For the past five or so years, I’ve wanted my dad to do asanas for his tight shoulders, chest, and upper back. While he’s fit and lean (and suntanned from gardening, golfing, and simply being an outdoorsman in Hawaii his whole life), he’s got “slouch” (that’s hyper-kyphosis to the Iyengar contingent) written in his genes. As his side of the family ages, they get skinny and stooped.

The last time I saw him, he asked about my yoga teaching. (That’s one sweet thing about my dad: he inquires about my life, even the aspects totally foreign to his own.) I ended up giving him a mini lesson and three simple supine stretches to do at home. “Your posture will improve,” I said, “and that’ll really help your golf game.”

I’d given him a yoga Rx before, but he never took to it. This time, he’s been doing the stretches daily, at least once in the morning and sometimes again at night. He reports on his progress, telling me that he still can’t do this or that. I can’t help grinning, at his commitment and at his assumption that change will happen within a few weeks!

The stretches that I prescribed for my dad are related to those I do, including my daily supine stretch over a rolled yoga mat. I focus the pressure on the most-convex spot of my thoracic spine, using gravity to create a pleasantly intense upper-spine backbend. With the rolled mat underneath, I do vary my arms, into parvatasana or clasping my hands behind my head, releasing my elbows toward the floor.

That is my daily Rx, so I was pleased to see Eve Johnson’s blog post, “Five-Minute Yoga Challenge: reverse the curve,” featuring a similar chest opener. She followed up with “Can we control how we age?”, a fascinating report on yoga’s efficacy in decreasing hyper-kyphosis in seniors.

I must forward Eve’s posts to my dad, so he better understands what I’m trying to do… when I imitate old-school Iyengar teachers and prod his upper back, ordering him to lift  his sternum and draw his shoulder blades in and down. He’s like me (or, I’m like him) in the way he sticks to a schedule and gets a bit obsessed over his chosen pursuits. So I’m hopeful that yoga has taken root—and that it will help him stand taller and straighter for life.


In the February 2010 issue of Yoga Journal, Jessica Berger Gross wrote “An Honest Meal,” about how yoga changed her relationship with food. It’s a neat summary of her memoir, enLIGHTened, which I reviewed in my second blog post, “Do yoga, lose weight,” last August. (I recommend reading the whole book, which more satisfyingly details her backstory and personality.)

While I was a bit underweight in high school and college (being thin had its own stigma, by the way), I was so thin that I could model for pills to lose weight, I’m not sure that’s how that works but you get my point. I could relate to eating hangups. During stressful periods in my 20s, I’d occasionally eat for psychological comfort rather physical need (granola, with its vague portion size, was particularly easy to abuse!). I’d also go through stages of health-nut zeal, eschewing not only meat, butter, and chocolate, but even olive oil and egg yolks! (I’m still vegetarian but on affectionate terms with dairy, eggs, and the cacao bean.)

The issue for me was not weight but control, whether too little or too much. Essentially, I was eating unnaturally. In her book, Gross’s then-infant son and pet dog exemplify natural food regulators. They eat when they are hungry. They stop when they are full. On active days, they eat more. On sedentary days, they eat less.

But even animals can have food hangups. My kitty, Gingy, couldn’t seem to self-regulate her intake. I had to portion out limited servings twice a day to keep her weight in check. She spent her early kittenhood as a feral cemetery stray, which perhaps taught her that food is scarce. In retrospect, I might’ve underfed her and contributed to her compulsion to clean her bowl.

Whether we’re human or feline, eating in sync with our physical needs is key. Our obsession with food has spanned generations and cultures. Food journalist Michael Pollan is just the latest chronicler, oracle, and advisor on our eating habits. He’ll forever be remembered for his seven-word prescription: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

His latest book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (see New York Times interview here) contains catchy tips on what and how to eat. Have we so lost touch with this basic act that we need a guide to say, “It’s not food if it’s served through the window of your car”? Or, “Don’t buy cereals that change the color of the milk”?

Even those seeking healthful diets can go overboard. I’d heard the phrase “eating like a caveman” to mean avoiding grains and eating primarily plants and unprocessed foods. But, according to “The New Age Cavemen and the City,” also published in the Times, wackos are now trying to go prehistoric by alternating gorging on meat (as if after a kill) and fasting (between kills).

I might pick up the Pollan book. But my current favorite food book is eating my words, an engagingly witty collection of essays by Vancouver-based food writer and yoga teacher Eve Johnson. She captures the way food is family and history, sensory pleasure and scientific experiment—and shows us how a true foodie appreciates food.