So, Barbie is a yoga teacher now. Would you take her class? I think I would just out of morbid curiosity.  It would be fancinating to see how a  six foot tall woman with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips could manange any balance pose without toppling over or a back bend without snapping in half.

Further more, what’s with the chihuahua? Who brings their dog to a yoga studio (besides Ryan Gosling, who let’s face it would be forgiven even if he was the one who peed in the corner)?  And yes, in true Barbie fashion she’s saturated in pink and teal and as YogaDork points out resembles Paris Hilton more than any real yoga teacher I’ve ever seen.

She’s part of the “I can be” series, which features Barbie in various professions such as world’s easiest  hurdle jumper, the most sparkly engineer, and a “kid doctor” (it’s called a  pediatrician Mattel).


But still this is kind of a good thing, right? For one it’s a step up from the “math is hard” talking barbie–she’s likely mastered algebra if she’s become an engineer. I’m all for encouraging girls to enter into male-dominated science and math professions, but why can’s she do it in normal clothes? And the enginner and “kid doctor” seem like an anomolgy among the babysitter, cheerleader, ballerina, dancer professions. Plus there’s the whole implication that we still have to tell girls that careers, while boys’s dolls (er, “action figures”) just get to blast things and have super powers.

I digress, aside from telling people you somehow need a dog to do yoga, there’s nothing wrong with the yoga teacher barbie doll that isn’t something that’s wrong with Barbie herself (the pink, the body proportions). And as someone who has spent much of the last year teaching yoga to 3-5 year olds, I certainly think that introducing yoga to kids is really beneficial, even if they have to “play yoga” with this doll. After all when I was 5 I “played” workout with a naked doll along with my mom’s Richard Simmons records and it didn’t turn me into some nudist aerobics instructor.

 

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As you may know I got married two weeks ago (more on that here). We took our honeymoon driving up the California coast in a mini cooper convertible from Santa Barbara to Napa with stops in Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Napa, and Muir Woods. We flew out of San Francisco International Airport, and after a hellish unexpected 4-hour layover in LAX at the start of the trip (note: LAX isn’t a good place to be a vegetarian), SFO was like an airport dream come true.

Aside from the wide selection of food and shopping options that I’d be interested in even if I wasn’t held captive, there’s the famed new yoga room.   Seeing it was like spotting an oasis–I was sad that the trip was ending and that we had a cramped 6-hour flight in front of us (don’t believe what you’ve heard about honeymoon upgrades). The room is small and dimly lit–I would guess less than 5-6 people could comfortably practice in it, and while you can still here the frequent terminal announcements, it still felt like a place of refuge.

I used the room for only about 15 minutes just before boarding my flight and there was only one other person in the room the whole time–a woman who for the first 10 minutes I’m pretty sure was napping. The room is stocked with mats, blocks and bolsters and while I wasn’t wearing yoga clothes, my traveling outfit still afforded enough movement to move though some hip-openers, twists, and a couple sun salutations.  During the time I was in there, the door was opened about 10 times with curious travelers peeking in then leaving, but I imagine as it’s around for longer that will taper off. When I was done I felt soooo much more relaxed and that combined with the presence of my new husband helped me through the next 6 hours with a baby screaming throwing things at us.   Every airport should have a yoga room–it makes the constant degradation of air travel so much more bearable.

With my wedding less than a week away, things are getting stressful around these parts. But even without  planning a wedding, life gives all of us many moments where we want to scream, or run and hide.

The “close your eyes and count to 10” advice is pretty common, but  learning to integrate meditation into small moments of your everyday life is likely more effective. This method that teaches you to start with one minute meditation and work your down to one moment (which can be practiced anywhere!) . Sounds so much more accessible for distracted busy Westerners than the conventional meditation advice about starting with 5 minutes sitting in a quiet place and work your way up to 30 minutes (not that that kind of meditation isn’t beneficial, it’s just intimidating and impractical for many people).

Here’s the video from www.onemomentmeditation.com, created by Martin Boroson author of  One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go 

I know I’ll be using this method a lot in the next few days…

The next time you hit snooze and look for a way to justify skipping exersice think of Tao Porchon-Lynch, Guinness Book’s “World’s Oldest Yoga Teacher.” She’s 93 (the previous title was held by 91 year old  Bernice Bates)

Porchon-Lynch teaches yoga four days a week, does ballroom dancing and guides wine tours in New York State (sounds like my kind of lady).  And as if that’s not inspiring enough, she’s a great example that you can start any age and no matter what state your body is in. While she’s been practicing yoga since she was 8 years old, she didn’t start teaching until she was 73!  Further,  at 87, she had hip surgery but a month later she started dance lessons.

I believe that we can always reach just a little bit further,” said Porchon-Lynch. “I’m inspired to bring yoga into others’ lives along with helping people unearth new talents.

Now get moving whippersnappers!

(via YogaDork and MSNBC)

It’s easy to feel like you make no real difference in the world, especially if your are a doctor, teacher, or humanitarian. But this story helped to remind me of the little acts of humanity that affect individual’s lives that stay with them sometimes more than the big gestures.

When my dad died 10 years ago I was a college student working in Yellowstone for the summer. I got the news from my mom as I stood at a pay phone. A man, on vacation with his family, walked by and noticed me crying, a minute later he returned alone with a  handful of tissues and wordlessly handed them to me. In the following hours and days many of my friends and aquiantances reached out to me in big and small ways that were very appreciated and meaningful. But that stranger’s compassion, in that tiny gesture remains in my mind a decade later.  This taxi driver’s compassion for a old woman reminded me of those little gestures that really define who a person is. And it made me want to go visit my elderly upstairs neighbor.

Get your tissues ready:

(Taken from Yoga Dork)

A NYC Taxi driver wrote:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90′s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940′s movie.By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice..’The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired.Let’s go now’.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut.It was the sound of the closing of a life..

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day,I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

I’ve talked about before how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and try new types of yoga. While I didn’t  fall in love with Bikram Yoga, it was still a learning experience (and it answered a lot of assumptions).  Earlier this month I decided to try out another type of yoga I’ve always been curious about: Anti-gravity yoga.  Anti-gravity yoga was invented by an aerial dance artist, who took the silk hammocks that they used for dance and brought them much closer to the ground. Think Vinyasa yoga with the aid of a hammock to gently encourage your body deeper into your each stretch.

I did a week long trial at OM Factory in Manhattan, and from the first class I was hooked–I was there every single day (and it’s an hour commute!) I’m usually not a huge fan of inversions beyond shoulder stand, but the support of the hammock made inversions joyous and much more accessible. The hammocks also lent themselves perfectly to the restorative class (Baddha Konasana becomes “womb pose”, you swing gently back and forth as you relax). Even ab strengthening exercises in the “Flying Fitness” class were transformed from grueling to playful.

I don’t think I’d solely practice anti-gravity yoga, for me a practice rooted in Vinyasa flow is what  suits me best, but I would love to add a little flying into my practice every week. Anyone want to buy me a class pass or membership?

I read a great line in  the May issue of Yoga Journal yesterday:

“Yoga isn’t about achieving a goal, it’s about learning to skillfully move your body through its appropriate range of motion.”

It’s so true. It can be very frustrating when you are new (or even when you’ve been practicing for years) and your body won’t cooperate to look like the picture perfect pose (or like the person next to you).  And so many people think they can’t “do” yoga because they can’t touch their toes or balance on one foot. But as I tell my students, if you are trying you are doing it.

So next time you are having trouble in a particular asana, think of that qoute above, or think of T-Rex:

(this is from this hilarious site: T-Rex Trying)

 

You  can’t read the news, a magazine, watch TV, or go online without hearing people talking about Pinterest. When I noticed a lot of my friends (and my mom!) joining a few weeks ago, I joined too and then didn’t do anything with it until last night. I went on a pinning spree–it can be very addictive.

I’ve made a few boards, those of most interest to KateAsana readers are my “health and fitness” and “recipes”  All the recipes are vegeterian (but not all are healthy–I do love desserts), and most things in the health and fitness sections are yoga-related. So if you feel so inclined, you can not follow me on Pinterest. And I might even add the “Pin It” button to my future posts, just in case something I write inspires you.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Oh how un-yogic it is to say you don’t like something, right? Who cares. I’ve been reluctant to trash talk Bikram Yoga in the past mostly because I had no experience with it, but also because this kind of  benevolent “everything is acceptable” spirit feels as mandatory in yoga as taking your shoes off to practice.

But I’m going to just come out and say it: My name is Kate, and I am not a fan of Bikram Yoga. It’s OK to not like things.  In my ongoing quest to expand my health and fitness horizons, I’ve been trying out different forms of exercise (hello Zumba!) and different forms of yoga. To that end I did a one week Bikram Yoga trial recently.

Now, I’ve had many people say to me “Oh I tried yoga once and I didn’t like it.” and it makes me sad because one yoga class isn’t enough to know if you’ll enjoy yoga or not. It could have been the wrong studio or gym, the wrong teacher, the wrong class, the wrong style of yoga, the wrong day. Give Yoga a Chance!  So I realize that writing that I did Bikram for a week and don’t like it might rub a lot of people the wrong way (and may be rightfully so).

But I feel like I’m coming from an informed place on this. Yes I went in with a bit of a bias, but I was also hoping to be proved wrong. But my suspicions were right. So here in convenient  list form, the top 7 reasons why I do not like Bikram Yoga:

7. The mirrored and carpeted rooms. This is number 7 on my list because it doesn’t really bother me that much, but because of the heat and the carpet it is kind of smelly in the room. And the whole “look at yourself in the mirror” the whole time seems kind of icky and vain (but yes I can see how it can help with alignment).

6.Yoga as competition. Bikram is all about the “Yoga Olympics” and yoga competition. This is so against the spirit of yoga and it just feels so creepy and wrong. What next? Who can meditate the best?

5. The heat. I understand that heat makes your muscles softer, allowing you to stretch deeper. But that also leaves so much more room for you to push yourself beyond your limit and hurt yourself. And yes, you sweat A LOT (I don’t usually sweat very much and I was drenched). Bikram says it’s to “get out toxins” sure, maybe, somewhat. But, 105 degrees for 90 minutes? I’m a very healthy person and my heart was beating fast and I was light headed and dizzy–that’s not healthy–yoga or any other exercise should never make you feel sick. Plus Birkram calls his studios ” Torture Chambers”  I shouldn’t have to tell you what wrong with that.

4. Bikram Choudhury is the worst “guru” you could pick. Where to even start with this one?  That he’s suing Yoga to the People because he says that he has a copyright on his 26 postures– he didn’t invent any of those postures, he put them in that sequence–something that every yoga teacher does for every class (and they come up with more than just one sequence). Sure, he put them in a torture chambers, etc. But someone else doing something thing similar and charging less is competition (I thought he liked competition..).  As a person he’s beyond creepy, self-centered, ego driven, misogynistic, and the list goes on. There’s a wealth of examples, but take the Who Said It Bikram Choudhury or Charlie Sheen? Quiz  for a snapshot at this dude.

3. The 26 poses. Bikram yoga is a script. No matter what studio you go to in what part of the country with what teacher, your class will be exactly the same, word for word, pose for pose, in the exact same order. This doesn’t seem like teaching to me. On top of that, yoga has so much to offer–so much beyond 26 poses. The claim is that the “26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function.” But I don’t buy it–there seemed to be a lot of back and forward bending, and very few hip or shoulder openers for example.

2.The teaching style. The teachers themselves that I had at the Bikram studio were nice and helpful people. But the instituted teaching style of reciting the script, standing on a platform above your students (and I guess in bigger classes using a  Britney Spears style microphone), and not demonstrating any of the postures, removes the teachers from the class so much that you might as well just have an audio recording. Seriously, DVDs are more engaging. Again I don’t think it’s the teacher’s fault so much–they did try to keep an eye out to correct students, but they are so limited by “what Bikram is” (teachers and studios get in big trouble if they go off script).

1. It’s dangerous. I mentioned the heat and the light headed sick feeling, on top of that in Bikram yoga, there is no room for different levels of flexibility or experience. “The pose doesn’t begin until your knee is straight!!” is shouted at you–never mind you have been doing yoga for seven years but have tight hamstrings–you are not doing the pose. “Lock the Knee! Lock the Knee!” is shouted at you several times–you should never “lock” anything, this is one of the fundamental things most yoga teachers learn. “Go beyond your flexibility!” What?! Really!? They might as well just say, “tear your muscles!” “ruin your joints!” “you are not doing the pose if you aren’t  injuring yourself!”

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I know this day makes a lot of people (like Liz Lemon) annoyed. And yes, like most holidays it’s over commercialized (making flowers and food at restaurants 10x more expensive than they are the day before or after is just insane). But I really can’t help but like a holiday that’s all about Love. And while it is widely promoted as a holiday about romantic love, it really doesn’t have to be (I send my mom a Valentine’s card every year). Sure, it’s wonderful to remind people often how much you love them, but it’s easy to forget in the hussle bustle of life. So I think it’s great to have a day in the middle of the cold dark months that’s all about saying I love you to all the people you love in all the different ways.

And the tokens of love and appreciation that make the best gifts are usually the homemade kind. Last Valentine’s Day I made Mark dinner and decorated the apartment with paper hearts of reasons why I love him. And this year one of my classes of preschoolers made me this wonderful sign to say thanks. 

Gifts like these (or simple words of appreciation) mean so much to the recipient (at least they do to me). So rather than feel pressure from businesses to have a romantic partner today, think about all the people in your life that you are thankful for and feel lucky that life can contain so many different forms of love.