It’s Time to ‘Do Your Om Thing’
When Rebecca Pacheco was 16 years old, she wandered into a community center in her hometown of Falmouth. At the time, she was more used to beach towels than yoga mats—in fact, in her first class, that’s exactly what she used, a beach towel.
Even though everyone in the community center class was much older, Pacheco felt the need to give it a try. And, boy, is the Boston community—and soon to be the world—glad she did.
“The wild part for me and the part that I find most meaningful and even curious is that no one asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’ No one said, ‘Oh it’s so cute you’re here.’ They just accepted me,” Pacheco remembers. “The teacher looked at me, and it was almost as if I could hear her say the words, ‘I feel like this kid needs to be here.'”
Now, the 35-year-old South End resident is a yoga teacher, author, speaker, and creator of the widely popular Omgal.com, which was the catalyst for her new book, Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life. But Pacheco is not a yogi-turned-writer like many fitness professionals who start blogs. Rather, she majored in English Literature at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
“I consider myself a writer who happens to tell stories through the medium of yoga, which became this great love of my life since age 16,” Pacheco says. “And at that time, yoga was not very popular. It was growing, but it certainly was not hip or cool. It was not what teenagers did. I started Omgal.com in 2008, and it was a New Year’s Resolution that stuck, clearly. It was just, ‘I’m gonna start this blog, I don’t know what it’s going to turn into, but it is an intentional way of writing more frequently and expressing what I want to say about yoga and my approach to yoga and we’ll see what happens.'”
Over time, the blog caught on quickly—Pacheco has more than 10,000 Twitter followers—and after about four years, a literary agent reached out to her. Fortunately, writing a book was on her mind for some time, and she had already banked a few chapters.
“At that time, I had already started conceptualizing a book,” Pacheco says. “I had gotten together a couple of chapters. The goal of writing a book was lifelong, but the actual practical writing of the book started with dabbling a little bit, picking blog posts, and seeing how they could be extrapolated.”
It was important for Pacheco that her yoga tome not be another reference book, filled with longwinded advice or trying to explain poses with ink. Instead, she wanted to write the way she teaches—in a modern and practical way.
“In my eyes, people weren’t taking yoga books and curling up under the covers reading them,” Pacheco says. “They were reference books or a really heavy and antiquated book on the ancient philosophy. So I wanted to really merge what I knew, my two loves: writing and yoga. I wanted to write the way I teach, which is to fuse the physical fitness with its meaning, but make it relate to people’s lives so that they could pick up a book and use it practically on the T or in a work meeting. Like how to use breathing exercises and meditation. Because this is all a part of yoga, but it isn’t sexy for a magazine cover, so we hear of it a lot less. I wanted to give them their due.”
The funny thing is, Pacheco has been practicing and teaching meditation and mindfulness before they became mainstream buzzwords. “I meditate daily,” she says. “Meditation has always been a part of yoga. So for example, when people think of meditation, traditionally it was related to Buddhism. Mindfulness says that’s great and you can do that if you want, but you don’t have to.”
Mindfulness, Pacheco says, is simply the act of paying attention on purpose without judgment. And now scientists are taking notice and conducting clinical studies on the ancient practice. “We can measure the benefits of mindfulness which is why it has gotten cooler, more exciting, and buzzier because it’s not granola people like me telling you to do this; you can actually take an MRI of a meditator and see visible changes in the brain,” she says.
Pacheco says that for her, the life changing moment came when she realized she could meditate without having to spend 45 minutes in a Buddhist center in Cambridge at dawn—although, she did do that for a while. “This morning [I meditated] for five minutes. I set the iPhone timer, sat there, and that’s it,” she explains. “Usually, I like to do 10 to 15 minutes but if things are particularly stressful, I have a friend who tells me to up my ‘meds.’ She means meditation.”
But in Do Your Om Thing, Pacheco is realistic, and knows that doing yoga and practicing meditation is not going to all of a sudden make you a Zen guru spewing out sunshine and rainbows all day.
“I can tell you that there are still many mornings when I’m meditating and my mind is itchy, and I am distracted, and I’m listening to the trash truck outside, and I’m hungry, and I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat for breakfast,” Pacheco says. “All of that is normal; people who meditate for decades still experience that, but those people don’t stop meditating because it is still working. And you’ll still freak out. I think that another misconception about yoga and meditation is that people become perfect meditators and don’t have meltdowns. The goal is not to make you perfect, it is to make those meltdowns fewer and milder with better control over them.”
Divided into four parts (philosophy, body, mind, and spirit), the book explores ancient yoga tradition (from the eight limbs of the ancient path outlined by Patanjali, to the five koshas and seven chakras of the yoga body), but has Pacheco’s unique and expert interpretations of these teachings and puts them into a modern context for use in our everyday lives. The book’s purpose is to make yoga relatable and meaningful in the context of our lives both on and off the mat.
“My goal was to write something fresh and fun that takes an inclusive and informed look at the tradition of yoga through the eyes of a modern yogi,” Pacheco says.
Pacheco will be signing her book at two local bookstores this week: Brookline Booksmith, March 4 at 7 p.m., and at Trident on Newbury St. March 9 at 7 p.m. Do Your Om Thing is available now in bookstores and on Amazon.