towards encouraging people to be healthy in their minds and bodies. Instead of focusing on what we look like now, we should be thinking about how the shape of our bodies will contribute to, or take away from our health in the long run. This is true for the overweight and the underweight, even though the underweight and thinner people are often left out of the body positive discussion.
I’m not saying everyone in the world should go and join and gym or run miles every day or that everyone needs to go vegan. What I am saying is that the body positive movement and the way the body is portrayed in social media in general ignores the overall picture of health and sends the message that our beauty is defined by our bodies. Yes, you can be overweight and beautiful. But are you healthy or is the added weight compressing your joints? You can also be skinny and be beautiful. But you can be thin and malnourished like I was when I had an eating disorder. Embracing your body doesn't mean being lazy about taking care of yourself, it doesn’t mean ignoring your health. What it means is that your shape does not define you. The overweight girl is no less beautiful than the underweight one, and to say anything different is wrong. Embracing your body should go hand in hand with protecting your body, which is why I think we need to take the body positive movement that one step further. #healthybodypositive Health needs to be a focus and priority for all of us.
So how do we make a change? First stop following bullshit instagram and twitter accounts that fat shame or skinny shame people. We can’t let that behavior become the norm or in any way condone it. Second, stop focusing how you look externally and start focusing on how you feel internally. Focus on your health and your love for your body will increase exponentially. Don’t fixate on the body, fixate on creating the positive.
Below are links to two other blogs that expand on these issues a bit more.
Building Wrist Strength for Your Yoga Practice
Wrist injuries are common in yoga because we are constantly moving in and out of poses that put pressure on our wrists. A lot of poses that are incorporated into the daily practices of most Yogis (Downward Dog or Plank, for example) put pressure on our wrists, particularly when moving between them. These weight-bearing movements need proper muscle strength in order to avoid injury. This is especially true if you plan on advancing your asana practice into more physically demanding postures, such as arm balances or inversions, which rely on your wrist joints to support your body. Personally, the more I advance my own practice, the more I find myself spending time putting strain on my wrists. Consequently, it becomes even more important to make sure I spend time building strength in order to avoid injury.
Generally, one of two things happen that lead to pain and/or injury in your wrist(s). Reaching the end of your range of motion (ROM) with arms fully extended in weight-bearing exercises such as a plank can place undue stress on your wrist joints to compensate for the inadequate range of motion. If you don’t have the wrist flexibility, your body will rely on your joints to support you (which is why I have included a wrist stretch at the end of my strengthening exercises). Either of these two issues can cause pain in, or injure the wrists. They are common and are easily preventable.
I decided to incorporate wrist strengthening exercises into my practice due to the reasons listed above. For me, many advanced asanas in my current practice require my shoulders to come past my wrists, like in crane pose, or pressing into handstands. When I first started, I would frequently feel pain or weakness in my wrists and knew it couldn’t be a good thing. Unfortunately, basic conditioning moves (like the ones which follow) are often overlooked in yoga classes. I chose these exercises (which I do 3-5 times per week) while working alongside my yoga teacher during my studies, as well as consulting with some of my weightlifting and gymnast friends who are similarly afflicted by such injuries. Start small, with three sets of ten repetitions per exercise, building up over time to four or five sets of ten to twenty repetitions.
All of this leads me to the following five wrist strengthening exercises demonstrated in the minute-long slideshow at the top of this post, and below in collage form, with instructions to follow (Sorry to my cell phone viewers, the location of the picture collage might be at the top of the page until I can get this location bug fixed. My apologies.) :
1. Towel Wringing
We all know how this one goes. Anyone who has ever gotten their clothing soaked or wrung out a dish towel will be very familiar with this exercise. Take a towel and hold it parallel to the ground with your arms extended in front of you. Twist one wrist forward and one wrist back as if wringing water out of the towel repeatedly. Who knew all those years doing dishes were actually helping you gain wrist strength?
I promise this is not as weird as it sounds! Extend your arms parallel to the ground and open your hands as much as you can, reaching all the way through your fingertips. Then squeeze into a fist as tightly as you can. Rapidly repeat this motion. You can also play with bending your wrists back or down to see how that works different groups of muscles in your hands and forearms.
3. Wrist Curls
For this you will need hand weights, a soup can, or a (filled) water bottle like in my slideshow above. Rest your forearm, palm up, on your leg or a table (or some other level object), parallel to the ground with your wrist over the edge. Curl your wrist up and down.
4. Pronated Wrist Curls
This is exactly the same as #3, but you will set yourself up with your palm facing the ground instead of the sky.
5. Wrist Hammers
Take whatever you were using for a hand weight and hold it by your side as if you were holding a hammer in your hand (again, arms down and by your side, or in the parallel to the floor position described in step #3). Pretend that your weighted object is a hammer and move only your wrist to tap down that invisible nail, and then bring it all the way back up, and back to neutral; again moving only your wrist. This one will feel slightly awkward at first and your body’s natural tendency will be to flex at the wrist as you move the “hammer” up. Keep your wrists neutral, not flexed during this exercise.
6. STRETCH IT OUT
Don’t forget about your wrist mobility. There are a number of ways you can achieve the same stretch as in my slideshow above, without having to stretch as deeply. Try, for example,bending one arm and using the other hand to gently flex back the fingers and palm of the other hand and then slowly extend your forearm to the ground. This is a much gentler way of achieving the same muscle release and you can build up to more intense stretches.
Thank you all for taking the time to go over my recommended wrist strengthening exercises for yogis. Remember, while I am a trained yoga instructor, I am not a doctor. If you feel pain or severe discomfort in your wrists and/or have had serious injuries, please consult a medical professional before trying any new exercise regimen.
My Top 5, All Natural Home Remedies to Soothe Chronically Itchy Skin
I have eczema, or chronic contact dermatitis, or I’m celiac and have the skin reaction called dermatitis herpetiformis. No one really knows, not even my doctor parents. But to be fair, I’ve never really been tested for anything. What I do know is that I’ve had small, embarrassing, itchy rash patches for my entire life, and after 30 years of it, I’ve developed some decent methods to calm the itch and heal my skin. I mentioned this on my social media accounts and the response was incredible; I was given so many interesting home remedies to try. There are a surprising amount of similarly afflicted people. Because of the response I got, I decided to do a little research using myself as a test subject, and wanted to share what has helped me soothe the flare ups.
When I was little I used to get small itchy bumps on my elbows and the backs of my knees every summer. Eczema and hay fever run in my family, so naturally it was assumed the problem was along those lines. I used over the counter cortisone cream to mitigate the symptoms and just dealt with it. Eventually it went away, so I figured I’d outgrown the problem. Unfortunately, about three years ago, I started getting symmetrical itchy rashes along my neck when I wore jewelry. Because they only popped up after I wore a necklace and/or collared shirts in the heat, it was assumed it was contact dermatitis. Maybe it was, maybe it was heat rash, maybe it was something entirely different...who knows. I just know that cortisone didn’t work, scratching spread it, but if I left it alone, it would fade after about a week. Fast forward to a few months ago. Symmetrical rashes began appearing on the backs of my knees, then then inside of my arms, then my neck, then my chest, then my stomach. These rashes were different. Cortisone did nothing to help, no amount of eczema lotion or allergy pills alone took out the burning, itching sensation. I wanted to rip my skin off!
Once again, doctors can’t tell me what my rash is. Unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover allergy testing or expensive dermatology visits so my regular doctor could only do so much. I couldn’t just ignore the problem anymore, and I knew I had to do something. Knowing that three members of my family are celiacs and that celiac can present itself in a similar rash, along with dairy and gluten sensitivities, I decided to cut gluten and dairy out of my diet in case my rash was food allergy related. It seemed to help, and until I find out the actual cause of my rashes, I’ll have to keep my diet this way (however if you can get allergy tested or see a dermatologist, do that first!!). Changing my diet has mitigated the spread and frequency of the flare ups, so far, but the itch…...and the burning…...I had to find a solution. What I found that helped immediately, is what I discovered with a little research.
1. Goodbye hot showers.
Hot showers are wonderful, but they dry your skin out and dry skin leads to itchy skin. Itchy skin leads to scratching which leads to more rash outbreaks, or scarring, or infection. Just don’t risk it! Lukewarm showers aren’t the best, I’ll admit it. But, they make a world of difference in the moisture content of your skin.
2. Goodbye fancy, fragrant soaps and lotions.
Seriously, the fancy, expensive stuff smells amazing. However, in reality, they don’t always do much to help your skin. Instead go for body washes and lotions that are approved for treatment of eczema. Or look into ones with colloidal oatmeal and/or aloe vera as these sooth the skin and help lock in moisture. Also, another tip is to moisturize as soon as you towel off after your shower or bath. Your skin is more absorbent then, and the lotion will be more effective..
3. Hello cold compresses.
Cold compresses are amazing and they will become your new best friend. If you are tempted to itch, slap, or rub your skin, put an ice pack on it. Not only will the ice help numb the pain, but also it will remove some of the redness and swelling. No ice? Use a soda can or cold bottle of water. Anything significantly below your body temperature will help.
4. Hello tea tree and coconut oils.
These two are my two new best friends. Both have soothing and antiseptic qualities and both are all natural. Tea tree oil is rather harsh, so if your skin is super sensitive, I’d recommend mixing it with your coconut oil or diluting it with water before applying it directly to the flare up. Give it a few minutes, and you should feel soothing tingles as the sting and itch fade. Personally, I cover my rash with tea tree oil in the morning, wait five minutes and then rub coconut oil all over myself. I do the same thing at night. Coconut oil can be used on its own to remove the itch and moisturize the skin and is safe to apply as often as needed. I carry a small jar around with me throughout the day and reapply whenever I can’t tolerate the itching anymore, or when my skin gets dry, or whenever I want to smell coconutty.
5. Don’t forget to keep it up.
When your flare ups fade, don’t forget to keep moisturizing. If your skin dries out and you start scratching, you might be back at step one before you know it!
I hope the above five tips help some of you out there dealing with skin problems. Effective at home remedies can be hard to find and differ for everyone. I recommend taking my above tips and doing some research on your own to find what best suits you. I am in no means a doctor or licensed medical professional, I’m simply sharing what works for me after dealing with a lifetime of itchy skin flare ups.
Here's some solid scientific research, and some more uses for both tea tree and coconut oil beyond what I mentioned above. :)
Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/
Top 10 Tea Tree Oil Uses and Benefits: http://draxe.com/tea-tree-oil-uses-benefits/
20 Coconut Oil Benefits & Side Effects: http://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/
I started really doing yoga when I was studying for my second bar exam in the summer of 2012. I had studied for a different state’s exam the previous year, and by the time the test rolled around, I was an unrecognizable ball of nerves and legal jargon. This time around, I was looking for a way to get a good workout and relieve some stress while I was going through studying hell. I had previously seen poses I thought were cool and looked good in pictures while browsing the internet for home workout plans. I would try and copy those yoga poses with extreme discipline, in my spare time. The goal was always to reach what I thought was the full expression of the pose and to do it as quickly as possible. I had no knowledge of asana form or the benefits of a full yoga practice. I was just looking for a way to get a good workout and relieve some stress while I was going through studying hell.
After a few months of copying poses, and playing around with advanced variations of things I could kind of do, I found out about online yoga classes. I joined a subscription service called Yogaglo and started practicing every day under some of the best teachers I could imagine. There weren’t many advanced classes where I was living at the time and I was still in the mindset that being the most advanced was the best, so I really got into trying out all the classes various online subscription services had to offer.
"Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” — Rolf Gates
I got hooked on yoga and was practicing daily. I loved the discipline of the practice and also the playfulness of the flows. Because I had a dance background and also cheered, I was familiar with backbends, splits, drop backs, and things of that nature. What I was not familiar with is form and I developed some dangerous habits. Pushing myself too hard without worrying about building strength to support my flexibility, for example. That led to several injuries and setbacks, but because I had joined an online yoga community, I was learning the basics. I just hadn’t learned an appreciation for them.
I didn't have the money at the time to visit a studio regularly, so I would often pop in for donation based community yoga classes. However, I wasn’t physically challenged and often found myself hiding in the back for fear of feeling like a show off. Regardless I knew that I could either keep doing the poses at home and maybe figure out how to do them correctly on my own, or I could suck it up, and get the proper alignment cues and form correction that I needed. That's the only way I would get stronger and more advanced in my practice. Just like any physical activity, if you start off doing it wrong, you will continue to do it wrong, and are at greater risk of injury. I figured that out pretty quickly.
In time, I saved up money and started working with a teacher one on one on a regular basis in addition to taking online classes and the occasional donation class at the local studio. He suggested some reading material (the Hatha Yoga Pradipika), and it peaked my interest so I read more. I read about yoga anatomy, I read the works of Patanjali, and I couldn’t get enough. I was starting to understand that there was more to this practice than just a series of poses and that the advanced poses that look impressive, just aren’t the point. I was starting to grasp the benefits of the practice overall. I was learning through practicing with my teacher (who rarely let me do advanced poses with him) that a solid foundation was key. In school you can’t do algebra without learning how to add and subtract. In yoga, you can’t advance your asana until you learn the foundations of the poses.
The more I practiced what are considered the basic yoga poses, or the more beginner poses, the more the accessible the advance postures became. The more I practiced them, the more focused I became; my mind would clear and I learned how to breathe through temporary discomfort. The more I practiced the foundational poses, the more I started to learn about the importance of building internal and external strength to support both my physical and mental goals. And the more I practiced, the more benefits I started noticing in my physical and mental health. My overall outlook on life even improved.
One pose in particular, pincha mayurasana, that’s why I started doing yoga. I stayed, because I realized the lessons I learned about my body while practicing poses mirrored the lessons I was learning in my life. It took time and hard work. I’ve even had a few injuries from trying to do stupid stuff I wasn’t ready for. In the end, though, that’s the beauty of this practice, every trip to my mat is a new chance to learn through my practice.
All the best, Cheryl
There are a lot of blogs out there. A lot of yoga teachers. A lot of fitness chicks. A lot of life coaches. And I’m guessing by now, you get where I’m going with this. Why should you follow me? Why read my blog? What do you care what another Los Angeles yoga chick has to say? Well, you may or you may not. Either way, I’m just happy you stopped by. If you made it this far, you may as well hang out and finish this post. Below I’ll give you the abridged version of my story, and what I hope to accomplish as this blog grows.
Who is Cheryl Feinberg?
My parents know me as their oldest daughter. My friends know me as an attorney and yoga teacher. My pets would call me mom if they could talk. I call myself a thirty year old trying to make it through this thing we call life.
I grew up in rural Appalachia in Kentucky on the borders of Ohio and West Virginia. My sister and I were the only Jewish girls I think that town had seen in over 50 years. It was...interesting.
I was an extreme overachiever growing up and I put a lot of pressure on myself. Soccer, dance, varsity track, cheerleading, and grades at the top of my class, just to name a few. But with all that pressure, I found myself taking the stress out on myself. When I was 15 I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. A disease that looking back, I now know shaped much of life in both good and bad ways over the next several years.
The good thing about pushing myself so hard educationally was that during my junior year of high school, I was accepted into a really good university in Atlanta, Georgia. Without graduating high school, and with many promises to my parents that I would get better, I accepted. By the end of the summer before I was to start school, I had brought my weight up to something resembling healthy, and was allowed to move away to college.
Looking back, I know I was too young and too eager. My recovery from my eating disorder was only physical. I had healed my body enough to make those in my life happy, but not my mind in the slightest. This became insanely evident in my behavior my first two years of college.
In college I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety. Being the strong-willed, naive, and sometimes very stupid 17 year old I was, I ignored the professionals my parents demanded I saw. If I could “recover” from anorexia on my own, I didn’t need to see a shrink, right? Wrong.
I can’t tell you how many guys (and girls) I got drunk and made out with. I can't tell you how many pills I did or different drinks and drugs I tried. I can tell you what I haven’t done, that’s probably a much smaller list. From anorexia to drinking, making out with lots and of classmates (I was still pretty young after all), and doing lots of drugs. Addiction is a disease that manifests itself in more ways than one.
Another one of those manifestations was the emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive relationship I entered into towards the middle/end of my drugged up haze. When I finally cleaned up my act, I clung too hard to someone who was way too wrong for me. I was addicted to the craziness of our relationship and in that relationship I became someone I don't even recognize anymore; someone I'm glad is no longer a part of who I am today. Ultimately, he helped me more than he hurt me. The emotional scars have faded, and I learned so much about relationships and my own personal strength. The fact that he stood by and helped pull me out of some of my darkest days is something I will always be grateful for, even if as a partner, he was not healthy for me (nor I, him).
Which brings me to…
New England Educated
My entire life was leading up to an education in New England. I spent summers at boarding school there. I did my pre-college summer at Brown. I just knew that’s where I needed to be. Naturally, when I got accepted to law school in Vermont I jumped at the chance. Honestly, even though I ended up changing areas of focus and probably should have transferred to better school once I did, it was three of the best years of my life. I learned so much about myself, what I look for in friends, in relationships, in a home…..Vermont is where I found my true loves: yoga, nature, and a very special someone.
Unfortunately the lawyer life in Vermont didn’t go as planned. After two educational, but not quite as expected years working for a firm post-graduation, I was tired of paralegaling and losing hope of finding a real job. I’d been on countless interviews for jobs that ended up dissolving or going to someone with more experience for the same salary because the climate was so bad. Even though I was happy with my beautiful surroundings, I was falling back into depression and starting to re-visit old habits. I got back into the work of my college days, bartending to supplement my income. All the while, I was feeling like there was more out there for me. The more I applied for jobs, the more I lost hope, and the more depressed I became. Depressed Cheryl is not a good version of me, and kind of scary.
I knew it was time for a change. I knew I needed to do something to get back on track. So I made probably the most radical change I could and accepted a job in Los Angeles. From comparatively sleepy Burlington, Vermont, to bustling Southern California. It wouldn’t be my first solo move across the country. I’ve moved myself from Kentucky to Georgia, from Georgia to Vermont, and from Vermont to North Dakota for a while (internship). Unfortunately, knowing i need to make a change, and committing my brain to making the change are two entirely different things.
So that’s why about a year later…….
Los Angeles Yoga Teacher
In June of 2015 I accepted a paralegal job (with potential for promotion to attorney after I passed the bar) in Los Angeles, packed everything I owned along with my cat and dog into my tiny SUV and drove across the entirety of the United States. The drive was rushed but beautiful. This country is amazing.
Four months after moving to LA, I was back in the full time office life and no happier than when I lived back in Vermont. I was working all the time, spending the rest of my time in traffic, making dinner, walking my dog, and sleeping. That was it. My practice fell off. I stopped rock climbing, I stopped enjoying myself. So what was the point of the move?
And then they laid me off……
Bye bye salary. Bye bye benefits. Bye bye financial security. Hello “oh fuck” moment. But ultimately, hello BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME.
I’ve been pushing myself to this place of being an attorney for as long as I remember. But by the time I was really working towards it, I couldn’t remember why. My life was consumed with interviews and job hunts and billable hours and sitting on my butt all day. So, I finally decided I should start doing what makes me happy as long as it’s financially viable. For me now, that’s teaching yoga and sharing my story with others.
On this blog, I’ll be going into much further detail on all of the topics I mentioned above. Everything from mental illness to eating disorders, learning from failing hard to finding happiness in the small successes...even some topics I didn’t mention like my recently developed food allergies or long distance relationship with someone from back on the East Coast.
I really hope you enjoyed reading this rather lengthy introduction, and I look forward to sharing more of myself with you in the future.
All the best, Cheryl.
I'm Cheryl. I moved to Los Angeles from Vermont in late June of 2015, gave up the path I'd spent years planning for, and started down a road to a happier, more fulfilling life. Goodbye suits and courtrooms, hello bare feet and yoga mats. I know I don't have all the answers, but I'm slowly starting to get the hang of things. :) I'm just taking things one day at a time, trying to figure out how to live my best life and help others do the same.