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What's your idea of heaven on earth?

Hey Guys!

I’m busy planning my next Yoga getaway.  

Yes, I’m thrilled to be hosting another retreat.

Just this week, I met with Chef Maria, also a student of mine, to sketch out the menus. Maria has helped me in the past with the catering aspect of the Yoga retreats, and now she’s doing so in a more official capacity. I’m super psyched to have her onboard! This way I know the food prep is in excellent hands, and I can focus even more energy on teaching my awesome students.

Trust me, the menus we are planning are our very best yet. We have our basic outline, and of course will allow for what is freshest/in season/looks good in our final shopping trip before the getaway.

So where are we going? To Upstate New York. In early summer.  To spend some precious, rejuvenating time here:

Partial view of our retreat house in Upstate NY. I say "our" like we own the place. Ha! For the weekend, we rent it. One of my dreams is to someday own a retreat center of my own, perhaps some place out West.

One of the students who came to the Fall Harvest retreat I did back in early November of 2010, said that she now thinks of this spot Upstate as a “happy place,” that she returns to from time to time in her mind’s eye when day-to-day life gets to be a bit much. What’s you’re happy place?

I definitely think beautiful mountains and woods, lots of nature, flowers, and green, is happy for me. Plus beautiful rocks and clean, pure, moving water. I love beaches, too.  So Colorado but with a temperate beach in my backyard. Ha! Obviously I don’t think of such environs as my day-to-day environment. For me, they’re getaways. (For now; let’s never say never; spending more time in the mountains and on the beach is very possible).

So when I ran across this passage in a book just today, it struck me that this sounded like my Day to Day Heaven on Earth. Check it out:

Situated on the unpaved banks of the Seine in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly, La Roseraie, home to les Madrus, was names for its lush, rose-filled gardens. The property also contained a handsome grape arbor where lunch was served on sunny days. A henhouse was headquarters for two roosters named Ali and Baba, a harem’s worth of chickens,  few golden pheasants, and a score of huge Toulouse geese. In addition to this menagerie were a tame gazelle, a goat, a few angora rabbits, and an alley cat that wandered in one day and became part of the family. The villa’s interior contained thousands of books, handsome Arabian carpets, and practical American style furniture.

—From Wild At Heart, Natalie Clifford Barney’s Journey From Victorian America to the Literary Salons of Paris, by Suzanne Rodriguez. p. 147

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, maybe the birds aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it sounds like fun. Especially the tame gazelle. How cute! I want one! The rose gardens and orchards sound beautiful, especially if someone else is tending them. Ha!

For me, a happy place has plenty of comfy nooks where I can sit and read a book, nap, or lounge and gaze out to a pretty, green, quiet space. This nook at the retreat house fits the bill perfectly. .

So tell me, what’s your happy place?  It doesn’t even have to be real.

Feel free to get creative. I think visualization and letting our imaginations run free is an important part of life. It opens us up to creativity and new possibilities, so that we don’t get too closed into the “same old same old.” AKA a RUT! Hey, I’m all about routine to large degree, but shaking things up can be good, too!

A quick food note before I roll: I’ll be posting a really juicy, delicious Persian chicken kebab recipe soon (as soon as I photograph it). My dining table is always a happy place when that kebab recipe is on the menu. Talk to you all soon.

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Fitness Magazine dug this photo. Its the one they selected as a finalist for the Face of Fitness contest. Please vote for me here, and pass it along. You can vote daily! My friend Marisa Train took this photo. http://photos.fitnessmagazine.com/face-of-fitness-contest/16/2011/38?esrc=nwphotofaves_fitcover

So I heard Fitness Magazine, which I love, was having a “Face of Fitness” contest. On a lark, I submitted some photos late last week. Monday morning I got an email that I’m a finalist for this week. (Every week of the contest they have several finalists). What a great way to kick off the week!

Guess they really dug my Yoga photos. (That’s all I really had to send in, plus a headshot, so that’s what I did).

If I win the week’s contest, I win $250. If I win the overall competition, there’s a Hawaii vacay and a photoshoot on tap. Wow!

So if you have a moment, please click through and vote for me. I’m currently in 38th place in the “Readers’ Choice” portion of the contest. I was #145 yesterday!

I told my friend Katherine to submit her pic, too, and she did. Get this–She’s also a weekly finalist. Woot! Vote for her, too, while you’re at it. You can vote for us daily :-) through April 24th.

Direct Link to Vote for me is here.

Direct Link to Vote for Katherine is here.

And feel free to re-post, Facebook, “like,”  Tweet, and all that jazz. That would be really awesome!

Thanks so very much!

On the food front, I have a fast, easy, and delicious recipe I’m posting very soon; it’s quite healthy and fun as well, so stay tuned.

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Self portrait of me in between takes of a Yoga photo shoot last fall. Note the peaceful look. I credit the Yoga ;-)

Hey Gang!

If you need some Yoga to help sweat out those Valentine’s Day sweets, and you live in the New York City area, today might just be your lucky day, a true Wellness Wednesday:

A month of UNlimited Yoga at ISHTA Yoga in Manhattan is on offer via Groupon. For $30. Yeah, you read right: 30 bucks!

I’ve yet to try out ISHTA, but it’s been on my list of “must-try” studios for awhile. Now I’m IN to check it out.

I dug around on their website and elsewhere online, and I like the following:

  • They have lots of class options throughout every day. Even random times, like mid-afternoons.
  • The Union Square location is convenient.
  • The reviews I’ve read are quite good.
  • Several teachers I’ve been meaning to try out teach there.
  • One class at a typical Yoga studio can cost $15 to $20. Dunno about you, but this can put a serious dent in my budget. The opportunity to take unlimited classes for the cost of two classes is awesome. And to do this for a MONTH? Wow!
  • Not ready to do this? It’s okay, you have until July 17, 2011, to activate the coupon.

This is about as much vetting as I can do short of checking the place out myself. Sooo. . . .

Click this link if you’re interested:

ISHTA Yoga Deal

Another food post soon, my dears. Have a lovely Wednesday. Be well!

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Shiva Nataraj, a "dancer's pose" variation. Photo by Marisa Train.

Happy Friday, everyone. I’m so excited for the weekend. And not just because I just got paid. Ha ha ha!

Even though I work weekends, they have a mellow feel, yanno?  I have a hot and fresh new Yoga sequence I’m teaching in my classes, and have a couple of classes I get to take that I’m excited about.

One is a bootcamp taught by one of my mentors, Terri Walsh at her exclusive A.R.T. studio here in Manhattan.  She’s amazing. Imagine having as a mentor someone whose workouts and books you owned in college. Then getting to meet this person in person AND work with them. It’s pretty cool and slightly surreal, in that very NYC type of way.

What are you guys excited about this weekend? Taking any cool trips, classes, or anything else fun going on?

Onward to the promised tippage:

So I’m going to leave you with a motivating quote and a tip on a beautiful new cookbook a fellow blogger just published, plus a little tune-age to welcome the weekend.

1. Yoga and Fitness Tip:

“Reaffirm your strength. Your body can do amazing things, no matter what shape you’re in. Throughout your practice, treat it with care and, rather than fixate on its limitations, pause to thank your body for functioning so well.” –Yoga Journal


Pretty motivating, right? I often find that we’re so much stronger than we realize. If we work intelligently and with strong, focused intention, we can achieve so much. And do so safely, which is vitally important. As I often tell my students, we are so incredibly blessed to be healthy enough to even have a Yoga or fitness practice. And it IS a practice, not a performance or competition.

Increased awareness of how we align our bodies and move our breath will lead to an increased awareness of where we place, align, and move our energies in our lives.

2. Food Tip: Cookbook Giveaway via Ivy’s blog:


Enter to win this awesome cookbook at http://kopiaste.org/

If you haven’t checked out Ivy’s blog and cookbook yet, you really should. I’ll admit than I’m new to her blog myself, but am so excited to have discovered it. She just published a cookbook, something I plan to do someday myself. So she’s already a hero in my book. Her book looks beautiful! She’s running a giveaway of it, so do click on over and enter.

Ok, final tip:

3. Music Tip:

A couple of tunes I’m soooo into.

One is by a cat named Gordon Voidwell. I ran across his music a while back and have become a regular at his shows. In fact, he played one last night at Lincoln Center that I got to attend. Fun!

To me, his tunes sound like a cross between old school funk like Parliament, catchy, intelligent Blondie-esque pop, and a dash of Prince and Outkasst thrown in. Even that description doesn’t begin to describe it adequately, so have a listen to his single, “Ivy League Circus” and see what you think:

Warning, it’s peppy and bouncy, and you might just be motivated to dance your way into the weekend:

If that’s not peppy enough for you, I’m very into this track “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. It’s kinda kitschy, but hey, I’m cool with kitsch. Kinda live for it, actually ;-)

Don’t think they have an original video for it yet, but put this on in the background and enjoy. Have a fabulous weekend!

 

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Come join me at Lululemon near Lincoln Square, New York City, this Sunday, November 21. I'll be teaching a FREE class there at 8PM.

It seems like just yesterday that I was a newbie Yoga instructor, longing to be one of those instructors invited to teach an in-store class at Lululemon Athletica. (Maker and seller of the fabulous, durable, and bootylicious Yoga pants, among other athletic apparel items I lust after). Around the same time as my longings, a friend and fellow instructor applied to work there. She didn’t get the gig, but a couple of years later, she was invited to teach at Lulu. Talk about things coming a full circle, right? It just shows that we are often exactly where we need to be. Now it’s my turn to give a class at Lulu, and I’m so very thrilled that NYSC and Lululemon have offered me this opportunity!

I’ll be at the Lululemon near Lincoln Square THIS Sunday, November 21, at 8 p.m., teaching a one hour open level Vinyasa Yoga class. The class is all levels, so no, you do not have to be able to, or even aspire to do the pigeon pose variation I’m doing in the pic. ;-)

Lululemon Lincoln Square

1928 Broadway near West 64th Street

Class time from 8-9 p.m. on Sunday, November 21.

So my New Yorker readers who are curious about my class and style, or my students and other peeps who just wanna come out and represent, please do come on by. Yoga mats are provided, so lack of mattage can’t deter you ;-) . And if you stop by, come say hello after the sesh. It’s always fab to meet people in person and their feedback on Yoga.

More event  details here.

Everyone have a fabulous weekend!

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At the Masker Orchards in Warwick, New York.

Hello again! I’ve been busy lately with work, specifically with my Yoga retreat that I hosted in Upstate New York this past weekend.  It was fabulous. I couldn’t have ask for a more fun, caring, and open-minded group of people. From the moment everyone walked in, we all just clicked. It was synergy at its finest!

Like one of the participants, Maria, said, it’s so fascinating to meet new people and see how they’ve chosen to write the books of their lives. Here’s a look at some of our weekend:

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The retreat was better than I could’ve ever dreamed. But none of this would’ve been possible if my Yoga mentor and founder of Yoga4Soul,  Jojo Tyler, hadn’t shown me the ropes on running retreats a few months back. He also clued me into this spot we used as our retreat house, the Grail. Big thanks to you, Jojo. We miss you! Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

Back soon with some recipes.  In the meantime, the stew recipe pictured above can be found here.

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Sorry I’ve been radio silent, guys. Life has been busy. I’ve been teaching classes, taking classes, planning my Yoga Retreat, doing TV work, and had a photo shoot to get some fresh new Yoga pics in the pipeline. Plus, I’ve been running all over town with my friends. Fall is a busy season, and I love the weather. It really gets me moving. I’ll admit I haven’t been cooking much. I’ve been living off of lentil soup, salads, avocados, green smoothies, and fruit. Is that bad? Well, I suppose it beats junk food.  Don’t worry, as the retreat nears, I’ll be giving a few recipes a test run and will share the keepers with you guys.

A random thought that has been running through my head:

 

This pic was originally in color. Sometimes I like taking new pictures and giving them a vintage look. That's what I did here.

 

“Sometimes we have to say no to someone else in order to say yes to ourselves.”

(This is something that dawned on me the other day. I know it’s not exactly earth-shattering, but it was eye-opening to me at that moment, so I figured why not pass it on.)

On a more down-to-earth note:

Of course, I jammed both my left wrist and my right shoulder last week, so the fact that I was even able to do the above-mentioned Yoga photo shoot was a blessing/minor miracle. There was one pose in particular that I just couldn’t safely get into for the shoot, so I let go of the “need” to be photographed in that pose.

 

My friend La Rosa pauses on the Williamsburg Bridge, which we walked across recently. It was a great way to enjoy that day's gorgeous weather and stunning New York City scenery.

 

Before I tell you more about the Yoga shoot, I had fun doing background work with the New York Jets cheerleadering squad. We were dancing on live TV (WPIX 11, NYC) as part of a promotion where the Jets are offering free classes via NYSC. If you live in the New York area, do check out the promo. You don’t have to be a NYSC member to take the classes.

The girls were the coolest. So sweet and fun. Not catty like we might sometimes think of cheerleaders. Ha! And they totally dug the leotard I changed into after the TV shoot for my photo shoot. Here’s a post-shoot/pre-leotard changeover pic:

 

Posing with members of the New York Jets cheerleading squad after a TV appearance.That's me, second from far left. My friend/fellow fitness instructor Meredith, is next to me. Why are she and, I two of the most petite in the bunch, squatting? I dunno. Ha!

 

Now, onto the Yoga shoot:

My friend Marisa shot the pictures. We got soooo lucky: the weather was beautiful and just warm enough. It was the warmest day of the week, according to the extended forecast. The morning light was divine. It was very important to me to get at least some of the shots outdoors, in nature. Well, really, it was a natural/urban setting. Pretty cool.  We were able to get, from what I can tell, usable shots in the following poses:

 

This is a quickie self-portrait of me all wrapped up to stay warm while Marisa adjusts her camera for our Yoga photo shoot. Yes, a tease!

 

  • Pigeon pose (Kapotasana)
  • The splits (Hanumanasana)
  • Full lotus plus some variations
  • Dancer’s pose (Natarajasana)
  • Forearm balance (Pincha mayurasana)
  • Side crow (Parvsa bakasana)
  • Eight limbs (Uh, sorry, don’t know/can’t find the Sanskrit for this one)
  • Grasshopper/chin balance (See above re: Sankskrit)
  • Bound extended side angle (Baddha utthita parsvakonasana)

Plus several others, which I can’t remember now. And of course, hours after the shoot, I remembered a couple of poses I wanted to be photographed in that I forgot to put on my shot list. For example, bound Ardha chandrasana (bound half moon) and another balance pose. Oh well, next time. But maybe indoors, because 73 degrees and sunny is nowhere to be found in the 10-day forecast. (Yes, I’m slightly weather-obsessed; I check it several times a day and coordinate my outfits accordingly).

Ok, ya’ll, I gotta roll, but I’ll be back soon with some actual recipes and maybe some more fun new adventures. Plus actual Yoga pics from the shoot! I still need to post about my D.C. trip, plus there’s this local band that I’ve totally fallen in love with and want to share with you guys. Ooooh, and maybe deets on my Halloween costume. AND some deep stuff my Ayurvedic doctor shared with me. Secrets of the universe for sure. Wow, that’s an ambitious list I just typed. Hopefully more on all of that soon. Have a fabulous day!

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I’m back, guys! It’s been a busy summer, mainly full of work and my usual queries to the Universe, pondering Important Matters, such as “What is it all about?”  and other Big Questions. It hasn’t all been heavy, thank Gawd!  My Yoga students are wonderful, and I’ve traveled a bit, which always lightens my psychic load. Going through my pics, I realized that there have been a lot of random, fun moments, too. Here’s a slideshow if you’re curious:

By the way, I totally captioned ALL of these pics, but the captions disappeared from a couple, including one of a cool studio space in Brooklyn and some street shots in NYC. Bummer. If I can fix this glitch, I will. If not, I think we’ll all live.

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I’ll be back soon with a fabulous Persian eggplant recipe that’s perfect for Fall, updates on my upcoming Yoga retreat in Upstate New York, and a rundown of my recent travels to Washington, D.C., and beautiful Colorado, land of Columbia blue skies, breathtaking mountains, and luscious greenery.

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Avocados are the foundation for today's recipe, a smooth, cooling, and creamy no-cook chilled soup.

Ahhhh summer. The ice in your tea glass melts instantly.  When your inner warmth might just start to feel more like a raging fire inside. And yes, when tempers (and sometimes complexions) flare.

Can you tell summer isn’t my favorite season? ;-)

I suppose I’d like summer much more if I had a cool mountain cabin, or a beach house, or a luscious, breezy  island to escape to. But, alas, I don’t. At least not yet! What do I have instead of a quiet, soothing getaway? Two busy jobs in a sometimes hot, sometimes fetid, and always crowded city.

Enjoying a cooling and refreshing green smoothie, something I do a lot these hot days.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful for my work, enjoy New York City much of the time, and am not immune to summer’s charms. Free concerts in the park, the occasional beach day, the ice cream truck’s passing jingle.  It’s just that for me, making it through the season is a bit of a project. I thrive more in fall, spring, and to a lesser degree, winter. I find winter’s chill refreshing and invigorating, but I don’t necessarily long to spend days on ski slopes or anything like that, if that makes any sense.

For all of the above, I blame/credit my dosha. I’m a Pitta, with a bit of Vata and an even tinier dash of Kapha thrown in. Dosha, you say? Is that some sort of wrap sandwich? Nope, it’s actually our individual constitutions, according to Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga. Constitution meaning things like energy levels, temperament, skin tone, and body type. Curious to know more? Click here for a quick, easy, free dosha test.

So, with my dosha in mind, one of my strategies in the summer consists of  enjoying yet more smoothies, minty teas, cold, crisp salads, and cold soups. Today’s cooling avocado soup is the perfect antidote for those occasions when you’d like a velvety, cool soup, but prefer not to cook. I served it recently at my Bollywood themed dinner party. It’s rich and creamy without being heavy.  The version I’m sharing today has a bit of a Persian flare, because I added in fenugreek.

And, full disclosure, this is an adaptation of a recipe I got from my new favorite spa/holistic clinic, Pratima, right here in New York City. I just started going there this past week, and already am seeing improvement from my seasonal eczema and breakout flareups. Pratima herself literally wrote the book on Ayurvedic beauty, and uses a holistic, natural approach to healing the skin and entire body. Go see her if you’re in New York. Her presence is powerfully calming and reassuring. If you’re not in NY, never fear; she does phone consults. And no, they did not pay me or compensate me in any way for the enthusiastic shout-out. It comes from my heart :-) They have no idea I even have this here blog.

Ok, so now for the recipe, with my slight tweaks:

Chilled Avocado Soup

Recipe adapted from a recipe by Erica Corte, Ayurvedic therapist and jewelry designer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 2 cups fresh carrot juice
  • 1 kirby cucumber, skin on, halved
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Braggs’s amino acids
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Celtic or sea salt to taste

Directions:

Put all the ingredients,  in a blender or a food processor fitted with the stainless steel blade. Blend or process until contents are smooth. Season to taste with salt and cover. Chill in a refrigerator for 20 minutes before enjoying. I served mine straight from the blender (classy, I know ;-) ), but feel free to transfer your soup to a serving bowl.

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Plank variation. Yoga requires us to hold it together (literally!) and let go at the same time. It's a great metaphor for life. Photo by Conrad Turner, shot in Sept. 2008.

The issue of letting go came up in Yoga the other day. Letting go is so freeing, but so many times, we’re simply not ready to let go. Our bodies hold onto things, and letting go completely isn’t always the best or most feasible option in a given moment. This can happen with our minds and with our emotional states as well.  In other words, choosing to let go (or not) is much more than simply a bodily issue.

And heaven knows, this difficulty letting go happens so much in relationships, jobs, and many other areas of our lives. Sometimes letting go has to be done in stages if it’s to be done at all. Sometimes life pulls the rug out from under us, so to speak. I’ve certainly had situations where the Universe did the letting go for me because I wasn’t ready to let go on my own volition.

Kapotasana, pigeon pose variation.

So I said to my students, if letting go and taking that leap of faith seems like too much, why not just loosen our grip a little bit? Ease up on our muscles and joints and bones a tiny bit. We can do that on the Yoga mat, in the gym, when exercising outdoors. On another level: Go a little easier on that person you love but who gets on your last nerve more often than you’d like to admit. Most of all, let’s all try to ease up on ourselves. Just a bit to start.

Because the relationship and energies we create with and within ourselves have a huge impact on how we relate to the world around us and to others.

By easing up just a touch, we make space and room energetically for fresh, healing energies to flood into our lives. Into our bodies, into our hearts, souls, and our minds.

It’s a radical concept, I know. But I’ve been practicing it myself lately and feeling more at ease. Maybe you can try it too and see what happens. Or what doesn’t happen. Sometimes nothing bad happens, but we’d never know if we didn’t ease into a slightly less comfortable moment.  Like one of my teachers says, “See what’s on the other side of the pain and discomfort.”

Loosen that grip. Step out on faith. Let go, if only in stages.

Shanti!

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