Tag Archives: affordability

My vegetarian timeline

Day 1- This is awesome! I love vegetables! Who needs meat?
Week 2 – Yummmm I love cheese, cheese is my best friend. Mainly eating lots of snacks throughout the day in place of meals (apples with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, smoothies, etc).
Week 3 – Discover some really good vegetarian entrees, but still don’t have a lot of time for sit-down meals.
Week 4 – I REALLY NEED SOME CHICKEN, but I want to stick this out a while longer.
Week 5 – Start feeling kind of yucky. Stomach cramps and other digestive issues.
Week 6 – Eat meat for the first time: a chicken sandwich at Famous Dave’s, where the waiter’s t-shirt said “Vegetarians are free to change their ways.”
Next day – Wind up in the prompt care with abdominal discomfort (fearing a kidney stone or appendicitis), doctor asks me if I’ve made any large changes to my diet in the last month. Tells me to start eating regular meals at regular meal times and stop eating so much cheese.*

So, I tried vegetarianism and I’m very glad I did. I learned a lot of my favorite meals at restaurants (Flat Top, Chipotle, Noodles etc) don’t actually need meat and I prefer the vegetarian version anyway. I am still trying to cut meat out of my diet little by little and eat less of it, decreasing my demand. I’m also trying to make conscious choices. We bought some antibiotic-free, free-range chicken for dinner the other night and it was lovely. More than twice as much as the store-brand chicken full of all the junk ($6/lb instead of $2.50/lb), but we can afford it now and then.

I’m trying to assuage my conscious while also taking care of my belly. It’s about balance – just like everything else, right?

Namaste,
Jamie

*The visit to prompt care was serendipitous, because after going over my current medications, the doctor decided to share her infertility story with me. She couldn’t get pregnant (PCOS and some sort of awful embryo-killing antibody) but ended up conceiving through IVF at the age of 41 and again at the age of 44. What an incredible story!

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Fly yoga!

That’s right, I went to Chicago with my friend Stephanie this weekend and took a fly yoga class! I know you’re all excited to hear about it, so I’ll get down to business.

We arrived at the gym early, so the guy at the front desk encouraged me to pick out a hammock. Stephanie and I went up to the studio and got to play around for a bit before class. Here are some pictures before I really knew what I was doing.

As people started showing up, I got a bit nervous! The class was full, and about half of us were newbies. The instructor, Brent, started with the stats about how safe we were. The hammocks are connected to the ceiling with climbing equipment (“it’s what rock climbers use to keep them from falling off a mountain”), and is tested to hold up to 1000 pounds. The hammocks themselves are made of the same fabric that the Cirque de Soleil silk dancers use, and also rated for 1000 pounds. Then he customized the height of everyone’s hammock. When you pull down on the bottom of it, it should just reach your hip creases, so some needed to be raised or lowered.

We began in savasana…inside the hammock. To get in it, you pull down and jump in with your butt first. We floated on our backs and tried to relax and breathe. Then we did some simple leg stretches and sat up. We started with some stretches and forward folds using the hammocks as leverage, then moved to  jumps that looked like this:

He had us jump ten times, and then hold for 5 counts. My arms were not quite up to the challenge, but it was still fun. Some of the veterans could jump up and flip over backwards!

We did a standing series with the hammock under the front knee in warriors, then we used it around our bent leg in a standing tree and pigeon. We did some gentle inversions, then he led us into a backflip from plow pose. You go into plow with the hammock, then let your feet drop back over your head, onto the floor.

At the end I did (believe it or not) my FIRST EVER handstand. There is a very precise process to get into an anti-gravity handstand, which I try to demonstrate here in the pictures:

Mainly, you have to start with bent elbows and bent knees, and straighten them both at exactly the same time. You can also do a no-hands handstand

or play around and do something silly like this

All in all, I thought fly yoga was incredible. The hand stand was my favorite part, but I also liked the warriors and the plow flip. I would have liked to take more pictures afterwards to show you what pigeon, tree, etc looked like with the hammock, but to be honest, I was exhausted after class! The room is not air conditioned and the fan was turned off, I guess so we could burn more calories, but I deeply regretted the pants and was thinking longingly of my capris. The holds in the first picture took an incredible amount of arm strength that I don’t exactly have, so my arms were really tired and felt like jelly afterwards! I got a lot of great pictures (thanks Stephanie!) and then I was ready to find air conditioning, peel off my tank top, and wash my face before we spent the day sightseeing.

This kind of class would never replace my yoga practice, but it would be a fun way to supplement it with added strength training. Unfortunately for me, this gym is the only one in the midwest that offers suspension yoga and it’s a bit far (2 1/2 hours ish) to do regularly. Not to mention, the drop in rate for the class is $24!

I hope I answered all of your questions about fly yoga! If you ever get the opportunity to take a class, I’d encourage you to go for it.

Other highlights of our trip to Chicago:

Tribune Tower at night

view from the John Hancock observatory (that's the Sears Tower in the far back)

Millennium Park at night (the bean)

view of the skyline from Lake Michigan

Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

Highlights not pictured: our hotel room on the 27th floor, two glasses of sangria and yummy pad thai at the Big Bowl, watching a drunk guy get kicked out of the Big Bowl (but not before he hit on Stephanie and me), the night life on Rush street, Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, breakfast at a cute diner in Lincoln Park, unintentionally driving the Magnificent Mile.

Namaste,
Jamie

Product Review: prAna capris

image from prAna, reproduced at marthastewart.com

A while back I wrote a post about my need for new yoga clothes. The response was overwhelming. Readers who had never introduced themselves before weighed in on the issue, and my regular readers (love you guys!) had a lot to say, as well.

One brand I did not mention in the post was prAna, but Babs kindly brought it to my attention (thanks Babs!). Unbeknownst to me, a prAna representative was reading my blog, too. He was surprised and pleased to see the conversation I stirred up, and contacted me to offer a 50% discount on the pair of pants of my choice! Whoo hoo! He and I had a nice chat over the phone and I ended up choosing the Diane Capri.

I have been in love with these capris since I received them. I ordered a size medium, which fits perfectly. I have taught several classes in them, worn them to class when I was not teaching, and even worn them out to run errands. They are awesome. I know you’ve all seen this handstand photo before, but it’s the best one I have of me wearing them. I am not a very good pants model : )

I think my favorite thing about these capris is the compression. They do just enough to pull me in where I need it (hips, thighs), without feeling tight in any way. They were being washed when I went to class this past Monday, so I wore an old pair of Target pants, and I definitely noticed a difference after exclusively wearing the Dianes for the past couple of weeks. My old pants feel thicker and bulkier than my prAnas.

Another cutesy thing about this product is a tiny hidden pocket on the waistband. Just big enough for one key or a few dollars, it’s not disruptive to movement but will probably come in handy sometime. I have washed the capris once and they held up wonderfully on their first wash, which I hope will continue.

The price of the Dianes is $65. This is a little less than average when you look at similar lulu ($64-86) or lucy ($58-88) products.

I am very thankful for the discount, which allowed me to wet my toes with the prAna brand without spending full price. To be perfectly honest with you, I still think $65 is a lot to spend on one article of clothing. I am a frugal shopper and more often than not, my entire work outfit adds up to about that much, including bra and shoes.

However, if you’re ready to bite the bullet and spend a little more on some yoga clothes, this is an excellent brand to start with. You will not be disappointed in the product. Not to mention, the customer service I received ordering over the phone was friendly, helpful, and efficient, and I received my package in no time.

My first experience with prAna was so positive that I will surely be shopping there again!

Namaste,
Jamie

It’s easy being green, and it can be cheap, too

The problems our earth is facing can be overwhelming. To make matters worse, there are advertisers beating down our doors trying to convince us that we have to spend more money to help the environment.

Nowhere in the “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” mantra does it say “buy something that costs twice as much as it should”.

There are ways to reduce consumption and help planet earth without spending more money and more time. This has become especially important to me in the past year, as I learn more and more how interconnected the world is and how seemingly small actions have unintended consequences.

I thought it would be helpful to post the things Andy and I have started doing recently. They’re easy, affordable tips that don’t even require very much effort. We have carbon footprints just like everyone else, but this is how we’ve been trying to treat the world with a little more kindness.

  1. Stop using disposable things. I used to use a paper towel to eat small snacks, then I realized that it only takes me about 10 seconds to wipe off one of my dinner plates, and costs me only a drop of dish soap and a tiny bit of water. Paper towels cost money and take up space in landfills. As soon as we cut down on our paper towel purchases, I immediately noticed a decrease in the number of bags of garbage we put out every week.

    The worst offender of the disposable lifestyle is bottled water. Drink tap water out of a reusable bottle. Or, if you live in a place where the tap water is sanitary but kind of yucky (like we do), purchase a filter for your kitchen faucet, or a pitcher with a filter that can be re-used.

Next up on the war against disposables: dryer sheets.

  1. Use less plastic. Our poor Mother Earth is aching from our plastic use. Throwing plastic into the recycle bin instead of the trash bin helps significantly, but still doesn’t solve the problem. Check out this old post of EcoYogini’s about Why Recycling Doesn’t Cut It. Every time we recycle a bit of plastic, it is downgraded and less and less of it can be re-used. Not to mention all the energy that goes into creating the stuff.This is a tough one because plastic is everywhere. It’s ubiquitous as far as packaging goes, and it can be very convenient. I don’t have a solution to this, but being aware of the problem is the first step. When I have a choice between purchasing juice in a plastic bottle and a glass bottle, I choose glass. The price difference is negligible, and every little bit counts.
  2. Clean your cleaning products. A big part of being environmentally kind is to put fewer chemicals out there for our neighbors to breathe in. A couple of years ago I was cleaning my apartment bathroom (read: no ventilation) with my old favorite cleaning product: scrubbing bubbles. Halfway through the process I realized my throat and lungs were burning from breathing in those cheery little bubbles. Why should I clean my bathroom with something that makes my eyes water and my throat burn?We have since switched to using warm water and vinegar for cleaning. I have heard you should add essential oil, as well, to disinfect and make it smell a bit better, so I’ll try that soon. We have beautiful 110-year-old hardwood floors in our home and this cleaning solution works just as well as anything else we have tried.I used to love those Clorox wipes, which were even more convenient than paper towels. But they’re disposable, not to mention they come in bulky plastic cylinders. Using old t-shirts and dishtowels for cleaning is less expensive and less wasteful. Using a regular mop instead of a Swiffer means you don’t have to throw out a Swiffer pad every time you clean. These are affordable switches that don’t cause much more hassle, if any.

Here are some great resources if you’re interested in greening your life but need to see it in practice:

Namaste,
Jamie

Wanted: Yogi Fashion Police to the Rescue.

Back when I was just a wee blogger, I wrote a post decrying the affordability (or lack thereof) of yoga. Reading it now, I still think I raise some good points, but I regret the smug feeling of satisfaction I got tearing apart lululemon and their sky-high prices. I proudly proclaimed that I practiced in $15 yoga pants from Target and Old Navy and, gosh darnit, that’s all anyone needs anyway.

Well, I take it back. I take it all back. I need fancy yoga clothes.

When I wrote that post, I was going to class once or twice a week. Now, I go to class once a week and teach three or four times a week. And I NEED NEW YOGA CLOTHES. And I need the nice stuff.

I still like my $15 Target and Old Navy pants. It’s just that when you only have two pairs of yoga pants you can stand wearing to get up in front of a group, and you wear them all the time, then you wash them all the time…well, they start looking downright yucky.

Yesterday I went to class in the following: faded black Old Navy yoga pants (fit well but look dingy), a blue Target athletic tank with built-in bra for support, that actually does support and stays down in down dog (I have exactly one of these), and because I’m too modest to wear the tight, bare-it-all tank top alone, a baggy gray t-shirt that says “I <3 boobs” (purchased for $5 on the quad in college during Breast Cancer Awareness Month).

I’m surprised I was allowed into class by the fashion police. And this is not out of the ordinary, unfortunately.

Here’s the thing: I acknowledge that I need new yoga clothes. I even acknowledge that I need the good stuff that can last years and withstand lots of washing. But I still can’t get over the sticker shock. I make money teaching yoga now, but that money either goes into the savings account for the hubs and me, or it goes to pay for yoga trainings. I do not have $50-$100 left over to spend on A SINGLE PAIR OF PANTS. (yes, the caps lock is necessary, because I’m yelling here. $98 for ONE pair of pants!!!! LULU! You’re killin’ me!)

Also, I struggle with ordering yoga clothes online because my body is not shaped like the typical yogini’s. So who knows what will fit? And the idea of spending $50-$100 on one pair of pants goes from unpleasant to downright painful when I consider shipping them back and forth across the country just so I can get the right size to fit my rather sizable @$$ (sorry grandpa, if you’re reading this).

So here is where I stop being philosophical and get shallow and materialistic. Here are the items I am currently looking at. From lucy.com:

Hatha power pant $88

Vital pant $68

From zobha.com

Essential Hi-Rise pant $80

Sophia tank - $58 (babs loves this one, I know)

From athleta.com (where they have the model with such an advanced six pack I thought she was a man for a moment):

Organic Cotton Salamba pant - $69

Chakra tank - $49

So, yogi fashion police, I need you. Are these way-overpriced clothes worth it? Are some of the clothes I’ve picked out better than others? I need the honest truth.

Curvy yoginis, I need your help too. If you have hips and a booty to squeeze into black spandex, I could use your suggestions on what works and what doesn’t.

I would like to stop going to class in baggy t-shirts and gray pants that used to be black.

And if you have any coupons to throw my way, I’d appreciate it ; )

Namaste,
Jamie

Ups and Downs of YogaFit training

I am a yoga teacher in training.

If you are a yoga teacher reading this, I’m sure you have far more training than I. You probably went somewhere far away for weeks at a time, or else spent every weekend for a few months devoting yourself to your YTT. You probably spent a few thousand dollars and experienced something truly life-changing. You know the intimate details about the doshas, the chakras, the yamas and niyamas, the Bhagavad Gita, all of the many, many poses (in English and Sanskrit), all of the different types of salutations and pranayama, etc, etc, etc and the list goes on.

I do not know all of the details about all of those things. I know the basics. I have chosen a different type of program: YogaFit.

The YogaFit RYT 200 track includes the following classes: Levels 1-5, Level 1 retrain, Level 2 or 3 retrain, Anatomy and Alignment, YogaFit Seniors, and either YogaFit pre/post-natal or YogaFit Kids. So far, I have attended Levels 1 and 2, and I will be attending Anatomy and Alignment in July.

Why did I choose this non-traditional, more mainstream version of Yoga Teacher Training? There are a few answers:

  1. Cost. Other YTT programs I have found cost upwards of $2,000-$3,000. Each YogaFit training costs around $400 plus travel and required materials (with the exception of Level 4, which costs twice as much). As half of a newly-married couple, $400 is hard enough to come up with at one time – something in the four digit spectrum falls into the category of “cost-prohibitive”. Spreading the cost out makes training accessible to me.
  2. Time. The YogaFit program allows you to complete your 200 RYT in one year, five years, or however long it takes you. All of the trainings are two-day weekend trainings, and I can usually find one within three hours of my home (again, Level 4 is the exception – it is only held at certain conferences, is four days long, and will require a lot more travel). This means less time off work and no deadline to get everything done.
  3. Approach. The YogaFit program fits in with my idea of accessibility. They do not require you to show documentation of all the impressive people you have practiced with. A lot of people take Level 1 just to further their own practice, with no intent of continuing. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do a handstand. There is no feeling of being not good enough to teach yoga.
  4. Commitment. The three things I have already described combine to make Level 1 a pretty un-intimidating event. It’s a few hundred dollars and one weekend. If you go and you hate it, or if you go and find out teaching isn’t for you, you aren’t out a month of your life and several thousand dollars. You also don’t have to wait until you feel like a yoga superstar to begin your training. You can grow in your training as you grow in your practice.

Once I went to Level 1 last October, I decided I was interested in continuing on with the program. I went to Level 2 in January, and I have a rough goal of attending a training every six months or so.

However, YogaFit is like anything else in life – it has its advantages and disadvantages. You go to the trainings, you take away the parts you like, and you leave behind the parts that don’t sit well with you.

The only problem I have with the choice of training I made is this: sometimes I feel like a fake. I don’t know as much about the intricacies of yoga, because I am still learning. I didn’t go to India and study in an ashram. I haven’t read the Gita. I haven’t been practicing that long, in the scheme of things. There are questions I don’t know how to answer. Sometimes I wonder if I should be waiting until I take all of my training to start teaching.

But then I remember that the teacher who helped me fall in love with yoga had no formal training. And I think it would be silly to hold myself back from doing something I’m passionate about for some silly reason that stems, deep down, from my own insecurity.

So I don’t have thousands of dollars right now to travel to far and distant lands to learn this stuff – that doesn’t make me less of a yogini.

So I can’t quite master bakasana – that doesn’t mean I can’t teach it.

So it takes me five years to earn my RYT – five years is the blink of an eye anymore.

So I don’t know the answer to a detailed anatomy question a student asks me – I can look up the answer when I get home. That’s what e-mail is for.

Because I am a lifelong student of yoga, and I am a yoga teacher in training.

I am still learning.

Namaste,
Jamie

Yogaglo!

I read about yogaglo on EcoYogini’s blog at just the perfect time. I was in the middle of a yoga slump, and tempted by the thought of quitting the gym. Introducing: yogaglo! For all of your practice-at-home needs! (enough links for you, there?)

So far, I give yogaglo an A+.

For those of you who don’t know, the yogaglo studio is located in Santa Monica, California. It’s a real live yoga studio with real live teachers and real live people of all levels who come in to practice. The only difference is, there’s a small camera in the back of the studio that records each class. About 24-48 hours after a class concludes, it gets posted on the website.

For $18 a month (or one and a half classes at the fancy studio in my area), you have unlimited access to the classes they post. You can take as many as you want, at any time of day. Classes are organized by teacher, style, level (1, 2, and 3), duration (from 5 minutes to 125 minutes), and category.

The advantages and disadvantages of yogaglo are closely intertwined with the advantages and disadvantages of a home practice. But since I began both at the same time, they have become one and the same for me, so I’m going to review them together here.

I think the main advantage of practicing at home is the lack of inhibition. I feel like I can take more risks in the comfort of my own home, whereas in a studio I might be too afraid of losing my balance, or just looking weird in the pose. I also talk out loud to myself and to the instructors, which is kind of funny. Usually, my hubby is in the next room writing, and I think he gets a kick out of my commentary.

Another advantage: yogaglo has LOTS of variety. They have so many different instructors and styles that I feel like I can practice for months without repeating a class unless I want to. I have been doing primarily 30-minute sessions, and they have a limited number of classes that are only 30 minutes. But I have gotten into mixing and matching classes: a 10 minute Vinyasa warmup and a 20 minute Anusara class. A 5 minute “yoga at work” stretch and a 25 minute Vinyasa class. The classes with shorter durations are almost always selections from 60 or 90-minute classes, and I applaud the site’s administrators for pulling out the warm ups and cool downs as separate sessions. People like me really appreciate that!

In one way, having the teacher in a tiny version on the laptop is actually preferable to being in a studio: you can move the teacher around! It’s awesome! If my laptop is in standard “class format” in front of me, and I know we’re going to be working on shoulderstands, I just move the computer right up by my head. No more craning awkwardly around my own body to see the instructor. Very cool and, if you pardon the lit-geek part of me, postmodern!

There are some cool things customizable to an account. Yogaglo donates 5% of their profits to non-profits, and I can choose which of the three I want my dues to benefit (they hope to add more organizations later on). Also, the account is portable. If I go visit my parents or am staying with a friend, I just find a computer with internet access and log in, and there’s my studio. They also have a commitment section, where it automatically logs your yogaglo hours, and you can log how much you practice elsewhere. They have a visual representation of a flower that “glows” when you reach 3.5 hours a week.

Of course, practicing at home also has its disadvantages. I feel much more prone to distraction than when I’m in a studio. While lying in savasana, I’m more likely to notice things like the paint job in the yoga room, the sound of the washer stopping, my cell phone buzzing in the other room, an errant toenail that’s annoying me. And there’s no one around to be annoyed when I stop the class to answer the phone (which I haven’t done yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time).

I also feel pretty distracted just by having my laptop there with me. My laptop does not represent yoga – it represents email, facebook, and other compulsive time-wasters. If I’m not feeling engaged or challenged, it’s easy to wonder about my inbox in the meantime. I don’t like this technologically obsessed side of me, but it’s there, so I’m accepting it.

Of course, the main disadvantage to any home practice is the chance that you’re settling into bad habits. It’s always good to visit a studio now and then to have someone keep an eye on your alignment!

For those who are interested, here is a complete list of categories offered by yogaglo:

Categories:

108 Sun Salutations
Absolute Beginner
Advanced Practice Anusara
Advanced Practice Vinyasa
Arm Balances
Backbend
Bhakti
Core Strengthening
Deep Relaxation
Gentle Yoga
Hip Opener
Inversions
Meditation
Partner Yoga
Pranayama
Restorative
Seated Poses
Shoulder Opener
Standing Poses
Sun Salutation Series
With Live Music
Workshops
Yin
Yoga at Work
Yoga Nidra

Namaste,
Jamie