Webster's describes yoga as a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being. But to its most dedicated adherents, yoga is the key that unlocks the secrets of the universe. Passing through that door is best accomplished with the help of a guide. Finding one in Houston, where yoga is booming, is easy. The city boasts a number of respected master instructors, including George Purvis and John Friend. We direct novices to The Yoga Institute & Bookshop, where owner Rae Lynn Rath and manager Becky Jordan have a combined 54 years of yoga practice and study under their belts. Rath and Jordan are disciples of Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the newest and fastest-growing schools of hatha yoga. Anusara means "flowing with grace," and it describes an approach that integrates the rigorous physical demands of yoga with emotional, mental and spiritual expression. Or as Friend puts it, "It is a willingness to be aware of all parts of ourselves: the light and the dark, the full rainbow of sensation, perception, emotion and thought." Confused? Then visit the Institute's bookshop, which offers a sizable collection of books and videos on Anusara and other yoga styles, as well as plenty of information on meditation, holistic medicine and other aura-sharpening practices.

A woman we know has followed this man to five different salons over six years. Together they traveled from long, mousy, dishwater-blond high school hair through short and red, short and dark brown, and really short and platinum (the experimental college years) to a much more Texas-professional highlighted bob. Incredibly, through each of these phases, people have made a point to say to her that most coveted of comments, "Your hair looks great!" -- and not in that fakey way, either. His cuts are meticulous, taking 45 minutes to an hour, as opposed to the slapdash quickies of some salons. And with color, he is a mad scientist, concocting just the right combination of "tonal values" that will make a blotchy face look radiant. He'll listen to what you want and do his damnedest to make you look just like the girl in the magazine, but he's also refreshingly honest: "I know you have ponytail envy, honey, but every inch you grow your hair out is adding years to your face." Let's just put it this way: When Kevin announced he was planning to move to Las Vegas, we nearly cried. Thankfully, the desert air didn't agree with him.

Best Place to Pick Up a Slightly Worn Copy of the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom

Detering Book Gallery Inc.

Okay, maybe you won't find that precise title, but this place is about as highbrow a used bookstore as you'll find in this city that doesn't market exclusively rare and collectible editions -- though there are plenty of those on the shelves. This is not a source for light reading; Jackie Collins fans might not make it past the ropes. Detering Book Gallery is the place to go when you're feeling Kafka, or a little Dante. History buffs and people with academic interests of all sorts likely will not walk away disappointed. It's a must for any book lover who's looking to load her personal library with titles that extend beyond last week's best-seller list. Detering is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods
Don't be put off by the sign outside that reads "wholesale" -- if you've got cash, they've got the merchandise. While they specialize in Middle Eastern ingredients, they also have many Western and Eastern European specialties. Here you'll find bulk bulgur at 59 cents per pound; all kinds of dried and canned beans and lentils; many different kinds of teas, coffees and spices; a half-dozen different kinds of feta cheese starting at $1.59 per pound; fresh dates as low as $1.99 per pound; and dozens of different kinds of olives starting at $1.50 per pound. Here, you'll also find various kitchen tools and implements as well as elaborate narghiles and hookahs, the glass and brass smoking pipes that are prevalent in the Middle East, along with many different kinds of tobacco.
Fans of the movie Chicken Run may wonder if the birds at Tai Hung are hatching fantastic escape schemes along with eggs. They're everywhere, these hapless birds -- clucking inside coops, strutting on the grass, fleeing wild-eyed children. The frowsy white hens and proud orange roosters spend most of their time in their pens pecking at feed. Ducks abound, relishing the occasional rain shower. Only the quails and spectacular pheasants, crammed into small cages, seem listless. Young chickens sell for $1.39 a pound. "You taste one and you can tell the difference from a supermarket," says Cathy Van Tai, Tai Hung's owner.

Art Supply on Main
Two years ago, after 40 years at Richmond and Montrose, Ben Russell and Vikki Trammell moved Art Supply to a two-story commercial space in Midtown. Respected as nurturers of the local art scene as well as the preferred source for top-grade fine-arts supplies, the couple remodeled the upstairs of 2711 Main into 22 studios and seven loft apartments for artists, writers and musicians. As it happened, all but three of the units are leased to painters and sculptors, who have an artist-friendly place to live and work, as well as the opportunity to show and sell their creations at open houses sponsored by Russell and Trammell twice a year. (The next one is scheduled for November 25 and 26.) Meanwhile, downstairs, in a large gritty, no-frills room that smells of sawdust, Art Supply continues to buck the trend in art supply stores by catering its inventory to the serious artist only. Unlike the chain stores, Art Supply doesn't stock arts-and-crafts materials. Nor does it employ minimum-wage slaves who know nothing about art or art supplies. Art Supply is staffed by working artists who know what they're selling because, more than likely, they've used it themselves.

Note that this category is called Best Place by Buy Doughnuts, not Best Doughnuts. If we were picking the best doughnuts, we would have to give the nod to Krispy Kreme again. But our favorite place to buy doughnuts is Shipway Donuts, at Telephone Road near the South Loop, a tiny, poorly air-conditioned doughnut shop/loncheria that stands head and shoulders above Krispy Kreme as a total culinary experience. Why? Well, first of all, Shipway Donuts also sells egg-and-chorizo breakfast tacos. We don't know about you, but we like an egg taco appetizer before we dig into the doughnuts. And the egg tacos at Shipway come with homemade hot sauce on the side. (Ever seen any hot sauce at Krispy Kreme?) Second, Shipway has better horchata. Oops, we forgot, Krispy Kreme doesn't sell horchata. Last, and probably most important, on Friday and Saturday Shipway sells fresh homemade tamales. We got a dozen chicken tamales and sampled a couple after the egg-and-chorizo taco with a little of that homemade hot sauce. The tamales were spicy and melt-in-your-mouth creamy, with lots of chicken in each one. After the tacos and tamales, you might not have much room for doughnuts, but the doughnuts here are only average, so who cares?
So you want to watch a good movie on your VCR, but your mind is a blank as to what to pick? Just tell St. Clair what you're in the mood for, and he'll rattle off a half-dozen or so suggestions. If that's not enough, he'll come up with more. St. Clair never fails to help us find something unusual and entertaining, and often it's something we've never heard of before. Why does he do it? Says St. Clair, "You work eight hours, you might as well help someone." Cactus rents videos for a buck a day, so long as you're not looking for a new release. And if you happen to stroll in on a Monday, it's two for the price of one.
Stop rummaging through the local comic-book stores in town looking for that rare orange-carded TIE Fighter Pilot with the "Warning!" sticker on the box. When a store catering to obsessive SF fans (which means sci-fi, for the uninitiated [which stands for science fiction, for the very uninitiated]) is locked away in an antique market, chances are that even the most die-hard toy collectors haven't stumbled into this hidden geek heaven. Many of the major toy store chains have become so annoyed with Kenner's distribution tactics that they won't even carry the new figures anymore, so Jams Collectibles soon may be the only place around to find the newest stock, in addition to the obscure variations and priceless factory screwups. Culled mostly from John Giogaia's own private collection, even the rarest of Star Wars action figures can be found beside Spawn figurines, Hot Wheels and other collectibles, and for a reasonable price. This store is run for love alone, so you can wander in only on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., when the guys in charge are off work.
Tucked behind a service station between Montrose and the Museum District, Carriage Car Care must be the car wash of choice for the SUV-driving crowd. On a recent Saturday, no fewer than a half-dozen urban war wagons were either lined up waiting for the Carriage crew's treatment or basking in the afterglow of a soft-glove hand wash, waiting to be picked up by their owners. The finished vehicles were positively gleaming. Carriage's basic hand wash is $23 and includes a thorough going-over on the inside. The wash and wax is $49. The truly decadent will find the deluxe detailing package, at $145, a satisfying indulgence that includes the repair and painting of minor dents and dings. Carriage also will tend to larger dents, creased bumpers and cracked windshields. The crew is quick, courteous and attentive; and though it may seem like a minor amenity, the waiting room is a surprisingly pleasant place to kill a half hour while your car is being pampered.

Mister Car Wash

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