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San Francisco: All Good Things ...

January 11, 2009

by Karen Macklin

IMG_2841-1.JPGIt's a tough time right now for the economy, and I have some sad news. Due to budgetary constraints in the new year, Samadhi & the City is being discontinued.

I have so loved writing this column every week for the last year and a half. And I've also loved hearing your thoughts about my posts and your practices, whether you commented here on the site or sent me personal emails. Together, we've looked at just about every aspect of the local yoga scene, from new yoga studios, movies, and books to exciting events, kirtans, cooking classes, and even the presidential election.

Though this blog is coming to an end, I will still be writing about yoga for Yoga Journal and elsewhere. To see what I am up to, check out my website at www.karenmacklin.com.

The Samadhi posts will stay up on the site, as well, so feel free to continue to send comments.

OM!

NYC: Yoga, Dance, and Cutbacks

December 31, 2008

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djoniba_dance_centre_photo2.jpgThe Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre is closing today (so says their latest email). It's sad. They've been hit by the economic crisis--student attendance is down, rents are way up. That place, a not-for-profit, feels magic--I only went for one African dance class with Djoniba himself, but it felt like a latter-day, much-beloved set of Fame. Authentic, danced-in, drummed-in, lived-in. A New York institution that's been there for 15 years. Sigh.

Is this just the beginning? Makes me wonder how yoga will be affected. I haven't noticed a shift in class attendance lately--have you? But it would make sense if we started to see studios offering more community classes, maybe some special cards with softer expiration dates. Maybe some of the way pricey studios re-calibrating a bit.

Sadly I won't be reporting on that here. Yoga Journal has been caught up too and is cutting the local blogs. I've really loved posting on the NY yoga scene the last year or so and am so grateful for all of you who read. I do hope to keep in touch. Let me know if you'd like to join my email list for future updates and new yoga-related writing ventures (valerie AT valeriereiss.com). After New Year's this blog's savasana will commence. Om, shanti, shanti, shanti.

San Francisco: Yoga Your Way Into 2009

December 24, 2008

by Karen Macklin

photographing_fireworks_image-2.jpgPerhaps you already have your sparkly dancing shoes picked out for New Year's Eve, or you're planning to spend the first hours of 2009 in another city (or country) altogether. But if you're still pondering your options for welcoming in the new year locally, you might want to consider doing something mellow and mindful. The winter season is a good time of the year to be quiet and go inside, and the new year is the perfect time to be contemplative about the past, future, and, most importantly, the present.

Here are some local yoga and meditation events to look into on December 31. If you know of any others, please let us know!


tibetanbowls.jpgWhere: Laughing Lotus
When: 10pm-midnight
What: New Year's Eve Midnight Yoga with Kate (celebrating yoga, music, and community)
How Much: $25

tibetanbowls.jpg Where: Integral Yoga
When: 8:30pm
What: New Year's Eve Interfaith Service and Peace Chanting
How Much: See website for details.

tibetanbowls.jpgWhere: Being Yoga
When: 10pm-midnight
What: New Year's Eve Yoga in Burlingame
How Much: See website for details.

tibetanbowls.jpgWhere: Yoga Tree Castro
When: 6:30pm-8:30pm
What: Yoga For the New Year with Janet Stone (and kora master Daniel Berkman)
How Much: $35

tibetanbowls.jpgWhere: Yoga Tree Castro
When: 10:30pm-12:30am
What: New Year's Eve Kirtan and Revival with Rusty Wells (an evening of candlelit with special musical guests)
How Much: $25

tibetanbowls.jpgWhere: Spirit Rock
When: 8:00 pm - 1:00 am
What: Another Year? We Just Had One: A New Year's Eve costume-friendly meditation and celebration hosted by Wes Nisker and Nina Wise with drumming led by master percussionist Barbara Borden and dance music by 5Rhythms DJ diva Davida Taurek.
How Much: $50 - $80, sliding scale, plus a donation to the teacher

NYC: New Year's Detox & Yogi Questionairre

December 23, 2008

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sadienardini.jpgHowever you spend your New Year's Eve, you'll get a detoxing rush from yogi and author Sadie Nardini's uber-vinyasa class with live drumming at Pure Yoga. You'll also do intention-setting and get tips for having a new year with powah (details below). That in mind, Sadie kindly agreed to answer my quick grilling about things like why she teaches, her favorite smoothie spot, and her coolest moment of NYC synchronicity.

If you could sum up the essence of what you would like your students to learn in one word, what would it be?
Fierceness

What's your favorite place to get an after-class juice or smoothie?

Juicy Lucy on Avenue A

What's your favorite asana? Least favorite? Why?
Afternoon Napasana and Seated Cat/Cow tie for most energy restoring, and Plow Pose literally gives me a headache.

What's your most recent yoga triumph?
Press-up handstand, finally

Why do you do yoga?
To be able to endure the intensity of life, and love.

How does yoga help New Yorkers specifically?
It detoxes what they retox through stress, breathing the fumes of a thousand cabs and teaches them how to be the eye of life's hectic storms.

What's the most important yoga tip you'd give non-yogis looking to relax in the chaos?
Be like tea, and change the water you're in: life comes at you, but you have the power to come back at life in any way you choose.

What's your favorite healthy restaurant in NYC?
Angelica Kitchen

Which traits do you most admire in your students?
Perseverance, receptivity and heart

What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen in a yoga class in NYC?
A 116 year-old swami smacking my asana with a stick. Or the pet snake.

What's your favorite NYC-synchronicity moment?
The day I chose a random route home, and without missing a step, walked across an intersection, and pulled an oncoming woman out of the path of being hit by a speeding taxi... by inches.

Music in class? Yea or nay? If so, any rules or preferences?
Yea. No speed metal, polka or square dance. Otherwise, anything goes.

Sadie will be teaching New Year's Day at Pure Yoga from 12-2 pm. Class is $25. Call for info or to reserve a spot: 212.360.1888.

Los Angeles: Gratitude as Attitude

December 21, 2008

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During these crazy times, remember the good stuff.

Owning that attitude of gratitude became an inspiration for my Kundalini Yogi friend Jodi Fuchs and her sister Wendy. The Fuchs sisters, both yogis and artists too, started the Gratitude Art Project (GAP) during a time when Jodi was experiencing some financial hardship. "I knew if I focused on what I had instead of what I was lacking, that might offer the key to unlock more prosperity in my life," says Jodi. The sisters also had wanted to work together as a way to heal, co-create, uplift, inspire themselves (and others) by focusing on the positive that already EXISTS in all of our lives.

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So they distributed a 1,000 postcards via friends and in yoga studios all over the country asking for people to mail back their "gratitudinals". They also started a blog and a Facebook group (The Gratitude Art Project), so they could share all this gratefulness and use it as inspiration to create works of art (pictured here) focusing on big themes like family, health, God, abundance and small thank yous like car seat warmers, great lip gloss, and good coffee.

This grateful theme is also something near and dear to my New York friend and YJ colleague Valerie, who has been blogging about her gratitudinals both big and small, mundane and fabulous, for quite some time.

Thanks ladies. Your attitude of gratitude reminds me that I have lots to be thankful for too. Please share your gratitudinals with Jodi and Wendy either on Facebook or on the GAP website and if you like, post them here.

Sat Nam.

San Francisco: Shop the Yoga Way

December 18, 2008

by Karen Macklin

giftcenter-gifts.jpgIt's a funny thing to be darting around looking for holiday presents, and simultaneously holding tight to your last paycheck (that is, if you are lucky enough to still be getting one). But if there is anything a slow economy teaches us, it is to buy locally and mindfully.

If you are still looking for some last minute holiday prezzies, check out these inexpensive yoga-themed gifts that can all be bought online (meaning: no gas needed). And feel free to write in and suggest some ideas of your own!

+ The beautiful Yoga Studio on Divisadero is now officially a YogaWorks studio. Give a friend a gift certificate for classes there to see what it's like under new ownership.

+ Books are personally one of my favorite gifts to give and receive. Check out local yoga teacher Sarah Power's new book Insight Yoga, or any of the yoga books at local bookstore Green Apple (type in "yoga" in the search box).

+ If your friends like to watch more than read, hook them up with any of the great yoga DVDs put out by San Francisco company Pranamaya.

+ A gift certificate for a massage at International Orange is a great gift at any time of the year, but it's best during the winter months when we all feel cold and sluggish. A massage at IO includes free use of the steam room, too. Ahhhh.

+ Everyone is always up for some new yoga gear. Of course, it's hard to tell if your new girlfriend or boyfriend's booty is a size small or medium. Buy them a gift card at lululemon and let them go crazy.

+ Giggle Fish puts out the cutest eye pillows, which are made locally and smell yummy. Small, inexpensive, and perfectly portable.

+ Grab a new mat bag for that special friend whose old mat looks like a pack of hungry puppies went at it. Oonasera is a Bay Area company that makes yoga mat bags in original designs.

San Francisco: Saltwater Buddha

December 12, 2008

by Karen Macklin

cover1.jpegI met my ex-boyfriend at the yoga studio. When we first started dating, he was doing a lot of yoga. I thought, "Cool, I am dating a yogi!" Then, surf season started.

His practice dwindled down to the few stretches that he would do on my living room floor to release the muscles in his back, tight from all of the paddling. I tried, fruitlessly, to get him back to yoga class. He kept telling me that, during surf season, surfing was his yoga. I was perplexed at the time. Now I get it.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and fellow Yoga Journal contributor Jaimal Yogis sent me an advance copy of his new book Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen Out at Sea. It's the perfect read for those who love the ocean as much as their yoga mats, or for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual practice that is surfing.
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In his funny and poignant coming of age memoir, Jaimal (at left) tells tales of his teenage journey to live and surf in Hawaii, his later short-lived stint as a monk in Berkeley, and his eventual decision to pursue a degree in Journalism at Columbia. Through it all, he keeps returning to the ocean, and drawing comparisons between Zen meditation and surfing, the waves of the mind and the waves of the ocean.

There are many beautiful passages, but here is one of my favorites:

" . . . it seemed to me that what the mind brought forth while surfing a wave was as close as I'd come to Zen. The great ancestor Sengcan described the Zen mind by saying that the subject disappears without objects, objects vanish without a subject . . . Riding a wave, this happened naturally. The wave demanded such hyperfocus, there wasn't room for judging. On a steep, hollow wave, there wasn't even time to differentiate between one's body and the wave. There was only this and this. Just power and presence."

Saltwater Buddha is out in May 2009 (but is available for discounted pre-order now at Amazon).

Los Angeles: Holiday Shopping Option

December 10, 2008

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WHAT: Eco Gift Festival
Over 150 green companies presenting innovative gifts, an organic food court, children's Stage, live music and a speaker series with leading Eco-Preneurs and Visionaries.

WHO: Speakers include:
Arianna Huffington (Founder-Huffington Post), Michael Brune (Executive Director-Rainforest Action Network), Josh Tickell (award-winning filmmaker "Fuel"), Shallom Berkman (Founder-Urth Caffe), Blake Mycoskie (Founder, Tom's Shoes), Eco-designer Linda Loudermilk, Tom Szaky (Co-Founder TerraCycle), Susan Olsen, aka Cindy Brady on the Children's stage. John Marshall Roberts ("Igniting Inspiration, A Persuasion Manual for Visionaries"). Mallika Chopra "The Power of Intent to Affect Global Wellness" plus more.

WHERE: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium - 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica 90401

WHEN: Friday December 12 & Saturday, December 13 - 10:00am-8:00p,
Sunday, December 14 - 11am-8pm.

* 10% of the profits from the show will be donated to select Los Angeles charities, including GLOBAL GREEN USA.

NYC: A Yogi's New Year

December 8, 2008

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fireworks-blog-size.jpgI hate to bring it up so soon, but it really is almost here: New Year's Eve. Ack. I was just getting a handle on this whole "2008" thing. So, what's a cleanish living yogi to do on a night of sloshy drinking and overpriced everything? Here are some thoughts:

1) It's a classic and reliable staple: Jivamukti's New Year's Eve celebration. You can choose your evening ala carte or the whole shebang from: a class with David and Sharon, vegan dinner, kirtan dance party, silence and chanting, and a final talk from Sharon and David. Go here and scroll for all the yogic new year deets.
2) You can either add to the spiritual energy or wash your achey head on New Year's Day by chanting the Hanuman Chalisa at Dharma Mittra's studio. All you can chant, any time between 8am and 7pm.
3) Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to watch the fireworks with a New York tour guide.
4) Take to the streets with New York Road Runners' annual four-mile midnight run through Central Park--there'll be a non-alcoholic toast, plus fireworks and a DJ.
5) Om into 2009 at Laughing Lotus with live music.
6) And if that's not hot enough, sweat yourself silly on the Lower East side at Bikram LES.

Got other tips? How are you planning to breathe into 2009?

Los Angeles: Celebrate Guruji's 90th

December 4, 2008

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B.K.S. Iyengar turns 90 on Sunday, December 14. Come to the new and improved Iyengar Institute and celebrate 90 glorious years with 108 Sun Salutations and chanting too.

"The sun-salutation is a part of daily religious prayer, which comes from time immemorial. Every one, along with offerings and prayers, saluted the sun, since Surya, the Sun God has a tremendous solar energy, which is a vital need for mankind." - Geeta Iyengar

What: 108 Sun salutations for Guruji led by Jim Benvenuto and chanting led by Eric Small

When: Sunday, December 14 at dawn - 6:30AM

Where:
IYILA

Who:
all who wish to honor Guruji -- any level of student, any yoga tradition -- practice one or all the sun salutations, chant and be part of the community.

FREE & Open to all - Chai & sweets follow!

San Francisco: Yoga for Differently-Abled Bodies

December 4, 2008

by Karen Macklin

Ramona_Headstand.JPGThere's a widespread perception in our culture that yoga is for those who are physically fit. I often have friends or family members say to me. "I don't do yoga because I am not flexible" or "maybe I'll try it when I lose weight/heal from my injury/stop feeling depressed." And those are all able-bodied people. People with physical disabilities or serious chronic health conditions often think that doing yoga is about as likely for them as snagging a spot on the US Olympic gymnastics team.

We all know that yoga can be modified for "stiff" people or newbies, but JoAnn Lyons has proven that it can be modified for anyone. JoAnn teaches these two classes weekly at Piedmont Yoga Studio:

+ Yoga for People with Disabilities (Thursdays, 3-4:30 pm)
+ Yoga for People with Special Needs (Saturday, 3-4:30 pm)

The first class is for people with all kinds of physical disabilities, from quadriplegia to cerebral palsy. The second class is for people who have lesser disabilities, like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, MS, or scleroderma. You can also come to the Special Needs class if you are nursing a bad injury, and don't want to give up your practice. Both classes are sliding scale, funded in part by the California Yoga Teachers Association's Yoga Dana Foundation.
Class wMolly.JPG
Recently, I went to assist in one of JoAnn's class and I saw people doing the most incredible things! With a team of staff and volunteer assistants—and a range of props that include a headstander (see student Ramona up top), a yoga sling, cushion wedges, beanbags, and bolsters—JoAnn swiftly directs students into a wide variety of postures, modifying each one for each student's separate needs.

Know someone who thinks they'll never do yoga because of a physical limitation? Suffering from an injury yourself? I highly encourage you to check out the classes. And if you are interested in being an assistant in one of these classes, contact JoAnn to find out about her special teacher training workshop in May.

Los Angeles: Relax Deeply

December 1, 2008

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Taking the time to develop a home asana practice is hard enough. Add a restorative element and you've got another challenge. But for me, restorative yoga is essential, especially during the holidays when designated chill-time keeps me sane and grounded.

Thanks to yogitoes and one of Los Angeles' favorite teachers, Annie Carpenter, the new relaxDeeply CD ($24.95) is a no-brainer path to relaxation. With three options -- the full 73 minutes, a 32 minute moonCYCLE sequence or the sleepWELL 41 minute choice -- Carpenter takes you on a soothing journey that allows you to sink comfortably into poses like Viparita Karani, Supta Baddha Konasana and Balasana accompanied by a mellow soundtrack of Michael Perricone's Tibetan bowl music.

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You'll need props to get the full benefit (a bolster, a couple blankets, a block and a strap should suffice). Carpenter's expert direction and the accompanying booklet that gives detailed photographs helps you to transition from pose to pose to pose.

But if you want to get the full yogitoes rKit, you can purchase all the props plus the CD for $225 (gift idea, anyone?). And I have to say, I think the yogitoes prop line is one of the chicest and sleekest out there, thanks to the vision of yogitoes founder Susan Nichols.

So take some relaxation time this holiday season and let us know how you unwind.

San Francisco: Paul Muller-Ortega and the Tantra Renaissance

November 28, 2008

by Karen Macklin

paulOrtega1.jpgIt wasn't long ago that a mention of Tantra would evoke gasps and giggles from everyone in a room, including the yogis. My own introduction to Tantra, or what was labeled then as "Tantra", was at a yoga school in Southern Thailand where all of the asana instructors read from a script, and all of the dharma talks were about sex. But today, the study of Tantra—as a yogic path, not a means to getting it on—has become widespread and well-respected. And this renaissance is a direct result of the teachings of people like Tantra scholar Paul Muller-Ortega.

Last weekend, I attended a workshop with Paul at Yoga Tree Hayes. He has spent a good deal of his life immersed in spiritual studies, and has focused in more recent years on Hindu Tantra. In class, we chanted the Tantric version of the Gayatri, meditated, and listed to Paul talk about various Tantric principles, like staying open to the mutability of your identity, and spending time in meditation to learn what's really going on inside, and beyond, yourself.

Paul also talked about how we are experiencing a new age of consciousness education right now, and I believe that to be true: I think there is a reason that mind-expanding practices like yoga (and, specifically, Tantra) have become so popular lately. People in the West are starting to more fully investigate themselves, their bodies, and human consciousness. And because Tantra incorporates, rather than restrains the use of, everything that is human—from the intellect to the body and the senses—people in the West seem particularly drawn to it.

Want to know more about the local Tantra scene? Check out the blogs I've written in the past year that have a Tantra bent:

John Friend Talks in San Francisco

The Samavesha Experience

Stacey Rosenberg Teachers Anusara on the Beach

Chris Tompkins' Tantra Studies Class at Rudramandir

Shiva Rea Raises Money for Book on Tantra


Also, Yoga Kula is an Anusara-only yoga school, which has roots in Tantra.


And here's a recent post by LA blogger Stacie Stukin on her White Tantra experience.


Have you been touched by the Tantra bug? Tell us about your experience.

NYC: Yoga Gratitude List

November 27, 2008

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Today I am grateful for....

1) Kula Yoga Project's 7:45 am classes
2) The vegan pumpkin scone I had recently at the Jivamukti Cafe
3) That a new Lululemon is opening on Friday, November 30th in the Flatiron District right near my office (or, um, maybe that is something for the non-grateful, too tempting column).
4) The MELT class Monday nights at the Breathing Project. Hard to describe, wonderfully relaxing to the entire nervous system
5) Souen on 13th Street
6) The Girlie Girl Army newsletters--full of vegan recipes, NYC sample sale info, charity info, and other hip-but-spiritual pointers
7) The Dharma Punx meditation and darshan I went to the other night
8) Organique, an all-organic deli on 23rd street
9) Meditating on the subway
10) You, for reading.

What are you grateful for today?

Los Angeles: Sweet! Relief

November 21, 2008

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Mani Niall is known in L.A. as the namesake of Mani's Bakery -- the wholesome cafe that uses natural ingredients and specializes in pastry that is gluten-free, low-fat, and sugar-free. While he no longer owns the bakery, his cookbook from that time Sweet & Natural Baking: Sugar-Free, Flavorfull Desserts from Mani's Bakery is a staple in my library and highly coveted since it's out print. Lucky for us, Mani hasn't abandoned his mission to develop healthful, satisfying desserts and continues to bake and publish.

His latest book Sweet! could not have come at a better time, especially for bakers looking for something a little different (and more mindful) for the holiday table. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the cookbook this week at Niall's L.A. book signing, where samples of his sweet treats were served. Did I mention the Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche was not too shabby and unbelievably rich and moist?

Sweet! is a great primer for anyone interested in baking with specialty sugars that offer a lot more than just sweetness. And Niall does a really good job of breaking down the flavors and characteristics of different sugars including ethnic varieties like Jaggery (from India), Panela (from Mexico and South America) as well as raw sugars like evaporated cane juice and sucanat. Then there are my favorites: the moist brown sugars like muscovado and demerara.

If you thought there was only one kind of white and brown sugar in the world (and generally the brown sugar you buy in the market is just white sugar with food coloring) and if you didn't know that most conventional white sugars aren't vegetarian-friendly because they are processed using bovine bones, then this is the book for you. It will definitely make everything a bit more sweet.

Any favorite sugars or recipes you love? Share the wealth, please.

San Francisco: Have a Yoga Thanksgiving

November 20, 2008

by Karen Macklin

tofurky.JPGThanksgiving is my favorite holiday and always has been. That's not because of the food or the season or even the two days off from work. I love Thanksgiving for two simple reasons: it's nondenominational and it's about being grateful.

I think of Thanksgiving as a simultaneously fun and contemplative affair, just like yoga, so I thought I would poke around to see what like-minded folks will be doing for the holiday this year. If you don't yet have plans, explore these yogic options:

+ Do the Thanksgiving Renewal Retreat with Chrisandra Fox and chef Meredith Klein at Tara Bella Villa in Sonoma this weekend.
+ Take part in the San Francisco Bay Area Vegetarians Thanksgiving potluck dinner.
+ Attend Joe Naudzunas' 18th annual Thanksgiving Day class at Iyengar Institute, which emphasizes digestion.
+ Join the Integral Yogis for a Thanksgiving celebration and potluck.

Are you eating a turkey or Tofurky this year? Do you do a metta practice on Thanksgiving? Do you do a cleanse afterward? Write in and let us know how the holiday and your yoga practice do or don't intersect.

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P.S. For more thoughts about gratitude or yogic cooking ideas for Thanksgiving, check out YJ's new Community feature. Use the search to find a specific topic (like "gratitude") or go to one of the specific groups (like Yoga and Food). If you join, make sure to "friend" me; my username is karenyoga.

NYC: Gifts for Your Yogis

November 20, 2008

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Wendyloo_Rainbow_thumbnail.gifMaybe you're participating in Buy Nothing Day next week, a day that takes a stance against the rampant consumerism that has become the holidays (this year they're proposing extending that to the entire season). Or not. Either way, you'll probably need to buy gifts for family, friends, colleagues, and others—in an economic mind-set that is decidedly chilly. Here are some NYC-based gift possibilities for the yogis in your life, for under $100.

1) Yoga-inspired jewelry from the Satya sample sale. You'll find lovely trinkets at up to 80% off retail—as in charm necklaces for $35 and earrings for $20 and more. Friday December 12th, 13th, and 14th at the 253 Centre Street store. And if you miss the sale (or can't deal with the sale's many opportunities to practice patience), you can drop by a Satya store for affordable, not-on-sale goodies—and get free henna painting and Tarot readings each Thursday eve in December. Contact them for schedule.

2) A Lululemon scuba hoodie. With a new store opening in the Flatiron District any moment now (they were wildly sweeping and polishing when I walked by today), you'll have a fresh shot at well-stocked merch. And those sweatshirts are just about the comfiest thing I own. About $85.

3) Wendyloo ‘s hand-printed yoga mat bags (at right) made at a women's collective in Brooklyn, are functional and beautiful. $78 at Local Labels.com, a business co-owned by a dear friend that's dedicated to keeping NYC-based manufacturing alive.

4) A donation in someone's name to Bent on Learning, a charity that teaches yoga and meditation to kids in NYC public schools. They work with students throughout the city and have impressive roster of involved yogis. For more info: bentonlearning.org

5) Along the same lines you can pop into ABC Home (after checking out their gorgeous new window displays) and donate through Gifts of Compassion, a program that gets money to charities that do everything from save the planet to help moms and kids in Tibet to buy glasses for children in developing nations. You'll get a card for your recipient in a lovely sari fabric bag explaining the donation. They've also got lots gifts in their Mission Market—like gorgeous beaded animals—whose proceeds support needy populations around the world. For more: ABChome.com

Los Angeles: White Tantric Yoga

November 15, 2008

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Last weekend I signed up to join 478 Kundalini yogis for a one day White Tantric meditation workshop. It was a leap of faith for me and the other White Tantric virgins who, wore all white, covered our heads and gathered in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom on the UCLA campus. Sure there were many who had been there and done that, but for us novices, we had a case of the unknown jitters. (Yes that's me on the right with my lovely partner Regina Gelfo).

The White Trantric tradition was initiated in Los Angeles by Yogi Bhajan in 1970 and ever since, it's taught annually all over the world. Since Yogi Bhajan died in 2004, the wisdom (and the kriyas) are passed via a video-taped series of six to eight meditations lasting anywhere from 11 to 62 minutes. We were lucky enough to have Satsimran Kaur as our facilitator who worked with Yogi Bhajan for many years and helped him prepare the White Trantric tradition for dissemination after his passing.

The purpose: balance the chakras, create an energy force (of 478 chanting, doing asana, meditating and mudra making yogis) to cut through the blocks of the subconscious and release the burdens that plague the mind. Satsimran put it another way. "Kundalini yoga is like liquid plummer. You pour it down the drain and eventually it works. White Tantric is like the roto-rooter guy. He's able to get the job done right away and go were no one else can go."

I was also relieved that Satsimran set an important ground rule, "Don't take it so seriously," she said, "Enjoy and have some fun."
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White Tantric requires participants to work in pairs and while some arrived with partners, others, like me, had to find someone (a stranger) to share this intimate experience. Lucky for me, the minute I walked in the room the lovely Regina Gelfo asked me to be her partner.

Gelfo and a group of her friends came from San Francisco to attend the workshop, as did folks from New York, Spain, England, Colorado, Germany and Hawaii. It was the biggest White Tantric gathering in Los Angeles history and the results were sweet. The day's course was called "Renew to be New" and when it was all done, we did feel renewed. Not because we were all serious and yogi-like but because we shared an awesome experience that shifted our minds and calmed our spirits.

It also inspired tech-saavy Gelfo to make this impromptu Kundalini comic featuring her friend Jiwan Shakti. Are we having fun yet? Definitely. Sat Nam.

San Francisco: Yoga Goes to the Green Festival

November 13, 2008

by Karen Macklin

websmallbend.jpgThis weekend marks the 7th annual San Francisco Green Festival, and yoga is playing a special part. Not only will there be a yoga and movement room onsite at the festival, but on Friday, November 14 at 6pm, Yoga Journal is hosting a demo and discussion panel in the East Hall. Stephanie Snyder (left) will be performing a yoga asana demonstration to encourage non-yogi greenies to start practicing, and Baxter Bell will lead a discussion on yoga as sustainable health care.

So, what's yoga got to do with greenness? Everything. As Stephanie said, when we spoke on the phone about her demo, yoga is about being mindful and aware—and so is protecting the environment. "When people start doing yoga, they just naturally start making more conscious choices," she said. "You start to take care of your body and then, naturally, to take care of the world we live in."

Want to know what your yoga studio is doing for the planet? Ask. Most studios are taking baby steps, and even bigger steps, towards being environmentally conscious. Here are a few local ones that have the planet on their minds.

* Yoga Tree studios recycle and composts everything, even those little paper drinking cups. They also uses green products in the bathroom and changing areas.

* Laughing Lotus refrains from selling bottles of water to discourage the waste of plastic.

* Yoga Garden of San Francisco runs entirely on passive solar panels, is heated with super efficient solar-to-electric fans, and was actually built with recycled materials.

* Greenpath Yoga is participating in the Green Yoga Association's Green Studio Pilot Program. Through this one-year program, the studio is making changes to incorporate more sustainable and recyclable materials into its business operation, and is also helping to author the first Green Yoga Studio Handbook.

Check out this article on greening your yoga practice, and let us know how yoga and environmental consciousness intersect in your life!

Los Angeles: The lowdown on Kombucha

November 10, 2008

by

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Lately, I've been drinking lots of GT's Kombucha tea, without knowing too much about it except that it's fermented, it quenches my thirst and it tastes good (gingerade and guava goddess are my favorites). It's also supposed to have probiotic and immune-boosting properties. But it's not cheap (about $3.50 a bottle) so it's a yoga indulgence.

With the expense in mind, I considered fermenting my own at home but was a little scared because growing bacteria isn't really my forte. When I picked up the L.A. Times this morning, a very informative article about Kombucha confirmed my concerns. When good bacteria goes bad, home-brewed kombucha can, indeed, make you very sick.

The article also explained that the drink is originally a 2,000 year-old Chinese tonic and even though it's revered in many cultures to have healing properties, there are no human studies to back up the claims. But some lab studies suggest it can kill harmful bacteria, increase immune cell activity and help prevent liver toxicity.

Any Kombucha drinkers out there? Or any one with home-fermenting experience?

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