Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Style File: The Non-Workout T-Shirt


You’ve got a great sense of style . . . Where have you been shopping lately?  I’m looking for those really unique (and comfy) tees but haven’t had much luck anywhere. Any suggestions?


Hi Jill:

Style is, of course, highly subjective, but thank you so much for recognizing mine.  I have also been told I dress like Mrs. Roper and, on occasion, a man (I went through a vest/trouser phase when I worked at Boston magazine).  In other words, when it comes to fashion: to each, their own!  

Whatever your personal style, T-shirts are a comfortable and cool wardrobe essential, for fitness or fashion.  And they're increasingly fashionable, today, with many more options than your basic, boxy-cut design.  However, if you like the retro look, American Apparel makes great variations on the original (see below).   

Brainstorming in a basic tee.  

For more stylized versions that are also super comfortable, I've had good luck at H & M this season.  I bought this tank (below) in two colors and have had them on steady rotation all summer.  I even bought a couple for Erin the Intern, as they caught her eye around her birthday last month.  (She'd also like you to know she's a fan of Vince tees).  Side note: the H & M shirt is somewhat sheer, so in the interest of saving you a wardrobe malfunction, you'll need to layer.  Forever 21 can impress with some of its tops, too.  I bought colorful and striped cotton tees in NYC when I was there to cover Yoga at the Great Lawn: The World's Largest Yoga Event.   

  (Left to right): Me, Eliza (lululemon, Boston), yoga teacher Amy Leydon, and Goldie (lululemon, Boston).

I thought it might help if I polled some of my most fashion-forward friends, too, for their insight.  Answers ran the gamut from stocking up on T-shirts in Asia because he prefers the slimmer fit (photographer friend, Jonathan), to praising purveyor of the effortless chic James Perse (retail expert pal, Vinitha), to seeing tees as wearable art from hard to find labels like Comme des Garcons PLAY and nautical inspired designs from Rogues Gallery (artist and graphic designer dude Matt), to steering clients toward the classic and cost effective white v-necks at Club Monaco (stylist and personal shopper, Alisa).     

I hope this helps with your search for the perfect shirt.  Remember, it's not what you wear, but how you rock it, gal.

Comfy & cool summer wishes, 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

10 Tips for Guys Who Do Yoga (or Want to Start)

There are Yoga Guys.  And there are Guys Who Do Yoga.  This post is dedicated to the latter.

Yoga Guys know their way around a yoga studio already and, for the most part, don't need my help.  They speak the lingo, dress the part, and can bust out a bakasana quicker than their counterparts- Guys Who Do Yoga- can crack open a beer, which isn't to say that one is better or cooler than the other, or that Yoga Guys don't drink beer, too, or Guys Who Do Yoga can't do advanced yoga poses like bakasana/crow, it's just that there's a difference.  

Yoga Guys are more experienced, while Guys Who Do Yoga are typically newer to the practice.  They might become Yoga Guys down the road (if desired), but for now, they could use a little help navigating the new found territory of yoga classes, where women frequently outnumber men.  For newcomers especially, yoga classes can be intimidating for even the most alpha males.  Have no fear, your Om Gal is here . . .

Top 10 Tips for Guys Who Do Yoga (Or Want to Start):

  1. Don't Ogle: I don't care if Giselle is practicing on the mat next to you, nothing brings bad boy karma like ogling at a fellow yogi (or the instructor) in class.  You can smile warmly, say hello before or after class, or even strike up pleasant conversation in the lobby, but for the love of all that is holy (yoga is a spiritual practice), keep your Lothario moves separate from your lolasana in class.  
  2. Don't Talk During Class: You wouldn't gab during your buddy's back swing on the links, so think of yoga class in the same way.  It requires maximum concentration and minimum distraction; therefore, please keep quiet.  This includes the few minutes when you might be waiting outside the studio for class to begin while a prior class is concluding.  Chances are they'll be in meditation: shhhhhh.  
  3. Don't Score Front Row Seats: This isn't a Sox game; forgo the front row and opt, instead, for the back of the class (this tip is for newbies only).  This way you can watch more experienced students and mimic their alignment in a pose.  Please note: visually learning from the yogi in front of you is not the same as ogling their "asana."  (See #1).  
  4. Don't Compete: Competition is a major source of male bonding, and it's the way the animal kingdom works; however, yoga is not a sport, nor an animal kingdom.  Nobody is keeping score, and nobody wins or loses.  The mental focus you'll develop will help you compete in other areas of life by teaching you to be more present, but there's no place for competition on the mat.  Your goal is to connect to yourself-- pure and simple, and the only opponent is your own ego. 
  5. Don't be Late: If you're doing yoga for the first time, arrive at the class early.  The added time will help you get acquainted with the teacher, stake out a spot in the back row (see #3), and ask any important questions, which leads me to the DOs . . .
  6. Do Ask Questions: How long is the class?  Is it heated?  Can I rent a mat?  Where are the nearest exits?  These are all important things to know.  If you're nursing an old football injury, for example, it's wise to tell the teacher in advance and, perhaps, ask for modifications.  (This is important for yogis of all skill levels).     
  7. Do Use What You Learned in the Boy Scouts: Be prepared by packing the essentials, such as water, a change of clothes, a towel (key for hot yoga), and even a snack.  Again, particularly if the class is heated, you want to be energized and well hydrated.  
  8. Do Bring a Friend: Bringing a buddy who knows the ropes (or even one who doesn't) is a great way to feel more at ease.  If you can't do this or prefer not to, it's always helpful to seek the insight of a friend who can recommend the right style of yoga, studio in your area, and instructor in advance.  All of these elements have a huge impact on your first experience, and a pal who knows you can help you make the best choices for your personality type and level of ability.
  9. Do Doff Your Cap: Nothing screams "I don't know what I'm doing here" like a guy who wears a baseball cap to yoga class.  You'll be upside down a lot of the time; it will fall off.  You'll keep adjusting it.  It will be annoying.  Take it off before stepping on your mat.  Please, just trust me on this one.    
  10. Do Watch What You Eat:  Try to curb your manly appetite before class, as having a full belly will hinder your range of motion in twisting poses and increase the likelihood of gas.  And there's nothing that will wear out your welcome in the girl's cabin faster than being the boy who stinks up their yoga class.   

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quote: Perfection

"Perfection is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life . . . I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die.  The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it."

In what areas of your life do you need to give up the cramped, insane search for perfection?  What would happen if you could do this?  

Thursday, July 22, 2010

3 Cool Tips for Summer

We all have our own strategies for staying cool.  We wear skimpier clothes; we think breezier thoughts; we  befriend people with central air.  However, if that micro mini is inappropriate for the office, there's a forecast for heat and humidity even in your breezy imagination, or your pal catches on that you're an AC mooch, you might need a few more options.

Here are 3 of my current favorite tricks for keeping cool:

1.) Sheetali Pranayama is a cooling breathing exercise practiced in many yoga traditions, including Ashtanga and Iyengar.  My friend, Vinitha, reminded me of it after we ran 5 miles on the beach, at high noon, when the temperature was pushing 100 degrees.  Needless to say, it was an ill-advised move, and we were dangerously overheated afterward.  Thankfully, sheetali, along with Gatorade and a sun shelter constructed out of a sheet and two golf clubs (thanks to our urbanite version of MacGyver, a.k.a. O.G.'s S.O.), we bounced back.  Performing sheetali is simple.  First, start by doing this:

Sheetali pranayama on my stoop last night.  Goofy expression not necessary.  You can close your eyes. 

Next, you'll breathe in slowly, through your mouth, for about 5 seconds.  You'll notice a cooling sensation on your tongue (if you can't curl your tongue, form your mouth into a small 'O,' as if you were sipping through a large straw).  To exhale, close your mouth and breathe out your nose.  Repeat.      

2.) Cooling Tea Mist . . . My addiction to hot tea is well documented.  Nevertheless, steamy summer temps make steamy cups of tea less appealing.  A brilliant little trick to try with your green and herbal teas (especially peppermint, chamomile, or lavender) is to brew, refrigerate, and use them as a refreshing toner for your complexion.  All you need is a spray bottle and voila you've created a stimulating (peppermint), antioxidant rich (green), or calming (chamomile or lavender) beauty trick on the cheap.  Bring the chilled spray bottle to the beach or share with pals after a hot yoga session, and you'll be the most popular om gal or guy of the summer.

Flower tea with blossom at Sofra, Cambridge, MA. 

3.) Straw Fedora for Stylish Shade.  If you still don't feel cool, try looking it.  Rocking a straw fedora provides shade and style, which might help you forget that you were stupid enough to run too far, too fast, when it was too hot outside.
To the coolest readers ever: What's your tip to beat the heat?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do I Have to Leave?

First, here's the view from the room in which yogis practiced today at Yoga Rocks the Mountain, held at the Viceroy Snowmass.  After that, what more does a gal need? 

Throw in a morning class taught by R.R. Shakti, with live music by Walter Parks (below), who plays with Woodstock legend Richie Havens (remember, I met him once?), and I was pretty jazzed.  Please excuse the pun . . .

Then, I took a class with Mike Matsumura, who not only dropped some serious yoga moves on us, complemented by solid Yoga Sutras insight, he also cracked me up.  Among his many entertaining quips, he continually reminded us not "to break anything" when attempting advanced asanas (such as Scorpion pose, below).  "You break it; you buy it," he cautioned.

The afternoon session of Yoga for Foodies with Dave Romanelli did not disappoint; in fact, it topped off the already scrumptious day.  

Without the picturesque view, chill playlist, or organic, local, gourmet light fare that followed, Dave's practice still would have been an enjoyable, well-crafted class.  With these added elements, however, it was a delightful and totally unique sensory experience.  

Bravo, Dave!

I'm not quite ready to leave "Snowmasana," my new friends in CO- including the gracious event organizers who hosted me- or these stunning mountains.  Thankfully, I get to eek out a bit more yoga fun tomorrow morning.  

A mountain of love to you,
Om Gal 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Greetings from "Snowmasana," Colorado!

We're doing yoga.  We're in the mountains.  It rocks.  Hence, it's called: Yoga Rocks the Mountain, a yoga and music festival in Snowmass, Colorado.  I've taken to calling it "Snowmasana" for the next couple days.  You can too.  

Is there anything better than yoga outside?  

Tonight's kick off evening class featured two teachers and a live musician.  If you look closely, you might recognize Dave Romanelli, who's here to present his Yoga for Foodies experience.    

Yoga "lifts" us.

A mini om gal.

(L to R): Event organizer, Josh Behrman, yoga teacher Amy Baker, musician Cameron Williams, and yoga teacher Aaron King

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quote: Writing

They ask me if I were on a desert island and knew nobody would ever see what I wrote, would I go on writing.   My answer is most emphatically yes, I would go on writing for company.
-William Burroughs
With a wake up call at 2:30 a.m. to make tomorrow's 5:00 a.m. flight to the Yoga Rocks the Mountain festival in Snowmass, CO (which should really be called "Snowmasana" for the weekend, don't you think?), it's time for me to retire for the night.  Check back later for posts, photos, and videos of the event.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What a Yogi Packs to Rock the Mountain

Packing for a yoga trip takes discretion.  On one hand, you want to feel liberated from worldly possessions and the trappings of your daily routine, such as work clothes, makeup, and constrictive footwear.  On the other hand, you need to pack for optimal peace and happiness.  Let's face it; being exposed to the elements, insects, or funky yoga B.O., for example, can hinder your meditating mojo.

Here are the items that top my packing list as I prepare for my next yoga adventure, the Yoga Rocks the Mountain festival in Snowmass, CO.

Active Wear & Gear:
  • Apparel for asana
  • Apparel & footwear for non-asana activities & chilling out
  • Yoga mat 
Healthy Essentials:
  • Vitamins/medication (I pack arnica for sore muscles)
  • Tea (I'm a confessed addict, remember?) 
  • All natural snacks for airports & road trips (such as Lara Bars and YogaEarth nutrition products*)
Little Luxuries: 
  • Eye mask and/or ear plugs
  • Dr. Bonners soap (it's all natural, multi-purpose and can be used as body/face wash, shampoo, and laundry detergent if you need to hand wash clothes on the road)
  • Essential oil (I bought geranium while teaching in France last year, and it is luscious!  Lavender is calming; peppermint stimulating)
  • Travel beeswax candle
Blissful Baubles: 
  • Mala beads (wrapped around left wrist, below)
  • Y'arf (Don't know what this is?  Ask David Romanelli)

Yoga Rocks the Mountain* kicks off on Friday, July 16, featuring topnotch teachers such as David Romanelli, fellow Baptiste alum Lisa Black, Dharma Mittra protege Mike Matsumura . . . ., and R.R. Shakti, among others.  Musical performances, too, will draw flying yogis like me, arriving by air, and driving yogis from nearby cities and states via road trip.  Accommodations range from local campgrounds to the swish Viceroy Snowmass, which means yogi attire at the festival will surely run the gamut from Bear Grylls-in-the-outback to hippie haute couture.  Anything goes, yogis!  Start packing and get your asana to Snowmass!

Safe travels & light luggage,
Om Gal

*Disclosure: Rebecca is on the advisory board of YogaEarth and a partner of the Yoga Rocks the Mountain festival. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A WTF Yoga Moment

Yoga practice has the potential to change our reality.  We step onto our mats feeling one way (tired, stressed, inflexible, sad), only to discover that reality can shift drastically through asana, pranayama, and/or meditation.  Quicker than one can say "namaste," we feel energized, peaceful, limber, and happy.

Unfortunately, this was not the case in a yoga class I attended recently.

Instead, I experienced one of the biggest WTF yoga moments of my life.  After 15 years of practicing yoga, witnessing my fair share of eyebrow-furrowing situations as both a teacher and student, that's saying a lot. There was the time a woman was forcibly removed from a class I was attending and banned from returning to that studio for life.  Then, there was the teacher who made a pass at me at a workshop.  Another poorly behaved yoga teacher who regularly vilified the dietary choices of students in class.  The person who showed up to a hot yoga class wearing jeans . . . Oh, wait, that was me.  I forgot my yoga pants, so I stubbornly did an entire class in my street clothes.  Not recommended.  I digress.

The above drama, debauchery, diet-policing, and denim-wearing aside, I've never quite experienced the simple shock that comes with hearing a phone ring in yoga class . . . wait, I'm not done yet (unfortunately, un-silenced ringers are common). . . watching a woman stand up from half pigeon pose . . . wait for it . . . yes, you guessed it . . . ANSWER HER PHONE, then proceed to walk the length of the yoga studio TALKING ON HER PHONE, at which point she presumably made herself comfortable in the studio's lobby and finished her call.

(Photo: Om Yoga Center, New York, NY)

In her defense, it's possible that this was a crucially important call.  Perhaps the person on the other line was incarcerated, or gravely ill.  Perhaps the woman is a surgeon who needed to instruct a nervous resident through open heart surgery while trapped in a broken elevator with a dying patient.

These are all possible scenarios.  But, not likely.

To her credit, the teacher kept her focus on the the rest of the class (comprised of about 40 other people in half pigeon, not on cell phones) and commented that we can only worry about ourselves.  She didn't go bat shit crazy in all the ways I was thinking about going bat shit crazy in that moment.  Fiercely protective of my students and the experience I help create for them in a yoga class, I honestly don't think I would have been so nonchalant.

I know it's not quite the same as answering one's phone in church, but it felt pretty close.  Yoga, above all, is a spiritual practice.

Days later, with the cell phone gaffe still fresh in my mind and visions of how I might have handled the situation had I been teaching, I happened upon some clarity from author and veteran yoga teacher, Judith Lasater, in her book Living Your Yoga:

How do you practice when the environment does not support you or is even openly hostile?  It would be easy to separate yourself from those who you decide are not on "the path."  If you relax your view, you may see that it is all one path and that we are all on it.

So, there we are: cell phone yoga lady and me, walking the same path.  You're there too, along with all your favorite om gals and guys and some not-so-favorite ones.  Toxic co-workers, estranged relatives, even your ex (yes, that one): they're all walking with us, at their own pace, down the same spiritual path.

How did I forget this!

We don't need to accept harmful or disrespectful behavior, but we do need to share the path with everyone.  I am so happy for this yogic reminder that I thought I'd share the story with you.  I want to share it with everyone I know.  Quick, somebody give me a phone.  I have some calls to make.

Share your biggest WTF yoga moments by posting a comment.   

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quote: Counting Our Blessings

I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes."
-e.e. cummings
Bharadvajasana II, above "greenly spirits of trees and a blue dream of sky." 
(Cape Cod, MA)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Yoga Rocks the Mountain & Interview with Dave Romanelli

You may have noticed I've been bouncing around a bit lately, from NYC for the world's largest yoga class, to Cape Cod, where I demonstrated how to integrate gomukasana into the sunscreen application process, back to Boston to teach at the Urban Yoga Retreat, back to the Cape, and, again, home to Boston.  Later this month, I'll be venturing West on a couple yoga adventures.  First up: Yoga Rocks the Mountain, a yoga and music festival held in Aspen, CO from July 16-18.

Upon reviewing the lineup of presenting yoga teachers and musical performers, I quickly notice several familiar faces, including fellow yoga blogger, teacher, and contributing voice on, David Romanelli.  While we've never formally met, our paths intersect often (largely in cyber space).  I wanted to get his take on Yoga Rocks the Mountain and thought readers might enjoy learning more about him as well.  After all, his teaching style frequently incorporates nontraditional elements into yoga class, such as wine and chocolate.

I know what you're thinking: You invented yoga with wine and chocolate.  Unfortunately, drinking too much red wine and passing out in sivasana with a bar of dark chocolate in one hand doesn't really count.  Hey, don't shoot the messenger . . .

Instead, Dave's approach uses yoga as a prelude to meaningful meals among like-minded people, who may not otherwise sit down together and break bread.  He also uses yoga as the platform for generating awareness and appreciation of the slow food movement.  Here's what else he had to say about  his latest Yoga for Foodies workshops, Yoga Rocks the Mountain, and my feeble attempt to persuade him to root for the Phoenix Suns rather than the LA Lakers.

OG: To what are you most looking forward at Yoga Rocks the Mountain?  
DR: I live in the desert [Arizona], so I'm looking forward to cool, starry nights.  Also, I'm excited to be part of a movement toward a younger generation of yoga events.  Until recently, yoga events followed a standard educational format, whereas now, with Yoga Rocks the Mountain and Wanderlust, for example, there are new options.

OG: Were you a foodie first, or a yogi?
DR: I wouldn't even really classify myself as a "foodie."  I'm more interested in creating an environment for people to enjoy food.  

OG: What are your workshops like?
DR: Yoga for Foodies is all about introducing people to the slow food movement: getting in touch with local food producers and the compassionate treatment of animals (such as buying cage-free eggs and grass fed beef). . . [The format is] one-hour of yoga [followed by] a one-hour guided meal, led by the chef.  

At this point, we detour into a conversation about the controversial territory of serving, eating, or promoting meat, poultry, and/or fish among yogis.  It's a topic we've discussed on before, featuring some very insightful reader comments (as always, thank you).  Dave says he's become more aware and sensitive to this potentially hot topic since beginning his workshops, in part because the first chef with whom he collaborated was vegan.  Still, his approach to food is inclusive rather than restrictive.  He openly admits to eating meat/poultry/fish on a weekly basis and insists that he is careful to maintain his respect for the slow food movement, with its emphasis on knowing from where your dinner hails and how it was prepared.  

It's an enjoyable chat, with many common threads to discuss . . . with one exception.  He's a Lakers fan. I, as you probably know, root for the Celtics.  Always have.  Always will.  So, I feel compelled to ask:

You live in AZ, shouldn’t you be a Suns fan?

At this, he laughs.  

"Noooooo, way!"  

Originally from California, he insists that he's always cheered for purple and gold.  He cites key games from the 80s, the era of Bird and Magic/Magic and Bird that first inspired his loyalty to the current NBA champs.  At this, I know he's the real deal--not one one of those fair-weather LA types who wears sunglasses inside the Staples Center, spends the whole game on their cell phone, and probably can't name one other player on the roster other than Kobe Bryant.  The only thing worse than a poser sports fan is a poser yogi.  Gratefully, our interview unearths that Dave Romanelli is neither.     

He's headed to teach now, and I'll be buried in a few writing projects for the remainder of the afternoon.  I'm thankful for the connection and look forward to seeing Dave, other talented teachers, and friends from the yoga world in Aspen in a few weeks.  

Before my next task, though, I take a moment to have a small bite to eat.  All this talk about yoga for foodies has made me hungry.  "People forget how special food is . . . Delicious food plugs you into the moment," I recall Dave saying.  As I step away from my laptop and dig into a scrumptious, organic snack, I realize he's right.  

Photo credit: