How are you? No really. How are you?

ravens in conversation oknamaste mandy learo

I’ve taken a few weeks off from regular blogging because I’ve not been feeling well– for the best reason ever not to feel well. I’M PREGNANT!!!

Now that the first trimester is over (with its nausea and intense fatigue and consuming anxiety over whether or not the pregnancy will “stick”), I’ve been able to start sharing my condition with friends, acquaintances, and yoga students. And the most wonderful thing has begun to happen:

People ask me how I am feeling. All the time. Constantly. But wait, there’s more. They ask me how I am feeling, and then they pause. They look at me, they blink a few times, and they actually wait for my response.

To have others interested in how I am doing has been such a treat. Despite myself and my generally un-warm-fuzzy personality, it is truly awesome to feel cared about, and to have that sweet pause in time to share a sentence about what’s going on with me.

“I’m good– for some reason I want sauerkraut all the time.”

“I have really bad heartburn. Did you have that with your daughter?”

“All is well. Slept like a baby. Thanks for asking!”

We are all guilty of the passing hi-how-are-you as we walk by, not particularly interested in the response. I do this all the time, especially out at the grocery store or the gym. I sometimes say “hihowareyou” without even looking the person in the eye or slowing down as I continue to walk past them.

But having people ask after me and genuinely care to listen has made me rethink my approach. It feels so great to be cared for that it makes me want to spread that feeling to others. Only an extra minute is required to stop and listen, a mere minute to give someone my attention and make them feel seen and significant.

I am taking this lesson into my life, and I intend to spend my pregnancy asking about how others are feeling with genuine care for the response. It is not only pregnant women who deserve the warmth of that extra moment, the eye contact, the kindness behind the eyes.

Asking after people and caring for their answer is an easy way to make a difference in the way people feel- so why not commit the minute and do it?


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Homemade Rice Pudding

rice pudding


1 pound white medium grain rice

1/2 gallon whole milk

2/3 cup white sugar

zest of 1 lemon

teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

4 egg yolks


Combine all ingredients except egg yolks. Simmer on low, stirring often, for 1 hour or until rice is tender. At the last minute, fold in the egg yolks. Serve with cinnamon!

When to Buy Organic

dirty dozen clean fifteen clean 15

I’d like to buy organic everything all the time, but in the real world of money and sane budgeting, I sometimes have to buy conventional fruits and vegetables. THE HORROR!

How do I make smart decisions when I’m trading money for life’s fuel?

The Grocery Store

Savvy choices in the produce section help me minimize my pesticide exposure while keeping grocery costs reasonable and affordable. I use the “Dirty Dozen / Clean Fifteen” guidelines created by the EWP.

The Environmental Working Group is a research and advocacy nonprofit whose mission is “to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.” By compiling data collected by the USDA, the group created a simplified buying guide for consumers.

The “Dirty Dozen” are those products which show the highest levels of toxic pesticides when bought conventional. “The Clean Fifteen” are those that showed the lowest. You can print the graphic I made above or this one, and carry it in your wallet or purse.

Farmer’s Markets

When shopping at farmer’s markets, first, it’s smart to ask the vendor whether they are the actual grower of the products. Many vendors will have popular products shipped in from other states (which I think is bullshit, but whatever, they are trying to make money). Personally, I will not buy something at a farmer’s market that was grown by someone other than the man/woman at the booth. If I want peaches from New Jersey, I will just go to the grocery store.

If they are the grower, ask whether they use pesticides in the growing process and buy accordingly. Most local farmers cannot afford the expense of becoming certified organic, so even though they can’t advertise their products as such, their produce will generally be free from poisonous chemicals if their growing philosophy prevents them from using pesticides.

Happy shopping my friends!

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HipHop Yoga Playlist

hiphop yoga playlist 1

Energizing, fun, and irreverent!


For more awesome OKnamaste playlists click here.


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Want to Accept Your Body? Try Accepting the Bodies of Others.

oknamaste leda and the swan

I was an adolescent girl in the passenger seat of a car driven by a family member. At a stoplight, an overweight woman walked in front of our vehicle at a slow pace. My driver shook his head and grumbled, “Take your time, lady! I bet you’d be walking a lot faster if there was a Chinese buffet on the other side of the street.”

I remember laughing and filing this comment away for future use. “Fat shaming” was not a term we used in the mid-nineties, and although I thought it was never okay to be racist or to hate people based on physical disability, I thought it perfectly fine to look down on overweight people and have fun at their expense. After all, it was their fault they were so big.

Everyone in my family is thin, which is amazing considering how much we love food. Every get-together is a chance to share traditional and new culinary creations, and complaining of fullness is the inevitable evening conversation of every family holiday. My genes come with passion for eating and the blessing of a mesomorphic build that is small, efficient, and muscular. No one in my family of origin is fat, so disliking fat people was easy and safe.

For a long time, the overweight bodies of people around me were symbols of gluttony and lack of self-control. I might have said as a teen that fat people “grossed me out.” What I did not see then was the connection between how much I hated fat people and how deeply I feared becoming one of them. While my family continued to enjoy food with abandon, I spent most of my formative years dieting obsessively. It took some work and therapy to bring my relationship with food back to a healthy place, and part of that journey has been accepting overweight bodies that do not belong to me.

I believe that we cannot be at peace with ourselves and accept ourselves unconditionally unless we extend the same courtesy to others. The way we regard a fat stranger is how we will regard ourselves when we perceive ourselves as fat, even if that perception isn’t grounded in reality.

Over time, my family’s attitude toward fat people has softened. Some of this has to do with them having watched me grapple with my own addictions and developing increased understanding of compulsive behavior and powerlessness. Believe it or not, the egregiously exploitative show My 600 Pound Life has also helped them to see how extreme obesity is more a mental illness or addiction than a character defect. As far as people who are overweight but not extremely so, the general family attitude has also softened: it is really none of our business if someone carries an extra 20 or 40 or 60 pounds. There is no way to know why they are overweight (medication, post-partum blues, difficult genes, grief…), but it is probably not because they are gluttonous losers. In this way, I think I am witnessing a microcosm of the larger “fat-acceptance” movement, and a generally healthier cultural attitude toward diverse body types.

I have found that the kinder I can make my thoughts when I look at other people, the kinder I tend to be in my evaluations of myself. So I don’t mentally berate the overweight people on the sidewalk, and it helps prevent me from harshly criticizing myself.


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5 Things You Should Never Eat

There are tons of articles like this online, so of course we need an OK Namaste edition. Using my extensive knowledge of vitality and nutrition, I’ve compiled a collection of things you should never consume if you want to be a healthy, fit person.moldy nectarines oknamaste1. Moldy food

I know that groceries are expensive and waste is a sin, but if your food is growing fur, it is no longer safe to eat. As much as it may pain you, throw out your moldy food and next time try to eat it closer to the purchase date.

poison ivy oknamaste2. Poison Ivy

There was a rumor in the hiking community for awhile that eating a small amount of poison ivy could create immunity. That is a myth, and most people who nosh on the plant develop terrible itchiness and rashes in their mouths. Avoid this plant at all costs!

toilet paper oknamaste

3. Toilet Paper

This was a dieting staple of supermodels in the 70’s. Even though toilet paper might make you feel full, resist the temptation to have it for dinner. Often, TP is full of bleach and other chemicals that aren’t good for your digestive tract.

broken glass oknamaste

4. Broken Glass 

Shards of glass may be delightfully sparkly, but don’t let their glittery exterior fool you. Broken glass can tear holes in your stomach and kill you!

drain cleaner oknamaste

5. Drain Cleaner

If you think a drain cleaner will cleanse your digestive system, you are wrong, my friend. This stuff dissolves organic material, and since you are made of organic material, you should avoid consuming this at all costs.

Life is full of dieting booby traps, but if you can avoid the above items, you are well on your way to a healthy life.

Before you eat something, ask yourself whether it is edible. If it is, you can feel okay consuming it in moderation. And don’t let any stupid internet articles tell you otherwise.


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