Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hidden Beach Yoga Benefit

If you're reading this blog, you're probably aware of yoga's myriad benefits.  
Some of the most highly touted perks include stress reduction, increased 
flexibility, and improved strength. However, there are many more fringe 
benefits as well, such as one that may come in handy at the 
beach this summer. (See video).
Are you better able to bend over and tie your shoes now that you practice 
yoga?  Possess a new found focus that makes you a Jenga champion?  
Sleep sounder at night?  What are the unexpected ways in which yoga 
makes your life easier, happier, more fun, or, even, less sunburned . . .

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quote: Laughing at Yourself

"You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself."
-Ethel Barrymore

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yoga at the Great Lawn: The World's Largest Yoga Class

At 4:45 p.m. on June 22, 2010, Central Park’s Great Lawn is meditating on the evening ahead. Mostly, it’s quiet, even with sound-checks happening onstage and hundreds of volunteers convening at scheduled rendezvous points across the massive swath of green. The event’s featured yoga teacher, Elena Brower, needs to keep speaking so that the audio/visual team can adjust her mic. She talks to those around her, giving occasional shout-outs to nearby friends. She discusses logistics with a member of the event staff, “I won’t be doing the OMs. I’m going to introduce Dharma Mittra, and he’s going to do the OMs.” Then, she experiments with the verbiage of how she’ll announce Mittra, a yoga pioneer who’s been teaching in New York City since 1966. Even in rehearsal mode, she’s succinct, gracious, and real.

Photo: Sound-check with Elena Brower, Wah!, and others.

But, she’s a little nervous too. Understandably so. She’s preparing to teach the world’s largest yoga class, with more than 12,000 yogis registered to attend. To keep herself anchored and appease the guys in the sound booth, she continues her banter. She begins to recite a mantra—om namah shivaya—saying it repeatedly with various inflections and at different volumes. She’s not chanting but, rather, substituting the sacred syllables for standard sound-check lingo. She could say “testing 1-2-3” or recite her ABCs, but one gets the impression that Brower doesn’t care much for throwaway words.

The cavalry of yoga assistants arrives at the Great Lawn.

It’s clear that things are going well as the event nears. By 5:30 p.m., the weather is cooling down (ominously so, we would soon discover). Volunteers, staff, sponsors, security, and media all seem to be coordinating nicely. I’m roaming between my posts as a member of the media, for, and an assistant teacher. I bounce happily from the press tent where I am offered interviews with a “celebrity yoga guru” per an earlier press release from her people (I have never heard of her) and obliged by Dharma Mittra for an impromptu photo, to the lawn to watch thousands of yogis take their places, unroll their mats, and prepare to make history. I tell Mittra he is free to sit or stand as he pleases for the photo, so the septuagenarian jokingly gives me a muscle-flexing move (a la the Governator). It’s so unexpected for a man of his stature that I’m not quick enough to capture it with my humble digital camera. My brain captures it indefinitely. Below, he strikes a more traditional pose.

Sri Dharma Mittra

All around me, thousands of others are capturing the experience in their own ways. Some are dancing to the musical performances, while others limber up with a few asanas. Many take photos and talk with their friends—some they’ve just met while standing in line for the event. One woman wears a multi-color leopard-print body blanket of sorts and paints people’s faces, including my friend Daisy.

Yup, there's a person in there.

Daisy, who gave Om Gal a plug on NBC (I didn't even pay her).

Reggie Watts, who’s equal parts musician, beat-boxer, comedian, and emcee, adds a party atmosphere, partially because he thinks he’s been asked to host the MTV Video Music Awards.

Buddy Wakefield, a slam poetry champion admits to being a little overwhelmed by the size of his audience. Presumably, he’s used to smaller venues (aren’t we all?), and now, he’s shining on stage beneath a news helicopter and before an audience that makes him feel “like Bon Jovi,” New Jersey’s chosen son. Wakefield dedicates one poem to “anyone’s who’s in it—the sticky tar pit of it,” which jars me from being a yoga teacher/blogger/media gal bouncing to and fro, to being an anonymous yogi among thousands, thinking to myself, “Yeah, who doesn’t know that sticky tar pit?”

This feeling of being swallowed by a beautiful and powerful collective rises up again, when, under the threat of thunderstorms, Elena Brower welcomes Dharma Mittra to the stage around 7:15 p.m. to chant the OMs as planned. “Speak loudly, and do one OM because that’s all we have," I overhear her kindly say to him from my perch below the stage. At the sound of this one unified OM, rising up from the lawn, toward the steamy, gray, ready-to-open sky, I can’t jot another note or snap another photo. I shrink down to the grass, amidst the real camera crews and journalists, join my hands in prayer, and, through a quivering chin and vibrating chest, I OM with everyone else.

It doesn’t matter than Brower makes it through only a few sun salutations before Mother Nature closes the curtain on the night’s yoga history making. It doesn’t matter that 13,000 people scurried home sheltering themselves from the downpour with their newly gifted yoga mats. It’s irrelevant that I went to dinner in pajamas because my clothes were drenched. And, nobody cares all that much about whether a world record stands or not.

It matters only that it can be done: a collective realization among a mass of modern yogis that no experience, event, song, sun salutation, mantra, or moment is ever a throwaway, and it takes far more than a thunder shower to dampen the yogi spirit.

To see more pictures of the event, visit

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yoga at the Great Lawn: Reggie Watts Welcomes Crowd of 13,000

In my lifetime, I will never be as cool as Seattle based entertainer Reggie Watts. I can only wish to be half as cool as his hair alone. Here, he welcomes 13,000 yogis to yesterday's Yoga at the Great Lawn, the world's largest registered yoga class, led by new found om gal-pal Elena Brower, with musical performances by Watts and others.

Thunderstorms abbreviated the event, but it was still a sight to behold. I have plenty of pictures and stories to share, so please check back later.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Yoga Events & Escapes

Some people like to laze away the summer months at barbecues and baseball games, while others prefer to run, bike, swim, surf, and soak up every extra hour of daylight in more physical pursuits. Of course, most of us enjoy a combination of the two, happy languishing in a hammock or hanging off a rock face, reading a book by the shore or practicing sun salutations on a sunny porch.

To help yogis maximize their leisure time during the summer months, many event organizers and yoga teachers offer unique, yoga-inspired experiences. These events range in size and vibe, from intimate island retreats to high-profile festivals featuring celebrity musicians and yoga teachers.

Here's a cursory list of key yoga events this summer. I plan to participate in many of them and wish event organizers and presenters (many of whom are readers, supporters, and friends) much luck as they entertain and inspire yogis around the country.

Event organizers, Flavorpill, anticipate 10,000 yogi attendees to take class taught by Elena Brower in New York City's Central Park. I'll be there: representing in the press tent, assisting class, taking in musical performances by Buddy Wakefield, Grammy nominee Dalien, WAH!, and others, and catching up with NYC Gal over Pinkberry afterward . . . Don't be silly; she won't be at the event. It's during happy hour, people. My ode to Pinkberry, below.

June 26-July 2, Urban Yoga Retreat
Conceptualized by my friend and fellow Boston-based yoga teacher, Chanel Luck, the Urban Yoga Retreat allows busy yogis to go on a retreat but save their vacation days. Classes occur in the early morning and evening each day, with a more intensive workshop on the weekend. I'll be guest teaching on Wednesday, June 30. The program is hosted by the swish Sports Club/LA. Check out the clip below, featuring Chanel and me playing with our food-- an obvious sign you'll have fun in our yoga classes, too.

Packed with veterans to the yoga conference teaching circuit, such as Richard Freeman and Tias Little, and new faces like Alanna Kaivalya and Scott Blossom, this weekend features topnotch yoga classes, music, and unbeatable scenery.

With most concerts and many yoga classes held outside against a picturesque Colorado backdrop, it's easy to imagine reaching elevated states of consciousness at this Aspen event. Featured teachers include fellow Intent voice and blogger David Romanelli, known for his wine, chocolate, and yoga workshops, and Lisa Black, a Baptiste alum like myself and the owner of Shakti Vinyasa Yoga in Seattle, WA, along with many other talented teachers.

July 25-28 and July 29-August 1, Yoga on the Vineyard
My first summer job was aboard the Island Queen, a ferry which travels to and from Falmouth, MA and Martha's Vineyard, so my Cape Cod roots and love for the Vineyard run deep. I'll use any excuse to pack up and set sail for the preferred island retreat of the Clintons, the Obamas, Spike Lee, James Taylor, Carly Simon, and others. For yogis, Amy Leydon's retreats, boasting hearty doses of yoga, mindfulness, local cuisine, sun, and sea, provide the perfect opportunity for you and your yoga mat to wash ashore.

The most high profile yoga event of the summer, this festival in Tahoe, each year, features classes and concerts from big names in yoga and entertainment. This year, headlining yoga teachers include Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Baron Baptiste, and more, along with musical performances by Michael Franti, the Brazilian Girls, Moby, MC Yogi, and oodles of groovin' others.

Please feel free to add your own yoga events and escapes by posting a comment.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Luck of the Irish? Not So Much.

The Celtics weren't so lucky last night, despite a solid outing against the Lakers (until darn Derek Fisher drained a three with about 5 minutes remaining, thus setting off a firestorm of scoring, which the guys in green couldn't overcome).

However, om gal MICHELLE, another Boston gem, lucks out today with free registration to this weekend's Father's Day 10k to benefit the Leukemia and Lyphoma Society and Revere Little League.

Congratulations, Michelle! Please email to receive your prize. Happy running (or walking) to you and your dad!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quote: Pray to be Stronger

"Do not pray for easy times,
Pray to be stronger.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers,
Pray for powers equal to your task."

-John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Good Day, Sunshine?

This morning I awoke from a quality night's sleep, shuffled around the house getting my bearings, and settled into 15 minutes of meditation before a busy day. When I opened my eyes, a singular life question loomed . . . Did that really happen?

Of course I am referring to the thorough unraveling of my Celtics last night in game 6 of the NBA Finals-- a painful bait-n-switch, wherein a stellar team of basketball's finest eerily transformed into a hapless collection of rattled men scrambling up and down the court like my parents' chickens when the family dog circles their coop.

No synergy. No grace. No swagger. Just lots of running, pecking, and kicking up dirt.

Walking through Back Bay this morning, I saw Bostonians shake their bewildered heads over coffee. (These late-night games have us all a little bleary-eyed). They wondered aloud how it could be. A giant, implied "WTF" has descended upon us.

As any yogi will tell you, there's no better way to shake a giant "WTF" than a few sun salutations, particularly sun salutation B, with the strength and alignment of its Warrior I pose. Performed after sun salutation A (video demonstration here), sun salutation B is a well-rounded series of movements upon which many ashtanga, power, and vinyasa yoga classes are built. Traditionally, they are practiced in the direction of the sun (hence the name, signifying our "saluting" of the sun), as it rises or sets.

Today, yogis on both coasts and around the world, Celtics and Lakers fans, and sensible people who could care less about sports, will dutifully practice their sun salutations. Perhaps at sunrise, sunset, or some time in between, until they can do it all over again tomorrow. Ahhh, tomorrow. A fresh start for all, especially the Celtics.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free Running, Beers, & Roast Beef

Yesterday, I encouraged you to eat pizza, fried rice, and ice cream (wink, wink). Today, I'm endorsing Free Running, Beers, and Roast Beef, all of which have little to do with yoga, our prevailing theme on

So, what gives?

A few things, actually. But, first, I should confess my disdain for all three. Yes, even running, a former love of mine. We're on the outs these days. I think we might be headed for a break-up. No, really. I've had it. Today, I traversed the entire Boston metro area in search of magical running shoes to rekindle my old running mojo and failed (no one carries a size "ski"), which brings me to my earlier point: Me + Running = So Over. I mean it this time . . .

Beers have never much been my thing. I'll drink one on a couple occasions: 100 degrees at Fenway Park (the beer must be chillingly cold) and a sunny beach in Mexico (lime, please!). I'm not trying to be a party pooper. I've tried to like beer. It didn't work out. We've both moved on. Everyone is better for it.

Beef and I have been estranged since I was 9. No loss, there.

However, I am a BIG fan of road races to benefit good causes, and I am also a fan of Dads. Perhaps you are too? If so (and you're in the vicinity of my hometown of Boston), you should run or walk the Father's Day 10K this Sunday along Revere Beach Boulevard (accessible via the T). All proceeds benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Revere Little League.

**Special perk: Post a comment with why you love to run (or walk), and Race Menu, the event organizer, will waive one lucky reader's registration fee. That's right: free running, plus free (optional) beers and roast beef sandwiches after the race. Not to mention all that deliciously good karma on Dad's Day.

Not able to make it to the starting line? Post a comment about why you love to run anyway. Please, I need all the inspiration I can get.

**One winner will be selected at random by noon on Thursday, June 17.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Healthy Eats on the Cheap, Inspired by College Grads

Each summer, a new collection of freshly minted college graduates enters the workforce. They move their futons out of campus housing or coveted off-campus apartments, shed their school-issued I.D. cards, which no longer provide easy access to food, photocopies, and laundry facilities, and experience an about-face with reality. It's an exhilarating transition and a tad shocking-- especially from a financial standpoint.

Of this humble period in our lives, I'll never forget my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Karen, recounting with more than a little nostalgia, "You're so broke, and you don't care! You're sitting on the floor, eating a can of tuna for dinner, and it's awesome because it's your apartment and you bought that can of tuna."

Well said.

Nevertheless, all the independence in the world doesn't negate the fact that being strapped for cash is challenging-- whether you're a recent college grad or anyone else grappling with this rickety economy . . . Show of hands? Tight budgets force us to scrutinize our spending habits and forgo certain things; however, healthy and speedy meals need not be among them.

With the help of's favorite member of the class of 2010, Erin the Intern, I've compiled three quick recipes, inspired by campus favorites including pizza, fried rice, and ice cream, which scrimp on cost and time like their takeout counterparts, but not nutrition.

Original Dish: Pizza
Time: Whenever the delivery guy gets there.
Cost: $13.50 (1 large, thin crust pizza with 1 non-meat topping).

Om Gal Upgrade: Tortilla Pizza with Veggies
Time: Depends how crispy you like it.
Cost: $11.28 (with plenty of leftover ingredients for later).

After college, I went on a pizza hiatus and just regained my appreciation for it last year, while in training for the Boston Marathon. Ask my Thursday night training partners. On certain nights, I was fueled solely by the promise of pizza afterward. We joked that I should have worn a shirt that read: Will Run for Pizza.

This healthier variation comes from Meghan Telpner at Making Love in the Kitchen. Her recipe features many more vegetables, which I highly recommend; yet, for the sake of cost, I chose only a few key ingredients here:
  • Organic tortilla ($2.50 for a 10-pack)
  • Organic tomato & basil sauce ($3.00 for jar of Newman's Own)
  • 1 small jar artichoke hearts ($1.79)
  • Organic baby spinach, ($3.99)
Healthy How-To: Assemble the ingredients as shown above. Sprinkle with pepper. Pop in the oven. Cook at 300 degrees, until crisp.

Original Dish: Fried Rice
Time: 20-minutes to an hour for delivery
Cost: $7.70

Om Gal Upgrade: Quinoa Goes to China
Time: 20-25 minutes.
Cost: $3.64 (or $7.28 for double the serving size).

  • Quinoa (2 cups uncooked), $5.29
  • 2 organic eggs (scrambled), less than $1.00
  • 1 small can water chestnuts, .99
  • Soy sauce
Healthy How-To: The most protein-rich grain on the planet, substituting quinoa for rice instantly makes this dish more nutritious. While your quinoa is cooking, lightly scramble two eggs. Add the eggs to the fully-cooked quinoa, along with some water chestnuts (drained). Flavor with soy sauce. Do a victory lap around the kitchen at your new found culinary skills. Next stop: Iron Chef.

Original Dish: Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with Rainbow Sprinkles
Time: Depends how long the line & how hot the weather.
Cost: $3.75

Om Gal Upgrade: Yogi Approved Yogurt & Berries
Time: Just long enough to locate a clean spoon.
Cost: $3.25 ($6.50/2 servings, estimate)

Healthy How-To: You don't need a diploma to figure out this one. Buy a tart yogurt with as few ingredients as possible and add some frozen fruit. I dig Haagen Dazs, which isn't cheap; however, it still beats out most to-go counter options. Plus, even the most frugal guys and gals splurge on occasion. Why not make it on a scrumptious, summer dessert?

*Please note: Prices vary depending on grocer, location, season, etc.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Sun[Salutation]day: Sun Salutation A How-To Video

After you finish watching the World Cup and before the Celtics and Lakers tip off, hop off the couch and celebrate Sun-day with a few sun salutations. Traditionally performed facing the direction of the sun, this sequence of yoga poses benefits the entire body. Sun Salutation A (shown here) contains lengthening, strengthening, back and forward bending movements. Sun Salutation B, which provides a bit more lower body emphasis, is coming soon.

As always, I'd love to know what you think, especially if you're a beginner or pass along these How-To clips to beginner yogis.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Things That Are Green

For today's semi-regular installment of Friday, I'm in Love, I thought I'd give big ups to things that are green, such as:

Basil: Tis the season for fresh herbs. In particular, it's a great time for basil to come out and play. While walking by a farmer's market in Copley Square last week, I was mesmerized by one purveyor's basil plants. It was love at first sniff, really. I bought one, took him home, and now we are living together quite happily. I call him Basil (pronounced BAZ-el). You may too.

Jade is the New Black: In addition to being the season of fresh basil, it's also the season of fierce nail polish, specifically- you guessed it- in GREEN. This color by OPI (shown above, along with a mini bouquet of basil) is called Jade is the New Black. I was wearing it this spring on occasion and rekindled the love affair this week in honor of . . .

The Celtics! From a purely team color standpoint, how could you root for the Lakers? Purple and gold? Together? Blecht. Not to mention all those pseudo fans in the Staples Center who don't actually watch the game but instead wear sunglasses indoors and feign nonchalance when the camera is on them. However, this post is supposed to be about LOVE, so enough about the Lakers. Crazy love to the Celtics.

The Heart Chakra: The heart chakra, coincidentally, is all about love, and I thought you might be interested to know that the color associated with the fourth chakra (located in the center of the chest) is . . . wait for it . . . GREEN. One of my favorite mudras to stimulate the heart chakra is Padma Mudra. Try it!

Have some love to send out, today, to things that are green, either in color or eco-consciousness? Post a comment, here. Let's hear your picks!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Quote: Uncertainty

"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next, or how. The moment you know, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark."

-Agnes de Mille

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Peek Inside Om Gal's Head[quarters]

Blogs, by nature, can often run the risk of being self-indulgent and insipid. Each time I sit down to write, this reality chirps at me relentlessly. It implores me to spare you the mundane details of my life, such as what I ate for breakfast, how funny my best friend is (everyone thinks their best friend is funny), and the latest evidence that my family is crazy, albeit charmingly so.

This morning, I had plain Greek yogurt, berries, Grape-Nuts, and a drizzle of agave syrup. Last month, my best friend sternly told me to stop wasting my time on "nonsense." She was referring to my day job. My family recently adopted five chickens, which means my parents' bid to alleviate Empty Nest Syndrome included, first, a dog and now, chickens. They are literally filling the empty nest with chickens . . . Poetic, isn't it?

So I pour every iota of my yoga acumen into "serious" posts created solely for the purpose of solving some deep, existential yoga dilemma such as How Promiscuous Yoga Teachers Can Avoid Shagging Their Students, until someone comes up to me after yoga class or at the gym (or in line at McDonald's-- kidding) to say that he/she loved the post about the family dog hunting a mouse for hours or the one about how overstuffed my closet is with yoga clothes. One reader even emailed to see if I would mind if she included the family dog post in a book she was compiling about pets and their owners, to benefit an animal rights organization.

In other words: I think I know my readers (that's you) and how not to bore you, presumably by doing things like cataloguing my personal inventory of yoga pants, and then, every so often, I eat crow. "Tastes like chicken." (No offense, Mom and Dad). The challenge, therefore, becomes sharing personal information without oversharing or, perhaps, oversharing, as long as it is relevant, funny, or inspiring. Ideally, it would be relevant, funny, and inspiring.

Speaking of which, here I am, earlier today, at Om Gal Headquarters (OGHQ as Erin the Intern and I are fond of saying), seeking inspiration as I often do-- on the floor, in a position vaguely resembling a yoga pose, with a giant piece of paper, Sharpie pen, cup of tea, and my trusty laptop perched nearby . . .

As for the critical voices of reality imploring me to come up with killer yoga and wellness content that's neither self-indulgent nor insipid . . . They're perched there too. Fortunately, you can't see them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How to Om at Home: Starting a Home Yoga Practice

Having the ability to practice yoga at home, without the need for a teacher or studio, has many benefits, including convenience, cost-savings, and added creative license. Students often express an interest in practicing on their own, particularly while traveling away from their regular studios and health clubs during the summer months; however, they're unsure of how to begin.

I believe that practicing solo provides yogis with essential opportunities for growth. Free from the confines of a structured class, a home practice allows for greater self-expression and deeper meditation. Here are a few suggestions to help you cultivate a knack for om-ing at home.

1. Start small. Many people are overwhelmed by the prospect of remembering or recreating the sequence of a 60 or 90-minute class, which is why it's best to throw that idea out the window. Instead, start with 10-15 minutes. Your sequence can be as simple as 5 rounds of sun salutations and sivasana, or child's pose followed by seated postures such as half pigeon, upavista konasana (seated straddle), and pascimottanasana (seated forward bend).

2. Create space. It's important to create space for your home practice. This doesn't mean you need to build a yoga room with bamboo floors and import a statue of Ganesh from India. Truth be told, your home might not have a separate room for yoga but rather a little space on your bedroom floor or a few squares of linoleum in the kitchen, which is fine. The concept of creating space doesn't actually require much square footage at all-- just enough for the length of a yoga mat and the height and width of your arm span. While in college, I once worried about not being able to practice yoga while studying abroad. I'll never forget my ashtanga teacher's response: You can practice yoga in a prison cell. Fortunately, I've never had to test the theory, but he's right. The beauty of yoga is its simplicity. To that end, create an oasis for yourself by turning off all cell phones, computers, TVs, iPads, etc. Perhaps you light a candle to make the space feel serene and special. Your yoga space doesn't have to be elaborate or elegant, just welcoming.

3. Play favorites. The most liberating part about a home practice is the freedom to choose your own asanas. In the beginning, it's important to develop a sense of play on your mat. Don't worry about the "right" order of poses. Choose your favorites and build a mini class around them. Over time, you will learn how to order your yoga postures effectively. However, your initial goal is getting on your mat and having some fun, not reenacting one of B.K.S. Iyengar's books, pose for pose, page by page.

4. Cheat. Speaking of books, there are oodles of yoga resources to help you acquire the knowledge you need to fly solo, such as books, blogs, DVDs, magazines, podcasts, and more. For the study abroad trip I mentioned earlier, I left home with a yoga mat and Beryl Bender Birch's book Power Yoga and returned a few months later not only comfortable practicing by myself but also leading classes for more than 100 of my peers, professors, and members of the school staff at once. If you feel adrift on your mat without an instructor, use a "cheat sheet" in the form of one of the above resources or a few notes written on a piece of paper until you get the hang of structuring a practice on your own.

5. Groove. As you know, different teachers and styles of yoga have different- often strong- opinions about playing music during class. Some see it as a crucial element for setting a certain mood or theme; others think it's a crutch for both students and teachers. At home, none of this matters. First-time solo yogis usually benefit from playing music, as it encourages rhythm and provides another outlet for self-expression (not to mention drowning out the sound of your roommate playing bongos in the other room or the neighbor mowing the lawn). That's right, if you want to practice yoga to Rihanna or The Red Hot Chili Peppers or The Rolling Stones, go ahead! Rock on with your bad yogi self.

Readers: Do you practice yoga at home? If so, what are some of your keys to solo success?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reader Query: Pre-Workout Breakfast

One reader can't stomach breakfast before working out. Om Gal loves breakfast! Here are some stomach-soothing, workout-fueling tips. Readers, please add your own!

Love the blog! With great apprehension, I realize I must become a morning workout person. In the past this usually meant a couple of dedicated mornings followed by a "sleeping in" day as a reward . . . followed by, well, more sleeping-in days . . . But now that I have a busy preschooler to take care of, the afternoon/evening workouts just don't fit in the schedule and my body is starting to reflect that! A major stumbling block for a morning workout has always been food. Food has absolutely no interest for me first thing in the morning, but with nothing in my stomach, my workout doesn't get too far. Any suggestions for a morning snack that won't repulse and will give me a little energy boost until I can have a better breakfast?


Hi Carolyn:

BRAVO to you for making the adjustment in your schedule to fit in exercise, especially when you would prefer to be doing other things, like sleeping. I can relate. I workout in the early a.m. only out of necessity. Otherwise, I, too, would rather be snoozing while saving my yoga practice, run, or gym session for the evening.

Proper nutrition is imperative for energy during the day and particularly during periods of physical exertion, and the old adage holds true that breakfast is the most important meal. However, you don't need to make yourself nauseous before a morning workout by eating when you're not jazzed by the idea of food. A small snack should suffice until you can eat a substantial post-workout meal. One helpful tip might be to pay closer attention to your dinner the night before. If it's hearty enough, with plenty of carbs and protein, you'll have some extra fuel to burn in the morning.

Here are a few more non-nauseating tips to try:
  • Bar low energy from your workouts. Energy bars have come a looooong way from their original cardboard-tasting brethren, and now, many brands make smaller, snack-friendly sizes, such as Clif and Luna. Perhaps test-drive a few flavors in the afternoon (this taste test could be fun for your pre-schooler too) so that your stomach is more likely to cooperate in its sensitive, morning state.
  • Shake things up. Shakes and smoothies are an easy way to get necessary nutrients. Like bars, several come in smaller, more chuggable or portable sizes. Muscle Milk, for example, makes a Light version in a juice box size that you might enjoy. If you can manage juice (though for some it's too acidic), Odwalla and Naked make mini products, perfect for grabbing on-the-go and combining with a piece of whole grain toast and nut butter, banana, or a scoop of granola. YogaEarth is a new line of products mixed with water or juice [disclosure: I'm on the board] that provide potent nutrients and sustained energy. For you, I would recommend Balance before a workout.
  • Switch your milk. Rice or soy milk could make cereal more palatable. During marathon training, I found that my own sensitive stomach fared best on rice milk and Grape-Nuts before a long training run.
  • Redefine breakfast. For some, the unappealing part of breakfast food is the "breakfast." If so, branch out to foods not traditionally eaten for breakfast. This is daring for a tender tummy (so if simply reading this point makes you cringe then you have your answer), but you might give it a try. For example, I sometimes love miso soup and rice for breakfast.
  • Trick yourself with a treat. Endurance athletes know well the stomach-churning affects of eating right before a workout or while working out, which is why there's a whole category of foods made to taste like sweet treats while being easy to digest. Sport Beans, Clif Shot Blocks, and Honey Stinger Chews (added bonus: Stingers are organic) pack a good dose of energy without upsetting intestines. Remember: these options do not constitute breakfast, but they could tide you over till your post-fitness feast.
I would venture to guess that the awesome and active readers of also have some suggestions. Many are skilled yogis, elite athletes, and topnotch nutrition experts in their own right.

Friends: tell us your favorite pre-workout or yoga meals?

Quote: Material Things vs. Spiritual Development

"Toward material things, which necessarily have a limit, it is best to be satisfied with what you have, but with regard to the limitless development of spiritual qualities, you should never be satisfied with a mere portion, but continually seek higher development."

-His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

5 Yoga Poses for Swimsuit Season

Do you remember having a favorite outfit as a kid? A prized article of clothing (perhaps a party dress or Little League jersey) that you would have worn every day of your life if possible?

Mine was a Miss Piggy bathing suit. I wore it all the time. I wore it to the beach. I wore it while jumping through the sprinkler. I wore it around the house in the middle of winter. For me, happiness and high fashion were captured by a pig wearing pearls and a boa.

Stories of women (young or old) enthusiastically donning a bathing suit 365 days a year are few and far between, so I thought this one was worth sharing . . .

More than likely, both gals and guys become a tad wary of stripping down to bikinis and board shorts at the start of each beach season. To help soothe the angst and slim your "asana," here are my 5 favorite yoga poses for summer.

1. Utkatasana Modification for Lean Legs: Traditionally, utkatasana (also known as chair pose) is done with both feet together and an upright chest position. The variation below is different, to inspire a bit more dynamic action in the legs and additional length in the torso and spine. To really cook your thighs, see how long you can stay in the lowest point of the posture. Be sure to breathe deeply using ujayi, which, coincidentally, sounds a lot like the waves at the beach.

2. & 3. Yoga Inspired Abs for a Strong Core: Many styles of yoga build extraordinary abdominal strength, among these are Ashtanga, Anusara, Forrest, Iyengar, Power, and Vinyasa. Here are a few of my favorite abdominal strengthening movements--ideal for developing the core power needed for many arm balances and inversions, protecting your spine from injury, and counter balancing your backbends (e.g., dhanurasana (bow), urdhva dhanurasana (wheel), ustrasana (camel), etc.). While getting a svelte tummy is no day at the beach (it's hard work!), its benefits are both body-healing and eye-appealing.

4. Handstands in the Sand for Sleek Arms and an Adventurous Spirit: Tis the season to practice your arm balances without fear. Grassy lawns and sandy beaches (see above left) provide perfect opportunities to try poses that seem intimidating in a studio environment or dangerous on a hard surface. The added benefit is that these carefree poses make you feel like a kid--while sculpting strong arms to boot.

5. Padma Mudra for a Beautiful Heart: With all this talk of looking lovely while wearing less, it can be tempting to believe that beauty is an external experience. Not so, friends. If being beautiful and thin made people happy, tabloid magazines and reality TV shows, which make their billions by cataloguing the insecure, neurotic, and/or ugly behavior of beautiful and thin starlets, would cease to exist. Moreover, the primary purpose of yoga is not to chisel your booty but to reveal your own inner light- beautiful in all its calm and confident brilliance- to you, and to the world. Padma Mudra is a nice reminder of this.

Best wishes for a beautiful and blessed summer!