Category Archives: yoga in the news

farewell, yoga high: a little valentine’s day ode and lovefest

via YH's instagram.

via YH’s instagram.

I first started teaching in 2008 and immediately threw myself into the New York yoga scene. I came out of my 200-hour certification with that same kind of overconfidence you see in anyone young enough to have energy and ambition, without the tempering wisdom that only comes from experience.

I knew anatomy and had the muscles and bones and their functions and planes of movement memorized. I knew all the poses and their Sanskrit names and how to modify them with props. I knew how to sequence a smart class and could recite the Sutras, the 8 Limbs and a handful of verses from the Gita.

And yet: I knew nothing about yoga.

I didn’t know shit about anything. And then: I found Yoga High. (Mel and Liz: sorry, maybe you didn’t realize this when you hired me. Or maybe you did? Immense gratitude, regardless.)

I walked past Yoga High daily in its old heyday on Clinton Street, barely three blocks from my apartment. Its co-owners were two women who worked in this beautifully balanced way: the strength and conviction of Mel was impressive, the quiet flexibility and gentleness of Liz was inspiring.

The space they created drew together a mishmash of New Yorkers: artists, entrepreneurs, college students, hedge funders, designers, performers, doctors and bartenders. A true cross-section of this weird, wild city, and for an hour or so we were all equals, quietly working on our breathing and our neuroses and our hamstrings.

As a student, it was a place where I could show up in any state of despair or joy, to cry or laugh, and drag myself through a practice that always seemed to give me exactly what I needed. It saw me through my best and worst moments.

As a teacher, the gift was in seeing the faces of students and friends, watching the unfolding of practices as this collective ebbed and flowed and grew and changed with each season.

It was a place where Kanye and Beck lived in miraculous harmony on my playlists, alongside Thom Yorke and Karen O. and Lana and Thurston and all the dudes from The National.

It was a place where you could show up, do the practice (“Or: don’t do it! I don’t care!”) and leave with a fullness of heart and head and maybe be just a teeny tiny bit more patience for all the weirdos awaiting us out in the world.

Because yoga is only kind of about poses and breathing. It’s mainly about community.

Yoga High held its final classes last month in the LES. But it’s taking on new life in other places where community is wanted and needed.

Here’s to the next reincarnation.

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november spotlight on: community

Photo by Iwan Baan on Wednesday night, showing the island of Manhattan, half aglow and half in dark, is the cover of New York Magazine’s new issue, out Monday.

Where to begin.

Late Friday afternoon, as the light and the heat sputtered on hesitantly in our neighborhood, I found myself breathless, racing down First Avenue, unable to hail a cab or a spot on the overcrowded bus. Two laptops, an extension cord, a box of Wheat Thins, a bottle of shampoo and a hairbrush bounced heavy in my backpack, the same pack I toted around all week, from outpost to outpost, seeking power and Internet and hot water. But now I raced toward home and the light.

There is still tremendous loss, just a few miles outside of Manhattan. Staten Island and the Rockaways and coastal New Jersey are in great need and are counting on us to be good neighbors and support them. Let’s not fail them. Let’s be community to them. Here’s one way, here’s another.

Community is the only thing that got me, and probably you, through this week. In that spirit, the community who supported me, and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude:

– Luke and Arushi. You guys probably didn’t realize that when you stored your gas grill at Lost Weekend, it would one day be used to serve the only hot coffee in Lower Manhattan for 4 days. (I tried texting you to ask if we could use it, but I assumed you’d approve). You made cold, weary folks extremely happy, and gave us a place to gather to check in with each other. That grill created community.

– Laura and Alan. Thanks for being a power and shower outpost for me in Williamsburg on Day #2. Grateful.

– Caitlin, Lindsey, Bridin, the good people at eBay and at the Westin Grand Central. Thanks for being power and shower outpost #3. It was so luxurious to lay in a hotel bed and watch CNN for a few hours. Grateful.

– Friends and family around the country. You were diligent in checking in with loving texts, emails, and sending thoughts and prayers our way. Keep sending them. You are my extended community. Grateful, always.

– Abby, Paul, Adam, Kiki, and the rest of the staff at ForgtMeNot. Thanks for staying open and giving us community (and hot food) in the darkness.

– NYPD crossing guards. You tirelessly manned every intersection and directed pedestrians/cyclists/cars. Safety first. Gratitude.

– Phoebe. Thanks for laughing and drinking and sharing a little gossip. The community of girls finds each other in every circumstance. Grateful for you.

– Michael and Bella. Cold dark nights were less cold and less dark with you as my cuddlers. Eternally grateful!

– Brad, Lindsay, Walkers, Regina, Amanda, Debbie and Bill, and everyone else who offered us a place to stay if we needed it. Amazing generosity, never forgotten. Gratitude.

What about you, New Yorkers? Want to declare your gratitude and do a community shout out? Leave your gratitude in the comments and let’s spread some warm fuzzies! xx

lessons learned from physical pain: more than just coping

anatomy of a foot. via pinterest.

There was a lovely article published this week at MindBodyGreen, called “Finding Messages & Meaning in Chronic Pain.” As a professional yoga teacher, amateur anatomy junkie, and hobbyist athletic movement fiend, I’m constantly learning about the relationship between movement and pain. I grew up in an active environment and everyone I knew participated in rigorous sports. Mantras like “No pain, no gain” and “Pain is temporary, glory is forever” and “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” were pasted to the insides of our gym lockers and reminded us that we were going to experience pain (a personal fave: “If it hurts, change your mind.”). Some of it would be nearly unbearable, and some of it, sadly, would sideline us for a season or two.

At the tender age of fifteen and as a sensitive, creative, wildly imaginative girl, I had the capacity to feel things at a very deep level. I also had a frightening, self-destructive capacity to completely ignore these feelings at all costs for the good of the team. This second tendency overcame me in high school and led to a two-year struggle that started with foot over-pronation, resulted in painful shin splints, and ended in stress fractures that cut my cross-country and basketball seasons short. Custom-made orthotics, physical therapy, ultrasound and electrode therapy, and innumerable amounts of ibuprofen and icepacks. My deepest fear was that I’d be hurt forever, and I started to forget what it felt like to have legs that functioned without each step producing a shooting pain.

I wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand “good” pain versus “bad” pain (in other words, physical intensity versus physical destruction). Today  all kinds of studies support the thesis that pain does not have to be a necessary evil of sport and exercise. In fact, there’s something to be said for avoiding pain (a fave mantra of yoga teachers: “If it hurts, don’t do it”).

To my total amazement, my shins healed, eventually, and today I rarely think about the pain I experienced. Those afflicted with chronic pain from arthritis, Fibromyalgia, MS and other degenerative diseases might not be so fortunate. And mantras like NO PAIN NO GAIN are not helpful in this case.

My point is this: know thyself. Some pain (like physical exertion and intensity) is okay. Most pain, though, is your body’s way of trying to tell you something important. Listen. Explore. Become your own expert and advocate. Learn from your experiences and adapt your practice. Ask a million questions. Also…get yourself a foam roller (more on this soon, I promise! I want to properly introduce you to my new best friend). And if pain management means seeking out doctors and medical treatment, especially in the case of disease, seek them out.

Keep practicing in good health, and in good spirits…xx

it’s electric! an interview with michele bohbot, founder of electric yoga

Weeks ago, I was bopping around The Shop at Equinox in SoHo. A selection of vibrant, bright tops and shiny, texture-y tights caught my eye. Amidst familiar garments of activewear giants like Nike, Lululemon and Puma, this kicky little brand, Electric Yoga, had something more that ignited my yoga-fashion-love: neon!!! Lightning bolts!!! And seamless, compression-style high-waisted tights!!! This is not your typical yoga fare. EY has total studio-to-street appeal. So L.A. So amaze.

apres yoga: grab your bag, kicks, and a swipe of neon shadow. boom. ready for street.

Michele Bohbot, creator and designer, was nice enough to chat with me for a minute about her inspirations, values, family, and one totally relatable secret desire.

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SARA: Quick! Off the top of your head, list your top four favorite things of today.
MICHELE: Vitamins with kiwi, brown rice cereal, chocolate biscotti, and green tea.

S: Prior to founding Electric Yoga, you were a fashion designer. Was there a “lightbulb moment” when you knew you wanted to design yoga clothing?
M
: The past few years I’ve had lots of moments when I thought of actually doing an activewear line. I remember I had been working on developing this brand for about 12 months. It was December 2011; I had finished a hot yoga class at Hot 8 Yoga in Santa Monica. I was so inspired by the class and the girls in the class that I just knew I was doing the right thing by venturing out on my own and creating Electric Yoga.

S: Sounds like hot yoga is your current preferred yoga practice. What about it speaks to you?
M: I love the deep stretch and focus that the body undergoes when practicing in medium to hot temperatures. The past few years I’ve realized that there is a need for structured and engineered clothing that caters specifically to hot yoga classes. There’s already activewear available that integrates CoolMax and Dri-FIT  fabrics. What I found is that these specific garments are great for running and cross-training, because the breathability is at a maximum level when you are in motion; however, often the fit and the bodies are not as conducive to hot yoga.

S: And the styles are not nearly as cute! So this need obviously influenced your fabric and design for Electric Yoga.
M
: The comfort, functionality, and aesthetic of the piece are my main concern. It took months of my time researching fabric yarns, different compressions, and body styles when I came up with my special patented ELOY wicking fabrication for Electric Yoga. The most fundamental and IMPORTANT difference between my ELOY fabrication and the CoolMax and Dri-FIT fabrics is that the yarn allows the body to be free and nimble with specified compression at certain areas of the body. Instead of my garments holding on to the perspiration, it is immediately evaporated into the air.

S: What’s been your greatest achievement, professionally and personally?
M
: My family is my greatest accomplishment. My seven children and my husband are the biggest blessings. I feel very accomplished by my ability to create meaningful brands such as Bisou Bisou and xoxo for the everyday woman. I am excited to see where we progress from here with Electric Yoga.

S: You’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years, and have traveled the world, learning many different styles and many masters, from Iyengar to Ashtanga, Anusara to Bikram. What, if any, is the universal lesson that spans all traditions of yoga?
M: Stay present and true to your own practice and journey, whatever level you may be.

S: Based on Electric Yoga’s offerings, you clearly dig bright, dazzling colors! What’s your favorite?
M
: I don’t like to say that I am partial to any one color. However, I truly believe in empowering women, and the empowerment color is PINK. With cancer awareness, PINK is the focal point. I feel that it is so feminine and holds a lot feminine power and energy! You’ll see that in my line, I always carry that color.

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S: Who most inspires you?
M: Everyone has a story. The beauty of life is the story of resilience. Right now I am so inspired by the story of Somaly Mam. I committed my monthly classes to her foundation, in the hopes to abolish sex trafficking and raise funds for sex-enslaved women in Cambodia and raise worldwide awareness. I got her book, The Road of Lost Innocence, and I was immediately enthralled. I work with the Yoga Freedom Project as much as I can for her cause. She has such an amazing story to tell, and she has committed her life to something that is a memory of her past, with drive for a brighter future.

S: You’re a whiz in the kitchen and like to share your recipes. What dish are you most excited about right now?
M: I am obsessed with spicy brown rice with tofu! Check it out on my blog.  I think I’ve made it for my family three times this week already!

S: What’s something that no one knows about you?
M: I secretly want to be a ninja!

Me too! Thanks so much for sharing, Michele. xx

meatless (manning)day: the morning after

And this is ALL I’m going to say about the Super Bowl:*

On my quest to find some something tasty and meatless to bring to America’s favorite party yesterday, I stumbled upon a recipe from Food Network’s feisty goateed personality Guy Fieri (and who knew that he ever cooked ANYTHING meatless?!). Although I didn’t end up bringing the Waka Waka Salad (I went sweet instead of savory with the indulgent, crowd-pleasing, fail-proof 7 Layer Cupcakes), I can’t wait to whip it up! This goodness features 3 varieties of cabbage, which, in my opinion, is an underutilized cruciferous veggie, also in season right now. The raw crunchiness of the cabbage with the peanuts and ginger is so satisfying. I’d also wrap this salad up in an Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortilla for lunch.

*Ok one more thing about the Super Bowl…do you think that the NY Giants’ yoga instructor gets a ring too?

red cabbage, you so pretty. via Oh She Glows.

Waka Waka Salad
via Food Network

1 c. canola oil
1 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 oz. minced garlic
1/4 oz. minced ginger
1/2 packet ramen oriental seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 head napa cabbage, sliced 1/8-in. thick
1/4 head red cabbage, sliced 1/8-in. thick
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced 1/8-in. thick
2 red onions, julienne
2 carrots, peeled and shaved
4 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
3 ramen noodle bunches, broken into small pieces
24 fried wonton skins
3/4 c. finely chopped Spanish peanuts, for garnish

In large plastic bowl combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, ginger, ramen seasoning, and salt and pepper. Whisk together to incorporate. Mix the cabbages, onions, carrots, cilantro and ramen noodles in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing and add to the salad 10 min. prior to serving. Toss thoroughly.

Put equal portions of the dressed cabbage on the wonton skins, and garnish with the chopped peanuts. Arrange on a serving platter. Yields 24 portions (serve the rest in a wrap for lunch throughout the week!).

blog for choice 2012: trust women


Today is the 39th anniversary of
Roe v. Wade, and I’m joining millions of pro-choice bloggers to show my support of NARAL’s Blog For Choice Day 2012, and to answer the question What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012? Read more about today’s purpose here.

Do you know the problem with us yogis? We’re so… impartial. We have a broad, unbiased perspective, and can argue any side to any issue. This is because we work hard to be detached, because we’re learning to realize that thoughts and feelings are often fleeting; like ships on the horizon, our vritti (mindstuff) glides into our panorama, and then vanishes just as quickly. It’s fantastic to be so middle-of-the-road, since we never have to actually take a side. We get to wade in  ethical ambiguity, forever.

However. This is where I take a stand. The issue of reproductive rights  is anything BUT ethically ambiguous to me.

It’s not very yogic, is it?

Some of this earnestness I have for protecting these rights stems from personal history. I grew up with a fervently pro-choice mother, in a household where issues of Ms. Magazine were strewn about, sharing coffee tables with Cooking Light and Rolling Stone. This is the mother who played cassettes of feminist folk bands, like Motherlode, as she drove me to school and ballet and art class. The mother who talked about Gloria Steinem so often and with such reverence that I was certain she was some aunt who lived in North Dakota with my other relatives. I’m not alone in saying that my mom’s zeal made her kind of a scary lady, with her SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL buttons and her TRUST WOMEN bumper stickers. She is vocal and dead-serious about being pro-choice. It’s kind of awesome.

Reproductive rights in this country are perpetually under attack, and Roe v. Wade is constantly on the verge of being overturned. To strip away the rights of women, especially women who are the poorest, most voiceless, most marginalized and underrepresented citizens in this country, would be devastating. These are women who most need access to organizations like Planned Parenthood. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, (who also happens to be a progressive Christian), says this in her sharp, powerful essay, called “The Born:”

[Abortion] was the most intimate decision a woman could make, and she made it alone, in her deepest heart, though sometimes with the man by whom she was pregnant, with her dearest friends, or with her doctor–but without the personal opinion of, say, Tom DeLay or Karl Rove.

Like Ms. Lamott, I too am shocked “that men committed to equality and civil rights [are] still challenging the basic rights of women.”

If you think protecting reproductive rights is of minimal importance right now, take a look at headlines. There’s some good and progressive news, and then there’s bad and scary news. A few things to note: a certain GOP frontrunner (a “moderate” one at that) will surely appoint Supreme Court Justices committed to overturning Roe v. Wade if elected. And, ALL of the Republican candidates are united in ending government support of Planned Parenthood, which provides healthcare to millions of low-income women.

In positive news: this past Friday, the Obama Administration approved new rules that would guarantee almost-universal coverage of contraceptives, even from religiously affiliated employers.

Some say that there are far too many abortions being performed for a compassionate and nurturing society. I say compassionate and nurturing societies put trust and power in the hands of its citizens, including those living on the peripheral. We have to realize that compassion and nurture must be extended toward women; live, already-born women in this country. Women must be given liberty and the trust of our society. Women must be allowed sovereignty over their own precious bodies, and not assaulted with the beliefs of the wealthy, white, married men in Washington.

If you’re “pro-life,” consider directing some of your enthusiasm toward many other issues of life and death: Afghanistan, for example, and capital punishment, poverty, healthcare, education.

But trust women. Namaste.

wednesday wisdom: hush hush

When The NYT isn’t butchering yoga (it equally wrecks your body and makes you flabby, didn’t you hear!?), it’s sneaks in lovely little op-ed pieces (“The Joy of Quiet“) that’ll make you believe in humanity again.

“Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” 

The joy of quiet. The next generation realizing the value of stillness. What beautiful things. What wisdom.