Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Yoga Teacher Training!

As I write this, I am dealing with a nasty case of the Cold (long exhaustive weekends of yoga teacher training will do that right?) Throughout the past couple of months, my life has felt like a whirlwind. We booked another trip to Europe (SO EXCITED! more on that later!) and the biggest thing that has been going on is I'm basically eating, sleeping and breathing yoga. Seriously, I feel like I dream of sequencing, screwing up a class and I find myself reciting Sanskrit in my spare time. It sounds like a lot, but I am absolutely having the time of my life!

I just finished my 5th weekend of yoga teacher training and I thought I would kind of fill you in on what I'm learning from it all :) 

With each new weekend full of intense practice and education, I learn more about myself than ever before. I'm learning not just the postures, but the lineage of an ancient practice and learning to apply it to my everyday life. It is utterly overwhelming, but I feel an awakening as I have never felt before.  I find myself more in tune with my true nature and more mindful. I'm learning to slow down and let go which can be incredibly arduous when you're a type-A "always need to be doing something" gal.  When I started this training I did not know how much it would change me and I'm not even talking about the physical. I've been changing spiritually, emotionally and mentally. If I become stressed I focus on my Ujjayi breath (aka Darth Vader breath lol!) I do weird things like think about energies and chakras. Am I beginning to sound like Chris Traeger from Parks and Rec? :P

I have been trying to have a physical practice everyday, but I also find myself making space for meditation and just being in tune with my breath.  What is also interesting is I have been finding myself less and less at the gym. I'm not bashing on the gyms or boutique style studios, but I want more than "looking good" which by the way, who determines who looks good?!?!

I still love to join a couple Spin classes a week and I hope to teach more Spin in the future, but I find myself everyday rolling out my mat at the yoga studio or at home and finding strength, flexibility and calmness there. Yoga teaches us that we're exactly who we need to be deep underneath all those layers of what our experiences and culture tell us we are. I'm not bashing on any form of exercise, because every person is different. However, I have yet to find a form of exercise that teaches me that what is on the inside matters more on the outside than, yoga. I find this inner peace in this ocean of life that I never thought I would find. I don't stress about a piece of chocolate, because somedays maybe a little bit of chocolate is healing for me? I don't restrict, I don't feel upset when I cant get into an arm balance like I used too. I just laugh it off and move on. 

Yoga is full of thousands of years of information so it is a bit daunting and I feel like a baby yogi learning how to walk but I have been so deeply moved by a lot of the readings required for my training. In particular I have been drawn to the yamas and niyamas. The yamas and niyamas are yoga's ethical guidelines laid out in the first two limbs of Patanjali's eightfold path. They're like a map written to guide you on your life's journey. Simply put, the yamas are things not to do, or restraints, while the niyamas are things to do, or observances (source listed below). All of them are incredibly insightful, but I've been really drawn back to ahimsa, or non-violence in this season of my life. I know I have discussed my journey with vegetarianism, and recently without knowing it, I have ventured back into a full plant-based diet. I didn't even try? I found myself just not eating meat. I would make lists for the store and no meat would be on it? I don't know if its yoga or just tuning into what I want. Which if you didn't know, I've never been a meat person. I only did so a couple of years ago because of some health scares but today I feel really good and Ive been very mindful of nutrients and vitamins (*I'll list the one I'm taking down below). I just felt that for me to practice ahimsa it would be not eat meat. That may not be for everyone, but that is how it manifested itself for me. Most importantly, I find myself trying to practice non-violence towards myself. We can really bully ourselves and bully others if we're not a place of peace in our lives. I listen to things I say to myself and a lot of the time I am a real jerk to myself. We need to find a way to love ourselves and take every measure we can to do that. Maybe it means cutting out social media for a bit? Or removing yourself from places and people that are not conduscive to that. We're not perfect, but I find that with the practice of yoga in all of its forms, we can begin to sift through those areas of our lives, leading us to be kinder and more compassionate beings. 

I only have three more full weekends left of yoga teacher trainings and to be honest, I'm bummed. I want more. I find my amazon book wishlist full. I may even consider pursuing my full 500-hour in the coming years and I feel like even with three months left, I'm still just dipping my toes in the water of this amazing practice. Tons of fads come and go, but yoga has remained. Yoga offers something a lot of fitness trends don't and that is unconditional acceptance for where you are in this moment. I'm not saying that yoga is not a killer physical practice, because it really is! However it is much more than that.  I encourage you to add a practice into your life. Maybe through a physical practice, or even a breathing or meditation practice you find on youtube. 
All of us after a blindfolded yoga exercise!

Whether you're flexible or not it makes no difference. Yoga is for everybody and its emotional, physical and mental effects are astounding. 

I will try and continue to share yoga tidbits that are going on in my life :)

on our third yoga teacher training one of the faculty read this amazing poem during our Savasana (corpse pose or final resting pose):

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.  She let go of the judgments.  She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.  She let go of the committee of indecision within her.  She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go.  She let go of all of the memories that held her back.  She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.  She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.
-Rev. Saffire Rose

Monday, June 29, 2015

Photoshoot in Paris

I mentioned before that we had booked a photographer for a session while we were in Paris and today I received the final edited photos. I chose Katie Donnelly photography and she was wonderful! She was so fun, professional and her attention to detail was incredible. When we decided to do this we knew it sounded weird; "A photoshoot on vacation?" but we knew that it would be a souvenir that we would have for the rest of our lives.

I dreamed that we would have photos to show our grandchildren and would sit on a mantle for years to come. Matt and I try very hard to spend our money on experience instead of things and we really felt this was an experience of a lifetime. It was my favorite part of the trip and it was one of the most romantic times of our lives.

If you have not noticed I am a total perfectionist and I spent months excitedly dreaming and thinking about these pictures. I wanted them to be perfect and I'm so happy to say that they turned out exactly how I dreamed they would. I watched countless youtube videos on how to do my makeup and I bought the most PERFECT skirt from Space 46 boutique, but to be honest I think our happiness shined through and that is what made the pictures perfect. I can see how much we love each other and I feel so fortunate to have had this experience. The moment I got these photos, I cried tears of joy <3

I cannot believe that I had this opportunity and everyday I wake up so grateful to be so in love with such a wonderful (and absolutely handsome) man. If you go to Paris or wherever your dream destination is, I recommend thinking about saving for something like this. It was so romantic and I felt like a Princess in the most beautiful city with my Prince charming.

I hope you enjoy and you have any questions, please feel free to email me :)

Shirt: J.Crew
Matt's Suit: H&M
Necklace: (old but they probably have something similar) Francescas
All photos taken by Katie Donnelly Photography

 photo Signature_zpsrupzwcmp.jpg

Friday, June 26, 2015

We Will Always Have Paris

For the past two weeks I have been trying to come down from the travel high of Paris. My whole life I have had a significant interest in France. Reading tales of Joan of Arc or Marie Antoinette. I watched Sabrina and dreamed I could one day sip a cup of coffee at a Parisian cafe. I do not know what drew me to Paris, but I always felt a tug to go there. I am still trying to get my head wrapped around the fact that we spent an unforgettable week there. Paris was everything I had ever dreamed it would be and more.

Our flight to Paris was a red eye and I was pleasantly surprised by Aer Lingus. 

The entertainment was good and the service was great. Obviously long flights suck, but overall our flights were pleasant and on time! We had a stop in Dublin and then hopped on our connecting flight to Paris. We arrived in Paris around 4 o'clock and we were too jet lagged to figure out the metro so we grabbed a taxi and went to our hotel. We really saved and went all out for a view. Our hotel was literally next to the Eiffel tower and the view was amazing! Definitely worth every penny to wake up to this everyday! 

This was the view from our hotel bar and restaurant on our first night in Paris. I think at that point I was ready to sell everything and move with Matt and the kitties to Paris lol

Day 1: 
On the first day we booked a guide to take us through the Louvre. I really recommend doing so since the lines are outrageous and the guides usually can get you through a side entrance and weave you in and out of the crowds surrounding the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.

Our guide from City Vision was a delight! She really provided an in-depth review of the art and the history of the Louvre. I know everyone wants to see the Mona Lisa, but I was most interested in seeing "Victory Leading the People" by, Eugene Delicriox.

It is a significant piece of the French Revolution and it is much more powerful in person! After the Louvre we were on a  hunt for Angelina's to have the renowned hot chocolate and Mont Blanc. I can confidently say that it lives up to the hype! Both were so rich and delicuous!

After lunch we walked from the Tuileries gardens through the bustling Champs Elysses and up to the Arc de Triomphe.

 It was hot our first day, but Paris is best seen on foot and we made sure to stop off into stores to cool off. From there I needed to make a stop at the famous Laduree for some macaroons! I literally devoured all of these in one sitting. So delicious!

We spent the rest of the day wondering around outside of our hotel near the Eiffel. The architecture is so beautiful in Paris. It was like I had stepped inside my Paris Pinterest board <3

Day 2:
We woke up bright and early and got ready for our photoshoot (I can't wait to share the photos with you guys!) Our photographer Katie Donnelly was adorable and her attention to detail was incredible. It was the most romantic time of my life being with Matt in my ballerina skirt posing in the city of love :) I feel so fortunate and glad that we had the opportunity to do that! Here we are after our session near the Trocadero. What a view eh?!

After the photos we grabbed breakfast at our hotel and headed off on the metro to our tour of the Musee d' Orsay that we booked with Fat Tire Bike tours. That was probably my favorite museum of Paris. Our guide was so enthusiastic and knowledgable. The Van Gogh's and Monet's were breath taking and my artsy nerd self was in heaven!

 After our tour there we walked a mile through some more beautiful streets to the Opera Garnier. The opera house was the inspiration for the Phantom of the Opera and it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! I highly recommend booking a tour there through Cultival with Paul he was so kind and enthusiastic!

That night we had a wine tasting at O'Chateau and learned about different wines from a Sommelier and had a delicious three course meal with their wine pairings. We chatted with other awesome couples and drank the night away! Walking back to the metro along the seine was incredible. That city is absolutely magical and I highly recommend walking along the Seine its unlike any other experience! I think the sign outside will be our new life motto! :P

Day 3:
Our third day was probably one of my favorite days of the trip. We booked a full day bike tour of Versailles and we again used Fat Tire Bike Tours. William our tour guide was lively and very attentive. We took the RER metro to Versailles and biked through the town to the farmer's market, purchased our fresh baked bread, brie made from raw milk, fresh produce wine and fresh prosciutto. We rode through the grounds of the Palace, walked through Marie Antoinette's Hamlet and ate our picnic on the canal facing the palace! It was absolutely beautiful. The weather was low 70s and riding our bikes through the grounds felt like I was in heaven. The palace was itself was VERY crowded that day so that kind of put a damper on the experience, but it was still gorgeous! Especially the hall of mirrors and we got to see Marie's actual bedspread!

Day 4:
We booked a tour through City Wonders and Barbara an art historian was our awesome guide.  I loved seeing the stained glass and the gargoyles. It is an absolutely beautiful building and obviously you cannot go to Paris without seeing it!

Afterwards we ate lunch at La Petit Chalet. It was highly recommended on Tripadvisor and it had an incredible view of the cathedral. The food was delicious and fairly priced!

After lunch, we grabbed banana Nutella crepes! I'm really glad these are not everywhere in the states because I could literally live off them. These are a must try while in Paris!

After we devoured our crepes, we walked over to Sainte Chappelle and it was absolutely breathtaking. I have never seen stained glass more beautiful. The way the light hit the glass and lit up the room was magical. Best 7 euros I spent in Paris!

There was also a beautiful flower market near the cathedrals that apparently the Queen of England wanted to visit as soon as she arrived in Paris. It was so cute and peaceful and they had beautiful souvenirs and homemade soap shops. 

Day 5:
We spent our last full day in Paris simply walking around and enjoying the sites. We picked up some last minute gifts and walked around the Saint Germain De Pres area so I could sample Pierre Herme's macaroons. The Lavender one was amazing!! I preferred Laduree but really, there is no wrong choice with Macaroons in Paris :)

We ate lunch at another highly rated restaurant near our hotel and can I just say, butter in Paris is so much better than in America...I promise you, you will be ruined for life if you try butter in Paris. It is so fresh and creamy...I think I ate an entire loaf of bread just for the butter and we ate so fast that I did not manage to snap a photo...oops! ;)

On our last night in the city we bought a bottle of champagne and sat in our hotel and looked at the Eiffel tower from our room. Buying champagne and taking it back to our room was such a treat for us. We took advantage of their lower prices on champagne and bought a couple bottles from a local champagne shop near our hotel.

I sat there on our last night so grateful and in love with Paris. I knew why I longed to see it my whole life. None of the stereotypes I heard were true.  I never met a rude French man or woman. The service was great and it is true what the Poets say "Paris is the city of love." Matt and I fell even more in love in Paris and I didn't even think that was possible :)

Paris re-awakened my love for travel and made all of the saving and budgeting worth it. I know why they say "La Vie en Rose" which means "life through rosy glasses," in Paris because the world became lovelier while I was there. Life seemed brighter and I  think traveling in general does that tfor you. We learn more about our world and see people in a much more positive light when we travel. We learn that we occupy such a small corner of the world and it is humbling to see buildings that are ancient or 800 years old. It is humbling to see what human beings have been through and have beeen able to accomplish. Traveling re-instills hope. 

This blog is usually about healthy recipes and living a healthy lifestyle and if you couldn't tell already-we ate a TON while we were in Paris, but that is the point right? I was not for one second going to worry about calories in Paris and neither should you when you take your trip of a lifetime. You know what happened from me eating and stuffing my face with sweets, cheese and champagne for a week? Nothing. My pants still fit, I don't feel any different, I walked everywhere we went and I had the most amazing time of my life drinking and stuffing my face with all the banana nutella crepes I could find. So taking a time out our busy schedules and constant workout routines to actually enjoy life is healthy. Just some food for thought during this vacation season :)

 "America is my country and Paris is my hometown.
-Gertrude Stein

 photo signature_zpsngfg1kto.png