Happy Holidays from Growing Up On OM




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‘Tis the Season

to set intentions

Your intention is the energy, the electric charge, the awareness you bring to every aspect of your life.  It’s the force that  lies behind everything you do, the fuel for your fire. Setting your intention is a bit like offering up an invocation to the universe.  You place your desire out in the world, as an energized thought, a pregnant idea, an open prayer. – Sera Beak from The Red Book

There are so many proper nouns (sorry, that’s what third graders I teach are studying) that follow the word “Happy” this time of year. Happy Hanukkah (belated), Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Christmas (so soon!), and Happy New Year (I am sure there are plenty I’ve yet to include). After having a broken leg this time of year last year [insert link] I’ve been partaking in this holiday season with extra enthusiasm this year: buying a Christmas tree, helping my family host their annual Hanukkah party, attending a holiday-themed live blues class at Laughing Lotus, baking granola for my coworkers, already having my outfit planned for New Years Eve (post-the Harlem Yoga Studio 108 sun salutations extravaganza), etc. And I love every minute of it because let’s be real: ’tis the season to set the intention for HAPPINESS. The beauty of this season is that we say “Happy” to so many things, happiness being broad enough to encompass a wide range of intentions. For 2016, I’m going to keep my intention broad: happiness, but when cultivating your intention, maybe look for the specifics, the nuances in the broadness of resolutions and goals that this season spews out. Make it manageable. Make it fun.




Last-Minute Gift Ideas

It’s Christmas Eve. You got gifts for almost everyone on your list, but there are those lingering few that just got lost in the buzz of this glorious holiday season. December has a way, after all, of catching us off-guard. I’m here to help! Over my five-plus years of teaching yoga, I’ve developed some offerings that make excellent last-minute gifts (i.e. they can be purchased with a maximum of 3 clicks or 1 email and arrive immediately). Here ya go:

Last-Minute Gift Idea #1

Yoga U: The College Student’s Tools for Balanced Living

5070474-1.pngPurchase the e-book Yoga U: The College Student’s Tools for Balanced Living from YogaU.weebly.com. Purchase instructions are on the website and the book is available for download. Or, shoot me an email, we’ll figure out the PayPal, and I’ll personally email the pdf of the book to a loved one with a holiday note that you can personalize! Want a taste of the book before you purchase? Download the introduction FREE by scrolling to the end of the homepage. The book itself costs $9.99.

Last-Minute Gift Idea #2: YOGA PRIVATESScreen Shot 2015-12-24 at 11.40.56 AM.png

On my website, ShiraEngel.com, I have three very different, equally educational, and variably-priced private yoga offerings. They range in price from $35 to $75. But for the holidays, I am offering a bonus offering: a personalized yoga class for a group of people. I began offering this a few years ago and what I learned from that experience is that it made a great gift for roommates! I would come over to your apartment, bring some extra props and voila, a yoga class brought to your home. The cost of that offering is $75 for up to six people to join in on the fun (less than your average yoga class / person in NYC). If you want in on any of these offerings, email me at shira.b.engel@gmail.com.

Alright, the selling is done. Have a very, very merry Christmas, celebrating or not, eating Chinese food and going to see the new Tina Fey and Amy Poehler movie or just chilling out and reading a novel. Bottom line: do something relaxing today. December leading up to this point is crazy enough. Now, it’s time to CTFO.


New Years Eve + New Years Day in Manhattan: An Alternative Ringing-In

When everyone else seems to be taking one back in Times Square anxiously awaiting the drop of a ball, thousands of New Yorkers have their eyes closed and their breath big in downward facing dog. When ringing 2014 in, I joined in this tradition and there’s no going back for me because really, it’s quite fun to show up fashionably late to a New Years Eve party (i.e. after midnight) and why not make a grand entrance with a fabulous post-yoga glow?

Here’s the Growing Up On OM guide to ringing in 2016.


Harlem Yoga Studio 108 Sun Salutations

139.jpgFull disclosure: this is the NYE event I’m most excited about because I’ll be attending it and teaching some of the sun salutations at one of my true hOMe studios where I teach my weekly 5:45pm Saturday class. From my personal FB page:

SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED to ring in the New Year with lovely teachers and yogis. Very excited to lead some of the sun salutations in this event (a yoga nerd dream of mine). C’mon by and flow with us NYE – blog post to persuade you even more forthcoming!

  • Teachers: a HYS variety!
  • 9:45pm – Midnight
  • $20

Come Ring in the New Year with deep breaths, Yoga, Community, and lots of LOVE! 10 PM through Midnight! Join many of your favorite HYS teachers and fellow Yogis as we celebrate the passing of 2015, and welcome 2016 with intention and open hearts. We will meet, ground, throw away what is not needed from the past year, and offer our intentions and wishes for 2016. Then together we will complete 108 Sun Salutations led by various teachers. We will end with a collective Metta meditation and then mingle and snack with healthy, nourishing food (and cookies!).

Why 108? The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. There are 108 Upanishads, and according to yogic tradition there are 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.

Register here or just show up at the door!

Integral Yoga Institute 108 Sun Salutations: Peace, Prayers + Loving Energy 

  • Teacher: Nalini Kuhnke
  • 5-6:30pm
  • By Donation

364.jpgWhat better way to welcome 2016 than to stretch, breathe, and celebrate Yoga with 108 sun salutations, led by the wonderful IYI teacher Nalini? Come and enjoy the sacred space of IYI’s Lotus Room as you join with other Yogis and Yoginis in this beautiful practice. Whatever you do for the rest of the evening, you’ll be refreshed, energized, and ready for a great new year.

Register here.

Laughing Lotus Let Magic Reign w. Victor

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  • Teacher: Victor Colletti
  • 10pm-Midnight
  • $60

Patti Smith was taught by her mother that the way she spent the first day of the year would influence the following 364 – so start YOUR 2016 off right with this two-hour intention-setting ceremony filled with fluid asana, chanting, powerful kriyas!

Register here.


New Years Soul Sweat w. Dana Trixie Flynn

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  • 1-2:30pm
  • Laughing Lotus


Join Dana for a deep and beautiful fluid practice that rolls into a delicious gong bath. Let’s start the year off together with more energy and sweetness. All Levels.

New Years Day Yin Yoga Class

  • 3-4:30pm
  • Susan Derwin
  • Laughing Lotus

We will take time to ground, to release what is in the past, and to open up and create space and intention for the New Year!  Yin yoga is a more passive practice, utilizing props and gravity to facilitate lengthening of the connective tissue to increase mobility.  This class is open to all levels, including beginners.

@YogaGirl Virtual 108 Sun Salutations (Live from the Upper East Side)

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Happy New Year! May 2016 be happy, joyous + free!



written from the boca raton resort

It’s Been a Year

As I write this, I am sitting on the 1 train crying (what else is new?). These tears that are welling up in my eyes but not actually making their way down my face are tears of knowing I don’t actually have to cry so much today. One year ago today, I was hit by a car while biking home from work. My aunt emailed me yesterday – a belated Thanksgiving email – to tell me she was grateful I made it through. My ex-roommate’s ex-boyfriend Facebook messaged me to say one year later he was thinking of me and I seem happy. And I made it through today, teaching four third grade classes and forgetting and remembering and then commuting and remembering again that one time I didn’t make it home.

It’s been a year.

It hasn’t been a bad year. It definitely wasn’t a good year. It was a year that doesn’t subscribe to dualistic or simplistic adjectives in my mind. Today, I told a third grader to find a more descriptive word than “nice” when picking the characteristics for his own personal loving-kindness meditation. I think that when I think back to that swathe of time between the gurney and now, I’ll always be searching for the right words to sum it up.

To the reader still injured, this too shall pass. Making it out on the other side is a shape-shifting experience, a process of becoming, and that process gets recognized in moments – jumping up and down while teaching kids yoga; taking a particularly challenging yoga class; crossing the street with a regular, even, steady heartbeat.

Talk about growing up on OM! I’ve had more life experiences in this year than I’ve probably had in ten years of my life combined. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I remember writing a blog post just ten days out of surgery. I was in my bed and my leg was propped up on four pillows and I was a little high on pain medication but still, I wrote of the overwhelming gratitude I felt…and what I was learning. Well, folks, what I learned then doesn’t even make a dent into all I’ve learned since and all, I am sure, that I have left to learn.

Here is what I’ve learned between December Firsts (i.e. what a one-year-out me wants to say to late 2014 me and all those who are working through injuries):

  • You will heal, even though, in the deepest darkest places inside,  you don’t think you will.
  • Family is everywhere. The school I did my AmeriCorps service at continues to make my heart swell with how much they cared for and about me last year.
  • True friends are the ones who don’t leave the trauma ward when they put the bones back into your body. Instead, they tell you to call your parents before you go under. Even though that’s the last thing you want to do. Even though – and because – you’re terrified.
  • True friends are the ones who don’t leave the hospital room when you’re getting a catheter put in. Even though you ask them to. Even though – and because – you’re terrified.
  • True friends hold your hands while the anaesthesia seeps in.
  • Those who’ve been injured before, been ill, will understand things others just can’t, and it’s important to keep them around…because they will bring you something – a book, poetry, yarn and needles, some homeopathic plants – for the pain. Oh, and the people who’ve been through something along that injury-illness spectrum? They will be the ones who will treat you as if you are not injured; they are the ones who will make you remember that you’re still you.
  • Moms can fly across the country so fast that it’s like they’ve personally strapped on wings and skyrocketed through the air, never mind that they usually have to pop a few Xanax before takeoff.
  • Doctors are amazing workers of magic. So are nurses. And physical therapists? They are resurrecturs of spirit.
  • That surgical boot? It’s the fucking sexiest thing you’ve ever put on your leg. If you don’t believe that, shit’s just gonna be really hard to deal with for a little bit.
  • The next time you think that person is going to save you in some way, remember that at the end of the day, it was your helmet and a whole team of healers that did. If that isn’t a hushing of codependent thoughts, I don’t know what is.
  • Oh honey, oh honey, oh honey, be gentle. The physical gentleness will happen organically; it’s sink or swim in the land of the injured, healing and casted. But the gentleness of the head and the heart? That won’t. So you’re going to have to make the extra effort for radical gentleness.
  • Getting all sorts of help that included mind, body, spirit was the cocktail that saved my life.
  • You need more nourishment, of every single sort. Your body is working in ways it never has before. It’s rebuilding itself.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither are bones.
  • You can’t go from zero to hero overnight. Service to others during a time like this will blissfully get you out of your own head, but take it slow.
  • Sisters rise up to the occasion.
  • You are your own best advocate. No one else will know that you need a blanket underneath a scarred knee in yoga class. Your stepmom won’t know when an uphill walk is too challenging for you. This is the ultimate test of that thing you say or hear teachers say, “You know your body best.” Even when it changes so radically, even when it breaks, even when it betrays you – especially when it betrays you – that is truth incarnate.
  • Celebrate the small milestones. Because if you don’t, no one will. Because if you don’t mark progress like a child who gets sharpie on the wall when their height is measured, growth is too minute, too important, to see.
  • This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.



Giving Tuesday

Happy #GivingTuesday!  After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is exactly what the world needs…what we all need…to balance out our intentions.

Here’s a description of what today – a newer holiday – means, from GivingTuesday.org,

Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges. It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners— nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.

As a global movement, #GivingTuesday unites countries around the world by sharing our capacity to care for and empower one another.

As a 20-something, I know that it can be so challenging to justify philanthropy. Last year, as an AmeriCorps member, I legitimately did not have $10 to donate. (However, to be honest, that was all OK because I donated basically all my time.) But this year, as a young professional, even gearing up to pay graduate school tuition, I realize that just $10 makes a huge difference. I also have a large list of nonprofits that I absolutely, positively adore, that have made a huge impact on me and others.

Summer on the Hill


I spend my Saturdays teaching for this organization that shares the resources of a very well-off prep school with students who are more local to the Bronx neighborhood that prep school inhabits. These are students who are traditionally disadvantaged, but academically gifted. From their website:

SUMMER ON THE HILL (SOH) has had an outstanding impact on education for 21 years!

A year-round enrichment program for bright, low-income students from the Bronx, Washington Heights, and Harlem, SOH has placed 300 students in college and 58 students in NYC specialized science or audition high schools.

Donate here.

Girls Write Now


For four years, I was a mentee with GWN so I know firsthand the tremendous impact this organization has on young lives. Through the support of GWN, I received a scholarship that enabled me to graduate from my elite private alma mater debt-free. But that is so not even close to how awesome GWN is. It allowed me to identify as a writer at the age of 15 and it supported me wholeheartedly and gently through the writing process, which can be a tumultuous one. From the website:

“Writing is a way to understand the world and myself. This is just the beginning.” —Massange Kamara, mentee

Girls Write Now is poised for significant growth with a strategic plan to double the number of girls we serve and to enhance our college prep and alumnae services, extending the support we provide young women writers into college, career, and beyond. There is no better time to invest.

We work on the basis of intense commitment – the girls who participate sign up for a demanding year of daily effort and constant challenge as they learn various genres of writing and a range of life skills. Girls Write Now promises an equally intensive investment, one that is highly effective and economical compared to similar services.

Donate here.

Girls on the Run


I witnessed the power of GOTR in Portland, OR last year as I coached the most amazing third through fifth graders to set a goal and achieve it. GOTR teaches so many social-emotional skills for students. From the website:

We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

Donate here.

Exhale to Inhale


This utterly profound organization empowers yoga teachers to empower the disempowered: survivors of domestic violence. Bringing yoga to domestic violence shelters is no small feat. I very strongly encourage you to donate to this amazing organization. From their website:

People ask us, “why yoga?” Our answer, is that the resources people gain through yoga are at the very foundation of our lives – the ability to breathe, to gain physical and emotional strength, and to make healthy life choices, which in turn, helps us to better care for our loved ones. 

For the women we serve, yoga provides them with a tool to heal and to feel strong and safe in their bodies so that they can help to end the cycle of violence in their families and communities. Physically, domestic violence often leaves survivors with long-lasting medical conditions that can be mitigated by yoga such as broken bones, head trauma, and nerve damage. Emotionally, survivors may begin to feel empowered that they are doing something that will help them heal physically and emotionally, to help them view their bodies as a safe place again, to calm their nervous systems, and decrease their levels of anxiety.

Yoga is an empowering tool with far-reaching benefits that carry over off of the mat and into everyday life. The yoga mat is a safe place where people can begin to reconnect with themselves, to practice making choices, express when something doesn’t feel right to them, and figure out what would work better. For many women, the time spent on their mats is the first time, possibly in years, that they have been able to feel safe and breathe evenly.

Donate here.

Living Yoga


I was very involved with this organization through working at unfold last year. They do great work by bringing yoga to schools in Portland, OR, and bringing free recovery yoga to studios around the city. They work on researching and directly implementing their research involving yoga + trauma. From their website:

When you give to Living Yoga, you’re giving the gift of hope and healing to another human being.  Every day we see lives transformed in big and small ways because of the yoga classes we are able to offer with your support.

Chances are you have experienced the profound effects of yoga in your own life. You understand the depth of healing and change that is possible through practice.  That is why we ask you to give generously to Living Yoga.  To empower others who are at critical moments in their life-in prison or in treatment for addictions, to experience this same potential.

Donate here.

As part of what it means to grow up on OM, donate. Forgo the lunch out just one day and spend just $10 on one of these organizations. If my seven-year-old sister can do it with her accrued allowance, use 20-somethings can too.

P.S. Even if donating isn’t one of your spiritual practices as a 20-something, chances are that online shopping is. AmazonSmile is a great way to pick out any of these organizations and basically have Amazon donate on behalf of you. Oh, hay, no excuses approach to philanthropy!