Friday, February 07, 2014

February 2014 Desktop Calendar


Nothing better than another YogaDudes calendar featuring my all-time favorite yogi photographer and buddy Sandy Foster of yoga bliss photo. February is the month of love, but that doesn’t mean just human love. Let’s also celebrate the love we have for our pets. This photo couldn’t be more adorable. We hope this calendar brings a bit of warmth to your hearts (especially to those in the cold climates). Thank you Sandy for allowing YogaDudes to use it.

If you would like to use this image as your desktop, just click on the graphic above. When the larger image opens up, right-click on it and select “save as background.”

Monday, December 16, 2013

A New Yoga Book for the New Year

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Does anybody have "Start a Yoga Practice" at the top of their New Year's Resolution list? Many people may be very interested in starting yoga, but at the same time may feel overwhelmed by all the different types of yoga that are offered. How do you pick one when you've never tried any of them? I've been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years and I still don't really know the differences between all the various types. When I discovered the new book, Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Types of Yoga I just knew that it would be a great reference for a lot of yogis, both new to the practice, as well as veterans like me who may never have ventured into the different approaches.

In Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Types of Yoga  (New World Library, December 15, 2013), yoga teacher and author Meagan McCrary provides the first encyclopedia of different yoga styles as a reference for those new to yoga and experienced yogis and teachers alike. Her comprehensive approach offers an informative and in-depth look at all that yoga has to offer.

Pick Your Yoga Practice explores seven of the most prominent approaches, plus ten “best of the rest,” in terms of what a class is like, the level of physical exertion involved, and the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings. McCrary’s approach digs deeper than the physical descriptions of the practices to include everything from a style’s philosophical foundation and teaching methodology to what-to-expect and health benefits.

Meagan McCraryis a Los Angeles based yoga teacher and the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice. She teaches for Equinox Sports Clubs, works one-on-one with some of the entertainment industries leading professionals, and holds workshops and retreats nationally and internationally.  Visit her online at http://www.meaganmccrary.com.

Start your year off right by learning about all the difference yoga disciplines and picking the best one for you. You can find the book on Amazon here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bicycling the Greek Cyclades Islands

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Seems like I disappeared for the past few weeks and I guess I sort of did. I took off for vacation to the Greek Islands. This was the third time my husband and I took an "Island Hopping" vacation. What is an Island Hopping vacation you ask? Island Hopping is a German company that offers Bike & Boat vacations that are out of this world. The boats are usually wooden sailboats approximately 100 - 150 ft. and accommodate roughly 10 couples. This makes these "cruises" nice and intimate. You share meals with your new friends, lounge deck-side as the boat is underway and then there is, of course, all the biking you do together. This particular trip was sailing and cycling the Greek Cyclades Islands.

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For some reason when I thought of Greece I thought about a “tropical” place. I did not think “mountainous desert” but that was mostly what the islands were. At many times it felt like biking in Utah, and it was just as challenging. I have no idea where I mustered the strength from because I was in no way ready for this ride. Still struggling with neck surgery recovery, with only about 30 miles under my belt this season (and that accounts for three times on a bike), and no cardio training at all, I’m stunned at how I performed. If my leg muscles have such great “muscle memory” then I would really like to know why my neck is suffering from such amnesia! Not sure why it isn’t springing back to it’s normal strong state, but I’m hopeful that the trip has beaten it into submission and it will behave better from this point forward.

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My neck was a big hurdle, that’s for sure, but I managed to get through it and for that I’m very proud and grateful. I’m hoping this trip has motivated me more and will make it easier to get back to my normal biking self. If I had experienced the same amount of pain at home I would have quit, but with views like I had in Greece it was easy to just keep on pedaling, keep on pedaling. Yes I sung the Finding Nemo song in my head a lot! This was our third Island Hopping trip and by the second Greek island I deemed it the most spectacular ride. It was worth the pain. I guess the saying is true, “No pain, no gain.” The more climbing you do the better the views and the bigger the downhill payoff. There was an awful lot of both.

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At least there weren’t too many surprises and you got to know what to expect every day. Most days were carbon copies of the previous day . . . the weather was perfect upon rising and you knew you were going to start with a big climb. The boat always docks at sea level and all the towns are perched at the top of the mountains. And so went every day. Grind up the never ending hills, walk the adorable villages, and fly downhill taking in the gorgeous scenery. This never got old. On the good days we would pedal to the top, turn around, and coast back down, but on some days we would pedal up and over the mountain to the seashore on the other side. That meant we had to climb the darn hill twice! Those days required two ice cream breaks instead of one.

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I always made time to do some yoga-inspired stretches along the way which helped tremendously. There is no doubt that yoga and biking make the perfect combination. I am looking forward to getting back to doing both regularly now that I'm back home and getting into the groove of normal life.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Results of My Clean Diet

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I made it through the 3-week Clean diet and it wasn't until the first few days of going back to life as usual until I noticed just how good I felt during those 3 weeks. I didn't realize it at the time, but I felt great. Sure I was sometimes cranky because I was hungry or missing my chewing gum and there were plenty of times that I felt tired and weak while hiking or exercising, but overall I felt great. I woke up hours before my alarm clock every morning and felt refreshed and ready to get up. Never once did I have a head ache or a stomach ache. I never felt overly fatigued or had my usual "ick." What is my "ick?" It's that unexplained feeling of nausea that I often experience in the afternoons. On so many afternoons it just comes over me, as if out of nowhere. One minute I feel fine and the next minute I want to crawl under my desk. Over the past 15+ years I blamed it on every possible thing in my office: mold, dust, the heat/AC system, until finally I decided that I must be allergic to work! Nothing seemed to help. I removed stagnate water (fish tank) from my bookshelf, I dusted and vacuumed like crazy, I had the AC turned off to my office, I switched from plastic drinking mugs to stainless steel . . . I tried everything. Everything except changing my diet.

I lived through these three weeks of detoxing and I can't believe it didn't hit me that I never had a bad day at work. I never had an episode of the "ick." Then Monday came along and my diet was officially over. I can't say that I jumped right into eating breads and sweets. I've been very good at keeping a very healthy diet. The only foods that I've added back in include fruits & veggies on the no-no list, a couple of eggs, peanut butter, and very small amounts of dairy (yogurt and a little milk). As far as drinks, I started having some caffeinated teas and I also had one glass of wine. Over the weekend I started to feel not-so-good, but I blamed it on my husband blowing sawdust all over our yard with a leaf blower, the dust from cleaning the house, and the seasonal pollen. Never thought about any foods I was putting into my mouth.

Then Monday came and i went back to work. Every morning I get a cup of tea around 10 o'clock and up until today it was always caffeine-free green tea. On this day, I splurged and had a cup of caffeinated spiced chai with a bit of milk. Then at 11 o'clock I had a banana. Boy did I miss my daily banana.

And by noon I was dizzy and nauseous. It was then that I instantly realized how good I felt during my detox and how quickly I went from feeling great to feeling terrible. Oh my goodness, was it the caffeine, the milk, or the banana? It had to be one of them, or maybe the combination of all of them. Those three things are my daily ritual. I have them every day and every day I felt sick at the same time (coincidentally right after consuming these items.)

At this point I'm going back to the elimination diet and this time I am going to add the no-no foods back into my system one at a time in hopes of trying to find the culprit. I should also note that this is probably the worst time of the year to be experimenting with this because of my seasonal allergies. I could have the greatest diet in the world and still be effected by the pollen in the air right now so I'll have to take that into consideration.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Attempt at the Clean Diet

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I recently read a book called "Clean" and it has really opened my eyes. Over the past year I made some drastic changes to my diet and tried to eliminate all processed foods. I thought, because of this, I was doing so good and living as healthy as I could. But the reality was, I still had a long way to go to remove the dangerous toxins.

This book was incredible. Even with my vast knowledge of health and nutrition it was still enlightening. I loved that the book is written by Alejandro Junger, a medical doctor who tells his story about his own health issues and how he, himself began to question the entire system of Western medicine. He talks about his discovery of Ayurveda, meditation, and Eastern medicines and his desire to try to change the medical system here. It was just so nice to hear about a doctor in the US that finally sees how everything about our system is wrong! One of the best realizations that he made was the uncanny similarity between the words "medication" and "meditation." That is one of those 'things that make you go hmmmmm.'

Dr. Junger explained all about the toxins that are literally EVERYWHERE in our lives and how they effect our health. It was both enlightening and terrifying at the same time. Everything he explained made so much sense and I wondered how I got this far in my life (especially given my strong desire to constantly learn about health and nutrition) without gaining all this knowledge. After reading about how these toxins hurt our heath and especially after reading all the stories about how so many people completely turned their health around, to the extent of curing themselves from deadly diseases, there was no doubt that I had to give it a try. My main goals for this diet were to:

  • Try to determine what was making my ears constantly itch

  • See if my constantly running nose would stop

  • Try to clear my increasingly foggy brain. I often find myself at a lose for words and I'm having a harder and harder time with short-term memory. Sure it can be age or pre-menopause, but it can also be a build-up of toxins.

  • Try to equalize my energy levels. Seems I'm either raring to go run a marathon or completely exhausted and unable to function.

  • Improve my skin and complexion
At this point I'm 2 weeks into the 3-week plan and (aside from the food preparation, which is killing me) it's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Just like the doctor explained, you feel less hungry than you normally do. Without the constant spikes and dips in your sugar level, your body remains at a constant and even flow. It's amazing how quickly you realize the difference between real hunger (from needing nourishment), and cravings for food due to dips in your sugar level.

I do have to say that exercising during this diet has been a challenge. I do feel much more tired and weak than usual and I hate that. But the book warns that you shouldn't try to sustain your normal level of activity and instead, just do half of what you normally would. But, with that said, my energy level throughout the day is better. I no longer have those afternoon slumps where I want to crawl under my desk and nap.

I also feel compelled to report that I'm already feeling some improvement with the brain fog. It's not perfect, but I'm not fumbling for words as often as I was before. I hope this continues to improve.

Unfortunately my ears are still itching despite the fact that I've completed avoided all the "non-approved" irritant foods. I'm wondering at this point if it's something I'm putting "on" my body rather than in it and I'm taking steps to change all my cleaning products to natural ones. The book recommends you do this prior to your detox and I wished I listened to that advice.

Same holds true for the running nose, but I am allergic to dogs and dust and, well, my house is full of both so I can't expect miracles.

I'm going to hold off on the skin and complexion report until next week because the book said that improvements to the skin will only happen if you took the detox out to the full 3 weeks. The hopes of nicer skin is definitely the motivation behind continuing for another week. Fingers crossed that it works.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Ultimate Yogi - Yin Yoga

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When I slipped this DVD into my TV I thought to myself, "I wonder what Yin Yoga is." I seen the word before and I know I've heard of it, but I never really took the time to investigate what it's all about. I was quite pleased when the very first thing that Travis said during the intro was, "What is Yin Yoga?" and then he went ahead and explained it. It's like he was reading my mind.

So what is it? Yin Yoga is literally the fountain of youth. It targets the connective tissues, ligaments, and joints of the body. Most importantly it accesses the hyaluronan which is distributed amongst the connective tissue of the body. It is a scientific fact that the more hyularonan a person has the more supple they are and the less inflammation they are subjected to. This is supposed to be the perfect complement to all the other physically dynamic styles of yoga. It's really nothing more than holding stretches for long periods of time challenges. The longer you hold, the deeper you heal, and the better you are supposed to feel.

The entire session was performed while either sitting or laying on our yoga mats and although it looked simply if you were just watching it, it was incredibly challenging to hold each stretch for either 3 or 5 minutes. That is like an eternity if you're not very flexible and each stretch feels like a pulling burn. I can't even believe that I made it all the way through. There was only one stretch that I had to give up and take a break. It was a seated stretch with legs straight out in front. We had to just fold over and grab our feet (preferably forehead to knees, but I'm not quite there yet). This was supposed to be a 5 minute hold and I got about 2 minutes into it before I decided that I MUST get a sweat shirt right then and there. It was really just a cheap excuse to get up and take a break. I slowly walked to my bedroom, got my sweatshirt on and came back to my mat to finish the stretch . . . and still it was too long. Come to find out, Travis got a bit carried away and held the stretch for a total of 7 minutes. Boy am I glad that I'm on to that now and I will not even attempt to complete that stretch the next time around.

This was a very different experience for me as I never ever held any stretches for this long. The best part about it was listening to all the fascinating things that Travis talked about. He explained the importance of these deep tissue stretches and it all made so much sense. It gave me hope that just maybe this sort of practice would help me with my chronic tight neck and pinching nerve issues. He also stated that it would "take us to a different dimension" and I think he was right. I found it truly amazing how clear my usually always busy mind became. During these poses I felt so relaxed and tired. If I could have gotten more comfortable in these stretches I could have fallen asleep. That last Savasana was like no other in my life and last night I sleep like a rock and woke up this morning with the brightest eyes and tightest skin I've had in a long time. I'm looking forward to this experience again.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Ultimate Yogi - Balance

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After having such a good experience with the Ultimate Yogi Flexibility video a couple of days ago I was excited to pop the Ultimate Yogi Balance DVD into my TV today. I feel like I'm finally getting on a roll with regular and steady yoga practice. Granted I'm not doing the Ultimate Yogi program 'as directed,' but I am committed to practicing at least 3 times a week. I'm just taking my time and using my off days to run and lift weights. Right now this feels good and right and I will therefore continue this program.

I think taking the pressure off myself to commit to a daily practice and making it all the way through every video was too scary. I promised the doctor that I would take this slow and I really do think that I'm doing this the smart way. So I entered into Balance with that same outlook. I knew I would probably be very shaky, but that didn't really matter. After all, nobody was watching me. I could fall as many times as I needed to.

Well, I'm happy to report that I never actually fell completely over. I did lose my balance several times and there were times that I just couldn't do the moves, but at the same time I also did things that I never dreamed I could do. It's amazing how, just like with flexibility and how you get more and more limber as you go through the routine, you also seem to get better and better with balance throughout the hour.

I have to admit, I had a ball with this video. So far it's my favorite one. I love being challenged by things that don't necessarily require an over abundance of strength. These challenges just require more focus and determination. It's easier to muster that up than it is to find more strength when it's just not there. I'm very much looking forward to doing this routine again. I'm still intrigued by something that Travis said at the beginning of this video. He explained that your entire brain comes alive when you practice balance asanas. If your brain was hooked up to machine that reads brain activity you would see that all regions would be lit up during balance poses. That is just remarkable. Of course, testing this theory would not be practical, but I'm going to take his word for it and know that my brain is getting a workout as well as my body.

For more information on the Ultimate Yogi 108 Day Yoga Challenge, please click here.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ultimate Yoga - Flexibility

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Today was my first attempt at dusting off my Ultimate Yogi DVDs. I (stupidly) attempted to start this program way before I should have and realized on the second day that I was in over my head. It's been another month or so of recovering from neck surgery and today I decided to try another one of these videos. I'm not sure how my logic is working because I wanted a change from the 30 minute yoga routine that I've been regularly doing because it has been causing me a lot of pain. As if this session would be any less painful.

At least I was smart about which video I picked. So far I did video #1 Cross Training, and then I tried video #2 Cardio (and that one about killed me). Video #3 was Strength and there was no way I was attempting that one any time soon. I don't need another reminder of how weak I am! So I ultimately (pun intended) picked Flexibility. I thought maybe I could handle that one and figured it would be good for my already-sore-from-running muscles.

I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by the entire experience. I really liked the entire session. It's broken into two basic parts. The first part is standing stretches and asanas and the second part is mat work and deeper stretches. During the first half I came to an incredible realization that was, well . . . life changing. I entered into this yoga session today with positively no expectations of completing it, nor even doing a particularly good job. I was simply looking for a change of pace and something that "might not hurt as much." I knew at the start that I would modify as much as I needed and, if I had to quit, that would be OK. I wouldn't consider myself a weak failure and if all I got from this hour was material to blog about then it was still a success. That's when it hit me.

My whole life I've been an over-achiever. I'm not a competitive person at all and never care about winning a game, a race, or anything that involves other people. But when it comes to myself, that's another story. I have to know that my current run was faster than my last run, that I climbed the hill in a higher gear than I did last time, or the amount of weight on my barbell was greater than last time. I have a never-ending desire to better myself and for some reason I always feel that I have to be better, faster, stronger than what is expected of me.

I remember back to all my P90X sessions. I paid close attention to the weights that the girls in the video were using and I had to make sure that my weights at least matched theirs (preferably I would lift even more). In every exercise video I ever did, I felt the need to do more. If the leader suggested alternate moves to "give you more challenge" well, that was a no-brainer. I HAD to go the more aggressive route. I don't even know why. I guess I always felt that it was essential if I wanted to sell myself as a "fitness expert."

Well today, for the first time in my life, I took all that pressure off myself. I realized that my neck surgery may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. Now I finally have an excuse (because for some reason I felt that I needed one) to just be a normal regular person. It's OK that I'm weak and it's OK that I'm going to "do the best I can."

And with that new outlook I completely enjoyed the yoga session. Sure I had to "cheat" a little and no I wasn't always as flexible as I needed to be . . . but it was amazingly OK. I finally accepted that I don't always need to over-achieve and that was the most refreshing enlightening experience to date. Thank you Ultimate Yogi for giving me this gift!

I will continue to hunt and peck for videos that I think I can get through. I'm not yet ready to take on "The Ultimate Challenge" but I will thoroughly enjoy doing what I can.

For more information on the Ultimate Yogi 108 Day Yoga Challenge, please click here.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Another Recovery Update

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I recently had another follow-up appointment with my neurosurgeon and he gave me the green light to proceed with exercise (with the understanding that I'm to "listen to my body" and make smart choices). So far I've been leery about working out because it always causes neck pain. My fear was that I might be slowing down my healing or worst, disrupting the bones from fusing. But now that the doc said I'm right where I should be as far as healing and fusing I'm feeling much more confident about pushing it a little harder. After all, I'm no stranger to pain and I can certainly live through a little more of it.

This marks my second week of a steady exercise routine. Granted I'm still not ready for The Ultimate Yogi or P90X, but I have been doing a moderate yoga routine 3 times a week along with hitting the gym to lift weights 3 times a week and, to round out the program, I'm also running 3 times a week. What amazes me the most is how much I improved in just 2 weeks.

My first run wasn't pretty. I ran only 2 miles and had to stop and walk twice. My second run was better. I completed the 2 miles without stopping and felt pretty darn good. By my third run I ran 3.5 miles and felt great. I mean really great. It's such an amazing experience to run without the searing nerve pain pulsing through my right arm. Maybe by putting so much focus on this new pain-free sensation that it's taken my mind off of the actual running.

Lifting weights also didn't start too pretty. I was disgusted by how weak I've become. I remember the weights that I normally lifted and, right now, I can't even come close. I actually felt embarrassment in the gym lifting what I considered "dinky" weights. But those negative feelings soon faded with each trip to the gym because I could feel myself getting stronger each time. I don't know how it's possible to make such improvements over such a short amount of time, but the human body is an amazing machine. It's positively adaptive and it remembers that I'm supposed to be strong. What a thrill to add a little more weight each time.

And yoga has been the exact same story. My first attempt at my old favorite routine was marginal at best. I had to modify a few things due to both pain and just plain lack of strength. But, as you can probably guess, with each session I had to modify less and this morning I completely the whole thing with not only no modifications, but strength to spare. And again, this is all within a two week timeframe. It just further proves my old theory that Consistency is Key. No matter what you decide to do, if you stick to it and practice it every day you are guaranteed to improve.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When to Buy Organic

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In a perfect world we would only buy organic everything, but let"s face it, our trips to the grocery store just keep getting more and more expensive every year. Within the past 10 months I committed myself to changing my diet for the better. It"s not like I went from eating Ring Dings to Swordfish steaks, but I made the move away from processed foods and greatly increased my consumption of natural foods. I have yet to move to all organic and still my grocery bills seem like the doubled.

I found this very helpful list of which foods that are the most important to buy organic as opposed to other fruits and veggies that are "cleaner" and may not be as important to buy organic.
This" Dirty Dozen" list are the fruits and veggies that can contain the highest amount of pesticides and toxins.

The Dirty Dozen:

  • Apples

  • Celery

  • Sweet Bell Peppers

  • Peaches

  • Strawberries

  • Nectarines (imported)

  • Grape

  • Spinach

  • Lettuce

  • Cucumbers

  • Blueberries (domestic)

  • Potatoes

This "Clean 15" List aren’t as heavily sprayed and therefore, don’t have to always be organic.

Clean 15

  • Onions

  • Corn

  • Avocado

  • Pineapple

  • Cabbage

  • Sweet Peas

  • Asparagus

  • Mango

  • Eggplant

  • Kiwi

  • Cantaloupe (domestic)

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Grapefruit

  • Watermelon

  • Mushrooms

So what do you do if you read that Dirty List and are freaking out because you simply can not afford to buy the organic options for all those items? You may be thinking, "Maybe I should stop eating those things all together." Wrong answer! There is a better option. If you do your due diligence and wash the items properly you should be OK. Here"s the best trick I've found for removing the pesticides.

Washing Fruit and Vegetables with Vinegar
Fill your sink with a solution that is one part vinegar to three parts water and soak all of your fruits in this solution for a minimum of 10 minutes and then rinse. This is great for removing bacteria, and may help break down wax, too. The editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine tested this theory by using four different methods to clean pears and apples: a vinegar and water solution (3:1, water:vinegar), antibacterial liquid soap, scrubbing with a stiff brush, and just using plain water. Not only did the vinegar mixture work the best, it was far, far better when measured for bacteria -- it removed 98% of bacteria, compared to just under 85% for scrubbing. If you don"t have 10 minutes to do this, or perhaps you just have a couple of pieces of fruit, a good alternative is to keep a bottle of vinegar with a spray top. Just spray the fruit or vegetables with the vinegar, then rinse under a tap.

See more about washing your fruits and veggies here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lifetime Wellness Course Completed

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I am very happy to report that I completed my "Lifetime Wellness 101" course with flying colors. OK, I did get two little quiz questions wrong throughout the entire 12 week course and only finished with a 98% rather than 100%, but that just shows that there is always room for improvement–in everything we do. I did learn a lot and more importantly I feel more confident now than ever in my knowledge on this subject. I found the course very easy to get through and most of it seems to come second nature to me. I would recommend it to anyone, not only looking to learn information to teach and/or share with others, but also for your own general knowledge. If you are interested in trying to achieve a more healthy lifestyle (and I would imagine you are if you found your way to my blog), this course teaches you and encourages you to live the most optimally healthy life you can.

One of the most important things you can do to keep your brain healthy is to constantly challenge it by learning new things. Why not consider taking an online class yourself? You can check out this course and many many other online classes here at Universal Class.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Get the Abs of a Ballerina

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I tried out another one of Acacia's ballet-inspired "BalletBody"workouts this morning. This one was the Core Workout which promises to flatten your midsection and develop core strength with its Pilates-type workout. It started a little shaky with standing balance exercises and I had to laugh out loud thinking about how silly I must have looked. I couldn't help but to be grateful that I was alone in my house rather than in a public class making a fool of myself. Like I mentioned in my previous Ballet Workout Review, a ballerina I am not.

Luckily I didn't let my bad balance get in the way and discourage me. And I'm happy I didn't give up because sooner or later my yoga experience came to the rescue and I actually impressed myself with some of the one legged moves. There is no doubt that this is the type of video that will get easier with repeated use.

I did pretty good with all the standing exercises and found them all doable - both in technique (as long as I wasn't being graded) and difficulty. The movement sequences progressed into various moves to be done on the mat. That's when things got a bit more challenging. Not sure if it was because those moves were actually harder or it was simply due to the fact that I had already been working for 15-20 minutes at that point.

I loved that this workout included so many new moves for me. After being a workout junkie for more years that I care to admit it almost seems impossible for me to experience brand new moves and techniques. I think that is what got me so intrigued by the whole "ballet workout." This is a foreign thing to me and dancing workout moves are so very different than the typical routines. For this reason the video flew by and kept me constantly engaged. Well, my core muscles were constantly engaged, that's for sure, but this also kept my mind engaged just from the newness of it all. I think most people will normally except hundreds of boring crunch-type moves in a ab or core workout, but what you'll find here is an assortment of fresh new moves that you have likely never seen before (unless of course you really are a ballerina).

The routine ends with some back exercises and some deep stretches for flexibility. I'm hoping those deep stretches will save me from some of the inevitable soreness I'll be feeling tomorrow. I'm excited to try it again soon.

The video is approximately 45 minutes long and will be available for purchase through the Acacia catalog.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Is Yoga the Anti-Religion?

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Last night I watched a documentary called "With One Voice" that featured a group of mystics from fourteen different spiritual traditions talking about Oneness. I was very pleased when my favorite guru, Sadhguru, started the show. Every word out of this man's mouth seems to resonate in me. It all seems so clear and makes so much sense. The basis of the movie was that we (all creatures on this planet) are inter-connected. There is no breaking point at which we, as a person, ends and the universe begins. Sadhguru explained the first time he sat for meditation and could no longer sense "himself" as being seperate from the ground that he sat on or the air that he breathed.

Although I am not yet to the point where I can say I know exactly what this feels like, I can at least grasp this concept of Oneness with the Universe. I was brought up Catholic and always believed in God. Whether I call this power "God" or something else, I believe there is an almighty force responsible for all that is. It's the whole institutionalized "religion" aspect that never did sit well with me.

During the documentary one of the speakers tried to draw the parallel of talking about religion as we would talk about food. Imagine a group of people and each person believes that we should only eat one particular kind of food and they are so sure and passionate that this one particular food is THE right food for us and all other foods are wrong. So you may have the "pizza" person condoning pizza and claiming that all other food is bad and wrong. Then you have the "pasta" person who does the same in favor of their food. How ridiculous would that be? And yet that is exactly what we do with religion.

I went from watching this movie last night to attending a funeral mass this afternoon. Although I was brought up Catholic and even attended Catholic school, I have since fallen away from the church. In fact, you will only find me in one for a wedding or a funeral and today it became clear why that is. The entire mass just seems so meaningless to me. I heard the priest drone on and on with what (to me) are empty words. It's the same words over and over, with the same robotic responses from the parishioners We all stood up, sat down, kneeled down, and then repeated several times. What is that all about anyway?

I sat there and just couldn't help but to think about the fact that my yoga and meditation makes so much more sense to me. Yes, I went seeking for a guru, which I found and learned a great deal from, but I got the info I needed and now I'm on my own. I can sit in my house, on a beach, in a field, in an airport, or anywhere else in the world and go within to experience the Oneness. I don't need a church or a priest. I just don't understand the whole institution of it and it makes me wonder . . . is it because of yoga that I feel this way? Did yoga make me lose my faith in the church? Because of yoga I have opened my eyes to things that I never knew existed. I saught out teachings from a guru that made more sense to me than any bible verse ever could.

Maybe now I understand the controversy surrounding yoga and religion. Maybe now I realize why my local church wouldn't allow me to teach yoga in their gym. A couple of years ago I didn't understand, but it's becoming more clear to  me. I guess what I believe in is that the Universe (or God, or the Source, the Devine, or whatever you would like to call it) is inside of me and there is no need for a middle man. Yes, it makes me a bad Catholic, but it doesn't make me a bad person. If fact, I think it makes me a better one.

If you are interested, you can watch the film here: http://www.withonevoicedocumentary.org/index.htm

And I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this subject. Am I alone with these feelings? Am I the only one that fell away from religion with my increased practice of meditition? If your belief in your religion changed in any way (decreased or increased) since practicing yoga, please leave a comment or drop me a line to tell me about it. I'm fascinated with this subject and would love to explore it further.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who Doesn't Want a Ballet Body?

ballet_bodyA ballerina I am not. Not even close. I don't have much poise and grace, my balance hasn't been very good lately due to my lack of yoga, and my strength is at an all-time low. But I wasn't going to let that stop me from trying out this new Ballet Body Workout.

This new series is a set of three videos: Upper Body, Lower Body, and Core. It was hard to decide where to begin, but I finally settled on testing out the Lower Body one. I should have known right off the bat that a workout that includes what's referred to as the "barre technique" would be deadly. The muscle-sculpting moves are supposed to lengthen the thighs, lift the backside, and sculpt the backs of the legs for sleek definition and a slim figure. The amazing part is how little you actually move. If you just sat back and watched this video you would think it's very easy, but you would be amazed to find out how challenging those little movements are. The greatest words you'll hear are, "Time to put those heels down." There's a whole lot of burning muscles involved, but the good news is that I was able to do all of it, even with no ballet experience at all. The moves are all simply enough (as in  . . . not complicated) that any non-dancer can do it.

The video moved right along pretty quickly. Despite the fact that the entire video is about 55 minutes, the last 13 minutes is yoga-type stretching and believe me, you won't want to skip that part after what they put your legs through. You'll need every minute of it. I don't think I ever appreciated stretching so much.

I am very much looking forward to trying out the other two videos and will be posting my experiences soon.

If you are interested in checking out this Ballet Body™ series the DVDs will be available from Acacia on April 2, 2012 and will cost just $16.99 each.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Easy Ways to Help Simplify Your Life

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 10.43.53 AM

I’m still working on finding ways to simplify my life. That original list of 72 things that I posted a couple of weeks ago can seem so daunting. I started off by picking the 5 things that I would focus on in the short-term. Now I decided to make a short list of the things that I’m already doing. It made me feel good to be able to check some things off the list as “accomplished.”

Establish routines. I am a creature of habit. That is for sure. And I guess it is easier to have established patterns because there is no guessing, or wasting time, deciding what you should be doing when.

Consider a smaller home. I am in the process of doing more than considering a smaller home. I’m actually designing one. Although this consideration process has not helped to simplify my life in the here and now (in fact, it’s creating more work), but I can see how a smaller house would greatly simply several aspects of my life.  I’m ready to get there.

Consider a smaller car. This has been accomplished in a big way. I just traded my MINI Cooper 4-seater for a MINI Cooper 2-seater! A simpler life because of it? Probably not, but it sure is a fun car, bringing me much joy.

Eat healthy. I have to say, after changing my diet recently my trips to the grocery store have been much quicker and easier. I only shop the perimeter of the store (fruits/veggies, meats, and dairy) and I always buy the exact same thing. No more lists, no more aimlessly wondering the isles. Fast and easy.

Create a simple dinner menu.  This picks up where the above item leaves off. Having low carb dinners has greatly reduced the variety of meals we have, which has made dinner prep that much easier.

Exercise. This has been a constant my whole life. Not sure how it’s simplifying my life, but I’m definitely doing it.

Find a creative outlet for self-expression. I’ve always excelled at this one. As a photographer, graphic designer and jewelry maker, I’m constantly using my creative outlets.

Create a morning writing ritual. I just started an evening writing ritual where I spend 5 minutes a day reflecting back on the days events and making a simple list of 5 things that I did. The best 5 minutes of the day!

Carry less stuff. My chronic neck and shoulder problems have forced me to trade in my big purse for a wristlet. Now that my neck problems are fixed, I’m hooked on carrying a tiny purse. Will never go back.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yoga Challenge on Hold

hold200

Well, so much for my 108-day yoga challenge. I got two days into it and I already need to halt. Not sure what I was thinking when I decided to take on this challenge as my first post-surgery exercise, but I certainly wasn't thinking very clearly. I got a little too wrapped up in all the excitement surrounding stepping foot back onto a yoga mat.

The first day of the challenge called for the DVD named "Cross - Train" and I was able to do as many modifications as needed to get through it. I woke up the next morning sore, but it was a good sore - a muscle soreness that reminded me I worked out the day before. I love that sore. The second day, however, called for the DVD entitled "Cardio" and I wondered how they would pull off cardio in a yoga program. I was very much looking forward to getting my cardio back, but in my mind that involved rigorous hiking, running, or even some biking (if the New England weather cooperated). What I entered into with this video was not at all what I had in mind.

Looking back to the torture known as P90X Yoga, it seemed not-so-bad after seeing this program. I managed to muddle my way through about half of it before I had to call it quits. There was simply no way of modifying 20 high speed repetitious vinyasas and I just don't have the upper body strength for that right now. I thought I was being smart and I thought I stopped early enough to avoid any risk of doing stupid things, but after a sleepless night of shooting pains in the back of my neck and more bad (bone) pains this morning I decide that enough was enough. My head was filled visions of the possibility of wrecking my fragile vertebrae and ruining whatever bone fusion has already started. That fear is what kept me awake all night and I couldn't believe that I took that risk so soon.

So I'm sorry to say that I'll need a little more time before getting back to this Ultimate Yogi Challenge. I am so far from being an Ulimate Yogi right now that I had no right thinking I could do it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yoga is Like Riding a Bicycle

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Yesterday was Day 1 of my Ultimate Yogi 108 Day Yoga Challenge and I'm happy to report that I survived! Of course, this morning it might have felt like I crashed my bike and fell down a ditch, but I'm still proud and excited by the fact that I got through my first class (with lots of modifications, of course). My first thoughts and impressions were as follows . . .

First, yoga is similar to riding a bicycle. You really don't forget how to do it and it comes back pretty quickly. It's been nearly one year since I did any real yoga. My neck was in terrible shape for most of last year and not only did that cause me to get very weak, but my flexibility also went down the tubes. Most of my yoga session last night was a bit of a roller coaster, going from, "Oh my goodness, I can't even touch my toes" to "Hey, this isn't so bad. It's coming back quickly (as my fingers were wrapped under my feet in standing bend). There were times when I felt good, like I knew the strength was still there, just maybe dormant and needing to be awaken. That excited me. Then 5 minutes later my arms and/or legs were shaking so bad I thought I would collapse. I constantly bounced back and fourth between feeling good and feeling bad, but I'm well accustomed to riding a bike and I know that you have to be strong, more mentally than physically, to go the distance.

So far I'm impressed with the overall "program" that the Ultimate Yogi offers. Now granted, I only completed one day, but yesterday was the first day that I opened the package. The included DVDs have me intrigued and excited to try all of them. Each DVD is labeled with things like: Cross-Train, Cardio, Vitality, Flexibility, Hard Core, etc. It reminds me so much of P90X in that every day concentrates on a different aspect of fitness. And it's set up similarly in that it calls for the Ab work (Hard Core) 3 times per week, in addition to the yoga class. It's also reminiscent of P90X because I'm curious and eager to see what tomorrow will bring. That is the best part of it - the newness of it all. I love not knowing what to expect during each class and that is also just like riding a bike. Every time I ride a brand new route I find the entire trip to be easy and enjoyable. But, as soon as that same route becomes routine and I start to know every pothole, every hill, every gear I should be in, what time it should take, etc. it suddenly loses its enjoyment. It suddenly becomes a difficult chore. I have a feeling that it's going to take months for this Ultimate Yogi to become routine.

I'm excited to get home to begin my Day 2 challenge.

Creating a Lifetime of Wellness

wellness 
I recently signed up for unlimited online classes at a web site called Universal Class. I was about to purchase one class through a local university when I stumbled upon a great Groupon offering one year of unlimited classes for just about the same price as my one class. The offer was too good to pass up. This place offers a ton of classes and it was hard to decide what class to take first. After much deliberation I finally settled on a "Lifetime Wellness" course. There seems to be no end to my desire to learn as much about wellness as possible.

The course description intrigued me and so far I like it a lot. The first lesson was to point out the importance of trying to simplify our lives. That is something that I've been struggling with forever. I just loved one of the reference links in the course materials: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life.

I was very proud of the fact that I'm already doing many of those things. In fact, I need to make note of all the ones that I am already in the process of doing, but part of our assignment was to pick the 5 goals that we want to focus on. I thought it would be good for me to document what I picked here on my blog so I can hold myself accountable later.

My top 5 goals for simplifying my life:

  • Simplifying my online life. Between my personal social sites, and those same social sites managed for my business, it gets out of control. There seems to be no end to the amount of things you "can" and "should" be doing in social media for business and I have to learn where the limits are and figure out a way to streamline and automate some of this.

  • Clearing my desk.  Both of them home and work. There is no doubt that working in a messy cluttered environment is stressful. I know this, but yet I never seem to make the time to clear my work areas. By the time this class is done, my desks will be cleared!

  • Purging my stuff. I go through my closets twice a year, collecting things to donate to Goodwill, but I need to extend this to the rest of my house, starting with my office and my bookshelves. Having excess stuff helps nobody.

  • Simplify my goals. I always take on too much. Always. I need to be more reasonable with my time and really determine the best ways to spend it. Part of this goal includes learning to say "no" once in a while. That has historically been a problem for me.

  • Live life more deliberately. I rush through just about everything I do without really enjoying it. I exercise like a nut, but rarely enjoy my runs, hikes, or bike rides because I'm trying to go as fast as I can . . . so I can get back home and start the next one. I even approach my yoga practice like a task on my To Do list. Throughout the practice my mind is already on my next task and my eye is on the clock wishing time went faster. That has GOT to stop. I need to work, eat, exercise, drive . . . do everything more slowly.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Five Steps to Quieting the Mind with Sound

 The following article was borrowed (with permission of course) from Conni Kunzler of notesfromayogapractice.blogspot.com. I found it interesting and wanted to share. Thanks Conni.

tree quiet mindIn Ayurveda, simple daily practices, called dinacharya, attend to the five sense organs—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin—the way we take in the world. Just as the foods we eat, the air we breathe, and our visual stimuli impact our mental and physical health, so do the sounds we hear—in our environment as well as the chatter inside our heads.

Sounds We Take In Matter

Sound has the power to change our mood, create or relieve stress, affect our blood pressure, produce endorphins, and build proteins in the body that nourish the immune system. There is a decided physical and emotional response to sound. Think of the unrelenting noise of a jackhammer—or one too many ads on television. On the other end of the spectrum, there is the gentle pulse of ocean waves or the coo of your child.

All things have their own vibrating energy, from trees to stars, and of course our own bodies. And all vibrations have a sound, although some not as audible as others. Within our body, each component, such as the liver or heart, emits a sound creating a small symphony that is you.

Long-term exposure to any particular internal or external vibratory patterns—positive or negative—can alter our own vibrations to the new pattern (called “entrainment”). This is why it’s best to be intentional about the sounds we take in or feed ourselves with our thinking.
woman ears

The Right Sounds Can Heal

Part of attending to the body’s delicate sound system (ears) in yoga and Ayurveda includes the practice of chanting. The accumulated knowledge of the sciences of yoga and Ayurveda are recorded in Sanskrit and for hundreds of years chanting or vocalizing Sanskrit words or mantras has been part of these healing and spiritual practices.

According to Sanskrit teacher Nicolai Bachman, “For millennia the profound teachings of India have been chanted over and over, preserving the essence of their meaning…. [and] forms a direct link to the vibrations of ancient India through sound.”

The human ear and the palate within the mouth hold connections to the body’s nervous system. This includes 82 reflex points located on the hard and soft palates which are awakened by speech and vocalizations. Vocal sound production is also known to affect the vagus nerve, which is key to switching on the parasympathetic (or rest and digest) systems in the body.

The Sanskrit alphabet happens to be perfectly designed for the human vocal apparatus and employs all five mouth positions, activating the nervous system of the body. So chanting a Sanskrit mantra of any length can be especially healing, opening the mind to new energy and grace as well as creating a sense of calm.

A Simple Five-Step Chanting Practice

Recently I’ve attended a yoga class where the teacher incorporates simple one-syllable chanting. Hearing the vibration of several voices repeating the same sound, and my own voice resonating in my body is surprisingly comforting and stabilizing. As a result, I’ve slowly added simple chanting to my personal practice.

According to Ayurvedic doctor David Frawley, much like a yoga posture (asana) brings a certain kind of energy to the body, so do certain Sanskrit sounds or mantras. Mantras are like a pose for the mind.
man a quiet mind

Here's a simple chant if you want to give it a try:

1. Find a comfortable seated position, such as sukasana (easy cross legged position), or another position that is comfortable either on your yoga mat or a chair. Consider finding a spot outdoors to mingle with the sounds of nature.

2. Start with the Sanskrit long vowel “ā” आ (pronounced ah as in “father”). Basically all you need to do is open your mouth and make a sound. It stimulates the first position in the mouth which is toward the back of the throat.

3. Place your hands over your heart if you’d like to remind yourself to keep an open heart and better feel the vibration of the sound in your body. Or, on the inhale reach your arms up toward the sky and on the exhale bring them to your heart.

4. Begin to repeat “ā” with your breath in whatever pitch or volume you choose (or happens). Complete as few or as many rounds as you want. This practice encourages lengthening the exhale, so it should feel calming and quiet the mind.

5. Follow this with a long bout of silence. That is golden.

Friday, January 11, 2013

108 Day Yoga Challenge

ulimateyogiI think I found my answer to getting back into yoga shape. It's been a very long time since I've taught or even practiced yoga. For the past several months I haven't been able to do any upper body conditioning at all and it's completely destroyed all the strength that I've worked so hard to build over the years. So here I am, in the weakest condition I've ever been in and I've been looking for a place to start. I think I found something to get me back to my old yogi self.

The Ultimate Yoga Challenge promises to be the most comprehensive yoga DVD set on the market. It was created and is led by Travis Eliot, a yoga instructor that says he will push your physical limits and beyond during the 108-Day Journey. The program consists of 14 thematic classes and they say that the sequences that will challenge the expert yogi, as well as encourage the beginner. I think at this point I fall back into the beginner category. This will my first time reviewing an exercise program from the perspective of a beginner and I look forward to the new experience.

According to the propaganda, The Ultimate Yogi is more than just a fitness program. They claim it to be a transformational experience guaranteed to improve your quality of life with the addition of meditation and diet instruction. Just like P90X, this is not a quick-fix easy solution to whipping yourself back into shape. I would never believe any program that claims that. Instead this program requires a 108 day commitment and I am very excited about making that commitment. I have spent this first week of my "post surgery recovery period" just trying to get my body moving – simple stretching and light resistance. I am almost afraid to attempt my first down dog, side plank, or even to lift some real dumbbells so I need to be cautious and take this slowly. With any luck I'll be taking this Ultimate Yogi for a test drive next week and I plan to share my experiences with you. Please stay tuned.

And, if you yourself have ever tried this program, please leave me a comment to let me know what you think of it. Or better yet, let me know if you don't think I should be attempting it as my first workout after neck surgery!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Working Out Doesn't Make You Skinny

13-diet-cartoon6I really do believe that working out doesn't make you skinny – eating right does! I'm basing this belief on my experiences over the past 8 months. It all started last Spring when my pinched nerve pain got to the point where it stopped me in my tracks. No more yoga. No more biking. No more lifting. No more most other forms of exercise. Dreadful.

I limped by all Summer with very limited exercise, but that was right around the same time that I changed my diet. I began to reduce my carb intake and tried my very best to stop eating processed foods. It only took two weeks of tracking my daily nutrition using "The Daily Burn" for me to quickly learn where the limits were. I knew what I should and should not be eating to stay within the healthy range of carbs, fat, and protein. This food tracking exercise wasn't easy, but it was educating, and a little hard word is always necessary to get the payoff.

My neck got progressively worse until it finally resulted in surgery. There went two more months of zero exercise. I literally lounged on the couch every day in place of working out and yet I didn't gain a pound. I continued on my reduced carb and very limited process food diet and was able to maintain my weight with positively no exercise at all. In fact, I think I lost a couple of pounds!

I am very thankful that I started this new diet before going through this recovery period and at least now I know for sure . . . I work out to stay healthy and strong. I eat (always making good choices) to stay thin.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Memoir of Love, Yoga and Changing My Mind

May I Be Happy

Now that it’s 2013, many of us are making resolutions to become the best versions of ourselves in the coming year. In her new memoir MAY I BE HAPPY: A Memoir of Love, Yoga and Changing My Mind, renowned yoga teacher and founder of OM yoga, Cyndi Lee suggests that instead of resolutions, all we need to do is be more compassionate…to ourselves.

MAY I BE HAPPY captures one woman’s remarkable journey from the sacred sites of the Indian countryside, to the center of the 2011 earthquake in Japan, to the living room of Jamie Lee Curtis (one of many wise women Cyndi seeks for advice). Though her mission is met with roadblocks, including the challenges of caring for a parent with dementia and dealing with an unexpected deception in her marriage, Cyndi applies the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation to learn that compassion is the only antidote to hate. By being open and genuine about the insecurities all women deal with, it feels as if Cyndi herself is whispering in your ear, “It’s okay to admit this.”

If you would like to read this book before it's even available in stores, please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page for a chance to win a FREE copy. One winner will be selected on Friday, January 14th. (If you comment on this blog, please be sure we have a means of contacting you in case you win.)

About the Author: Cyndi Lee founded the internationally renowned OM yoga center in New York City in 1998. She is the author of several books on yoga, including Yoga Body, Buddha Mind and is a regular contributor to Yoga Journal. Lee and OM yoga have been featured on national television and in print. She teaches OM yoga teacher trainings worldwide.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Make a Fresh New Start for the New Year

clean slateNew Years is really a great time to take advantage of the fresh clean start. It's your chance to reinvent yourself, make some new healthy habits, and/or start a new routine. It's the perfect time to forget about all the things that have held you back in the past or all the reasons why you've been putting off doing the things you want to do. There's no better time like the present to take action and there's no better time than now to start something new.

This year I am taking full advantage of this new start. It just so happens that it coincides nicely with my recovery. I haven't blogged about the details of my recent neck surgery, but at the end of October I had a couple of vertebrae in my neck fused and a metal plate inserted. Oh yes, that was a fun experience! But it was worth all the pain and discomfort because the terrible chronic neck, shoulder, and back pains that have been plaguing me and preventing me from practicing yoga and working out are now gone. I have rid myself of that torture, hopefully for good, and I'm so ready to get back on the yoga mat.

The bad news is that this whole surgery and recovery process has completely erased the great shape that I was in - that I have always been in. Now I'm in a foreign place. I'm weak and fragile and I don't know what to do with that. Where do I even begin to get back to my normal strong and healthy self? This will be a challenge to say the least, but I'm excited to take this journey. I am going to experience an unusual perspective of just how hard it is to "get into shape." Every winter I started my training program with P90X and I fell into it quite easily. I guess it's easy to get into better shape when you're already in good shape, but what is it going to be like to get back into good shape when I've been reduced to weak and fragile? This should be interesting.

I am going to share my journey via this blog. I will document my work-out program and all the steps I'm going to take to gain my strength and endurance back. I would imagine that this won't be overly easy at 44 years old, but I hope that my experience will inspire somebody out there.

Please stay tuned. With any luck I will be slipping off the neck brace and into some workout clothes next week for my maiden voyage. Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Free Shipping for a Limited Time

YogaDudes has some fun new products that would be great little gifts for the yogis in your life and from now until December 14th, everything ships free with the coupon code SHIPMEFREE. Why stop at just Cyber Monday? Let the fun continue for a couple of weeks! Pop over to the shop and check out some of our latest items.

Monday, December 03, 2012

OM for the Holidays Necklace

Spread some holiday cheer by wearing this adorable pendant on your neck throughout the holiday season. You will undoubtedly be the hit of your next yoga class sporting one of these glass pendant necklaces. Regularly priced at $24.99, these necklaces are now on sale for $19.99 and can be found online here.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

YogaDudes December Desktop Calendar

In the hopes of spreading a little holiday cheer, our December desktop calendar is ready for download. Just click on the small graphic above to open the larger version. Once you see the large graphic simply right-click on it to make it your background image. Wishing you a very peaceful holiday season.