Thursday, January 31, 2008

Winter Blues in My Wardrobe

After realizing that I wore monochramatic, grey (albeit not unstylish) ensembles two days in a row this week, I had no choice but to arrive at one of the following two conclusions. 1.) My wardrobe is battling a case of the winter blues, or 2.) I've suddenly become color blind and, therefore, am attracted only to colors that I can recognize and coordinate, in this case grey with grey, grey accented by grey, and grey with a touch of more grey.

Once the color blindness theory was debunked (by a coworker who briefly tricked me into thinking my brown dress was red), I had no choice than to face the music that my wardrobe was reflecting a drab and chilly mood. Rest assured, steps are being taken to alleviate this current state of seassonal ennui (i.e. yoga, weekend plans to spend time with the family dog, sleep, a Patriots' win in the Superbowl etc.), but the week's unintentionally gloomy color palette got me thinking about how colors affect our mood. For your benefit, I've sleuthed out some interesting information regarding colors and their associations with and influences on our lives.

Red- Don't use too much red in a bedroom. It's yang energy is too active and will disturb the occupant's rest.

Pink- Do use pink in a single woman's bedroom; it represents romance, love, and marriage.

Yellow- Group and light yellow or red candles in the center of your home.

Blue- Having trouble speaking your truth? Get a blue scarf. Blue is the color associated with the throat chakra. If you need added support in order to express yourself, try wearing something blue close to your throat.

Green- Is representative of the heart chakra (along with pink). It's a soothing color within the home and even more so when experienced outdoors through natural elements- plants, trees, grass, etc.

This weekend, allow a particular color to influence your intentions and, subsequently, your mood. Wear something bright. Buy something in a hue that falls outside your normal color scheme. Peruse through a book of vibrant artwork. And, if all else fails, there's always rainbow sherbert and M & M's.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Your Most Valuable Piece of Workout Equipment: A Calendar

When push comes to shove, or punch comes to kick, or upward dog comes to downward dog, the intricate details of your workout matter a lot less than the simple fact that you are making exercise an important part of your life. To this end, schedule your workouts, yoga classes, trips to the health club, or excursions to the rock-climbing gym in your daily planner or Blackberry just like you would any other commitment. Do this, to the best of your ability, on Sunday night for the entire week.

Can't fit in adequate time for fitness? Take a cue from the rest of your life- start multi-tasking. Instead of meeting a friend for lunch or coffee, go for a walk. Need to miss your usual class due to a work commitment in the evening? Plan ahead to wake up early and squeeze in an at home, abbreviated yoga session, morning run, or early and efficient gym session. Have clients or colleagues who enjoy hitting the links or shooting hoops? Coordinate a small group to talk shop while working up a sweat.

It's your life, your happiness, your health. Plan accordingly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What If You Had Lunch With Yourself?

Somewhere along the way, I heard someone define success like this . . . If you had lunch with the nine year old version of yourself, what would the younger you think?

Would the nine year old you find the adult you lively and inspiring or jaded and aloof? Would you feel special in the presence of the older, wiser you? Or would you feel overlooked and insignificant? Would you convey excitement about your job and your life and what you are seeking to accomplish, or would you be apathetic and uninvolved in your own destiny? Would you be living the life of your choosing or experiencing a life that happened to you? Would you, in turn, be a good listener?

I remind myself to do this exercise every once in a while. For me, the example of a nine year old represents a vibrant, uncomplicated barometer of what is good, important, and noteworthy in the world. Many of us get tripped up over what our families, friends, and peers believe about us, but, in truth, that has very little relevance to who we actually are. A nine year old, on the other hand, sees right through the artificial layers; they relate to the world on a simplified, purified level. They see only "satya," also known as the "truth." Success requires that you truly like what you see.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

When TV Isn't Mind-Numbing

"I am but ashes and dust."

"For me, the universe was created."

I pulled this pair of quotations (author unknown) from the Iconoclasts program on the Sundance Channel about a month ago, and they've been scrawled on a whiteboard in my apartment ever since. For me, these quotes capture two important sentiments. Stay humble, and be fearless, open, and optimistic.

Whatever the above statements mean to you- try to put a piece of them into action this week. What would your week look like if it was created for you? What would you do if you knew you only had a limited amount of time with which to do it?

*Please note: If these statements don't resonate with you, choose your own. Make an inspiring quote your mantra for seven days- keep it in your pocket, in your mind's eye, on the tip of your tongue, or scrawled any and everywhere that makes you take pause.

"Hello, Gods, it's me, Om Gal."

While you certainly do not need to be Hindu to practice yoga (as evidenced by the 30 million Americans of a broad spectrum of faiths who practice yoga today), it is helpful to your overall understanding of the practice and respectful of the tradition to have a cursory knowledge of the Hindu gods. While the growing popularity of yoga is exciting and positive, it has also ushered in a dilution of what the average yoga teacher knows and passes along to his/her students. For anyone who wants to learn about or brush up on the Hindu gods commonly featured everywhere from yoga-inspired jewelry to apparel to home furnishings, here's a quick review.

Shiva: Simultaneously, the destroyer and creator of the universe. Shiva often appears dancing within a ring of fire. Natarajasana (dancer's pose) is a reference to Shiva.

Ganesh: The popular elephant-head god, who has a good sense of humor. Ganesh is playful but protective (like a kind and earnest older brother). He is known as the guardian of the threshold. For that reason, a sculpture of Ganesh often greets guests in the doorways or foyers of homes or businesses in India.

Krishna: The blue god. He is often seen playing the flute. In the Bhagavad Gita, he is portrayed as a young soldier seeking guidance.

Durga: The warrior goddess. She rides a tiger. A complete badass. You might choose to invoke her strength the next time you are in Warrior II pose.

Lakshmi: The goddess of prosperity. She is typically portrayed sitting or standing within a lotus blossom. She represents abundance, blessings, wealth, and well-being. For those of you seeking to solve your financial troubles or break a cycle of poverty, debt, parking tickets, etc. find an image of Lakshmi and place it somewhere in your home, where she is readily visible to you (e.g. the bathroom mirror, closet door). Invite her powers into your life. The more you envision yourself supported by an expert/god/guardian/etc., the more confident you will feel in your ability to affect change in a certain area of your life. Try it!

Saraswati: Goddess of literature, learning, and creativity. She's my favorite. Children in India pray to her before exams, and I keep a statuette of her by my laptop while I write.

Moore is Better!

The Buddha famously espoused the teaching of the Middle Way, a path that hails moderation as the way to Nirvana, as opposed to asceticism or indulgence. And, most of the time, I have to agree with him. Except for when "moore" is better, as in Moore Massage of Boston.

Given that Michael Moore, whose newly expanded practice is located on Boyolston Street in Copley Square, is the reigning Best Massage [therapist] in Boston, per Boston magazine, I am somewhat ashamed to say that I hadn't experienced his massage before yesterday. Nevertheless, it was worth the wait and lived up to all its hype.

Due to its thorough, effective, and technical nature, one might classify the treatment more as "lazy man's yoga," rather than a conventional rubdown. Like yoga, this massage stretches the body, keeps muscles supple, unlocks stuck energy, and helps prevent and heal injuries. You will feel pressure, as Moore's "bloodless surgery" technique breaks down whatever energetic, lymphatic, or muscular debris might be floating around in your system. As you may have gathered, I am a practical, physical gal, so this type of massage suits me. It contains zero b.s.

Bodywork, in general, is an enjoyable and productive complement to your yoga practice, workout regimen, and life. It's an investment in your overall health, as opposed to an indulgence, provided you retain a real pro to do the job.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Om Gal Glossary

OM: Sacred monosyllable symbolizing oneness/the Absolute; the oldest, most popular mantra.

MANTRA: Thought or intention expressed in sound (e.g. prayer, hymn, plan).

MUDRA: Literally, a "seal" or way of "locking in" an intention, typically formed through hand gestures.

"NAMASTE": "The light/divine within me bows to the light/divine within you."

ASANA: Used to refer to the postures we practice. Translates to mean "seat," as in a pose in which you are seated. While there are plenty of standing and supine positions, you should seek to feel grounded/rooted in all of them, as you would if you were seated.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Pose a Day Keeps the Blahs Away

Many of us have an "all or none" attitude hard-wired into our systems. While this quality can serve us in certain ways, it also defeats us. We can't get to a 90-minute yoga class, so, instead, we skip exercising or meditating all together and opt for takeout, staying in, and zoning out to Celebrity Rehab (I'm not judging; it's an enthralling show).

Still, we can benefit from one yoga pose a day. Perhaps it's tree pose while you chat on the phone at home, half pigeon during a commercial break, or rag doll while something warms in the microwave. The significance of your practice has nothing to do with the hours you log, calories you burn, or fancy moves you conquer. The significance of your practice resides in whether it informs, enlightens, and enriches your life. It's up to you to carve out some space within your life for your yoga practice, and, often, like so many other things, it requires starting small.

WholesOMe Honey Wheat Soda Bread

If you must be cooped up inside during the cold winter months, you might as well embrace the whole, cozy, homebody routine and start baking. Baking your own bread doesn't have to be an elaborate process. This recipe packs plenty of healthy whole grains, requires minimal ingredients, and tastes a hell of a lot better than the kasha loaf that I tried to make on Monday night, when I was taking a new recipe for a test-run. Thankfully, you can consider yourselves spared. It turned out purple (due to the presence of purple cabbage in the recipe) and putrid, and, despite his best efforts, even Om Gal's guy couldn't hide his horror. We're pretty sure that even the gulls in the Seaport District will forgo this one.

My honey wheat soda bread, on the other hand, is a time-tested favorite. It toasts well and tastes great with honey, jam, peanut butter, cottage cheese, and more.

2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tbs. honey
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten

Combine flour, salt, and soda in a mixing bowl. Add honey, buttermilk, and egg. Stir just until moistened. Place in a lightly greased 1 quart casserole dish. Bake at 375 degrees, for 20 minutes.

Om Gal is a Bit of a Goof . . .

OK, truthfully? A big goof. However, for the most part, I will spare you my G-rated jokes and all too available puns. Nevertheless, today, I thought you might need a chuckle.

Q: "What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot-dog vendor?"

A: "Make me one with everything."

Clever, no? Never underestimate the value of spending time with people who make you laugh (and preferably don't need to pump you full of margaritas to do so!).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Feeling Toxic?

Three easy antidotes to try today:

1.) Practice the Buddhist principle of "right speech." In modern terms- stop talking trash. Don't gossip. Don't speak disparagingly outwardly to others or inwardly to yourself. Try to avoid idle chatter (talking for the sake of talking). Make your words meaningful and essential.

2.) Drink LOTS of water.

3.) Do an inversion- headstand, handstand, forearm stand, shoulder stand, or viparita karani (lying flat on your back with your legs elevated, ideally against a wall). Inversions respresent the opposite of what you do all day (stand); you are reversing the flow of energy so that your head is at the lowest point, your feet, the highest. In other words, you are shifting stuck, toxic, or stagnant energy by flipping the old energy "on its head."

Cold Outside? A Meditation to Warm Your Heart.

Burrr! You may or may not be from blustery Boston like me, where people are freezing their asanas off today, but you can still benefit from this simple meditation meant to warm your heart and rejuvenate your spirit. It's particularly effective toward the end of a yoga practice or during sivasana, when the body is very relaxed. Choose in which position you will begin, seated in lotus, half lotus, cross-legged- whatever's comfortable- or you may opt to lie down, flat on your back.

Once your breath has reached a steady rhythm, place one hand on your heart center and the other on your lower abdomen. Take a deep breath in, followed by a long, slow, profound exhale. As you do so, imagine something in your life that you would like to shed- fear, pain, heartbreak, resentment, hurt, sorrow, loneliness, worry, doubt, stress, etc. You might visualize the emotion you've identified as being a certain color or associated with a certain feeling (a heaviness in your chest, perhaps?). As you exhale, you are literally dissolving the heaviness and emotion. Watch it rise up and away from your body and dissolve.

Next, visualize inhaling something you would like to manifest in your life- joy, love, forgiveness, confidence, abundance, peace, etc. Again, this emotion might be easily associated with a color, feeling, or quality. Breathe deeply, as you imagine this new emotion filling your body, washing over you, and settling in your being. Feel your chest rise and fall under the hand that is placed on your heart center. This action is very grounding, and it is always available to you.

Shakespeare once said, "Go to your bosom. Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know." This sentiment captures the essence of meditation beautifully . . . Get quiet, ask your heart what it needs, listen for the answer, and, then, take the necessary steps toward providing it.

Skip the B.S: The Most Efficient Workout You'll Ever Need

I created this workout a few years ago while in Spain without access to a gym. It's easy to adapt to any skill level and is one of the single most effective ways to get your heart rate up while toning your entire body. A great playlist makes it even better.

You need a jump rope and may opt for light dumbells (5-10 lbs.), a medicine ball, and/or a swiss ball.

The premise is incredibly simple. Jump rope for one minute (a shorter or longer duration is fine too, depending on your fitness level or how you feel on a given day), followed by a set of your favorite no nonsense exercise. Be sure to choose exercises that target your entire body.

For example, a highly effective sequence might include:

Walking lunges with weights.
Bicep curls.
Tricep dips (you can use a park bench if you're outside, a weight bench at your gym, or a chair at home).
Set of abs with medicine ball.
Set without medicine ball.
Set with swiss ball.

Repeat the whole circuit.

Bear in mind, this workout is tough. Feel free to scale back a bit by adding in a yoga pose to stretch and catch your breath in between sets. Asanas that fit in well, here, might include navasana, dancer's pose, eagle, and half pigeon. Don't idle too long, though, as the power of this sequence is in its pace. Want a yoga pose that really pushes the edge? Kick up into a handstand (against the wall), leading with each leg 10 X. Now, that's a kick "asana" workout. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"A Side of Zen With Your Meal?"

The city of Boston is abuzz with raves for the new uber-hip restaurant Meyers + Chang, and I'll leave the food reviews to people with more culinary acumen than me (you'll notice that my recipes typically max out at 5 ingredients and prep time that fits into a commercial break of Grey's Anatomy). Whatever the foodies say, I'm on board. The squash soup was velvety and exquisite; the edamame and celery salad so refreshing and crisp, I felt transported to a picture perfect al fresco dining experience in mid July (no easy feat when you consider the current chilly temperatures in Boston), and the dumplings, scrumptious.

While it might be hard to believe, something else impressed me more than the food at Meyers + Chang. It was the yoga. Now, I am not suggesting that people were actually doing yoga in the restaurant, but I did experience its very zen kitchen, a yogic operation focused on dining dharma. Sitting at the "food bar," which is adjacent to the exposed kitchen, I observed as Joanne Chang and her staff glided among one another (I swear, they communicated telepathically), orchestrating each artful dish. As a former waitress and the daughter of a chef, I've spent plenty of time in steamy, chaotic kitchens where tempers flare as easily as cooking wine hitting a hot skillet, which can also be fun to watch but is far from peaceful.

Appropriately, the word yoga is a verb- and there's plenty of action in any kitchen! Yoga means to unite, yoke, or join. Therefore, yoga can be evident just about anywhere that a cohesive and integrated action is taking place. In other words, you don't have to be on your mat to experience yoga (how limiting that would be- a yoga mat is only six feet long!). This week, seek an opportunity to witness yoga off your mat. Truly, THAT is your practice, the ability to live your yoga and feel united with the people and experiences around you. Be a yogi in the world (not separate from it, sequestered in a tranquil studio); a zen state is equally available at your job, in a restaurant, or on the T. Remember, the purpose of yoga is to make us feel more connected to life and become better, happier people. If you're just focused on a better butt, then you may be sitting at the table, but you're missing out on the meal.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Dessert You'll Want to Eat for Breakfast- And You Can!

This dessert is so healthy that it can also be served for breakfast. The only alteration might be the side with which you pair it. For dessert, you might opt for ice cream, frozen yogurt, or rice pudding; for breakfast, try yogurt or cottage cheese.

Baked Apples:

Pre-heat oven, 350 degrees. Core four apples (without piercing a hole all the way through the bottom of the apple, if possible), and place in pan or pyrex casserole dish.

Stuff the well within the apples with dried cranberries, raisins, or nuts. (Om Gal opts for cranberries, as her boyfriend (Om Guy?) is deathly allergic to nuts, and he's nice, so we'd rather not kill him).

In a bowl, mix:

1/2 c. OJ
1 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tbs. cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch allspice

Pour the mixture over the apples. Cover the pan with foil or place cover on casserole dish. Bake for 1 hour. Half-way through baking time, it's helpful to spoon the liquid mixture over the apples again to maintain moisture and flavor). Added bonus: your home will smell wonderful, and house guests will appreciate the guilt-free, thoughful sweet.

Om Sweet Home Yoga Practice

For anyone interested in recreating the intensity of a heated yoga class in their own home or striking the balance needed to fit yoga into a busy work schedule, check out the comments for the post entitled, "All You Soul-Searching People C'mon" ( Robin, an astute reader and busy bee, ponders the question of fitting her beloved heated practice into a tough work schedule (sound familiar, anyone?).

Friday, January 18, 2008

An AB-solutely Kickass Exercise

I adapted this abdominal exercise from one that I learned in a great group fitness class at Equinox. You need to be seated on a hardwood floor or other surface that is slightly slippery (linoleum is fine too).

Begin seated on the floor, knees bent, feet flat.

Place a folded towel beneath your heels.

(Your palms just barely graze your outer ankles).

Simultaneously, slide your heels forward (straightening your legs) as you lean back (until you are almost lying flat on your back).

Then, drag your heels back in toward your bum, as you sit back up.

Repeat. 10 times. 1-3 sets. Be sure to go slowly. [Results look best when paired with a bikini].

Om Gal & Perez Hilton: The Online Equivalent of Yin and Yang?

The following feedback is from Om Gal's pal, J.W. "I will read your blog every day, just like I read perezhilton...I'll feed my thirst for celeb goss, and then wash it all out with something good for body and mind!!! perfect!" She's onto something, I think.

"All You Soul-Searching People C'mon!"

Recently, Om Gal had the distinct privilege of receiving a mix CD from a very cool friend who took it upon her very cool self to create a compilation of rock music that Om Gal might like . . . It's important to note, however, that I'm not necessarily inclined to rock out. I'd count the Red Hot Chili Peppers among my all time favorite artists, but, admittedly, I'd be hard-pressed to name one song by The Clash (until last week). Sad, I know. I can practically hear the scoffing at Newbury Comics.

Turns out, my friend with very sophisticated taste in rock music, was able to craft a CD that perfectly captures the genre she loves but for a rock zygote like me. It's amazing. From the first line of the first track (from which the title of this post was plucked), I was transfixed. The music stirred me awake and made me smile big, sing loud, and do embarrassing fist-pumping rocking-out gestures while cruising down Storrow Drive.

How is this relevant, you may ask?

Exposure to new music, ideas, activities, and people makes the neurons in our brains fire. We feel more alive. We learn. We grow. We're pulled out of our normal routines (thank God!). We feel a little more human and a lot less predictable.

This weekend, stretch yourself a bit. Check out a movie or museum that you normally wouldn't. Eat at a new restaurant. Take a yoga class at a different studio. Try a new recipe. Pick up a hobby. Pick up a golf club. Put down the remote. Hang out with someone much younger or much older than yourself. Who knows- something might just make you feel fist-pumping, rock-thumping, car windows-down-in-January-in-Boston, HAPPY.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Slim on Time for Your Morning Workout?

Stretch the effectiveness of your morning routine by combining easy and efficient moves with getting ready for the day. While brushing your teeth, place a resistance band around your ankles and sidestep around the house. As you watch the weather or news headlines on TV, bang out a set of situps or pushups. While drying your hair, spend a few extra moments hanging in a forward bend (soften your knees; relax your neck!).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blissful Breakfast: Easy, Amazing Pancakes

1/2 c. Old-Fashioned Oats
1 egg
2 egg whites
1/4 c. cottage cheese
1 tbs. sugar
splash vanilla

Blend in a blender. Make lowfat, high protein, fiber-rich fabulous pancakes. Children will love them, as well as non yogi boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and hungover housemates.

(Fuel factor: I made these for a former roommate before she ran the Boston Marathon in 3:20 in 2007. Coincidence? I think not. Enjoy!).

Ahimsa: Non Violence

There was once a poisonous snake who terrorized a tiny village. Women, children, adored family pets-- he bit them all, without a moment’s contemplation or modicum of sensitivity.

One day, a Buddhist monk visited the village. He observed the snake’s behavior and committed to teaching the snake the principle of ahimsa, which translates to mean non-violence or non-harming. It’s one of the core tenets of yogic philosophy. As it turns out, the snake had a penchant for self-improvement and thoroughly absorbed the monk’s teachings. He loved the concept of ahimsa and accepted it wholeheartedly.

Alas, once the snake refused to bite the villagers, they, in turn, exploited his newly discovered vulnerability. They threw dirt and rocks at him, poked at him with sticks, and, generally, made his life miserable. One year later, the monk returned to find the snake bruised, beaten, and starving.

“What happened to you!” exclaimed the gentle, little monk. Clearly, it pained him to see his former student in such a predicament. Indeed, the adage proved true that the predator had become the prey.

Sad and slightly exasperated, the snake replied, “You taught me the principle of non-violence . . . You taught me not to bite people!”

The snake had a point. The monk taught him "to harm no living thing" and show unconditional care and compassion at all times. Under no circumstances was he to create more hostility and violence in a world so fraught with both already. How would the monk respond? The snake was only being a good and noble student.

“Ahhh, my friend, I did teach you not to bite people,” the monk conceded. Then, he lowered his voice to indicate the sharing of a very important secret, “But I never said that you couldn’t HISS.”

In other words . . . you can be a compassionate yogi AND still maintain your convictions, protect yourself and others, and, most importantly, be REAL. (Disclaimer: Om Gal warns against flaky, New Age yoga drones. Be authentic and honest; anything else is a waste of your one, beautiful life).


Welcome everyone. This blog will serve as a resource for yogis of all skill levels; however, it won't focus solely on yoga. Think of it as your personal collection of wellness secrets- with an added dose of soul, style, and smarts. I'll highlight traditional yoga philosophy from a fun, contemporary perspective, give asana recommendations, review teachers and studios, provide delicious and uber-easy recipes for energy and wellness, share cross-training tips, and top it all off with the occasional insightful and witty personal anecdote to help you blaze your own trail toward enlightment (also known as happiness, bliss, or "kicking ass and taking names," in a non-violent, ironic, metaphorical sort of way, of course). Are you ready?