Friday, September 26, 2008

Au Revoir, Om Gal!

Dear Om Pals:

I'm venturing to the South of France to teach yoga on a biking trip through Provence for one week led by DuVine Adventures. I'll be sure to share the scoop on the experience upon my return (particularly the part about me getting on a bike- that moves- for the first time in nearly a decade).

Your "hOMework" while I'm gone? Be sure to register for my yoga workshop on October 25. It benefits Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, making your yoga practice an act of "spiritual activism," a term coined by author and Buddhist meditation teacher Lama Surya Das. Plus, it will be a blast! Just click the Pay Pal button to the left.

Be sure to bring your own mat, towel, water, block and strap (if you use them). The class is heated. Directions are uber easy and available on the school's website.

Your other assignment? Root for those Red Sox!

Merci et Au revoir!
Om Gal

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Om Gals Go High Fashion

A photo of me and om pals Alisa Neely (style "scout" extraordinaire) and Robin Hauck (editor of at the Bombay-inspired Sam Mendoza fashion show last week. Read Alisa's Fashion Week lowdown, here.

Quote: Hopi Elder

"We are the ones we've been waiting for."

-Hopi Elder

Monday, September 22, 2008

Counting My Blessings

I love the beach. Born and raised on Cape Cod, I can't recall a time in my life when the ocean didn't represent complete bliss for me. You know that tranquil, blessed feeling of peace that we find in sivasana or in meditation or in church? A reflective place where the world falls away and everything makes sense? It's the moment where song lyrics are written, life decisions made, and sorrows dissolved. For me, more often than not, this moment has an ocean view.

Not too long ago (about 3 weeks and 20 degrees ago, to be exact), I spent a weekend at the beach, where I tried to surf for the first time. It just might be my new favorite activity! I also enjoyed one of my oldest, favorite activities: Disappearing down a stretch of sand and walking until fellow beach goers transform from people, to specks, to solitude.

I walked for a long time, knowing that this makeshift pilgrimage would serve as the day's yoga practice, and I relished every sandy step, snapping imaginary photos in my mind in attempts to preserve the perfection of each moment lapping right up against the next. I think my gait even acquired a skip at one point. Turning my face skyward, like a lizard seeking warmth, I thought 'I don't want to be anywhere else than where I am, right now.' Then, rather abruptly, I realized I wasn't alone.

Two massive dogs were playing in the ocean just a few yards away; maybe there were three. As I approached, I quickly realized that these were the largest black Labs I'd ever seen; then, just as quickly, I realized they weren't dogs at all, but massive sea lions. At this, my jaunty, silly walk froze to a standstill. My jaw dropped, and I think I omitted some sort of noise, one of shock and excitement, tinged with a hint of fear. These sea lions were HUGE. And, seemingly multiplying . . .

When I counted seven, I thought, 'An auspicious number for a magical event,' but soon, there were nine. As I counted up to ten, I think I laughed out loud, looked around, and wondered where everyone was? How could they all be missing this? Why was this natural wonder happening to me, alone? Prior to that day, I'd never seen one sea lion, let alone a gaggle of them. Giddily, I counted the bellies of two more creatures, until finally topping the count at lucky number 13. Surely, it was a sign. Of what, I didn't know . . . Should I play the lottery? Heck, I felt like I had just won the lottery! I hoped the mental snapshots that I took would last forever.

So far, they've served me well. In the past two days, I've experienced several blessings so powerful that they brought my movements to a standstill and dropped my jaw in amazement. Some of these moments occurred at Global Mala on Sunday in recognition of the U.N. International Peace Day and in the presence of like-minded yogis and esteemed meditation teachers like Ek Ong Kar Singh and Lama Surya Das. Others happened last night at a local hospital where I greeted a relative after she awoke from a long, complicated rest.

Somehow, the sea lions keep surfacing in my mind, as massive, playful blessings that I am thrilled to uncover. Only the sea lions numbered only 13, and my blessings- I am still counting.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quote: Good Deeds

"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."

-William Shakespeare

Saturday, September 20, 2008

U.N. International Peace Day

Today marks U.N. International Peace Day, which you may choose to celebrate in several different ways. For yogis, hundreds of Global Mala events will take place in dozens of countries to simultaneously complete 108 sun salutations in solidarity and support for each community's peace-promoting nonprofit organizations of choice. I'll be emceeing a portion of the Boston event at Cyclorama today, and I hope to see you there!

However, there are also plenty of other ways to acknowledge the special nature of this day on your own. Whatever you do, make a point to spend a portion of your day doing something that brings you and/or others a feeling of profound peace. As Mother Theresa once said, "There are no great things, only small things done with great love," calling forth our ability to promote peace with even our smallest actions.

Please feel free to report back with thoughts on Global Mala Boston, reflections on the day as a whole, or perspectives on your own expressions of peace, today.


Unless you're an ice hockey goalie or captain of a cheerleading squad, the ability to perform a split will not enhance your life in any identifiable way. It won't make you better at your job, more compassionate to humanity, or more attractive to your peers. On the journey toward enlightenment, any new found flexibility in your groin is relatively low on the packing list.

Nevertheless, a split or hanumanasana, in Sanskrit, is a highly effective yoga posture that you might consider incorporating into your practice more often. Following my 33-hour adventure relay insanity fest of last weekend, I've been easing more of this movement into my daily practices. It's certainly not an easy posture, but when approached mindfully and modified as needed, it provides thighs, hamstrings, and hips with a targeted dose of length and expansion. Be sure to square your hip bones forward; don't collapse onto your tuckus, and don't be shy about using blocks under your front hamstring or beneath either palm to support you.

I like this pose, not only for its ability to address my tight hammies but also for the metaphor it represents. Hanuman (see image, above), in the pantheon of Hindu gods often associated with the practice of yoga, which originated in India (also birthplace to Hinduism) is the great monkey god, who famously leaped from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka in the epic spiritual text, the Ramayana. Often, when I struggle in this pose, I call to mind super-hero-like powers that would allow me to leap over obstacles in my life with ease. I visualize grace, faith, and strength- all the qualities that one needs to take great leaps in life, and I begin to appreciate the pose for this quality. We've all been there before- standing at the top of the bunny slope peering down, considering a major life change, or putting our heart on the line for something important- and it's beautiful when what we do on our yoga mat helps us weather those experiences with more confidence and less fear.

Ultimately, asanas are simply vehicles for a greater purpose; they help us practice focus, patience, and peace in simulated moments of challenge. Our lives and yoga practices are best served by finding the poses and styles of yoga that resonate most with each one of us as individuals- understanding that our needs change constantly. Likewise, we are changing constantly. One day, one challenge, one decision, and one leap at a time . . .

Have your own opinion to share about this pose? Questions? Tips? Post a comment! All the cool kids are doing it . . .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Breaking News!

I'm teaching a yoga class/demo before a screening of Enlighten Up! on Saturday, 9/20 at the Kendall (details above). See you there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quote: Healing

"Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn't you- all of the expectations, all of the beliefs- and becoming who you are."

-Rachel Naomi Remen

Monday, September 15, 2008

Enlighten Up!

Watch what happens when Boston filmmaker (and former yoga teacher at the same studio as yours truly) Kate Churchill chooses a subject, introduces him to yoga, and follows him around, recording his inevitable transformation. The result is funny, informative, thought-provoking, and insightful. Most of all, it's honest. You will love it.

Opening at the Kendall Square Cinema this Friday, Enlighten Up! is the perfect pre or post-yoga activity this weekend. Please report back with your thoughts. I saw it last night and left feeling thrilled that the themes and discussions that I'm compelled to address, here, on the blog had come to life on camera with so much candor and compassion. Bravo! Namaste! Enjoy the show!

Why I Ran Reach the Beach

From the subject matter contained on, you might guess that I pal around with some active people- which is true. And, you might also guess that we do athletic stuff together, like take yoga classes, go hiking, or hang from lamp posts on Comm Ave. while cheering our other friends toward the finish of the Boston Marathon.

Every once in a while, however, I wonder if some of my dear friends have crossed a threshold from extremely athletic to clinically insane. Case in point: For the past couple years, no less than three pals per year have invited me to join their teams for an adventure relay in New Hampshire called Reach the Beach, which sounded intriguing, initially, until I learned specifically what it entails: 200-miles, run by a team of 12 (or 6, for the super crazy, err, adventurous) within a 24 to 36-hour period through the mountains, over the hills, alongside the highways, and down the country roads of New Hampshire. See, you're intrigued, right? Now, hear this . . . when you're not running, you're riding or driving in a van with your team. No showers, no sleep to speak of, no legitimate restrooms. Port-A-Johns abound, peanut butter and bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if you're really lucky, maybe you can sleep on the gymnasium floor of a local high school for an hour; if you're not; you're running 9.1 miles, uphill, at 2:30 in the morning, with a scant headlamp to light your way.

After having the race details outlined for me by people I love dearly, my response was something along the following lines: That sounds utterly miserable. Not only am I completely uninterested in such a cockamamy idea, but given our clear differences of opinion on this matter, I may need to re-evaluate my ability to be friends with you moving forward.

Then came om gal E., a former longtime yoga student of mine but a fairly new friend, who apparently has powers of persuasion beyond those of mere mortals because when she asked me to run the same race that several friends had tried and failed to sell me before, I responded, "Um, sure- I'm in!"

In the days, weeks, and months that would follow, I would occasionally ask myself, "WHAT have I gotten myself into?" However, I made a commitment; I'd surprised myself with my willingness to join virtual strangers on an overnight running race requiring me to run much more mileage than I was accustom and subjecting me to much less sleep and sanity than I care to endure. Still, there was something exciting about the level of insanity, the brashness of my snap decision, the potential to do something waaaaay outside my realm of comfort and capacity.

By now, you can surmise that I survived the race (see photographic evidence above). I dare say I even enjoyed it. While relentlessly daunting, the 2-day experience was also exhilarating, a tangible reminder that the whole is, indeed, greater than the sum of its parts. Here's a cursory "rundown" of some other lessons that I learned this weekend:

1.) Go with your gut. If you want to say YES to a particular question in a given moment, do it (even if you'd say no to it in 99 out of 100 other circumstances). There's power in accepting your intuition, and it's far more potent than the matrix of rationalization through which we typically make decisions.

2.) Fear doesn't deserve the bum rap. For one thing, the terrified pitter patter in my chest was a valuable asset in helping me pick up the pace while running 5.5 miles down a dark highway at 4 a.m. How often I curse fear and recoil away from it, when instead, I might try to embrace it more often? Imagine how it might propel me, if I could say, "Ok, Fear, I see you. I know what you're about. Let's do this thing anyway."

3.) Darkness is necessary for there to be light. In times of darkness, we often find ourselves asking, WHY. Why me? Why now? Why does it hurt so badly? But, after seeing the elated and illuminated face of one of my teammates after she'd run 7 miles, uphill, in the rain, around midnight, I had to rethink this assumption. To her, the darkness was a blessing. "I never would have been able to run those hills in the daylight [when she could see how looming they were]," she explained. Fair enough. Lesson learned: We sometimes conquer the unthinkable in times of darkness- because light would only be a distraction.

4.) Appreciate simple pleasures. It's amazing how quickly we can reconnect to our true essence in a condensed amount of time. Without my usual, creature comforts, I became enamored with the natural comforts of the world unfolding around me. Suddenly, a blue sky put my mind at ease; crickets on the side of the highway down which I was running were music to my iPod-free ears (headphones are strictly verboten on RTB), and making someone else a PBJ sandwich gave me a sense of purpose. Fancy job titles, cars, nice clothes, showers- they're all less essential than we think, and we're well served to seek experiences that remind us of this.

5.) Let others lead you. Sometimes it's hard to take input, advice, or help from others, but it's absolutely crucial to our happiness, nay, our survival. During the last leg of my race, a fellow runner, overtook me. We exchanged pleasantries as he passed, at which point, he motioned to a gal ahead of us (whom I'd been trying to catch for the past mile); "Let's go get her," he said firmly. I obeyed, and we quickened our pace. Once we'd overtaken our target, my running companion made it his personal mission to keep me on task (perhaps he'd heard the voices in my head losing focus or the sound of my steps losing confidence). "I'll talk, you listen," he called over his shoulder. So, there I was, a fatigued, near delirious runner staying in the footfalls of a quicker, more seasoned expert who would talk me into the finish. When he urged me to sprint the last 1/2 mile, I couldn't match his steps anymore, but I maintained a steady stride and finished with a final burst of energy that I never would have discovered had it not been for the help of a stranger.

Please feel free to share some of your own lessons learned through challenging physical activity and/or teamwork.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Before Om Gal Goes . . .

Before I venture into the mountains of New Hampshire tonight for a 36-hour adventure relay with 11 other gals, I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your support of this site. If this sounds a bit like an Alexander Supertramp Into the Wild moment, it's because, well, it might be. However, presuming I'm not devoured by a bear or fall off the side of a cliff while sleep-running through one of the three legs I'm slated to complete (totaling somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 miles, some of which will be at night while wearing a head lamp), then I'll be sure to tell you all about it upon my return.

In the meantime, I wanted to put a few events on your radar, as they are fast approaching and of interest to the yoga community- that's you.

September 14, Screening of Enlighten Up!, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA: Enlighten Up! (2008, 82 min.) is distinguished by its view of mystical yoga through the eyes of a curious-but-skeptical hedonist. The film follows journalist Nick Rosen through mainland United States, Hawaii, and India as filmmaker and yoga enthusiast Kate Churchill documents his increasing immersion in the world of yoga. Her goal is to prove that yoga can transform anyone, even Nick. An insider with the film was kind enough to post the upcoming screening schedule directly to through the comments function- another reason to check those bad boys out and add your own!

September 21, Global Mala, Boston: The date marks the UN's International Peace Day. Celebrate and support peacefulness within yourself and others by practicing with hundreds of like-minded yogis in Boston and thousands across the world. Last year, 400 Global Mala events took place in 35 countries. This year, Om Gal will emcee the evening's festivities in Boston. Be sure to buy your tickets soon . . . um, like, right now. Click here!

[Photo above: Many of the teachers featured in last year's sun salutation celebration. I'm in the middle, looking like a goofball].

October 25, Workshop with Rebecca Pacheco to Benefit Roxbury Preparatory Charter School: If you're interested in taking this special 3-hour yoga workshop with me, please send an email to I'll reserve you a spot, and as soon as the site is commerce enabled, you'll be the first to know. The master class costs $50 and will be a very uplifting, challenging, and fun experience- a way to "put your money where your mat is," and truly live your yoga. More details to come in the days and weeks ahead . . .

So long for now, Om Pals, I gotta run!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

You Should Eat What I Eat: A Myth Perpetuated By Some Yoga Teachers

At nine years old, I announced I would be a vegetarian. My parents responded first with amusement, then concern, and finally protest. After a brief caucus, they convinced me to reconsider my decision by reintroducing fish and chicken into my new, admittedly ill-conceived nutrition plan. Given that I was barely old enough to use the oven or wield a kitchen knife (and I certainly wasn't doing the grocery shopping), I wasn't exactly poised to be the healthiest of vegetarians.  I wasn't adept at substituting the protein I would miss from meat with alternatives, such as legumes, tofu, etc. In all likelihood, I would subsist on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watermelon, had my parents not intervened.

In high school, after becoming a yogi and studying the principle of ahimsa, I reestablished my vegetarianism (this time, more deliberately and with a well stocked, veggie-friendly school dining hall as a resource) and maintained that choice through most of college. Occasionally, during trips back home to the Cape, I'd feel compelled to savor the fruits of the sea, and I never felt the need to abstain from my grandmother's homemade kale soup, simply because the stock was not vegetarian approved. I looked at my dietary choice from a cumulative perspective, a decision that fit into the framework of my life as a whole, serving as only a fraction of the compassion I could show the world around me. Of course, the opposite of this theory is that there are many ways one can harm another being, independent of food choices.

As a yoga teacher, people often assume that I am a vegetarian (or vegan or macrobiotic or raw foodist), and that's fine. (I can always duck and cover if I'm spotted at my favorite sushi joint;-) What I find less palatable is the assumption on the behalf of some yoga teachers that their students should eat the way they do.  Period.

I believe very strongly that teaching yoga is not a forum for pedaling our own personal agendas, however noble they might be. I also believe that if a teacher is doing a really good job conveying the essence of yoga that students will, by default, make the healthiest, best informed, most appropriate decisions for themselves-- in life and at the supermarket. It's far more compassionate to be understanding of each student's right to make his/her own choices rather than vilify a jam-packed yoga class on Thanksgiving morning for the turkey many people are about to consume (true story: teacher and studio withheld).

I fully acknowledge that my view comprises only a dollop of the discussion on this issue (which is why I invite you to share your own thoughts by posting a comment). I'm the daughter of a chef father and an immigrant mother from a culture entrenched in seafaring and savoring food as a celebration of family. One could make the case that while eating meat is extremely unappealing to me, the fact that plenty of my parents' restaurant patrons did, sent me to college. Moreover, my grandmother even with her eroding memory can probably still recount the first time she fed each of her grandchildren that signature kale soup. To her, its ingredients far surpass those placed in a shopping cart; there's also love, culture, and comfort in her recipe. This is the lens through which I see food; I respect that it's inevitably different from yours.

I haven't eaten red meat since the age of nine (a remnant of my original non-meat pledge).  It's less of an active choice now and more of an innate wiring in my brain. Currently, I eat fish and poultry on occasion. Nevertheless, I believe we're all built differently, and the best we can do is make decisions that optimize our own emotional and physical energy, thereby enhancing our lives and those of the people and sentient beings around us. After all, it's what's in our hearts, not just on our plates, that shape our impact on the world.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Has a yoga teacher ever pushed a personal agenda-- food-related or otherwise-- on a class in which you were present? What informs your dietary choices? Did your choices change once you started practicing yoga? Should all recipes on be vegetarian/vegan?

Om Gal Has an Appointment with Dr. Howser

The prognosis is good . . . prolific blogging to continue ASAP.

[Photo: Rebecca Pacheco and Neil Patrick Harris at the Opening of CBS Scene last night at Patriot Place, Gillette Stadium].

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Be Yourself

"To be nobody but yourself- in a world which is doing its best, day and night, to make you like everybody else- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting."

-e.e. cummings

Monday, September 1, 2008

Moving Day

September 1 is a great time to move. In Boston, half the city's population, also known as its college students, do this with aplomb each year. Moving vans line the streets. Couches adorn sidewalks. Mattresses hug tight to the roofs of cars and around the corners of slender stairwells. The sheer number of people schlepping to and fro makes for a frenzied and, even, festive atmosphere.


Of course not . . . It's a damn nightmare, which is why we're all glad it's almost over. A few inconveniences often remain, like a massive influx of trash on your curb (short term) and roommates (long term), for example. While I can't do much to alleviate trash piles or roomies who may or may not vacuum in their skivvies, I can share a few different kinds of "moves" to help ease the rest of the transition for you.

Pain in the neck? This time I'm not talking about your roommate but, instead, your actual neck, which might be tweaked as a result of craning it to see up the endless flights of stairs you climbed all day long, touting boxes, bags, a mini fridge, and your pet fish, Ralph. Two asanas that I recommend to relax your tense neck:

1.) Lie on your back and hug your knees up to your chest. Roll all the way over onto your right side. Once you've landed on your side, continue the motion of your head so that your LEFT cheek rests on the floor. Roll in the opposite direction and repeat. In effect, your head continues to roll as your body rests in the fetal position.
2.) Sit up straight and gently drop your head to the right. Place the length of your forearm on the upper (left) side of your face. The weight of your forearm will enhance the stretch. Switch sides.

Ouch, my back! Lugging furniture around takes a toll. To avoid the greatest damage, be sure to bend your knees (think: utkatasana!) when lifting heavy items. However, if you're past that point, you need restorative poses to stretch and soothe your back body:

Rag doll or uttanasana.

Happy baby pose.

Supine twist.

Tired muscles? Try arnica.

Can't sleep in your new digs? A new home can be eery at first, making us miss the noises and nuances of a our old place. Here are a couple of my favorite ways to unwind, drift off, and catch some Zzzs, in any zip code . . .

Good Earth Organic Cool Mint Herbal Tea is my go-to evening beverage. It's delicious, soothing, and the price tag isn't as "steep" (ha-get it? A little tea humor!) as many of its pricey organic counterparts. A combination of peppermint, spearmint, chicory, rooibos, nutmeg, and other natural flavors make this steamy brew perfect for settling your stomach after dinner or your mind after a long day.

De-clutter your boudoir. Feng shui experts like to say that bedrooms are for sleeping and sex only, and I tend to agree. For me, this means that the TV stays in the TV room, blogging doesn't happen in bed (a la Carrie Bradshaw), and clutter is relegated elsewhere. Create a peaceful environment for sleep, and your chances of sleeping peacefully are greatly increased.