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!
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.
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.
I'm Cheryl. I moved to California from Vermont in 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. After a few years, a couple of cross country moves, and a broken heart, 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.