Cats do it, so can we
Cats are born yogis. Acrobatic and agile, they can gracefully and gleefully eclipse the dazzling moves of a seasoned vinyasa practitioner. Restorative yoga? Cats invented it. Savasana? Cats live it.
To me, what is more impressive than the cat’s innate physical yogic talent is her curly-clawed grasp of the importance of deep relaxation, a key benefit of yoga practice. Kitty is the master of pure, peaceful, bony-heavy rest. Unlike many of her two-legged friends, the cat does not need planning, preparation, or convincing to settle down and relax. The four-legged yogi shifts from bristling activity to total stillness in mere minutes, maybe with a bit of kneading foreplay to set the mood. Instant Maui.
Cats sleep fat.
They spread out comfort underneath them
Like a good mat . . .
I frequently share an excerpt from Moore’s poem at the beginning of class as a reminder that our bodies and minds benefit from the balance of movement and stillness. We regularly hear about the importance of physical fitness, but the benefits of mental stillness are not as widely touted. Studies have suggested that yoga, particularly the practice’s breathing, meditative, and restorative aspects, can help support our emotional well-being in many ways:
- Decrease circulating stress hormones such as cortisol (The American Journal of Managed Care)
- Relieve chronic stress patterns (American Osteopathic Organization)
- Reduce anxiety and depression (Harvard Health Publications)
- Lower blood pressure (Harvard Health Publications)
Unlike humans, cats are naturally skilled at remaining present, or “in the moment,” an important tool for mental health. Recently, I was talking on the phone with my sweet cat Selene dozing nearby. As I chatted, I gently stroked Selene’s silky tail between my fingers. In conversation, I began recounting the details of a minor car accident I’d had the previous day. (Memo to self: shift to lower gear when driving down Leewood Drive in a snowstorm.) The fear I felt during the event fresh in my mind, I unknowingly tensed my body. A loud hiss from Selene, followed by a sharp-toothed nip, brought me back to the moment.
Inadvertently, I realized, my soft touch on Selene’s tail had hardened to a pinch while I was in the grip of anxiety. I looked sheepishly at Selene, expecting an accusatory scowl, but was met with the face of serenity. Selene did not haughtily rescind her tail or move away. She had shifted from “fight or flight” to “lie down and light” with flip-a-switch ease, while I, although safe in my armchair, was physically and emotionally reliving my slippery slide down a busy snowy street.
Being only human after all, my instincts and abilities are very different from Selene’s. But through a yoga practice that soothes body, breath, and mind, I continually work to overcome my innate two-legged foolishness. On my yoga mat, I can sleep fat, spread out the comfort, and bask in it.
Sunday, January 18th, 2015
In her own little corner, on her own little mat . . .
What is your favorite Cinderella story? I really enjoyed Russell Crowe’s Cinderella Man from 2005, but when I was kid, I was crazy about the 1965 television version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which introduced a swan-necked Lesley Ann Warren as the title wench.
I was reminded of my childhood favorite last weekend, when my husband attended the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany, New Jersey. The biannual Chiller event is ComicCon-like geekfest that celebrates B horror films, sci-fi legends, classic 70s television, punk rock, and porn stars with equal zeal. For Mike and his college buddies, it’s a chance to hang out, reminisce, and get pictures and autographs from an eclectic group of celebrities.
Also a child of the sixties (and a romantic), Mike was psyched that Lesley Ann Warren (sans glass slippers) was in the Chiller house this year. He had his picture taken with her, posted the shot on his Facebook page, and told me several times how dainty and lovely Ms. Warren was in person. When I joked that the actress “looks a lot like me, only way prettier,” Mike didn’t even notice my bid for false flattery: he was completely enchanted by Cinderella, even when dressed in her modern-day civvies.
From the moment our home was infused with Cinderella’s magic, I began thinking about the vintage Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, particularly its brilliant score. I remembered the start of my favorite tune, “In My Own Little Chair,” by heart:
In my own little corner, in my own little chair,
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere,
and the world will open its arms to me.
Cinderella sings this number while resigned to her dingy place by the hearth. To escape the reality of her sad existence, she imagines herself a grand lady, beautifully dressed. For days I kept mind-singing the lyrics I remembered, finding comfort in sharing Cinderella’s peaceful little chair, and because all things relate to yoga, I contemplated her idea of “being”.
Cinderella uses her quiet place as a launch pad from the present into fantasy. (I remembered her imagining grand adventures, like fighting dragons, but when I checked the lyrics prior to writing this blog, I was disappointed to see that her daydreams were all stereotypically girly, but that’s another story.) Cinderella wants more than she has, and who can blame her? Having to deal with a meanie stepmother and jerk stepsisters, even without the tedious chores, can ruin anyone’s day.
In our yoga practice, we sing a different song. With our days brimming with the adventure of living even an ordinary life, we long to eschew the more, and welcome the less. In our own little corner, on our own little mat, we can be . . . forget about the rest of lyric. Simply be. Let go of the desire to do anything, go anywhere, or wish for something different. Particularly during Savasana, our final pose of rest, we can be content with nothing but the reality of our unique self.
All week long, I reminded my yoga students of this key learning of yoga. That we are complete just as we are. We don’t need fairy godmothers or bejeweled ball gowns to experience beauty. In our own little corner, on our own little mat, we can find a few moments of paradise. And what can be more magical than that?
Saturday, November 1st, 2014
If you feel the burn, it could be catching
I heard the coyotes our first night in Montauk. It was more of a thin, reedy whine than a full-on howl, but I have no idea what a coyote call sounds like, so it seemed a good guess. I thought the sound was coming from the trees behind the yard of our rented house in Hither Hills. I shifted position: perhaps my ear, which was hurting, was causing the sound? Nope, I heard the cry again, except perhaps from a different direction. Was there more than one critter calling?
Mike was softly sleep-breathing beside me. I was tempted to poke him awake so he could hear the coyotes too. Assuming there really was a sound at all: Albus and Selene, deadweight donuts against my feet, were deep asleep, not an ear was twitching. I’d had fever a few days before we left home: was I now delirious?
The coyotes only existed in my middle-of-the-night imagination, Mike gently insisted come morning. Reluctantly, I figured it probably was fever-induced. I’d brought a painful, slightly swollen neck with me to Montauk (diagnosed as thyroiditis, via ultrasound, the day before we left home), and felt depleted. Favorite vacation pastimes–long walks around the quiet neighborhood, practicing yoga at Yoga Lila studio, and cruising the town’s shops–eluded me. I slept late, tired after minimal activity, and took hours-long naps.
Four nights after our arrival, my fever spiked, bringing chills, severe throat pain, and more coyotes. The next morning we headed to an exciting vacation hot spot, a new one for us: East Hampton Urgent Care. I was given a powerful steroid shot, a prescription for broad-spectrum antibiotics, and advised to buy a big hat to protect my skin from antibiotic-induced sun sensitivity.
Later that morning, at White’s in Montauk (one of my favorite places to shop for on-sale summer clothes), the friendly pharmacist provided a vivid rundown as he processed my script: “Don’t drink milk or have any milk product two hours before and two hours after taking this medicine. That includes ice cream, the milk in your coffee. Take the medicine with food. Not milk food; food food.”
Glancing at my pale arms, he continued: “Stay out of the sun. Cover yourself–get a shawl–or you will burn. Not a regular sunburn. You’ll feel yourself burning, and you will get blisters.”
Clearly, I was turning into a vampire. (Which explained the neck pain and the nighttime howling.) The beach was out, at least during daylight. Sunset beach picnics were fine, though (Mike and Harrison wore garlic around their necks, just in case), as were short late-day walks in the shade (with pals Lestat, Vlad, and the sparkly guy from Twilight). Resting indoors with the comforting sound of the nearby ocean (the ultimate Savasana soundtrack), I enjoyed piecing together the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle I’d brought with me (a favorite evening vacation pastime that, this time, occupied daytime hours as well).
Sickness can lead to frustration and self-pity, but can also help us remain present in the moment, savoring everyday joys: the chirps of birds and crickets, a breath of fresh air, the velvet-soft paws of a loving cat.
The meds did their job: the fever was banished, and I regained strength. I wasn’t ready for the high-energy class I usually enjoy at Yoga Lila, and so practiced on my own. Below is an outline of my got-no-pep practice, which you might find helpful when you feel depleted but crave some gentle healing movement.
Now at the end of our vacation, I’m done with the antibiotics. I’ve put aside my big hat and am eating cheese with reckless abandon. I kind of miss the mysterious midnight howling, but I spied a deer walking toward me on an evening neighborhood stroll yesterday, and she’s probably pleased that the coyotes have left town.
Got-No-Pep Yoga Practice
This following routine runs about 30 minutes. Customize to suit your needs, skipping the doggie poses, for example, if you are super pooped, or adding in Plank if you’re up to it. (I added a lot of neck stretches to help soothe aching muscles.) Remember to pause, breathe, and remain present as you shift orientations.
- Lay on the mat, focus on breath, relax areas of pain/tension (allow 5 min)
- Apanasana; leg & ankle stretches; full body stretches
- Pelvic tilts
- Simple bent-knee twist
Rest on your side, then:
- Come to all-fours for Table; Cat/Cow
- Downward Facing Dog; rest in Child’s pose
- Downward Facing Dog; step to Uttanasana; rise to Tadasana (pause)
- Fold to Uttanasana; slide up to flat back (repeat 1-2x)
- Flow: Downward Facing Dog; Warrior 2 both sides; Downward Facing Dog; Uttanasana; lower to Table and to your belly
- Cobra (1-3x)
- Child’s pose with wide knees
- Seated Twist
- Savasana (5 to 10 min)
Friday, August 29th, 2014
Celebrating the magic of springtime
After this endlessly woeful winter, seeing a long-forgotten piece of sidewalk emerge from the snow was a welcome first sign of spring. Even patches of plain old New York dirt were starting to look pretty darn festive.
Here on the East Coast, the season has finally taken a firm hold. Not only can we see veritable expanses of cement, but flowers–that quaint, old-fashioned sign of spring–are beginning to bloom. In our front yard, dainty golden and purple crocuses are showing their true colors, while tulips are preparing to follow the lead of their little buddies.
Already the slim crocus stirs the snow,
And soon yon blanched fields will bloom again
– Oscar Wilde
At our feeders, year-round backyard regulars, including cardinals and black-capped chickadees, are increasing in both number and cheery sounds. Some of the birds we haven’t seen much of this winter–robins, house finches, and white-breasted nuthatches–are making more regular appearances. For our pet kitties, this means nonstop windowsill entertainment, with “Cat TV” airing on all channels, all day long.
A time of renewal in both physical and spiritual realms, the season of life and light can inspire us to rejuvenate inside and out. To freshen our homes, we open windows and invite the fresh air in. We spruce up weather-beaten yards, planting new flowers and purging fallen branches. To perk up our aching winter-weary bodies, we might carve out more time for walking and other outdoor exercise, or renew our commitment to our yoga practice.
How do you spell springtime? I am fortunate to be married to a constant gardener. Mike recently returned from a local nursery with boxed crops of baby lettuce that he’ll plant when the weather is a bit warmer. In the meantime, while I taught yoga this morning, Mike planted a small tree in our front yard. An Eastern redbud, it will offer a springtime crown of pretty-in-pink blooms when it grows up. (And if we’re lucky, it might attract some hummingbirds.)
Farmer Mike and his baby tree
As you go through the days ahead, take some time to savor the sights and sounds of the season. Admire a flower, listen to (and maybe learn) the cardinal’s sweet song or the chickadee’s cheeky call. Just a few minutes of quiet contemplation can help freshen the mind and make your day–and your outlook–a bit brighter.
Sunday, April 6th, 2014
Hard to say, and even harder not to break
When I was a preteen, I made New Year’s resolutions by rote. “I will lose 5 pounds” was an annual staple (even though I wasn’t overweight). Being nicer to my family made the list as well. I approached Confession much the same way. In the confessional I would recite a bulleted list of naughtiness: “Forgive me, father . . . I was rude to my mother and father, I used bad language, and I had bad thoughts.” Same sins, same resolutions, same guilt.
By the time I was keeping a diary, I’d ditched the regularity of resolutions. Instead, I would wrap up the highlights of the year in a late-night December 31 entry and, if I didn’t fall asleep first, I’d include hopes and wishes for the new year and beyond. A high point of 1973 was my becoming an Osmonds fan: “I changed from a hater to a lover!” the 13-year-old me wrote. “I have 5 albums, watched them on Mike Douglas, Action ’73 (’74 now!), American Bandstand, Here’s Lucy, and Bob Hope, have 2 singles, buy loads of magazines, and most of all went to their concert. I hope I never forget it.” (Later in the entry I wrote that I hoped to marry Donny Osmond, wisely adding “in a way I’m kidding.”)
As the years progressed, I became more introspective (growing up, as well as having pen and paper, will do that), but also more judgmental. At the end of 1974, I wrote that I’d hoped I’d changed for the better during the year. Unfortunately, the weight thing was back: “I am still about five feet tall, and I weigh ninety-seven pounds. I weighted ninety-three just a week ago, but I ate like a pig this vacation,” I wrote. I concluded by thanking God for all my blessings and for the Osmonds.
By the time I’d turned 17, the year-end wrap up had morphed into a “crap-up” (oops, a bad word!) filled with laments about my appearance and my perpetual boyfriend-less state. No resolutions here, but not much sign of hope or direction either: “I don’t know what is in store for me; all I know is that I’m too exhausted to try for anything,” I wrote that year. (Unfortunately, the Donny thing hadn’t worked out.)
We often joke that resolutions are “made to be broken.” It’s true: unlike yoga, New Year’s resolutions don’t encourage flexibility. You either lose or gain, pass or fail, make or break.
This year, my resolution solution was to focus on intention. To me, resolutions are rigid and unyielding, hopes undefined and frail. But intentions are like baby plants born in a peaceful garden of introspection, encouraged to grow (and sometimes sprout in surprising directions) by nurturing and care.
A pathway of intention allows for flexibility, even failure, without the need for resolution-induced self-shaming. If an intention is not fulfilled, we can consider why. Was the intention worthy? Then perhaps it needs more time to bloom. Was the intention realistic? If not, maybe it needs pruning. Or maybe we’re better off planting a different intention, one with more promise. Nothing needs to get broken.
“A pathway of intention allows for flexibility, even failure, without the need for resolution-induced self-shaming.”
Perhaps you prefer the hard-core language of resolution. Intention works better for me because a gentler approach makes it harder for me to give up. I set an intention to publish two blogs a month this year, with the first appearing in early January. I missed my deadline, but had I labeled myself a failure, I would probably have scrapped the piece. Instead, I followed a new path that had sprouted during the writing process (delving into diaries was not part of my plan), kept revising, and finished the blog.
Unlike resolution, intention allows for the unexpected. When we walk the path of intention in our yoga practice and in our lives, we may not secure a desired goal, but we are sure to receive other boons–deeper awareness and understanding–during the journey.
Whether you are a resoluter, an intender, or neither, I hope that the path you walk in 2014 is a peaceful one. Namaste.
Saturday, January 18th, 2014
It ain’t summer until the fat bug Oms
For me, summer doesn’t truly arrive until the cicadas do. I don’t mean the deluxe 17-year models that were feted, photographed, and feared back in May. I’m talking about the annual no-frills bugs that emerge from their underground nursery in the dog days of summer and hold their buzzy kirtan in the treetops, proving that mere insects easily best humans in the art of call and repeat.
Caught up in the hype, my husband and I had waited for the 17-year cicadas to appear in Yonkers. As they emerged along the East Coast, billions strong, we heard tales of terror and woe from friends in New Jersey. Swarms of cicadas were scaling fences and houses like the zombies in World War Z. Rogue cicadas got into homes, grossing out the humans but delighting pet dogs and cats. Mike and I joked that we might need to don pith helmets just to gather lettuce from the garden, and pull on boots to wade through the mounds of crunchy cicada carcasses that were shown all over the Internet. But the onslaught never arrived.
Out first cicada sighting–or, rather, cicada hearing–came on the last day in May at Mohonk Mountain House near New Paltz. We were on an early morning guided nature hike, and Mike noticed a distant but deep whirring sound. It didn’t sound quite like the familiar cicada crescendo, but Mike was sure it was the bugs. No, that was a motor sound, one hiker said. Even the naturalist leading our group thought the sound was mechanical–maybe from a construction site, he suggested. But when we found a cicada carcass, we were certain: the 17-year cicadas were here.
As a child, I thought the cicada’s song was made by birds that came to Queens every August. While walking in Ozone Park one day with a friend, a creature zipped over our heads, making the familiar buzz. It wasn’t a bird, we realized: it was huge bug! That flew! We did the logical thing–ran for it. After that, I was afraid of cicadas for a time, even after learning that they did not bite or sting. One summer a cicada emerged from a hedge at eye level, flying awkwardly and seemingly at me, increasing my fear. What if one landed in my big Queens hair and buzzed around in there?
But despite being grossed out by the cicada’s looks, I continued to savor their sound. There was nothing else quite like that increasingly loud, vibrating hum; it was a seasonal hymn sung only in summer, a harbinger of slow, lazy days and jaunts to Rockaway Beach. One day (I think I was in my twenties by then), I came across a dying cicada on the sidewalk, ants already scuttling around its chunky dark body and glistening wings. Sickened, I toed the cicada away from the ants, squashing some in the process. I couldn’t stand the idea of ants swarming over the body of a childhood foe that had become a familiar friend.
Earlier this month, I was in my kitchen when I thought I heard a cicada. I alerted Mike, and we listened together, waiting. It was just one hum, low and distant, but we were certain that the annual cicadas has surfaced in Yonkers. Within a week, their song was in full bloom, even as our garden began to wilt from the heat. Now I delight in the full-throttled cicada chorus every morning and the soothing serenade in evening. To me, the big bugs’ buzzy hum, like the familiar chant of Om, resonates with the tune of the universe, rich in beauty and mystery.
Monday, July 22nd, 2013
Butter up your sour innards with this golden, feel-good dish
If I ever tell you that I just recovered from a bad stomach virus but that on the bright side I’d lost a few pounds, please throw me a dirty look. And if you ever tell me that you suffered with a bug and I say something cheerily like, “well, at least it’s a great way to lose weight!” feel free to kick me in the shins.
Happily, my shins are safe, because I promise not to say anything like that. There are few illness side effects more miserable, I think, than being unable to eat. Throwing up is painful, but not being able to appreciate the taste and texture of food is equally unhealthy. If you need to shed pounds for health reasons, I appreciate your plight; I need to lose weight, too. But let’s agree not to make it a big deal, nor punish ourselves for our enjoyment of food.
A few days after my recent illness, I celebrated my re-emerging desire for food with a rare turkey pot pie feast. The timing was ideal. I’d been yearning for a Sunday afternoon with little or no commitments (besides my late-morning Restorative yoga class), and as I was still tired and wobbly, I had no plans that weekend. My husband had done the grocery shopping the day before, and, hoping that I’d be up to pot pie come Sunday, I’d added the ingredients to our shopping list.
A downside to this dish is the time it requires to prepare. Nor is it politically nor calorically correct. It includes meat, dairy, butter (gobs of it), and if cooked as directed in the original recipe, will yield 850 calories per serving (not bad, actually; a store-bought cupcake can have 600 calories) with generous amounts of sodium, fat, and cholesterol (just to give you full disclosure) to boot.
I think the plusses (veggies, protein, fiber, for starters) outweigh the drawbacks, especially if you only make this recipe occasionally. You can easily reduce the salt and substitute for the butter. And while the steps are numerous, they are basic, requiring no culinary talent nor the use of complicated things like food processors. You can break up the recipe, too: cook the turkey breast one day, make the dish the next.
As you cook, the rewards will reach your nostrils well before the dish is done. Your kitchen (perhaps your whole house or apartment) will smell warm and wonderful. Your cats will be ever by your side in the kitchen as you work, for no other reason than to offer their unconditional love. The finished pot pie will last for many meals, and you’ll have bonus goodies if you use leftover broth, meat, and veggies for soup (I also freeze the broth to use as stock) and/or turkey salad. (The recipe calls for a 4 lb turkey breast, and since I can only seem to find smaller or much larger ones, I opt for the latter to get the extras.)
The post stomach bug pot pie feast felt so soothing that I vowed to make the dish again soon, and did so on New Year’s Eve. Calories be damned–I can’t think of a better dish to greet the new year with thoughts of healing and goodness.
Note: I clipped the recipe from First magazine years ago. My changes are noted for your consideration. If you don’t eat dairy or meat and substitute for these or any other preferences and needs, please let me know your ideas so I can share them here with other readers.
Turkey Pot Pie With Corn Bread Crust
1 carrot (or more, see below)
1 turkey breast, 4 lbs
4 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper (I skip these and use Adobo instead)
2 lbs yams or sweet potatoes (I use 1 large potato and 1 large yam, and sometimes add 1-2 carrots for more vitamins and pretty colors)
1 lb greens (ie, collards, kale, or spinach)
14 tbs butter (shhh, don’t tell the butter police!)
2 1/2 cups flour
3 cups milk
3/4 tsp dried rosemary
1 cup cornmeal
3 tbs flaxseed meal (optional, but adds an extra bit of crunch and fiber to the topping)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbs sugar (I never use it; the crust tastes delicious without)
Peel carrot and cut into chunks. Quarter 1 onion and put in soup pot with turkey breast, carrot, parsley, bay leaf, 1 tsp salt (if using), 1/4 tsp pepper, and water to cover. Bring to boil. Simmer until turkey is tender, about 2 hrs. Remove turkey. Strain broth and return to pot.
When turkey is cool, discard skin, pull meat from bones, and cut into bite-size pieces. Peel yams/potatoes and cut into cubes. Add to broth and boil until tender, about 15 min. Remove yams; save broth. Trim greens and cut into shreds. Chop remaining onion.
Melt 8 tbs butter in a saucepan over medium heat. (Note: I use the soup pot.) Add onion and cook until soft, about 2 min. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir until bubbly. Gradually add 2 cups milk, 2 cups broth, rosemary, and seasoning to taste. Bring to boil, stirring; cook for 1 min.
Stir in greens and cook until wilted. Add turkey and yams (and/or other veggies of your choice) and pour into 3-quart baking dish. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt remaining 6 tbs butter. Combine 2 cups flour, cornmeal, flaxseed meal, and baking powder, as well as sugar and salt if using. Beat egg with 1 cup milk and pour into flour mixture with the butter. (I usually add some broth as well, adding more flavor and reducing the milk a bit.) Stir until well moistened. Spread batter over turkey mixture and bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
Tuesday, January 1st, 2013
These past weeks have put Atlas-sized stresses on our community and neighboring ones. Here most of us lost power for six days and more; children lost a week of school. The elderly mother of one of my students had to evacuate from her home on Long Island, only to learn that her entire first floor had been washed away. Tragically, another student of mine lost two of her cousins when a tree fell on their car in New Jersey.
What helps you get through troubled times: prayer? yoga? love? All of the above? A new (and wise) colleague of mine put it this way: “Yoga, meditation, shamanic practice, sacred dance, chanting . . . whatever it is that connects us to Higher Mind, Great Mystery, HaShem, God . . . not only makes our time here as humans more possible, it strengthens the field for everyone.”
We all deal with stress in different ways. For those of you who live in lower Westchester, consider sharing the gift of your presence at my Candlelight Restorative Yoga class at Yoga Haven in Tuckahoe. We meet from 6 to 7:15 pm on one or two Wednesdays throughout each month, and bask in a nurturing practice to help quiet the mind and soothe the body. A restorative yoga practice is one of many ways to cope with stress, and is one of the tools in my stress-beating toolbox. Consider adding it to your toolbox as well. Namaste.
Thursday, November 15th, 2012
Bossypants meets yogapants
Does it make you feel uncomfortable when someone hands you a book and enthusiastically insists you read it? Makes me feel pressured and cranky, and I usually wiggle-worm out of taking the book any way possible (“I have a big pile of books waiting to be read already . . .”; “the contact lens for my third eye is damaged and I can’t read for a while” . . .)
Recently, my wiggling didn’t work, because my yoga teacher Karen Safire looked me straight in my third eye and said she thought the book in her hand–just returned from another student–would make me laugh. The hot book being passed from yogi to yogi in her class wasn’t about yoga (take that, William Broad!), nor was it brand new. Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books, 2011), penned by Tina Fey and published last year, is part humor, part memoir, and wholly wise. And, yes, it did make me laugh–from the first sneak peek (before yoga class) and every night that followed (so hard my husband thought I was coughing up a hair ball.)
In Bossypants, Tina touched on themes dear to my crankypants heart: anxiety, work frustrations, weight gain and self-image, parenting challenges, and being pissed off in general in a world that often still expects women to suppress their anger and never look harried. Tina’s narrative is honest, ethical, and smart, and will have you nodding your head so much that it may, unfortunately, trigger neck pain.
Since Tina didn’t offer any tips on improving Downward-Facing Dog that I can pass on, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite little somethings from her book:
Glamourous photos of thin celebrities are a crock and you should ignore them. While recounting her own celebrity photo shoot experiences (including being squeezed into a sizes-too-small dress that was left open in back for the photo), Tina advises: “Don’t ever feel inadequate when you look at magazines. Just remember that every person that you see on a cover has a bra and underwear hanging out a gaping hole in the back. Everyone. Heidi Klum, the Olsen Twins, David Beckham, everybody.”
It was Tina who wrote what is for me one of the most hilarious SNL commercial parodies ever–for “Annuale,” the birth control pill that allows the modern, busy woman to have just one period a year (“that’s all I have time for!”). For me, this skit is right up there with Colon Blow cereal and the classic Bass-O-Matic. Click here to view the skit on Hulu (don’t blame me if you cough up a hairball).
Blondes really do have more fun. Tina writes: “Why do I call it ‘yellow’ hair and not ‘blond’ hair? Because I’m pretty sure everybody calls my hair ‘brown.’ When I read fairy tales to my daughter I always change the world ‘blond’ to ‘yellow,’ because I don’t want her to thank that blond hair is somehow better.” Unfortunately it didn’t work: Tina admits that her daughter always left her reversible Sleeping Beauty/Snow White doll on her bed Sleeping Beauty (blond) side up. Why? She told mom that she didn’t like Snow White’s hair. Sigh.
Thanks to the movie and fashion industries, no woman has permission to be happy with the way she looks. In the “All Girls Must Be Everything” chapter, Tina lists the many physical attributes women are supposed to have to satisfy today’s insane beauty standards. The lengthy list includes (but is not limited to!) long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year old boy, and the arms of First Lady Michelle Obama. Dream on, guys!
Ms. Bossypants got some of her best career advice from Grover. Is there a difficult person between you and what you want in your workplace? If so, Tina suggests that you model your strategy after “Over! Under! Through!” a classic Sesame Street song. Don’t waste time trying to change opinions, she suggests. Instead, go over, under, or through your stumbling block. (I would add that practicing yoga can help make us flexible enough to do the over and under part.)
“Sleep when your baby sleeps” does not give new moms enough “Me Time.” Tina writes: “Everyone knows this classic tip, but I say why stop there? Scream when your baby screams. Take Benadryl when your baby takes Benadryl. And walk around pantless when your baby walks around pantless.” I wish someone had given me this advice when my son was a baby.
Another yogi is now reading the copy of Bossypants that was loaned to me, so I can’t hand it to you and insist that you read it. I hope you find a bossypants yoga teacher who has the book and who’s willing to pass on her copy. Don’t worry: Tina Fey won’t mind if you borrow the book rather than pay for it–she says so right in the book! And for this and many other reasons, I will always think of Tina Fey as Awesomepants.
Friday, September 7th, 2012
Yesterday morning, while driving on the Bronx River Parkway to a class I teach in White Plains, I spotted what looked like a giraffe hanging out the window of a car up ahead in the left lane. I’m not kidding–that’s exactly what it looked like: massive, tan-colored, long neck. I figured it was a plush toy, but then I saw the head move. No way! I thought. There was just too much animal sticking out that window for it to be a dog. But as I closed in on the car, I could see that it was a huge dog, its head (as high as the car roof) and long, thick chest clear out the window, big ears flapping away.
Giraffe Doggie looked happy, but I was horrified. I’ve seen many adorable doggie heads peering out of car windows, but never this much of the dog’s body. I didn’t think it was safe to let a dog lean out that far. Can’t the dog fall out, jump out, or get its head sliced off?
The doggie car and I were neck and neck as we approached a yellow light. (I was considering giving the driver a very dirty look). I slowed down, but the other driver revved up to Stupid Speed and shot ahead. I saw Giraffe Doggie’s long body arc backward from the force and feared his front ear was going to flap right off. Before I lost sight of the car, my impression was that the dog, at least, was enjoying himself.
I told my students about it, and their reaction was mixed–one said I should have taken down the license plate number and reported it; others said that Giraffe Doggie was likely anchored securely in the car or was an experienced joy-riding dog who wouldn’t fall or jump out.
It bothered me, though, so last night I Googled “dog sticking head out of car, safety” and, not surprisingly, found many pet care articles that list a litany of injuries (some quite serious) caused by doggie joy-riding, especially at highway speeds. Dogs can, of course, fall or be thrown from a car if not secured. Eye injury from flying debris is commonly cited; another potential injury is painful ear flap swelling.
Josh Clark, senior writer for HowStuffWorks.com, writes: “The repeated and rapid flapping [of the soft ear flaps] against your dog’s skull from high speed winds actually causes trauma to the ear . . . After repeated trauma, the soft tissue in the ears can scar. . . . ” (Yikes, poor Giraffe Doggie.)
There’s a line of protective sports goggles made for dogs–they’re called, ahem, “Doggles.” They’ll protect the dog’s eyes from flying debris, but of course that doesn’t help the ear flap problem.
Bottom line: letting dogs stick their head out the window of a moving vehicle is not a good idea, even if your dog says it is. Not all dog lovers agree: the Internet is filled with videos and photographs galore celebrating the joys of doggie joy-riding. I couldn’t help but smile at the joyful doggie faces in, for example, the “50 Dogs At 50 Miles an Hour” photo compilation on www.bestweekever.tv. (One of the showcased dogs–number 23, at right–looks like she’s having some kind of dogasm.)
But I can’t help worrying about Giraffe Doggie. If you see him joy-riding on the Bronx River Parkway, tell him I said hello and that I hope he is okay. And while you’re at it, give that driver a dirty look.
Friday, May 25th, 2012