Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Year in Review

A few of the year's highlights in this little yogified corner of the blogosphere . . .

It started with a radio appearance at the end of 2008 when I went on Mariellen Burns's show in Boston to chat about setting life goals and healthy intentions in 2009. It was great; I brought Mariellen an amaryllis plant; she joked about killing it on contact. We fielded questions from listeners and weighed in on everything from losing weight to finding a recession-friendly fitness program to starting a yoga practice and more. Then, some guy called in and went bat sh*t crazy on everyone. I'm not kidding. Click here to listen to the show.

Days after I enraged listeners, err, listener (singular), with my highly controversial statements regarding extremist ideas such as drinking plenty of water, we rang in 2009. I shared a post about making and keeping resolutions; President Barack Obama took office, and, soon thereafter, I took to the icy streets of Boston to begin training for my first marathon (Boston). Following my first 9-mile run through the infamous Newton hills, including the one they call "Heartbreak," I went home and cried. I'm not sure if it was the icicles that formed in my hairline as temperatures dipped into the single digits or the realization that Heartbreak "hill" is actually a series of four punishing, sloping inclines that stretch on for eternity, but I was rattled.

Always the entertainer, Om Bro provided comic relief with a wellness inquiry of his own (from a post in late January):

Om Bro: How do 3 a.m. shots of whiskey fit into your 09 health and wellness plans for me?

Me: Hmmm. By whiskey, do u mean “wheat grass?”

Om Bro: Sure, you can call it that.

Then, in February, I gave Cupid a piece of my mind.

In March, marathon training kicked into high gear, as did my fundraising for Fit Girls, the charity for which I ran. I co-hosted a party along with Lululemon to raise money for the running, reading, and community service programs that Fit Girls provides young girls, and I taught a Yoga for Runners workshop at A Little Yoga, one of many new studios that opened in Boston in 2009. Thankfully, I survived a 21-mile training run, the longest run of my life at the time, in the month of March. Check out the video footage of me- dazed and exhausted- icing my knees with frozen edamame. Resourceful , eh?

March also featured a helpful post called "Different Styles of Yoga Decoded;" it remains one of the blog's most highly trafficked articles and prompted lots of great comments from readers.

In April, I ran the Boston Marathon. The whole thing. I wish I had a triumphant photo to share with you here, but honestly, I look like a half-tranquilized horse on the verge of vomiting in just about every one. You may recall my om gal-pal Christina declaring, "There are no hero shots [in the Boston Marathon]." For the record: She's right.

In May, I revealed "Zen and the Art of Swimsuit Season," went on the radio again (this time on The Frankie Boyer Show), raved about a fun yoga flick called Enlighten Up! by another om gal-pal, Kate Churchill, and . . . [insert drum roll, please] . . . spent a day in the presence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Here's the recap; photos and videos included.

Things heated up around here during the summer months. In June, I did my best Flashdance impression for a photo shoot for, fielded a great question from a reader in Chicago about being a yogi and drinking alcohol, and got a little goofy in a video with one of my best yogi gal pals, fellow teacher Chanel Luck.

We also bid good-bye to Michael Jackson in June. May he rest in peace . . .

July delivered more insightful questions and feedback from readers, including how to handle grief through yoga. This post was picked up by the Boston Globe's website,, and featured on its homepage. I was very grateful, still am.

August went like this: I turned 30 and met Deepak Chopra on the same day. It was a life moment. Enough said.

September marked the 3rd annual Global Mala event, celebrated on the U.N.'s International Day of Peace. My BFF requested some fitness advice on how to edge out her family in their own version of the Biggest Loser, and I cried every time I tuned into the actual show, along with the rest of the country. (What, you didn't sob at each weigh-in? Seriously? Have you no soul!).

I've neglected to mention it, but I started keeping secrets in October, such as the one about some new VIP private yoga clients on Boston's sports scene. Shhhhhh. I also explained why yoga is safe for sore knees, who are some of yoga's most influential pioneers, and what the heck yamas and niyamas are.

With November came a cameo appearance from Om Bro . . . and a spike in web traffic from's female-skewed audience. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Yoga for Athletes from from Rebecca Pacheco on Vimeo.

We closed the year in December with healthy snacks for weight loss, a killer gift giving guide for yogi types, and correspondence from my recent trip to Kripalu. Thank you, everyone, for reading, commenting, asking questions, becoming a Fan on Facebook, following on Twitter, passing along your favorite posts to friends, attending my workshops and classes in Boston this year, and so much more. You are among my biggest blessings in 2009. Now, let's raise a glass of kombucha, and set our sights on 2010!

If you have any requests for content you'd like to see in the new decade, things you liked in 2009 or didn't like, please comment. Om shanti!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saptah Chanting Ceremony at Kripalu

Despite insecurities surrounding my wretched singing voice, I participated in last night's Saptah chanting ceremony here at Kripalu. The long-standing tradition is the yoga and meditation center's way of celebrating the conclusion of one year and beginning of the next. We opened with a mantra honoring the Hindu god Ganesh, known as the Remover of Obstacles. It's customary in India to pray to Ganesh before beginning any new ventures (e.g. the New Year, a new job, business, project, relationship, etc.), as his guidance will help ensure a clear path to success. Here's a very brief clip that I thought you might enjoy. Best of luck with all your upcoming ventures in 2010.

If you're interested in learning more about chanting, here's an informative post about getting started.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Greetings from Kripalu!

Dear Readers:

My apologies for the sparse posts of late. I am currently away at a yoga and meditation center called Kripalu, creating my own little retreat with plenty of yoga, vegetables, and quiet moments for writing (some of my favorite things). Right now, I'm in the center's Solarium awaiting sunrise; the only sounds are the tapping of my laptop keys and whistling Berkshire wind outside. Just now the sky started turning from black to navy blue to azure.

I promise I'll return to the blogosphere in full force soon, with plenty of new inspiration to share. Until then, I thought I'd pass along a snapshot from the halls of Kripalu (above). Really, what more is there to say than that?

Many blessings to you as you bid farewell to another year and set your own authentic intentions for 2010.

Om Gal

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Expecting Snow?

Here, in New England, we're expecting snow today, which made me recall this simple zen proverb:

"No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place."

Stay warm,
Om Gal

Monday, December 14, 2009

Playing with the Boys

When I was 5, my parents signed me up for karate (OK, my Dad signed me up for karate). I liked it. I thought the uniforms were cool. I was good at standing up very straight and being somberly quiet while the teacher was talking, and this was thought to be an indicator of good discipline, which is of paramount importance for an aspiring karate kid. With any luck, I thought, I could be the next Daniel-son. There was just one problem . . . I wasn't a "son." I was a girl, the only one in the class.

Fast forward 25 years and I'm still attempting to spar with the boys; this time, in a boxing class at the New York Athletic Club, one of the oldest athletic clubs in the country. Last month, Om Bro suggested we jump in the ring, and I thought, 'What better way for siblings to do some adult bonding than to punch each other in the face?' Kidding, of course. If Reece punched me in the face, I'd be knocked out quicker than someone on Ambien [insert obvious Tiger Woods joke of choice, here]. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure that showing up to my photo shoot the next day for Reader's Digest with a shiner would have been poor form.

When it came to my fighting form, however, I held my own, save for the times I needed to put my knees on the floor during the hundreds of push-ups we did, including countless sets on our fists and finger tips. The workout was grueling, featuring 10 sets of 2 minutes of punching a heavy bag nonstop. Despite the badass wrist wraps that our Ukrainian coach Sergei put around my hands, both wrists felt like they might snap only halfway through the series. Had I stayed for the full two hours (I thought class was only an hour and thus made plans to meet NYC Gal for lunch), who knows what kind of state I'd be in. As it was, my hands were quivering for more than hour afterward, which significantly impeded my ability to text or properly lift a fork (two staple activities for me). So, you know, this was serious stuff.

In general, I loved pushing my fitness limits and learning to throw a proper hook, but more than that, the experience made me reflect on how gender affects our workout choices, preferences, and performance. Have you ever been the only guy in a yoga class? The only gal in the company golf tournament? Do you prefer all-female health clubs? Have you ever been intimidated by a workout you wanted to try because of your gender? I would love to hear your experiences or insights, guys and gals.

Or, if you're boxer, feel free to share some pointers. My upper cut needs work.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Om Gal Holiday Wish List

Ahhh, the holidays. Indulgence. Materialism. And, copious amounts of sugar. What could be better?

How about writing a self-indulgent blog post about the material possessions I covet most this holiday season while stuffing my face with red and green M&Ms?

I'm kidding, of course. (Truth be told, I have an irrational fear of red M&Ms. I don't mind green ones, but the reds seem unnatural to me. Do I realize that this is a thoroughly ridiculous assessment? Yes. Yes, I do).

Back to the indulgence and materialism part . . . While the following Om Gal Wish List does contain some items I might not mind seeing under the family tree this year (ahem, Om Bro), I've compiled this collection of gift ideas with the finest yogi readers in the blogosphere in mind (that's you). My intention is that this list inspires a few holiday shopping solutions for all the om guys and gals out there who are looking to spread some holiday cheer-- of the smart, soulful, and stylish variety. The selections below range in price, whimsy, wearability, and overall wellness-inducing affect, so there's something here for everyone. Enjoy!

Under $5

Give the gift of Ganesh . . . or Lakshmi . . . or Saraswati . . . I love giving tiny trinkets of inspiration to my om pals. To learn more about the symbolic meaning of the gods and goddesses often depicted in yoga iconography, click here. The above mentioned deities summon protection, prosperity, and creativity, respectively. Colorful stickers or mini statuettes make perfect mementos for friends and are modestly priced. Boston boasts several small boutiques with vast collections of these items. A few worth noting include Tibet Arts, Utso, and Prem La. (Photo: A colorful sticker depicting Saraswati; goddess of creativity, learning, and literature; watches over my laptop as I write).

Confession? I'm a cheap date. A $5 gift card to Starbucks buys me two mornings worth of happiness. And, by "happiness," I mean a venti Awake tea topped with steamed soy milk. For this, you've bought my love. Yet, somehow, I don't think I'm alone in this.

Before the days of iTunes, my version of downloading music was laying on my bedroom floor, listening to the radio, and waiting for the DJ to play my favorite song, at which point I would frantically hit "Record" on my tape deck. (It's sad- but true). Today, even with so much music at my fingertips, I still relish homemade compilations. My friend, Chanel of YogaThree, makes killer play lists, and, in general, I think sharing music is a treasured gift. Try it! Your friends will appreciate your creativity, thoughtfulness, and mad DJ skills.

Under $10
Pucker up, people! Smith's Rosebud Minted Lip Balm becomes a handbag, gym bag, puffy coat pocket, makeup kit staple. Simple. As. That. (Available at Sephora, $7).
The Baby Rib One-Shoulder Shirt caught my eye at American Apparel because it's fashionable, wallet-friendly, and fun. Maybe lacking one shoulder drops the price? Whatever the reason, your fashionista pals will love it, and your bank account won't need a bailout at a mere $9.

Speaking of bank accounts, the Buddha Buddha Peace Bank (Urban Outfitters) is the perfect gift for friends or family members whose "money corner" could use an infusion of creativity, abundance, and color.

Under $25
This newfangled interpretation of the Lego block is uber practical and hip-looking too. No batteries necessary, the Retro Block iPod Speaker transforms your iPod into a stereo. Perfect for travel and downright genius, actually.

Nothing lifts a mood faster than the whiff of a lovely fragrance. Go the aromatherapy route with essential oils from Whole Foods (e.g. peppermint for energy, lavender for relaxation), or treat friends with swish taste to a portable dose of designer perfume. My latest fav: Stella McCartney Eau de Parfum Roll On, for a sensible $17.

For both male and female fitness buffs, Laird Hamilton's book Force of Nature is a great resource. There's plenty to admire and emulate about the giant wave surfer's approach to life, health, and chiseled muscles. Ladies, did I mention there are pictures?

Under $50
Allegedly, these compression sleeves for arms or legs by Zensah, worn by the likes of NBA stars Ray Allen, Dwight Howard and others, help circulation, aid muscle recovery, and regulate body temperature- which is all fine and good- but let's face it, recipients will love them because the look pretty badass.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know my team, the New England Patriots, is struggling this season, but I still intend to rock a retro NFL beanie on the slopes this winter. Bunny slopes . . . but, still.

Yogis like being barefoot, and so do more and more runners (as evidenced by the barefoot running craze of late). Why not give the gift of going barefoot or, at least, feeling flip flop clad all year-long? The Vagabond Chill Shoe by Sanuk is a fuzzy, comfy, stylish slip-on with a sole that mimics that of a flip flop. Your om guy will love these. For gals, check out the Dreamcatcher Boot. I have a pair, and they look great with everything from tights to leggings to jeans. Plus, they feel dreamy.

Under $100
Remember the copious amounts of sugar, characteristic of the holidays, that I mentioned earlier? This influx of sweets takes a nasty toll on our bodies. Pair this with too many trips to crowded malls, too many cocktails at your holiday work party, and too many tiresome family gathering conversations about why you're not [insert appropriate response: employed, married, pregnant, divorced] ________ yet, and you have a recipe for feeling waaaay out of balance. Nip this energetic, physical, and psychological heaviness by giving the gift of Balance and Vitality. Yup, they come in a box now, thanks to the newly launched, "yogi-built," high-end nutritional supplement creator YogaEarth. (Disclosure: I'm on the company's "yogi board"). Designed to improve health and enhance performance on and off the yoga mat, a month's supply of either of these elixirs is the remedy for holiday stress and excess.

Maybe people have an emotional attachment to ratty college T-shirts with pit stains and faded colors. Perhaps they believe they must tolerate chafing from their running gear. There's a chance they don't know they need not look like a slob while sweating like a pig at the gym. Enter lululemon's Run Swiftly Tech shirt. Made for both men and women, this piece of gear is every crummy T-shirt's worst nightmare. (Your days are numbered, tattered tee!). The Run Swiftly wicks sweat, washes like a champ, and feels light and lovely in heat and cold. It even looks flattering. So flattering, in fact, that after wearing one in a recent video post (above), snarky NYC Gal remarked, "Dude, when did you get boobs?" (Such restraint, she has). "That's impossible," I explained, "Must be the shirt."

Under $150
Atop an om gal's list? A gift from down under. Yoga lifestyle brand Abi & Joseph, headquartered in Australia, is now available in the States. With luxe fabrics and elegant designs, you'll be tempted to wear these glamorous pieces of gear before and after class more than during it, like this beautiful Ballet Wrap Top. Hells-to-the-no would I wear this to a sweaty yoga session, but you can bet I'd wear it everywhere else. (Special treat: use promotional code OMGAL at checkout for a discount).

It's very simple: Buy someone a gift certificate for bodywork, such as a massage, Reiki, or acupuncture, and they will love you forever . . . or, at least, until New Year's.

Unlimited yoga, a personal training session with your local version of Jillian Michaels, or several classes at a swank Pilates studio would make any yogi swoon. Know your audience though, and notice I said "yogi." Don't go giving fitness-related gifts to someone who might take offense. Capiche? Moreover, be sure to do your research on which studio or health club is the gift recipient's favorite.

Not in the spirit of giving material goods this season? Donate to a favorite charitable cause on behalf of someone else. Here are a few organizations of which I am a fan. Perhaps their missions will interest you too:

Please feel free to add your own favorite nonprofit organizations and/or gift suggestions for the holidays by posting a comment. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, many blessings to you!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Quote: Happiness is an Element

"Happiness is not an elusive bird, perched high near the ceiling, which, with the help of more or less complicated ladders, you have to work to catch. Happiness is an element, which, like air, is everywhere."

-Jacques Henri Lartigue

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reader Query: Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss

I always love the recipes that you post. Just wondering what some of your favorite snacks would be for someone trying to lose some weight! Thanks!

As a serial snacker (and sometimes, a snacker of cereal), I always keep a stash of healthy treats up my sleeve (or in my gym bag, desk drawer, suitcase, etc.). Here are a few of my favorites, divided by the type of fix you seek:

-Quinoa (cooked) with a splash of vanilla rice milk, drizzled with honey.
-Ginger snaps (the all-natural kind!).
-Plain, non-fat (or low fat) Greek yogurt with wheat germ, flax seed powder, 1 dried fig (sliced), and agave syrup.

-Popcorn (be sure to choose the air popped kind with just a touch of sea salt and olive oil; Whole Foods sells one that I loooove).
-Miso soup (The Mishima brand makes a great, all natural version that comes in portable envelopes; simply add boiling water and stir).
-Edamame (boil, drain, and sprinkle with sea salt).

-Spicy V-8 (the 5.5 oz. cans land in my grocery cart each week).
-Whole grain pita chips with salsa.
-Wasabi flavored rice crackers.

-Goji berries (Confession? I'm slightly obsessed with this sweet, Himalayan candy from the gods).
-Ginger People candies (just a couple does the trick).
-Lara Bars (perfect for stowing in your gym bag, glove compartment, handbag, etc.).

-No Pudge Brownies (There's even a recipe on the box for a single-serving).
-Chocolate flavored soy milk.
-Chocolate Underground flavored Stonyfield Organic Yogurt

-Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches.
-Organic So Delicious Dairy Free dessert in Chocolate Velvet.
-Homemade Popsicles (use 100% juice and freeze in molds available at any kitchen supply store).

-Carrots, celery, cucumbers, and hummus.
-Apple with almond butter.

Sometimes the body confuses thirst with hunger, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you're trying to lose weight. For more filling beverages that pack serious nutritional benefits, try these:
-Kombucha (This fruity, tangy, fizzy tea beverage is an acquired taste, but once you get over the somewhat off-putting smell and live, floating cultures, you'll be hooked. No, really, I swear).
-Coconut water (Billed as nature's sports beverage, you'll find yourself asking Gatorade-who?).
-YogaEarth yogi-built nutritional supplements (For a free one-week supply of this miracle elixir, which helps the body prepare and recover from yoga practice, click here).

Enjoy, and thank you for writing!
-Om Gal

Readers, please share your own favorite, healthy snacks by posting a comment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Yoga for Athletes w/ Om Gal & Om Bro

Yoga for Athletes from from Rebecca Pacheco on Vimeo.

Yogis often ask me if yoga practice is enough to keep fit, and my answer is always: YES, as long as the style of yoga that you practice is vigorous (and consistent) enough. On the other hand, if you prefer a very gentle, restorative practice, then additional exercise is probably needed to ensure adequate cardiovascular health, weight management, immune system support, etc.

Meanwhile, athletes frequently seek my input on how to supplement their training programs with yoga, and sometimes, they even wonder how effective yoga can be as its own form of training. Is it challenging enough? Can it take the place of some of an athlete's strength and conditioning work? Again, the answer is YES.

So, I recruited my "little" brother, a former professional lacrosse player, to show you how. Recently, we combined our workouts at the storied New York Athletic Club to create a video for yogis, athletes, and yogi/athletes to illustrate how traditional strength training can be substituted or complemented by yoga.

Here, Reece (a.k.a. "Om Bro") demonstrates some high octane exercises, which I then translate into effective asanas with similar benefits. The exercises and asanas range in difficulty, but please bear in mind, a baseline fitness level is needed for all of them. As with any new exercise program, please consult your doctor first.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Going Shopping?

Here we are, the biggest, merriest, most confounding shopping day of the year. People wake up at ungodly hours to engage in parking wars and jostle each other outside Walmart for the latest Wii or flatscreen TV or whatever. I have never seen it. I don't understand it. But, I know it happens.

If you brave the annual shopping smackdown of Black Friday: Godspeed to you. Remember to meditate while standing in line or waiting in traffic or reasoning with a child (or husband) in the throes of a brewing tantrum. Deep, deep, breaths . . .

Photo above: Lululemon's Holiday Checklist display created by the team at the Boston store (Prudential Center), who maintain normal shopping hours today, in case you're wondering. Check out item #7 on the list . . . Love them.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sweets of the Holiday Season

Ah, the sweets of the season! Just now, Om Mama reviewed the assortment of desserts and pies on hand for our Thanksgiving dinner, and we, somewhat sheepishly, arrived at the conclusion that we went a little overboard. We're clocking in at nearly a pie a person (yikes!).

Do I see the irony of outing my family's sugary excess in a corner of the blogosphere that prides itself on living a balanced lifestyle, characterized by health and moderation? Yes. Yes, I do. Yet, above all, aims to be authentic (even when it means unintentionally invoking the ire of a militant vegan by posting a pancake recipe featuring cottage cheese or copping to a sugar addiction of my own). Candidly speaking, I'd be doing us all a disservice if I wrote a post on Thanksgiving that encouraged everyone to skip the pie and have some wheat grass juice instead. I might be a health nut, but at least I'm a realistic health nut.

To my readers*, I say, "Let them eat pie!" Do keep an eye on moderation, though, by considering the following:

Choosing wisely- A successful approach to wellness is comprised of lots of small, sensible choices, culminating in a healthier overall strategy. For example, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, hitting the gym rather than the couch, and drinking water instead of soda. Dessert is no different. Choose whole wheat crust for your pie; substitute apple sauce for butter in your pumpkin bread recipe; opt for the fruity desserts over richer ones. These tiny tweaks of your Turkey Day menu will ensure that you don't feel like a stuffed bird by sundown.

Sizing up your portions- If you simply can't limit yourself to one dessert, streamline the portion size of the two (or three, or four) desserts that you can't resist trying.

Nipping frequency- Listen carefully: It's not physically possible to become unhealthy or fat in a single day. However, you can lose your healthy habits over the holidays through continued excess. In other words, leave the leftovers behind. You should savor Mom's pecan pie today, but you do not need to eat it for breakfast tomorrow . . . and the next day . . . and . . .

As a self-proclaimed sweet tooth (or, in my case, "molar"), I find it helpful to identify sweet, seasonal choices that feel special but won't derail your healthy path if enjoyed on a regular basis. I am positively smitten with pomegranates and clementines right now because they're in season and delectably sweet. Coupled with my latest, on-the-go snack of choice, goji berries, I feel as though my penchant for sweets is sated, without running the risk of not fitting into my favorite, new lycra leggings (you know, the new frilly ones at lululemon).

*In the spirit of Thanksgiving: I am insanely thankful to all of you for your continued readership, feedback via emails to and comments on the site, and support on Facebook and Twitter. Many blessings to you and yours today.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quote: Make More Mistakes

If I had my life to live over again, I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones . . .

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

-Nadine Stair

Friday, November 20, 2009

Favorite Flashback Fitness Workout?

We all gravitate toward certain exercise habits. We run the same route. We opt for the same machines at the gym, sometimes in the same geographic location within the gym (I call dibs on the treadmill near the windows!). We attend the same group fitness and yoga classes, taught by the same instructors. We see the same personal trainer (cheating on him/her is unthinkable!). Preferences like these indicate consistency, diligence, and motivation-- crucial elements for achieving one's wellness goals. However, every once in a while, every fitness routine needs a little shake up.

I knew I had arrived at one of these moments recently when I was far more interested in the Jon Gosselin circus featured in the cast-off tabloid magazine I was reading than the stationary bike I was riding. The songs on my iPod shuffle didn't hold my attention (not even Jay-Z, so I knew this was serious). Then, right around the time someone had to wake me from the catnap I was taking on a weight bench, I realized I needed a take-no-prisoners approach to snapping myself out of this malaise.

Surely the answer to a stale workout must be something new, so I set out to try a newly minted, high-octane fitness class . . . Body Pump, created by Les Mills. Did I know who Les Mills was? No. Would I know Body Pump if it right-hooked me in the face? No.

What did I think of the class? I liked it better the first time around, when it was called Tae Bo and taught by Billy Blanks. No disrespect to Mr. Mills, I am sure he is a topnotch motivator with oodles of qualified teachers across the country who delight students with a blend of jabs and high kicks and mock jump-roping, but, truthfully, I couldn't help but feel unfulfilled by "Tae Bo Lite." I'd seen it before, and it begged the question: Is a style of exercise any less effective just because it's no longer en vogue? (Of course not!).

And, I wonder: What tried-and-true, old-school activities might be just the thing to make a ho-hum workout feel new again?

I'd love to hear about your favorite retro routines: Buns of Steel from the 90s? Jumping rope from grade school? Running suicides like in high school varsity try-outs? Taking a traditional yoga class, held in a church rather than a swank studio? I've decided my next stop this winter is ballet class (I haven't been in one since I was 14). I'll keep you posted with how it goes . . .

This installment of Friday, I'm in Love: Please post the fitness flashbacks you long for most.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote: Fear

I don't run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clear Your Head

Sometimes Mondays are challenging, for a wide array of reasons. Perhaps you drank a bit too much wheat grass juice this weekend. Maybe you feel groggy for staying up late to watch a certain high-profile football game last night (with a certain heartbreaking outcome for New Englanders). Whatever the reason for your lack of vim and vigor, the remedy is simple: You need an inversion! Any type will do, though the easiest is uttanasana, also known as rag doll. (See below; arm bind optional).

Other options include: Headstand, Handstand, Shoulder Stand, Forearm Stand, Prasrita (like rag doll but with legs wide apart), my Friday fav Viparita Karani, and, even, downward dog.

The goal is to place your head [melon, dome, noggin] below your heart. This circulates precious, fresh blood to your brain, clearing out fatigue, anxiety, mild depression, and, yes, even a serious case of "the Mondays."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday, I'm in Love: With Friday

It's been a doozy of a week, so if anyone needs me, I'll be in savasana (above) this weekend. Maybe headstand on Saturday night, if I'm feeling crazy.

xo Om Gal

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Do Yoga & Fast Food Have in Common?

To date, I've never eaten at Taco Bell. The first time I tasted a famed Wendy's Frosty, I was a freshman in college. As a child, my parents were more apt to allow me to keep pet chickens than habitually eat them in the form of a McNugget.

When I share details of my limited exposure to fast food, people usually assume I was raised on a commune by hippie parents who baked bread, practiced yoga, and taught me to make my own soap. Not quite. Though that kind of upbringing would explain a few things. . .

Instead, my parents are in the restaurant business, hence my brother and I were encouraged, nay, mandated to patronize small businesses rather than big, bloated chain restaurants whenever possible. Sure, they were health-conscious, but more than that, my entrepreneurial mom and pop were conscious of supporting mom-and-pop businesses, and, to be fair, no chef—from the standpoint of taste—wants to dine on mass-produced meals from a corporate kitchen, or encourage his/her children to do the same.

But, what does all this have to do with yoga, you ask? More than you think.

No doubt you've noticed that yoga is pretty popular these days. So popular that new styles of yoga seem to pop up faster than outlandish fashion statements on Lady Gaga. Increasingly, these different types of yoga are—you guessed it—being trademarked and/or franchised. Perhaps the most well-known yogi to "brand" a style of yoga is Birkram Choudhury, who went so far in 2002 to copyright his sequence of 27 postures. However, he's not the only one to trademark a style of yoga practice, train other teachers to teach and promote it, and franchise studios around the country, a pseudo “fast food” option for yoga practices. (I get a kick out of taking the metaphor one step further and imaging what I might name an actual fast food joint for yogis. Hey kids, who wants McYogis? Burger Raja . . . Breath In & Out Burger?).

Unless you've been meditating in a Himalayan cave for the past decade, you realize that yoga is not just popular, but, for some, profitable. In 2005, consumers spent $2.5 billion in yoga classes, yoga apparel and accessories, according to Yoga Journal. Last year, the figure exploded to $7.5 billion, a growth of 300%. With all this added demand for yoga and its accouterments; teachers, studios, health clubs, and retailers are continually amping up the supply, with varying levels of authenticity and success. Much has been made of the commodification of yoga in recent years, and for good reason.

One of my favorite sports writers, Bill Simmons of Sports Guy fame (who also hails from the state of Massachusetts), once put it thus, "The sound inside the cathedral is so peaceful without the clanging of the collection plate.”* He was referring to the ways in which we idealize the games we love, often failing to accept that sports teams are businesses (big ones) for which athletes perform a job, in exchange for money. We want athletes to love our hometowns, stadiums, coaches, and fans as much as we do and, for example, not feel wooed by other organizations offering higher salaries. However, let’s face it; that’s a little naïve. OK, it’s a lot naïve.

At its core, yoga is a spiritual practice, but there’s also a lot of money changing hands in the name of spiritual growth. Admittedly, this reality makes me uneasy, but I would also be naïve if I didn’t acknowledge that the yoga industry is just as susceptible to the pitfalls of being focused on profit over quality as, say, the restaurant industry. The crux is this: No matter what the industry, human beings are running it, and the human condition is vulnerable to the same triggers whether it’s selling Big Macs or yoga mats. The only safeguards we have against yoga becoming unbearably diluted as a spiritual practice is the individual attention and integrity that we show our own practices and life paths each day.

The expansion of yoga from a niche interest for the New Age set to a mainstream activity enjoyed by millions is a very good thing. More people are healthier and happier because of it. Yet, I often wonder how much flavor and finesse are lost when yogis cook up a style meant for mass-consumption.

Consider the upside and downside of yoga-related franchises . . .


Access: With more choices on the yoga menu today, a greater number of people are able to find a practice to meet their needs. This is a wonderful thing.

Expectations: People appreciate knowing what to expect when they shell out their hard-earned money for a product or service, whether it’s a Saturday morning latte or Thursday night yoga class. Like any valued franchise, branded yoga styles and franchised studios provide students with an experience with which they are fond and familiar. If you know what to look for, you’re more apt to find it.

Expansion: If you’re anything like me, you get a little lift when you can recommend your amazing hair stylist, off-the-hook massage therapist, or a delectable recipe for tofu pumpkin pie to your closest om pals. We enjoy sharing the small discoveries that make life stylish, relaxing, or delicious because, in many ways, we all pride ourselves on being connoisseurs of good taste. And, let’s face it; it’s easier to share your favorite yoga experiences if they’re easily identifiable by a trademark style.


Authenticity: I once heard some jamoke on TV describe his style of “Yoga for Regular Guys” thus, “Instead of namaste, we’re all about T and A,” referring to the, ahem, certain anatomical features of a woman’s body. Let me set the record straight here: That’s not yoga. Being creative and finding a niche audience is one thing; being a sexist buffoon is another. I’m just saying . . .

Experience: Given yoga’s recent surge in popularity, there are oodles of teachers certified in various styles all the time. Yet, newer styles sometimes omit important aspects of yoga’s tradition, and newer teachers are often certified in the first style that they try. Specializing in one style of practice is not a bad thing; however, I do believe that the best teachers have a broader repertoire.

Integrity: There’s no other way to say this: When yoga teachers or corporations engage in hypocritical behavior for the sake of shilling their goods to a greater audience, it shows. As any chef will tell you, you’re only as good as your last meal. So, while your dish can have some decorative flash (perhaps a fancy garnish or dollop of an expensive gourmet ingredient), at it’s core, it must be nourishing, wholesome, and fulfilling.

Readers, please dish your thoughts: When are yoga franchises convenient and inclusive? When are they disingenuous or diluted?

*I'm paraphrasing this quote from Simmons. I read it several years ago in one of his many memorable columns in ESPN the Magazine.