Tag Archives: ahimsa

Happy Blogoversary to me!

One year ago today I created this adorable little blog. I have made so many friends through it and it’s been extremely fun. But instead of celebrating myself and my blog on this, my blogoversary, I decided to give out some awards to my fellow yoga blog friends, who make blogging extra fun.

So here they are – in no particular order.


The Ahimsa in Action Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Lisa at Eco Yogini in Halifax, Novia Scotia. She makes ahimsa (non-harming) her top priority every day by striving to be kind to the earth and sharing her journey with us. I especially adore her blog for her sense of humor and personal “overshares”. Also, she’s a newlywed! Congrats!


The Blog Commenter Extraordinaire Ribbon goes to Emma at The Joy of Yoga in New York. She is nearly always the first person to comment on my blogs and always has something witty to say. I love Emma’s blog because she posts creative sequences and heartwarming, funny stories about teaching yoga.


The Sass-asana Certificate clearly goes to Y is for Yogini in California. She manages to stay upbeat and lighthearted while always touching on real issues…with a generous helping of sass. Her tweets make me laugh and her ribbing of the boy yogis around us is good-natured and entertaining!


The Superwoman Medallion is awarded to Rachel at Suburban Yogini in Cambridge. Rachel is superwoman because she blogs more than the rest of us combined. It’s always thoughtful, composed, and honest over at her place. She’s already an accomplished yoga teacher, vegan cook, and partner, and is on her way to being a massage therapist.


The Kick-asana Commemorative Coin goes to The Misanthropic Yogini at Damn Good Yoga in Texas. Because seriously, go look at her asanas! She also maintains a kick-asana and enviable dedicated home and meditation practice while balancing the duties of teaching yoga with school, work, and life.


The Balanced Beauty Plaque goes to Heather at Namaste Heather in Ohio. There’s lots of beauty in this blog. Her ideas are beautiful and so is she, and she’s constantly witnessing the beauty around her. She juggles it all as she strives for balance between personal and professional.


The Million Miles Away Medallion goes to Bree at Yoga Gypsy in East Timor. Because she’s a million miles away but also feels like she could be my next-door neighbor. I love reading about life in East Timor and the important, interesting work Bree does.


The Change You Can See Commemorative Patch goes to Emma at Des hauts et des bananas in Brussels. Emma is using her talents to change the world one day at a time. She’s taking her life by the reins and trying to make more of herself and live up to her potential.


The Orange Awesomeness Award goes to Babs at Babs Babble in Montana. Orange is her favorite color and her blog is just full to the brim of awesomeness. She’s feeling out her way as a teacher and gaining quite a following.

There are lots of other awesome bloggers, but these are the ones who have been there since the beginning (or nearly so) of my blog journey. Thanks ladies!



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?


*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!

Veggie update – day 10

Well I just wrapped up my tenth day with no meat. So far, the experiment is going very well. To sum up what I’ve learned so far:

  • The only thing I miss about meat is the convenience of meat. It’s always readily available and ordering a meal with meat at a restaurant is very easy. Planning veggie meals takes more forethought and careful studying of the menu. I don’t miss the taste of meat at all, and I don’t feel like my diet is lacking anything.
  • There is always something vegetarian on the menu. Always. Sometimes it’s a plate of onion rings and hey, what a great excuse to eat onion rings for dinner! Other times it’s salad and hey, what a great excuse to be healthy instead of ordering a cheeseburger!
  • Things that I’m used to eating with chicken don’t need chicken. I made a perfectly delicious and filling stir fry at Flat Top Grill last weekend with just veggies and rice. I was surprised that the meal didn’t feel like it was “missing something”.
  • When eliminating a food group, it’s very important to pay attention to your diet. When you eat a meal of primarily carbs, you have to follow it up with some protein or else you’ll feel like crap later. Lesson learned.
  • Switching to a vegetarian diet instantly made me more health-conscious. There’s always that extra step in your brain when you see food: “Is there meat in that?” It only took a few hours for additional questions to follow: “What exactly is this made of?” I’ve been doing a lot better at cutting processed foods from my diet and eating more nuts and natural snacks. (Of course I just admitted that I ate onion rings for dinner so I’m not exactly the picture of health)

  • It would take me years to adjust to being vegan, and I don’t think I’d ever be happy. Although I love my vegan breakfast of almond milk over granola, I have very much enjoyed my cheese. How do you vegans do it?
  • I’ve tried some new yummy things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. One highlight was the mango quesadillas I had tonight. YUM!

No decisions yet on if this is a permanent change or not. Maybe I’ll take it month by month for a while : )

Have a great weekend!


30 Days of Vegetarianism

For the month of September, I am going to “test-drive” vegetarianism.

why is this topic full of such hatred?

As it stands now, I only eat red meat once or twice a month. This is not due to some moral superiority, but because I don’t like red meat except in two or three dishes (a cheeseburger is one). I have never liked steak, and I don’t care for much pork. Again, I’m not smug about this – if anything, I wish I liked more meat because it would help my husband be more adventurous in the kitchen. And I make up for it by eating an enormous amount of chicken.

I have never tried to be a vegetarian before, and I’m curious to see how easy or difficult it’s going to be. I realize my motivations might be completely different from other people’s, but for better or worse, these are the two reasons I would consider someday eliminating meat from my diet:

First: I am an animal lover. I know this sounds cliché and childish to many people. But to me it is a very real thing. I think about how much I love my two dogs, and then I look into the eyes of a pig at a county fair.

I’m not convinced there’s enough of a difference there to create the distinction we are all so comfortable with.

At the same time, I know that every person sees the world through a unique lens and I understand other people don’t feel this way. It’s a luxury to live in a country where you can choose not to eat meat and still survive.

The second reason: I am frustrated with the agriculture industry in this country. I don’t feel like I am educated enough to speak on this topic…which is one of my points of frustration. There are so many problems with the situation that it’s hard to know where to start and whom to listen to. I have no interest in reading a pamphlet that vilifies meat eating or scoffs at vegetarianism, because I respect everyone’s dietary choices.


This problem extends far beyond meat products, as we know from the near-constant recalls of our vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc. In the United States in 2010, people should be able to go into a grocery store and purchase groceries that will not make them ill. This is something I firmly believe, and it doesn’t sound like an outrageous expectation. The beauty of this nation is that people can pursue all sorts of careers instead of attending to the task of trying to raise their own foods. (For instance, working full-time and teaching four yoga classes this week!)

Similarly, not everyone has the money, time, or resources to attend farmer’s markets or drive out to nearby farms and buy locally-grown food. I’d be happy to explain to you why these actions are a luxury of the middle-to-upper classes.

But I’m getting off track here. The point is: people should be able to purchase food in the grocery store that doesn’t make them sick. But even the foods that don’t make us ill are suspicious. The chicken breasts are oddly large and the apples are three times as big as they were when I was a child, yet strangely have less flavor. I don’t have to read up on the subject to know something is going wrong.

Giving up meat for a month will do absolutely nothing to change any of this, and I am completely aware of that. But I do hope it makes me more mindful of what I’m eating. I hope my body talks back and tells me how it feels about the situation. I hope to learn something. Follow me on twitter if you’d like to stay in touch with my project. Who knows, maybe more food projects lie ahead: a month of gluten-free meals! A month of no dairy! A month of no chocolate (yeah right)!

If anyone has any unbiased sources information on the topic, please share. I’d also love to hear your omnivore-vegetarian-vegan-related thoughts in the comments.


Buying a new yoga mat

When I first started practicing yoga, it was exclusively in places where mats were provided. I never thought I needed my own mat, but one day I got stuck with a stinky one for a 75-minute class. Yuck.

I got my first mat for Christmas, as a gift from my parents. I was so excited!!

I love this picture - I look thrilled and Izzy looks confused.

When I started YogaFit training (nine months ago), I received a new mat. My treasured pink mat was relegated to “spare”, which I now loan to students in my private classes. I use my YogaFit mat exclusively, and it’s already flaking like crazy. Flaking isn’t a huge deal to me – my dog Rocky sheds a lot anyway, and the mat bits just come off when I lint roll my yoga clothes. But I think I spend enough time on the mat to justify buying one for the first time.

There are two big things to consider when purchasing a new mat.

First: how are you going to reuse your old one? Throwing it away means it will take a bajillion years to degrade in a landfill – if it ever does. Luckily, I have all sorts of yoga plans in my future which means I will be hanging on to both of my old mats for the time being. I know they will come in handy some day.

Second: what is most important to you when it comes to a mat? Stickiness? Attractiveness? Size? Brand? Price? Since this is the first time I get to research my own purchase, I’m taking the task very seriously. I’ve decided my two most important qualities are 1) Eco-Friendliness and 2) Stickiness. I want to make sure new my mat is made in the least harmful way possible, and I want it to actually stick to the floor. Otherwise, I won’t use it and no matter how Eco-Friendly it is, it’s wasteful if it sits in the corner.

Eco Yogini has written a lot about buying an eco-friendly yoga mat: here, here, and this post about ways to re-use your mat. The most important thing I’ve found is that just because a mat says it’s eco-friendly, doesn’t make it so. Some eco-friendly mats still use TPE (Thermal Plastic Elastomer), which we have reason to be wary of (check my links to EcoYogini for more).

The mat I am currently considering is prAna’s Natural Yoga Mat. It’s made of rubber, which is more sustainable than man-made plastic. prAna is famous for their Revolution Natural Sticky Mat, but it’s so large that I just can’t bring myself to buy it. I teach in relatively tight quarters twice a week and there’s just no room for it! The Natural Yoga Mat seems to be my best choice.

What decisions go into your yoga mat purchases? Do you have a Natural Yoga Mat by prAna? Any mat brands to avoid?

PS- more ways to reuse your mat here, here, here, here, and here. Now you have no excuses! : )


Facebook, ahimsa, and love

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” -Plato

Lately, I’ve been thinking about ahimsa, (doing no harm) as it pertains to our words.

Those of you who follow me on twitter know I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with facebook lately. I have been an avid fan of facebook since it launched in 2004, and I love keeping up with my friends. But life has put me in a delicate place the past six months, and day after day I’ve been hurt by things I’ve seen on the ‘book.

None of the things causing me pain have been mean-spirited, and the writers almost certainly have no clue that they’re hurting me. They are simply sharing their lives, which is what social networking is all about, anyway.

The problem is not them, it’s me, and so I’ve withdrawn from facebook for a while until I can stop being so hypersensitive and emotional (does that ever happen?).

Image from Art Asana, one of my new favorite websites: http://elizalynntobin.blogspot.com/

But it made me wonder…whom do I harm, indirectly, with my words? Because I put a lot of words out there every day: spoken word, email, social networking, texting, and of course this blog.

When I say seemingly innocuous things, is there someone out there wishing, just for once, that I could see it from their point of view? When I write about how much I love my dogs, is someone mourning the loss of their favorite pet? When I complain about waking up for work in the morning, is someone wishing fervently for employment? Do my words pour salt into the wound, and cause pain?

No matter what the intent behind our words, the impact can be out of our control. Even when you put love into the world…love can cause heartache.

Of course, there’s no way around this without withdrawing completely from the world and refusing to communicate, which isn’t practical for a born communicator like me. So I have no answers. But, like everything else, awareness is the first step.

What have you been hurt by, that no one dreamed could be hurtful?


PS- today after final relaxation, my teacher said this: Find something inside you that’s been struggling, and make it right. And if you can’t make it right, make it easy. And if you don’t know how to make it easy, take it one step at a time – one breath at a time. I had to wipe the tears from my eyes : )

Do I need a password for yoga class?

Yesterday I got all worked up talking to the hubs about this article.  Basically, a Catholic bishop has requested that Patrick Kennedy stop receiving Holy Communion during Mass, based on his vocal support for abortion rights that conflict with the Church’s official teachings. This has caused a huge divide in the parish and among Catholics nationwide, with some believing that it’s up to an individual, not a religious official, to determine if someone is “Catholic” or not. Others, like Kay Willis (quoted in the article) are of the opinion that “If you’re going to be a Catholic, be a Catholic,” which apparently means that Kay is comfortable that every aspect of her life can hold up to the “Catholic” standard.

I was raised Catholic, so the Catholic church is a big part of the first 19 or so years of my life. And while On the Mat is not a political or religious space, I believe that the bishop is in the wrong here. I can see his point, but it’s my personal opinion that since he’s not God, he shouldn’t make God’s decisions for Him.

Anyway, I had all but forgotten about this issue, until I stumbled upon Sadie Nardini’s article on the Huffington Post today. Sadie writes about her support for YogaForVets.org, which strives to offer free yoga classes to veterans of war. After posting something about the organization on her facebook page, Sadie received a barrage of negative feedback:

“How do you reconcile this post with the fact that yogis are against ‘himsa’–or “violence”, as set forth by yogic scriptures, and your support of war is shockingly non-yogic”, one yoga practitioner wrote.

And there was more where that came from.

“Combat is inherently anti-Yoga”…
“Patanjali would never condone this…”
“War is wrong. How can you ask us to give yoga to those in alignment with it?”

Sadie offers a great defense to these attacks, and I encourage you to read her entire story.

I just have to wonder, when did our world become a grown-up version of an exclusive playground club? There is truth in the fact that the principles of yoga are founded on non-violence. But will I not be allowed in class tonight because I enjoy cheeseburgers? Is refusing a politician Communion going to make him vote pro-life? Is refusing a veteran a free yoga class going to erase what he or she did during combat?

As I learn more about myself and about the world, I realize that some decisions are deeply personal even when they might not seem so, and that what’s right for some people isn’t right for everyone. It might work for you to stay home when your children are young, it might work for your friend to balance duties as a mom with a demanding career. Neither is right and neither is wrong.

The best yoga classes I’ve been to had an atmosphere that was welcoming, friendly, light-hearted, and non-judgmental. If only I could find this environment in more places.