I have always loved the holidays. L-O-V-E-D. I have put up my Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving every year since I was a sophomore in college when I rented my own little bungalow for less than the cost of a pair of boots from Barneys Co-Op.
And now my daughter is poised to carry on the tradition, proudly declaring (every day since July 1) that this year has to be THE most festive, super-duper-decorated Christmas ever! Of course, she has even named our Christmas tree this year: Snowflake.
The problem: For the first time, perhaps ever, I feel utterly unmoved by the Christmas spirit this year. I’ve felt tapped. Zapped. Not my usual, bouncy holiday self. It’s been a year of major change and transition. The kind that you hope you will ultimately look back on and say, “Ahh, all for the better,” but while you’re in it seems like a tangled mess of holiday lights.
So Snowflake sat bare for a week. Her bushy 7-foot noble fir frame fell on me twice as I tried to adjust her. My squawks for help went unheard as my husband worked away in the other room with headphones on. I finally managed to put the lights on her — only to find that they all blew out two days later. This is a sign, I assured myself. A sign that I should instead be in Hawaii covered in delicious-smelling Hampton Sun suntan oil, not sticky from the sap of Snowflake and covered in pine needles!
And as I’ve hopped between holiday events, store openings and designer appearances, I started to hear whispered “bah humbug” confessions from friends as well as fellow fashion colleagues who have also been feeling burnt out from a combo of work, stress, harried holiday shopping and racing to different gatherings to toast to, what else, the holidays.
After coming to terms with the fact that I will, in fact, not be lounging this Christmas by the pool in Hawaii in my plunging red Norma Kamali swimsuit with a stack of magazines and a girly drink on the table, I realized I was going to have to look a little deeper. And this year, all the Charlie Brown, It’s a Wonderful Life and mulled wine were simply not going to be enough.
So I did what any self-respecting L.A. girl does: I turned to yoga. More specifically, I sought out the advice of two of L.A.’s hottest yogis for help, for both our readers and myself.
And who better to help than Clio Manuelian and Tiffany Russo, both of whom worked in high-octane, fast burnout careers — Manuelian a former fashion PR exec from New York and Russo, once in charge of front of house for one of L.A.’s hottest nightclubs. Both left demanding careers and impossibly high heels. And both now devote themselves to the practice and teaching of yoga and a life led more in Lululemons than Louboutins.
The two are among L.A.’s most in-demand yoga instructors and they’re part of a growing trend of women who are giving up lifestyles they themselves once coveted for something more fulfilling. And both agree that there’s no better time than the holidays and the New Year to take advantage of yoga’s calming benefits and to adopt a less stressful lifestyle. In fact, they have even created a special series of essential yoga poses designed just for Fashion Trends Daily readers. (See below.)
“Yoga is an essential part of the holiday season, when the weather is inconsistent and the traffic, the lines and the energy of the people are overwhelming,” said Russo. “Taking time for your self, focusing on your breath to simply slow down can recharge your physical and mental well being, as well as adding a calming influence to those around you.”
Calm? This can be a particularly difficult concept for the driven among us who want to channel the likes of, say, uber party planner, Colin Cowie. I mean, c’mon. There are chic holiday cards to send out, perfect presents to buy, fabulous holiday fetes to plan, homemade jams and cookies to make, décor that needs to one-up our neighbors, and even sweaters that must be knitted from our own sheep, as Martha Stewart just did for the holidays. (Oh yes, she did! She had sweaters knit from the wool of the black Welsh sheep on her farm.)
Manuelian, who is also a Lululemon brand ambassador, may not hand make sweaters from her own sheep, but she fully understands relentless drive and the toll that seeking perfection can take on the body. “I’m a recovering addict from that Type A [lifestyle],” said Manuelian. “The real benefit of yoga during the holidays or any time is the getting quiet, getting steady, getting centered, getting still, and mostly this happens through the work of the breath. “
Manuelian’s interest in yoga started in New York in the ‘90s. “It was still very underground in New York,” said the former director of PR for Salvatore Ferragamo. “I was working at Elle [magazine] at the time and people didn’t really know what [yoga] was. They would ask ‘What goes on in there?’ “
Flash forward years later and she was fully ensconced in a sleek Manhattan office, globetrotting to attend the collections and to awards shows and living a life many young women would envy. And yet she was burning out. Fast. And then came a defining moment on a trip to L.A.
“I was in L.A. at the Soho house,” said Manuelian. “I was director of PR at Ferragamo in totally high stilettos and down I went, both ankles sprained and I had to be here [in L.A.] for the Oscars and then fly to Milan for the shows.”
Her non-stop lifestyle was losing its luster. And by 2006, she left New York to move to L.A.
“Yoga is an essential part of the holiday season, when the weather is inconsistent and the traffic, the lines and the energy of the people are overwhelming” — Tiffany Russo
For Russo, a former bar manager at L.A.’s hot Roosevelt hotel, it was the suicide of a dear friend — her partner in the nightlife business — that catapulted her out of it for good. She had already started going to yoga, but four months after the traumatic incident, she quit her job for good.
“Yoga was my therapy when I was in nightlife,” said Russo. “At first I had to be dragged kicking and screaming.” But soon yoga transformed her life.
Oddly enough, both say that the Type A personality can follow many beginning Type-A practitioners as well, and counteract the entire reason for doing yoga in the first place.
“There are a million people who say to me, ‘I already run 6-7 times a week’ and then they jump right into the level 2-3 class,” said Russo. “It’s important to start low. It’s a lifelong practice.”
Indeed, when you’re trying to one-up the downward dog of the person next to you, you are probably missing the point — especially during holiday time, when there are many added pressures to deal with already. For the holidays, think of yoga as your security blanket or your yummy Fair Isle sweater.
Said Russo, “The practice of yoga is able to provide a sense of returning home when so much effort is exerted during the holidays.”
And if all else fails, head to Maui.
Tiffany Russo teaches at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice and Equinox Marina Del Rey, as well as SmartFLOW Teacher Trainings with Annie Carpenter in Los Angeles. Other cities will be announced in the coming weeks. She also teaches a free bi-weekly Yoga for Artists class at For Your Art on Tuesdays at noon. You can learn more about her at www.tiffanyrussoyoga.com
Clio Manuelian teaches at Equinox in Westwood and West L.A., Liberation Yoga, Center for Yoga and elsewhere. She will host a retreat at Udaya in Malibu, Feb 1-3, 2012. She is also co-leading a 200 HR teacher training at inyoga starting April 12, 2013, details at http://inyogacenter.com/teachertraining.php. You can learn more about Clio at http://www.clioyoga.com
Clio & Tiffany’s Yoga For The Fashion Maven
Try: Clasping hands behind your back. Draw the bottom tips of the shoulder blades into to the chest to lift the sternum up and widen across the upper chest. Pause. Breathe 10 deep breaths. Repeat throughout the day.
And: Stand tall and straight, reach arms overhead, clasp one wrist and take a juicy side bend. Pause. Breathe 10 deep breaths. Change sides. Enjoy
Are your holiday high heels making your hamstrings unhappy?
Bring love back to your legs. First: lay flat on the floor. Use a strap, or a towel, or your chic Chanel belt over the ball of one foot and reach that leg to the sky while the others actively rest straight on the floor. Flex top toes straight back behind you and reach the heel of the lifted leg to the sky, even if the knee is slightly bent. Shoulders relaxed on the floor and breath 25 long deep breaths. mmmmmm
P.S. a downward facing dog after this will feel aaaaahhhhh-mazing!
Does keeping up with the who’s who and being in the know get you down?
Here are 3 Ways to “Get More” (for free!) out of this Awesome Life of yours:
1. Wake up and get down on the floor first thing in the morning. Hug the knees into the chest, roll on the sacrum to give it a little massage, do an easy twist, roll up and down the spine like a ball, circle the joints (wrists, shoulders, ankles, hips), do some cat/cow or other feel-good moves. You’ll know what your body likes. Then take 5 minutes to be still and silent before the day gets going
2. Breath more consciously and more often. Remember how your mom told you to take 10 deep breaths? She was right. It’s a game changer.
3. Do one positive, easy thing every day for 30 days: Stretch, go to sleep at a set time, drink 8 glasses of water, do yoga! You’ll be amazed and delighted to see what happens next.