Your mind and body are in perfect balance; you've attained a harmony you never knew existed; you're sweating like a pig, and your head is shoved between your legs.

Yes, you're at the Yoga Institute, where trained instructors lead you through 27 different postures in a room heated to a balmy 110 degrees. This is Bikram's yoga, and may well be the most challenging workout you've ever had. The Institute's instructors are knowledgeable, friendly, informative, and well aware of everyone's limitations ("You can mess with the gods, but don't mess with your knees" is their mantra).

Grab a few towels and a big jug of water, and prepare yourself for 90 minutes of sweating, grunting, contorting, and the most exhilarating feeling any ground-based legal activity can possibly offer.

A dreary corner of our retro bachelor pad benefited from a trip to this ultracool memorabilia superstore, which we found piled high with outlandish lamps. We resisted a '70s salad-oil rain lamp, a fabulous '50s floor model, and a light-up Lucite tiki god, opting instead for a pair of honest-to-gosh vintage lava lamps and a plastic tree with illuminated foliage.

Shoppers looking for a less illuminating experience, meanwhile, will take a shine to Go Kat Go's extensive inventory of faboo furnishings, keen kitsch and groovy garb.

Remember that incident back in the '80s, when some yahoo was killed when a giant cactus he'd been shooting at toppled over, crushing him to death? We do, and had the cactus survived, we would have been the first to give it a prickly high-five.

What happened to that cactus, we don't know, but we hope it found a loving home with the folks at Spur Cross Gallery. For more than 17 years now, the gallery's owners have been scavenging fallen saguaros and making them into beautiful art. (Don't try this yourself! It is illegal to take saguaros, living or dead, from the desert without a permit, and no permits have been issued since 1991.)

It's impossible not to be touched by the grandeur of these once-green giants, now stripped to skeletons of wood bleached gray, white and yellow. They soar from the top of the Gallery's roof, lounge against its fences, and decorate its cool interior.

Some are small and smooth, made into wall sconces. Some are medium size, and hollowed out to be fitted with a light bulb inside. The largest -- hundreds of years old -- are untouched, their gnarled bases formed like melted candles, their tall arms still reaching for the sky.

Such beauty doesn't come cheap. Plan on shelling out $200 for smaller specimens and as much as $8,000 for the gallery's tallest cactus, a 20-footer. (In the interest of botanical discretion, we'll refrain from making any jokes about "sticker price.")

A teenager dragged us here one day, hoping to shock us with the crazy fashions stocked at Spine. Now, she's mortified to find that it's one of our favorite places for funk-alicious, one-of-a-kind threads. We're not allowed to meet her friends anymore.

These gently worn items are from -- or inspired by -- the '50s, '60s and '70s. The most modern thing we've found here is an Angry Beavers shirt, but it sure looks retro, with its bowling shirt cut, red lapels and ultra crisp starched fabric.

Spine is the place to go for sequined sweaters, fringe vests and torridly floral bell-bottoms. It's also the place for glittery garb on a small budget.

Readers' Choice for Best Secondhand Store: Buffalo Exchange

Every few weeks, Tarnished Treasures' owners hit the road to comb estate sales and confer with junk dealers all over the country, returning to restock their collection of the highest quality, most original used furniture, hardware and knickknacks in the Valley. The beat-up look is in, and interior designers -- as well as boutique owners -- line up at the door when a new shipment arrives.

Recent trips to Tarnished Treasures have yielded a perfectly preserved set of deco armchairs and couch, hand-painted armoires, enormous Mary Tyler Moore-esque letters of the alphabet and, for the more adventurous decorator, long, skinny, low metal folding tables with patterns punched in the top -- used to cool corpses in the 1920s.

Call ahead because hours change weekly. And happy hunting!

You've seen those folks who do balloon animals at fairs or restaurants to keep the kids happy? Elaine Klein is a novice, yet a virtuoso. Unlike most twisters whose inflated rubber repertoires are limited to air-filled poodles and squeaky sombreros, Elaine interviews kids (or adults) before pulling something out of her . . . imagination.

The lady knows how to work a room. While visiting a Scottsdale restaurant recently, we witnessed a 12-year-old birthday girl modeling one of Elaine's breathtaking creations -- a four-foot-tall hot pink balloon showgirl headdress that matched her outfit.

And this fantastic elastic haberdasher has another specialty: Playing off VeggieTales, a popular Christian video series, Elaine will entertain at private birthday parties with balloon-themed fun centering on such characters as Larry the Cucumber, Bob the Tomato and Junior Asparagus.

We mean it in the best possible way when we say: MissElaineous, you really blow!

Pop Culture Classics doesn't specialize in sports memorabilia. It's an equal-opportunity kitsch paradise, with mint-condition pop esoterica like Doctor Who comic books, UNICEF Barbie dolls, Superman costumes, Chewbacca masks and even a KISS makeup kit that includes autographed stamps of approval from Gene Simmons and Co.

But the shop's sports section makes up in quality -- or, at the very least, weirdness -- what it lacks in sheer volume. In addition to a smart collection of sports cards, you'll find sealed boxes of Jake's Flakes (Jake Plummer's premature stab at cereal immortality), Frosted Mini-Wheats celebrating Grant Hill, and a whacked-out array of action figures, from David Cone to Charles Barkley to soccer legend Diego Maradona.

If you buy the right combination of Hall of Fame action figures, you can even set up your own dream batting match-up. Recommended choice: Rogers Hornsby facing the hard-throwing -- and hard-drinking -- Grover Cleveland Alexander. Miniature whiskey flask not included.

We suppose it was inevitable. Late one afternoon last spring, we espied Ralphie the Pug, Ranger the Rottweiler, Ginger the Pomeranian and Lizzie the Golden Retriever mingling easily in a corridor at Biltmore Fashion Park. Neither the dogs nor their masters seemed to have much familiarity with the meaner streets of our great metropolis. Both pups and humans were well-groomed, spiffy, comfortable in their skins -- or fur. Every Thursday (except during the hot summer months) from 6 to 8 p.m., up to 80 canines crowd into this puppified shop on the venerable mall's north side to gobble their treats -- some of which seem more fitting for the two-legged animals. And they say it's a dog's world. So it is.

Blue Dragon and its small team of dutiful tattooists -- along with "John the Piercist" -- bestow upon their customers the most presentable cornucopia of full-color tats and unpredictable piercings found just about anywhere. Blue Dragon's artists are renowned for their abilities, sought after by Phoenicians and even out-of-towners. Tattoos are done meticulously with fanciful flares, with imagery ranging from tribal to urban, insects to Celtics, daggers to demons and girls to monsters.

In the event you should walk out of Blue Dragon one night with your forearm bejeweled with a sizable flame-hued horned nymph that you'll never be able to justify to your significant other, take heart in the fact that the tat will, at least, be a lovely one. Averaging $80 to $90 a scrawl, tattoos at the Blue Dragon won't cost you a limb or two, either.

Art, schmart. We were just looking to get our toenails pruned.

So imagine our surprise when we sat back for our 7 p.m. pedicure session at this full-service salon, only to be startled by the sound of live guitar music. We opened our eyes and saw a table with punch and cookies, then noticed the abstract oil paintings on the walls.

We were in the middle of an art opening.

Turns out, Mood Swings plays host to local artists. The art -- for sale, naturally -- hangs on the très chic brick walls, and every two months, on a Thursday evening, Mood Swings hosts an opening, complete with live music by a salon employee.

Cultural enrichment and a foot rub -- what could be better?

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of