Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Poor Gal's Pedicure

If you practice yoga, you spend a fair amount of time looking at your feet. The more often you practice yoga, the more you look at your feet, and with the arrival of open-toe shoe weather, others, too, will now be looking at your feet.

What does this mean? You need a pedicure.

Not so fast. Pedicures feel luxurious and look lovely; however, you can provide your tootsies with some of the same health benefits at home, for free. (Save your money for your yoga classes or health club membership).

Toes Pose is a very simple and potent stretch for toes and feet. It is essential for athletes, people who spend long hours standing (think: nurses, chefs, hair stylists, etc.), and/or fashionistas, who teeter around town in sky-high heels. All these activities have the potential to jam our toes and confine our feet until they cramp, contort, and ache.

I should forewarn you that although this pose is simple, it is not easy. I recommend doing it at home while you watch TV, before yoga class when you arrive on your mat, or during your home practice. Over time, it will get easier, and, eventually, it will feel divine . . .

Step 1: Start by standing on your knees, curling under all ten toes (you might need to help your pinky toe by folding it back with your fingers).

Step 2: Next, sit back onto your heels. Try to stay here for ten deep breaths. If the sensation is too intense for your feet, return to Step 1. Don't let your mind panic and become unwieldy. Your deep ujayi breath will support you.

Step 3: Release the pose by un-tucking your toes, setting your hands behind you, and lifting your shins and knees off the floor. The stretch in the tops of your feet, ankles, and shins will feel amazing . . . and keep your toes looking spacious, straight, and happy.

And, if you must splurge on a pedicure. Try Tart Deco by Essie, my current favorite color.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kale Chip = Fail; Salad Success!

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, in yoga and life. I openly admit to being a crap pool player (perhaps the crappiest to ever live), but I'm pretty good at arm balances.

Regarding kale chips, I am very good at eating them. LOTS of them. By the handful. Crunching and munching them into oblivion. Making them? By dehydrating pieces of kale in the oven, set at a low temperature? Not so much.

The first attempt was an abject failure. A sloppy, slippery, goopy green mess. Still, I didn't lose hope. I persisted. The second attempt was better but overly salty. All I could envision was Padma Lakshmi delivering some scathing feedback at my own imaginary Top [Yogi] Chef Judges Table. "Did you actually taste these before you served them?" she would ask.

I redeemed myself on the third try. They were edible; I'd even say good. But not good enough for my readers. Instead, I leave all recipes and guidance regarding kale chips to the Canadian queen of holistic nutrition and fellow blogger Meghan Telpner. Her site Making Love in the Kitchen has 372 recipes for kale chips. OK, slight exaggeration. There are at least three, and they all look scrumptious.

Fortunately for all, I can hold my own with kale outside the chip category. Sunday night, I made an uber simple salad (per a suggestion from actual chef Dad) that was a big hit for dinner among friends and even bigger hit for leftover lunch for me on Monday.

Packed with vitamins K, A, C, and many more nutrients, yet slim on calories (a fringe benefit for swimsuit season?), this recipe is insanely simple to make.

1.) Wash, dry, and de-stem one bunch of kale.
2.) Roll leaves tightly and slice as thin as possible (4-6 leaves at a time).
3.) Massage with extra virgin olive oil (1 TBS) and fresh lime juice.
4.) Season with sea salt.
5.) Chill


Monday, May 24, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex, Yogis: Brahmacharya

As a general rule, I don't like sexy yoga. I concede that yoga can be sexy, and sex can be yogic, but I prefer that the two- yoga and sex- sleep in separate beds. To the likes of Naked yoga, Playboy yoga, and the mantra My yoga isn't about namaste, more like T&A, coined by former professional wrestler turned Yoga for Regular Guys founder Diamond Dallas Page, I say no, thank you. For me, there's something incongruous about combining asanas and ass-ogling.

Thankfully, The Yoga Sutras caution against the misuse of sexual energy. Brahmacharya refers to abstinence, and interpretations of this sutra vary widely, from celibacy to a more metaphorical definition relating to one's energetic commitment to the yoga path.

Evoking one form of brahmacharya, my friend Marc (a fellow yoga teacher), once asked the question, "What part of don't f--- your yoga students do you not understand?" He was referring to the caddish behavior of certain male yoga teachers. The comment was so blunt and, regrettably, accurate that I nearly laugh-snorted tea out my nose. However, there are many more ways in which we can observe brahmacharya to enhance our lives, relationships, and yoga practice. In other words, balancing your life through yoga, includes your sex life.

Most interpretations don't insist that we abstain from sex altogether, and even the ancient yoga scriptures make a distinction between the celibacy of ascetics and "forest dwellers," who retreated from society to meditate and practice yoga in solitude, and "householders" who maintained families, to which sex is paramount. In other words, defining brahmacharya plainly as abstinence is reductive and, yes, unrealistic for most people. However, we still practice brahmacharya when we abstain from wasting, diluting, or polluting our energetic life force through sexual behavior that’s irresponsible or harmful to ourselves and others.

This intention manifests itself differently for each of us. For some, it suggests not eroding relationships through infidelity or using sex to fill a void in one's life. But, there are also more subtle ways to observe this sutra. For example, I opt not to talk about or allude to sex in my yoga classes, as I think it's distracting and inappropriate in most cases. (You may have noticed that I usually shirk to discuss it here). I think it's important for yogis to keep in check their come-hither pheromones in a studio environment, and I manage my own to the point where Leonardo DiCaprio could stroll into one of my classes, and, frankly, I might not notice.

If, on the other hand, he sidles up next to me at a Celtics game: all bets are off (even if he roots for the Lakers). I've been given clearance by S.O. on this one and, likewise, he has my blessing if Scarlett Johansson woos him away. It's only fair . . . Speaking of the talented Scarlett Johansson, perhaps you recall her portrayal of a yoga teacher in last year's He's Just Not That into You? The breathy, sex kitten voice while teaching. Sleeping with a married man. Toying with the emotions of poor “E” from Entourage for comfort after said affair with married man goes awry. Sort of sums up the opposite of making conscious decisions about your sexual energy, right?

Nevertheless, yogis are people; we're not perfect. Thank, God. Think how boring movies, TV, literature, art, music, and culture would be if created by a bunch of celibate forest-dwellers.

Sex is the ultimate creative act, therefore, perhaps it's more useful to see brahmacharya as awareness around what you create with your energy, rather than abstinence from the creative act of sex. This approach suggests that by conserving or holding in our energy, we gain greater life force, and this interpretation makes brahmacharya applicable to many facets of our lives beyond the boudoir.

Just as we can be sexually promiscuous by engaging in numerous, indiscriminate affairs, we can be energetically promiscuous too--unaware of how our thoughts, words, and actions influence each relationship and bond we create, from a quick exchange with the Starbucks barista to your telepathic connection with your BFF. Do we choose our romantic partners out of love and respect, or something else, such as fear of being alone or some superficial trait? Do we honor our friends or take them for granted? Are we present in our commitments, whether romantic, friendly, familial, or professional, or do we "get around" without paying much attention to how our energetic output affects the world around us. Do our daily commitments align with our larger chosen path?

Notice where and on what you spend your energy (sexual and otherwise). This creates your reality. The practice of yoga, including the principle of brahmacharya, encourages us to create mindfully. When we do so, we are our most compassionate and powerful selves.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Like a DJ, I Take Requests

Tonight, it came to my attention that there was a strong contingent of teenagers in my class. I'd even guess that they were in the same age vicinity as I was when I first started practicing yoga at 16. Three inspiring gals enjoyed a quote I read to conclude the practice, so here it is, per their request. Rock on, ladies; you have a long and lovely yoga path ahead!

I believe that only one person in a thousand knows the trick to really living in the present. Most of us spend 59 minutes an hour living in the past, with regret for lost joys, or shame for things badly done (both utterly useless and weakening)--or in the future, which we either long for or dread. Yet the past is gone beyond prayer, and every minute you spend in the vain effort to anticipate the future is a moment lost.

There is only one world, the world pressing against you at this minute. There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute--here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle. Which is exactly what it is--a miracle and unrepeatable.

-Storm Jameson

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quote: Friends

A friend is one whom you can pour out the contents of your heart, chaff and grain alike. Knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

Monday, May 17, 2010 = Best Yoga & Fitness Blog (Officially)

It's official. is the Best Yoga & Fitness Blog, per the 2010 Intent Web Awards and, more importantly, has the most kick-asana, awesome, engaged, supportive, and super fabulous readers on the planet (per me). I wanted to shout my excitement and gratitude from the rooftops yesterday upon learning of the award but settled for a short asana practice on my roof after teaching at Saluting the Spirit instead.

Thank you so much for your votes, readership, questions, comments, insights, and inspiration. I humbly bow to you and promise to keep creating high quality yoga-inspired content.

Tonight, I'm doing another video shoot with Have a pose you want me to demonstrate? Post a comment, and we'll choose one.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

O.G. Readers Rock the Vote!

Perhaps you've heard the word on the street that is up for Best Yoga & Fitness Blog in this year's Intent Web Awards. A few ways you may have heard this news:

1.) You're a fan of Om Gal on Facebook via
2.) You follow me on Twitter at
3.) My Mom called you.

It's possible you voted, too. Maybe more than once. Maybe even once a day (per the poll's rules). If so, we can probably attribute this to one of the following:

1.) provides you with high-quality, yoga and fitness content that inspires you (or, at least, provides a fun online diversion at the office).
2.) My brother, Reece, the yoga bully strong-armed you into voting for me. (If so, I apologize on his behalf).

The more exciting news is that I'm in the lead! However, I need your help to stay there. If you've ever connected with a piece of my writing, chuckled at my antics (like the time I got naked on Comm. Ave.), enjoyed a favorite quote, picked up a new asana here or a wellness tip there, submitted and received a response to a reader query, appreciated my neurotic attention to grammar, or just plain pitied my pitiful cry for help at mile 22 of last year's Boston Marathon, please take a moment and send a click my way.

In gratitude,
Om Gal

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yogi Fashion with Erin the Om Gal Intern

Meet Erin, the intern. This week she graduates from college, along with millions of other co-eds across the country taking part in commencement ceremonies in the month of May. Congratulations to all of them! A few details on's first intern: she's a yogi (a bit of a pre-requisite), former ballerina, and aspiring marketing maven. She's fond of Converse sneakers, lululemon duds (she works part-time at the Prudential Center store), and volunteerism. Instead of a typical spring break this year, complete with all the trappings of an episode of MTV's Jersey Shore, Erin washed up on the shores of Costa Rica for a one-week service project.

In summary, "Erin the Intern" is pretty flippin' awesome. I thought you might like to meet her.

I also thought you might like to scope out her killer sense of yoga-inspired style. Like many avid yogis and athletic types, she's often on the go from yoga class to dinner with friends, work to the gym, etc. I can relate and frequently ask my wardrobe to perform double duty: yoga pants as leggings, a favorite lululemon bamboo T-shirt under a blazer for work, and accessories galore to transform gear for working out, into going out.

For her unmasking on, Erin selected three outfits from her closet (along with a few items from mine), which easily convert from fitness to fashion and vice versa.

Work to Running . . .

Conceal slim-fitting running shorts with built-in underwear and a lightweight tank under a flowy yet modest sundress. Add a classic belt and loose cardigan for added polish at the office.

Dress (Anthropologie), cardigan (Anthropologie), Run Speed Short (lululemon), Run Swiftly Racerback (lululemon), belt (H+M).

Pilates to Out-on-the-Town . . . Black basics, such as a halter top and 3/4 length tights, for Pilates, yoga, or dance easily transform into a chic evening outfit by adding a colorful mini skirt, tailored blazer, strappy sandals, and sparkling accessories. "A blazer goes with anything," Erin declared during our photo shoot, which is how I feel about Indian-inspired gold bangles from Forever 21 (I wear them with everything). Erin rocks them, here, along with two other accessories: an H + M handbag and a yogi "mocktail" (water with lemon).
Blazer (J.Crew), Scoop Neck Tank (lululemon), Wunder Under leggings (lululemon; I wore these to run the Boston Marathon last year, in hot pink), skirt (Urban Outfitters), sandals (Aldo), clutch (H+M), bangles (Forever 21).

Yoga Practice to Lunch with Pals, Shopping, or even a Sox Game . . .
Nautical stripes instantly add a dash of playful preppiness and timeless style to any outfit. Meanwhile, a lightweight scarf updates the look, so that Erin doesn't risk looking too much like a sailor. These navy yoga pants are cropped to a length that flatters with sneakers or ballet flats, and the delicate camisole easily works on or off the mat, alone or layered with a tunic, hoodie, or jacket.
Abi & Joseph Stretch Camisole, lucy hatha power capri, T-shirt (Intermix), scarf (H+M), shoes (Converse; not shown), mat by Plank Designs, Om Gal messenger bag (sorry friends, this item is one-of-a-kind).

One-of-a-kind, much like Erin the Intern!

Did you enjoy meeting Erin or any previous posts over the years on If so, take one click to vote in the 2010 Intent Web Awards in the Best Yoga & Fitness Blog category. Pretty please . . . It's good karma.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Om Shanti to the Mamas!

Happy Mother's Day to all the om mamas out there. Thank you for reading, sharing, and inspiring.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

3 Yoga Poses to Spark Afternoon Energy (Plus a Caffeine Confession & a Quick Video)

Hi, everyone . . . My name is Rebecca . . . And, I’m an addict. My drug of choice is caffeine, specifically, steaming, piping hot black tea with soy milk. Tame, I know. It’s not even coffee, which- let’s face it- has more street cred. Nevertheless, I am a shell of a person without it.

Writers before me have had their vices. For Kerouac, it was Benzedrine; Hemingway had his booze. Oscar Wilde got wild on absinthe. Meanwhile, I reach for assam—preferably organic, however, in a pinch, a good old Tetley tea bag (British Blend, please) will suffice. I can’t help but wonder whether a more substantial substance might elevate my writing chops to the level of my predecessors. Maybe the hard stuff makes for a literary heavyweight? Alas, there’s something more than a bit hypocritical about a yoga writer who regularly slugs back absinthe while encouraging readers to practice a path of balance and moderation. So, I stick with tea.

When energy wanes, I admit, it's often my pick-me-up trick of choice, but I have others too, including a decaffeinated selection of asanas, ideal for the late afternoon hour of desktop slumping, catnap longing, and proper teatime drinking (traditionally around 4 p.m.).

Allow yourself to steep in one of these yoga poses for as long as needed:

Start with a Simmer

Spark a little energy spurt by warming up the body with this simple variation on utkatasana (above) or try some invigorating breath work. I learned to do a Breath of Joy from my first yoga teacher more than 14 years ago and have kept it in my bag of tricks ever since. To my own students, I describe it as the asana-equivalent of espresso (no disrespect to tea). The beauty of this movement is that it can be done anywhere (no mat needed) and by anyone (even yogi kids love the energizing effects of this powerful breathwork): begin standing. Next you will inhale three times while moving your arms like the conductor of an orchestra (inhale once arms together to the level of your navel; inhale twice arms open wide to the level of your chest; inhale three times arms together overhead). Finally, you'll exhale all the breath out with an emphatic "ha" sound as you transition into a low squat, reminiscent of a downhill skier (arms behind you, as shown in the above video).

Flip Me Over . . .

Backbending postures, too, provide an excellent source of energy, particularly if you sit at a desk or spend large amounts of time driving a car. Both of these activities can constrict the chest, with shoulders hunching and posture caving forward. To counterbalance this blocked energy, add a few repetitions of urdhva dhanurasa (wheel pose) to your yoga practice. Or, try a standing back bend (also referenced in today's video) by scooping your hips forward, lifting your chest, looking up, and possibly letting your head fall back gently, opening your chest and throat. You can do this with your arms overhead or supporting your low back with your hands. Be sure to breath in your backbends, through your mouth, if needed. Otherwise, use ujayi breath.

And Pour Me Out

Few poses have my heart like inversions, particularly sirsasana (headstand). Anatomically, the benefits are simple: tip yourself over (yes, like a tea pot) and you receive a rejuvenating supply of fresh blood to your brain. However, you need not be a seasoned yoga student to experience the benefits that headstand creates. A more accessible approach includes a standing forward bend (uttanasana), often referred to in yoga classes as “rag doll.” Spend a minute or two in either of these postures, and once you return to an upright position, your uplifted energy and clearer thinking will remain.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Not-So Relevant to the Kentucky Derby . . .

The following quote is from a book I'm currently reading about our survival skills and instincts, and the intangible factors that influence how we react in life-altering situations. Truthfully, it has little to do with today's Kentucky Derby, but the annual hoopla made me recall this excerpt including an inpsiring metaphor of how the brain and body, reason and emotion, communicate under pressure.

The human organism, then, is like a jockey on a thoroughbred in the gate. He's a small man and it's a big horse, and if it decides to get excited in that small metal cage, the jockey is going to get mangled, possibly killed. So he takes care to be gentle. The jockey is reason and the horse is emotion, a complex of systems bred over eons of evolution and shaped by experience, which exist for your survival. They are so powerful, they can make you do things you'd never think you'd do, and they can allow you to do things you'd never believe yourself capable of doing. The jockey can't win without the horse, and the horse can't race alone. In the gate, they are two, and it's dangerous. But when they run, they are one, and it's positively godly.

-Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why