Monday, March 30, 2009

Wanna Party?

What: Fit Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Party 
To benefit Fit Girls, the organization for which I am running the Boston Marathon along with my pal Cara (pictured below, of lululemon).  Boys are welcome too, by the way . . .
When: Tuesday, April 7, 6:30-9:00 p.m.

Where: The lululemon store in Boston's Prudential Center.

Why: To help provide running, reading, and community outreach programs for girls in 4th and 5th grades and enjoy some healthy fun in the process, including light fare by Sel de la Terre, chair massages by award-winning massage therapist Michael Moore and his team, a lululemon ambassador auction, and much more.  ($20 suggested donation at the door).

Can't attend the party but still want to send some good karma?  Make a donation at, and/or cheer for us on April 20th as we run the Boston Marathon, a first for both of us. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Survived 21-Miles

Despite the fact that I called Om Bro last night and told him I planned to prepare my obituary for him, in the event that I didn't make it back from Hopkinton this morning (I like to plan ahead), I'm still alive and kicking. Scratch that; "kicking" is probably an overstatement. I do, however, feel good. In moments, euphoric. I ran farther than I ever have in my life today. I tested myself. I supported others, and I leaned on them too. I discovered that salt is my secret weapon (followed closely by Kanye West), and the only thing better than getting stronger is actually realizing that you are stronger than you previously thought possible. To be candid, as recently as two weeks ago, I still thought, "Oh, hell no, I can't do this." Thankfully, I was wrong.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Quote: Henry David Thoreau

One of my fav transcendentalists, Henry David Thoreau, once wrote, "All good things in life are wild and free." If he were around today, he might be talking about the yoga class I'm teaching this Sunday eve at 6:30 p.m. in Boston's lululemon store (Prudential Center). The class takes place after store hours, so the doors are closed; the lights are dim; and candles are lit. It's a great experience- and yes, FREE. Hope to see you there!

xo Om Gal

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Throwback Thursday

This archived post entitled, "The Benefits of an Economic Crisis (No, Seriously)," originally appeared on December 30 and was later syndicated on and Its content remains relevant, as we all continue to weather the country's latest financial woes, so I thought I'd re-post it. Also, a reader recently emailed me asking to reference some of it in a speech he's giving, so maybe that means people are getting their money's worth from this one. (Wait, my content is free, sh*t . . . nevermind). Good luck to our friend with his speech anyway. Picture the audience in their underwear or whatever!

On a side note, it turns out my reference to the rising price of honey was slightly erroneous; I'm told it's not strictly the result of a flagging economy (i.e. inflation). Sadly, honeybees are having troubles of their own and could be disappearing due to several environmental factors.

Please feel free to share your own two cents on the topic of the economy (or the honeybee), or maybe just one cent- times are tough, so I'm giving a discount.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quote: Walt Whitman

"A few light kisses . . . a few embraces . . . a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields
and hillsides,
The feeling of health . . . the full-noon trill . . . the song of me
rising from bed and meeting the sun."
-Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Into Shape

Happy spring, om guys and gals!  Tis the season of possibility and promise (and baseball!). Flowers bloom; the days are longer and brighter; winter hats and scarves go into hibernation, and people in the northeast come out of theirs.  While training for the marathon and picking up snowboarding made this winter go by more swiftly than years past, I am still more than ready to kiss Jack Frost good-bye.  

Like any calendar shift, the arrival of spring is an ideal opportunity to assess, re-evaluate, and re-focus our wellness goals.  Whether it's to lose weight, start training for an athletic event, pick up a new sport, or stress less about the hapless economy, there's no better time to start than the present- particularly when the present contains more daylight hours.

To that end, I thought you might enjoy the following audio clip from a radio appearance that I did on Boston's Talk Radio Station, WRKO, with host Mariellen Burns.  Since it was recorded just before New Year's, it has plenty of tips to help you set a healthy intention and put it into action.  If nothing else, listen for the opportunity to hear us get reamed out by "Bill from Hamilton."  Who knew Om Gal was so controversial?        
Click here to download.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Calling All Runners, Yogis, & Runners/Yogis!

What: A special yoga workshop specifically meeting the needs of athletes, with an emphasis on marathon-distance runners, taught by Rebecca Pacheco.

When: This Sunday, March 22, 1-3 p.m.

Where: A Little Yoga, Wellesley's Linden Square

Why: To benefit Fit Girls, a program that combines running, reading, and community service for girls in grades 4 and 5.

Special perks: Winner of the 1976 Boston Marathon Jack Fultz will talk about the final month of marathon preparation including race-day course strategy; a Lululemon trunk show will follow the class, and each student will also receive a gift from Lululemon.

Visit: to register!

Non-runners welcome too!

Happy Birthday Om Bro!

Occasionally, my "baby" brother contributes to our humble little blog by lending his production support to my videos, dropping some serious (albeit slightly intoxicated) twenty-something wisdom, and bullying me into doing things like try surfing for the first time, in the freezing rain, so that I can write about the experience afterwards. As the founder of a company that provides athletes and coaches with the scouting resources and game tape footage that they need to succeed, he's also inclined to provide O.G. readers with the best peak performance advice available, such as the following message scrawled on our chalkboard at home, prior to the Falmouth Road Race. It reads: "Drink water. Eat bananas. Run like antelope. No beer or cheese." He doesn't even charge for this astute coaching advice!

For all his insight, support, and the entertaining time he gave our cat a bath in toilet (in his defense, he was 3), he deserves our warm birthday wishes. Happy birthday, Reece!

That's him drooling on himself (above). Still cute though, right? Yours truly is rocking the pink watermelon swimsuit. In all likelihood, it was February (ahem, in Massachusetts), but I lived to wear that thing; it was my favorite article of clothing. I'm sure my parents tried to impress upon me that it was a utilitarian garment reserved for the beach . . . Whatever.

This is a more recent photo of the two of us (thankfully no drooling this time). When I turned 21, Reece fancied himself an opportunistic teenager by telling people we were twins. It actually worked a few times and scored him entry into a couple Cape Cod bars. Now that he's 26, I'm thinking I kind of like this whole twins concept . . . The picture here was taken at dinner by NYC Gal (my college pal). When my meal arrived with its head still attached (an imposing fish that gave me the death stare), I shrieked, became terrified, and handed my plate off to my little bro, who bravely accepted his fate as protector of his big sissy of a sister. Thanks Reece. I owe you.

My Marathon Cookies

Training for a marathon can be grueling, but occasionally it's also delicious. Turns out, things like carbs, salt, and sugar are not just permissible, they are necessary. Got that friends? Muy necesarios. Here's one of my favorite "recovery" foods after a long weekend run. The recipe came to me by way of my friend, who coincidentally goes by the moniker Dish Gal, as she's the anonymous foodie behind the mouth-watering blog DishThisBoston. This cookie recipe originally appeared on; however, I've adapted it slightly, here. This variation of the crowd-favorite peanut butter cookie tastes amazing and packs a healthful punch, thanks to whole grains, salt, sugar, and even ground flax seeds to protect joints, not to mention peanut butter, which fuels 90% of all runners (OK, I made up that statistic, but I bet it's not far off!) Enjoy . . .

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 ground flax seed
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp applesauce
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/4 cup creamy style organic peanut butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir. It's easier to use your hands and kneed the dough a little. Then, drop tablespoon-sized mounds of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Smash them down with a fork. Bake until the bottoms are golden and the edges brown slightly (about 15-20 minutes).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Om Gal Gets Acquainted With The Kindle

I like to call this one "Technology is fun!" Remember my snarky colleague who doesn't like to work out? He's also a tech buff who let me test-drive his newly minted Amazon Kindle 2.0 digital reader, which arrived yesterday. The verdict? It's pretty sweet, but I'm a nerd and still prefer real books with pages that I can highlight and in which I can write notes in the margins. However, I do love the usability, not to mention the opportunity to buy the Yoga Sutras at a reduced price with the click of a toggle, if the mood strikes me. Also pictured here, an iPod shuffle and Blackberry Curve. Perceptive, die-hard yogis might recognize the Lululemon manifesto poster in the background; the brand makes the most technically advanced yoga apparel on the market, which begs the question: How have advances in technology enhanced or hindered your yoga practice? Do you adore your sleek apparel options or miss the days of tees and sweats? Do ringing cell phones in class make you cringe? Do you download yoga-related podcasts or use DVD routines at home? Do you have a favorite yoga-inspired blog that rocks your online world? (Ahem).

Perhaps you're not a yogi but a cyclist with a much lighter bike or a runner who relies on the genius of your Garmin during training.   Better yet, maybe you participate in a relatively new sport altogether, such as snowboarding or motorcross.   

If so, tell us how technology has improved or compromised your athletic pursuits.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So You Wanna Fall in Love?

Lonely, wounded soul with self-esteem issues and a tendency to prematurely jump head first into relationships seeks emotionally unavailable, commitment phobe for mutually disastrous partnership that will inevitably crash and burn, resulting in tears, frustration, and Internet stalking . . .

If only the maligned fates of relationships were this obvious up front. Unfortunately, they're not, which accounts for both the mayhem and magic we experience. The unpredictability, the surprise, the chase- call it what you will- it propels us all to do some pretty exciting and embarrassing stuff (exciting like start a family, embarrassing like drunk dialing).

So when an astute reader sent along the following inquiry about whether it was possible and/or advisable to set an intention to fall in love and, even, become engaged within a year, I panicked a little. I got cold feet. I stared at the email for weeks . . . OK, months, actually. The question was out of my league, to be frank. Here's what it said:

Do you think it's possible to set a goal to "fall" in love, or to be in a happy, committed relationship within the year?

I was once in a public speaking class, and one of the members, an accomplished and driven businessman, gave a speech about goal setting. He referred to statistics I had heard before, and which I've seen on the Lululemon website. Essentially: people who set goals (in this case it was 3% of a graduating class), live happier, wealthier lives than those who do not. When the 3% looked back on their lives, they felt they had achieved and often times surpassed their dreams. The remaining 97%, who neglected to regularly set and work toward goals, said they felt disappointed in how their lives unfolded.

This story was familiar to me, and I found it inspiring both the first and second time I heard it. However, the business guy ended his speech by saying, "Whatever it is you want- if it's to start your own business, or to travel around the world, or to get married- you need only to map out the steps to attaining your goal, and then get to work." This was new. The marriage goal was something I had not heard before, and I was a little surprised.

Wondering your thoughts?


Eventually, I recovered from the cold feet. Sure, it's a lofty question, but not entirely unfamiliar for any of us. Let's start with the subject of goal setting. I believe wholeheartedly that it's an extremely powerful, if not essential process, for living the life you want, rather than a life that "happened to you." But, before I go all Tony Robbins on you (and, let's be honest, no one does Tony Robbins better than Tony, so I won't even try), let me explain. Intentions are not about summoning perfect partners or jobs or NCAA bracket predictions out of the ether. In my opinion, they're more about readying ourselves for the life paths we want. In other words, by setting an intention (the more often the better) to find a wonderful guy or gal, you place yourself in a frame of mind that supports this goal. Truthfully, you can only control your own actions, and actions begin in the realm of intention. Let's be clear, however, intentions require cultivation. If I set an goal to write a book, then, damn skippy, I better start tapping away at the keyboard on a regular basis. If I set an intention to lose weight, then I better quit delving into the pint of Chunky Monkey at 2 a.m. In other words, the speaker you reference seems spot-on to me. If we don't map out specific, tangible steps toward our goals, then we're just pie-in-the-sky dreaming, which can be fun but isn't very effective.

A few more helpful tips for goal setting:
  • Set goals in the present tense, and be specific. Instead of saying, "I will run the Boston Marathon someday," try saying, "I run the Boston Marathon in 2009."
  • Write them down, and take the exercise one step further. How will this intention come to pass? Sometimes, I find it helpful to identify three steps that will get me closer to my desired result. While it raised an eyebrow for you to hear that you could set a goal to find a mate, you probably could easily come up with three ways that might help you meet the right type of person for you.
  • Visualize yourself achieving your goal, especially right before dozing off to sleep at night. What do you look like in this new role/experiencing your goal? How do you act? What are you wearing? Be very specific.
  • Identify the obstacles too. While it's important to be strategic about how you can achieve your goals, it's also necessary to pinpoint which barriers (real or imagined) are holding you back.
It's worth noting that we can only set goals for ourselves, not for others, and given that it takes two people to "live happily ever after," I'm wary of putting the same time restrictions on marriage as, say, completing your taxes. In general, the answer to your question, Jenn, is: by all means, set an intention to fall in love this year, but more importantly, arrange your life and ready your own heart so that this goal is probable. You will achieve it, if it's meant to be. Then, be sure to let me know where you're registered . . .

Readers, what do you think? Can someone set a goal to meet his/her mate? Tell us about a goal you set and how you successfully achieved it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Best Things in Life Are Free!

It's true: love, laughter . . . samples at Whole Foods, the best things in life are indeed free, which is a good thing since most of us are feeling a little financial pinch these days.  Come shake off some stress without shaking out one cent from your piggy bank with a complimentary yoga class taught by yours truly, at Lululemon tonight (6:30 p.m., Prudential Center, Boston).  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yoga for Runners!

What: A special yoga workshop specifically meeting the needs of athletes, with an emphasis on marathon-distance runners, taught by Rebecca Pacheco.

When: Sunday, March 22, 1-3 p.m.

Where: A Little Yoga, Wellesley's Linden Square

Why: To benefit FitGirls, a program that combines running, reading, and community service for girls in grades 4 and 5.  

Special perks: Winner of the 1976 Boston Marathon Jack Fultz will talk about the final month of marathon preparation; a Lululemon trunk show will follow the class, and each student will also receive a gift from Lululemon.

Visit: to register!

Non-runners welcome too! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Different Styles of Yoga Decoded

For the record, Bikram yoga is hot; however, not all hot yoga is Bikram. Tricky, I know. With so many styles of yoga available, it's hard for newcomers to decipher the differences and select the style that's best for them; so, I've compiled a cursory look at some of the most widely available styles, along with a brief description and a few thoughts derived from my own personal experiences. Please note that while I am aware of throngs of other styles, I only wrote about those with which I have direct, personal experience; feel free to post additional entries if a style of yoga with which you're familiar is missing. Don't be bashful about adding your personal spin on things as well. Sing the praises of your favorite discipline, or voice constructive criticism for a practice of which you're not a fan.

Anusara: Created by John Friend in 1997, this relatively new style of yoga has a sizable following around the world. It's heart-centered philosophy and meticulous approach to alignment create a well-rounded, pleasant practice. New Age phobes, be forewarned; the warm and fuzzy feel borders on the cliched at times. However, expert teachers know how to temper this risk, including two of my favorites in this discipline, Josephine Selander of Sweden and Julia Novina of Boston. For yogis, like myself, who prefer vigorous, vinyasa-based styles, anusara is a lovely complement.

Ashtanga: I like to refer to ashtanga as the grandma of power yoga, as this style initiated many off-chutes (e.g. power, vinyasa, etc.) that have become increasingly popular in the U.S. In college I was an avid "ashtangi," who fell in love with its level of challenge and structure. To date, it also remains relatively unchanged from its roots in Southern India. Each class focuses on a particular series, with each subsequent series becoming more difficult than the next. Admittedly, I now find the system a bit rigid, particularly from the standpoint of a teacher. Sure, I can twist and bend and contort just so; however, many postures are not as feasible for the mainstream practitioner. This style was founded by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who passed away in May 2009. The post referencing the life of the influential teacher features videos and additional information.

Baptiste: I was certified in this system and taught at the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute locations in Boston (now defunct), Cambridge, and Brookline as a master-level teacher-- multiple classes a day, six days a week, for several years. It's an athletic, invigorating, and well organized system, with borrowed elements from Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, and others. Classes are heated to upwards of 90 degrees and follow the same basic structure each time. Baron Baptiste , the founder of this practice, is a former student of Bikram Choudhury.

Bikram: Credited with being the first yogi to brand a style of yoga and franchise studios, Bikram Choudhury is a polarizing figure within the yoga community. Bikram was also the first teacher to insist upon a heated studio (upwards of 100 degrees). The practice consists of the same 27 postures each time. I'm not partial to this practice due to the lack of variety and often militant approach to teaching (some instructors strongly discourage students from drinking water during class), but I also don't like other popular things like yellow cake or orange juice- which baffles many people- so don't take my word alone.

Forrest: Founded by the intense Ana Forrest, this practice builds lots of strength, the depths of which are not easily replicated by other styles. Classes can be fraught with arm balances, hips openers, and abdominal work. Ana demands a lot from her teachers, so most are highly knowledgeable and impressively skilled. Classes can vary in terms of sequencing and structure, which keeps things interesting though does not always guarantee consistency.

Hatha: This umbrella term is slightly bastardized in the U.S., as "hatha" actually refers to all asana practices, as opposed to other, less physical disciplines of yoga, not as widely recognized, such as karma (service) yoga, bhakti (devotional) yoga, and others. Conventionally speaking, hatha refers to a more gentle style of practice, comprised of static poses, longer holds, and slower, gentler movements. If you're new to yoga, working with an injury or medical condition, I would recommend hatha as a good place to begin.

Iyengar: Devised by B.K.S. Iyengar, who recently turned 90 in December 2008- supporting the claim that a regular yoga practice leads to longevity- this discipline places ultimate significance on alignment. Iyengar students and teachers are earnest, meticulous, and often serious. Iyengar and his teachers, including Boston-based yoga pioneer Patricia Walden, the body is the vehicle through which all things are experienced, thus you must research and train your body, in order to influence and enlighten your experience of the world. Poses are held for an extended amount of time and much attention is paid to the smallest refinements. Iyengar's books are among some of the best yoga resources available.

Jivamukti: Established by Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984, this style physically resembles a blend of many styles; however, its emphasis on the philosophical aspect of yoga is more pronounced than in many other practices. In class, students often chant, read, and learn about a singular theme. Rows of students face one another as in an ashtanga class, yet music is used, bringing to mind more contemporary styles such as vinyasa. One consistent and crucial theme is Jivamukti's fierce support of animal rights. Do not trot into class at its NYC studios in your Uggs or fur-trimmed parkas; it's considered a major faux pas, if not a brazen display of disrespect or worse.

Kripalu: Developed at the Kripalu Center in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, this style is gentle and accessible to all. My first exposure to yoga as a teenager was through Kripalu yoga, taught by Carol Dubin on Cape Cod. Some of its best features include its rhythmic movement and welcoming atmosphere, especially to newcomers.

Kundalini: This chakra-based practice focuses on energy points along the spine with the eventual goal being to awaken the "snake-like" energy through meditation and yoga. Disclaimer: Unlike the other styles listed here, I have not practiced this style but only researched it over the years.

Power Yoga: Beryl Bender Birch, with whom I took a workshop in 2002, is credited with first coining this term in the 90s; however, Bryan Kest, with whom I studied in 1999, seems to have also arrived at the terminology around the same time. In essence, power yoga is defined as a reinterpretation of ashtanga so that the practice could become more accessible and enticing to Americans. Power yoga initiated a revolution wherein yoga transformed from being practiced in church basements and community halls to studios to gyms and health clubs around the world.

Vinyasa: It's up for debate whether vinyasa represents the next evolution of power yoga or simply a shift in semantics. The word vinyasa means "to flow," so that sequences are always linked together and move relatively quickly (i.e. not static). The loose definition allows plenty of room for creative interpretation. In general, it's a fun style, particularly for experienced yogis who understand the technical aspects of asanas already.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Worst Kept Secret Ever

OK, the jig is up . . . I tried to be coy.  I plotted creative ways to tell you.  I even filmed a quick video clip in the restroom of Crossroads, an Irish bar just past Kenmore Square at which runners in training for the Boston Marathon gather before and after a weekly 9-mile run on Thursday nights.  The clip, as you might expect, was more unbearable to watch than an episode of the Real Housewives of Orange County.  Seriously, this site has standards, and a shoddy video clip set against a grafitied bathroom wall proclaiming, "Smoke crack; worship Satan" falls short of said standards.  The point of the video clip was to contrast a somewhat shocking, eyebrow-raising visual message with a not-so-shocking message of my own.  So, here goes: I'm running the Boston Marathon.  (For the record, I think smoking crack and worshipping Satan are really bad ideas).  

[Above, following my first Crossroads run in January.  Temps plummeted below zero that night. I may look somewhat docile, here, but the truth is I went home and cried]. 

Thus far, my announcement to run the most storied marathon in history has stirred zero surprise from anyone other than myself.  Except maybe my mom, who looked only slightly less spooked than if I told her I was becoming a polygamist.  Surprise quickly gave way to anxiety, prompting mom to insist- rather gravely- that I start eating chicken regularly. As in, this was the first thing that came to her mind!  As in, I could be laying in a gutter at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill on race day and you know what will save me?  A plate of buffalo wings.  If only it were that simple . . .

At times, I figured if everyone is already under the impression that I've run the Boston Marathon- nay, ANY marathon, then there should be no need to actually run one.  How easy is that?  Alas, there's no street cred in dodging a challenge, hoping people believe you've done it anyway.  For me, it was high time to pull the trigger on a milestone that's intrigued and inspired me for years.  And, admittedly, there was a healthy dose of peer pressure involved, with a few glasses of red wine at Sel de la Terre eventually sealing the deal.  As I sat with three other gal pals (two of whom were on my Reach the Beach Team), conversation turned to foot races of the 26.2-mile variety, and it was discovered that two of us had run, and two of us had always thought about it.  Thus, the adventure began.

Why keep it on the DL until now, you ask?  This is a yoga-inspired blog, and I thought it unfair (and potentially booooring) to flip the switch on you and start blathering about electrolytes and the ingenuity of the Garmin.  I delayed my marathon announcement on (relegating notes and insights on my training to my Twitter feed only) to spare you many of the mundane details, such as running over sheets of ice in January, with icicles forming in my hairline from the sweat accumulating under my winter hat; the spike in my appetite in February, fierce enough to start a fist fight if not sated; or the fact that in March I discovered I'm running in the most non-runner sneakers on the planet, designed more for gym teachers in VT in the 70s than marathon distance runners, but it's too late to change and risk throwing off the delicate balance of training.  

[I've worn the same model of New Balance sneakers for years- a little clunky, but I love them].
Speaking of balance, I'm hell "bent" on maintaining my yoga practice through all this. Granted, it doesn't look or feel as pretty these days, but I would have quit this whole ordeal weeks ago without it.  My asana practice keeps me kink-free and helps quiet the incessant doubts in my mind: I can't do this; I don't have time for the training; this is insane. I also surely would have quit without the running pals, old and new, who have encouraged and educated me on how to safely train for your first marathon.  Finally, I'm running for a great cause, a program that combines reading, running, and community service for young girls to promote health, self-esteem, and teamwork.  Sports and a love of reading are in my blood.  They helped me through the difficult years of being a pre-teen and teenager, so if I can help pass that positive experience along to more girls in grades 4 and 5, then I will.  Stay tuned for more information on my March 22 Yoga for Runners workshop at A Little Yoga in Wellesley to benefit FitGirls.  

For now, though, I have to go for a run.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don't Miss the Dedication

The dedication of a book is easily overlooked or breezed through and quickly forgotten. This is my favorite book dedication. Not surprisingly, it precedes one of my favorite novels too, East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It's massive in both size and stature, 601 pages and utterly breathtaking, respectively speaking. Here's how the author sums up its contents to the person to whom he dedicates his work:

Dear Pat:

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, "Why don't you make something for me?"

I asked you what you wanted, and you said, "A box."
"What for?"
"To put things in."
"What things?"
"Whatever you have," you said.

Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts- the pleasure of design and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still the box is not full.


I'm not sure why I share this, other than the fact that it's beautiful and heartfelt, and I don't think there's a limit on the amount of beautiful, heartfelt creations you can share with others, especially right now. In a way, I feel like the author is speaking to all of us: Never overlook the dedications that are right before your eyes. Fill your box with everything you have- and share it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good Yogi, Bad Yogi?

Hey, Rebecca.

I've been keeping up with the blog, and I think you're doing a great job. I'm sure you're not at a loss for topics, but just in case, I thought I'd throw out some nibbles, just cause I'm selfish and wouldn't mind hearing your take.

I truly admire your diligence, patience and commitment to your holistic well-being. I am always impressed with your posts, but later I find myself reminded, both in appearance and spirit, that I am not Rebecca Pacheco. I don't have the will power, the genuine zest for exercise, or the thoughtful foresight to forgo delicious bread and butter so that I can indulge in a glass of wine or two. I've spent years of my life bouncing between extreme guidelines and out of control indulgence.

Now, you ask yourself: Caroline? Are you a yogi? Do you practice the art of self awareness and inner balance?

Yes, Rebecca. I do. I swear. Really, I'm not lying. 2-5 days a week for three years. I'm on the mat. Mostly hoping that I can absorb the attributes of someone around me. Instead, I think about work during meditation, plan my week, design my outfit for the day.

No. Bad yogi.
As the January gymers fade into the abyss, and the cold days remind us that they will continue as far as the eye can see, how do you think we can all remained focused on our goals, and remember that the process is a long road . . . maybe a never ending one? In other words, what is the intangible motivation that drives you? And can it be learned?

(Bearing in mind that much of this is something you can't fix . . . and I don't expect you to!)

Hope all is well,

Dear Caroline:
Thank you for your honesty, wit, and insight. Rest assured: You are a yogi, at least, as far as I can tell. You don't keep a burn book at home or pull the legs off spiders in your free time, do you?

All joking aside, you raise two important questions: What characterizes a yogi? And, to what extent can we acquire these qualities through practice, commitment, and "diligence," as you say?

Within the past decade, yoga has firmly planted its asana within our collective consciousness, here, in the United States- thanks, in part, to everyone from high-profile teachers like B.K.S. Iyengar and Bikram Choudhury, to high-profile yogis including Madonna and Christy Turlington, to, most recently, Scarlett Johansson as a dazzling albeit not very convincing yoga instructor in He's Just Not that Into You and a currently airing Domino's Pizza commercial that references "yoga babes" who dig veggies on their pizza. In other words, Americans are now accustomed to spotting a yogi when they see one, and they see a lot of them. It's reported that 30 million people in the U.S. practice yoga. While many have been practicing for longer than a decade (myself included), it seems as though a tipping point has occurred of late, wherein yoga fully mushroomed from underground activity, to hippie-chic hobby, to, well, a Domino's commercial. The zeitgeist has shifted, and there's a good chance it's on its way to Lululemon to buy some groove pants.

Nevertheless, sporting sleek yoga apparel alone doesn't make one a yogi, no more than me putting on Red Sox gear makes me a professional ball player. In other words: don't let looks fool you, mine or anyone else's.

Plenty of people look the part, practice yoga daily and diligently, and forgo wine and dessert with ease, but this doesn't mean they are more yogic than you, sweet Caroline. In fact, I've known some really neurotic, unkind, hypocritical yogis in my day, who were thoroughly dedicated to a daily practice and eschewing sugar, dairy, wheat, meat, and the like, yet, sadly, they were less committed to living lives of integrity. It's a reality that used to break my heart; however, now I realize that yoga isn't a cure-all for the human condition. We're all flawed, distracted, and misguided at times, which is what warrants the practice of yoga in the first place. You might recall that the purpose of yoga, as stated in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, is to "control the rising of the mind into ripples." It's a tall order, requiring "patience, devotion, and faith," qualities that sound a lot like those that you outlined in your initial inquiry: diligence, patience, and commitment, so let's return to those, as it seems you'd like to cultivate a more direct line of access to those qualities, a way to have them on speed dial, so that you spend less time vacillating back and forth between "extreme guidelines" and "out-of-control indulgence."

While there's no magic elixir for striking this balance, I do believe there are tangible steps one can take to acquire more positive habits than negative ones and spend more time in the middle of this spectrum, rather than camped out in either extreme.

Choose Your Habits: Ultimately, we choose our good (and bad) habits. Think about it: if you choose to smoke your first few cigarettes. These actions become a habit. It's been said that habits form our personalities (i.e. part of what defines who you are now is that you are classified as a smoker). In turn, our personalities shape our destiny (as a smoker, there's a strong chance you could develop cancer). Grim example, I know, but I think it illustrates a point. Conversely, if you make a habit of eating vegetables, doing yoga, meditating, drinking water rather than soda, feeding your mind with positive infotainment rather than tabloid gossip, you will eventually crave these habits. They will shape who you are and become standard behaviors for you. Thus, you will be destined for a healthier, more energized, more balanced lifestyle. So, choose a couple healthy habits, and, eventually, they will become hard-wired into your being. Start very small: 5 minutes of meditation per day, a cup of green tea in the afternoon rather than a second cup of joe, brown rice instead of pasta, a dinner date over Thai food rather than a steakhouse. No one is saying that indulging in red wine or bread and butter is bad (at least, I'm not); you simply want to give your brain the opportunity to crave healthy treats as well as indulgent ones.

Have a Healthy Tribe: It's more difficult to go to yoga class when all your friends are headed to happy hour after work. To that end, it helps to have friends who support your healthy lifestyle. Listen carefully: I am NOT saying you need to exile your pals who prefer beer pong over Budokon class (my life would be infinitely less interesting without NYC gal); however, in times when your motivation is on the wane, it helps to tap into the momentum of others. So, while the New Year gymers fade into oblivion, as you say, you and a couple gal pals can relish taking up the whole back row of your fav fitness class, then sit your toned tuckuses at the less-crowded smoothie bar afterward while gabbing about life. True, regular exercise requires will power for most people, but it's also influenced by environment and circumstance. If your environment is filled with healthy om guys and gals, you'll be more inclined to "absorb" some of their enthusiasm.

Know Your Motivational Triggers . . . Among mine are music, fresh air, and a fresh, new style of movement. If I'm stuck in a wellness rut, the quickest way out is creating a kickass playlist, taking an outdoor adventure, or experimenting with a new activity, sport, or style of yoga. You're right; I truly do have a zest for exercise; however, it's not directed toward the same activities all the time, which is part of what keeps me challenged, my brain engaged, and my interest piqued. Think about what moves you and make an effort to seek more of those experiences.

And, Your Pitfalls: You must know the Achilles heel of your holistic path in order to avoid it. Is it increased business travel? A certain season of the year? Lack of sleep? Dining out more than eating in? If you know that cooking at home during the week ensures you'll eat more healthfully, get into the habit of stocking the fridge and preparing a delicious, one-pot dish that you can dip into when you get home from work rather than ordering take-out. Are you a fair-weather exerciser? Keep a few, fun DVDs on hand for chilly, unbearable temps so you can workout indoors. The greatest pitfall I see in people who want to make a change in their wellness routines is that there is a mismatch between their personalities and preferences and the routines to which they're having trouble committing. Consider the Carrie Bradshaw approach to fitness: the protagonist of Sex and the City claimed that her prolific shopping habit served as her "cardio." Worked for her, right? Pick a program that you're apt to enjoy, and you'll do it more often.

See the Big Picture: We all falter. We all have moments where we want to shovel French fries into our pie-holes and go snorkeling in a vat of red wine. Don't curse yourself for falling out of your healthful routine; just stay focused on the bigger picture. Wellness is cumulative. Simply press the "restart" button, and begin acquiring those healthy habits again.

Remember, the word "yoga" translates to mean "union," the joining or yoking together of the body, mind, and spirit. It's an ongoing practice that requires, first and foremost, self-awareness- a quality you seem to possess in spades, Caroline. "Good yogi."


Readers: What helps you stay motivated? Is it an innate quality or learned behavior?