Before and during the holiday shopping rush this year, I must have read a hundred different round-ups of best gifts for personalities A-Z—well intentioned and mostly helpful suggestions for how to please those picky friends and family, or just alleviate decision-making from a fatigued brain. As I perused, though, I found myself making more of a personal wish list than one for others, which isn’t wholly counterintuitive to the merchants’ motives with such compilations. And now that we’re on the flip side of most gift-giving days, the season of returns—when we decided what we really want for ourselves—is upon us with even greater excitement.
While I’m not one to evangelicize about certain brands or products or generally promote materialism, there are some things I’ve discovered this year that are just too good not to spread the word about. What’s making this round-up of favorite things feel a bit more earnest than those I took inspiration from, however, is that I hope to send it out with a spirit of giving-back rather than demanding more for myself. (Yes, just like Oprah—though don’t get your hopes up about a car :)) Having completed this first full year of blogging now, I’m feeling especially grateful to all of you who’ve read, liked, and commented—and would love to hear from you about what kind of content you’d like to see more of in 2018.
In the meantime, I open my thank-ful heart to you, extending all the peace, joy, and reasons for gratitude as I can for every day in the new year ahead.
Ado Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog Pose)A foundational yoga pose that one would think a 500-hour teacher trainee would have nailed by now. I would have agreed until a few weeks ago, when a senior teacher at YogaWorks leading a workshop on backbends helped me realize that AMS is a fickle friend/very clear mirror I need to keep myself in check. Within a few minutes of observing me in the posture, she diagnosed structural and functional variations in my body I was aware of (most of the time) but couldn’t always fully gauge—especially with a mind full of vrittis. Just as quickly, she pulled me waaaay out of my comfort zone and showed me how much less work I have to do be be there. Humbled by this experience, I’ve not been taking for granted the difficulty I have in keeping things simple. Shifting my focus and perspective, letting my prana rise up toward the sky, rooting down to rebound up seems like a good way to be on and off the mat.
Neon NovelsConnected to each of these writers and novels in some way, my recommendations of them are undoubtedly biased. What I think we can all agree on, though, is that these can’t-look-away covers convey the urgency of these brave female authors and stories. Sometimes, when we’re lucky, you can judge a book by it’s cover.
Peacefood Cafe (Upper West Side)Living in New York, one is reminded of the infinite options of where your next meal can come from with every step or turn of the head. I enjoy cooking myself, but the way that socializing and meals go hand-in-hand make eating out sort of unavoidable, especially since I no longer have daily contact with many of my friends. Perhaps selfishly, I dragged more of my brunch- and dinner-dates to the restaurant that couldn’t be closer to where I live than was considerate. However, the ease of being able to order *whatever I wanted* off the whole menu at Peacefood was such a relief, and because I ordered nearly the same thing every time my brain got even more of a break. It’s a place where I can walk in, sit down, and say to myself, “Oh, yes. I can be fed here.”
Pratima SpaHow does one define “work-related research”? I decided that getting a facial and a few necessary products at this luxury holistic spa in New York City fell in that category once deciding to direct my yoga studies to combine yoga and Ayurveda. Dr. Pratima Raichur wrote the book on Ayurvedic skin care, which if it wasn’t so big I’d carry around for quick reference always. Having access to her first-hand after reading Absolute Beauty felt like the ultimate blessing, and the ritual of self-care more like required maintenance than luxury.
Reiki at The Alchemist’s KitchenUnlike a massage or facial, a reiki session is not something that you walk away from “feeling” anything different—necessarily. My first attempt at this chakra-clearing art left me disappointed because of my intentions going in: I decided that something was wrong with me, and when it wasn’t I felt like my healer knew nothing. Back in NYC, I walked into an appointment at the ultimate wellness destination on the Lower East Side, I had a clear mind and heart, which made all the difference. I will definitely be going back for more insights on what’s really going on under the surface.
The Self-Help SectionThis year my relationship with reading changed more than any other time in my life. Up until now, I rarely picked up a title that fell in the nonfiction genre, thinking superior the classic and contemporary works of human imagination—fiction that provided an escape from reality even as it illuminated our deepest truths. I still love a good novel, but realigning my priorities and following my gut when answering the question “what do I want to read next?” resulted in very different answers than I used to get. Once again humbling my smug tastes, the self-help section of the bookstore provided some of the biggest revelations, explanations, and moments of healing. Shout out to my Root and Rebound yoga-themed book club for expanding my literary horizons, and to The Experiment Publishing for the encouragement to test new waters of what readers want to read, and who should be writing in the first place.
Sundara HolisticAt the end of June 2016, I walked into a small private office on Wall Street harboring a host of internal pains and discomforts that no one would have suspected by my outward experience. The woman I met there, an Ayurvedic healer, could immediately sense what was wrong with me, and in the course of the next thirty days I felt like I got a complete body and mind makeover. My efforts to balance a vata-kapha dosha (what seems to me to be the most paradoxical of combinations) continue, as they will forever, and yet Kiera remains forever at my side whenever I’m feeling panicked about an imbalance, or have a resurgence of excess ama (toxic sludge, mostly created by the mind). I consider her my guardian angel—the one who saw me for who I was before I could, and whose guidance continues to peel back the layers to unveil my prakriti.