Monday, August 31, 2009

Putting the Om in Your Home

The defining assignment of my 7th grade French class was to create Ma Maison de Reve ("my dream house") through an elaborate process that involved my classmates and I hoarding our mothers' copies of House Beautiful and Town & Country, toting them to school, scouring their glossy pages during class, and selecting the bedrooms, kitchens, patios, etc. that we hoped to inhabit someday. Wielding scissors, glue sticks, and French-English dictionaries, we each embarked upon the design and description (in French) of a home to suit our individual tastes. Like our personalities, our homes were drastically different. Some were traditional while others were modern. Some belonged in America, some in France, and others in more exotic locations. Come to think of it, it's possible that my home was less of a home and more of a hotel in Greece, likely clipped from the pages of Conde Nast Traveler. The beauty of the project was simple: There were few rules. Your home needed to have at least one kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, but beyond that, anything else was fair game. Tree houses, game rooms, menageries, Olympic size pools, baseball diamonds--if you could draw it, photocopy it, or clip it, it was as good as yours.

Today, my options are more limited. The leasing office for my apartment building in Boston vetoed the baseball diamond I proposed for the roof deck, and my pet otter, cockatoo, and tree monkey have already outgrown the bathroom menagerie. Alas, my design prowess is relegated to a world of more modest resources than it was in 7th grade, namely, reality.

To this end, I've compiled a few feasible home design guidelines for simply and inexpensively creating your own "maison de reve." Scissors, glue sticks, and French-English dictionaries not required.

Friends Are More Important Than Furniture:
When I consider the most comfortable and calming homes I have ever visited, they all have one thing in common: They are filled with good people. They can be sprawling second homes just as easily as teeny studio apartments, but the same rule holds true.

While it's nice to outfit your personal space according to your sense of style, with design elements such as furniture, light fixtures, artwork, etc., incorporating people you love into your home will always give it a sparkle beyond spotless granite counter tops and a coziness to exceed that of a cashmere throw blanket. There are a couple ways to do this. First, you can invite people into your home, to add their warmth and energy to your space (this is the idea behind housewarming parties, of course). However, if you're not the entertaining type or your home is too small to host friends, you can accent its design with personal touches, like my friend Alexa does (known on this blog as NYC Gal). Like most New Yorkers, Alexa makes due with limited living space. Entertaining friends would be cramped, so she's found another way of integrating her loved ones into her home, by filling her apartment with artful photos of friends and family. These are not the conventional refrigerator door family photos, these are chronological, geographical, autobiographical collages and collections that instantly capture who she is and what's important to her. She continually updates these pictures, keeping the energy in her home fresh and friendly.

Less Clutter = More Happiness
For me, few things are more liberating than the act of clearing out clutter, whether the clutter is physical, such as piles of mail on the kitchen counter, or psychological, a la the incessant, scrolling to-do list in our brains. Regardless of how clutter encroaches upon your life, you need to take proactive steps to remove it. Rather than saving a messy house for large, sweeping organizational overhauls, tidy up every day. Begin to scrutinize what comes into your home by ditching junk mail before it hits the kitchen counter or quietly sending unwanted gifts to Goodwill (I know it sounds heartless, but honestly, burying that tchotchke from Aunt Mary under your bed isn't doing either of you a bit of good). If you can identify the key areas in your home that generate clutter- which, in turn, generate, stress and stuck energy- you can address them and begin feeling more relaxed immediately.

You May Multi-Task; Your Bedroom May Not
Some areas of your home (i.e. your bedroom) should be clutter-free zones, no matter what. This rule is paramount to creating bliss within your personal space. Bedrooms are for sleeping and sex, and little else. Got that? Repeat after me: Sleeping and Sex. Bedrooms are not for trolling the Internet on your computer, sending text messages via Blackberry while propped up on your pillows, watching aimless hours of late-night TV (I recommend removing the TV from your boudoir completely or, at the very least, concealing it), stowing piles of laundry, or housing purposeless clutter. People often pine for a place where life's minutia cannot find them, but the truth is, that should be your bedroom. Stop waiting to be whisked off to a remote tropical isle without cell phone reception. Banish tech toys, information overload, and household headaches from your bedroom and you will have a relaxing retreat at home, each night, which will pay dividends in your daily life. If you have limited living space, devise a way to organize the room so that anything not relating to sleeping or sex is not in the vicinity of your bed. Buy a chic room divider or use furniture to create natural barriers. Remember, for the health and happiness of your body and mind, your bedroom should not be permitted to multi-task.

Invite the Outdoors In
Though we are highly evolved animals with lots of shiny gadgets that enable us to stay home and order take-out rather than hunting and gathering for our meals and communicate without actually convening in the same physical space, we are nonetheless animals. We thrive in nature. We are meant to breath fresh air, absorb vitamin D from the sun's rays, and explore our natural surroundings. For this reason, it's important to incorporate elements from the natural world into our homes. Whether it's a plant, fish, or stunning environmental photograph, natural elements bring a space alive, literally. Start small- a cactus perhaps, if you're wary of your horticultural skills- and go from there. Natural, recycled, and "green" fabrics and materials are en vogue now, so take advantage by incorporating them into your home. It will transform not only your space but your mindset as well.

Create With Color
When cultivating your personal space, nothing makes a bigger impact than color. If your home feels drab or energetically stale, it can usually be remedied with a few doses of one of your favorite hues. Refer to elements in the natural world as a guideline. For example, if you want a room to feel a certain way, opt for colors associated with a corresponding natural element. For a soothing effect, opt for colors that evoke water. If you want a room to feel warm and upbeat, use accents that suggest fire elements, such as reds, oranges, golds, and yellows. If you're timid about using too much color at once, try small, thoughtful accents instead, including throw pillows and area rugs. Like any home decoration or reorganization, you'll find that a little goes a long way when creating your own "maison de reve." Plus, how often would you really use that baseball diamond anyway?

May you always find the om in your home,
Om Gal

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Boston Yogis: Mark Your Calendars!

Experience a creative, invigorating, and fun class with me at Inner Strength in Watertown on Thursday night, August 27 at 6:30 p.m. Details here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Looking Like A Keen Little Quinoa Cutie

"Any good recipes off the top of your head for a summer treat in the Hamptons?" came an inquiry from my om gal-pal, Kristen, this morning via an email.

As a matter of fact, I just whipped up a summery quinoa salad (pronounced keen-wa) last night, which would be a perfect dish to tote along to the beach or an al fresco fete in the Hamptons-- or, say, on the Vineyard with the Obamas? Otherwise, it tastes just as delicious and packs the same protein-filled punch (quinoa yields the highest amount of protein of any grain) when enjoyed in the understated fabulousness of your own humble abode. Here it is . . .

Cook a cup or two of quinoa according to directions on the box or bag, then place in a large bowl and allow to cool for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the following ingredients:

Juice of two limes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cucumber, diced (or a whole one, if they're small)
2 plum tomatoes, diced
Black beans (I used approximately 1/2 of a 19 oz. can)
Corn (I boiled two ears from the farm stand, let them cool, then shaved off the kernels)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Add the contents of the two bowls together, chill, and serve.

I contemplated going in a more Mediterranean direction by substituting the lime, corn, and black beans with lemon, chickpeas, and parsley. I bet this combination would taste wonderful as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Guide to Different Styles of Yoga

For the record, Bikram yoga is hot; however, not all hot yoga is Bikram. Confusing, I know. With so many styles of yoga available, it can be hard to select the one that's best for you; 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 experience. 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 by simply leaving a comment if a style of yoga with which you're familiar is missing. Don't be bashful about adding your personal insight. 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 form of yoga has a sizable following around the world. It's heart-centered philosophy and meticulous approach to alignment create a well-rounded and 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 perfect complement.

Ashtanga: I like to refer to ashtanga as the grandma of power yoga, as this style initiated many off-chutes (e.g. power yoga, 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 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, bend, bind, and contort just so; however, many postures are not as feasible for the average practitioner. This style was founded by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who passed away in May 2009. The post referencing the life of this 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 (this location is 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 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, hip 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 guarantee consistency.

Hatha: This umbrella term is slightly misleading in the U.S., as "hatha" actually refers to all asana practice, as opposed to other, less physical disciplines of yoga, 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, believe the body is the vehicle through which all things are experienced, thus you must research and train your body 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.

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 of Cape Cod, MA. 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 of awakening 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.

The following post originally appeared earlier this year but has been revised to included additional information.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Have Not Been Kidnapped . . .

Nor did I permanently join the ashram at which I spent my 30th birthday. I wasn't picked up by pirates off the coast of Cape Cod, and, though reluctantly, I did eventually leave my friend's farm in upstate New York to return to my home in Boston. (I was sure to raid the local farm stand one last time before hitting the road, and I will tell you this: I had not lived until I tried homemade cherry jam).

My apologies for the sporadic posting schedule of late. I promise normal blogging activity will resume ASAP. In the meantime, here's a quote from a new book of quotes given to me by my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher, Coeli, who helped me cap off a week (nay, more like a month) of birthday celebrations, with an exquisite vegetarian meal at a charming restaurant in Cambridge last night.

This quote is part of a compilation called Breathing on Your Own, and I think it captures well the feeling of being awake . . .

"Look! This is your world! You can't not look. There is no other world. This is your world; it is your feast. You inherited this; you inherited these eyeballs; you inherited this world of color. Look at the greatness of the whole thing. Look! Don't hesitate. Open your eyes. Don't blink."

-Chogyam Trungpa

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday, I'm in Love: Life

I'll keep it simple for this installment of Friday, I'm in Love. Today, I'm pretty much enamored with life in general. In other words, on the eve of my 30th birthday, it's hard to narrow it down to an inspiring quote, new product, wellness trend, or episode of Man Vs. Wild featuring Bear Grylls shirtless. Just saying . . .

After celebrating with my family this week, I'm headed on my own birthday adventure, consisting of a weekend at a converted monastery turned yoga retreat center studying with one of the world's most sought after experts in the field of wellness, followed by time spent on a friend's farm in upstate New York.

Upon my return, I'll be guest teaching at the Inner Strength Yoga Studio in Boston (Watertown). I hope to see you there and share some of my new found wisdom (there's gotta be some wisdom involved in turning 30 in an ashram, right?). Here's hoping!

Upcoming classes: August 20, 27, and September 3, 6:30 p.m.

Thank you to my family, friends, readers, and supporters of this year. You are treasured gifts.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Lululemon Photo Shoot

Readers of always get the inside scoop on what I'm creating, when I'm teaching, and what's on my radar in the yoga and wellness world. Here's the first peek at behind the scenes shots of a photo shoot I did for lululemon on Monday. My friend Jonathan Pozniak, a New York-based photographer and fellow yogi, is behind the lens.

Our first location was on Commonwealth Avenue. We chose these statues, representing Bostonian women who made meaningful impacts on history (particularly women's suffrage), as the initial backdrop for the shoot. I'm doing a pseudo variation of vasisthasana here, by literally leaning on a strong woman of the past (Thanks, sister!). A strong woman of the present is also pictured, Kate Carson, a former professional soccer player, now the community leader for lululemon in Boston.

While I warm up, Vinitha Goswami, manager of the lululemon store in Boston (Prudential Center), tucks in the tag on the Hot Set Bra I'm wearing. What a gal!

Photo shoots often require quick changes in unconventional places, like, say, the middle of Comm. Ave. in broad daylight. No further explanation needed.

Triangle pose by the Hatch Shell in Boston while Vinitha smoothes out some wrinkles in the Sequence Tank I'm sporting.

Me and my mustache.

Who knows what I'm doing here. It's possible I've gone daft after shooting outside in an outfit for fall when the temperature hovered near 100 degrees.

Clearly I wasn't the only one with a case of the sillies. Here, Vinitha is laughing at me, looking like a dork as I attempted to mock power-walk for a shot along the Charles River. Great pic, V, and the Ray Bans are killer!

One of the last shots, in front of the Boston Public Library, pretty fitting for an English major Om Gal, eh?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Quote: The Upanishads

"There is a Light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the Light that shines in our heart."

-Chandogya Upanishad

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tradition Tuesday: How Old Is Yoga?

Question: When did the practice of yoga begin?

Multiple Choice:
A.) After Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras, a sacred text outlining classical yoga (according to most estimates, this occurred between 400 and 200 B.C.E).
B). In 1967, after The Beatles paid a visit to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
C). When lululemon debuted its first version of the Groove Pant in 1998.
D). None of the above.

Answer: D). None of the above.

Patanjali organized existing yoga techniques into one, systematized text; however, he did not "invent" yoga. It's clear that yoga existed well before the compilation of his pivotal text, The Yoga Sutras, created several centuries ago. Put simply, we know that yoga is, at the very least, more than 2,000 years old, though further evidence suggests that it is much older. Most estimates range from 5,000 to 10,000 years old, with some scholars surmising that yoga could be even older. My college courses in eastern philosophy and religion, including Sacred Arts of India, cited ancient recovered artifacts from the Indus Valley region (circa 2200-1750 B.C.E.), wherein figures are depicted in yoga poses, as evidence of yoga's earliest origins.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

To Be, Or Not To Be A Yoga Teacher

To be, or not to be a yoga teacher-- that is the question. Whether 'tis a function of uncertain economic times and the highest unemployment rate we've seen in more than a decade or simply a reflection of yoga's burgeoning popularity, it seems I am asked to weigh in on the certification process, job prospects, and lifestyles of yoga teachers with increasing regularity.

This isn't surprising. You don't need me to recount the obvious contraction of the job market or collective shifting of our priorities to justify a growing interest in careers that represent a different take on the 9-to-5 gig, that is to say, a lifestyle more focused on a quality of life rather than the quantity of a paycheck. Teaching yoga certainly isn't the only career path that falls into this category; however, it is the one with which I have the most experience. Still, you can rest assured that I won't romanticize things for you. Instead, I will attempt to outline the basics of becoming a certified yoga teacher and some of the key factors to consider if you're angling to make a living by teaching side angle pose or perfecting a didactic downward dog.

Let's start with the basics of how to become a yoga teacher. It goes without saying that you should have several years of yoga practice under your proverbial belt, with the bare minimum being 1-2 years before you are ready to instruct others. From there, the requirements vary depending on the teacher training program you choose. Over the years, Yoga Alliance has emerged as the most standardized assessment of both individual teachers and teacher training programs. Visit its website to familiarize yourself with the board's standards, code of conduct, and other important details: A training program that you choose will likely receive its accreditation from this organization. Keep in mind that these programs vary greatly in terms of curriculum, requirements, length of time, cost and much more.

Before delving into the process of choosing a teacher training program, it's crucial to assess your short and long term objectives for making this investment of your time and money. If neither are limiting factors for you and you simply want to expand your yoga practice, then, by all means, pick a program taught by a teacher you respect and enjoy, and relish the time for reflection, personal development, and physical challenge. On the other hand, if time and money are in more modest supply- which is the likelier circumstance for most- and you are considering the prospect of teaching yoga as either a full or part-time career, I would recommend that you do a little research first.

I encourage people to experiment with teaching before dropping hard-earned dough on a training program. Start by assembling a small group of pals (preferably beginner-level yogis) and treat them to a private class. The setting can be informal, like your living room or backyard, and the class doesn't have to be full-length; 15-20 minutes is fine. This exercise will also prepare you for an important aspect of many training programs, teaching small groups of your peers. Notice if you enjoy the feeling of instructing a group or if, say, you're overwhelmed with the jitters. Don't judge yourself on performance; simply dabble with how it feels to be in the role of the teacher.

Assuming you dig the experience and want to scope out the real thing, you'll need to determine which teacher training program you'll attend. For many, this is an obvious choice, but not for all. If the yoga studio where you practice hosts training programs, then it is likely you will consider its programs first. If not, it's still wise to consult a teacher whose classes you frequently attend for his/her input. My advice for anyone attempting to select a certification program is to weight most heavily two criterion above all the rest:
  • Is this the style of yoga that you most enjoy practicing?
  • Is this the style of yoga that you want to teach?
Perhaps these seem like painfully obvious questions. Yet, when taking into account all the other, more logistical factors that go into this decision (such as cost, location, and timing, among others), it can be tempting to veer away from the two most fundamental questions. Sure, you can become certified through a cheaper, quicker program, but you must consider up front if that will influence- or worse- impede your ability to teach a particular style of yoga down the road.

Let's say you do select an appropriate program, attend, love, and complete it. You're probably eligible to start teaching in certain health clubs and studios. However, it's possible that there are several other requirements that you must meet en route to full-fledged certification (e.g. teaching hours, a video tape evaluation, a written component of some kind, etc.), and your motivation to complete these additional steps is probably contingent upon whether you actually want to be a yoga teacher. When friends, students, or readers of inquire about teaching as a vocation (particularly a full-time one), I usually prompt them to consider the following questions before quitting their status as members of the gainfully employed or newly "funemployed."

  • Have you crunched the numbers? Meaning, have you calculated your expenses and determined that your teaching schedule (or one that you aim to obtain) will be covered by your new salary? Have you also calculated any new expenses that you might incur as a yoga teacher (e.g. gas for driving to and from studio(s), parking, liability insurance, health insurance, etc.).
  • Have you crunched the numbers again? (No, seriously).
  • Have you considered how your new schedule will impact your lifestyle? I love teaching yoga, but I no longer teach on a full-time basis because it didn't suit my lifestyle over time. For several years, I worked six days a week, including nights, weekends, and holidays (yes, that means Christmas). This is an extreme case of a "prime time" teaching schedule (most people take classes during peak, post-work hours and weekends, so experienced, master-level teachers typically teach at these popular times), but it's never too early to consider how your forthcoming teaching schedule will affect the rest of your life.
  • Will your physical health be affected? If you are a full-time teacher, you can expect to teach multiple times a day, several days a week. This takes a toll on any body, even very healthy, limber ones. It may sound like a paradox, but teaching yoga can negatively impact one's health. If you have certain conditions that preclude you from this kind of ongoing physical exertion, please consult a health professional.
  • Will teaching yoga help or hinder your other life goals? Whether it's traveling or child-rearing, any career, including those outside the corporate mold, should support your other ambitions. To achieve your goals, you must arrange your life in a way that maximizes your ability to make your dreams a reality. Any job has the potential to deliver or divert you, and teaching yoga is no different.
Finally and most importantly:
  • Why do you want to be a yoga teacher? A well-informed, excited, and inspired answer to this question is the single, best place to start. If what propels you is more internal (i.e. I love yoga, have been practicing for years, and want to share my experience with others) than external (I'm bored with my current job, and being a yoga teacher sounds cool to others), then you will settle in your dharma [sacred duty] soon enough. Best of luck to you!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Falmouth Road Race Eve

I've lost track of how many times I've run the Falmouth Road Race, my hometown's crowing jewel of athleticism; however, this is surely the first year that my bib number bears my name. Pretty cool, no? Time for bed now . . . Good night!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Putting the Om in Your New Home

Hi Om Gal!
My fiancee and I are (potentially) relocating from Washington DC up to Boston, and are in the process of looking at neighborhoods. I'm from MA and went to college in Worcester but never lived in Boston, so my knowledge is a little limited. Anyway, while reading the Globe the other day, I was shocked to see a quote by...Rebecca Pacheco! It was very surreal to have my online-yoga world and my Boston-relocation worlds collide in that way. But it gave me the idea of seeking your advice on a good spot in the city to move to....

DC's a great town in the sense that it's very walkable, but the area in which we live is not exactly welcoming; actually, it's downright unfriendly. Chalk it up to all the Hill staffers, lobbyists, and consultants who live there, but who knows. All of Boston is walkable, but we're looking for a neighborhood with a great community feeling, good local restaurants, a great coffee shop (or a few), and a good local yoga studio. Minimal threat of robbery or violent crime would be good too! So far, we've come down to three places- the North End (good reviews for North End yoga, but I'd be curious of your opinion), South End (fantastic but super-pricey), and JP (which everyone loves for the community feeling, but I'm a bit concerned about how walkable it is compared to the rest of the city). Also Coolidge Corner (dig the movie theater), but I worry about how college-y/ chain-store-y it is.

I'd REALLY appreciate it if you could send some advice our way.



Hi Justin:
We would be thrilled to welcome you to the tribe! Boston is a great, accessible city with neighborhoods that vary a lot in terms of their overall vibe, convenience on foot, amenities, etc. The areas you have identified are all wonderful. Here's my quick lowdown on all three:

North End: The North End is a delicious neighborhood, known for its abundant and authentic Italian cuisine (and one of the city's only raw restaurants, Grezzo). Indeed an area that's best navigated on foot, driving and parking can actually be very challenging. Space is limited (the apartments are traditionally older and often smaller), but with that, comes a quaint vibe wherein you won't find a sterile high-rise apartment complex or chain store if you try. North End Yoga is relatively new to the scene and doing a nice job. The studio itself is really lovely, with a bit of a New York feel (the windows within the classroom overlook the skyline). The yoga is mostly of the Vinyasa variety, with a little Mysore and Pilates Fusion sprinkled in.

South End: Equally if not more delectable in terms of eateries and cafes, the South End is certainly an increasingly posh place to live. There's a bit more yoga from which to choose, with the following studios and health clubs nearby:
True, it's more pricey, though, so I can understand the need for deliberation.

Jamaica Plain: J.P. seems to be the "next" big area to blossom. One might argue that it's the South End before the South End got a bit too refined for its True Religion britches. It's artsy, independent, and diverse, with a price tag that's easier to bear. Yoga studios with good raps include Blissful Monkey and Roslindale Yoga. It's also not far from Brookline, where you'll find Baptiste Power Yoga, where I taught for many years, and local yoga pioneer Barbara Benagh's studio.

Given the criteria that you mentioned I might also suggest scoping out Cambridge and Somerville. The former is more expensive than the later but offers a plethora of charm, including plenty of cafes from which to choose and yoga studios to explore. Somerville, particularly in the Davis Square vicinity, will give you more bang for your buck, with a decent selection of fun, neighborhood bars and shops (including local java darling Diesel), some stand out restaurants, and access to a couple established, quality yoga studios. It's a bit farther away from Boston proper than the other spots we mentioned, but the T goes there via the Red line. Plus, you may discover you like your new digs so much that you'd rather stay close to home.

Best of luck,