Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Another perspective on quinoa January 31, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 8:28 pm
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Last week I got all worked up about that quinoa article. It really upset me to think that my eating habits were in some small way causing problems for the farmers who grow my food. Now an article on tells me not to worry: It’s OK to Eat Quinoa. Writer Ari LeVaux describes why the problem isn’t as simple as the article in the Guardian made it out to be, and why higher prices are actually a good thing for most quinoa growers.

Being incredibly busy as I am, the temptation for me is to heave a sigh of relief and file this issue away under “resolved”. After all, there are plenty of sources that tell you why a particular food is good for you and also a plethora of sources warning you never to eat that food. Meat, edamame, wheat, and dairy products are all examples of foods that have fervent defenders and equally fervent opponents. If you listened to everybody who told you not to eat a certain food, you’d never eat anything. So after reading the Guardian article, I didn’t have any plans to eliminate quinoa from my diet, and I still don’t. But this Slate article has reminded me that there are not just two sides to any story but many, and that global issues are rarely simple enough to be discussed in black and white, yes and no terms. My takeaway, I think, is to buy fair trade, and to remember that the food I eat – not just quinoa but all the food – was harvested or squeezed or gathered or or processed by someone’s hands somewhere, and it probably passed through a lot of other pairs of hands to get to me. It’d be a good idea to keep a sense of that, to keep things in perspective, and to remember to teach my daughter that food doesn’t just appear on shelves by magic.


Yoga 101 January 29, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:03 pm
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In this interesting blog post on the YogaJournal website, Erica Rodefer Winters brings it back to the basics for those who are completely new to yoga. What’s the deal with that mat, and what does “yoga” mean anyway? I tried to tackle some of these basic questions in my series on yoga for beginners. What other things do yoga newbies need to know?


books: The Magicians January 24, 2013

Filed under: books,reflections — R. H. Ward @ 1:03 pm
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The Magicians, by Lev GrossmanLast week I read a book called The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. We meet the main character, Quentin Coldwater, during his senior year in high school. He’s a brilliantly gifted but awkward kid, dreaming of his best friend’s girl and trying to get into Princeton because that’s what seems to be expected of him. Instead, he receives an invitation to attend a secret college for magicians. Quentin had practiced card tricks and sleight of hand, but apparently he has a gift for the real kind of magic also.

Quentin is no Harry Potter. Frequently depressed, Quentin’s life is characterized by disappointment that all the things that were supposed to make him happy never do. This makes some sense when he’s younger – what smart awkward kid is ever happy in high school? – but his disillusionment returns again and again. A magical school is what he’d hoped for his whole life, but after the wonder wears off and the hard work sets in, Quentin isn’t happy there. And later on, with graduation looming and afterward, Quentin still isn’t happy, despite the fact that with his powers he could do, literally, anything he wants.

Quentin keeps expecting the circumstances of his life to bring him happiness. He thinks that if he works hard and does what he’s supposed to do, happiness will happen to him, like a reward. What he doesn’t realize is that he’ll never be happy if he doesn’t change his attitude. Alice, the girl Quentin loves, sees his problem and tells him he needs to recognize just how lucky he is. “You can’t just decide to be happy,” Quentin says, to which Alice responds, “Yes, but you can decide to be miserable.”

Although our problems are less magical, most of us are a lot like Quentin. We work hard and then expect happiness to come to us, always looking ahead to something else that, like magic, will make us happy. We expect happiness to be a country we can inhabit where, if we can just get there, we’ll never be sad again. But happiness has to come from within. It’s an attitude, a state of mind. If we can let go of our expectations about what it means to be happy and open ourselves to the possibility of being happy right here, right now, then we can experience what happiness truly can be.


Food Update: The High Price of Quinoa January 22, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:32 pm
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This is really disturbing: Can Vegans Stomach the Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa?

As a vegetarian, one of my guiding principles has been ahimsa, or nonviolence. It began to seem more and more wrong to me to fuel my body on another creature’s pain and death, so I eliminated all beef, pork, and poultry from my diet (although I still eat fish, eggs, and dairy products, first because I believe that it’s healthiest to make these sorts of drastic changes gradually, and then also because I got pregnant and didn’t want to lose the protein and other nutrients when my body most needed them). Not eating meat, I’ve naturally been exploring other foods like beans, chickpeas, couscous, and quinoa. Granted, I don’t buy quinoa often because it tends to be pricey, but I’ve loved it when I’ve eaten it. And through all of my vegetarian journey, I’ve been proud of myself for  identifying and sticking with a change I wanted to make to my behavior based on what I believed was right.

Now, according to this article, the farming of quinoa is seriously damaging the people in Bolivia, making it hard for them to afford a food that’s traditionally been a staple of their diet and pushing them towards unhealthy mass-produced imported foods. Since I began my vegetarian journey on the principle of ahimsa, I find this really upsetting. The West’s hunger for this new exotic food is obviously doing violence to these people. There are a number of non-profits who work in urban communities in the US that don’t have access to healthy fresh foods, and I believe in that mission, so it seems two-faced to support an industry that deprives people in another part of the world of healthy fresh food.

I’m not going to say that, based on this one article (which is pretty subjective, honestly), I’m never going to eat quinoa again. I think if you take to heart every story you see in the news about food, you’ll end up living on water and cardboard. But I do hope to do some more research on this issue, and to think more about it. Since becoming a vegetarian I’ve leaned towards locally grown or US-grown foods anyway, so if I try to continue following that path, I’ll eliminate much of the problem (and that goes for asparagus too, which now I’m also concerned about). But because vegetarianism began for me as a moral choice rather than a health choice, I owe it to myself to examine my assumptions about the food I eat and the impact my food has in the world, regardless of whether it’s an animal product.


Creating Identity-Based Habits January 17, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:11 pm
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Here’s an interesting look at new year’s resolutions: Stick to Your Goals This Year by Using Identity-Based Habits. The idea is that most resolutions are appearance-based or performance-based (consider “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I want to do more yoga”). Most people start off highly motivated but then lose momentum and don’t succeed at their goals. What this author, James Clear, recommends is that you focus not on changing your appearance or your performance, but that you set goals that change your identity. In essence, you become the kind of person who can accomplish what you want to do.

For example, if you have a goal of wanting to do more yoga, you might start off strong by getting to the yoga studio or the gym twice a week. But then life catches up with you, you get a cold, you miss a few sessions, and then despite your good intentions, you realize you haven’t done any yoga in a month. But “do more yoga” is a performance-based goal, which you fulfill by performing the task of showing up at class repeatedly. Consider instead an identity-based goal: something like “I want to be the kind of person who really cares about yoga”. Then you could start with small steps, like doing a sun salutation every morning. Once you’ve made that a part of your daily habits, you start to see yourself as a person whose yoga really matters to her, and you can branch out to larger yoga-related goals.

You could even try “I want to be a yoga teacher” (or, “I want to be a yoga teacher again”). Before my teacher training, I had an image in my head of what a yoga teacher is like, and that person was not me. Because I enrolled in a training program which required a significant investment of time and money, I felt like I was committed, and I began to put in my own time to make sure I got the most out of my investment. I practiced yoga and pranayama and meditation every day, read books about yoga, wrote this blog. The constant practice shaped me, and more importantly shaped my concept of myself, from “yoga-enjoying person” to “real actual yoga teacher”. I began to see myself differently, which only drove my yoga practice further as I became someone who not only wanted more but was capable of more. This example is a little extreme and beyond the scope of a new year’s resolution, but thinking about identity this way is just really interesting.

Recently I’ve started to become very invested in motherhood – I see myself as a mother first, and I’ve lost some of that concept of myself as a competent, confident yoga teacher. What do I need to do to rebuild that part of my identity? A regular yoga practice of some sort will have to be one of the first things I work on, but I also have to remember that a yoga teacher takes care of herself too (and, for example, doesn’t force herself to get up early to practice if the baby kept her up all night). Even just keeping up with this blog more often reminds me that I’m a yoga teacher. There are plenty of little ways I can start reinforcing my yoga identity again. Once I reconstruct my basic idea of myself as a yoga teacher, then I’ll be the kind of person who can accomplish even more: teaching a regular weekly class again, preparing and teaching a special workshop, maybe even planning the yoga and writing retreat that Heather and I have dreamed of. But that’s the long term – little steps first!


2012: Year in Review / 2013: Year in Preview January 15, 2013

Filed under: checking in,reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:25 pm
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Last January, I set out a long and detailed list of goals. Looking back on that list, I kind of can’t believe that I even remotely considered all of those things to be possible when I started out 2012 four months pregnant. I wanted to keep up with all my interests and passions, keep moving my yoga career forward. I was so determined not to lose “myself” in having a baby. I had no idea, about so many things. I had no idea how much I would love being pregnant, or how active a state it is: that I could just sit there and be pregnant and I’d be totally busy. I had no idea how much rest I would need while I was pregnant, or how much energy and mobility I would lose. And I had no idea how drastically and irrevocably my life would change on July 8 when YogaBaby entered the world, how my priorities would instantly rearrange themselves around her. I realized last summer than I wasn’t in danger of losing “myself” in motherhood. Losing my free time and the ability to go out at night, sure. But “myself” is deeper and more confident and just MORE because of my love for her.

So, yeah, 2012 was a heck of a year. I gave birth. My child is still breathing, and despite all my fears and worries, I haven’t done anything to drastically harm her yet. In fact, she’s thriving, and smiling, and generally being awesome. And I learn new things about her, and about myself, every day.

But 2012 wasn’t just the year I became a parent. I published my first poetry chapbook! Which is a pretty big milestone – it just didn’t feel like it at the time, since my copies of the book arrived about a week after YB did. I also published three book reviews at good publications and had favorable responses to reviewing queries at others. I got solicited for poems for really the first time; the editor loved the work and one of the poems will be printed this year in a magazine that has probably a lot more readers than anywhere else I’ve ever published. And I managed to make some forward progress on the new poems – not as much as I would have liked, but under the circumstances I’ll take any forward progress as a success.

And 2012 was a good year for yoga. I taught prenatal yoga, which was unexpected and fantastic, and I taught at Awaken, which was a great opportunity at a great studio. I registered with Yoga Alliance, got my yoga Facebook page up and running, and kept this blog going, albeit at a much reduced pace. I didn’t meet my goal of reading one yoga-related book per month, or of following up on yoga book reviewing, but I did still read four books that related to my yoga goals, which isn’t too bad. My personal yoga practice disappeared for a while, which was sad but necessary, and I worked hard to find my yoga in other places and give myself the space to be imperfect.

So now it’s 2013. I’m at risk of setting another bunch of impossible goals for myself, but I do want to make a few resolutions. I want to get back some sort of a physical hatha yoga practice, and I’ve started steps to make that happen (they involve the alarm clock and YB sleeping well, so it’s kind of a shaky plan at best, but initial experiments are promising). I want to keep educating myself about yoga and spirituality, and I want to take some steps towards reestablishing myself as a yoga teacher, even just in my own mind. I want to keep recording my journey here and maybe try to be a bit more regular about it. Most important of all is that I want to be a good mother to YB. And taking care of myself, regaining some of my yoga and meditation practice -and continuing to give myself the space to be imperfect – is a crucial part of doing that.


5 ways to stick to yoga goals January 11, 2013

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:45 pm
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I’m delighted with Rambling Yogini’s first post of 2013, 5 ways to stick to yoga goals. It’s a nice realistic way of looking at keeping your new year resolutions, and it made me, at least, feel a little bit optimistic about my yoga practice for the new year.


Food Update January 8, 2013

Filed under: checking in,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:45 pm

On Christmas Day, I ate meat for the first time in a year and a half. (We’re not counting that chicken salad sandwich that I thought was egg salad – that was an accident, and I threw it out as soon as I realized – we’re talking about intentional meat consumption only). I had a slice of bacon, just one. It smelled so good and, I figured, nothing you eat really counts on Christmas anyway. My mom was standing next to me nattering about something, and I turned to her and said, “I can’t talk about that right now. I’m eating bacon for the first time in over a year. You need to give me a minute.” And I shut my eyes and savored it. I was sad to discover that bacon still tastes as good as I remembered. I’d been theorizing that after such a prolonged period without meat, my body would have adjusted and meat would taste funny to me now, but nope. It was freakin’ fantastic.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a vegetarian. (Or, rather, a lacto-ovo-pescatarian, for you purists.) I have no plans to go back to eating meat any time soon: I still believe in my reasons for not eating meat, and I still like my veg lifestyle. That hasn’t changed. But I think one should check in on things now and then, and also I really wanted some bacon. Damn.

In other news, one challenging thing at my new job has been the sheer availability of junk food. Anybody who gets a gift basket from a vendor puts it in the kitchen. Any food left over after a meeting gets put in the kitchen. People are dropping off leftover cookies and holiday candy. It’s been crazy for over a month now. I have never had willpower where junk is concerned, even less so where free food is concerned, and ever since I got pregnant I haven’t felt much need to because I needed the extra calories. And now I’m breastfeeding: I’m back down not just to my pre-baby weight but to my college weight, and my pre-baby pants are all too big. So the problem is not that I’m eating tons of snacks all day – I need the snacks, my body has plenty of use for the calories – but I do worry about the sodium, sugars, caffeine, and carbs, plus just the effect of dumping so much crap into my system. And the bad habits I’m forming. Hopefully the worst of the freebies are over and I can buy some fruit to try and fill the hole where cookies and truffles and caramel popcorn have been going. (The plus is that I have a place to drop off all the unwanted junk food from my house, which I did yesterday.)

Also a plus, F and I had lunch at a vegan cafe over the holidays! Everything was excellent, especially my falafel wrap, which was the best I think I’ve ever had. Thumbs up to Vge Cafe in Bryn Mawr; we’re looking forward to visiting again.