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Archive for the ‘go local!’ Category

Pirates and yoga...interesting...(photo: tropicyoga.com)

Pirates and yoga...interesting...(photo: tropicyoga.com)

Being a New Englander…one of my favorite midsummer activities is sailing….well, that’s a stretch. I like watching other people sail who know what they are actually doing, while I just wait to be given a simple task, like skirting the mainsail in a lazy Saturday race, or making sure everyone’s beers are full.

my friend, Brian's boat, Blitzen, before a race...i think I may ave more than a liability than help in this one

before a race...I think I may be more of a liability than help in this one

the high side

the high side

I have some friends that are fantastic sailors, and who’s lives consist of  living aboard ships, small and large, and are therefore at the whim of mother nature and their own instincts.

Sailing 'Nirvana' to Nantucket last Summer overnight my friend dave up there)...dawn...perfect time for some yoga

Sailing 'Nirvana' to Nantucket last Summer overnight (my friend Dave up there)...dawn...perfect time for some yoga

When racing, core strength, leg strength, balance, and arm strength are essentials. You must be quick on your feet, perceptive, completely aware of what’s around you at all times, calm in times of utter stress, and you must be able to think extremely quickly in dire situations. Sailing well depends on your understanding the environment, your relationship with the elements of wind and water, and letting go of the idea that you can control the outcomes of your endeavors.

As an activity, it is environmentally friendly, if you don’t use the motor at all, and can humble your entire being.

although it doesn't look liek it here, my brother, Andre, is a much better sailor than I would ever be

although it doesn't look like it here, my brother, Andre, is a much better sailor than I would ever be

love those cold mornings on the water...my friend James (left) surveying the sea...

love those cold mornings on the water...my friend James (left) surveying the sea...

Yoga can help calm a sailor’s mind, get him/her in tune with elements that determine his/her course, and prepare his/her body for a race, or a casual sail.

My main fear when sailing, especially racing, is going overboard because I am so awkwardly tall and clumsy. Also, I know many of you get nauseous just at the thought of boats in the water, but I may have a few curing poses.

Even for the casual sailor, or guest on a boat, I have a few poses in mind that may be great for before, during and/or after your sail!

Wheel is great on a boat!

Wheel is great on a boat!

1. Chakrasana (wheel)strengthens legs, arms, core and increases balance and clarity of mind. Learn more from my previous post on wheel, here…

probably one of my favorite spinnakers I've seen, well at least the one that related to my life the most...saw it at a race outof boston two summers ago

probably one of my favorite spinnakers I've seen, well at least the one that related to my life the most...saw it at a race outof boston two summers ago...

2. Adho Mukha Savasana (Downward Dog)…great for the core and arm strength. Also reduces nausea and increases clarity of mind. Learn more here.

3. Balasana (Child’s pose)…calms the nerves, rejuvenates and reduces nausea. Learn more here.

4. Bakasana (crane pose)…fantastic pose for arm and core strength! Make’s you feel like you can conquer the world after conquering this pose.  Learn more here.

Tree by land or by sea!

Tree by land or by sea!

5. Vrksasana (Tree pose)…my balancing favorite…great on board! Learn more here.

Warrior III is great for balance and core strength

Warrior III is great for balance and core strength

6. Virabhandrasana (Warrior III)…also great for balance, leg, and core strength. Learn more here.

7. Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose)…increases balance, hip strength, core strength and leg strength. Learn more here.

Walk the Plank!

Walk the Plank!

8. Plank…one of the best for core and all over body strength. Helps energize the entire body and get you centered for a long sail! Also try side plank. Learn more here.

9. Matsyasana (fish pose)…just because of the name….learn more here.

Boat pose

Boat pose

10. Boat…see Monday’s post here!

11. Malasana: Yogic squat

I also like the idea of using some recycled products while sailing and reusing ripped and old sails that typically would go straight to the landfill after use.

Go local to find recycled sail products in Gloucester, MA with Second Wind Sails…

Love this recycled sail wine bag from Secon Wind Sails...who doesnt love a great glass of organic pinot on the deck at dusk...

Love this recycled sail wine bag from Second Wind Sails...who doesn't love a great glass of organic pinot on the deck at dusk...

thats a baby in a sail bag...who does their marketing? they should get a raise...

that's a baby in a sail bag...who does their marketing? they should get a raise...

The Gloucester company, Second Wind Sails,  makes everything from Christmas stockings, to dog collars, to shower curtains, to wine bags, to pillows, to duffel bags using recycled sails.

Recycled sail yoga bad from seafevergear.com for only $19.95!

Recycled sail yoga bag from seafevergear.com for only $19.95!

Seafevergear.com also has great recycled sail products including a yoga bag for only $19.95 and is located both in San Diego and Cape Cod…

ReSail doesnt just make the typical tote-they make everything from duffels, to garment backs, to change purses and can customize any bag with your company or boat logo

ReSail (predecessor to the popular Sea Bags) doesn't just make the typical tote...they make everything from duffels, to garment backs, to change purses and can customize any bag with your company or boat logo

Although I posted earlier about “Sea Bags” recycled sails into bags…ReSail, of Newport,RI, claims to be its predecessor in style and purpose, has much more variety and is actually cheaper!…The line began with using recycled sails, and now includes any recycled material from a working sail loft (Dacron, Kevlar, etc.) using sail stitching techniques. They even make recycled Kevlar dog collars, recycled sail bean bag chairs, and recycled sail sailing jackets/vests! Check the website out here.

Yoga Onboard

Yoga Onboard

In the, why didn’t I think of this? category:

Kim Hess of Miami has created a book called “Yoga Onboard”. Kim, an avid sailor and yoga teacher, created a system of poses she believes would work well for sailors and live aboard’s. She also charters sailing yoga retreats and vacations for small groups! Find out more here.

Kim Hess, of Yoga Onboard doing some downward dog action

Kim Hess, of Yoga Onboard doing some downward dog action

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Kayaking in my used kayak called "Perception"...how appropriate

Kayaking in my used kayak called "Perception"...how appropriate

Now that the weather is finally cooperating, knock on wood, I’ve been able to do a lot more of one of my favorite summer activities…kayaking.

Heading down to kayak in the Putnamville Reservoir...my dog Magic loves to kayak too and follows me out to the water everytime I go

Heading down to kayak in the Putnamville Reservoir...my dog Magic loves to kayak too and follows me out to the water every time I go

Kayaking can be an intensely athletic and competitive endeavor for some, which is wonderful,  but for me, I kayak simply for the pleasure of getting my blood flowing and putting my mind at ease while  escaping from land for an hour or two (or an entire day when allotted the time).

The original Kayakers

The original Kayakers

Kayaking, which was originally developed by the arctic Inuit people, and brought to mainstream recreational trends in the 1850’s, is a wonderful avenue to utilize mindfulness, pranayama, meditation and yoga to maximize one’s kayaking experience and performance.

Connecting with water physically, mentally and spiritually has been emphasized in every culture and religion. It is widely known that water has an extreme calming effect on the mind and humbles the spirit. Religions such as Islam use water in rituals to purify the soul, while water is regarded as holy areas of the natural world in Shinto. The fact that our bodies are also made mostly of water means that being close to the water would have wonderful therapeutic effects on us.

A Shinto shrine marks the gateway to a holy place...water... (photo courtesy of touchnote.com)

A Shinto shrine marks the gateway to a holy place...water... (photo courtesy of touchnote.com)

Here are some tips on how to incorporate yoga and your kayaking experience, physically and mentally.

I. Yoga, the physical body, and kayaking:

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water…yet nothing can resist it” -Lao Tzu

Even if you are not “into yoga”…taking ten minutes to stretch certain muscle groups will increase your maneuverability of the paddle, kayak and yourself, while decreasing the likelihood of injury and post-kayaking soreness.

A. Lower back pain and tension in the shoulders and neck are common problems associated with kayaking. Some poses to help included…

Cobra pose before a morning kayak out back

Cobra pose before a morning kayak out back

1. Cobra, Bhujangasana (click here for details or view the photo above)

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

2. Wheel, Chakrasana, is a great shoulder opener and supine pose (above)…click here for my previous post on this pose, and here for the post on a more advanced version… Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana

Twists and binds, especially in the Warrior II sequence, are great shoulder openers, which is necessary when getting ready to paddle for a few hours...

Twists and binds, especially in the Warrior II sequence, are great shoulder openers, which is necessary when getting ready to paddle for a few hours...

3. Warrior II modification with a bind, Virabhadrasana.

3. Cat/Cow pose: Marjaryasana (click here)
B. Your hip flexors and groin also have a tendency to get tight while kayaking, as well as your glutes. Some of my favorite stretches for these areas are

1. Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-facing Dog, with the hip open to the sky (click here for some instructions)

2. Warrior IIVirabhadrasana (click here)

3. Pigeon, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (click here).

C. And the most important part to tie these all together is strengthening your core.

Plank is great for your core...Dolphin pose is a similar pose where the elbows are lowered to the ground

Plank is great for your core...Dolphin pose is a similar pose where the elbows are lowered to the ground

1. Plank pose (click here)

2. Full Boat pose, Paripurna Navasana (click here)

Sirsasana on the back porch- great for core work and calming the mind before heading down to the water

Sirsasana on the back porch- great for core work and calming the mind before heading down to the water

3. Headstand pose, sirsasana…click here for my previous post on this

Eagle pose....a favorite of mine for shoulders, lower back, core, leg strength and balance (great before sailing too)

Eagle pose....a favorite of mine for shoulders, lower back, core, leg strength and balance (great before sailing too)

—> Eagle Pose, Garudasana,  is one of my favorite poses that addresses all three of these areas (the upper body, core and hips) plus increases concentration and balance, which is much needed when kayaking (especially in the ocean). (Stay tuned for a more thorough Yoga Pose of the Week feature on this pose!)

—->  Upward-facing Dog, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, is fantastic for the lower back, core and hip flexors....click here for my previous post on this.

Cultivate mindfulness in a meditation practice before heading out to kayak, even if only for a few minutes, i promise you'll notice a difference!

Cultivate mindfulness in a meditation practice before heading out to kayak, even if only for a few minutes, i promise you'll notice a difference!

II. Meditation, breathing and kayaking:

“Give up your selfishness and you shall find peace, like water mingling with water, you shall merge in absorption…”– Sri Guru Granth Sahib

One of the wonderful things about Kayaking is that it allows you to escape from the noise of land for a little while to calm your mind. We can all find answers to our questions and concerns in nature, we just need to open our hearts and free our minds to find the answers.

Before, and even during a kayaking trip, I suggest trying a little meditation to calm the mind and open the heart to receive all the benefits of being alone, on the water, with just you and a small vessel.

A good meditation I like to try is as follows:

1. Take a comfortable seated position on a mat/pillow overlooking the natura destination you about to kayak across/down. Align your shoulders, neck, back and hips over one another, close your eyes, inhale and exhale deeply…

2. While breathing deeply, scan through the body, relaxing hips first, than consciously relaxing body part by body part up through the abdomen, spine, chest, shoulders, jaw, space between the eyebrows, top of the head, the head as a whole, the body as a whole…

3. Chant the mantra “Om” three times. The first “Om” will connect you and your physical body, the second, to connect you and the outside world, and the third will connect you and your inner spirit and mind. Notice and perceive the vibrations of mantra “Om” filling up our whole body, harmonizing it.

4. Focus on a light in your third eye, let this become a ball of light, becoming bigger and bigger in you sight until it encompasses you and you are a part of it. Let the light soak through your entire body, rinsing your body of negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

5. Next, set an intention for your day, repeat a personal mantra (always a positive one) for your journey…such as “I will be aware of the natural world around me”, or something even more specific…repeat this as a command to yourself three times.

6. Take a few more deep breathes and let the mind settle. Thoughts will come and go, but do not judge yourself for having random thoughts because “you aren’t supposed to in meditation”. Let the thoughts come in and pas through as they came, not dwelling, just noticing them being there. Let them pass over like clouds in a windy sky.

7. Take a few more deep inhales and exhales, slowly open your eyes, and begin your yoga practice and/or kayak adventure!

–> It is also important, after Kayaking to do a few spinal twist poses, some stretches like the one’s above and then finish with a savasana pose and more meditation to fully receive the benefits of your adventure!

Meditative thinking before and during Kayaking can increase your ability to flow your paddle strokes more freely, consistently, and with more ease than normal. You become less focused on your destination, time limit, or external worries and focus simply at the task at hand and the vista surrounding you.

Becoming conscious of each stroke and the present moment… the feel pressure of the water against your paddle, the sound of the droplets of water falling of the paddle as you raise it out of the water, the smell of the ocean salt beginning to speckle your skin, and the panorama of the natural world around you…all of these sensory gifts can be utilized to enhance your mood and your kayaking flow.

“Kayoga” or “Yogak” has been catching on along with other yoga-sport cross-training methods because the benefits are undeniable.

If you simply google the terms “yoga” and “kayaking” together, a slew of programs will show up and one is bound to match your skill level, desired amount of either yoga or kayaking involved, and ideal location.

Even my dog loves to kayak!

Even my dog loves to kayak!

Kripalu does a “Yoga for Kayakers” workshop, as well as any other yoga retreats, while adventure and outdoors expeditions are now incorporating yoga into their kayaking trips. There is actually one coming up on July 17th at Kripalu I believe…and more are available through the summer and early fall led by Greg DiLisio and Johnny Snyder…click here for details.

You can also customize a ocean kayaking-yoga trip in Mexico with a company called “Sea to Sky Yoga” (based in Canada)…click here.

To go it alone, and locally…check out this Kayak Route website (here) which lists kayak routes in your area and beyond!

My kayak is also not the most innovative and fancy kayak in the world, but it does the job and was bought used from a friend…no need to buy new. So I feel satisfied that this big hunk of plastic at least wasn’t a brand new purchase. However, there are actually ways to “green” your kayaking trips…

The Walden Vista Expedition Kayak at earthfriendlykayaks.com is made with recycled plastic

The Walden Vista Expedition Kayak at earthfriendlykayaks.com is made with recycled plastic

Aside from buying used kayaks instead of new ones like I did, it is pretty difficult to find eco-friendly kayaks. However, I did find some and there are also eco-friendly kayaks for sale through companies like Walden Kayaks.

The Walden Kayaks are made from recycled HDPE (plasctic code no. 2) and sold via Earth Friendly Kayaks…click here

Now, go get your paddle on!

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When the weather is nice, classes move outoors...overlooking Stockbridge Bowl

Kriaplu center, Lenox MA....When the weather is nice, classes move outdoors...overlooking Stockbridge Bowl

Now that the weekend is approaching, I would like to offer a weekend activity for all you Bostonians out there. Take a drive out to Western Massachusetts, to Lenox, and spend a day…or two…or a week, at Kripalu Yoga center.

This place is a sustainable yogi’s utopia!

the gardens around Kripalu are little sanctuaries waiting to be discovered. There are multiple meditation gardens all of the property and in the woods...

the gardens around Kripalu are little sanctuaries waiting to be discovered. There are multiple meditation gardens all over the property and in the woods...

I have spent numerous days at Kripalu,  and a week out there for a workshop with Raphael Cushnir. Although the center is famous in yoga circles, especially for its phenomenal yoga teachers, Ayurveda, and massage practitioner, trainings, I had not heard much of it before a few years ago. I almost literally stumbled upon it while out visiting my grandmother in Pittsfield, MA. I had experienced dreams of going there, and finally, after she passed away, I decided it was time.

The KRiaplu center from the back, it used to be a church, so its architecture is a little odd on the outside...but it is stunning on the inside!

The Kriaplu center from the back, it used to be a church, so its architecture is a little odd on the outside...but it is stunning on the inside!

At first I spent only a day. You can get a guest pass which allows you into all the facilities, includes free general yoga classes and includes a meal. I was hooked! The center focuses mainly on “Kripalu” style yoga, started by Swami Kripalu, however, the best teachers from all types of yoga in the world come and teach workshops there, such as Shiva Rea.

Birds eye view of Kripalu yoga center

Birds eye view of Kripalu yoga center

I spent a week last year, kind of a birthday present to myself, doing a “Transformation” workshop for 5 days with Raphael Cushnir. He is an amazing resource on incorporating Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness in every day life.

The program was a bit pricey, but it was completely worth it. I lived in the “dorms” which are just big, pristine rooms for about 6 people. They have options for doubles and singles but it was cheaper to live in dorms and I am really glad I did. I met a wonderful friend there and numerous other women from all walks of life who I will continue to stay in touch with.

The atmosphere at Kripalu is light, mindful, gracious, calm, compassionate and yet everyone almost acts as if they are in summer camp, because that is what it feels like!

There are evening activities, like chanting, yogadance and book readings, while you can take kayaks out on Stockbridge Bowl (the lake it looks over), go hiking in the trails behind the center, or even take in a Boston Symphony Orchestra Concert right next door at Tanglewood.

Class at Kripalu

Class at Kripalu

My schedule, while there, basically consisted of waking up extremely early, going for a swim in the lake at dawn, heading to a 6:30 am yoga class, having an amazing organic microbiotic breakfast (one of the best parts of Kirpalu is the food) attending my workshop, lunch (amazing again), more workshop, maybe another yoga class or a hike, then relaxing in the sauna or giant whirlpool, having a wonderful dinner with new friends at the dining hall, writing for a bit, then attending an evening event, or just relaxing and reading.

If I had my way, I would go every weekend! Lenox, MA also has so many artisan shops, cafes and galleries to entertain you when you want to leave the space. Definitely a must try!

Workshops at Kripalu are usually themed and can be anything form “Kayaking and Yoga”, to “Yoga for Women”, to “Yoga for Relationships”, and even “Yoga and Horses”.

If you do not want to commit to a workshop, try a day pass for $50…you’ll be hooked!

Because the place also runs on volunteers, you can also arrange to do a volunteer stint at the center in exchange for room, board, and unlimited classes!

For more informaton on Kripalu Yoga Center click here.

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heading to oldies with my garlic and my new basil plant

heading to Oldies Flea Market after the Newburyport Farmers' Market with my garlic and my new basil plant

Sunday was a perfect day for renewing myself and my energy…so I decided to head up early and beat the crowds at the Newburyport Farmers’ Market at the Tannery in Newburyport with my mom. We left at about 9:30 (it opens at 10); perfect timing to go and and get our morning coffee at one of the stands selling delicious locally made organic Plum Island Coffee.

I haven’t been up to the Tannery in a long time, which is located right next to downtown Newburyport. I had forgotten all the cute cafe’s and interior design shops, as well as luxurious spas located there.
The Tannery wraps around the Farmers’ Market, so I guess my mom and I were technically forced to go into to a few stores…

Gentry's Consignment Boutique- what a find! www.gentrysconsignment.com

Gentry's Consignment Boutique- what a find! http://www.gentrysconsignment.com

Lo and behold…the best Thrift Store ever: Gentry’s Consignment Boutique!

This re-sale store sells brand names at a fraction of the price. It is eco-friendly because things are reused, no need to buy something “new”. The store is also socially responsible because everything that is not sold is donated the Community Action, Inc. in Amesbury to those in need of clothes.

I found a pair of Citizens of Humanity jeans with the original tags still on them…perfect fit (which is hard since I am 5’10”)…for..get this…$54!
I also found two summer dresses…one from Anne Taylor and another from BCBG…each for only about $20!

After my coffee, and an exciting a splurge in Gentry’s, I decided it was time to actually get to the Farmers…

But again, we were welcomed with some more recycled goodies…

Fabulous Recycled Glass creations by Jane Lang...email ejanelane@comcast.org for details

Fabulous Recycled Glass creations by Jane Lang...email ejanelane@comcast.org for details

Jane Lang makes “Recycled Glass Creations” out of Wine and Liquor bottles. She melts down wine and liquor bottles and creates either cheese boards or appetizer bowls.

My favorite stand at the market...Jane Lang's recycled wine and liqour bottle cheeseboards and bowls! Only about 20 bucks! Here is a Beringer one

My favorite stand at the market...Jane Lang's recycled wine and liquor bottle cheeseboards and bowls! Only about 20 bucks! Here is a Beringer one

The bowls are so fun and unique and can be made out of any glass bottle from a Grey Goose bottle to a bottle of Yellowtail.
She also can insert, instead of a wine label, a Playbill, or Wedding Invitation to preserve a memory or personalize a gift.
The bottle sold there ranged from only $10 to $20! The artist was also super friendly and kind!
To find out more, e-mail ejanelang@comcast.net.

ill take one of everything......Garlic from Heron Pond Farm

Giant heads of garlic...extremely fresh and inexpensive!

Moving on…we found some great fresh garlic from Heron Pond Farm, but missed out on a great bunch of scallions…next time.

We also picked up some fresh herb plants…including a gorgeous little Basil plant (I’m a little obsessed with Caprese salad lately).

White Heron Tea makes fantastic organic and fair trade tea, and it is a local company. The stand also had a grill set up and was making delicious open faced sandwiches on organic naan (including a Curried Carrot Naan) and organic paninis made with fresh local veggies…mmm….

White Heron Tea has amazing organic locally made tea, and they set up a sandwich bar with unique  and delicious sandwiches!I'll take that one...my new basil plant was looking for a home...I was happy to provide

(above) White Heron Tea has amazing organic locally made tea, and they set up a sandwich bar with unique and delicious sandwiches! (below) My new basil plant was waiting just for me..

We also discovered a fantastic artisan who sells her jewelry, weaving, and homemade oils at a store called the Riverwalk in Amesbury…I fell in love with the Buddha necklace made with intricate beads…

Gorgeous handmade jewelry using beads from all over the world...the artist was so nice as well and she sells her work at the Riverwalk

Gorgeous handmade jewelry using beads from all over the world...the artist was so nice as well and she sells her work at the Riverwalk

We also spent some time scouring a very unique Interior design store called Red Bird. It had some gorgeous antiques and artisan pieces for all price ranges…

Red bird Trading Co.

Red Bird Trading Co...

Love the antique headboard and lush comforter of this bed at the Red Bird TRading Co.

Love the antique headboard and lush comforter of this bed at the Red Bird Trading Co.

Browsing the Red Bird Trading Company...

Browsing the Red Bird Trading Company...

Some great Shadow puppets from Barong at the Red Bird Trading Co...used to tell stories of the Gods and Goddesses

Some great Shadow puppets from Indonesia at the Red Bird Trading Co...used to tell stories of the gods and goddesses in the 1000 year old tradition of Wayang Kulit. These particular puppets may be Javanese...they are flat and used by seasoned masters in Wayang Kulit, who manipulate the hand made puppets behind a lit screen to create plays on local folklore and tales of spirituality for audiences in local villages...knew those theater history classes would come in handy 🙂

My mom and I decided to walk down memory lane and go across the street to a well-seasoned Oldie’s Marketplace. It is a HUGE flea market, filled with treasures, that my mom used to bring me to when I was a kid. I had a blast scouring some of the more absurd items…such as antique diver’s helmets…while she found some true treasures.

Oldie's flea market in Newburyport...one of my favorites to explore since I was a kid!

Oldie's flea market in Newburyport...one of my favorites to explore since I was a kid!

Flea markets are a great way to find reused items and you can haggle, as well!

just a portion of the "Book Corner" at Oldies Flea Market...so many unique treasures in there...

just a portion of the "Book Corner" at Oldies Flea Market...so many unique treasures in there...

It is more eco-friendly than buying something new or importing!

For more info on the Newburyport Farmers Market click here.

Patchouli...god bless you

Patchouli...god bless you

For More info on Oldie’s click here.

Holy Smokes! Where to begin? Inside Oldie's Flea Market

Holy Smokes! Where to begin? Inside Oldie's Flea Market

To find a Farmers Market in your area…just google “Farmers Market” followed by your area code!

Hoarding some fresh garlic....

Hoarding some fresh garlic....

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Although its more economical to use the mat from the local studio at class, or to buy a cheap mat from Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx, local studio mats can have up to 100,000 bacteria per square inch, and el-cheapo mats can sometimes be made from non eco-friendly materials, and be of el-cheapo quality.

Who needs a yoga mat? (photo courtesy of anneliesrigterphotography.com)

Who needs a yoga mat? (photo courtesy of anneliesrigterphotography.com)

Original yogis, and many to this day, in India didn’t (and still don’t) even use yoga mats…connection to the earth  and stability through bare feet are optimal for a deeper yoga practice. Story goes, that B.K.S. Iyengar was teaching a class in the U.S. when he was slipping all over the place. Suddenly a student handed him a non-slippery rug…hence…the yoga mat was born.

While in India, the ashram I studied at used simple rugs, these yogis are using something a little less conventional... (photo courtesy of incomingindia.com)

While in India, the ashram I studied at used simple rugs. These yogis are using something a little less conventional... (photo courtesy of incomingindia.com)

However, for the average Joe, me, a yoga mat is a great tool to gain stability and to create a non-slippery space for oneself, in a class, or anywhere you “lay your mat”.

Most yoga mats are made with PVC’s  (polyvinyl chloride) which is a highly toxic plastic to prevent slipping. However, there have been some pretty cool advances in yoga technology to make mats eco-friendly, biodegradable, less ‘gross’ (using microban technology), and non toxic ,while new sites are offering services in which you can design your own mat! (and it gets even crazier…further down in the post)

Yogamatic provides a custom design service…

Design your own inspirational mat...even with a photo...at YOGAMATIC.COM (Click here)...a little pricey...but I would love to take some personal time on a space thats personally inspired!

Design your own inspirational mat...even with a photo...at YOGAMATIC.COM (Click here)...a little pricey...but I would love to take some personal time on a space that's personally inspired!

Even celebs have joined the yogamatic craze....

Even celebs have joined the yogamatic craze....

For some sustainable yoga mat purchases…try Jade Yoga mats. They plant a tree when you buy one of their eco-friendly mats! Their Harmony mat is also one of the best around (although they are a splurge at about $60 a pop)! Click here.

Jade Harmony Yoga mats come in an array of colors

Jade Harmony Yoga mats come in an array of colors

These Chakra yoga mats below, are on sale at yogaacessories.com and are so unique! They feature the Chakras (from root to crown) on a variety of corresponding rainbow colors to help focus your energies, mind and spirit. They are also long at 72″ and extra thick at 1/4″! Click here to purchase at only $24.95.

Chakra yoga mat

Chakra yoga mat

To support a local business…for all you Bostonians…try a mat from Lotuspad in Cambridge…and they eve are developing carbon-free shipping solutions for those not in the area, and they do BIKE DELIVERY for those who are local! The mats are wonderful, as well!

Lotuspad yoga mats in Cambridge, MA (click here)

Lotuspad yoga mats in Cambridge, MA (click here)

These all natural yoga mats, below, from 3Guna Ayurveda are more for meditation, but they are super comfy-looking, fair trade and made with organic materials.

3Guna Ayurveda yoga mat

3Guna Ayurveda yoga mat

Some eco friendly yoga mats from bluelotus.com made form natural tree rubbers (click here)

Some eco friendly yoga mats from bluelotus.com made form natural tree rubbers (click here)

treehugger.com makes a wonderful eco mat as well! (click here)

treehugger.com makes a wonderful eco-friendly mat as well! (click here)

You can also personalize your yoga mat with self-adhesive mantras and designs from omtime.com

a variety of mantra designs adn inspirational mats that are PVC-free!  (matsmatsmats.com)

A variety of mantras and designs on inspirational mats that are PVC-free available at (matsmatsmats.com)

For some more cool yoga mat designs…try matsmatsmats.com (above)

Mats that look like grass...the kitchen floor....and even chocolate?

Eco-friendly mats that look like grass...the kitchen floor....and even chocolate?

These Plank Mats (above)make you feel like you’re doing yoga on the grass, shag carpeting,  a plank of wood…or even chocolate, yes…chocolate…not sure how I feel about them for my practice, but if you’re interested click here.

Some new innovations in yoga mats include…

1. This mat by Yoga Maendy…its 6′ x 6′ Microban square mat, so its ideal for partner yoga, experimenting so you don’t fall of your mat in more difficult poses, and for the extra tall person…like me! For more info…click here.

This giant Maendy Mat is a steal at $49!

This giant Maendy Mat is a steal at $49!

2. Really want a yoga island? Try this ROUND mat from Mandalyogamat.com.

These round yoga mats from mandalayogamat.com make you feel lke you are in your own sacred mandala, or lotus flower...

These round yoga mats from mandalayogamat.com make you feel like you are in your own sacred mandala, or lotus flower...

3. In the “You’ve got to be kidding me” category….Technology and yoga mats? Who would have thought…? These guys did…at Yanko Design some yoga loving techies invented a “Super Yoga Mat” in which the mat ‘unfurls’ from a metal tube that can play music or yoga videos right on the mat…for more info click here.

Yanko Designs Super Yoga mat plays yoga DVDs right on your mat!

Yanko Design's Super Yoga mat plays yoga DVD's right on your mat!

I don’t know about you, but over the years i have accumulated a slew of mats. After about a year of practice they can get a little grimy, and I am the victim of impulse buying when I see a new funky pattern that inspires me. I started keeping mats in emergency places…like they are fire extinguishers or emergency flashlights…one in my car…the corner of my room…by the back door to the porch…the garage…you know, just in case….its getting out of hand.

But what do I do with all the extra/old yoga mats? There is a solution!

The Boulder Mat company has a recycle program where you can donate your old mat and get a $5 discount on purchasing a new one! The company will donate the mat to charity or break it down and make a new one!

Recycle your mat with any of these ideas or at the website above!

Recycle your mat with any of these ideas or at the website above!

Gaiam has a list of 50 ways to reuse your mat here. Tips include sound proofing, tree ornaments, dog/cat food dish no-slip pads, lining kitchen shelves, donating to animal shelters, flower pot drainers, and even bases for a baseball game with the kids!

Some tips on Yoga mat etiquette when in a class or practicing at home…

1. Clean it with a natural cleanser after use! Bacteria and mold thrive on yoga mats… and let it hang out to dry afterward, especially after hot yoga. Wash your yoga rug (blanket) as well after every few uses and cleanse your blocks/straps with some non-toxic wipes/cleanser as well.But be careful to dry after cleansing…sprays can leave your tools slippery and therefore dangerous.

Here are some wonderful cleansers I’ve found and tried…

This Vermont Soap Yoga Mat Wash is great! Its certified organic and is under 10 bucks for 16 oz.! click here...

This Vermont Soap Yoga Mat Wash is great! It's certified organic and is under 10 bucks for 16 oz.! click here...

Stirlen makes a line of all natural cleansers that are biodegradable. Stirlen Chi spray has natural hormonizing scents and is also under $10....click here...

Stirlen makes a line of all natural cleansers that are biodegradable. Stirlen "Chi" spray has natural harmonizing scents and is also under $10....click here...

Happy Yoga Mat wash comes in wipes ad spray! Its organic/vegan, with refreshing citrus and lavender scents, and antifungall tea tree oil...click here...

Happy Yoga Mat wash comes in wipes ad spray! It's organic/vegan, with refreshing citrus and lavender scents, and anti-fungal tea tree oil...click here...

2. Do not step on anyone’s yoga mat but your own (except in couple’s yoga). Feet bring in toxins and dirt from the outside world and its not the nicest thing to step on a neighbor’s “private practice space” they have set up in class. Wash your own feet before practicing…remember you’ll go from Mountain pose at the top of your mat, to face down in the same place while taking a break from Bow.

Summer time...try to feel the sand between your toes...(photo courtesy of livebreatheyoga.com)

The most eco-friendly mat around...(photo courtesy of livebreatheyoga.com)

One more tip…since it is summer…try forgoing the mat altogether for one practice and take a step to be closer to nature by performing some poses in a flat and sturdy patch of grass or sand….its amazing!

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‘Wine’ not?

Okay so drinking wine may not lead us to spiritual enlightenment, and it may be frowned upon in  efforts to cleanse oneself…but something I have learned in my life is “everything in moderation”.

some red wine in moderation is good for the skin, heart and soul!

some red wine in moderation is good for the skin, heart and soul!

Wine, red wine in particular, does have its health benefits in its restorative ‘reservatols’, as many of you know. Red wine (a glass per day) can decrease cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease, heart attack , and diabetes.

In Ayurveda, red wine is called arista and is known for all these benefits and also helps decrease the effects of the aging process by relaxing blood vessels. There are even wine spas in India, meanwhile wine facials have become popular in some places like Jaipur! These wines, however, are made with a more herbal base than other international wines. They incorporate fennel seeds and other unusual ingredients, that, when applied to the skin, can draw out impurities. For more info on wine facials in India click here.

Indian woman picking grapes (photo courtesy of static.guim.co.uk)

Indian woman picking grapes (photo courtesy of static.guim.co.uk)

Wine + facial + India = Im there! photo courtesy of rajasthantravelportal.com

Wine + facial + India = I'm there! photo courtesy of rajasthantravelportal.com

Red wines in general contain antioxidants and Organic wines are now becoming a new trend in the business despite the argument that organic wines don’t contain the sulfites necessary to produce “good” wine. Just head to your local wine store and ask the manager what they recommend for organic wines, they will probably have a few in stock.

Here are some tasty organic wines I have found recently….for a primer on organic wines…click here

some award winning wines from Frey (click for website)

some award winning wines from Frey (click for website)

My dad and I enjoyed this Organic Syrah from the North Coast of California…partially because their name was Frey…at $13.99 it was a great, medium acidity, low tannin, fruity and moderately sweet wine with light body and a misleading tart smell, but it wasn’t tart at all! Hints of cinnamon…mmmm (freywine.com)

Bonterra....makes me want to move to northern California

Bonterra....makes me want to move to northern California

bottle of Bonterra organic merlot

bottle of Bonterra organic merlot

We loved this Organic Merlot from Bonterra in Mendocino County, CA (2006). At $15.99 it was a little more expensive, but a good oaky and soft subdued simi-dry wine. (bonterra.com)

Black Swan Shiraz-Merlot

Black Swan Shiraz-Merlot

For a good cheap wine try this Australian Shiraz Merlot blend by Black Swan (2008) at only $6.99 (we found ours at Trader Joe’s)  it was a steal!

Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate from Chalonewinegroup.com

Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate from Chalonewinegroup.com

And if you’re looking to splurge (for around $35) try this Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate (1998) from the chalonewinegroup.com…with a full body and hints of roasted chiles, concentrated figs an other dried fruits…its magical.

A great idea, especially in these economic times, is to ‘google’ some local vineyards and go have a free wine tasting! great for a first date or weekend day trip with your girl/guy friends!

Buying locally can be a great way to support local businesses in the economy and find more natural wines. My friend James (the running partner) and I, had an impromptu wine tasting at the previously mentioned Russell Orchards in Ipswich a few weeks ago. It was a foggy morning, much like today, and the manager brought out some fantastic homegrown fruit wines. We ended up going home with four bottles at about $13 a bottle! These fruit wines have a lower alcohol content (about %11) but were wonderfully original and made from fruit grown right on the farm. Russell Orchards gave us a pamphlet of their different types of wine and what they would taste good with (from Strawberry wines to Blueberry wines to Dandelion wines and many more).

photo of Russelll Orchards Cherry wine...click for their website

photo of Russell Orchards Cherry wine...click for their website

I fell in love with Russell Orchards Dry Blueberry Wine while their Raspberry Peach is a bestseller!

Another local winery...Alfalfa Farm Winery (click here)

Another local winery...Alfalfa Farm Winery (click here)

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philosophy in unexpected places....

philosophy in unexpected places....

So again, this weather is still getting me down, and I was reminded today on the Orange Line in Boston of how that posh voice on the London Tube politely requests that everyone “MIND THE GAP” before stepping off to their destination.

I love when Buddhist philosophy comes from unlikely sources, and this little reminder definitely qualifies.

Many of you out there, including myself, have found ourselves in a ‘Gap’ in our lives, whether it be because we are unemployed, have moved back home, recently graduated school and don’t have a trajectory, ended relationships, or simply had to give up a few activities or pleasures because of the economic crisis. Fact of the matter is, we live in a culture that demands we be ‘productive’ and working all the time.This pressure can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

this will not happen..do not worry

this will not happen..do not worry

But why does this “Gap” in time that we recently have found ourselves in, have to be completely filled with “productive work” leading in a direction towards the next 9-5 job we think we must attain.

Instead, take a day our two, maybe even just an hour, sit and meditate on the ways in which this time can be a blessing. Maybe your past 9-5 job really wasn’t your passion and this is an opportunity to head into an ‘alternative endeavor’ as I like to call it. Living back home with the parents/family or moving into a smaller apartment with more roommates can let you mend some previously strained relationships before you fully cut the umbilical cord.

take some time, breathe and appreciate the open spaces you have just received...photo courtesy of healthylivinglounge.com

take some time, breathe and appreciate the open spaces you have just received...photo courtesy of healthylivinglounge.com

For me, all these gaps are moments of opportunity that I’m attempting to appreciate.

In a monetary sense, I have decided not to invest in a gym membership for the summer after graduating from a  school where the membership was included in the tuition. I’ve allocated my allotted funds for yoga towards yoga class cards at my favorite yoga studio. From this, I have realized a few things…

a. I really don’t like gyms and don’t really have a desire to work out in one.

b. I found so many new and interesting exercise classes through “try a free first class” promotions including Krav Maga (my friend Ryan is an instructor at a local studio), Boxing, and numerous yoga classes. Krav Maga is a form of close combat fighting developed by the Israeli military and used all of the world and even as a workout for celebrities such as Hilary Swank! Its empowering and addicting and stands on the philosophy of using what you have and never giving up…never!

For more info on Krav Maga…or to find out about some local classes (in North and South Shore of Boston) contact Ryan Reilly at reilly44@gmail.com.

kick some butt and learn how to defend yourself! photo courtesy of socialmartialarts.com

kick some butt and learn how to defend yourself! photo courtesy of socialmartialarts.com

c. I have reignited my passion for trail running (which I lost over the winter months) and because I get bored and scared doing it alone, have rekindled friendships by running with friends. Running can be both physically healthy and therapeutic.

Russell Orchards, Ipswich MA...click for their website

Russell Orchards...click for their website...photo courtesy of bostonzest.com

Crane Beach, Ipswich MA

Crane Beach, Ipswich MA

d. While running with my friend, James, we try to find new, free, places to run and have made some great local discoveries and rediscoveries….Our favorite run is a run from Russell Orchards in Ipswich (parking free) then running up to Castle Hill or Crane’s Beach and back. It is a beautiful run and usually parking at Crane’s beach is $15 , but we just run in and out for free because we park at the Orchards.

Also, you can pay only $5 and walk/hike around the Crane Estate at Castle Hill, a beautiful Estate and picnic venue not to be missed. Support it and the local flora and fauna through the $5 donation by going there and treating yourself to some apple cider doughnuts or freshly picked strawberries at Russell Orchards afterward.

overview of the Crane Estate

overview of the Crane Estate reservation in Ipswich...great place to meditate...do yoga...(photo courtesy of thetrustees.org)

e. I also have enjoyed finding activities physically that help others. My mom recently participated in her first ever road race, with a friend, at the age of 59. We ran the Louis Rossetti race in Beverly last Wednesday and I was so proud of her. The proceeds went to support the Louis Rossetti foundation and it was a women-only race on a fabulous evening. I even won a trophy for coming in 4th in my age group- my first ever trophy for running! Check out your local 5k run/walks in your area…its a great way to bond with others in your community and donate to a good cause while getting some fresh air and physical exercise!

For more info on the Crane Estate and surrounding areas click here and for running routes in your area…just try googling!

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