I ❤️ NYC

July 12, 2017

I friggin’ love New York City.  It is one of my absolute favorite places in the world.  It’s crowded, filled to the brim, overwhelming, and chaotic, AND I CANNOT STAY AWAY.  Am I obsessed?  Probably.  But there are worse addictions (like my infatuation with Frye boots.  Yes, I’m a yogi, but I’m also human).

Despite what people think, New York is an incredibly friendly city.  Yes, there are angry drivers and lots of people with their heads down, trying to get to where they are going, but in my experience people are helpful, open, and they enjoy connecting.  I’ve been a pretty consistent visitor for the past 12 years (sometimes for yoga, sometimes for fun, sometimes solo, sometimes with my family, partner, and friends) and it never gets old: I still get that tingly rush of excitement as the cab whisks me into the city and I still feel that wave of sadness when I leave.

My first trip to the city was in 2005 with my Mom and we did the tourist thing: we stayed in Times Square, saw the Statue of Liberty, and toured around the city in a bus.  It was great and gave me the lay of the land but every trip since then has been a different experience.  I like to consider myself a visitor (as opposed to a tourist) and explore the city like a local, whether I’m there for a long weekend or a whole month.  People often ask me what I like to do when I’m there and my agenda is simple: walk, see, eat.  Manhattan is SO TINY and there are a kajillion people living there – it’s incredibly diverse and always on the go.  What’s not to love?!

This is how I do New York.

HOW I PLAN MY DAY

I’m going to be honest: I plan my day around the food I want to eat.  For reals (amazing food = priorities).  I back-time my day (thank you Mark Neary) to make sure I can fit in my meals: if I’m going to a show at 8pm, dinner will have to be around 6pm, which means I should have lunch no later than 1pm.  How can you not prioritize food in that city?  THERE ARE SO MANY DELICIOUS THINGS TO EAT.  I teach yoga, practice daily, and eat very well in my everyday life.  And when I’m in New York I love to indulge, enjoy, and treat myself to all the wonders the city has to offer.

Here’s a sample:
10:00am Head out into the day (I usually have a handful of nuts, a banana, and a green tea for brekkie.  Sometimes I’ll get a bagel from a deli with egg and cheese – SO GOOD – but then I might not be hungry enough for lunch, which would be a total shame; it’s happened before and I’ve been so bummed out that there wasn’t room in my belly for a delicious pasta or a Thai red curry).  I wander and walk (visit Washington Square Park, check out a yoga class, get a cookie: you know, the usual).

1:00pm Eat all the amazing things for lunch

2:00pm Stroll through Greenwich Village, browse my favourite shops in Soho, walk to Trader Joe’s on 14th Street to get room wine and room chocolate (you know, for later).

5:00pm Head to the hotel for a shower and a rest.

6:00pm Eat all the amazing things for dinner.

8:00pm Go see a show, a band, or a movie.

25, 000 steps later I arrive back at my hotel, put my legs up the wall, and pat myself on the back for going to get room snacks earlier in the day.  Success!  And repeat.


WHAT I LIKE TO DO

Walk!
And walk and walk and walk.  For hours and hours and hours.  It’s what I spend the bulk of each day doing.  You don’t necessarily need a destination – walk for blocks and take in your surroundings (there’s no shortage of things to look at).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Times Square at Night
The crowds in Times Square can put even the most patient yogi’s super powers to the test.  It is packed with tourists and can take you forever to walk a block.  But I find it incredibly pleasing at night.  Yes, it’s still teeming with people but the lights, the life, and the energy are wildly exciting and I love sauntering through (good luck to you if you’re in a hurry) or even pausing to people watch (there are benches, tables, and chairs everywhere).  BUT DON’T BOOK A HOTEL HERE (more on that later).

Photo: if you’re craving some alone time in Times Square best to get there before 6am, when this photo was taken by Leo Lo Photography

A Night at the Theatre
There’s so much to see!  I’m not a fan of musical theatre but there are plenty of dramas, comedies, and interactive theatre to see on Broadway and off.  Tickets can be expensive but it’s always worth it.  I do my research beforehand so I know what’s playing and I know what people are raving about.  I’ll talk tickets and info a little later on.

Have a Laugh
This has to be my favourite night out in the city.  The Comedy Cellar is a tiny basement club in Greenwich Village packed with people laughing their asses off 7 nights a week.  It’s a New York institution and many comedians (like Amy Schumer, Louis C.K., Dave Chapelle, and Chris Rock) got their start here.  If you’re lucky one of those now-famous comedians may drop in as a surprise guest.  Shows are always sold out so it’s best to reserve in advance online or via phone.  Reservations are free and at the end of the show you’ll get a bill for your cover charge (usually $12-$14) and whatever you ordered (there’s a 2 item minimum per person).  You won’t regret it (though you might if you take your parents – some of the comedians can get raunch raunch raunchy.  Choose your laughing partner wisely . . . and godspeed if you get seated in the front row).

Hit Up a Yoga Class
New York has tons of amazing studios and teachers and classes for both early birds and night owls, and everyone in between.  I did my Yoga Teacher Training at Sonic Yoga in Hell’s Kitchen back in 2008; they’ve since moved to a new location (just around the corner from their former location) and it’s still my go-to.  If you are in the mood to get crazy and let loose check out Dana Trixie Flynn’s class at Laughing Lotus: the studio is funky, she’s tons of fun, and her classes are wild with lots of flow and loud music.  I’ve also taken great classes at the Kula Yoga Project in Tribeca – they have multiple spaces in the building and a great variety of teachers.

Visit Iconic Landmarks

 

The Flatiron Building is one of my favourite landmarks in the city – it is so striking and worth a visit.

I’ve never taken the ride up to the top of the Empire State Building but looking up and catching it in the skyline never gets old.

Pictured: Flatiron Building Photo by Leo Lo Photography.

 

 

 

Get Treats at Smorgasburg
Ok, you (I) could seriously spend a week browsing and eating here.  Jump on the subway and head to Brooklyn for this mesmerizing feast for the eyes and belly.   In the warmer months the market is held outside and there are up to 100 vendors.  Don’t get tempted too quickly: be patient and make your rounds.  Scope out the scene and notice where the lineups are – a good indication of what’s going to knock your socks off.  The fries are amazing and last time I had a earl gray chocolate chip mint cookie from a bakery in Brooklyn that was out of this world.  Confession: my boyfriend and I went for lunch, went to a nearby coffee shop to read and hang out until we got hungry again, and then went back for round two. https://www.smorgasburg.com/

 

Walk the High Line

It may be crowded by it’s definitely worth a go.  The High Line is an elevated park created on an old railway bed – how cool is that??   It stretches over 2 kilometres long and there tons of cool seating areas (and ice cream!) along the way.  There are many entry and exit points so you can choose where you start and where you end.  It’s truly lovely.  Way to re-purpose, New York!  http://www.thehighline.org/

Photo: Dancing on the High Line

 

 

 

Picnic in Central Park
Do yourself a favour and download the Central Park app before you go – that way you’ll have a map handy (and you’ll know where are the bathrooms are – seriously, is there anything more stressful than busting to pee when you’re out and not knowing where to go?)  I love stopping into Eataly (see the WHAT I LIKE TO EAT list) and picking up an Italian sandwich or choosing something tasty from their incredible selection of salads and snacks.  Grab some napkins, cutlery, and a bottle of Italian sparkling water and jump on the subway: you’re having a picnic in the park!

Pictured: said sparking water and the yummiest store-bought popcorn I’ve ever tasted (sprinkled with nutritional yeast, just like my brilliant boyfriend makes!)

Not pictured: my artisan sandwich and beet salad.  I was hot, I was hangry – ‘nuff said.

Stop and Smell the Roses
Grab a tea and get cozy on a bench or in the grass: New York has plenty of gathering places to chat, read, and people watch.  My favs are Union Square, Washington Square Park, and Madison Square Park.

Go See a Band
I’m not a fan of big stadium shows but there are plenty to enjoy in the city.  I prefer smaller venues that hold a couple of hundred people.  I’ve seen great bands in places like the Mercury Lounge, the Highline Ballroom, the Bowery Ballroom, and Pianos.

Check Out An Indie Movie
New York has great little cinemas showing old school movies as well as indie new releases and obscure titles that Cineplex and the other big theatres would never pick up.  And you never know who might be making an appearance: we just missed Ewan McGregor doing a Q & A after a showing of his latest project last year.  Check out the IFC Centre, Sunshine Landmark, Village East Cinema, and Angelika Film Centre.

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Like the High Line it may be crowded but it’s worth a go.  You might get to the other side in 30min, it might take you 60mins depending on how many times you stop for pics, your pace, and how busy the foot traffic is that day.  Bring some water on a hot day or you can always buy from vendors on the bridge.

Shop ‘Til I Drop
Or more like “browse ’til I’m hungry.”  I do more window shopping than actual buying: I like to travel with a carry on so there’s not a lot of space to bring back treasures.  Sometimes I’m on a mission, sometimes I don’t enter a single store.  If I wanting to shop I like to check out the shops in Soho: not the bougie or chichi (that is definitely not how I thought that was spelled) part of Soho west of Broadway, but the “everywoman” stores we all know (there are also many of the same shops in Herald Square on 34th street).  I do love popping into the flagship Frye Company store on Spring Street just to browse (ok, sometimes to buy).  Nothing gets me drooling like wall to wall shelves filled with gorgeous handmade leather boots and bags (who am I kidding – there are plenty of things that make me drool including cupcakes, pasta, and Tom Hardy).

There’s a great market called Artists and Fleas which features independent art, design, jewelry, fashion, and vintage – there are locations in Soho, Chelsea, and Brooklyn and there are so many treasures there.  I could browse for hours.

Visit the American Museum of Natural History
I spent a rainy day here years go and I feel like I could have spent a week here.  Very cool, worth a trip, and of interest for curious minds of all ages. http://www.amnh.org/

Get Cultured at the MoMA
I’ve only been here once but it was awesome; in addition to their permanent collection they often have special exhibits that are a complete delight. https://www.moma.org/

Visit the Fearless Girl

 

Most people are distracted by the giant, famous Charging Bull but I was much more enamoured by the bull’s tiny, but determined opponent.  What’s even more endearing is the line up of little girls posing to get their picture taken with the bronze sculpture.  Head down to the Financial District to see her.

 

 

 

 

Take a Moment of Silence at the 9/11 Memorial
A sobering, but important visit.  The memorial is beautifully and tastefully done – it’s a shame, though, about the disrespectful and clueless tourists posing for selfies with face-stretching grins. https://www.911memorial.org/


WHAT I LIKE TO EAT

Pizza!
There is no shortage of pizza places in New York – here are some of my favs.

Luzzo’s Pizza
Out of this world pizza cooked in a 100 year old coal oven; it’s super cozy and a great spot to savor and enjoy.  http://luzzosgroup.com/luzzos-group-restaurants/luzzos

John’s of Bleeker Street
Be prepared to wait in line for a table at this famous pizza joint.  It’s wonderfully rough and ragged with autographed photos of celebrities lining the wall.  Pizza is authentic and tasty and there’s a super quick turnaround so perhaps not somewhere you would linger for drinks and conversation.  This is straight up NY pizza and like the menu warns: don’t ask for substitutions.  http://www.johnsbrickovenpizza.com/

Lombardi’s PIzza
Lombardi’s is the FIRST pizzeria in the United States, founded back in 1905.  How cool is that?  Prepare to line up but it’s definitely worth the waitVery delicious.  http://www.firstpizza.com/

Motorino Pizza
Think artisan pizza.  Really yummy with a variety of toppings and options (including white pizzas).  Nice atmosphere and vibe.  http://www.motorinopizza.com/new_york/eastvillage

Don Antonio’s Pizza
Awesome pizza near Times Square, created by world-renowned Neapolitan pizza chefs.  Be prepared to wait – but it’s totally worth it.  Check out their signature pizze fritte (yep, that’s fried pizza), such as the “Montanara Starita”.  The smoked mozzarella they use is something else.  https://www.donantoniopizza.com/

Photo: Margarita pizza and arugula salad with parmesan at Luzzo’s.  COME ON!

Sigiri
Cheap, tasty-as-frig Sri Lankan cuisine in the East Village.  Go with the chicken curry, lentil curry, and red rice.  Enough for two hungry people and under $25.  It’s also BYOB – woohoo!  Important note: Sri Lankan food is some of the hottest food in the world so don’t try to be a hero (like I did my first time there).  Go with mild when they ask and even request a little yogurt on the side (your gut and your butt will thank you). www.sigirinyc.com

Calexico

 

We discovered this food truck when my boyfriend and I walked by and saw a lineup.  In New York a lineup means it must be deadly and worth waiting for.  I’ve been making a stop here every time since then.  Head to the trunk in Soho (PrInce Street at Wooster).  http://calexico.net/

 

 

 

Thai Terminal
Tasty Thai at a great price in the East Village.  Check out their lunch specials where you get an app, salad, and a main for under $10.  http://thaiterminalnyc.com/

Ngam
When you wanna get modern and fancy with your Thai food check out this lovely spot in the East Village. http://www.ngamnyc.com/

Sauce
We first became interested in this place because my boyfriend and I thought the sign was cool (yes, we are as sophisticated as we sound).  After checking out the menu online we made a reservation and loved it so much we came back the next night (and I think, ordered the exact same dishes).  I’m in love with the Kale Caesar salad and the twice baked garlic bread (adding this to my list of things that make me drool).  They make all their pastas and sauces in house and I always go for some sort of magic filled tortellini in a brown butter sauce. http://www.saucerestaurant.com/

Eataly

Words cannot do this spot justice.  It’s an Italian market that is part grocery store and part restaurant: there are actually SIX different restaurants onsite as well as a gelato counter, Nutella counter, panini counter, and coffee counter.  Don’t even think about it: JUST GO.  https://www.eataly.com/us_en/stores/nyc-flatiron/nyc-restaurants/

Photo: I’m a BIG FAN of the Cacio e Pepe at La Pizza and La Pasta, one of the restaurants inside Eataly.

 

 

 

Bareburger
Oh man this place is so cool and there are a number of locations throughout the city.  Food is organic and sourced as close to home as possible – what’s not to love?  They have an impressive selection of burgers (including bison, duck, elk, quinoa, and buttermilk friend chicken) and all of the toppings you can imagine.  It’s like the food gods read my mind: they do a side that is half sweet potato fries/half onion rings (FINALLY, SOMEONE GETS ME).  They also have a great selection of salads and sandwiches if you’re craving lighter fare.  bareburger.com

Photo: I can’t remember if this photo was posed or if my friend Laura caught me in this throes of total turkey burger/onion rings/sweet potato fries ecstasy.  Let’s go with the latter.

 

Cupcake Heaven
Do you remember that scene in Sex and the City where Carrie and Miranda are sitting on a bench eating pink-frosted heavenly-looking vanilla cupcakes?  Well I certainly do.  And people flock to Magnolia Bakery to indulge in those same sugary delights.  This was my go to for years: the cupcakes are so pretty, but to be honest I found them a little on the dry side on more than one occasion so I began to explore my options.  https://www.magnoliabakery.com/

Well now I have a new love, California-based Sprinkles Cupcakes.  They.  Are.  To.  Die.  For.  So moist.  So delicious.  I always go for the vegan red velvet (even though I’m not vegan) because they use coconut oil in the frosting and it is SO TASTY.  There’s even a cupcake ATM outside if the line is too big or you have a craving after hours.  http://sprinkles.com/

 

Momofuku Noodle Bar
I’ve only been here once but the place is constantly PACKED: New Yorkers love their noodles!  https://noodlebar-ny.momofuku.com/.

They also have a dessert shop called the Momofuku Milk Bar that is sinfully good (try the Crack Pie).  http://milkbarstore.com/

The City Bakery
They have a few locations but the coolest is in Soho: “a landmark Italian bakery from last century restored into a Birdbath Green Bakery for this century.”  The food looks incredible but I always get seduced by their giant chocolate chip cookies.  http://thecitybakery.com/

Mamouns
This take-away is right next to The Comedy Cellar and a great spot for a quick, cheap bite.  Falafel wraps are $3 and drenched in wonderfully garlicky tahini sauce.  So.  Good.  http://mamouns.com/

 

$1 Slices
My boyfriend became infatuated with the $1 slice phenomenon the last time we were there and I totally stuck my nose up at it.  But I’ve come to realize that it’s totally a thing and it’s totally delicious.  I sampled a few spots during my last visit and I am now a believer.  Do a Google search for “best $1 slice in NYC” and you’ll discover a number of places to try out.  A perfect nightcap on the way home.

 

 

Deli Lunch
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap bite pop into any random deli and enjoy a made to order sandwich.  You can’t go wrong with a New York deli sammie.


WHERE I LIKE TO STAY

My preference is to stay WAY BELOW Times Square.  As I mentioned, Times Square is brilliant for a brief visit and totally fun to see and experience but trust me: you do not want to stay there.  I repeat: you do not want to stay there.  It is overwhelming, crawling with tourists, and the food can be expensive and downright awful.  And, for me, it’s not the real New York.  Check out a neighbourhood and enjoy the local flavours and vibe.  It’ll be a completely different experience and one that you’ll love.  My favs are:

-Lower East Side
-Soho
-Tribeca
-East Village
-Greenwich Village

Hotels
I’ve scored great deals on Hotwire, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Expedia, sometimes in advance and sometimes last minute (sign up for Hotels.com and Expedia mailing lists and they sometimes send out 10% off discount codes.  If you use the Hotels.com app there’s a 5% discount code you can use on select hotels when you open the app).  I’m pleased with myself if I get a room for around $150CAD per night (NYC has really expensive accommodations, unfortunately).  Some people suggest staying in Brooklyn but I’m pretty set on staying right in Manhattan.  I don’t splurge on fancy accommodations – as long as it’s clean with a private bathroom and in a good hood I’ll lay my head there.  I also like to stay really close to a subway station – at the end of the day it’s nice to crawl out of the station and into bed without having to take too many steps.

Apartment Rentals
I rented apartments for my first few visits but most times I choose hotels.  I often need to store my bags due to flight times and apartment rentals can’t accommodate luggage storage most times.  There are baggage storage places in town though if you’re stuck.  I’ve seen great places to rent on AirBnB and would definitely choose this option if I was travelling with multiple people.


HOW I GET AROUND

Learn to use the subway:
It’s great, efficient, and runs 24/7.  Buy a Metrocard, download the New York Subway app, and zip around the city like a local.  My two main methods of transport are walking and subway.

Grab a cab:
They’re relatively inexpensive but beware of traffic, especially if you’re in a hurry.

Uber:
I used this quite a bit on my last visit and it was great.  Download the app and you’ll be able to book your ride in seconds.  Again, beware of traffic.

Transportation from Airport to City
I always get a cab to and from LaGuardia Airport since public transport isn’t really efficient for this route.

If you’re flying into JFK Airport you can get to the city easily via the subway.

If you’re arriving at Newark Airport check out the train that runs from the airport to Penn Station in Manhattan.


WHEN I LIKE TO GO

Anytime!  Except winter.  Because I spend the bulk of my time outside and walking around I prefer to go when it’s warm enough to be outside for 10-12 hours a day.  I was there in January once and I got a wicked deal on a hotel ($99/night!) but it was so damn cold that walking around all day just wasn’t fun.  I usually get round-trip airfare for under $500CAD from St. John’s to LaGuardia (YYT to LGA).


RESOURCES

For the low down: www.timeoutnewyork.com
Time Out NYC is my favorite resource.  Check it out for things to do, free events, theatre and movie reviews, listings, and unique and special offerings (like a $20 all-you-can-eat ice cream fundraiser in the park).

For discount theatre tickets:
Theatre Mania (www.theatremania.com)
Broadway Box (www.broadwaybox.com)
Ticket Central (www.ticketcentral.com)

I’ve signed up for their newsletters as well so I know what shows are opening, who’s in them, and what discounts are available.  You can also try your luck and line up at the TKTS booth in Times Square (they sell off any available tickets for shows that day at a discounted price) but if I’m sure I want to see something I book online and in advance, either directly from the theatre or the sites I mentioned, so I won’t be disappointed if there’s no day-of tickets available.  Some theatres also offer really cheap rush tickets that you can line up for before the box office opens that day.  Again, you are taking your chances as the show can sell out before you get your chance at the wicket.

For theatre news: www.newyorktheatreguide.com

For music and concert listings: www.pollstar.com

And download an offline city map on your phone so you don’t eat up data.


So there you have it.  Is this a definitive guide to the city?  Absolutely not; there are countless sights to see, food to eat, and experiences to enjoy!  Every time I visit I like to try something new so my list of favs can grow.  But this is how I like to move through the city, a city that brings me endless joy and excitement every time I’m there.

Have a question or want to offer a tip?  Feel free to comment!
-mel-

What’s in My Carry-On?

December 6, 2016

Melissa Hogan of Suitcase and Heels recently interviewed me about my travel style and I had a lot to say!

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Melanie Caines is a Certified Yoga Teacher and the owner/operator of Nova Yoga in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. She was recently a finalist at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and has also just launched a new online video subscription service called Move with Melanie. She’s no stranger to travel as she regularly hosts sold out yoga retreats around the world from Greece and Italy to Costa Rica and Mexico. We caught up with Melanie in her hometown of St. John’s.

Roll, fold, scrunch or stuff? What’s your packing method?

I roll and I also use packing cubes – it’s amazing how much you can fit in them!  I have 3 packing cubes of different sizes that fit perfectly into my carry on suitcase.

Carry on or checked bag?

Carry on all the way!  I haven’t checked a bag in over 3 years and I’ve been away for up to 17 days at a time.  I’m almost addicted to the challenge of it: can I fit it all in?!  And I always do!  I love landing and being able to roll off the plane and into the day instead of waiting for checked baggage.

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Read the full interview HERE.

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Move It or Lose It: My Story

November 24, 2016

When I was 6 months old my Dad was changing my diaper and noticed that one of my legs was longer than the other.

My Mom, a nurse, consulted a Pediatric nursing book she had (this was 1981 – we were a looooong way from Google) and suspected that I had Bilateral Congenital Hip Dysplasia.  My Mom had heard of this condition, had studied it, and knew what it meant: I had no hip sockets.  My parents made an appointment with my family doctor, my hips were x-rayed, and the doctor called the next day to confirm the diagnosis. He made an appointment with a St. John’s doctor (we lived in Corner Brook – an 8 hour drive away) so I could get admitted to the Janeway Children’s Hospital and start treatment.

Here’s what was going on:
My legs (femur bones) were pushed up past where my hip sockets should be, so the first step in the treatment process was traction: I was on my back for 6 weeks and the traction allowed my legs to be pulled down to where my hip sockets should be.

The next step was to create hip sockets: this was possible because I was so young and my bones were still soft.  I had been lying down for 6 weeks straight so I had to get used to sitting up and being upright again.  Once I was acclimatized my legs were put in a splint and I wore a full body brace that tied up around my shoulders to keep my legs in a frog-like position: this allowed the top part of my femur to press up into hip area to form hip sockets.

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After a couple of months I busted out of that contraption so we went to St. John’s again and this time I was outfitted in a different brace that kept my legs in an open split.

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All was well until I was 5 years old and the public health nurse at school alerted my parents that my feet were turning in.  My family doctor sent me to an Orthopedic surgeon who said that I would have arthritis by age 16 and a hip replacement would follow. The surgeon wouldn’t give my parents a referral for a second opinion because he said they didn’t need one.

My family doctor agreed to refer us to a renowned surgeon in Toronto (a 3.5 hour flight to the mainland) but when the office took so long to call for an appointment my Mom called the specialist and pretended to be our family doctor’s secretary (go Mom!)  We had our appointment for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The specialist there actually disagreed with the arthritis and hip replacement prognosis and said that if I sat in a cross legged seat (like Sukhasana) for 2 hours a day (instead of the Saddle position I was sitting in) my feet would straighten up.  And they did.

Life was good.  I was very active in junior high and high school: I played sports, I went to the gym, and I functioned like any other growing kid and never noticed anything different about my body or my mobility.  The treatment hadn’t worked for some of the other babies that had been in the hospital when I was there so I considered myself to be very lucky.  And treatment not working meant that those teenagers now had one leg longer than the other and had wear special shoes to compensate for the height difference.

In my mid 20s I noticed stiffness in my right hip and I started to think about the predictions of arthritis and hip replacements. It scared me.  So I did something about it.  I started to stretch.  I would sit in Sukhasana and I would fold forward, breathe, count.  It felt good. I did it every day.

In 2008 I went to New York for a month long Yoga Teacher Training course (mainly because I was feeling stressed and troubled and wanted to learn more about the healing properties of yoga).  I noticed that I wasn’t as flexible as others: my hip mobility limited and hip opening postures like Lizard and Pigeon, which most people seemed to love, were pure torture for me.

My most memorable moment in my Yoga Teacher Training was watching a video called “The Fuzz Speech.” In it, anatomist Gil Hedley presents 2 cadavers: the body of someone who had been active, and the body of someone who hadn’t.  It was shocking to see the difference.  In the video, Gil talks about fascia, which is connective tissue that covers the whole body; “fuzz” or stiffness can set in if the muscle fascia starts to bind together due to a lack of movement and stretching.

I heard his message loud and clear: move it or lose it.

And I was definitely inspired to move it.

When I got home I practiced yoga daily.  I even did a 30 day Pigeon pose challenge, holding the pose for 2-3 minutes each day (basically for the duration of a Beatles song).  By day 15 I could see a difference: my hips were opening up and becoming less stiff.

I could see the power of movement and stretching.

I knew that I could take control and change my body.

And what an incredibly empowering realization that was.

I’m grateful to have a job where I move every day.   I don’t know what my hip would be like today if I wasn’t doing yoga, or if I had a job where I was sitting 6-8hrs/day.  Sitting is the New Smoking – have you heard that?  How about Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle Is Killing YouForbes, The Globe & Mail, The Huffington Post, and the Mayo Clinic all have articles outlining the dangerous effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

The message is clear: we have to be active, we have to get moving, we have to keep the fuzz at bay.

I don’t take anything I can do with my body for granted.  I’m so grateful that I can walk for hours, move without pain, and practice yoga.

I wasn’t born able to do the yoga poses that I can do – quite the opposite, actually.  I learned to do these poses and I trained my body to be able to move this way.

And I’ll tell you what I tell my yoga students when it comes to being active, getting moving, and overcoming physical challenges:

If I can do it, you can do it.

-melanie-
xo

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Picture this: you wake before the sun, a warm breeze from the open window passing over your skin.  With a big stretch and a big breath you lift from your cozy bed and take a step out of the door and onto the sand.   You walk down to the ocean with a cup of coffee, green tea, or lemon water, and a bowl of fresh fruit.  You drink in an incredible sunrise.

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A few steps takes you to the yoga room where you exchange greetings and smiles with your fellow participants.  Rolling out your mat you lay on your back before the class begins, indulging in the warmth, the peace, the perfection of the moment.  The class unfolds in a sweet and sweaty journey, leaving you with so much energy and spark for the day ahead.

You join the group for breakfast and share morning stories as you enjoy an amazing array of fresh and healthy treats.   A img_5988huge grin spreads over your face as you consider the only decisions you have to make today:  Lounge on the beach?  Swim in the ocean?  Ride a bike into town?  Relax with a massage?  Explore and sightsee?  So what do you do?  Whatever YOU want; the gorgeous sun warms you all day long as you engage in whatever is calling your name.

A late afternoon class takes you back to your mat for more yoga, a delicious dance of breath, movement, strength, stretch, laughter, and rest; a glance up from Pigeon Pose and you catch the last few incredible moments of the sun setting.   A beautiful dinner with your new friends closes out the day and you fall into bed glowing, full, and happy.  Repeat for 6 more days and you’ll have had one of the most fun and fulfilling trips of your life.

This, my friends, is the magic of a Yoga Retreat in a sun destination.  Think about it: 6am mornings, vegetarian meals, and 3.5 hours of yoga a day: bliss, right?!  Ok, I know it sounds like a nightmare for many people but it is INCREDIBLY delicious.  And listen, I’m no saint: I like my late nights, my live music, and my Irish whiskey but sometimes you have to strip that all away and truly nourish yourself.  The yoga retreat is a great concept: it’s a healthy vacation!  Instead of coming home from your trip feeling exhausted, bloated, and hung-over from holiday indulgence (ever hear people say ‘I need a vacation to get over my vacation’?) you return to real life feeling motivated, refreshed, and renewed (and really, really clean.  Fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish for a week?   Amazing!)

I treated myself to my first yoga retreat in December 2012 and I found that it was a really amazing way tojbp-26 give back to myself – a great boost to my body and mind.  And I realized how important it is to give yourself that treat, you know: to refuel, to recharge, to show yourself some LOVE .  Give back to yourself and you will have so much more to offer those around you.   I’ve been both a participant and a leader of yoga retreats in Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and in Europe and have heard people admit they feel guilty for stealing this time away, for not bringing the kids or partners, for focusing on himself or herself.  And you know what I hear at the end of the journey?  “I feel amazing.” “I’m going to be such a better parent after this trip.” “I’m so motivated to start that project now.”  It’s funny how self-care can stir up feelings of guilt, but afterwards there’s that energy and exhilaration and realization that you are now functioning at 100%, that you have renewed your energy, and you now have so much more to give.  It’s like securing your own oxygen mask before helping someone else.  Makes sense, right?

How do I choose a yoga retreat?
  An internet search will return countless results for yoga retreats, so your research will probably start there.  There are two things you can focus on: some people might decide on the retreat by choosing a teacher you would like to ‘yoga’ with for a week.   Someone you know of, or someone you know personally, or someone with a great reputation.  It’s great to be familiar with the teacher’s ‘style’ so you know it’s something that you are interested in exploring for the 10-12 classes you’ll do on the retreat.  Some people might make the final decision based on location; Indonesia, Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, and other sunny destinations are real hotspots for these kinds of trips.

Do I need to be a yoga rockstar to attend a retreat?  
Not at all!  Most yoga retreats are meant to appeal to a wide range of ages and abilities, but it is a good idea to have a regular yoga practice before you go.

What does a trip usually include?  
All trips are different but the fee quoted will usually include 2 yoga classes a day, 2-3 meals a day, accommodation, and sometimes airport transfers to the destination.  Airfare is generally not included.  Most yoga retreats last 5-7 days.

Can I go by myself or will I be the odd yogi out in a sea of couples and friends?
  Going solo is an adventure – embrace it!  In img_9008the retreats I’ve participated in and led there are a large number of people who are there on their own.   Remember – you’ll be surrounded by a group of awesome, like-minded people and by the end of the week you won’t believe how close you’ve become with these once strangers.  Chances are, you’ll have 15-20 new BFFs.

I should warn you that you may become a yoga retreat addict (which, in my opinion and experience, is not a bad thing at all).  Experience the joy, bliss, and radiance of a yoga retreat and you’ll be shining for days, weeks, months.  The only problem being you may never want to leave.

Want to retreat with me?  Check out my Retreat Page to see what adventures are coming up!

Safe and happy travels!
-melanie-
xo

 

smoothie-uprightGreen smoothies.  Ok, DON’T RUN AWAY OR STOP READING.  Stay with me – I promise they’re not as bad as they sound.  In fact, they are pretty darn fantastic.  With a green smoothie the idea is to incorporate greens and vegetables into your tasty, blended drink.  Why?  Because it is oh-so-good for you: you get to detox your bod, increase your energy, boost your immune system, improve your digestion, and enjoy a gorgeous healthy glow, among other benefits.  Sounds pretty good, right?

Can I just use my regular blender you might ask?  And to be honest with you I wouldn’t recommend it.  You definitely want a blender that has some power to make sure your creation is perfectly mixed and you’re not picking shards of kale out of your teeth.

New to the green smoothie craze?  Try out this formula and plug in your favs:

1 banana (for creaminess)
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen fruit of choice
1 1/2 cups fresh leafy greens (swiss chard, kale, spinach)
Add water or juice

Optional:
1 tbsp oatmeal (for fibre)
1 tsp almond butter or peanut butter (for protein)
1 tsp of flax, chia, or hemp seeds
A squeeze of honey (for sweetness)

Throw it all in a blender & blend until smooth.

Ready to experiment?  I posed the question ‘what’s in YOUR blender?” on my Facebook page and I got a whoooooooole lot of responses!  Here’s a list of ten different concoctions for you to try out:

1. Swiss chard, blueberries, partridgeberries, lime, & avocado.

2. Banana, blueberries, cranberries, greens (kale, spinach, chard) flax oil, water, almond milk, protein powder and of course a little bit of cocoa.

3. Frozen strawberries, cashews, coconut water, a date or 2, and vanilla. Add a banana for smoothness!!!

4. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, spinach, almond milk, coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, & flax seed!

5. Blueberries, partridgeberries , avocado, swiss chard, hemp harts, lime juice, beet, banana, stevia.

6. Bananas, spinach peanut butter, chocolate protein powder, rice milk, coconut water, and greek yogurt!

7. Banana, pear, blueberries, hemp hearts, flax seeds, carob powder, peanut butter, almond milk.

8. Spinach, almond milk, avocado, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, and sometimes protein powder.

9. Spinach, kale, strawberries, banana, blueberries, peach, ginger, cinnamon, matcha, greek yogurt, almond milk, and vanilla protein powder.

10. This is what’s in my blender: pomegranate, frozen berries, apples, clementines, banana, cabbage, spinach, cucumber, ginger, hemp hearts, chia seeds, coconut oil, and water.

You can play around with ingredients and amounts until you find what you like.  Have fun trying them out and let me know what else you come up with!

Enjoy the glow!
-mel-
xo

An Attitude of Gratitude

November 4, 2016

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Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving Weekend, everyone! I love that there is a day dedicated to giving thanks but how great would it be if that gratitude could extend beyond the weekend and into your every day life??

Have you read Elephant Journal’s post “The Coolest Thing about Gratitude” by Lucy Animus? The writer says:

“By now, most of us have heard the news: grateful people are happier, healthier and generally more fulfilled. And while these are all really great side effects of gratitude, for me, one of the coolest things about gratitude is the way it affects the heart. The heart creates an electromagnetic field that expands up to five feet from the body. Its electrical field is 60 times stronger in amplitude than that of the brain. Studies show that when people cultivate positive feelings, the heart’s frequency changes and its waves become smoother and more consistent, while anxiety or stress caused waves to be shorter and less organized. Though most positive feelings were capable of affecting the heart in this way, researchers noted that gratitude changed the heart’s rhythm more easily and faster than any of the others.”

How cool is that?!

Ready to start YOUR daily Gratitude Practice?

In your meditation or at the start or end of your day recognize 3 things that you are grateful for; maybe you write a list, maybe it’s a mental list, or maybe you share this practice with a partner or friend.
You can also embrace one of my favorite affirmations:

As you inhale silently say to yourself, “My life is abundant.”
As you exhale silently say to yourself, “I am grateful.”

Spending time focusing on the abundance in your life creates so much joy; a regular Gratitude Practice where we acknowledge the richness and fullness of our lives can help to uplift us in times of struggle and afford us a greater sense of perspective and peace.

Try this practice for a beautiful and fulfilling addition to your life!

Anyone feel like sharing something they are grateful for? Comment below – let’s shout it from the rooftops!
-melanie-
xo