Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It

Make someone laugh today. Send an unexpected email that recounts a funny story for a friend or relative (like the time your brother put the family cat in the toilet. Oh wait, that was my brother). Leave someone a goofy voicemail. Send your child off to school with a joke in his/her lunch box.

Maybe you could use a joke, too?

"What does a dyslexic, atheist, insomniac do?"

"Stays up all night wondering if there's a Dog."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"And The Award Goes To . . ."

Welcome to the first annual Om Gal Awards!

Bostonians often seek my input regarding yoga studio and health club recommendations. I try to be diplomatic yet honest, taking into account that we all have vastly different criteria for selecting where we want to burn calories or karma, or both. Here's a cursory look at my picks in the city of Boston, organized by who might be looking for what. Bear in mind, there's no "academy" here. Just me. Feel free share your own recommendations.


You are . . .

A Novice: Back Bay Yoga (They offer a crazy good deal for first-timers to the studio).

A Purist: Patricia Walden, Cambridge

An Athlete: Elizabeth Huntsman, Baptiste Power Yoga Institute

A Rock Star at Heart: Chanel Luck, Yogathree.com

Any of the Above: Coeli Marsh, Inner Strength, Watertown & West Roxbury


Best for . . .

Group Fitness & Overall Kick-Ass Quotient: Equinox

Motivation: Healthworks (Sorry guys; only gals allowed).

Amenities: The Sports Club/LA

Convenience: Boston Sports Clubs

Spring Fashion Takes a Cue from Yoga

As stated in my previous post, yoga and fashion have forged a relatively new relationship. In recent years, it's become evident that yogis want to upgrade their style quotient. This spring, however, a few trends made me wonder if, perhaps, fashion is taking a cue from yogis. The following spring trends are no doubt stylish and hip, but they're also comfortable, low-maintenance, and sure to be popular with (if not partially inspired by) the yoga crowd.

Gladiator Sandals: Given that yogis spend a lot of time barefoot, they tend to gravitate toward shoes that mimic this feeling. Plenty of designers will show flat yet sassy sandals this spring. Earth Footwear, an environmentally and socially responsible company that boasts technology to help burn added calories while walking (although I wouldn't excessively hit the Haagen Dazs just yet), seems to have struck gold with their "Sizzle" sandal. The strappy flat is available in metallic colors, making it a double-whammy in terms of trend-relevance, gladiator sandal and metallic at once!

Global Inspired: Yogis have always been ahead of the curve on this trend. India, being the motherland of yoga, has always heavily influenced the yoga aesthetic. This season, global inspired prints are going to be everywhere. Use them sparingly though; too many countries reflected in one outfit could result in looking like the product of a United Nations yard sale.

Bold Colors: Again, yogis have consistently embraced bold hues. This spring, try incorporating some of the same vibrant colors found in your Lululemon tops into your wardrobe. Neon green is the one to watch.

Florals: The most yogic expression of this trend? Skip the duds. Buy a fresh and fragrant bouquet.

The Evolution of Yoga Fashion

One short decade ago, the thought of yoga as being a fashionable activity would have been laughable. Yogis were stereotypically "earthy crunchy," with about as much fashion sense as librarians or monks, and, frankly, they liked it that way. A "stylish yogi" ten short years ago meant that someone might slip on colorful clogs after class, not a fabulous Yoga Layer Tee designed by Stella McCartney. For those of us fortunate enough to witness the style evolution from New Age nondescript to hippie chic to haute couture, it was entertaining and exciting, albeit bittersweet.

While our mats, bags, gear, blocks, baubles, and accessories improved, the likelihood of practicing next to a woman liberated from the need to color coordinate her pants, top, and headband or shave her underarms, for that matter, declined. Gradually, sleek spandex pants and flattering bra tops replaced loose-fitting T-shirts and sweats. Men, too, caught on to the new aesthetic and outfitted themselves accordingly in technologically superior garments engineered by scientists at elite institutions like MIT, err, Nike. Dri-fit pants, aerodynamic shirts, water-wicking sweatbands- suddenly we weren't just practicing yoga; we were wearing it, buying it, and coveting it. We wanted jewelry infused with positive intentions, soaps that smelled like Tibetan temples, après-yoga pants that looked effortlessly glam, and bags with compartments not just for our mats but also our iPods, Blackberrys, cosmetics, etc. We saw supermodel Christy Turlington debut a line of yoga wear, watched Madonna integrate countless mantras and moves into her performances, and glimpsed the occasional celebrity style icon in our classes. By the time I received a call from LeAnn Rimes's assistant that she would be attending a class of mine in Boston, I was well aware that the tide on yoga's cool quotient had turned. When a stylist on a Reebok photo shoot stuffed by yoga top with "chicken cutlets" to give the appearance (read: illusion) of larger breasts, I knew the paradigm had officially shifted. When seeing women with breast implants on yoga retreats went from being a complete anomaly to a common occurrence, I knew it had shattered.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that we all boycott shaving our armpits, dig out the Birkenstocks, and stop buying luscious soy candles in serenity-inducing scents. I'm happy yoga is revered by so many in the mainstream, and there are plenty of improved products that allow us to move, groove, stretch, and swagger in ways that feel and look better (although I wouldn't say that implants are one of these products, per se). I do, however, wonder what yogis, as a collective, have lost as a result of all this upgrading, enhancing, stylizing, and commercializing. Can we be certain that the burgeoning yoga industry is built on improving our practices rather than successfully preying on our vanity and insecurities? As often addressed, here, on The World According to Om Gal, looking like a yogi doesn't make it so; just because I put on a Red Sox jersey doesn't mean I'm qualified to play for the team. You have to understand the larger context. Otherwise, you might as well do aerobics, which isn't to say that aerobics isn't great in its own right, it's just that no one teaching step class bothers to pretend that toning your tush or crunching your belly is the path to inner peace.

The crux of the matter is this . . . the clothes, bags, and baubles are secondary. They make yoga fun, which it should be; however, they do not make you a yogi. Your grace, commitment, strength, and soul does that, and those things never go out of style.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Today: Radiate Life

The supreme prayer of my heart . . . is not to be rich, famous, powerful, or too good, but to be radiant. I desire to radiate health, calm courage, cheerfulness, and good will. I wish to live without hate, whim, jealousy, envy, or fear. I wish to be simple, honest, frank, natural, clean in mind and clean in body, unaffected, ready to say I do not know if so it be, to meet all men and women on an absolute equality, to face any obstacle and meet every difficulty unabashed and unafraid. I wish others to live their lives, too, up to their fullest and best. To that end, I pray that I may never meddle, interfere, dictate, give advice that is not wanted, or assist when my services are not needed. If I can help people, I will do it, by giving them a chance to help themselves; and if I can uplift or inspire, let it be by example, rather than by injunction and dictation. That is to say, I desire to be radiant, to radiate life.

-An anonymous doughboy prayer found in France during World War II (which came to me by way of my friend Marathon Gal, my former roommate. I have since shared it with many people. I hope you enjoy it too).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Timeless Tale

On the eve of his enlightenment, Siddartha Gautama, the man who would come to be known as the Buddha, sat in meditation beneath the now famous bodhi tree. Yet, before unearthing the secret to peace, happiness, and salvation from suffering, the Buddha would have to conquer the three most daunting obstacles that an evil demon named Mara could muster.

First, Mara tries to tempt the Buddha out of his meditation. He conjures up a bevy of the most achingly beautiful women imaginable. In addition to being gorgeous, these sirens are highly skilled in the art of seduction. We're talking Angelina Jolie multiplied and on a mission. (Good luck, pal!). Mara directs the group of dames to distract the former prince, Siddartha. They swarm around him, beneath the tree, long black hair flowing past their sun-kissed shoulders, fragrant skin and flowered garlands around their necks emitting a sweet, intoxicating scent, discernible by the Buddha’s keen senses. However, the maidens’ allure is lost on him. Siddartha remains in meditation, immune to their wiles. His eyes scarcely flicker; his breathe stays steady and sonorous.

Next, Mara resorts to violence. Surely, that will derail the Buddha! He sends an army to attack Siddartha. The troops arrive in droves, soldiers armed and insistent upon harming the skinny man meditating beneath the knobby tree. Siddartha senses their presence, but instead of being flustered or scared, he becomes increasingly more still and peaceful. At Mara’s command, from their bows, the hostile soldiers launch hundreds of arrows into the air, aiming for the soon-to-be enlightened one. The arrows travel an upward trajectory, and then, in mid air, they transform into flowers. The Buddha is unaffected and unharmed as the petals rain down all around him. His peace has protected him, even against physical violence.

Finally, Mara invokes the most daunting and demoralizing obstacle of all. He’s a talented demon, this Mara, highly skilled at foiling the intentions of even the most genuine souls. So for his final masterpiece, he aims to arouse self-doubt within the Buddha. Oft-depicted in art and film, this moment in ancient spiritual lore typically consists of the Buddha staring at an image of himself. The Buddha reflected back at the Buddha, a man forced to see and account for his worst fears and flaws. More powerful than temptation and more damaging than violence, what separates Siddartha from complete peace is, quite simply, himself. Yet, he remains imperturbable. Meditation is an act of witness, and in meditation, the mind will inevitably offer its worst.

It was in this moment that one person saw his worst, very clearly, and chose to match it with his best. Seeing beyond self-doubt, the Buddha awoke in a state of blissful, unalterable freedom.

You are your own greatest obstacle and ally. What doubt hinders you from transformation and happiness?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Delightful Contradiction: The Healthy Burger

While no longer a vegetarian, I haven't eaten red meat since age 9. To be honest, I don't really remember what a burger tastes like, but judging from its fan base, I gather it's pretty damn good. The following recipe is pretty damn good too; it even has the endorsement of my guy, a card-carrying carnivore.

Turkey Burgers with Grated Zucchini and Carrot

1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium zucchini (grated)
1 medium carrot (grated)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Form mixture into patties. Broil in heated skilled (coated with olive oil), 4-5 minutes on each side until no trace of pink, flipping burgers once.

Serve on a crusty roll or whole wheat English muffin with lettuce, tomato, melted cheese, and mustard. Carrots, hummus, and kosher baby dill pickles make superb and healthy accompaniments.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Most Of You Who Read This Blog Practice Yoga (Or You're Probably My Parents).

You're a cadre of health-conscious people who appreciate informed yogic insight, effective workout tips, easy and nutritious recipe options, and creative lifestyle advice. Some of you run races, hike mountains, scale rock faces, meditate regularly, or all of the above. The rest of you feel an energetic pull toward these topics. You'd do these things if you could or envision that someday you will.

Then, there's my friend NYC Gal who reads this blog simply because it gives her more fodder to poke fun at the endlessly entertaining chasm between our lives, despite the fact that she is my closest college friend. To illustrate this point, she once juxtaposed the image on this site (of me in an arm balance) beside one of her doing a keg stand. NYC Gal's recreational activities of choice do not include yoga but rather beer pong and tailgating. The only thing she'd do with a vegan apple muffin would be to chuck it at my head for insulting Bon Jovi. She's a Yankees fan, a republican, and, as the name indicates, a bona fide New Yorker. When I visit her (which is far less than she visits me because I have more tolerance for paper cuts doused in lemonade than I do New York City), I pack as if for a camping trip. My species can't subsist on what her species calls sustenance (mainly alcohol, hummus, and frozen yogurt), so I've learned to pack provisions like miso soup, trail mix, and protein bars. You think I am kidding? It's an Acela expedition into the concrete jungle that I need to take seriously, or else I could end up hightailing it to her parents' manse in the Jersey 'burbs, begging for asylum, where, at least, I can find a fridge that contains produce. I knit on the train to settle my nerves, plan at least one yoga class while she hits the nail salon, and do visualization exercises to prepare for sitting across the breakfast table from someone wearing a Yankees cap and reading the Post.

Yet, she is one of my nearest and dearest. We disagree on just about everything under the sun- except one really important thing. Our friendship matters more. I might question NYC Gal's stance on rudimentary things like music and politics, but her loyalty, heart, and humor are unquestionably constant. It should go without saying that friends value each other's happiness as much as their own, but in an age of Facebook friends, "frenemies," and friends you text versus friends you call, I can't overlook her genuine knowledge and support of who I am. In moments of personal triumph, she's the first person to offer congratulations followed by a near instantaneous phone tree to spread the news to her vast social network. During low moments, she's been known to take painstaking care of preserving my ability to smile through sharing the most disastrous dating stories ever imagined, recruiting cute sounding nieces and nephews to leave comical voicemails, and up-to-the-minute celebrity sighting information long before the era of Perez.

My point is this . . . Compassion is what makes our lives bearable; contradiction makes them interesting, and, in the case of my college pal and I, fun. Like-minded people make us feel safe, and they create the core of our personal lives; however, be mindful not to overlook someone who just might be the ever-important yin to your yang. Remember that doing yoga doesn't make us good people; "living" it does. My friend is a living example of Buddhist compassion . . . you know, if the Buddha lived on the upper west side of Manhattan, listened to ACDC, and read Page Six religiously.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sometimes . . .

"You take the leap, and build your wings on the way down."

Faith in ourselves and the people we love is what keeps us afloat sometimes. Whether or not you're in a relationship today, acknowledge your faith in yourself or someone or something that you love. And, if you can't think of anything, have faith that Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported to Ft. Myers today for the start of spring training.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Did You Hear The One About The Buddhist Vacuum Cleaner?

It has no attachments!

Try getting rid of something today. Even small exercises of non-attachment can feel wonderful. Send an outdated or poor-fitting outfit to goodwill. Address the clutter on the kitchen counter. Focus on disengaging from one unproductive or negative thought pattern that keeps cropping up. Keep it small to start, and notice how rewarding it can be to practice letting go on a daily basis.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

5 Ways for Jet-Setters To Become Zen-Getters

Perhaps you're fixing to skip town for the long weekend. If so, here are some travel tips to ensure that you touch down at your chosen destination feeling ready for vacation rather than in need of recuperation.

1. Fuel up before take off. Get your liquids on the plane, but be certain that you pack a few healthy snacks to keep your energy up and your mood steady. Nuts, pieces of fruit, such as bananas and apples, and protein bars pack well and won't trip you up going through security, provided you don't need to go through customs. If you do, skip the produce.

2. Bring a project. Chances are you've been hoping to pen some thank you notes for a while, finish a certain book, or brainstorm an idea in peace and quiet. Here's your chance. Even better, you'll arrive at your destination feeling all the more satisfied that you conquered a lingering little item on your agenda.

3. The eyes have it. Invest in an eye mask to block out unwanted light so that you can sleep. Don't want to look like a diva? A scarf or fleece headband that you might wear around your ears while running outdoors work just as well.

4. Make it a longer trip . . . by stretching out often. Stretch your upper body while seated, and periodically get up to take care of your gams.

5. Meditate. Sit up straight. Close your eyes. Touch all ten fingertips together (your hands will form a tent-like shape). Breath deeply. Try counting 10 slow breaths to start. Maintain constant connection of all fingertips. Mentally scan your body for tension, and release it with every exhale. A blissful meditation is the easiest way to kick off a vacation early.

Cupid Under A Time Crunch?

The mere thought of red roses and chocolates might send your heart aflutter this week, or make you wince at the contrived "Hallmark holiday" that they represent. Nevertheless, it is possible to embrace Valentine's Day in a way that celebrates who you are and who (or what) you love . . . even if you only have 24 hours to pull it off. The added bonus? The following ideas are cost-effective too!

7 Sweet Ideas For A Meaningful Valentine's Day

1. Nix The Gifts: Lots of couples opt to forego gifts and pen good, old fashioned love letters instead. Create an original twist by adding the stipulation that the letters must arrive in an unconventional and surprising manner. Tuck your heartfelt card into the cereal box of your sweetheart's choice for an unexpected treat over breakfast, retain Fido as your mailman, or sock it away in your honey's sock drawer. It's a small way of ensuring some spontaneity during an otherwise predictable day.

2. The Couple That Plays Together, Stays Together: This is a great option for friends as well as couples. Book an activity that you can enjoy together. Take a rock-climbing lesson, attend an Acro Yoga workshop, drop in at a swish health club to which neither of you belong, or make like Tom Brady and Giselle by throwing strikes at Kings.

3. If The Clichéd Day Bugs You- Pick A New One! Who says Valentine's Day needs to happen on Thursday? Dodge the flocks of lovebirds by opting to celebrate whenever suits your fancy. Make a day of it on Saturday by booking a bodywork session, followed by a relaxing lunch, a fun flick, and a cozy dinner at home. I once met a couple who had a falling out on Valentine's Day several years ago. Following the rift, he drafted a "press release" announcing that the holiday had, in fact, moved to another date of their choosing. Remember, if it's your relationship, you make the rules.

4. Extend The Love All Year Long: Magazine subscriptions and fruit, flowers, or wine of the month clubs are great ways to show someone you love them every day of the year, not just when the calendar deems it necessary.

5. Collaborate For A 3rd Party: Notice I didn't say "with" a third party! Enlist your significant other or a friend to help you double up on love for another. Pay a visit to one person's elderly parent or grandparent. Bake a niece's favorite treat together. Conspire to execute an anonymous act of kindness for a mutual friend.

6. Share Your Mug Shot: O.G.'s S.O. summited Mt. Rainier a couple years ago, but the picture taken at the top and framed as a gift is among the best presents I've received, ever.

7. Spread the Love: Donate to a charity close to your honey's heart. A few of Om Gal's local favs worth considering:

Artists for Humanity seeks to bridge economic, racial and social divisions by providing underserved youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in the arts. http://www.afhboston.com/

ReadBoston is a children's literacy organization with the goal of making sure that children in Boston read at grade level by the time they complete third grade. http://www.cityofboston.gov/bra/ReadBoston/JCSRB_Donation.asp

Dana-Farber provides cancer patients with the best treatment available. Its Boston Marathon running team is training in the rain, snow, and sleet during this time of year; supporting their mission will help keep spirits (and motivation!) high. http://www.dana-farber.org/how/gifts/

Monday, February 11, 2008

When The Yoga Teacher Is Wrong

To most Americans, the concept and practice of yoga is new; therefore, students are predisposed to believing that what a yoga teacher says is the absolute truth. In reality, yoga teachers are no more infallible than anyone else, and given my extensive exposure to both the yoga industry and more "traditional" industries, such as education and media, I can say, with confidence, that one is no more corrupt, dishonest, or hypocritical than the other. My intention is not to tarnish the yoga industry's image, here, but merely to shed some light on how you can get the most out of your practice and ensure that your teacher always has your best interests at heart.

To that end, do not let any yoga teacher, no matter how experienced, visible, or well-meaning convince you of the following:

1. Your life is miserable. This is a relatively new phenomenon, but I've noticed that it can be ubiquitous within certain teaching styles and in certain environments. Yes, yoga might be a highlight of your day, but do not let others convince you that you are miserable the other 23 and 1/2 hours of the day.

2. You are fat, old, and should become a vegan (or raw foodist or Scientologist- you get the idea). It's true that yoga is great exercise, makes one look and feel younger, and is best supported by a healthy diet; however, a yoga class should never be a platform for a teacher's personal agendas. Your teacher should be like a sherpa, leading you up the mountain toward a grander view; they should not be Old World explorers seeking to stake claim on you and your life choices. In an effort to make yoga more accessible, teachers, today, often tell anecdotes in class and share their ideas and spiritual inquiries (as I do in this blog); still, they should always do this from a place of advocacy for the student, profound compassion, and an understanding that life can be tough, and we are all doing our best.

3. People who don't do yoga won't or can't understand you. A true yogi should be able to recognize the essence of a yogi in everyone. Remember, the word yoga means "union," and that state of being doesn't discrimminate against non-yogis, relatives, in-laws, children, roommates, ex spouses, coworkers, etc.

[Author's note: if anyone figures out how not to discrimminate against Yankees fans, please let me know].

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Om Gal Ventures North

I'm a big fan of Uggs and hot cocoa, but that's about as far as my affinity for the winter months goes. I don't ski, ice skate, snowboard, or snowshoe. I find curling laughable; although, I suspect I am not alone in this. I like snow as long as it happens on a Sunday morning, magically clears by noon, and doesn't usher in a host of parking bans, tickets, or feuds over spots in the meantime. I envy people who embrace the darker, shorter days with glee, planning trips northward and inviting their equally ecstatic friends to tag along.

Plenty of my friends over the years have extended such generous invitations to homes in lovely places like VT, NH, ME, and Tahoe, and while I am always appreciative and touched, I give these trips about as much consideration as a career in the circus, which is to say I don't consider them. Instead, I hunker down in my urban hermitage, scurrying out into the cold only when absolutely necessary. Please note, activities that warrant leaving home can typically be categorized as one of the following: attending a hot yoga class, luxuriating in the steam room at my gym, or venturing to the grocery store to stock up on Yogi tea and ingredients for soup.

Therefore, it is not without utter disbelief and shock that I share with you what I did this weekend . . . I went to Vermont. What's more, before my former self could protest, I fully embraced snow country. I went snowshoeing and, just this morning, tried snowboarding [insert gasp]. My hands went numb; my butt became sore; I traded in my sleek yoga clothes for outfits that consisted of at least two pairs of pants, several layers of fleece, and borrowed gloves that I might have earlier mistaken for well-insulated cooking mitts. Most importantly, I returned home feeling thoroughly relaxed and rejuvenated. It's even probable that I'll revisit the Green Mountain State in the future.

In the short term, however, I'll try to find ways to preserve the zen of the mountains within my city slicker life. Perhaps you'd like to give this a try as well?


Turn Off The TV: Your nervous system will thank you.

Connect to Nature: City living makes opportunities to do this less obvious, yet there are plenty of ways to appreciate nature EVERY DAY. Perhaps you could start small this week by buying a plant or fish? Then, take care of either or both gingerly.

Challenge Yourself: Snowboarding was not easy, and it was even a little scary. Still, it made me laugh a lot- even in the face of complete ineptitude, which is infintitely healthy and important.

Be Quiet: No explanation needed.

Be Kind: Lend someone your gloves. You may be surprised to realize that it will be you who feels the warmth.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Speaking of Taking Action . . .

You may or may not know that the word "karma," which is so commonly used in the lexicon of pop culture lingo, translates to mean "action." People often misrepresent the concept of karma as being omipresent and, even, arbitrary. Omnipresent, perhaps, but arbitrary, it is not. Karma is not the equivalent of luck. You create and "burn" [or process] your own karma every moment of the day. Good actions beget good actions. Exercising bad karma inevitably brings bad karma into your life. Meaning, if you want good karma, you must take action and extend your own good karma to the world.

How can you change the daily habits of your day to include more good actions/karma?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Zen Master Tim Gunn: Make it Work!

Ideally, your yoga practice and, by extension, your life is a means of discovering, revealing, and honoring your truth, known in sanskrit as "satya." So, the truth is, I am watching Project Runway right now; yet, I think there's plenty of yogic insight available for the fashionista set to consider. OK, maybe not "plenty," but there's some insight.

Tim Gunn, the show's gracious, sophisticated, and oft-aped host, lives by the mantra, "Make it work!" It's not an original statement or a profound one, per se; however, it does represent the essence of yoga. It's about action- making something work as opposed to "thinking" it into working. I'll make my point quickly (or else I'll miss the rest of the show) . . . Stop thinking about your yoga poses while you're in them. Actively disengage from thinking about the yoga poses of the people around you in a class. Get acquainted with the action of your practice, right down to your toes. Make your toes an awakened part of your practice. Make the pose an active part of your day. Make it work. Make it come alive. Make it fun!

Having trouble quieting the constant internal analysis of your practice . . . and your life . . . and your to-do list? Focus your awareness solely on your breath and the physicality of what you feel. Create a connection with your feet on the floor or your palms against your mat. Spending time in meditation (yoga is classified as meditation in motion) will make you more inspired to create masterpieces and strut confidently down the runway of your life when you're not on your mat. Need the non-yogic application of this idea? Consider where in your life you might be better served to stop analyzing and start taking action?

"Auf wiedersehen!"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Vegan Muffins for the Mainstream

These muffins are easy, healthy, and completely delicious. They happen to be vegan but certainly won't tip anyone off on taste alone. Give them a try. Bring them to brunch with friends. Send them to school with the kids.

2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tbs. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1.5 cups chopped apple (peel first)

Combine dry ingredients. Combine water and applesauce. Add apples to dry ingredients and stir to coat. Add water/applesauce mixture. Spoon mixture into non-stick muffin tins (sprayed with vegetable oil spray). Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Heavenly when served warm.

Weight Loss Starts with Awareness- And a Pen!

I've shared this tip with a few people seeking advice on how to get their nutrition back on track this week, so perhaps it will be helpful to a few of you out there. In general, I shy away from the word "diet," as it has a temporary connotation, as opposed to a revised, holistic, long-term approach to healthful eating, and tends to get a bad rap anyway. If you want to make changes to the way you eat and, by connection, the way your body looks and feels, the first step is awareness.

No practice is more effective for gaining a realistic perspective on your eating habits and distinguishing where you need to make adjustments than taking good old fashion pen to paper. For one week, write down everything that you eat and drink, including the coffee cake sample at Starbuck's, the candy bowl at the reception desk, the late night snack . . . everything. More importantly, do NOT judge yourself. Simply, write it down. No one will see this record, so the accuracy will only serve to help you achieve your own goals in the end. Next, try to keep track of when you are eating which foods. This attention to how time of day influences your choices will help you identify when you are most likely to derail. Do you hit the vending machine at the same time every day? Do you deprive yourself all day and then feel compelled to binge after dark? Once you notice troublesome patterns, you'll be better equipped to adapt. Can you pack a healthful snack as a substitute for the assault on the vending machine that you seem destined to make at 3:30 p.m. every day? Do you need more carbs by day, so that your dinner can be a little lighter and leaner in the evening? Do you crave sugar on the days you skip breakfast?

After keeping careful track of what you eat for at least one week, review it. What's extraneous? What doesn't truly fuel your body? Empty calories. Aimless grazing. Emotionally triggered binges. Before you worry about a glycemic index or villify carbohydrates, you need to figure out which foods and patterns are currently undermining your health. Remember, do NOT judge. Just take an honest look, and go from there. The fringe benefit is that you may even find that the act of writing down what you eat and, therefore, seeing it in black and white might be enough to discourage unhealthy choices. For healthy choices and easy recipes, continue to check in regularly with The World According to Om Gal. Bon appetite!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How To Heal A Broken Heart

It's probable that many of you are mourning the loss of the Patriots' perfect season at the Superbowl last night. I'm with you; it's devastating, shocking, and, like a sucker punch in the abdomen, painful. In this delicate situation, I don't think it's wise for me to breeze through it, wax poetic about how "nobody's perfect," or suggest that the defeat serves as a necessary example of staying rooted in the present moment, not gazing perilously ahead toward victory parades and commemorative books before, well, a victory.

Instead, I'll share the following simple antidotes for healing a broken heart (football induced or otherwise), and then, shove off to sleep, hoping that I'll awake to find that this is all an awful dream.

-Backbends (e.g. fish pose, wheel, upward dog). These movements open your heart. It's an important practice even if Eli Manning just crushed it. You might physically feel as though backbends are more difficult if you're carrying around a "heavy heart," so move gingerly. There's no need to overdo it.

-Meditation. Try 5 minutes a day to start. Sit comfortably, with your spine straight. Breathe deeply. If you get distracted, try counting your breathes. When all else fails, count the days until Red Sox spring training.

-No Pudge Brownies. They're made with yogurt but taste even better than the "real" kind. They're available at Whole Foods or in the health food aisle of most larger grocers. Trust me on this one. They're practically medicinal.

-Accupuncture. After a particularly painful breakup a few years ago, I sought this ancient Chinese treatment as a cure. It seemed to help, and being stuck with needles can't feel much different that losing to the Giants. (Ouch, it hurts just to type that).

-Humor. Try www.funnyordie.com.

Have any heart-mending advice of your own? Feel free to share. I may need it later (after sitting in meditation, having licked clean a bowl of brownie mix, while pressing featherlight accupuncture needles into my face).

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Buddha's Last Piece of Advice

The Buddha, in his lifetime, shared many eye-opening, heartwarming insights. He taught the world non-violence and moderation, a commitment to the truth, and the power of meditation. So, when faced with his final hour, what words could the Buddha impart on those around him? What could he say that might encompass his teachings and offer solace to the students that might miss him. Turns out, his last words were incredibly simple yet deftly comprehensive. Before his passing, the Buddha simply advised,

"Do your best,"

. . . which I find very reassuring. Truly, it's all that can be asked of us, ever. And, if we do put forth our best effort in any given moment (whatever level of effort might be available to us in that moment), then we can always rest easy. Some days, our best is filled with energy, enthusiasm, and an unmovable focus on our admirable goals; other times, it's mustering up the courage to leave the house in the morning. One is not better than the other- they just are. The Buddha teaches us that what's important is whether we can greet the moment we've been given with a willingness to do our best.

Fabulous Forearm Stand: The Inversion You're Overlooking

Headstand and handstand tend to get all the glory. They're beautiful and showy and, let's face it, fun. They're like the homecoming king and queen of asanas, drawing the envy of many and illustrating that popularity can open doors, in this case, to studios and yoga classes all over the world, where these poses are practiced, demonstrated, scrutinized, studied, and refined. Teachers and students, alike, feel an attraction to them; we want to show the world that we're acquainted with poses at the top of a percieved pecking order.

Less popular but equally as fun is forearm stand, which is more of a class president type, grounded and foreward-thinking; this pose maintains the benefits of the other two more conventional inversions but also accesses a deeper kind of strength in the upper back, shoulders, and abdomen. In reality, neither is better than the other; I just think forearm stand deserves a little more love.

To get started, familiarize yourself with dolphin pose (downward dog but with forearms on the ground). Then, set up against a wall (finger tips can just barely touch the baseboard of the wall). Be vigilant about the shoulder-width of your arms (do not let your forearms creep inward!). Kick your legs up to the wall; be gentle. Don't kick like a donkey. Activate your core, and wrap your shoulders away from your ears. If you want to attempt to balance, draw your gaze between your hands.

Notice how grounded you feel. Imagine drawing energy and power up from the floor. When you tire, rest convienently in child's pose. If this is too advanced, try facing the opposite direction and walking your feel up the wall; this way, you will experience the pose and generate power in your shoulders while still maintaining a stable connection with your feet against the wall (legs parallel to the earth, eventually).

Try it today; let me know what you think.