Why a 60 Minute Yoga Class?

Recently, I made some folks angry on Facebook which isn’t hard to do these days. It started when, silly me, I commented on this story from the Atlantic where the author laments that anything more than thirty minutes of yoga class is just too hard to fit into her busy schedule. My comment on Facebook was something to the effect of, “if you’re complaining about the class being too long, I suggest you’re missing the point. Yoga is a spiritual practice, not a newly invented fitness crazy to get you a six-pack in 8 weeks”. Because really, if that’s all you’re getting out of it, then there’s a plethora of other fitness classes you can take in thirty minutes. Seriously. SO. MANY. CHOICES.

Holy wow, did I strike a chord with folks. Many people were offended that I was telling them how to be spiritual and/or how to be fit, when I wasn’t doing any such thing. I was simply trying to point out that the original purpose of Yoga isn’t about fitness. Increased flexibly and strength are aspects of yoga that enable you to find focus, concentration, meditation, and liberation (to name a few benefits). It’s all connected. Yoga helps you join your body and mind into a harmonious unison through focus, breath and movement. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Of course you don’t have to subscribe to the ancient traditions of yoga in order to enjoy or receive benefits from yoga. Of course I don’t think everyone who walks into a western yoga studio needs to have read the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita. I don’t expect everyone to set intentions for their practice that include opening the Chakras and/or rooting oneself to the Earth’s energies. These aspects of yoga are not for everyone, I get that.

But I ask you, as a member of our shared human culture, to please respect the ancient origin and traditions of yoga as a spiritual practice first and foremost. Know that there are some folks in your class who may be there to connect with their bodies in a way that is very spiritual for them. For people like me, going to yoga class is more akin to going to church than going to the gym. Those of us who are there for these benefits ask that those of you who aren’t be respectful of the history, the religion, the quiet, the peace, and most of all, the sacred savasana.  (Hint, stop talking during savasana.)

With a little digging, you’ll soon see that yoga has been misappropriated by western culture. You don’t have to look far to see what I mean, after all, baby goat yoga is all the rage. I saw bunny yoga classes on my morning news today, complete with cute bunnies hopping around leaving little round brown presents for all the yogis in class. Gross. I honestly can’t imagine any physical benefit to allowing baby goats to climb on your vertebrae while you’re in child’s pose. I really cannot.

I want to state here and now that I’m not a Yoga teacher (#futuregoals), nor am I a spiritual authority, guide, teacher, prophet, or anything at all. I’m still learning about the history of yoga and all its forms, so in no way am I an expert. But if you’re going to yoga and don’t like that the classes are an hour or more, please consider why they are this length. Do some research. Understand the meaning behind what you’re participating in. If all that new age sounding stuff isn’t for you, that’s totally okay. Just be aware and be respectful. Namaste!

The Unintentional Yogi

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I’m going to start right in the middle of my story.  I’m a 200 hour certified yoga teacher.  So, there’s that.  It wasn’t really a plan or a goal.  Not at first.  Actually, it was never even on the radar.

When I took that first yoga class, I was a disaster.  And, that is putting it mildly.  I had no clue what the poses were, regardless if they were being presented in English or in Sanskrit.  But, what I lacked in knowledge and skill, I made up for with total ignorance, a lack of pride, and sheer visceral-fortitude.  The fact that I DIDN’T know how to do anything only made me want to do it MORE!  Luckily I didn’t feel intimidated by the advanced students.  They actually had quite the opposite effect on me.  I saw them as inspiration!

I never knew that the body could be so strong and could be contorted in so many simple, beautiful, and unusual ways. So, I kept showing up to my mat because I liked seeing from practice to practice that I was making progress.  I eventually dove into beginner and fundamental workshops (which probably would have been a better place to start, but…hey, hindsight is 20-20).  I moved from practicing one day a week to two…and then to three.  I found changes happening in my body and in my overall mindset and well-being.  It took me an entire year of continuing to show up and put in the work to finally be able to hold crow pose (bakasana) for 5 breaths.  And, once that happened…I felt that anything was possible in my practice.

I was a regular at the studio.  I was “friends” with the teachers.  When a teacher-training was finally being offered at the studio location that I frequented, my favorite teacher suggested that I sign up.  I LOVED the idea.  I really wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga and to fine-tune my personal practice.  I didn’t have any desire to teach, but not everyone who goes through teacher-training actually wants to teach.  So, that wasn’t an issue.  When I presented the idea to my husband, he was fully supportive…in as long as I chose to MONETIZE my training.  He didn’t feel it was a great idea to spend a somewhat large sum of money to get certified if it was solely being used as a self-exploration and personal growth tool.  And, because I REALLY wanted to do this, I agreed to his terms, and I signed up (still not personally committed to the idea that I actually would teach).

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The five and a half months worth of teacher-training classes were set to start in September.  In July, I unfortunately was unexpectedly injured.  In a freak occurrence, I was bitten by my own dog.  I had to have a plastic surgeon brought in to perform emergency surgery on my mouth and face.  My upper-left-lip was mostly detached, and it took countless numbers of artistically placed stitches to put me back together.

Recovery was physically brutal.  I wasn’t able to eat for 10 days, and I was in constant pain.  Emotionally I was a wreck, too.  In an effort to make sure our young daughter (and everyone/anyone else) would be safe, we made the heart-breaking decision to say goodbye to our well-loved 12 year old fur baby.  Through the course of all of this, people began sympathetically talking to me about how sucky it was that I also now wouldn’t be able to go through with my yoga teacher-training.  That really struck me in an odd way.  That thought never even crossed my mind!  At that moment, more than any other, I knew that I HAD to go through with teacher-training…that I NEEDED it.  So, I stuck with that plan as I continued to move forward.

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I made my way back to my mat after a month of healing.  I slowly started to move through the practice and re-establish what yoga was to me right then and there.  Two weeks into it, I was feeling strong and motivated…so much so that I was engaging in a full-practice, including arm balances and inversions.  That is when another blow was delivered.

meganyoga3I was in side-crow, and I felt something “tweak” in my wrist.  That tweak turned into a whole bunch of pain.  Pain that didn’t get better.  Off to the wrist specialist I went where it was determined that I had torn my TFCC (triangular-fibrocartilage complex) and had perforated a ligament.  I was given a cortisone injection and was put in a fiberglass cast for 4 weeks, with the talk of surgery after that.  Again, everyone assumed that my opportunity to go through with the yoga teacher-training process was going to be inevitably delayed.  The way I looked at it, though, was that the universe was simply testing me.  It wanted to find out HOW MUCH I really wanted to do this….how much it really meant to me.  So, my game plan?  Show up.  Just as I had been doing, cast and all.  I determined that the only way that I wasn’t going through with the program was if one of the studio owners told me that I couldnt.  I wasn’t going to give them any reasons to think that I shouldn’t be there.  And, luckily, no one ever openly questioned my showing up .

So, TAKE THAT, UNIVERSE!  I plopped down on that mat cast and all, full of excitement and naive anticipation.  I’ll mention that there is no preparing for the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with yoga-teacher training, injury or no injury.  There are days that we practiced for the better part of 4 hours straight with little or no breaks.  I gritted my way through it all.   I modified my practice and did everything on my fists.  My knuckles were bruised and calloused.  But, I wasn’t going to give anyone any reason to say that I wasn’t putting in the work.  I wasn’t going to use anything as an excuse nor was I going to jeopardize my certification.  So, on it went.  10 hours a weekend for most weekends.  Time away from family.  Time filled with mom-guilt.  And wife-guilt.  Time spent not knowing if I would get through, because, shit, y’all…yoga teacher training is H-A-R-D!  But, it is when you push yourself through in the toughest of moments that you tend to reap the biggest rewards, and that is what I wanted.  I wanted the reward.

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When the cast came off, I again had to rebuild my practice.  I spent the entire teacher-training working to lift back into crow pose and fumble my way back into hand-standing.  Hell, down dog wasn’t even “easy.”  But, that is one of the beauties in yoga.  It is humbling.  You never know where your body might be from one day to the next…but there is still a place for you on that mat.  There is an opportunity to practice and progress, regardless of where you are at any given moment.  Drop the ego, pull yourself inward, focus, let go…and just see what happens.  That right there…that is what KEEPS me coming back.  And, that is what kept me going through the grueling and soul-searching process that is yoga teacher-training.  And, that is what eventually earned me my certification to teach yoga.

I just graduated in February 2016.  About 6 weeks prior to my final, I started teaching donation-based classes to get in additional teaching practice.  I taught my first “real class” the week right after I graduated…at the studio that has been my “home” for three years, the studio where I also took my teacher-training.  I’m not only teaching vinyasa, but I’m also combining my loves and am teaching running yoga classes!  And, I feel I am exactly where I should be, unintentionally or not.  Some things in life may not be planned, but they might turn out to be exactly what you need.  I discovered that I DO want to teach yoga.  I want to share my love of yoga with others.  I want people to discover that they have an inner-strength that maybe they have not yet explored or found.  I want people to know that yoga is accessible to EVERYONE, and that even if you can’t or don’t care to ever emulate all of the crazy poses that you see plastered all over Instagram…that you can still progress in your own practice.  That even in the most basic of poses, you are still “doing” yoga.  That it is ok to fall and to laugh at yourself, and then get right back up and try again.  I want people to know that yoga takes place on the mat, yes…but that most of the work of yoga takes place off the mat, and that is where the real magic happens.  I am a living example of that.  I am a healthier, stronger, more calm and patient, life-loving person than I ever thought possible.  My yoga practice makes that a reality.  I never thought at the age of 42 that I would be a head-standing, balancing on my arms, hand-standing, mantra-singing, peace-loving, breath-focused yogi…but I am, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

I encourage you to:  Throw down a mat.  Get on.  See where it might take you.  You might be surprised.  Om, shanti, shanti, shanti!  Namaste!

Megan currently teaches at Dhyana Yoga in Haddonfield, NJ. If you’re not close by (and even if you are) you can follow her on Instagram

All sorts of yoga

Since last summer, I’ve tried yoga on a paddleboard, yoga while hiking and yoga poses all around Rochester. And I found that I really enjoyed pushing my self, trying new poses and meeting new people in the process.

Last month, I tried another version of yoga, this time trekking on snowshoes to complete my first-ever SNOWGA session.

That’s right. I hiked about 3 miles on snowshoes with an adventurous group of women to try snowga at Bristol Harbour Resort in the heart of the Finger Lakes. We stopped twice on our trek for a mini-yoga session that included tests of balance and flexibility and strength, all with snowshoes strapped to our feet.

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Warrior 1, humble warrior, downward dog, triangle, shavasana. We did it all in the snow. One woman even tackled a headstand with snowshoes on! Look closely below in the rear left of this picture, as you can see one badass yogi working her magic.

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The event was with Finger Lakes Yogascapes, a local women-owned business that offers indulgent fitness retreats for women. I learned about the company last year through my job and have tried a few of their classes. But I have been itching to try snowga since first heard about it last winter.

First off, snowga wasn’t hard. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. The incorporated yoga sessions were also geared toward beginners with modication options for the more advance yogis in the crowd.

The day event included a loan of snowshoes and walking poles, but I brought my own. Heck, I had them, why not use them? With lots of snow in Rochester the week leading up to the event, we only had a few inches at the snowga site in Ontario County. Not to worry. We had snow, and that’s really what mattered.

We tackled two 1.5-mile loops of a golf course, pausing twice to strike a pose.

There, I met loads of incredible local women, including Brittany and Sue, (pictured below) who I am hoping to see at a future outing.

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Snowga was followed by lunch and drinks (hot cider was heavenly), great chats and an amazing view. I also made a video (for work) of the adventure. so click here or the photo below to view my D&C video.

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What’s the oddest type of yoga you’ve tried? Have you done yoga in snowshoes or (my latest column) in a brewery? Tell me all about your adventures in the comments!

Changing it up: Vic’s cross-training chronicles

You may have noticed that I’m not running as much.

Yes, I’m still running, but given the demands of my work life and home life lately – and a somewhat bothersome knee – I’ve been cross training A LOT more.

That means more swimming, hiking, paddling and yes, it even means yoga.

A little HikYoga action with my pal Amy!

A little HikYoga action with my pal Amy!

I have to say guys, I’m loving exploring. Perhaps I was in a bit of a running rut and didn’t even know it. In the last week alone, I went paddleboarding in the bay with a friend, hiked a nearby nature preserve, swam 2,200 yards in the YMCA pool, practiced yoga in the woods then hiked a stunning gorge.

Enjoying the view in this small but mighty town park by my house.

Enjoying the view in this small but mighty town park by my house.

I’m not training for anything. I’m just living life. I’m exploring Rochester, which I have to say, is damn gorgeous.

I fell in love with SUP yoga and went repeatedly this summer.

I fell in love with SUP yoga and went repeatedly this summer.

Sure, I’ve been trying new activities for work – sailboarding, footgolf, SUP yoga. I even tried Taekwondo AND broke a board! You can read more of my articles here.

Hiking through the gorge in Stony Brook State Park near Dansville NY.

Hiking through the gorge in Stony Brook State Park near Dansville NY.

I just went on a HikYoga outing last week, and plan to go target shooting this coming weekend. Stay tuned kids! This could get interesting.

I’ve been enjoying the change of pace, and not being a slave to a marathon training schedule. I even branched out to try my hand at a monthlong yoga challenge, where through a local health club I am posting a daily yoga pose every day in September on my Instagram feed. It’s been interesting and definitely outside my comfort zone, but I am so glad I gave it a shot.

The 30-day #midtownyogachallenge. Day 22: Plank in a waterfall in Grimes Glen.

The 30-day #midtownyogachallenge. Day 22: Plank in a waterfall in Grimes Glen.

Sure, I’m still running. I tackled 4.5 miles last night and witnessed a stunning sunset with my trusty running partner Gary. I’ve been running 4-5 miles at least 3 times a week and even ran a 10-mile race with Oiselle teammate Beth. It was a stunning course through rural Orleans County (including a mile through a fruit farm), albeit I could have done without the 10 am start time on a hot, humid summer day No matter. We’ll be back for sure!

Best race pic ever. We are laughing our butts off since neither of us were well-trained for this race. But we finished.

Best race pic ever. We are laughing our butts off since neither of us were well-trained for this race. But we finished.

Stay tuned for more adventures as we head into the next season. Welcome fall! What activities should I try in the cooler weather?

Are you in an exercise rut? What do you do to change it up? How do you cross train? What activity should I try next? Tell me in the comments!

City Fit Girls – Fit Retreat PHL Jawn!

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Oh my goodness.

GOODNESS. I think that’s really the best way to describe the Philadelphia Fit Retreat hosted by City Fit Girls.

It’s no secret that I’ve been sort of meh when it comes to my workouts lately. Dealing with an injury has kept me from running and while I have been going to the gym twice a week, I’ve been in a rut. But the goodness that was Saturday’s Fit Retreat really shook the cobwebs from my workout soul.

Before we go any further, I learned a word this weekend and that word is JAWN. Apparently it’s has been around awhile – at least in Philly. So please, just smile and nod. I don’t get out much. If you are like me and don’t venture out often, jawn is an all encompassing word that can be used for anything. If you take anything away from this blog post, let it be that.

(But I hope you take away more!)

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Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you why this Fit Retreat PHL jawn was the best ever.

First and foremost: THE PEOPLE. 

From the co-creators of City Fit Girls (Kiera Smalls and Takia McClendon), to the top-notch instructors (Diva Richards, Mark Donohue, Rachel Rubin, Veronica Dilzer, and Brittany and Gillian from Grace and Glory Yoga), to the 150 attendees… this was a quality group. I felt comfortable, welcomed, and appreciated from start to finish.

My dear friends: Sue, Maureen, and Jen. It's always nice attending an event with friends. By the end of the first session, I felt like I was surrounded by new friends!

These are my people: Sue, Maureen, and Jen. It’s always nice attending an event with friends. By the end of the first session, I felt like I was surrounded by new friends!

We were greeted as soon as we arrived and because of the small amount of attendees, we were always able to find a familiar face.

During the introductory speech we were encouraged to test our limits and also cheer for each other. And I promise you, it was not just lip service. The good vibes were flowing through the Philly Impact Hub; the space was fantastic and, even more importantly, the people were fantastic. The cap of 150 people was perfect for the space and for each session (two-three were going on at any given time).

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While chatting with Kiera toward the end of the day she said that City Fit Girls are excited to work with a variety of brands to introduce the women in our network to new and exciting products.

Therefore, they don’t just stick with one way of doing things; they’re presenting new and different workouts constantly. I appreciated the concept and from chatting with other people there, it gave them warm fuzzies too. No ruts to be had! Plus New Balance sponsored this year’s FitRetreat and that, in itself, was pretty amazing.

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Awesome is the watchword. (You know, besides jawn.)

The VIP ticket for the event was less than $40! The way I figure it, that is about 10 cents a minute of AWESOMENESS. Worth each and every cent and then some.

After posting about it on my Facebook page and recruiting a couple of awesome friends, Jen and Sue, we were quickly planning our trip to and from the city’s Impact Hub -a really awesome co-working space in Fishtown. Thanks to City Fit Girl’s agreement with Lyft, we were able to get in and out of the city for mere peanuts and not have to worry about parking (and honestly, I do worry about parking – cost of parking, parallel parking, not hitting other cars while parallel parking – I could go on).

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The cost included an awesome shirt.

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It also included an awesome lunch from Sweetgreen. (And awesome MIMOSAS – YES, PLEASE.)

And an awesome massage (which I skipped but Jen didn’t, so I know it was awesome – she said that it actually released her emotions!).

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Did I mention the very awesome workout sessions? I was able to participate in three workouts and a few informational sessions including healthy eating tips with Whole Foods and skin and facial care.

Dear Whole Foods, we love you. Please come to south Jersey!

Dear Whole Foods, we love you. Please come to south Jersey!

You know how you sometimes you don’t realize what’s missing in your life until you experience it? That was the case with ALL the sessions at the Fit Retreat. How often can you say that?

Work it out!

The main reason for the day (at least for me) was to hit up some amazing workouts and try things outside of my comfort zone bubble. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a group fitness class like the ones that were being offered at the Fit Retreat.

Diva Richards at the start of the session.

Diva Richards at the start of her session.

Unfortunately a time turner hasn’t made its way to Philly yet so I had to choose a few sessions that really spoke to me. I went with Killer Kardio with Diva Richards, Mid-Morn Workout Jawn (there’s that word!) with Mark Donohue, and Vinyasa Yoga with Brittany and Gillian.

Jen during the Kettlebell Kundalini session - this was limited to 50 participants because kettlebells were provided and Jen got the last spot! Score!

Jen during the Kettlebell Kundalini session – this was limited to 50 participants because kettlebells were provided and Jen got the last spot! Score!

The sessions were no joke. I thought that they might get progressively easier through the day but nope. They did not. The intensity was strong from start to finish but the words were encouraging and we were reminded to do our best and to think of where we are in our own journey.

There was everything from kickboxing moves to burpees to oh, approximately one billion squats. Mark Donohue played Flower and with every “down” we had to do a squat and hold it until the word “up” was said. I might have been cursing.

We did planks, planks, and more planks, and in between the planks, since we were down there, we did pushups.

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The biggest surprise for me was how difficult the yoga session was for me. Because, hello, YOGA. I can handle yoga, right? But my foot was already tired from the rest of the sessions and didn’t want to ground itself.

It made for a wobbly experience and there were a few times I had to chill in Child’s Pose rather than take part in all the poses. It made me angry. Yoga isn’t supposed to make you angry, I know. But it did. I think it’s mainly that I’m so used to reminding myself “I can and I will” and I couldn’t, right then and there.

However, thanks to the gentle reminders from Gillian and Brittany, I was able to focus on what I was able to do within those moments and let the rest go.

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I’m sure I’m forgetting something or many things. Oh, like the vegan Watermelon What What drink from Gangster Vegan Organics that was pretty gosh darn awesome.

The entire day was so good for me and my soul. Every event should flowed as well as this one did. The sessions reminded me of my strengths and also gently nudged me to forgive my weaknesses. And it was good. So very good.

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Kudos to the City Fit Girls and all the sponsors of the Fit Retreat Philadelphia! You hold another event and I’ll be there, no doubt about it.

Soybu for You Giveaway – Winner, Winner!!

Congratulations to Jacelyn, winner of our Soybu Meryl Wrap Giveaway!!

Winner

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If you entered, thanks for playing! We love sharing as much as we can with all of you lovely people.  Did you check out our Freekeh Foods and Cookbook giveaway? You can enter to win that fabulous-ness here!

Soybu For You Giveaway

For the last few weeks, I’ve been testing out some pretties from the Soybu Fall line. Actually, I’ve practically been living in one of the pieces.  So I’m going to tell you about it, and then we’re going to give away a lovely black wrap that is an absolute wardrobe staple. Deal? Deal!

Soybu Package

I know there is a plethora of companies out there making active lifestyle clothes. Some of them I want to try, others I refuse to support. I was eager to give this company a try. Sustainability is a priority for the Soybu, and they also recently launched a plus size line. It’s great to see more and more athletic apparel companies answering that need. Also, I noticed that the Soybu line is at a lower price point than some of their competitors, but the quality is equally good.

Allegro Leggings and Starburst Tank

Allegro Leggings and Starburst Tank

The Starburst Tank in Mandala: I LOVE THIS THING. I’d have one for everyday of the week and never wear a bra again if I could. I love the pattern; I stepped out of my solid-color comfort zone and went for it and I’m glad I did. It’s fun, and goes with lots of colors and bottom styles.  And it’s soooo comfy, once you get it on. Pulling the built-in bra and top over my (little) girls is a challenge in any athletic top with a built-in bra. Or maybe I’m just uncoordinated, either is entirely possible. The tank is long enough to cover my bum, which is essential when in leggings. What I love most about the tank aside from the fabric pattern is the freedom of movement the design offers. The starburst in the back is open and cooling, and lets me feel unrestricted when doing difficult poses. Plus, it really shows off those back muscles!

Lily loves to do downward dog!

Lily loves to do downward dog!

The Allegro Legging in Storm Heather: I seriously love these leggings, too. I love leggings in general and am honestly sad that it’s too hot to wear these with some boots and a chunky sweater. Soon enough, my warm, gray friend! I have worn them during my home yoga practice in the house (which is not air conditioned), and they are just as soft and comfy as the top. I love the waistband design with no elastic, it even has a slit pocket built in big enough for key, cash, ID, or a phone. What I appreciate most is that the leggings aren’t too long for me. At 5′ 2″, leggings usually end up looking like scrunchy socks gathered at my ankles. Thank goodness for riding boots! The Soybu leggings had just the right amount of extra fabric for me and they didn’t accentuate my short legs. I love that.  Maybe now I can wear flats with them!  Oh, glory day!

The Meryl Wrap: Okay, I must confess…I…I…didn’t wear this wrap. I only had it on long enough to snap these photos. If I had worn for longer than 4 minutes, it would be COVERED in pug fur, and I’d never do that to the lucky person who is going to win this lovely piece! It looks heavenly, though, and I have three wraps very similar to it in black, gray, and white. It’s hard to see in these photos but the three-quarter sleeves have cute rouching at the elbow. I promise the Meryl will become a go-to layering piece for you. This one is a size medium, and is a nice, lightweight cotton.

rafflepic2Enter to win this stylish wrap here! Follow Soybu on social media and sign up for their emails, we’ll be announcing the winner on Tuesday, August 25th.

I was impressed with Soybu’s clothes and felt the samples I received were well made, fit well, and fairly priced, not to mention cute and super duper comfortable!

Soybu provided me with the free outfit to review. No other compensation was given. The wrap retails for $48.00, and will be shipped from Colorado, USA.