Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Friend: Assessing His Life

[Via an email regarding the disparity between a day job and spending time with his precocious niece and nephew].

I can't deal with these kinds of questions:

Can you get me the matrix on that?

Need to see that spreadsheet.

Can you stay late tonight?

I CAN deal with these questions:

Can we get Chips Ahoy?

Is Dora on?

Is Honey Nut Cheerios a "bad" cereal?

New Year's Eve is a time to take stock, reflect, resolve, and re-prioritize. We all have our own way of engaging in this process, and to help you make the most of your healthy goals this year, I'll provide further details, tips, and resources in the days and weeks ahead (nobody resolved to start smoking, right?).

Given that you probably don't want to be bogged down with too much too soon (better to simply focus on kissing 2008 good-bye today), I thought I'd share with you the witty, reflective ruminations of one of my pals (above). We'll keep his identity secret, but it might be worth noting that he is indeed a "he," proving that young, professional guys as well as gals struggle to balance aspirations of having and spending time at home with a family and the need to keep the lights on.

Moreover, it goes without saying that a clear window into someone else's world can often illuminate and inspire our own goals (else there would be no blogosphere). So, have a candid conversation with yourself today, and decide what you "can stand" and what you can't in the year ahead. Then, consider how you might close the gap between the two. Relishing in the power of possibility is the first step down a bright, beautiful, inspired path in 2009. May it be filled with light, love, and, perhaps, the occasional, indulgent bowl of "bad" cereal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Benefits Of An Economic Crisis (No, Seriously)

The housing crisis. The auto bailout. A different newspaper going belly up each week. A soaring unemployment rate. Not to mention countless examples of the current economic crisis experienced by each of us, in small ways, during the course of our daily lives. Even if your job is secure and your home is not in danger of foreclosure, the current perfect storm of economic conditions is enough to rain on anybody's parade or, at least, make life a bit more challenging.

Even grocery shopping, for example, is more of a challenge. On a recent trip to the grocer, I bought a bottle of honey that cost me nearly $10 dollars. Let me be clear: I didn't buy a bushel of goji berries imported from Tibet or a sushi platter big enough to give Jeremy Piven mercury poisoning. I really, truly bought one measly bottle of HONEY for a whopping $9.45 (and I wasn't even at Whole Foods!). Sure, this is completely trivial in the scheme of things, but it's a tangible example of just how bitter the situation has become: even the buzzing, industrious honeybee, a universal symbol of productivity, seems to be afflicted by the economic slowdown. Sad.

But, wait . . . Is that fair? To join the public outcry of people claiming that the world, as we know it, is collapsing before our eyes and we are helpless to stop it—let alone sweeten our tea in any kind of conscionable manner? Could there be a glimmer of opportunity buried in all this buzz, a sweet little dollop of perspective to help navigate our way through the negativity?

With all these leading questions, you can bet I'm headed somewhere. Hence . . . The Benefits of An Economic Meltdown (No, Seriously).

Smarter spending. With boom times comes a propensity and implicit permission to spend exorbitant amounts of coin on unnecessary things. In recent years, conspicuous spending became the standard, trotted to the fore on the heels of Manolo Blaniks and driven to popularity on the wheels of massive SUVs built to tackle muddy ravines on safari in Kenya—which is no different from a mall parking lot, assuming your local mall is located in a muddy ravine in Kenya. Call me old-fashioned; call me low-budget; call me a throwback to the days of our parents and grandparents who maintained their frugal sensibilities long after the Great Depression passed, but I think spending your money on stuff you actually need is an advisable way to allocate your quan, at least, for a while. Maybe you genuinely need a big, bruising vehicle to ferry around children or lumber or whatever, but maybe you could stand to downsize a wee bit. Indeed, non-essential purchases make life a little brighter, cozier, better accessorized, and more fun, but, there's no harm in revising our financial ideology to reflect the cash-flow we actually have , rather than the cash-flow we wish we had. Remember: your worth doesn't reside in your wallet, and, thank heavens for that. I’m not saying it’s time to sell our earthly possessions and wear only clothing we can weave ourselves; I’m simply suggesting that an emphasis on smarter, more sensible spending might do the country some good.

Dining in helps fatten your wallet and slim your waist. Any diet is apt to dish the same advice: the more you dine out, the harder it is to keep an eye on your nutrition, which is actually good news during a recession, wherein people dine out less. So, channel your inner Top Chef; save your pennies, and soon enough, you’ll be dropping unhealthful eating habits faster than the Dow drops points.

Unemployment initiates introspection. With the unemployment rate climbing to its highest level in decades, many people find themselves without jobs or anxious that they might be without jobs in the weeks and months ahead. It’s a scary prospect. Believe me; I’ve been there- during the economic crisis that followed 9/11- however, it’s also fertile ground for discovering and redrafting your ideal career path. Over the holidays, I caught up with a recently pink-slipped pal at a holiday party who is doing just this kind of self-evaluation. “I didn’t even like my job anyway! I just wasn’t ready to quit on my own” she confided. During recessions, people are more likely to change careers or go back to school, which is another way of saying that they get better aligned with their true talents and passions. As my friend's statement suggests, unemployment can bring a new found freedom to make career moves that previously seemed too brazen. The security of a steady job is a blessing; however, without it, there’s often more room for new opportunities to unfold.

Ideas percolate and later: prosper. While a recession is fun for no one, it just might provide enough of a respite from the hustle and bustle of busier economic times for you to develop the brilliant business plan that’s been knocking on the back door of your brain for years. Intellectual currency is even more valuable right now because, put simply, an idea that can withstand the scrutiny and lack of resources that characterize our chilly financial forecast is destined to heat up down the road. In other words, the old adage rings true: “scarcity is the mother of invention." So, get cracking, Edison!

Time and energy remain the most valuable resources. We all have less money than we did a few months ago (although the losses vary greatly from person to person and family to family). Nevertheless, we still have the same number of hours in the day (24 the last time anyone checked); therefore, let the tightening of some of your resources (i.e. funds) underscore the importance and potential of the others (i.e. time and energy). In other words, treat your time as a precious commodity. Share it with those you love. Skimp on spending money on nights out, and rejuvenate “game night” or get-a-good-nights-sleep-night. Having less is NOT synonymous with being less loving, interesting, creative, caring, compassionate, or happy. In fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite.

How are you weathering the chilly financial forecast? How can we make the best of the recession? What helps you look on the bright side when the financial news is bleak?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Quote: What To Do With The New Year

"Go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good."
-Minor Myers jr.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Om Gal Resolves To Help You Get Healthy!

Tune in tomorrow (Saturday, December 27) to WRKO, Boston's Talk Station (680 AM) or online via the website to hear me talk about getting healthy and achieving your wellness objectives in the year ahead. Want to join the conversation or ask a specific question about healthy changes you're hoping to make in 2009? Give us a ring: 800.876.4123; host Mariellen Burns and I would love to hear from you.

When: 3:00-4:00 p.m.
Where: 680 AM, Boston's Talk Station
Why: To hear me dish up easy ways to revamp or refine your health in 2009.

Have a topic you want us to cover? Tell me what it is, and we'll address it on-air.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa's Cookies Get The Slimdown

You need to leave Santa the requisite cookies; however, you don't need to bore the guy with ho hum Chips Ahoy. Instead, try baking your own favorite, slimmed down recipe. Here's a great, low fat version of peanut butter cookies.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Shopping For A Yoga Teacher?

Recently, a thoughtful reader inquired about what an appropriate gift might be for a student to give a yoga teacher for the holidays, so I promised to weigh in.

Receiving gifts from students around the holidays is always a pleasant surprise. More than anything, your sentiment in the form of a card or a personal Thank You is the greatest gift. However, if you'd like to brighten your favorite teacher's holiday with a present, consider three easy criterion first.

1.) How much would you like to spend?
2). What is the extent of your relationship with this teacher? (For example, if you take private lessons and spend large quantities of times with this person, a more substantial gift makes sense).
3). What kind of clues can you pick up from the teacher's style in class to inspire a creative gift-giving idea? Is your teacher always drinking tea before class? Does he/she play music? Does this teacher reveal clues of being a Red Sox fan or a fledgling cook?

If you're hoping to streamline your costs, take the easiest, most direct route to good cheer: A $10 ($15, $20) gift card toward yogi-approved goods and services, such as Whole Foods, Starbucks, iTunes, or a bookstore (particularly if your teacher shares favorite passages and readings during class).

If you have a little more cash to spend, giving your yogi an experience during which he/she gets to receive the care and attention of someone else for change is always a welcome treat. Bodywork, for example, is a generous way to pamper hardworking instructors whose bodies often take a toll from the endless activity, hours on their feet, extensive practice, and, often, heated rooms that can deplete energy.

It's also nice when the gift reflects something about you. One of my most dedicated private clients was a big foodie, so he saw to it that I was able to take a pal for a swanky dinner on him when the occasion warranted it by generously giving a gift certificate to a posh, local restaurant. This is a huge treat for yogis. However, you'll want to be mindful of your instructor's eating habits if possible. To be safe, choose a restaurant that will have vegetarian options. Steer clear of steakhouses, just as a precaution. Another time, a female student of mine revamped my whole toiletry selection in one fell swoop- she worked for Lancome, so I was, literally, showered with soaps, lotions, lip glosses, eye creams, and the like. Another student was a tea enthusiast who stocked my cupboard with some rare and fancy brews to savor.

Personal Preferences:
Finally, if you know your yogi shops at Lululemon (and you'd be hard-pressed to find one of us who doesn't), swing through a local store; take the guesswork out of the sizing and stick to accessories or certificates. Or, maybe you've heard your yoga teacher chit chat about being a movie buff, aspiring cook, or having a green thumb? Movie passes, a hefty, healthy cookbook, or a blooming houseplant will make the teacher's off-duty hours more fun.

The key is for your choices to reflect the level of familiarly that you have with this person. In general, keep gifts somewhat yoga or wellness-related, and do maintain sensible boundaries (think: aromatherapy candle, not sexy-smelling perfume). Most yogis are easy to please, and remember, your presence in class is "presents" enough.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elf of Health: Live Better, Stress Less

Saturday, Tip 20: Need someone to keep a watchful eye on your nutrition choices but can't pony up for a professional? Lance Armstrong's Livestrong organization has a great tool on its website to help you track your food choices and evaluate where improvements can be made. Befitting its function, the microsite is called The Daily Plate and gives health-savvy users a daily handle on what our bodies need to function best.

Sunday, Tip 21: Wallet looking a little too slim this season? Fear not; Shoestring Mag doles out brilliant, budget-friendly tips on everything from dining to design and fashion to finance, so that you can live "the good life for less," just as the site's mantra suggests. See, I bet you're feeling less stressed already . . .

Overheard: Humorous Holiday Party Banter

Friend Kathryn (to her brother, David): "David, this is Rebecca- my friend who teaches yoga that I've told you about."

David: "Oh, wow, HI! Vastisthasana is my favorite pose . . . on the right."

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Boston Yogi Advises: "Pahk the Cah"

Here in Boston, we're hunkering down for a developing snowstorm. Last night, I vigilantly watched the news ticker, awaiting the cancellation of my classes today- until I realized that I'm no longer in school, which made for a disappointing experience all around. . .

We expect road conditions, traffic jams, and stress levels to be a bit of a bummer as well. So, why not park the car and walk as often and as far as you can until this thing blows over? Adding extra steps to your daily activity level is good for your booty, heart, and mood. Bundle up, and get out there!

What if you're reading from afar, like our friends (many of whom live in balmier climes)? Pick the farthest parking spots and skip the escalators at the mall as you polish off (err, perhaps, begin) your holiday shopping this weekend. Walking is the simplest, most natural form of exercise we have. Just because the season gets busy or blustery doesn't mean you have to miss a step.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Throwback Thursday: Tis The Season To Shred

For those of you who missed the athletic folly and emotional assault on my ego that characterized my introduction to the sport of snowboarding last year, here's the grisly recap (not to worry; it has a happy ending, with my bones managing to stay in tact and all). Perhaps you, too, are gearing up to hit the slopes this season? If so, good luck, and don't forget to stretch!

I recommend the following yoga poses for skiers and boarders:

Utkatasana: Generates strength in your legs.

Uttanasana: Relieves tight hamstrings and relaxes your back (bend your knees slightly). Snowboarders opt for pada hastasana to give your wrists added protection.

Half-pigeon: Keep hips limber and knees protected. (Fun fact: If you go to the link, the model in the Yoga Journal photo is my former roomie).

Viparita Karani: Removes lactic acid from your legs after a long day on the slopes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stop Shouldering Your Burdens

Stress can settle just about anywhere in our bodies, manifested in countless forms- from a tense lower back to a crick in the neck to chronic headaches. For many, we literally carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. To help relieve tense shoulders, try gomukasana or cow face pose. Also, at various points throughout the day (perhaps while standing in line to make your holiday purchases or sitting at your desk), lift your shoulders up toward your ears and then roll them back. It's a simple movement, but it works. In turn, it will help improve your posture and ensure that your shoulders are fit for toting fun stuff, like yoga mats, hiking packs, and small children. As for that heavy burden you've been schlepping around? Set it down for awhile, if not, forever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quote: Pema Chodron

"Mindfulness is the ground; refraining is the path. Refraining is one of those uptight words that sound repressive. Surely alive, juicy, interesting people would not practice refraining. Maybe we should sometimes refrain, but not as a lifestyle. In this context, however, refraining is very much the method of becoming a dharmic person. It's the quality of not grabbing for entertainment the minute we feel a slight edge of boredom coming on. It's the practice of not immediately filling up space just because there's a gap . . . If we immediately entertain ourselves by talking, by acting, by thinking- if there's never any pause- we will never be able to relax. We will always be speeding through our lives."

-When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron

Today, despite the countless opportunities to speed through your life, take a few, deliberate moments to "refrain." Refrain from a useless, additional half-hour of TV; disengage from idle or gossipy conversation; shut your cell phone off. Reconnect with who you are without all the cultural accouterments. Breath deeply. Feel the immediate healing and rejuvenation that comes with this practice, even if for only a few, stolen, solitary moments per day.

Giving Feels Great!

Tonight, I was a proud member of the Big BENefit staff at a toy-drive sponsored by Kirsten and Benjamin Watson's charitable organization, One More. (Psst, not in-the-know about sports? Ben is the tight end for the New England Patriots). However, tonight, he was schlepping boxes and toting toys for 84 families who otherwise would not have gifts to open on Christmas morning. (Psst, the significance of the number 84? It's the same one emblazoned on his jersey each game day).

Earlier in the evening, I also swung by a holiday-themed open house at another one of my favorite nonprofit organizations, Artists for Humanity, which teaches and employs teens in the arts.

In both cases, I felt humbled and inspired by the goodness, creativity, energy, and compassion with which I was surrounded. It seems Om Gal's got a case of holiday spirit, and the prognosis looks good. I may even make it through the rest of the holiday season sans an all-too-typical (albeit occasional) case of the bah-humbugs. (C'mon, folks, you know the feeling; all it takes is one trip to the mall gone wrong). Similarly, all it takes is one good deed to snap any scrooge out of his/her miserly mood. Donate a toy to Christmas in the City or a local organization in your community that celebrates the season. Heck, that celebrates any worthwhile cause!

Sure, the economy is tanking, and it's easy to get swept under by a tidal wave of worry and negativity; however, it's just as easy to infuse your life and someone else's with a sparkle of positivity. Have your own spiritual salute or act of kindness to share this holiday? Post a comment; give a shout-out; tell the masses . . . We're listening, and we're thinking, "Game on!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Slim Down Secret For Santa?

Even the man who eats countless cookies on Christmas Eve and chums around with gaggles of saccharin elves (who presumably provide him with a steady supply of sweet treats to keep the big guy's energy up in the toy factories of the North Pole and such) could whittle his middle with this cardio/cross-training kick butt workout. Give it a try; let me know how it goes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Show Some Love!

'Tis the season to be merry and bright, right?

The above photo pictures me and Om Bro smooching our grandmother last Christmas. Today, for the health of your heart and the nourishment of your soul, show an unexpected amount of love (generosity, joy, attention, care) to someone in your life. Plant a surprise smooch on a loved one; drop a kind, handwritten card in the mail; pay for a pal's yoga class, or take a friend out for a wholesome meal. Embrace the act of giving for its own sake, and experience all the joy you receive in return. It's not a feeling you can wrap with a bow, but if you're lucky you might capture it in a photo.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2 Tips To Keep Om Pals Feeling Fine This Holiday Season Weekend

Today's Elf of Health tip is a two-for, mostly because this little elf was a oui bit busy and neglected to post one yesterday. My apologies. It won't happen again. Here are two healthy thoughts to tide you over till tomorrow:

Tip 12: Observe the "Kitchen's Closed" rule. I'm convinced that holiday-inspired meals and functions are not the biggest detriment to staying fit and feeling energized during the season of merrymaking. Instead, I tend to think that it's the leftovers, gift baskets, baked goods, and countless candy bowls lurking around every corner that cumulatively chip away at all the good choices we otherwise make. Much of this idle nibbling occurs in the evening. How often do you find yourself making leisurely trips to the kitchen to further whittle away at that leftover casserole or graze yet another dollop of frosting off that wedge of cake? To help contain this aimless eating, I like to think of the kitchen (and, subsequently, my stomach) as having "Hours of Operation." For example, my kitchen "closes" at 10 p.m. each night. After that hour, I make sure my work is done there (i.e. nothing is in the oven, no dishes left to put away, no reasons for being in there, and the lights are off). For many, this hour might come earlier; however, I keep late hours and often do not eat dinner until 9 p.m. For me, 10 o'clock is realistic. I've never been a fan of dietary advice that advocates not eating after 6 o'clock. Who are these people, and in which century are they living? You'll find that once your body gets into a rhythm, it's far less inclined to keep noshing after its standard hours of operation. Bottom line: enjoy your indulgences but contain them, in quantity and frequency.

Tip 13: The holidays provide plenty of opportunities to get glamorous, look dapper, and sport your finest- from head to toe, which means your feet start to feel the effects. Kick off your sparkly stilettos, knee-high boots with the sky-high heels, and sharp-looking albeit stiff loafers, and try toes pose today. It's tough at first but one of the BEST poses to add to your regular repertoire as a way to maintain happy feet.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Meditate For Mental Health

Elf of Health Tip of the Day: stop and take 10 deep, meditative breaths right NOW. Close your eyes if you can. Sit or stand up very straight. Relax the muscles in your face. Count: 1, 2, 3 . . . 10. There, don't you feel better? This is the simplest way to begin a meditation practice. Start with as little as 10 breaths but, ideally, 5 minutes per day. Build from there. It will change your life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Elves Dig Green

Today's Elf of Health tip is simple: eat your vegetables! Many people over-complicate their nutrition plans by villifying certain foods, stocking up on others, and generally sucking all the intuition and enjoyment out of eating. Here's a useful barometer: eat what's closest to the earth first. If it was plucked from a tree or harvested from the ground- go for it! Of course, there are countless healthy foods that endure a bit more work; however, the more natural it is, the simpler its voyage onto your plate, the better off you probably are. So, today, get plenty of greens . . . or carrots or broccoli or tomatoes (you get the idea).

How Do You Stay Warm?

The arrival of winter ushers in certain seasonal preparations for all of us. We scurry into closets, trunks, and storage units to reveal nearly forgotten hats, scarves, gloves, and mittens. Some take bicycles out for one last spin. Others do very practical things like stock the garage with rock salt and a sturdy snow shovel. I do impractical things, like walk around the apartment in my snowboarding helmet (I haven't had a chance to wear it yet; I'm practicing- or insane- depends how you look at it).

Given last winter's foray into the world of shredding powder- or eating it- depends how you look at that too, my ritual of testing out my first helmet at home is a new one. My ritual of digging up specific pieces of literature during various seasons is much older, and probably more socially acceptable . . .

Each year, like clockwork, right around the time that I drag out my sleeping bag with sleeves (translation: long puffy coat), I also retrieve an old college textbook from one of the shelves and revisit a poem that, for me, perfectly suits the season. In it, the narrator recounts watching his baby son sleep, on a cold, quiet winter night, with the snow falling outside. It's called Frost at Midnight, and it's written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Here's the best part:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Sure, it's possible that the above stanza alone prompts the onset of narcolepsy for some. It's okay. My wintry escapes don't have to be yours. However, you should embrace your own rituals and activities to keep you warm and happy this season. Whether it's snowboarding or knitting or wearing the snowboarding helmet while you knit, there are plenty of ways to melt the ice for us all.

What are yours?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Catch Your Zs

Sleep is the body's way of healing itself. During the holidays, it's tempting to skip your standard amount of shut-eye in favor of all the merrymaking. However, consistent lack of sleep really takes its toll- fiddling with our appetites, coordination, mood, and much more. Just check out an article that appeared in Outside magazine back in June on the subject. Partly because it's intriguing and informative, but mostly because it's time for me to get some sleep . . .

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happiness Starts with an H(2O)!

This week: Be sure to stay hydrated. The act of drinking plenty of H2O has profoundly positive effects on one's health and mood. Being well hydrated will help you flush out toxins, avoid overeating, and stay energized on a daily basis and, ultimately, throughout the holidays. I love my Sigg water bottle. It's a great, eco-friendly way to get your guzzle on.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holiday Recipe Hit: Tofu Pumpkin Pie

Today, the "Elf of Health" is giving up the goods in the kitchen. I made the following recipe for tofu pumpkin pie last night (just click the link for the recipe) and toted it along to a holiday fete filled with yogaphiles, posh health club personal trainers, and other healthy types with discerning taste buds, and the results were unanimous: this low fat, seasonal treat takes the cake, err, pie. While the recipe is vegan approved, plenty of non-vegans gave it a thumbs up too, including our friend, Tom, who claims he was born in a sub shop and weighed on a meat scale . . . Give a yogi a glass of wine, and you'll be amazed by the fantastical tales that flow freely.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holidays Turning Your World Upside Down?

Today, I received an email from new om galpal, published author, and fellow yoga teacher, Josephine Selander of Sweden. (Together, we're planning a private retreat in January, when she'll next visit the States). I had to laugh at her succinct way of rounding up the frenetic pace of the holiday season by saying, " . . . you know how time has an interesting way [of moving] faster than ever sometimes."

Well said.

If this is the case for you, then chances are your yoga practice is feeling the time crunch too. Thus, "Elf of Heath" tips 5 and 6 will focus on maximizing what precious little time you might have to spend on your yoga mat. (My apologies for the lapse yesterday; the Internet Elf owes my apartment a visit to remedy some current technology issues).

Tip 5: If you simply cannot get to yoga class or manage a home practice (even an abbreviated one), one of the best ways to shift your energy, clear your head, and regain energetic balance is to do an inversion for five minutes, thereby flipping your world upside down. A headstand, for example, will give you energy before a holiday fete, while viparita karani soothes frayed nerves after a shopping trip at the mall. Both are highly potent, so just a few minutes will work wonders. In both cases, substituting an inversion for a complete practice is an accessible and effective way of staying centered.

Tip 6: Similarly, if you want to give your asana practice a serious "kick" (no pun intended), try kicking up into handstand (against a wall). This pose can charge up a shortened home practice or jump-start a practice at a studio before class begins. Since this movement is extremely invigorating- and, yes, meant only for veteran yogis- it quickly heats the body and readies the senses for an energized practice. Starting off a practice with 3 rounds of 10 breaths in each repetition of handstand will initiate a clarifying and strengthening outcome. Remember, your time during the holidays might be scarce, but your yoga inspiration need not be. Just keep checking back in with every day!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Smart Noshing at Holiday Functions

Countless health publications and experts continually underscore the importance of not arriving at a holiday fete famished, as a way to curb overeating. Instead, we're encouraged to eat an apple, drink some V-8, or nibble a handful of almonds to stave off the likelihood of arriving at the party and immediately chowing through the cheese display, thereby leaving a path of destruction and bread sticks behind us.

As practical and realistic as this tidbit is, we also need to account for the possibility of not having a healthy stash of produce in our handbag. It's the holidays, folks; some of us just can't manage that kind of planning. If it makes you feel any better, I realized I was wearing my clothes inside-out at the gym the other day. True story.

So, what is a gal or guy to do, having crossed a threshold into the land of copious amounts of food and drink, salivating at the sight of each temptation? Proceed directly to the vegetable and/or fruit display. Fill up one small plate. This will help take the edge off your hunger. Follow the veggies or fruit with a glass of water or seltzer. What you do after that is up to you, but at least, you've given yourself a healthy base and, ideally, avoided the tendency to fill up on the nutritionally empty items first.

Your goal should not be to skip temptations all together. You're human. It's the holidays. Enjoy yourself. However, taking a little extra care when it comes to making decisions will help you weather the season with greater ease and better health.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tip Tree, Oops, I Mean, "Three"

Tree pose is a basic balancing posture that can take on new meaning during the holidays. Now, I'm not suggesting that you drape yourself in tinsel and wear a star on your head; however, you might consider the comfort and iconography of trees during the winter season and, of course, within the Christmas tradition.

Moreover, embrace the steadiness of a tree with deep roots; recognize a tree's ability to weather all seasons and adapt to its surroundings, and use the asana as an opportunity to pay homage to all the favorite trees in your lifetime. Perhaps you had a treehouse as a child or sat beneath your own "giving tree," to collect your thoughts and escape the world.

In order to make the holidays more joyful, spend time honoring the season outdoors. I live in one of the coldest climates of them all, Boston, but I am vigilant about getting outside every day. The fresh air and emphasis on natural surroundings- during a time that tends toward commercialism and material possessions- will help keep your spirits up and body active. The fringe benefit, of course, is that a 15-minute walk snuck into your lunch break or walking with your children to the bus stop in the morning helps stave off the extra calories you might be consuming in cookies, candies, and other holiday fare.

Finally, if you do celebrate Christmas and decorate a traditional tree each year, let the symbol of the season also be an inward symbol of your own yoga practice. We don't practice yoga simply for its own sake, on a mat, in a studio, isolated from the world. We practice yoga so that we're better able to embrace, honor, and experience the world. Trees included. All year long.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Elf of Health Dishes Tip 2

Treat an om gal or guy to yoga: Giving the gift of yoga is a perfect way to streamline your giving and put a healthy twist on visiting with friends this season. Instead of meeting a pal for a meal or drinks, suggest that the two of you grab a yoga class (pilates session, rock-climbing lesson, etc.) on you. If you want to catch up after class, opt for a nutritious meal or comforting cup of tea. The time spent will be good for the bodies and souls of you and your bud.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Om Gal on Your Side This Holiday Season

On one hand, the holidays are a magical time of year filled with the company of those we love, a spirit of generosity, and an annual opportunity for reflection and gratitude. On the other, it's a collective calendar hijacking wherein we lose weeks from our lives, spent battling the hoards at the mall, socializing with people with whom we otherwise wouldn't, over-indulging in less than wholesome food and drink, and forfeiting the routines and daily rituals that generally keep us sane. Overstatement? Perhaps.

Nevertheless, it's safe to say that at some point during the month ahead we'll all wish we had an elf or two to help us bear the load of our myriad holiday rites and responsibilities. A shopping elf to decipher who receives which sweater, toy, or trinket; an entertaining elf to stock the fridge, place flowers just-so in a vase, and bake the perfect dessert; or, perhaps, a simple handwriting elf, to mail the countless cards with nary the dot of a "i" from us.

While I possess some pretty sleek penmanship, I think it's best if I stick with what I know; therefore, allow me to introduce myself: The name is Om Gal, but for the purposes of your peace of mind this holiday season, I am your "Elf of Health," committed to bringing you one healthy, wholesome, om-savvy, yoga fabulous, fitness-inspired, life-simplifying tip, each day, throughout the holiday season. As always, feel free to add your own tips along the way.

Today's Tip: Volunteer to bring the veggies. Holiday parties don't have to be nutritional land mines, particularly if you have a hand in what's served. Bear in mind that what you eat the other 22 hours of the day has a greater impact on your body than a couple hours at the neighbors' house spent sipping egg nog; however, it's best to temper your indulgences with wholesome choices. If it's a house party, forego toting along a bottle of wine, and bring a large salad instead (include dried cranberries or figs for seasonal flair). Middle-eastern hummus platters are also cost effective and delicious options for feeding a group. Finally, bake crowd favorite No Pudge Brownies, and watch your list of friends multiply. Yes. They are that good. I don't lie about topics as serious as dessert.

Stay tuned for a new tip every day. I'll keep them short and sweet, just like, you know, elves.