Thursday, September 23, 2010

Go Through the Tourists

Although I consider myself to be a very nice person, I'm easily annoyed by tourists. I try to avoid them at all costs. I've perfected the art of weaving through them on city sidewalks, the way one would pass cars on the Autobahn. I don't go near Times Square or Herald Square (really anything with the word "square" in it). I'm not sure why they bother me so much...they're probably very sweet people, but the truth is they slow me down. I can't get to where I'm going as fast as I could if they (for example) just stood on the right side of the escalators and let me pass them on the left. Being angry at tourists used to take up a good chunk of my energy, but then I figured out all the shortcuts that allowed me to simply avoid them completely.

Despite my attempts to stay away from their typical hangouts, tourists (like any hearty obstacle) seem to find me wherever I go. When I shop for lipstick at Bloomingdales, there they are. When I try to swipe my Metrocard, there they are in front me trying to figure out which way to swipe theirs. When I come out of the subway, there they are, congregated at the exit looking at their maps. It seems as though they're following me around the city.

I assumed this blood-boiling reaction was related specifically to my interactions with foreign visitors, until I started to recognize the same flashes of annoyance–those same instincts to flee–on my yoga mat. Thighs quivering, I would come out of Virabhadrasana 2 and find any means necessary to distract myself from witnessing the intensity (looking down, fidgeting, letting out dramatic exhales so that the teacher would know just how much I had suffered). Kicking up into handstand with my "special occasion" leg was high on my list of things to avoid, and so I'd just kick up with my favorite leg and hope the teacher wouldn't notice. I know I'm not alone. I once offered a block to a woman in my class who told me she was allergic to props (the foam bricks, the nylon belts, the wool blankets...I don't know how this woman got through life with so many allergies). Like an ostrich who buries its head in the sand when hunted by a predator, pretending it's not there seems to be a popular way to deal with the enemy.

Then the inevitable happened; I found myself trapped in a corner, unable to find a way around what I had so desperately tried to avoid. Called out by a teacher (or maybe I was just fed up with myself) I was forced to stare down my obstacles and find a way through them. When faced with a hurdle you've been trying to dodge, something very interesting're forced to work it out. You may not be able to get to where you're going at warp speed, but you begin to realize that all the detours you've been taking are just that: detours. Moving through the restriction allows you to find the most direct route to your destination. Using a strap around your arms in Urdhva Dhanurasana, for example, may prevent you from lifting as high as you would sans strap, but it moves you through the tightness in your shoulders and ultimately allows you to do the pose strap-free. Moving through an obstacle is the only way to see why it was a problem in the first place. The effort to look may even give you the chance to surmount the mountain in your way.

Life is full of obstacles. It's our attitude towards those obstacles that ultimately defines our life. Perhaps challenges are actually opportunities for us to really see ourselves. Our lives are like prisms...each experience, each restriction, each character merely reflects our own image back to ourselves. When I think of it in this way, I'm tempted to walk through Herald Square and be amongst the tourists (actually, that may be a little advanced for me right now). I'm intrigued at the prospect of standing behind them on the escalator rather than plowing them over. I might need to use some of the techniques I've learned on my yoga mat. I may even need to breathe, but I'll certainly begin to see space in my experience. Now I walk down Broadway twice a week the way I'd pop into a yoga class. I want to find a way to be with the intensity. This is my practice, so if you see me walking through Soho very slowly with a smile on my face, you'll know what I'm up to.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Through the Lens

One of the things I love about magazines and cookbooks are the mouth-watering photographs that accompany each recipe. In fact, I don't think I've ever tried a recipe where there wasn't a corresponding picture to inspire me. I love that a good photographer can make a hotdog look gourmet.

As it turns out one of my students, Melina Hammer, happens to have an eye for capturing life behind the lens. We've collaborated on a few projects together (most recently on the fabulous late summer harvest pasta extravaganza) and each has encouraged me to be more adventurous in how I present the food I make. We rummage through my cupboards and pull out plates and flatware I usually save for special occasions. "My life philosophy is that there are stories to be found everywhere, from the abandoned or mundane, to the epic", says Melina. I love the idea of turning precious pieces into everyday objects (and visa versa).

I asked Melina where she seeks inspiration for her work. "The lines and forms in nature are a constant inspiration. Nature's patterns–like honeycombs, for instance–embody a perfection that is complete and uplifting. In my daily routine, I'll be shopping for food at the farmers' market and come across the most gorgeous vegetables or fruits and all of a sudden I'm neglecting the shopping list, taking things home specifically because I want to photograph their special beauty. It's almost a compulsion"! (I have the same problem, except I'm eating the food instead of photographing it.)

Her list of top-five must-haves are right up my alley: chocolate (yes), avocados (the foundation of my food pyramid), organic lavender-orange skin balm (sounds lovely), her handmade metal jewelry (gorgeous...she made a fellow teacher's wedding ring and it's so beautiful) and her camera (whether it's her professional studio version or simply her iPhone).

Melina's a yogini to be reckoned with. See the photo below (taken by her hubby: another genius behind the camera)! I wanted to know what pose she was working on at the moment, to which she responded "Anjaneyasana" (crescent moon pose, or low lunge). "I focus on striking that balance between grounding down and forward towards the front leg without sinking; trying to unstick the hip point away from the front thigh (argh); and lifting up and back into the backbend without straining my neck - so hard"! I hear ya, girl.

It's so fascinating to see the world through someone else's eyes. I'm grateful to peer through Melina's and catch a glimpse of her vision. She said it herself: "Inspiration is everywhere".

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fall Fashion Wish List

Fall fashion always inspires me to reinvent myself. My outfit intuition is a little rusty, thanks to my wardrobe of elastic waistbands and stretchy athletic gear. I find that you have to work those muscles as you would your abdominals, otherwise they atrophy. Every season I swear to myself that I'm going to recommit to looking hot, and every season I fizzle under the pressure of picking clothes out of my closet. I'm overwhelmed by the trends and plagued by indecision, which leads me to grab more of what I know (yoga clothes and sneakers).

The universe finally took pity on me and this season is proving to be the answer to my prayers. Magazines and shop windows are full of structured, classic clothes, the likes of which are already hanging in my closet! I'm already in fashion and I haven't even tried (thank God)! My Mom always told me to buy a few good pieces instead of stocking up on tons of cheap trends. Thank you, Mom. Here's a tour of my personal faves.

I've had this trusty black blazer for years. It looks fresh with the sleeves rolled up and paired with a chunky lucite necklace (just purchased yesterday from Anthropologie)! My Saint James tee is a staple in my closet; it looks good with everything and makes a statement without any effort.

I bought this lace skirt at a thrift store in Paris years ago. The A-line shape is perfect for this season (very Mad Men). Adore the chocolate brown sequin top, which has been sitting in the back of my closet waiting for some kind of fancy event so it can step out on the town. Low and behold, this season is mixing sequins with more casual pieces for an unexpected punch.

Love this twist on the classic button down...perfect for dressing up but goes great with jeans. The lace top is merciful on my atrophied outfit muscles as it goes with everything.

I bought the green tweed coat years and years ago and yet it always feels so current. I love the way it just hangs on me, like I borrowed it from Billy's side of the closet. The gray coat was an H&M purchase last winter, thanks to my talented fashionista girlfriend, Cleandra (thank you, my dear, for showing me the light)!

These Cole Haan shoes are beyond amazing. Every time someone stops me on the street to compliment my shoes, I say "Yes, they're fabulous AND they have Nike Air technology!" Run, don't walk, to Cole Haan and buy yourself any of their genius footwear. The purse was handed down to me from my Mom...the structured shape is perfect for this Fall.

Like every girlie-girl, I have a wish list a mile long of things I'm desperate to buy for the season (aparigraha, sanskrit for non-hoarding, is simply lost on me). Love these silk pants from Anthropologie; they're a relaxed (yet fancy) version of the skinny cargos everyone's going gaga over (and more flattering, I might add). I can see myself wearing this gray cashmere sweater from JCrew on a daily basis (perfect with black skinny jeans for a "I just threw this on but this is how I roll...draped in cashmere" look). Love the Annie vest, also from JCrew...makes any outfit look smart. I'm currently obsessed with Club Monaco's brown sequin Jodie skirt and see it with tights and black riding boots (or booties...don't even get me started...desperately looking for the perfect pair as we speak).

The best accessory of the season, though, is a great attitude. Work that impressive yogic posture and strut your toned quadriceps down Fifth Avenue. You see it all the time in New York: women embracing who they are and flaunting it to the world. I hope you have fun expressing who you are this Fall!