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30-Day Yoga Challenge

Hey everyone! It has been a ridiculously long time since I’ve posted anything. Many of you know that in addition to teaching yoga, I am a private teacher for a 9-year-old boy named Charles and so I do a ton of traveling with him and his parents. The last 8 months have been a whirlwind of airports, lesson planning and teaching in an array of locations–both exciting and exhausting!

Recently, we haven’t been traveling as much, which is a much-welcomed reprieve. Most people, upon hearing what I do, tell me how lucky I am and how amazing it must be. And it is, to an extent. But those of you who travel a lot I’m sure can relate that after a while you just want to stay in one place for a while and not think about a suitcase! And so, the first few weeks of fall were glorious; I was able to catch up with friends, TV and sleep! However, the last few weeks of October, I found myself in a terrible routine of staying up late and waking up late, often sacrificing my yoga practice for my couch and The Daily Show and Colbert. While the saying may be that laughter is the best medicine, it appears it can only do so much because I ended up getting sick (and consequently spending more time on the couch!). Then Sandy hit and I officially hit my limit of down-time. I needed to get moving again, and my first step was to get my yoga practice back.

I used to be here...

I used to be here…

...and now I'm here :-/

…and now I’m here :-/


So here’s the deal: I will find time to practice every day, even if it ends up being just a few sun salutations. Then I will blog about my experiences here: where I practiced, the style of the class, and anything new or interesting that happened in my class and my own practice that day. Blogging about this challenge will not only help to motivate me more, since I have now shared my challenge publicly, but maybe it will also be helpful to some of you yogis out there! I’m looking forward to seeing where this challenge takes me both mentally and physically as I share these yoga “snax” with you all!


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Saturday Snax: Avocado Toast

What is better than avocado?  Avocado spread on toast!  One of my favorite things to eat is the avocado toast at Cafe Gitane  on Mott Street in NYC.  And while I’m lucky enough to work in the neighborhood, this treat is just as easy to make from the comfort of home!

A perfect snack.

What you need:

1 Ripe Avocado (Has some give when you press into it, outer skin has darkened)

2-4 slices whole wheat bread (depending on how much avocado you like)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of Salt

Sprinkle of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

To make:

Toast the bread.  While it’s toasting, peel and pit your avocado.  This is done by cutting into the avocado and running your knife all the way around the outside.  Twist the avocado and pull open.  Using a larger knife, remove the pit by swinging the bottom of the blade down onto the pit (it’s all in the wrist!), then twisting to loosen it and remove.  Use a fork or spoon to scoop out the avocado meat into a small bowl.  Mash up the avocado with the fork.  Add the lemon juice and salt and mix.  Spread the avocado mixture onto your toast, then sprinkle on the red pepper flakes to your liking (just remember not to touch your eyes after handling the red pepper flakes!  Not that I have done this…).

Then…enjoy!  Bon appetit!

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Sweets Who Shall Not Be Named

This time of year, there is so much to be done…shopping, traveling, gift-giving…and of course, baking. Baking is one of my favorite past-times, and I do a lot of it, especially during the holidays. Cupcakes, cookies, brownies, breads…You name it, I’ve probably baked it. My friends and family love my baking…But I’ve been keeping a secret. A secret that only a few people know about, that just became easier not to mention because of preconceived notions.

I’m a vegan baker.

There. I said it.

There have been times when saying the word vegan in front of people has felt equivalent to Harry openly saying the name Voldemort. Instead, I’ve used the phrase, “Dairy-free” to describe my baked goods…if anything at all. I do get it; the unknown can be scary. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve tasted plenty of vegan baked goods that left much to be desired. But when done the right way, deliciousness results. So rather than keeping everyone in the dark, I’m going to shed light on my baking practices. You may be surprised by how easy it is and want to give it a try yourself!

1. It’s easy to “veganize” any recipe. For the most part, you’ll just be replacing the butter and eggs. Earth Balance is the best alternative to butter, it’s a margarine that uses non-hydrogenated oil.

2. Depending on what you are baking, there are several options for egg replacements. Cakes and breads are the easiest, because you can just use bananas or (my preference) applesauce, which makes for an extremely moist, delicious cake. For cookies and brownies, there is a miracle product called Ener-G Egg Replacer. It is a powder that, when mixed with water, turns the consistency of an egg white. It’s sole purpose is for binding, you wouldn’t fry it up in a pan to eat like an egg. But the results in baking are fantastic. It can be manipulated in all kinds of ways, depending on the kind of eggs needed in the baking (i.e., egg whites or yolks instead of whole eggs).

Decked in an amazing 70s design, this box is the secret weapon to Vegan Baking.

3. Using egg replacer is also wallet-friendly. Rather than having to buy eggs each time you decide to bake, you can keep this box in your cabinet forever for under $5. Depending on how much baking you do, it can last well over a year.

4. For recipes calling for milk, there are a number of options: soy, rice or almond milk. “Buttermilk” can be made by adding apple cider vinegar to a milk alternative to create a curdled effect.

5. An even bigger bonus of baking egg-free? You can eat the dough without worries of salmonella making you sick! And trust me…it’s just as delicious. Not to mention the health factor that less eggs and butter gives these recipes.

Now that you’ve got the basics, I’ll share my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I gave a container of them to my mom last week, and my dad only managed to get one before they were gone. That said, if you have your own favorite recipe, try veganizing it!


2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup Earth Balance, softened

3/4 cup sugar (I like to use raw sugar)

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

Ener-G Egg Replacer for 2 eggs (see box for mixing directions)

2 cups chocolate chips (Bakers and Ghiradelli both offer dairy-free options…just check the labels and make sure there’s no milk. Cocoa butter is fine)

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda). Set aside.

3. In a larger mixing bowl, cream together the Earth Balance and both sugars until well incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract.

4. Add egg replacer about one egg at a time, mixing well after each.

5. Slowly begin to stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated-don’t over-stir.

6. Add in the chocolate chips and nuts (if desired).

7. Drop tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 minutes.


8. Let sit for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

9. Enjoy!

They may be missing eggs and butter, but they are definitely not missing delicious flavor!

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Taking This Yoga on the Road

Traveling is one of my passions; the feeling of landing in a new city, trying the local food, having crazy adventures. It’s one of the main reasons my new job was so appealing to me. But kind of travel I do is usually pretty hectic, and now it is going to be much more frequent with work travel thrown in he mix. Between long flights, lugging around heavy luggage and lots of walking around exploring the area and culture, my body can take a beating. Yoga is a great way to take care of yourself while your travel. But classes are not always accessible and yoga mats may not fit in your luggage, especially if you’re packing light. So what’s a yogi to do?

Fortunately, there are a few fantastic options that allow you to take your yoga with you, no matter what. There are travel mats that are super thin and able to fold up like a towel, making them extremely suitcase-friendly. Manduka has a fantastic mat (I got mine as a gift from my sister last year and I love it!). It is a thin, no-slip rubbery material that I can take anywhere.

If you want to go even lighter, Gaiam sells gloves and socks with rubber on the palms and soles so you can literally do yoga anywhere. These are also great to use with a mat if your hands tend to get sweaty and prevent you from getting a good grip.

Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable making up your own practice, there are several free podcasts that you an download from iTunes. Yoga Download and Yoga Journal are great. If you’ll have your laptop with you, websites like Yoga Today and Yoga Glo offer full-length classes. Yoga Today has one free class each week, but is only $10 per month for unlimited access to all of their classes.

Hopefully these tools will help you maintain your yoga practice on your travels so you can keep up your energy for your adventures and still feel rested when you get home. Bon Voyage!


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This Present Is For You

One of the goals of yoga is to be present, to live in the moment, rather than constantly planning for the future or thinking about the past.  However, this can be extremely difficult, especially in our world today; there is so much happening around us at any given time, things to do, errands to run and people to take care of, guilt to feel about that thing you said yesterday, and of course we have to plan for our future….But in between all of these thoughts and actions, we are still living in THIS moment.  And in THIS moment there are so many things to notice and be grateful for, both big and small.  That is what yoga is about–taking the time to stop and appreciate those things that are happening right now.  It can be big things like the fact that you’re alive, or that an impending storm blew out to sea, or seemingly little things, such as beautiful flowers growing outside your door, or the fact that your favorite ice cream is on sale.  These are the moments that add richness to our lives, but they’re also the moments that can be so easily overlooked as we plan for the future or dwell in the past.

Yoga teaches us that the only way to be able to fully live in the present is to maintain a constant practice of awareness, which yoga asana (poses) and meditation help us to do.  That is why, after watching this Ted Talk, I committed to spending time on my yoga mat every day in August.  While I already have a regular asana practice, I admit that my meditation practice has been very inconsistent.  I am still fairly new to the practice, and some days it can be pretty frustrating.  There is just so much going on in that brain of mine, where the heck is the off switch??  But the hope is that during these 30 days I will create a ritual that will continue through the fall and beyond. 

Luckily, there are many kinds of meditation to fit people’s varying styles and needs.  There is visual meditation, in which you fix your gaze on a certain point, like the flame of a candle, and focus completely on that.  There is Metta meditation, in which you send thoughts of loving kindness to yourself, your family and friends, groups in need, and even people you don’t like.  Even physical yoga asana can be a moving meditation when the breath and movements are fully connected and the mind is focused.  However, the style of meditation that I find works for me at the moment is mantra meditation, where you repeat a mantra over and over, connecting it to your breath.  The mantra can be anything that means something to you and helps you focus the mind on a singular point during your meditation.

The mantra I’ve chosen to use in my meditation is “So Hum,” which translates to “I am that” or “That I am.” (Maybe this is why I loved the book “Green Eggs and Ham” so much as a kid.)  I find that it works really well with the breath, inhaling on “so” and exhaling on “hum.”  It can be repeated aloud, but I say it in my head.  This mantra has been really helpful to me in my meditation practice.  When my thoughts begin to wander, I can acknowledge them and return to So Hum.  Like this morning for example, my mind looked something like this: “So…hum…so…hum…this feels great, I should blog about meditation later…oh wait, you’re  thinking….so….hum…”  And so on.  The mantra gives me something other than a desperate hope for enlightenment to focus on while I’m meditating.

If you’ve never tried meditation before (or you have and you were too frustrated and gave up) I highly recommend you give it a shot.  As I said, there are numerous different ways that you can do it, and you may have to try out a few styles before you find the one that works for you.  And even that could change over time.  So be patient with yourself, and just take five minutes out of your day (or perhaps even one minute) to start.  Notice how that feels, and slowly start to add a minute or two each day.  You may even find that the benefits reaped from your meditation will flow into other aspects of your life.  At the very least, it will give you a chance to stop and enjoy the moment.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the Dalai Lama.  When asked what surprised him most about humanity, he replied, “Man.  Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future.  He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”

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